So, a few things have happened recently

In case you’ve missed the tweets/Facebook posts about these things, I thought I’d put them all here for you to refer to.

Last week’s #yalitchat on Twitter now has a full transcript. An abridged post, getting to the meat of the discussion and clarifying some of the conversations, will be posted soon.

Susan Morris at the Amazon blog Omnivoracious interviewed me about writing cross-culturally.

ETA: Stephanie Kuehn over at YA Highway also interviewed me. Want to know how I became an editor? Read it all here!

And, best news of all, Tu’s spring books have gotten some really great blurbs.

On Kimberly Pauley’s Cat Girl’s Day Off:

Cat Girl’s Day Off was such a fun, adventurous romp!  I couldn’t stop reading it . . . with my cat.”—Alex Flinn, author of Beastly and Bewitching

“When I need to read something smart and funny and completely original, I turn to Kimberly Pauley. CAT GIRL’S DAY OFF is a manic, madcap adventure that satisfies from the first page to the last.”—Saundra Mitchell, author of Shadowed Summer and The Vespertine

 

And last but not least, on Bryce Moore’s Vodnik, #1 New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson said:

“Vodnik is compelling, interesting, and darkly humorous. I think you’ll love it.”

ETA: Bryce is giving a way an advance copy of the book, so if you’d like to read it early, check out the details on Bryce’s blog!

 

Obligatory holiday buy-my-books post

Hey, remember how I published three books this fall? If you’re looking for great reads for the science fiction or fantasy buff in your life, you should remember Tu’s go some great books! Here are some links for you in case you need them, or go down to your local bookseller. If they don’t have the books in stock (B&N has Tankborn and Wolf Mark, but sometimes an indie might not), ask them to order them in! The more a book gets bought in a local indie, for example, the more they take notice and think maybe it should be on their shelves.

Galaxy Games: The Challengers by Greg Fishbone


Indiebound: Find a copy at your local independent bookstore! Google e-book

Amazon: Hardcover  E-book

B&N: Hardcover and E-book

Ipad & Iphone: E-book

Things are looking up for Tyler Sato (literally!) as he and his friends scan the night sky for a star named for him by his Tokyo cousins in honor of his eleventh birthday. Ordinary stars tend to stay in one place, but Ty’s seems to be streaking directly toward Earth at an alarming rate. Soon the whole world is talking about TY SATO, the doomsday asteroid, and life is turned upside down for Ty Sato, the boy, who would rather be playing hoops in his best friend’s driveway.

Meanwhile, aboard a silver spaceship heading for Earth, M’Frozza, a girl with three eyes and five nose holes, is on a secret mission. M’Frozza is the captain of planet Mrendaria’s Galaxy Games team, and she is desperate to save her world from a dishonorable performance in the biggest sporting event in the universe.

What will happen when Ty meets M’Frozza? Get ready for the most important event in human history—it’ll be off the backboard, around the rim, and out of this world!

Tankborn by Karen Sandler

Indiebound: Find a copy at your local independent bookstore! Google e-book

Amazon: Hardcover  E-book

B&N: Hardcover and E-book

Ipad & Iphone: E-book

Best friends Kayla and Mishalla know they will be separated when the time comes for their Assignments. They are GENs, Genetically Engineered Non-humans, and in their strict caste system, GENs are at the bottom rung of society. High-status trueborns and working-class lowborns, born naturally of a mother, are free to choose their own lives. But GENs are gestated in a tank, sequestered in slums, and sent to work as slaves as soon as they reach age fifteen.

When Kayla is Assigned to care for Zul Manel, the patriarch of a trueborn family, she finds a host of secrets and surprises—not least of which is her unexpected friendship with Zul’s great-grandson. Meanwhile, the children that Mishalla is Assigned to care for are being stolen in the middle of the night. With the help of an intriguing lowborn boy, Mishalla begins to suspect that something horrible is happening to them.

After weeks of toiling in their Assignments, mystifying circumstances enable Kayla and Mishalla to reunite. Together they hatch a plan with their new friends to save the children who are disappearing. Yet can GENs really trust humans? Both girls must put their lives and hearts at risk to crack open a sinister conspiracy, one that may reveal secrets no one is ready to face.

