Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SCBWI Wik blog tour interview: Lou Anders, Editorial Director at Pyr Books

If you've stopped by this blog before, you probably know that I'm a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, a cool organization that always has something going on.

The Southern Breeze chapter will have their annual Wik conference in October, and asked me to be part of a blog tour, highlighting the great workshops you can attend. I was in Birmingham last year, and can attest that it's a ton of fun, and inspiring too. Take it from me: you want to be there.

In case you needed more incentive, I'm honored to give you a quick interview with Lou Anders, Editorial Director at Pyr Books. He'll be teaching a workshop, and has a resume that makes your jaw drop.

About Lou Anders:

Lou Anders is the Hugo Award winning editorial director of the SF&F imprint Pyr books, a Chesley Award winning Art Director, and the editor of nine anthologies. He has also been nominated for six additional Hugo Awards, four additional Chesley Awards, as well as the PKD, Locus, Shirley Jackson, and three World Fantasy Awards. 

His first novel, Frostborn, book one in a three-book middle grade fantasy adventure series called Thrones and Bones, will be published in August 2014 by Random House's Crown Books for Young Readers. Visit him online at and on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @LouAnders. 

Q: Your workshop is called Scrip Tips--could you tell us a bit more about it?

Everyone who has tried their hand at writing has a folder full of openings that go nowhere. Many promising ideas bog down in their second half. I'll discuss how a unique approach to structuring story in Hollywood screenplays can be repurposed to help writers struggling with outlining their novel. 

Using examples from film, I'll demonstrate how character and structure work together to provide pace and reveal theme. Learn simple techniques that have been demonstrated to help authors bring out the most in their story and maximize their emotional connection with their readers. Whether an author is a plotter or a panser, an understanding of these simple underlying principals in screenwriting can offer valuable insights for all novelists.

Q: You've just sold your middle-grade book series to Crown--congrats! What's it about?

The series is called Thrones and Bones, inspired by Norse myth and folklore. Frostborn, the first book, introduces Karn, who would rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones, and Thianna, half-frost giant, half-human, who team up when they are chased by wyverns, a dead Viking sea captain, and a 1200-year-old dragon.
Publication is slated for 2014.

Thanks to Lou Anders for his time! 

He's just one member of the impressive faculty for the 2013 Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference, taking place October 12 in Birmingham, AL. 

WIK is a great place to get inspired, get tips on your craft, and learn about the business of children’s publishing. It’s also an opportunity to meet editors, agents, and an incredibly supportive network of working writers and artists. 

To find out more or to register, visit

You can meet other members of the conference faculty by following the WIK blog tour:

Aug. 28            
Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s YA Sleuth
Aug. 29            
Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Once Upon a Science Book
Author Robyn Hood Black at Donny Seagraves’ blog
Aug. 30            
MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s G.A.S.
Aug. 31            
Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s Media Mint Publishing blog
Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s Just Write
Sept. 3             
Author Nancy Raines Day at Laurel Snyder’s blog
Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s Random Thoughts from the Creative Path
Sept. 4             
Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s The Painted Possum
Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s A Writer’s Blog
Sept. 5             
Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s Writing with Cheryl
Sept. 6  
Agent Jennifer Rofe at Cathy Hall’s blog          
Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at Cyrus Webb Presents

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday tip: don't put a box of tissues on the floor when you have kittens...

...or you'll find this:

These are kitten sisters Chloe and ChuChu, play-fighting. After they took care of that box of tissues.

Happy week, all.

Oh, and be sure to stop by on Wednesday, when I'm interviewing Pyr Books' Editorial Director Lou Anders for the SCBWI Southern Breeze blog tour...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday around the web: saying goodbye, library love, and Kermit with a banjo

This was a sad week in many ways. First, there was the loss of Lee Thompson Young, actor on Rizzoli & Isles. Man, that show won't be the same without him...

Then there was the passing of Elmore Leonard. I could write a dozen posts on how he's influenced my writing, but I'll only be repeating what's been said by others. He'll be missed tremendously.

It's odd when someone you never knew personally, but impacted you anyway, dies. To add to the sadness: I just heard that a young writer friend passed away--we'll miss you, Amy.

It put a dark stamp on the week for sure. All best to the families, who'll be feeling this loss and such a deeper level...

On a happier note: there was this great article on what kids think the world would be like without libraries.
And in case you're a cheapskate like me: 28 ways a library can save you money.

To end the week with a smile, here's Steve Martin and Kermit, playing some banjo.

Banjo music makes everything a little better. And Kermit, too.

Have a bright, happy weekend, all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday Review: Ender's Game

From the publisher:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. 

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives. 
Ender's Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

My thoughts:
Not that this book needs another review, but I wanted to read it as part of an effort to read more classic books I missed (since I'm Dutch and grew up overseas, I missed many U.S. classics). This story was one I shouldn't have liked: military scifi, lots of narrative, kind of a dude book (meaning lots of male characters). But I was sucked in, and didn't skip ahead once.

I did end up flipping to the front many times to check its seventies copyright, because it felt so relevant. For a book almost as old as me *cough*, it held up amazingly well. It's one I'll re-read.

Where I found out about this book:
Well, TV commercials for the movie, sad to say. I thought I should read the book first...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday around the web: cake for Alfred Hitchcock, cats, crime, and Rizzoli&Isles

It's Friday, so here's my report on what's been flying by on the internet. It's been a bit of a silly week, with everyone still in summer mode, I think.

