Sunday, April 29, 2012

Write Stuff weekend

Yesterday, Cyn and I had the pleasure of speaking to groups of K-5 at the Pflugerville ISD Write Stuff event.  It was enormously fun and great to see kids that much into writing!  We sold out of CHRONAL ENGINE and I signed a gazillion book plates.

Pflugerville ISD book people par excellence!
Then, this morning, taking advantage of an unusually cool April, Cyn and I took a nice walk around Zilker Park.  Here are some pics:

The nifty ornithomimid scultpure
Close up of the pond
Dino footprints
Coy koi

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Summer 2012 Writing Conferences

This summer, I'll be leading workshops at a pair of writing conferences.  The first is the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference in Utah, where I'll be leading an Advanced workshop from June 18-22. 

Here's the full lineup:

  • A.E. Cannon (Introduction to Writing for Kids and Young Adults)
  • Trudy Harris (Writing the Picture Book)
  • Julie Olson (Illustration Class)
  • Tim Wynne-Jones (Writing the Middle Grade Novel)
  • Kimberley Sorenson (Introduction to the Young Adult Novel)
  • Matt Kirby (Writing the Fantasy Novel)
  • Mette Ivie Harrison (Writing Science Fiction/ Fantasy)
  • Kirk Shaw (Writing the Contemporary Novel)
  • Greg Leitich Smith (Advanced Class)
  • Carol Lynch Williams (Advanced Class)
  • Ann Dee Ellis (Boot Camp)
Agents are:
  • John Cusick from Scott Treimel NY
  • Jenni Ferrari-Adler from Brick House Literary Agents
Editors are:
  • Alexandra Penfold from Paula Wiseman Books from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Ruth Katcher from Egmont USA
The second is the Southampton Children's Literature Conference, from July 11-15, where Cynthia and I will be leading the Young Adult novel workshop. 

In addition to guest speakers to be named, other faculty include:

  • Peter Reynolds (Picture Book)
  • Kate McMullan (Middle grade novel).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


THE INQUISITOR'S APPRENTICE, by Pat Moriarty  ill. by Mark Edward Geyer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2011)(ages 10+).  In New York City, in the first decade of the Twentieth Century, magic is illegal, although almost everyone practices it.  When it's discovered that thirteen-year-old Sacha Kessler -- the son of Russian Jewish immigrants -- can see witches, he's apprenticed to the famous Inquistor Wolf, whose job it is to stop magical crime.  Their first case is to prevent the murder to Thomas Edison, but the main suspect is a rabbi, and the truth might just come a little too close to home for Sacha...

THE INQUISITOR'S APPRENTICE offers an atmospheric and believable alternate history, a fascinating and occasionally humorous melting-pot world of magic and ethnicities, and an engaging protagonist.  First in a series.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The TLA Report post

Last week, Cyn and I had the pleasure of attending the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Houston!  Cynthia signed the TANTALIZE series with Candlewick and also with Perma Bound Books, and I had the pleasure of my first conference signing of CHRONAL ENGINE with Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  It was great fun to meet librarians and fellow dinosaur enthusiasts!  They cleaned us out of books and postcards...

Wednesday was the Texas Tea YA Author event, sponsored by YART (essentially speed-dating: pairs of authors serially circulated at tables filled with Texas librarians).  I was paired with Mary Lindsey, whose novel, SHATTERED SOULS, has one of the best covers ever (at least, one of the best that doesn't have dinosaurs :-)).  We presented our books and swag -- in my case, postcards, author feature brochures, and temporary dinosaur tattoos -- and had some great conversations.

On Friday, Cyn was named the first featured Spirit of Texas author for high-school aged readers. Check out the page for activities, curriculum tie-ins, and fun! The featured middle-school author was Andrea White.

Encounters in the exhibit hall or various other venues included out-of-state authors Toni Buzzeo, John Green, Shannon Hale, Kelly Milner Halls, Geoff Herbach, David Lubar, Greg Neri, Dom Testa, and Sara Zarr; and Texans Lynne Kelly, Don Tate, Kathi Appelt, Christina Mandelski, Elaine Scott, Jeanette Larson, Cynthia Levinson, Madeline Smoot, Salima Alikhan, E. Kristin Anderson, Bethany Hegedus, Jessica Lee Anderson, Debbie Leland, P.J. Hoover, Mary Lindsey, Jennifer Ziegler, Chris Barton, Joy Preble, Kelly Bennett, Nikki Loftin, Anastasia Suen, Jo Whittemore, Jeff Crosby, and Shelly Ann Jackson; and countless librarians and publisher marketing and editorial personnel.