 

Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac

Indiebound: Find a copy at your local independent bookstore! Google e-book
Amazon: Hardcover  E-book

B&N: Hardcover and E-book

Ipad & Iphone: E-book

Luke King knows a lot of things. Like four different ways to disarm an enemy before the attacker can take a breath. Like every detail of every book he’s ever read. And Luke knows enough—just enough—about what his father does as a black ops infiltrator to know which questions not to ask. Like why does his family move around so much?

Luke just hopes that this time his family is settled for a while. He’ll finally be able to have a normal life. He’ll be able to ask the girl he likes to take a ride with him on his motorcycle. He’ll hang out with his friends. He’ll be invisible—just as he wants.

But when his dad goes missing, Luke realizes that life will always be different for him. Suddenly he must avoid the kidnappers looking to use him as leverage against his father, while at the same time evading the attention of the school’s mysterious elite clique of Russian hipsters, who seem much too interested in Luke’s own personal secret. Faced with multiple challenges and his emerging paranormal identity, Luke must decide who to trust as he creates his own destiny.

 

 

And just a reminder that in the spring we’ll have two more great books for you to check out!

Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley

Never listen to a cat. That will only get you in trouble.

Actually, scratch that. Listening to cats is one thing, but really I should never listen to my best friend Oscar. It’s completely his fault (okay, and my aspiring actress friend Melly’s too) that I got caught up in this crazy celebrity-kidnapping mess.

If you had asked me, I would have thought it would be one of my super-Talented sisters who’d get caught up in crime fighting. I definitely never thought it would be me and my Talent trying to save the day. Usually, all you get out of conversations with cats is requests for tummy rubs and tuna.

Wait . . . I go back to what I said first: Never listen to a cat. Because when the trouble starts and the kitty litter hits the fan, trust me, you don’t want to be in the middle of it.

 

Vodnik by Bryce Moore

Teacups: great for tea. Really sucky as places-to-live-out-the-rest-of-your-eternal-existence. Very little elbow room, and the internet connection is notoriously slow. Plus, they’re a real pain in the butt to get out of, especially when you’ve gone non-corporeal.

When Tomas was six, someone—something—tried to drown him. And burn him to a crisp. Tomas survived, but whatever was trying to kill him freaked out his parents enough to convince them to move from Slovakia to the United States.

Now sixteen-year-old Tomas and his family are back in Slovakia, and that something still lurks somewhere. Nearby. Ready to drown him again and imprison his soul in a teacup.

Then there’s the fire víla, the water ghost, the pitchfork-happy city folk, and Death herself who are all after him.

All this sounds a bit comical, unless the one haunted by water ghosts and fire vílas or doing time in a cramped, internet-deprived teacup is you.

If Tomas wants to survive, he’ll have to embrace the meaning behind the Slovak proverb, So smrťou ešte nik zmluvu neurobil. With Death, nobody makes a pact.

 

 

Six Little Sisters by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Now that it’s been announced in Children’s Bookshelf, I can let you know that I have a new acquisition!

Stacy Whitman at Lee & Low Books has acquired world rights to Guadalupe Garcia McCall‘s second YA novel, Six Little Sisters, scheduled for publication in fall 2012 under the Tu Books imprint. In this retelling of The Odyssey, Odilia and her five sisters embark on a quest to return a dead man to his family and must overcome monsters from Mexican folklore as they journey home.

I’m very excited about this one! Guadalupe’s writing is gorgeous. Her first book, Under the Mesquite, a realistic novel in verse, was published this fall by Lee & Low. (Though there was some confusion early on because it was the only L&L title alongside the Tu fall books on NetGalley, it is not a Tu book—I didn’t edit that one; that honor was my coworker Emily’s.) It’s gotten great reviews, including a starred review from Kirkus, and was included in the Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year 2011 list. Six Little Sisters is slated to come out next fall.

On sequels

I’ve been reading a number of highly anticipated sequels lately, as well as editing a sequel or two myself. It has me thinking about the best ways to reintroduce your reader to your characters and plot that they may have just read last week—or maybe it’s been more than a year. How do you avoid over-dumping on the re-reader without leaving the non-re-reader in the dusts of confusion?

One strategy I’ve seen in sequels for young readers, especially, is to just stop the action entirely at some point in the first chapter and explain what happened in the last book. It’s a trick I saw used a lot in series books for kids when I was a young reader obsessed with Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books.

