Aphrodite the Diva Swag Giveaway

Enter to win an Aphrodite the Diva Swag Giveaway, courtesy of authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams.

To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or you can email me directly with “Aphrodite the Diva” in the subject line. Author-sponsored.

Eligibility: U.S./Canada entries only. Deadline: Oct. 23.

See also a Cynsations guest post by Joan and Suzanne on Sustaining a Children’s Book Series Over Time. Peek: “Every book is populated by a familiar cast of Greek gods, goddesses, demigods, and mortals—all students at Mount Olympus Academy. Sometimes, as with Book 6, we also bring in characters like the Egyptian goddess, Isis, from other pantheons. All the books have an actual Greek myth or two at their cores.”

International T-Shirt & Books Giveaway; Walker Releases Blessed & Tantalize: Kieren’s Story

More styles to choose from!

Attention Readers in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.!

Enter to win:

1rst prize: Blessed, Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, and your choice of Tantalize T-shirts, designed by Gene Brenek

2nd and 3rd prize: your choice of Blessed or Tantalize: Kieren’s Story.

Pictured here, we have the ever-popular “Cell Phones Will Be Eaten” T-shirt. This one is especially beloved by librarians.

Other options, pictured below, include: I HEART Baby Squirrel; the dragon and bird “Predator or Prey” logos; Drop in for a Late Night Bite; and the classic Sanguini’s restaurant logos (flowers and fang-marks).

See all of the Tantalize designs. See also designs for Eternal and beyond.

Winners will be invited to specify preferred style, color and size.

I HEART Baby Squirrel
dragon predator or prey?

bird predator or prey?
Drop in for a Late Night Bite
Sanguini’s flowers logo
Sanguini’s fang-marks logo

To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or you can email me directly with “Blessed/TKS Giveaway” in the subject line.

For extra entries (itemize efforts in your entry comment/email with relevant links):

Limit 8 entries.

Author-publishers sponsored. Deadline: Oct. 17.

Eligibility: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.

Do you want to buy Tantalize series T-shirts, stickers, magnets, hats, mugs? Shop Sanguini’s at CafePress! See Tantalize and Eternal (not pictured here) designs.

See also Illustrator Interview: Gene Brenek on the Logo for Sanguini’s from Tantalize and Gene Brenek on Images of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Eternal.

New Releases

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available from Walker Books in the U.K. From the promotional copy:

Teased by Tantalize? Possessed by Eternal? Then prepare yourself to be Blessed in Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s latest dark fantasy.

Quincie Morris, teen restaurateur and neophyte vampire, is in the fight of her life. Even as she adjusts to her new appetites, she must clear her best friend and true love, the hybrid-werewolf Kieren, of murder charges; thwart the apocalyptic ambitions of Bradley Sanguini, the seductive vampire-chef who “blessed” her; and keep her dead parents’ restaurant up and running.

She hires a more homespun chef and adds the preternaturally beautiful Zachary to her waiting staff. But with hundreds of new vampires on the rise and Bradley off assuming the powers of Dracula Prime, Zachary soon reveals his true nature – and a flaming sword – and they hit the road to staunch the bloodshed before it’s too late.

Even if they save the world, will there be time left to salvage Quincie’s soul?

More on Blessed from Walker (U.K.).

Note: Blessed was released by Candlewick Press and Walker Australia and New Zealand last winter.

Check out the U.K. version of the book trailer.

Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle, is also available from Walker Books (U.K). and Walker Books Australia and New Zealand. From the promotional copy:

Illustrated by hot new talent Ming Doyle, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize is reimagined as a graphic novel – seen through Kieren’s werewolf eyes.

As a hybrid werewolf, Kieren is destined to join an urban Wolf pack and learn to master his shift. Soon he’ll leave everything behind: home, school, his family, and Quincie, his human best friend … who’s beginning to be a whole lot more than a friend. 

For years, Kieren has managed to keep his desires – and his wolf – at bay. But when the chef at Quincie’s family restaurant is brutally murdered, Kieren resolves to be there for her, even if it means being framed or watching Quincie’s beloved restaurant morph into a vampire lair. But when the new chef begins wooing her, how long can Kieren control his claws? How long can he protect Quincie – and himself? 

