Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CHRONAL ENGINE interview and Giveaway

An interview with me about CHRONAL ENGINE just went live at the Authorlink website!  Many thanks to Susan VanHecke!  Go check it out here.

Also, you still have time to enter author P.J. Hoover's giveaway of a prepublication ARC of CHRONAL ENGINE here.  She says "[i]f you're looking for a fast-paced middle grade adventure/science-fiction story, then this book is for you! The action starts on page one, and it never ends."

Thanks, PJ!

Also, a reminder: the Release Party for CHRONAL ENGINE is at BookPeople at 603 N. Lamar on March 24, at 2 PM.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Writing Workshops

Interested in taking a writing workshop this summer?

In June, Cyn and I will both be teaching at the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (June 18 to June 22) in Sandy, Utah.  I will be teaching the Advanced Novel class and Cyn will be teaching the Paranormal class.
In July, Cyn and I will be teaching the YA Novel workshop at the Southampton Writers Conference (July 11 to July 15) in Southampton, New York.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Debbi Michiko Florence

Debbi Michiko Florence is a third generation Japanese-American and has lived in Mexico, China, New York, and Michigan.  She presently resides in California.  She holds a degree in zoology, volunteered as a "raptor rehabilitator" (the avian kind), and ran a "dino camp" at the Detroit Zoo.

In adidition to writing fiction, Debbi is the author of JAPAN: A KALEIDOSCOPE KIDS BOOK and CHINA: A KALEIDOSCOPE KIDS BOOK, both available from Williamson Books.

Above, Debbi poses with a T.rex at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. 

Below, she's in the London Natural History Museum with the pliosaur Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni.  The woman in the photo on the wall is Mary Anning, one of the earliest and most prolific fossil hunters (and who discovered several ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.).

Saturday, February 25, 2012


CROW, by Barbara Wright (Random House 2012)(ages 8-12).  It's Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898, and Moses Thomas has just finished fifth grade with perfect attendance.  His father works at the daily African American newspaper and is one of four African American aldermen on the city council.

His grandmother and mother were born into slavery.  But Moses's father knows that so long as Moses has an education and self-respect, he can grow up to make something of himself.

Although Moses has fun that summer (he gets to take his first train ride and starts to teach Boo Nanny how to read), there are ominous signs -- he has issues with his friends and tensions between the white and African American communities begin to rise...

CROW is a fascinating and poignant story of one boy's summer in the time leading up to the Wilmington Massacre of 1898.  Thought-provoking, but not preachy, CROW pulls no punches as it remains true to the era yet always maintains the perspective of an eleven-year-old.  Altogether, it's a compelling read with an engaging and likeable protagonist.       

Friday, February 24, 2012


BLIZZARD OF GLASS: THE HALIFAX EXPLOSION OF 1917, by Sally M. Walker (Henry Holt 2011)(ages 10+).  In December 1917, the Belgian relief vessel Imo collided with the munitions carrier Mont-Blanc in Halifax Harbor.  The resulting blast has been called the largest man-made explosion before the invention of the atomic bomb.  Two towns were flattened and nearly 2000 people were killed.  And the day after the accident, a blizzard dumped a foot of snow on the devastated area...

BLIZZARD OF GLASS offers a thorough and compelling look at a little-known disaster, with interviews of survivors and hair-raising accounts of the event and its aftermath.  Altogether, it's a gripping tale of horror, survival, and hope. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Dianne de Las Casas

Dianne de Las Casas is a storyteller and an author of professional books for teachers and librarians, as well as books for children, including the forthcoming DINOSAUR MARDI GRAS (Pelican Publishing 2012).  With a father in the military, as a child she lived in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Spain.  She now lives with her family in the New Orleans area.

She is a founder of Picture Book Month, celebrating the look and feel of picture books!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Just received my first copy.  'Nuff said.


VODNIK, by Bryce Moore (Tu Books/Lee & Low, March 2012)(12+).   When Tomas was six, his parents brought him to the United States after he was nearly drowned and burned to death -- and he has the scars on his arm and lungs to prove it.   Now sixteen, after their house in the States burned down, Tomas and his family are back in Trencin, Slovakia, and he has a job at the very castle at which he nearly died.

Then he starts seeing things -- fire elementals, water creatures, and the Grim Reaper -- and starts to think that the legendary vodnik may actually be after him and his soul...

VODNIK offers a thrilling and suspenseful update on Slovak legends of the vodnici.  Tomas is engaging and the setting atmospheric, without being cliched, blending the ancient and the contemporary in a fascinating and sometimes funny read.    