So there was Alfred Hitchcock's birthday on the 13th, in case you needed a reason for cake. Also, there was this very interesting article on cat hair tracing back to a criminal (hat tip to author pal Laura Ellen). Moral of the story: use one of those lint brushes before you commit a crime. Better yet: just stay home with your cats and read a book instead (a cat cozy mystery, maybe?).

Then there was this link to Google maps, where you can take a look inside the Tardis (for you fellow Whovians). I'm ready to go...

And for some good news: Rizzoli&Isles was renewed for a fifth season, as reported on Tess Gerritsen's site. I just discovered this show, but I'm looking forward already.

Happy weekend, all!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why 6th grader Nathan gets a big thank you from me today

I don't like to toot my own horn, because... Well, it's sort of tacky. And if you read this blog, you know I wrote a book. Nuf said.

But the best part about writing for kids is when I get a good review--from a kid.

Like sixth grader Nathan, who gave Double Vision five stars, and said, "What I really like about this book is that it is humorous. For example, in the prologue, it talks about how the story isn't about Percy Jackson or Spiderman in a really funny way."

Nathan, you made my day. So here's a big thank you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Because we could all stand to dance in public a little more (Monday Music)

I'm a big Sara Bareilles fan, and somehow missed until a few days ago that she had a new album out... Must be the summer heat or something. The album is great, by the way, I highly recommend it.

Here's the video for Brave. See, I dance in public all the time (much to my kids' horror), so it's nice to be called brave.

Happy Monday, all. Hope you dance a little today!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday around the web: Wimpy Kid cover reveal, summer reading, and Mumford video

It's Friday! This is where I tell you what newsy items I caught during the week, mostly from Twitter. The past week seemed to be full of fun stuff.

Like the cover reveal of the eighth Diary of a Wimpy Kid book called Hard Luck. Looking forward to this one; I always like the pure funny of this series. It's out in November, so all of America can buy it for the holidays. It's even green for color-coordination.

In other news, Publishers Weekly reported on summer reading programs all around the country. Pretty cool to hear from librarians, as always. I especially liked this quote from Lurine Carter from the Detroit Public Library's children's/teen department:
"Life is very serious, not only in Detroit but all over. We try to relieve their minds. We want the library and the reading to be a pleasant getaway.” Amen to that.

And for a last bit of humor: check out the Mumford and Sons new video, featuring a bunch of funny famous dudes.

Happy weekend, all!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tween movie review: Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters

Is there anything better than catching a matinee movie on a Wednesday afternoon? I felt like I was playing hooky, but I went to give you a review, honest.

Here's the official synopsis:

Percy Jackson has had an unnervingly quiet school year. But then he discovers that the magical borders protecting Half Blood Hill are failing. Unless something is done, the camp will be attacked by demons and monsters.

The only way to restore power to the camp's borders and to save their home is to find the mythical Golden Fleece. And the only who can undertake this dangerous quest are Percy and his friends. 

Embarking on a treacherous odyssey into the uncharted waters of the Sea of Monsters (known to humans as the Bermuda Triangle), they battle terrifying creatures, an army of zombies, and the ultimate Evil.

My thoughts:

 I wish I had taken the time to re-read the book, so I could do a comparison for the avid Percy fans... But as a movie, I thought this was great. Classic quest story with plenty of excitement, special effects, and walls of water (it is Percy Jackson, after all). There was a nice character arc with Percy finding his confidence, and a sweet half-brother cyclops story that had me and the tween girls fogging up. The story was family-friendly and okay for the younger ones, but exciting enough for older kids too. Go see it.

One thing notably different from the first movie was how 'clean' this movie was: though the first one definitely inched into YA territory, this second movie was far more family-friendly. It did make me do a double-take when it came to the actors' age (clearly at least teens, some older), but in such a non-YA story. Be interesting to see if anyone else picks up on this...

Here's the trailer:


Monday, August 5, 2013

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday review: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

From the publisher:

Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims' dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI's Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick.

In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist's knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie's possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

My thoughts: 
I liked this book a lot. It's a new middle-grade series from an author who clearly knows how to write for tweens (Artemis Fowl, anyone?). It's fast-paced, yet Eoin Colfer knows just how to weave in the technical details needed to explain time travel without bogging the story down. Loved how this story is great for both boys and girls. 

My only trouble was with the shifting perspective--I was almost sorry when we shifted away from Chevie's perspective, since she had the fun voice. But the story was strong enough for me to forgive the shifts in point of view. Looking forward to next in the series.

How I found out about this book: advertising, which rarely works on me. I think it was in a School Library Journal newsletter.

Extra thought: I liked the U.K. cover so much better (here to the right). Why they opted for this other in the U.S., I don't know. It's not bad, but looks a little cheap and cheesy compared to the U.K. counterpart...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday around the web: new Harry Potter covers, and Children's Book-a-Day Almanac

In case you missed it this week: Scholastic revealed its final new Harry Potter cover, for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (the new one is on the left, oldie on the right). I kind of like the makeover, don't you? Feels a little more contemporary, like a graphic novel, almost.

If you want to see all seven covers, new and old side-by-side, check out this feature over at Mashable.

Also, Anita Silvey did a very nice feature on her blog Children's Book-a-Day Almanac to commemorate Harry's birthday. It's all about J.K. Rowling and her journey, and a look at why we love Harry so. Her blog is one to follow if you want the story-behind-the-story.

Hope you have a great Friday, and an even better weekend!

Follow along with the MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL blog tour!

I'm so excited for the Aug. 25th release if MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL...!  If you want to join the fun, follow along with the bl...