In an elegant graphic edition featuring cinematic sequential art and lush, romantic cover art, best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith re-envisions her delicious dark fantasy through wolfish eyes.

More on the graphic novel from Walker (U.K.)

More on the graphic novel from Walker Australia and New Zealand.

Note: it’s available from Candlewick Press in the U.S./Canada.

Cynsational Notes

$2.99 ebook sale!

U.S. Readers! Have you been waiting for a chance to read Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2009)? It’s a highlighted October sale title for Kindle readers! You can purchase the e-book for $2.99 (67% off)! See a complete list (with links) of children’s-YA ebooks on sale for Kindle/Amazon.com readers from author Cheryl Rainfield.

It’s Our World But… by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Amy LV at Sharing Our Notebooks. Peek at pages from my journal–pre-writing notes on the Tantalize series.

Monsters & Metaphors: The Heart of Horror Writing by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations. Peek: “…an occasionally humorous, occasionally romantic and touching rescue-the-boy, kill-the-monster, save-the-world story.” See also Agent Ginger Knowlton Interviews Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations.

Going Graphic by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Hunger Mountain: A VCFA Journal of the Arts. Peek: “‘Get out of the way of the illustrator.’ That was my mantra in recasting my first Gothic fantasy as a graphic novel.” Note: for comparative purposes, the post includes excerpts of the Tantalize prose novel, the script, and Tantalize: Kieren’s Story.

YA Novel Tantalize: Adapted to Graphic Novel from New POV by Zack Smith from Newsarama. An Interview with author Cynthia Leitich Smith and illustrator Ming Doyle. Peek from Ming: “…one of the things I liked most of Tantalize on my first read through was how much it reminded me of a Holmesian adventure, with a healthy and intriguing dose of the mythical and bizarre thrown in for good measure.” See also Illustrator Interview: Ming Doyle on Tantalize: Kieren’s Story from Cynsations.

Up the Wattage: Highlighting Your Books & Byline

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

The librarian’s email read: “I’ve been regularly visiting your website for years, and I had no idea that you were an author!”


Granted, this was before the Tantalize series, but at the time, I had published three well-received children’s books and a couple of short stories with major trade houses.

The librarian was a total sweetheart and clearly delighted to learn about my books. But why had that taken her so long?

My site featured substantive children’s-YA literature and writing-publishing sections. These were inclusive of my titles, but my own work was by no means the sole focus.

That’s still true today. But more recently, my web designer—Lisa Firke—came on board and re-envisioned my site so that visitors to any page are clearly presented with (a) who I am, (b) the opportunity to learn about my children’sYA books, and (c) a treasure trove of information about the larger world of literature, publishing and writing for young readers.

Most author websites are exclusively focused on the writer and his or her books.

There are notable exceptions like Uma Krishnaswami’s peace page and Toni Buzzeo’s author and illustrator visits pages.

However, both of these authors’ sites do a wonderful job of providing such bonus resources without overshadowing them or their work.

Having accidentally under-served myself on my official site, I’m mindful of not making that mistake again.

Big picture, Jane Friedman tells us that the keys to a successful web presence include having a defined purpose, great content, and a context for it.

Today I’m talking about more subtle points. Over the years, I’ve noticed several low-effort, high-impact opportunities that authors–and illustrators, too–may want to consider in maximizing the effectiveness of our online efforts.

1) Brand Your Byline

Building name recognition is one of our biggest challenges.

Publishing is a crowded business. I receive literally thousands of children’s-YA book review copies a year. A familiar byline is one way to catch the eye of any book blogger as well as book buyers and industry opinion-makers.

Many authors try blogging (at least in part) to raise their profiles. Yet in an effort to identify the source of a given post, I’ve on occasion had to click from that post on my LJ friends page to the author’s LJ homepage to its “User Information” page and from there to the author’s official website. Not everyone is willing to work that hard. Make it easy for readers to discover you and your books.

If you’re a contributor to a team blog, perhaps suggest adding bylines to the individual posts. Brief biographies at the end of each may also prove useful.