Thanks to everyone at YART and TLA, all of the librarians who came to the signings and events, and to the publicity teams at Candlewick and Houghton Mifflin!

Here are some photos:

The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booth
Signing in the Authors Area
PJ Hoover and Madeline Smoot and dinosaurs
Shannon Hale, Kathi Appelt, Jessica Lee Anderson, and PJ Hoover at the Texas Tea
Mary Lindsey, my comrade-in-arms
Toni Buzzeo
Jenny Moss
Greg Neri
Cynthia Levinson
Sylvia Vardell, Teri Lesesne, Lois Buckman
 See you next year!

Monday, April 23, 2012


CHAINED, by Lynne Kelly (FSG, May 8, 2012)(ages 8+).  In this debut novel by Houstonian Lynne Kelly, ten-year-old Hastin takes a job with a circus owner in order to pay off his sister's hospital bill.  His job -- to care for the baby elephant Nandita -- is made more difficult by the cruel elephant trainer and the circus owner.  He contemplates running away with her, but where can a ten-year-old boy go to hide out with an elephant?

CHAINED offers a thought-provoking look at elephants and how how captive elephants are sometimes treated, as well as a compelling protagonist and poignant coming-of-age story.   

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dinosaurs and Space

Over at the ENGAGE/Teacher to Teacher Blog at the web site of the International Reading Association, I've got a guest post up titled The Timeless Draw of Dinosaurs and Space.  GO check it out!  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TLA 2012 : Updated and bumped


Cynthia and I will be attending the Texas Library Association annual conference this month week. This year's conference is from April 17 through April 20, at the Houston Convention Center.

I will be signing CHRONAL ENGINE on April 18, 2012, from 3 to 4 PM in the Author's Signing area.  I will also be participating in YART's TEXAS TEA event, from noon to 1:30.

Also, on April 18, from 1 p.m. to 1:50 p.m., Cynthia will be presenting on the panel "Connecting Teens and Authors: Teen Book Festivals and Awesome Author Visits," with the folks from Blue Willow Books. She will be signing in the Author's Area from 2 to 3 PM that day.

On April 20, from 8 a.m. to 8:50 a.m., Cynthia will be on the program, "Introducing the Spirit of Texas Reading Programs."

Jen Bigheart, of I READ BANNED BOOKS, has a nice overview of the conference here.

Go here for a listing of Austin authors signing at TLA!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I am thrilled to announce that Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan) will be publishing my novel, LITTLE GREEN MEN AT THE MERCURY INN.  Release is tentatively scheduled for Fall 2013.

It's a comedic middle grade story about what happens to three friends at a motel in Cocoa Beach, Florida, after a manned space launch at Kennedy Space Center is scrubbed due to the appearance of an unidentified flying object over Cape Canaveral.

Thanks to my agent Ginger Knowlton and my new editor Deirdre Langeland (FYI, Deirdre is also editor at the Flashpoint imprint, where she edits some awesome nonfiction)! 

Photos courtesy of NASA 

Monday, April 09, 2012

A T.rex radiator...

This. is. awesome.

I was just sent this link:

Check out the design process here.

H/T to Jen Bigheart.

Austin Authors at TLA!

Random sauropod, Houston Museum of Natural Science

[Updated 4/12]

Here's a listing of Austin authors who are going to be signing at TLA in Houston this month.  Signings are in the Author Area (AA) unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, April 18:

Jeff Crosby
Wednesday, 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm (Booth 1804)

Cynthia Levinson
Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
Wednesday, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm (Booth 1434)

Cynthia Leitich Smith
DIABOLICAL (Taatalize series, Book 4)
Candlewick Press
Wednesday, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm (AA)

Greg Leitich Smith
Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Wednesday, 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm (AA)

Jennifer Ziegler
Random House, Inc.
Wednesday, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm (AA)

Thursday, April 19:

Keith Graves
Chronicle Books
Thursday, 10:00 am - 11:00 am (AA)

Cynthia Leitich Smith
Thursday,  10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (Booth 1529)

Don Tate
Thursday, 10:00 am - 11:00 am (AA)

Jeanette Larson
Thursday, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm (Booth 1305)

Friday, April 20:

Chris Barton
Friday, 10:00 am - 11:00 am (AA)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Happy Easter!

