Monday, April 14, 2014

Reviews/praise for LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN

My editor just sent me this fantastic review of LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN from Publishers Weekly!

"In this gleefully absurd tale, Smith (Chronal Engine) unfurls a series of alien-inspired hijinks at a space-themed motel on Florida’s Space Coast...Arnold’s skillfully drafted spot cartoons give this offbeat story a lively layout and match Smith’s light and breezy tone, grounded by the occasional serious moment. The result is an engaging, humorous look at humans learning that they’re not alone in the universe."

--Publishers Weekly

And check out these awesome blurbs!

"Aliens, government coverups, bionic limbs, kooky scientists, luau pigs, conspiracy theories, and mysterious patio furniture—I don't know about you, but these are the things I look for in a great story. Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn has all of them, plus a huge dose of humor. Read it and enjoy, but be warned: You may never want to eat roast pork ever again."

—Matthew Holm, co-creator of Babymouse and Squish

“Here is a story for everyone who has ever wondered if that brilliant green light was a UFO.  It's for everyone who has ever imagined living on Mars. In short, it's for everyone who has ever asked the question, 'who am I, really?’  Read it, then make your reservations at the Mercury Inn.  Just don’t be alarmed if you find an alien in the refrigerator."

--Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor author of The Underneath

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

2014 TLA Conference Signings by Texas Authors [updated]


Greetings.

Next week is the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in San Antonio!

As usual, there are a bunch of Texas authors signing books and/or ARCs.  Here's what I've got so far. 

Note that times and places are subject to change.  The complete schedule for authors signing in the Author Area is available here.  For an interactive map of the Exhibit Hall with the booth and number listings, go here.  Note, too, that this list is not comprehensive.  Make sure you drop by the booths listed, as well as publisher booths, complete, up-to-date schedules!

Tuesday, April 8:

6:00-7:00 Jennifer Ziegler, Booth 1823 (Scholastic)

Wednesday April 9:

10:00-12:00 Susan Kralovansky, Booth 1323 (Pelican)

10:15 - 11:00 Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Author Area
10:15 - 11:00 Don Tate, Author Area
10:15-11:00 P.J. Hoover, Booth 2522 (Overlooked Books)
10:15-11:00 Jessica Lee Anderson, Booth 2522 (Overlooked Books)

11:00-12:00 Dotti Enderle, Author Area

12:00-1:00 Rachel Caine, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)

1:00-2:00 Molly Blaisdell,  Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
1:00-2:00 Susan Kralovansky, Booth 1522 (Overlooked Books)

2:00-3:00 Cynthia Leitich Smith, Author Area
2:00-3:00 Libba Bray, Author Area
2:00-3:00 Greg Leitich Smith, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 Victoria Scott, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 Don Tate, Booth 2440 (Charlesbridge)

3:00-4:00 Liz Garton Scanlon, Author Area
3:00-4:00 Varian Johnson, Author Area
3:00-4:00 E.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Author Area 

3:00-4:00 PJ Hoover, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
3:00-4:00 Jessica Lee Anderson, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)

4:00-5:00 K.A. Holt, Author Area 

4:00-5:00 Kay Honeyman, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)

Thursday, April 10

9:00-10:00 Nikki Loftin, Author Area
9:00-10:00 Don Tate, Booth 2522 (Overlooked Books)

10:00-11:00 Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Author Area

10:45-11:15 P.J. Hoover, Booth 1448 (Tor)

11:00-12:00 Joy Preble, Author Area
11:00-12:00 Bethany Hegedus, Booth 1841 (Simon & Schuster)
11:00-12:00 Janice and Tom Shefelman, Booth 2272 (Eakin Press/Wild Horse Media)

12:00-1:00 Dotti Enderle, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
12:00-2:00 Susan Kralovanksy, Booth 1522 (Overlooked Books)

1:00-2:00 E. Kristin Anderson, Author Area
1:00-2:00 Jerry Hatchett, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
1:00-3:00 Susan Kralovansky, Booth 1323 (Pelican)

2:00-3:00 Sophie Jordan, Author Area
2:00-3:00 Mari Mancusi, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 Krissi Dallas, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 A.G. Howard, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
2:00-3:00 Janice and Tom Shefelman, Booth 2272 (Eakin Press/Wild Horse Media)

3:00-4:00 Varsha Bajaj, Booth 1548 (Albert Whitman)
3:00-4:00 Beth Fehlbaum, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)

Friday, April 11

9:30-10:30  Bethany Hegedus, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)
9:30-10:30  Joy Preble, Booth 2243 (Book Festivals of Texas)

10:00-11:00 Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Author Area

11:00-12:00 Kathi Appelt, Author Area

Ongoing

Debbie Leland, Booth 1555

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Dino a Day Special: Illustration by C.S. Jennings