2) Cheer the Home Team

U.S.-based Tantalize series publisher.

If your book is introduced, co-authored, illustrated or published by someone else, credit all the players with links to more information.

The artist who helped bring your picture book or graphic novel to life may have avid supporters, too, and it’s possible that some of them are visiting you online.

For example, a fan of Ming Doyle may discover at Cynsations that she’s the illustrator of Tantalize: Kieren’s Story and seek out the book.

Speaking of art, are your cover images large enough and of sufficiently high-resolution to be seen clearly? They should be. Covers are designed to sell books. Feature them to your best advantage.

Likewise, publishers like Candlewick, Clarion, Greenwillow, and FSG (among others) have both a reputation for producing quality books and established relationships with prospective buyers. Let it be known that they’ve put their good names and efforts behind your work.

As a side note, use on-point and appealing headlines on your posts and other web pages. The title of your official site should be something like: David Lubar: Writer and Game Designer Home Page, not simply “Home.” A title like “Up the Wattage: Highlighting Your Books and Byline” may attract more interest than “Some Thoughts” or “Web Stuff.”

3) List All Editions

Coming Oct.6 from Walker Books (UK)

Is your book available in hardcover and paperback, on audio, in a bilingual or foreign edition?

Too often, authors don’t mention available options beyond the initial hardcover or trade paper release. Be sure to share alternative titles, formats, markets, covers and other publication details.

Blogging alone on your couch, it’s easy to forget your words may be read not only around your home country but also around the globe. It’s the World Wide Web, after all.

For example, I’m U.S. based and the majority of my online visitors come from here in the States and Canada. However, the U.K., France, Australia, Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, and India account for tens of thousands of visitors to my blog each year, and my books are available in the first three of those markets.

The presence of my work there may be what attracted some of them. However, other readers in those places may find out about my writing from visiting me online. Or they may discover additional releases available to them.

4) Point to Booksellers

Feature links to online book retailers, including those with a brick-and-mortar component to their business. For example, I prominently feature an IndieBound widget in the sidebar of Cynsations at Blogger and link to Indiebound and several other outlets—located both in the U.S. and around the world—on my website book pages.

Some authors don’t provide buyer links at all, and that may be the right choice for you. The logic goes that the reader is more than capable of ordering your book at his or her own bookstore of choice. The counterargument is that every required click or car trip is a barrier to purchase.

5) Point to Libraries

Tell readers that your books may be found and/or ordered at school and public libraries.

I occasionally hear from teens who sadly inform me that, for budget reasons, they have to wait for one of my books to come out in paperback. Or that there’s no bookstore in their immediate area. (Not everyone has a credit card, Internet available in the home, or easy access to transportation.)
A shocking number of YA readers are pleasantly surprised to be reminded that, for free, they can check out new releases at their local libraries right away or shortly after filling out a request form. (Listing ISBNs for each of your books may be helpful, too.)

6) Stay Current

Keep your web presence updated.

If information about your latest book is easy to find, it’s more likely that readers will learn about it and easier for champions to make noise on your behalf.

7) Be Available

I spend a lot of time trying to track down author contact information, hidden somewhere on a blog or website. Occasionally, I abandon my quest for an ARC or interview because an email address or contact form proves too elusive.

Of course some authors may not want to hear from web visitors. They may be zealously guarding their writing time against an unwanted influx of email, and that’s great. Seriously, amen, and hang in there! But I mention this issue in case, for others, it’s more a matter of not realizing the costs rather than a strategy per se.

8) Give, Take & Participate

I want to learn about your books. I want know if you’re visiting Austin soon. I’m interested in what you have to say about the craft of writing and the writer’s life.

It’s okay—it’s really okay—to talk about yourself and your work. You’re even allowed to be ambitious, and you don’t have to apologize for it.

(Ladies, I’m looking at you.)

If that’s all you have the time and inclination to do–to post your own book news as it arises–rock on with your fantabulous self. I’m eager to hear it.

We understand that you have a day job or newborn twins or carpal tunnel syndrome or need to prioritize your creative work. We’re just glad to have your voice in the mix, to the extent you want to share it.