Cretaceous eggs, Dallas Natural Sciences Museum, "Chinasaurs" exhibit

Happy Easter, everyone!

According to a press release from the University of Leicester, certain Easter eggs available in the UK resemble dinosaur eggs more closely than they do bird eggs.  The press release is here: "Dino Eggs Shape Easter Eggs, says new Study."

The study appeared in the current issue of Paleontology and was part of an effort to determine whether newly-found eggs (Sankofa pyrenaica) from the Cretaceous of Spain were laid by dinosaurs or birds.  As seen below, at least one Easter egg closely resembles to the newly-discovered Sankofa:

Comparison of bird (light grey), dino (dark), and Easter (colored)

Nieves Lopez-Martinez and Enric Vicens I Batet, “A new peculiar dinosaur egg, Sankofa pyrenaica oogen. nov. oosp. nov. from the Upper Cretaceous coastal deposits of the Aren Formation, south-central Pyrenees, Lleida, Catalonia, Spain,” Paleontology 55 (2): 325-339 (2012). 

Dinosaur eggs, Dallas Natural Sciences Museum, "Chinasaurs" exhibit

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Yutyrannus: It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!

Or something like that.  Yesterday, a new feathered dinosaur from China was announced.

Of course, it's been almost twenty years since the first discovery of a feathered dinosaur, but what makes this one exceptional is that it was about 27 feet long and weighed about 1.5 tons, which means it's the biggest thing we know of to ever have had feathers.

And it was an ancestral tyrannosaur.

Above is a pic from the article by paleoartist Brian Choo.

Here's an article from National Geographic.

Xu, X., Wang, K., Zhang, K., Ma, Q., Xing, L., Sullivan, C., Hu, D., Cheng, S., and Wang, S. (2012). "A gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China." Nature, 484: 92-95.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

How to Launch a Book, Part I

Between us, Cynthia and I have launched twelve books (with more forthcoming :-)), so I thought the time was ripe for some observations on a launch and signing. 

While it's perfectly valid to ignore the publication of a book and treat it as any other day, Cyn and I have had a policy since we started in the business of celebrating each success, however small.  As Bradley Sanguini says, "Life merits celebration."  And the hatching of a new book is a big deal.

Also, a book launch is in some ways a marketing tool in addition to being a celebration -- it gets people talking about and buying your book.  And hopefully excited about reading it. 

There are several ways this could be done, of course, including a bookstore signing, a signing or event at another facility, or a party at your home.  For CHRONAL ENGINE, we had a public party and signing at BookPeople and a private reception at our house.  We chose to split the event so we could have something open to the public but also be able to celebrate with members of the immediate community (I will talk about a launch party/reception in a subsequent post).

So, here are some thoughts, in no particular order, about a bookstore launch. 

The Bookstore Event

Things to do long before your book comes out or even sells to a publisher:

Bookseller and author Madeline Smoot directs traffic
Get to know your local bookstore and the booksellers.  Don't be stalker-ish, though.

Buy books at your local bookstore.  They are a business, after all, and it needs to make business sense for them to open their facility to you (for free).  Frequenting the store will develop good will toward that end. And, really, you should be reading anyway.

Attend other book launches and book-related events at the local bookstore. You will learn things, have fun, and enjoy being a part of the scene.  And you don't want to be one of those types who doesn't support others but expects their support in return.

Be a part of a community of writers.  In addition to being fun and uplifting, apart from immediate family, these are the folks who are most likely to share in the excitement.  And, unlike family, they will be able to get it get it.

Random photo of Deinosuchus and me.

Planning the launch:

Book your facility.  Many place book months in advance, including your bookstore. 

Decide what you want to do.  Do you want a genteel wine and cheese party or a more raucous hootinanny?  In either case, make sure the bookstore (or whatever facility you choose) is up for it.

Do you want to do an event by yourself or a joint event?  When Cynthia's HOLLER LOUDLY came out, she did an event with Bethany Hegedus and Brian Yansky.

Try picking a theme related to the book for both decorations and refreshments. 

Obviously, in the case of CHRONAL ENGINE, the theme was dinosaurs, so I had dinosaur footprints on the floor, dinosaur-shaped cookies, cupcakes with dinosaur pictures.  When Jeff Crosby's WIENER WOLF came out, he had mini hot dogs from Frank's and relatives dressed up as wolves.