This doesn’t really work for me. Any stopping of the action for an infodump breaks the spell for me as a reader, taking me time to rebuild my suspension of disbelief. It worked to a point in those old series books because my library didn’t always have every single copy in order when I wanted them (not to mention they were missing several volumes), but especially if you’re not writing series books (as in, shared-world), it’s not the best strategy, in my opinion.

Then there’s the school of thought that just dumps you into the action of the new book. This can work, but it’s tricky. One book I read recently is a good example (no, I’m not going to tell you the name of it): I’m right there with the story until the character thinks of another character who she’s lost touch with. He’s not in any scene for the first quarter of the book, and I was racking my brain that whole time trying to remember which of two or three possibilities he could be, and that confusion wasn’t cleared up when he showed up in-scene.  And it’s a confusion that I’m not sure the author could have anticipated. Maybe I should have glanced back at the previous book to remind myself. Was he a love interest? Was he a brother? Was he a potential love interest who turned out to be a brother? (Perhaps too much Star Wars in my diet?) I couldn’t remember until at least halfway through the book, and mostly because I picked up the last book and skimmed. This has happened to me a few times lately.

I think there are ways to help jog the reader’s memory without losing momentum or forcing the reader to go back to the previous book (some readers might not even have the previous book on hand—they might have borrowed it from the library or a friend). In my opinion, the best way to remind readers, whether they’ve just read a book and are launching into the sequel immediately or it’s been a year since they read the last book, is the same principle as getting your reader into a completely new world: through well-placed details planted with a deft touch.

Let’s look at the opening pages of Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, for an example. The first two paragraphs are right in the moment, Katniss thinking about what’s going on right now and what’s about to happen. We don’t get a direct reference to the Hunger Games until paragraph 3, but all along she’s talking about their outcome because that’s what life is for her now: reporters and camera crews, preparation for the Victory Tour, the dread she feels so much that it’s physically affecting her.

Then in paragraph 3 we get a quick review of book 1 with an in-scene rumination on how much she wants to forget the Hunger Games but isn’t allowed to because it suits the political purposes of the Capital. One paragraph, and it all matters to the current plot. She doesn’t stop the plot to explain what the Hunger Games were, just reminds the reader with a deft touch of the repercussions of all the events of book 1.

Then we’re on to the scene again, and the purpose of Katniss being in the woods: hunting for her best friend, Gale, who can’t be out in the woods as much anymore (and in the meantime, glancing off the subject of her mother and her sister, in context, discussing how life has changed for them since Katniss won the Games, how she doesn’t have to hunt for them to survive), and how Gale’s family is still living hand to mouth, why she’s the one hunting (Gale has gone to work in the coal mines), etc. The next couple of pages is kind of a “what’s happened since last time” catch-up combined with a few key details reminding us of events of book 1 or backstory while Katniss clears her snares, but woven in so that we know that she’s thinking about these things while she’s hunting. She’s got a lot of time for her mind to ruminate while she roams the woods, and these things matter to her now, right now while she’s going about her daily tasks, rather than the “stop and review” I was referring to above. It’s a subtle difference—and probably the conversational tone of the present tense of Catching Fire helps with that. It feels like Katniss is personally telling her story, so a few thoughts of the past that she’s currently thinking about work in a way that might feel odd in past tense.

I had another sequel in mind to use as an example, but it’s at home and I’m at the office and I’ve been drafting this post over the course of several days now. So I’ll go ahead and post this now, but maybe I’ll come back with that other book when I get home from the office, as a counterpoint. Catching Fire actually doesn’t do a whole lot of active reminding of what happened in the last book—as I said, it’s more of a “here’s what’s happened since last time” approach, using a hunting scene as a framework, that simultaneously reminds readers of characters and relationships, with a sentence or two here or there where necessary to remind readers of past events (like the sentence that notes that Gale’s mother lost her husband in the same mining accident in which Katniss lost her father). But not every book has as memorable a plot as The Hunger Games—not everything can be about kids being forced to kill other kids on reality TV—so there are some sequels in which a more active reminder is necessary. But these sequels still require a deft touch so as to avoid stopping the action. I believe the book I have at home does that, but I’ll have to go look at it to be sure. So, more later!

Simmons alums unite!