Well, don’t go overboard. Don’t constantly inundate your friends/followers/subscribers, but form a contact strategy makes sense for you and keeps us in the loop.

You may also want to let your visitors know if you’re an interviewee or guest poster at someone else’s blog or site or chat room. It’s an opportunity for them to learn more, and referring them over will show your host that you appreciate being highlighted.

Beyond that, if you’d like to thoughtfully participate in the larger conversation of books and writing, please consider yourself welcome to join in!

There are countless ways to do this—from recommending favorite reads by other authors to sponsoring giveaways of their books to contributing to online carnivals to joining a #yalitchat….

It doesn’t have to be time consuming. Participating in a Twitter Book Party doesn’t take longer than a click. You can even auto party–how’s that for time efficient?

Along the way, feel free to make the occasional contribution related to your books when it’s invited and appropriate (as opposed to in a spamming or single-minded way).

9) Step Away from the Screen

Everything you do in support of your existing books should be secondary to your creative writing.

Yes, you’re the best ambassador for your new release. But usually nothing will be as effective at selling your latest title as finishing your next one.

Beyond that, be fully present at in-person author events. Unless one of your dearly beloveds is in intensive care and you are utterly incapable of functioning without knowing her latest status (in which case bow out and suggest a colleague to replace you), turn off or at least silence your phone.*

Focus on the people you’re with. Give them your respect and attention. They deserve it.

*Exception: you can always turn on your phone to share with those you’re with. Especially photos of cute babies a’ la Varian Johnson and Melissa Walker. I’m also happy to coo over your latest book cover or adorable cat(s).

10) Be Gracious

In person or online, err on the side of professionalism and friendliness. Attribute sources. Respect copyright. Mind your manners. Create and celebrate.

Have fun, learn, grow, reach out, inspire. Be kind to yourselves and each other.

Think of it not as marketing but building relationships. That will take the pressure off, and you’ll enjoy it more, too.

And finally, get your creative writing done! That’s your priority. I’m rooting for you!

Shine a light on fabulous you and other book champions, lovers and creators, too!

Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards Announced

By Lena Coakley

Five prestigious Canadian children’s book awards were announced last night with prizes totalling $65,000—and next year there will be one more!

There was much excitement in Toronto last night as attendees of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s annual gala gathered to hear the announcement of five prestigious children’s book awards, including Canada’s most lucrative, The TD Children’s Literature Award, worth $25,000.

By Monica Hughes

The evening held another surprise, however. HarperCollins Canada editor Hadley Dyer stepped to the podium to announce another major children’s book award that will be administered by the CCBC.

The Monica Hughes Award will honour excellence in the children’s science fiction and fantasy genre and comes with a $5,000 cash prize which will be awarded annually beginning in October 2012.

The award is sponsored by HarperCollins Canada in memory of the late Monica Hughes, the author of over forty books, many of them works of science fiction and fantasy for young readers.

Many congratulations to last night’s winners:

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award ($25,000): Plain Kate by Erin Bow (Scholastic Canada);

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award ($20,000): I Know Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James (Groundwood);

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction ($10,000): Case Closed! Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Michael Wandelmaier (Kids Can);

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People ($5,000): The Glory Wind by Valerie Sherrard (Fitzhenry & Whiteside);

John Spray Mystery Award ($5,000): A Spy in the House (The Agency) by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick).

For more information, see the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s website.

Cynsational Notes

Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In high school, creative writing was the only class she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

She got interested in young adult literature when she moved to Toronto, Canada, and began working for CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, where she eventually became the Administrative Director.

She is now a full-time writer living in Toronto. Witchlanders is her debut novel.

Lena contributes news and interviews from the children’s-YA creative, literature and publishing community in Canada.

New Voice: Karen Kincy on Other and Bloodborn — Plus Giveaways

Karen Kincy is the author of Other (2010) and Bloodborn (2011), both from Flux. From the promotional copy of Other:

Seventeen-year-old Gwen hides a dangerous secret: she’s Other. Half-pooka, to be exact, thanks to the father she never met. 

Most Americans don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for Others, especially not the small-town folks of Klikamuks, Washington. 