Decide on the refreshments:  In addition to the above, I had kid's party triangle tea sandwiches (peanut butter & jelly, ham and cheese, etc) and a lot of water and soft drinks in the 8 oz. cans.  The cookies were prepared by Anne Bustard and the sandwiches and cupcakes came from Central Market.    

Anne Bustard's dino-cookies
Dino cupcakes
Triangle finger sandwiches
If you choose an outside facility, make sure your bookseller can actually sell books there. (Cynthia Levinson held her launch for WE'VE GOT A JOB at the Carver Museum, and BookPeople sent staff to handle the sales).

In addition to food and drink, know whether you will need to have tablecloths, napkins, cups and plates.  For my launch, BookPeople provided all of these, so it was one less thing we needed to consider. 

Varsha Bajaj, Shana Burg, Sean Petrie Margo Rabb
Jennifer Ziegler, Gene Brenek, Bethany Hegedus
Betty X. Davis, Cynthia Levinson

Know the facility.  My local bookstore has excellent WiFi in the coffee shop, but seems to have a WiFi "dark spot" with a very slow connection in the most optimal location for presentations to large crowds.  Consequently, for events there, you will not necessarily have access to the Internet -- this can be a problem if you want to show your trailer via YouTube, if you want to Skype, etc.  So, you need to make other arrangements.

Have backups.  Your bookstore will likely have its own projector but you will probably have to bring your own laptop or tablet computer.  If you do, make sure you bring necessary cords or Bluetooth connectors or wireless remotes, etc.  Sometimes these things can get lost and, if you are dependent on them, you don't want to find out minutes before your presentation that a vital technological component is not available.

Extra cordage

Be aware, of course, that even the best of plans might not work out.  When I launched CHRONAL ENGINE, I brought along an extra extension cord for my computer as well as an extra-long VGA cable (I didn't have a wireless/remote mouse for my computer and I've found that ones for the projector are a bit iffy).  I also had masking tape to secure the cords against people tripping on them.  That way, I figured, I could stand at the lectern and operate my slides myself.  I had also prepared a Prezi presentation using the laptop (not cloud-based) version, because I knew I wouldn't be able to get Internet access.

The Adapter of Doom
I was quite pleased with my foresight and planning, and then when I hooked up my laptop, I discovered that the power cord adapter wasn't working.  Fortunately, Cynthia has the same model computer, and I was able to dash back to the house and grab her adapter. But if that hadn't happened, I would've been prepared either to present a traditional Powerpoint or just have "winged" it.

In this regard, you should also plan on getting to the facility sufficiently early that you discover such glitches while there is still time to fix them.

Know your audience.  At the CHRONAL ENGINE launch, I knew there would be a lot of people in the writing community, including writers and illustrators, teachers and librarians, professors of children's literature, family friends and spouses who are not in the community, as well as a good number of real live, actual children and teens.

The presentation should be such that all parties are engaged.  Try having an interactive component that will involve young readers in the audience.  You don't necessarily want people to just sit passively.
Interior illustration by Blake Henry
Prepare your presentation.  Ideally, it should be relatively short, engaging, and visually interesting.  With mine, I was able to show pictures of dinosaurs and pictures from the book itself.  If you do an overhead presentation, do not simply read off your slides.

Practice your presentation.  You should know what's going on without having to consult your slides or hem and haw.

Ask for help.  There is probably no way you can do it all yourself.  For the CHRONAL ENGINE launch, friends were gracious enough to lend coolers; take pictures; help with carrying refreshments and coolers out to the store; pick up the refreshments from Central Market; and bring stuff back afterwards.  

Get the word out.  Nothing is more disheartening than a bookstore signing in which no one shows up.  Publicizing the event can take many forms and when your signing is at a bookstore, they can help out, too (either on their web site or sending notices to the literary section of the local newspaper, etc.).

If you blog and are adept at social media, use those.  Perhaps take out a Facebook ad.

Post on local writer list servs, get your local SCBWI chapter and other writer organizations (e.g., Writers League of Texas) to blog it.

Send out invitations, either by traditional mail or using Paperless Post or Evite.  Emphasize that it's a party. 

Talk to local teachers and librarians.  Ask your kid to take postcards to school.

Lindsey Lane, Jerri Romine, and Meredith Davis
At the signing itself, engage the folks who are coming.  Perhaps have postcards and other swag to give away.  Decide how you're going to sign (e.g., are you going to have a special catchphrase or stickers, stamps, etc.).  

Thank people. 

And have fun.  Because life merits celebration.

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