I am delighted to present this awesome illustration by author/illustrator C.S. ("Christopher") JenningsCyn and I had the pleasure of meeting Christopher a couple years back at the Austin Comic Con, where we discussed the possibility of his doing a dino-related sketch for me.  We talked over a couple ideas until I did the A Dino a Day Strikes Back feature last fall to celebrate the release of CHRONAL ENGINE in paperback, and then Christopher did THIS:   


Per his web site, "C.S. Jennings is a professional illustrator specializing in concept work, children's, and editorial illustration. He brings top shelf know-how to the publishing, gaming, editorial, and entertainment industries. (Did we tell you about that one time when he was an animation lead for Richard Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly?" That was pretty cool.) He's an author too, which he is doing more of these days. He calls Austin, Texas home. He has an extensive hat collection, many too hot to wear in his home state."

Jeff Crosby (l) and C.S. Jennings (r) at Comic Con
Christopher was also gracious enough to take the time to answer a couple of questions.
Both of my recent novels (CHRONAL ENGINE and LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN) feature illustrations.  You've illustrated picture books and graphic novels, as well as the Jacob Wonderbar series (written by Nathan Bransford) of middle grade novels.  Can you tell us a bit about how you approach illustrating for a novel?  Is it different than illustrating for a picture book?   Or graphic novel?

Illustrating for a chapter book definitely offers a different experience from picture books and graphic novels. First off, the approach to the characters has to change. My picture book characters are more round, soft. Chapter books are aimed at an older group, so the edges get sharper, the characters pulled and stretched to be taller. The themes in the older books are darker too, and this translates into the illustrations. There may be more shadow applied, heavier line in the art, more grim expressions or character design. 

Chapter books and graphic novels, well … Graphic novels have 200 times the illustration in them, whereas chapter books feature mostly spot illustrations. When I approach graphic novel characters I try to keep things simple. One book I did, the character had a red striped shirt on. Drawing all those stripes probably added 15 hours to the book. Also, the characters in chapter books are black and white (in the interior). The tonal pallet is greatly reduced, with a smaller spectrum within to communicate. This is also defined by the printing process and the generally lower quality paper printed upon. Anything over 30% black gets too dark really quickly, anything under 5% disappears.

What does your average day (when you're working on a project) look like?

I have a day job, so I come home, eat a quick dinner, and get into the studio as quickly as I can. I begin each project by listing out the illustrations in a checklist. I make a column for each step--roughs, revisions, final line, adding tones, how much time it will take, that kind of stuff. I try to spend time with the manuscript section I am illustrating that day beforehand to let my brain start chewing on the images. After that, it's warm up time at the drawing table, getting to the place where my brain and my hand line up. Then it's off to the races (the tasks that evening defined by the checklist). I play loud music in the studio. It helps to create a fully immersive environment. Some people can watch TV and work. I can't. I need it to be my pencil, my paper, and my hand. All else exists outside that bubble.

You are a member of the Armadillustrators, a consortium of Austin illustrators.  Can you tell us a bit about that?
Christopher, Don Tate, Jeff Crosby
Critique groups!!!! EVERYONE should be in one. We meet once a month. Our group talks not just about illustration, but also writing. The group discussion is open and fair, with each member free to say what he sees in the illustrations or text. It's so great (and important, I think) to get another set of eyes on your work. They see things you don't, elements that aren't working, as well as those that can help the story. The ideas offered up are for the taking, or can be disregarded. This group has been key to the development of myself and my work. I am so fortunate to have this group.

You also write your own books.  Can you tell us a bit about how you look at the intersection of text and art when it's your own?

Hmmm. Great question. I write picture books and board books, so I'll talk about the relationship from there first. Text and art work hand in hand. When I am writing, I pare down the words. What's the LEAST I can say for this scene? I try to stay aware of "showing and not telling." For instance, if the character is going to pour water out of a bucket, I don't write, "Mr. Jimbers picked up the bucket and poured the water out." He is holding the bucket in the illustration, so I can cut those words. "Mr. Jimbers poured the water out." Can I shorten it even more? Mr. Jimbers is tipping the bucket, blue stuff is coming out …. "Mr. Jimbers poured." In a picture book the drawing does so much of the work. Emotion, characters cues, time, and place are defined by the drawings. There is a concept in the industry that says you should be able to still understand the picture book without the words. (Which makes sense as so many in the audience cannot actually read.)

When I receive a manuscript for a chapter book, I am looking for the places in the text where I can share moments that will grip the reader. Whether it's an emotion, some fun character, or cool element, I ask myself, "What would I want to see as the reader?" Admittedly, sometimes it's "What do I want to draw?" "Ah, sweet! Spaceships!" or, "this character is awesome!" Sometimes it's a wacko character design. Other times, as in the Jacob Wonderbar books, it's someone historical. "Einstein! Napoleon? I've always wanted to do draw them!" I am chomping at the bit to draw Teddy Roosevelt.