As if this isn’t bad enough, Gwen’s on the brink of revealing her true identity to her long-time boyfriend, Zack, but she’s scared he’ll lump her with the likes of bloodthirsty vampires and feral werewolves.

When a pack of werewolves chooses the national forest behind Gwen’s home as their new territory, the tensions in Klikamuks escalate–into murder. It soon becomes clear a serial killer is methodically slaying Others. 

The police turn a blind eye, leaving Gwen to find the killer before the killer finds her. As she hunts for clues, she uncovers more Others living nearby than she ever expected. Like Tavian, a sexy Japanese fox-spirit who rivals Zack and challenges her to embrace her Otherness. 

Gwen must struggle with her own conflicted identity, learn who she can trust, and–most importantly–stay alive.

Looking back, were you surprised to debut of late, or did that seem inevitable? How long was your journey, what were the significant events, and how did you keep the faith?

Other was the first novel I ever wrote, and when I sent it out into the world, five agents duked it out in a battle to represent me, and then ten editors fought over the book in a fierce auction—I wish!

In reality, Other was my fourth novel, and I acquired a mountain of rejections before it ever made it to acquisitions at my publisher, Flux.

Karen Kincy

You want the true story? It all started when I was thirteen. I was writing a sci-fi about a talking chameleon and a fantasy about a dragon with the unpronounceable name of Jamvthund. (I had a thing for imaginary reptiles.) Needless to say, these novels remain unfinished and unseen. Call it part of the learning process. I was young and not a very good writer yet.

But I was determined to have a book published in my teens, possibly because I was an incorrigible show-off, so I kept writing and learning and getting better until—when I was eighteen—I finished a YA novel about werewolves, sent it out, and racked up ninety rejections.

Undeterred, still daydreaming about fame and fortune at a tender age, I wrote a novel about winged people. My second novel racked up another ninety or so rejections.

I fiddled with a third novel, never finished it, and was stumped for awhile.

Finally, I dug around in my imagination a bit more and hit pay dirt. My fourth novel, originally titled Otherworld: Portal Danger, was a parody of fantasies where portals dump ordinary teens into a magical world. Though my teens were extraordinary—a half-pooka shapeshifter, a Japanese fox-spirit, a werewolf guy, etc. Sound familiar, readers of Other?

Yes, I ditched the parody and kept the characters. The half-pooka shapeshifter, Gwen, became the star of a murder mystery in an alternate America nearly identical to our own—except for the fact that paranormal people exist and everybody knows it.

Lisa Ann Sandell, Sara Crowe (center) & Jenny Moss.

So here comes the mountain of rejections part. Other collected its ninety rejections before my editor, Brian Farrey at Flux, plucked it out of the slush pile, and I signed with my agent, Sara Crowe.

Everything happened so fast then—after years and years, suddenly I had a publication date, and a debut novel that needed revising. I don’t think it was inevitable, because I sold Other and a second novel, Bloodborn, while I was a sophomore at college—if I could have predicted it, I would have timed it a little better. My schedule was insane that year!

How did I keep the faith? Sheer stubborn persistence and just a touch of obsession.

Remember, I wanted to be a teen author. I missed that deadline by a few years, and now I realize that the gimmick of “look how young I am!” isn’t as important as, say, readers actually loving your writing.

Nowadays, knowing that there are fans of Other keeps me going. That is, at heart, why I wanted to be published. Otherwise, I could have crouched like Gollum in a cave, hissing at people who came too close to my manuscripts. And we wouldn’t want that.

As a paranormal writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your fantasy might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?

I have always thought that the best speculative fiction—be it horror, high fantasy, or paranormal—acts as metaphor, exploring the crossroads of the real and the imaginary.

These aren’t just books about vampires, fairies, and werewolves. These are books that take our secret, often darker, thoughts and desires and explore them in a way strange yet familiar. The conflicts are recognizable, but also foreign enough to spark insight.

In Other, I wanted to tie together the magical and the mundane and then tighten all the knots. I had read many paranormal novels where werewolves and vampires conveniently hide from mainstream eyes. I wanted them to be an unavoidable part of everyday life.