In celebration of my Simmons classmate Anna Staniszewski’s new book release, I thought perhaps we could make a list of children’s and young adult books by Simmons College children’s lit program alumnae. (The women’s college is open to guys in the grad programs, but I think most of the alums who have been published are women. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.)

I only know of a few, but I bet my Simmons friends out there can add to this list!

Anna Staniszewski, My Very UnFairy Tale Life

Kristin Cashore, Graceling, Fire, and the forthcoming Bitterblue

Jo Knowles, Lessons from a Dead Girl, Jumping off Swings, and Pearl

Karsten Knight, Wildefire

Juana Dehesa, Pink Doll (Mexico)

 

Who else? And make sure to congratulate Anna on her book’s publication!

What have you read lately?

I’m currently splitting my time between two favorite authors’ newest books: James Dashner’s The Death Cure and Tamora Pierce’s Mastiff. I’m a HUGE Tamora Pierce fan. As she often says when she introduces herself at conventions, she writes about girls who kick butt. You can see a really interesting progression of feminist thought from second wave to third wave in her work, too—the Song of the Lioness quartet about Alanna, published in the 1980s, are very much “girls are ‘as good as’ boys,” with something to prove, and then you can see how the idea of “girl power” has changed over the years all the way down to today, in the Beka Cooper books, in which Beka has nothing to prove: she is who she is, because duh, she kicks butt because she can and should be able to defend herself and those who have no power or voice. (She’s a medieval cop who can talk to ghosts and Hunts with a scent hound. I love it!) The Beka Cooper books are really interesting to me because they’re actually set at a time in the history of Tortall before Alanna, and you can see how the beginnings of the belief in the Goddess as the Gentle Mother influences Alanna’s circumstances later when she’s in such a sexist situation that no one believes women should be lady knights, despite there being many storied lady knights in the past.

And of course The Death Cure is the last in James Dashner’s Maze Runner trilogy. Even though I worked with James on the first book years ago before it ended up selling to Delacourte (curses! But I’m glad it found a good home), I could never have predicted where the next two books would end up. It’s good, guys. I’m not quite finished reading yet, but it’s action packed and if you haven’t started with The Maze Runner you should catch up to me so we can talk.

Once I finally finish those (tonight I’m off again on a Hunt with Beka Cooper), I’m digging right into Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien, the sequel to her Birth Marked, which I also enjoyed. I’m curious where it’ll go next.

And now my cat Mogget is racing around the apartment with the kitty crazies. Maybe I’ll go toss a mouse to him so he’ll stop scratching up the dining room table. While I’m gone, share your latest favorite reads!

FAQ: Muslim protagonists

A writer asks:

I recently submitted the first three chapters of my manuscript to Tu Books as per your guidelines, and I am a ball of anxiety. My MC is a Muslim girl, and while the story itself is pure historical fantasy, I am worried that you will feel a Muslim protagonist is not relatable enough. Can you share your thoughts? I’ve been told that publishers might not want to take a chance on a Muslim protagonist.

 

No need to worry! Muslim protagonists (as well as non-Muslim Arab and Arab American protagonists) are welcome here, both historical and contemporary. I’ve been on the lookout for a story set in the Middle East and hadn’t found the right one yet. So please, yes! Send them along.

The biggest concern I’d have about any character being relatable would be on an individual basis, not because they were Muslim. If the main character were unsympathetic, that kind of thing—that’s what makes it hard for me to relate to a character. For me, relatability is based more on emotional connection rather than situational relatability. I can’t directly relate with the situation of being a genetically engineered untouchable/slave, but I completely related to Kayla in Tankborn on an emotional level. Who hasn’t felt as lost and disoriented at some point as she did, needing to discover what was most important to us and where we fit in the world, whether we shared her situation (being Assigned to her first job as a GEN caretaker) or not?

What I look for in something I might like to publish: strong, relatable characters; settings that interest me (whether familiar or unfamiliar); plot lines in which interesting and important things happen, action abounds, and connect closely with character development; worldbuilding that brings a reader into the world (in fantasy, no one knows this world, even if it is closely related to one in the real world; skillful worldbuilding is very important on a number of levels); well crafted voice. This can be done with characters of any background (well, I might not sympathize with a story told completely from Sauron’s point of view; completely evil characters are generally not sympathetic!).

I hope that helps allay some fears. When we say “about everyone, for everyone,” we mean everyone. Except maybe Sauron.