Thanks!  For more information, Christopher's web site is here and his twitter handle is @dajanx



Above are a couple of the "inspiration pieces" for the illustration above (photos by Sam Bond Photography). 

And here are links to the rest:

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Audio book version of CHRONAL ENGINE!

I am delighted to announce that the audio book version of CHRONAL ENGINE is now available from audible.com!  Click here to download/order!

The narrator is Andrew Keltz, who has a background in theatre and has a BA from Northwestern University.

Boo!



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cover art reveal for LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN!

I'm thrilled to present the cover art I just received for LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan 2014)!  It's by Andrew Arnold, who also did the interior illos.


LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN is a comedic middle grade story about three friends at a motel in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and what happens when a manned space launch at Kennedy Space Center is scrubbed due to the appearance of an unidentified flying object over Cape Canaveral.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A CHRONAL ENGINE Celebration Day 12

 
Welcome to Day 12 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

The paperback of CHRONAL ENGINE is available today!

Today's T-shirt is from Zazzle.com and features a riff on the popular WWII slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On."  I confess that I kind of prefer Churchill's formulation: "For each and for all, as for the Royal Navy, the watchword should be 'Carry on and Dread Nought.'"

But "Keep Calm and Ignore the Raptor" is pretty good, too.

The pictures were taken at Moody Gardens in Galveston last summer, at their Dinos Alive! exhibit.   They basically had about a dozen animatronic dinosaurs on display in conjunction with a 3D movie - the premise of which seemed to be a bunch of folks getting lost in the past :-) (We didn't see the movie itself).

They didn't have a Velociraptor, but they did have an Ornithomimus, which qualifies as a "maniraptor," and hence "raptor."  (Okay, I'm stretching it a little).  Anyway, here are the pics:

Big theropod head for posing next to/on top of
Baryonyx and me
Styracosaurus
Ornithomimus
T.rex, naturally

A nest of Edmontosaurus

A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Piranhas)
Day 9: Night Wing
Day 10: Austin Nature and Science Center Day 11:Japanese Garden at Zilker Park


Monday, November 18, 2013

A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A Chronal Engine Celebration! Day 11!

 
Welcome to Day 11 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

DINOSAUR!  In Japanese.  So it seemed appropriate to take the picture at the Japanese Garden in Zilker Park in Austin.  Photos are by Sam Bond of Sam Bond Photography.

 



On the stepping stones over the koi pond
A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Piranhas)
Day 9: Night Wing
Day 10: Austin Nature and Science Center

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Dino a Day Strikes Back: A Chronal Engine Celebration Day 10!


Welcome to Day 10 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

 Poor T.rex, his arms never get any respect. :-).  But they're still bigger than Carnotaurus's...

Today's T-shirt is from zazzle.com and features pics from the Austin Nature and Science Center at Zilker Park.  The place has a visitor's center and a great garden and pond, along with a Dino Pit and a Birds of Prey exhibit.  Definitely worth a visit!

At the pond
All these guys were there in the Cretaceous except the heron (and the human)



Barn owl!

A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Piranhas) 
Day 9: Night Wing




Saturday, November 16, 2013

A DINO A DAY STRIKES BACK:A CHRONAL ENGINE CELEBRATION! Day 9

 
Welcome to Day 9 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

Nightwing!

Okay, not exactly. :-).


Today's Dino a Day T-shirt features T.rex on a bicycle with the moon in the background, a riff on the iconic scene from E.T. Naturally, T.rex is not using the handlebars.   T-shirt is from zazzle.com.

I'm standing next to the Night Wing sculpture at the corner of Congress Avenue and Barton Springs Road, near the Congress Avenue Bridge, home to the world's largest urban bat colony.


Alas, it doesn't seem that bats evolved until after the Cretaceous, but appeared not long after.

 A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Piranhas)

Friday, November 15, 2013

A DINO A DAY STRIKES BACK: A CHRONAL ENGINE CELEBRATION DAY 8


Welcome to Day 8 of A Dino a Day Strikes Back, celebrating the paperback release of CHRONAL ENGINE, and the new editions of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO and TOFU AND T.REX!

Today we feature a fishy (heh) interlude:  PIRANHAS RULE! Shirt is from zazzle.com.

Photos were taken at the Texas Memorial Museum, where it's about more than just dinosaurs.  During the Mesozoic, central Texas was part of the coast of the Western Interior Seaway, and so was home to some rather large aquatic critters.  Alas, piranhas don't seem to have been around back then, but one of my favorite fish with razor sharp teeth, Xiphactinus, was.  Scroll down for pics!

Giant turtle, Protostega
Big fish, Xiphactinus
Looking Mosasaurus in the mouth
My, what big teeth you have...
A Dino a Day Strikes Back Previous Days
Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum 
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita Rig No. 1
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