From this idea came Others, paranormal people who live among us—and everybody knows it. Others have altered the culture we know in ways both large and small, everything from life-and-death laws to tiny details like tuna at the grocery store advertised as being caught in mermaid-safe nets. Others have become part of the ordinary, even if they are, by definition, extraordinary.

Clearly, Others are those who are not “us”—but haven’t we all felt this way at one time or another?

There’s always something about you or I that doesn’t fit “normal,” something we might be conflicted about sharing or hiding. Gwen, the half-pooka protagonist of Other, conceals her shapeshifting abilities from everyone outside her family, especially her boyfriend, since he’s a human from a conservative background. She thinks of herself as “under the bed,” a monster who hasn’t come out yet. But there are those who are openly Other, like those who march in the midnight Vampire Pride Parade in Seattle, or the centaur browsing produce at the grocery store—but of course, the centaur doesn’t have the luxury of hiding his identity.

Bloodborn, the second novel in the series, focuses on a particularly reviled group of Others: the werewolves. It’s not all about exciting shapeshifting, battles with rival packs, and occasional encounters with humans who tread on their territory.

In this world, werewolves are a minority, and they have to play by human rules. Or, if they break these rules, live as outlaws on the outskirts. Since werewolves often face discrimination and a lack of jobs, many have resorted to crime as a means to feed themselves and fight back against hunters. They run, hunt, and sleep in the national forests of America, moving between safe havens in caravans of cars and campers.

The protagonist of Bloodborn, Brock, first appears as an antagonist in Other. He bands together with those who hate and fear Others, hunting down werewolves in the forest. After being bitten by a werewolf, he becomes the very thing he hated. He fights the urge to transform every full moon, while his older brother—bitten by the same wolf—fights for his life in the hospital. Brock takes a drug to keep himself from changing into a wolf, but he’s infected, tainted, and he knows exactly why his family fears and shuns him. Obsessed with the desire for revenge, Brock vows to kill the werewolf who bit him and his brother.

But the true conflict of Bloodborn isn’t Brock’s hunt for the werewolf who bit him. For a newly bitten werewolf—a bloodborn—the struggle to embrace your new identity can be fatal. If the brutal first transformations don’t kill you, another werewolf or an overzealous sheriff might. The pain of resisting the change to wolf physically expresses the pain of leaving your old self behind. Not unlike that first time you move out on your own, and you alone have to face the bittersweet independence and make something of yourself.

It’s no coincidence that I wrote Bloodborn my second summer at college. I’m always fascinated by what happens when someone must change—no wonder I write about shapeshifters so often.

Cynsational Notes

Enter to win a copy of Other (2010) and/or Bloodborn (2011), both from Flux. To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or you can email me directly with “Other,” “Bloodborn” or “Other/Bloodborn” in the subject line. Publisher-sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada) Deadline: Oct. 14.

Guest Post: Rosanne Parry on Children’s-YA Fiction & The Military Family

By Rosanne Parry

One of the most positive and helpful developments in the on line children’s literature world is the development of blogs and websites specifically geared to meeting the needs of youth from minority cultures.

A few of my favorites include:

They shine a spotlight on writers of color and books that illuminate the minority experience–contemporary, historical and fantastical.

From my very first year of teaching on the Quinault Reservation in Washington, I was aware of the need for my Native American students to see their own race and culture mirrored in the books the read. Since my reservation students were somewhat isolated from the cultural diversity they’d find off reservation, I also saw a need for them to have books that offered a window into lives they did not encounter regularly.

That “mirror and window” function of a good book is always in my mind as I write, One of the reasons I chose to write about military families in my first two novels is that the military functions as its own culture, and up until recently, there were very few books about the military family experience.

Years ago, when I taught at the elementary school on the base at Fort Huachuca, Arizona; it became clear to me that although my class was the most racially diverse I had ever taught, my students, all the children of soldiers, had much more in common than they had in difference. I spent considerable effort looking for books that would reflect the unique experience of being a military family and found very little at the time.