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Austin SCBWI Regional Conference

Many thanks to the Austin SCBWI for presenting Cyn and me with the above award naming us as Ambassadors for the Austin Kid-Lit Community at the Regional Conference yesterday.  We're deeply honored.

Kudos to RA Debbie Gonzales, ARA Carmen Oliver, Illustration Chair Mark G. Mitchell, and the faculty, volunteers, and attendees at yesterday's Austin SCBWI Regional Conference, "Something for Everybody," at St. Edward's University!

Airplane hanging in Ragsdale Center

Faculty included authors Lisa Yee, Donna Jo Napoli, Anastasia Suen, and Chris Barton; attorney Barry Furrow; editor Bonnie Bader of Penguin Young Readers Group (Grosset and Dunlap and Price Stern Sloan); editorial director Diane Muldrow of Golden Books/Random House; senior art director Patti Ann Harris of Little, Brown; publicist Kirsten Cappy of Curious City; agent Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency; agent Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency as well as Erin Murphy and Ammi-Joan Paquette (who's also a children's author) of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Julie Lake, Mark Mitchell, Jennifer Ziegler
Erin Murphy, with Lindsey Scheibe pretending to be a theropod dinosaur.
 Critique faculty included: April Lurie, Brian Yansky, Bethany Hegedus, P.J. Hoover, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Jennifer Ziegler, Jessica Lee Anderson, Margo Rabb, Mari Mancusi, Nikki Loftin and Varian Johnson.

The auction items (l) and illustrator portfolios (r)
For Cyn and I, the event began at the Friday night reception at the Ragsdale Center at St. Ed's.  We had a nice chance to catch up with friends and meet those of the faculty who were new to us.  Readings by Chris Barton, Diane Muldrow, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Anastasia Suen, and Donna Jo Napoli wowed the crowd.  Afterwards, a group of us headed out to Frank & Angie's for pizza and conviviality.

Saturday, we were up early for Lisa Yee's terrific keynote and manuscript critiques, followed by an entertaining session with Anastasia Suen and her agent Jill Corcoran.  After lunch, we heard Donna Jo Napoli talk about why she writes "difficult" books; listened in as Jill Corcoran gave advice on how to write a query letter; attended the Agent-Editor Q&A; and the after-party.

And then we passed out.

Here's Cyn's recap.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: E.C. Myers

Photo by Ellen Wright
E.C. Myers writes fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels.  Of Korean and German descent, he hails originally from Yonkers, New York, and now works as a development writer for a children's hospital.

His first young adult novel, FAIR COIN, is forthcoming in March 2012 from Pyr Books.

Above, he poses with his wife Carrie, a former children's book editor and presently a medical student, at the American Museum of Natural History.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Vicious Valentine

One of the display cubes
Last night was the panel for My Vicious Valentine: Spine-tingling YA Author Panel, featuring Jordan Dane, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover, Mari Mancusi, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and L.A. Weatherly---moderated by Sean Petrie--at BookPeople!

A table was set with chocolate cake, heart-shaped cookies, dark chocolate Kisses, and dry red wine.   Questions by moderator Sean Petrie ran the gamut from writing process, e-books, future projects, and writing across gender.

Sean with artificial devil horns.

The crowd's questions were equally fun -- fans wanted to know the backgrounds of the stories and thoughts on the nature of the graphic novel.

During the signings, I had a nice chat with some of the librarians from Bastrop, who were pleased to hear that parts of CHRONAL ENGINE are set in and near that town.  (Cyn and I are doing an event at the Bastrop Public Library this summer -- details to come).

Afterward, a group of us (Cyn, Sean Petrie, Jenny Moss, P.J. Hoover, Nikki Loftin, Samantha Clark, Lindsey Scheibe, Bethany Hegedus, Jordan Dane, Mari Mancusi, and Rosemary Clement-Moore) headed over to Frank & Angie's for a late dinner and a glass of wine or two.  Discussion ranged from TV shows (Buffy, Dr. Who, Supernatural, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica); books not written by any of us (Hunger Games, Dragon's Tooth, The Watch That Ends the Night, The Future of Us, The Fox Inheritance), and Texas's Old Three Hundred.

Friday, February 10, 2012


LARKLIGHT, by Philip Reeve (Bloomsbury 2006)(ages 8+).  In this steampunkish space fantasy, in the 19th Century, the British Empire has spread across the aether, and has established colonies as far out as Jupiter. 

Arthur Mumby and his sister Myrtle live in a rambling house called Larklight orbiting the Moon.  Their lives are turned upside down when they are kidnapped by giant spiders and rescued by the fearsome pirate Jack Havock himself.  And things get really complicated when they uncover a plot to destroy the very heart of the Empire, London itself....

LARKLIGHT is a swashbuckling romp through a fantastically envisioned British Empire aboard ships reminiscent of those from Treasure Planet.  Art and Myrtle are engaging and dryly funny as they tell the story of how they traveled the solar system and defeated the evildoers...   

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Writers and Illustrators and Dinosaurs: Meredith Davis

Meredith Davis writes picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels.  A former bookseller at Toad Hall, she is the founder of the Austin Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and served for three years as its Regional Adviser.  She recently completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

She blogs at Stories in the Street.

  The lad with the gimlet eye is her son, Benji. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Some thoughts on TERRA NOVA

Just before Christmas, TERRA NOVA finished its first season of 13 episodes (most TV shows get around 22 episodes, but apparently TERRA NOVA is really expensive). 

As I blogged in October, the premise is that in a dystopian twenty-second century, a time portal has been discovered which allows travel to an indeterminate location some 85 million years in the past. Humanity has established an outpost there and is sending colonists back in "waves."  The show follows the adventures and tribulations of the Shannon family, consisting of Jim Shannon, Dr. Elisabeth Shannon, and their three children Josh, Maddie, and Zoe.

No decision has yet been made on whether there will be a second season.  It is apparently noteworthy, however, that the options of two of the stars have been picked up.

In situations like this, fan input is reported to be important in influencing network executives.  If you want to see a second season of TERRA NOVA, here are two ways you can make your voice heard:  You can sign the twitter petition here.  And, per the suggestion of Jason O'Mara, who plays Jim Shannon, you can send plastic dinosaurs to the head of Fox, Kevin Reilly.  Here's the link with the address: Send plastic dinosaurs.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that there are issues with the show.  The premise is a little dicey and there are some glaring examples of fridge logic plot holes.  The dinosaurs are okay, although a little too mix and match for my taste (and there aren't enough of them!).  My biggest global issue, though, is that there seems to be very little sense of wonder and very little interest in exploring.  I mean, here you are in an awe-inspiring pristine earth populated by dinosaurs, and nobody wants to go and check them out? 

One of the problems, I think, is that the show has only had 13 episodes, and a large cast, which makes it hard to "get into" and care about the characters.  Toward the end of the season they were getting more interesting.  (FWIW, I think I was only able to start liking STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE after two full seasons.  (Actually, TERRA NOVA sort of reminds me a bit of DEEP SPACE NINE meets MY SO-CALLED LIFE)). 

Anyway, I think the show has promise and would be sorry to see it go down after only one season.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Upcoming Book People Events!

Friday, February 10:  My Vicious Valentine: Spine-tingling YA Author Panel, featuring Jordan Dane, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover, Mari Mancusi, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and L.A. Weatherly---moderated by Sean Petrie--will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at BookPeople in Austin. Join us when six top YA authors dish on the devilish, gab about ghosts, and soar with the angels in this panel celebrating spine-tingling stories, supernatural creatures, and perhaps scariest of all, true love.

March 4 (3 PM at the Carver Museum):  Launch Party for We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March, by Cynthia Levinson.  Join Cynthia Levinson as she discussed the background and research process for We've Got a Job!

March 24 (2 PM at BookPeople). Launch Party for Chronal Engine! Greg Leitich Smith will present on his middle grade/tween prehistoric time travel adventure! 

Be sure to download the activity guide here!

Thursday, February 02, 2012


I'm delighted to announce that the activity kit for CHRONAL ENGINE is now available.

It's filled with games and art and reading/discussion activities!

Go here to check it out!


RANDY RILEY'S REALLY BIG HIT, by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick 2012)(ages 4+).  Randy Riley knows and loves outer space, robots, and baseball.  But he stinks at the latter.  Until one day, he spots a giant meteor barreling toward Earth!  Can he bring together all his knowledge and skills (and lack thereof) to save the planet?

RANDY RILEY offer whimsical illustrations and a larger-than-life concept, coupled with a text that evokes "Casey at the Bat."   Altogether, a fine baseball yarn that hilariously combines America's pastime with big, giant robots.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


BILLIONS OF YEARS, AMAZING CHANGES, by Laurence Pringle, ill. by Steve Jenkins (Boyds Mills 2011)(ages 8+), offers a fine overview of the science of the theory of evolution, covering fossils, Charles Darwin, "missing links," "survival of the fittest," "natural selection," and more.  The text is eminently readable and the drawings are an engaging complement.

Not nearly enough dinosaurs, though. :-).     
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