There were stories about absent parents, but the military is so much more encompassing than the experience of a parent absent from home. The sense of mission and sacrifice casts those absences in a positive light. The very real possibility of violent death or permanent disability is a strain that children of business traveling parents don’t share in the same way. There is a unique camaraderie to the military life and a heightened sense of family unity that comes from having your sole long-term friendships with your own siblings.

It was both an honor and a terrific responsibility to try to depict the life of a reservist’s son struggling to keep the family ranch afloat while he was deployed to Iraq in Heart of a Shepherd (Random House, 2009).

It’s easy not to think of our long-term engagement in the Middle East, but 1.7 million American children have deployed parents. 900,000 of them have had a parent on multiple deployments.

Second Fiddle (Random House, 2011) is not about deployment but touches on the other cornerstone of a military child’s life—frequent moves and leaving friends behind.

This book is a little more lighthearted than my first with elements of mystery and political intrigue in a road-trip adventure story that was a great fun to write. It highlights some of the strengths I saw in my students at Fort Huachuca: courage, a sense of adventure, and a belief in the importance of helping others, even when the cost is great. That’s a culture worth celebrating!

I will be speaking at the New York Public Library Children’s Literary Salon on the topic of Fiction and the Military Family with authors Suzanne Morgan Williams and Sara Lewis Holmes on Nov. 12. I’d love to see you there to continue the conversation.

Here are a few more books about the military family experience. I keep a regularly updated list at my website.

Military Families in Middle Grade & YA Fiction

Middle Grade

Iraq/Afghanistan/Contemporary 2003-2010

Vietnam/Korea/Cold War

World War I/World War II

Young Adult

Iraq/Afghanistan/Contemporary 2003-2010


World War I/World War II

Event Report: Austin Teen Book Festival

The incredible Austin Teen Book Festival, presented by the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, took place yesterday at Palmer Events Center.

Author Scott Westerfeld started off the day with a fantastic keynote, focused on steampunk and illustrated novels for young readers. See the complete featured author list.

I had the honor of moderating the “Supernatural Suspense” panel, which featured Heather Brewer, Tera Lynn Childs, Andrea Cremer, Sophie Jordan, and Jackson Pearce.

Highlights included….

a gorgeous hospitality room
with fascinating bookish decor
and famous authors like David Levithan and Jackson Pearce
Coe Booth (David with Andrea Cremer in the background)
Melissa Walker and Varian Johnson
Heather Brewer
plus, zombies (because zombies make everything more fun)
panels, signings, a crowd of thousands–literally
and cover art cookies to go!

Special thanks to festival director Heather Schubert, volunteer coordinator Leslie Wilson, the volunteers and the booksellers from BookPeople. Thanks also to everyone in attendance and/or who otherwise contributed to making the event such a success.

See another photo report from Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog.

Tantalize Kieren’s Story is Now Available from Walker Australia and New Zealand

Illustrated by hot new talent Ming Doyle, Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Tantalize is re-imagined as a graphic novel—seen through Kieren’s werewolf eyes. 

As a hybrid werewolf, Kieren is destined to join an urban Wolf pack and learn to master his shift. Soon, he’ll leave everything behind: home, school, his family, and Quincie, his human best friend . . . who’s beginning to be a whole lot more than a friend. 

For years, Kieren has managed to keep his desires—and his wolf—at bay. But when the chef at Quincie’s family restaurant is brutally murdered, Kieren resolves to be there for her, even if it means being framed. Even if it means watching Quincie’s beloved restaurant morph into a vampire lair. 

But when the new chef begins wooing her, how long can Kieren control his claws? How long can he protect Quincie—and himself? 

In an elegant graphic edition featuring cinematic sequential art by debut artist Ming Doyle and lush, romantic cover art by Sam Weber, best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith re-envisions her delicious dark fantasy through wolfish eyes.

Tantalize: Kieren’s Story. 
Text copyright © 2011 by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Ming Doyle.
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, Mass.

Cynsational Notes

Walker Aus & NZ cover.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the acclaimed author of the prose novel of Tantalize as well as Eternal, a New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller, and Blessed, all set in the same fictional universe. She says of Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, “An unjust accusation. A true love in peril. It’s enough to make you open your teeth and howl.”

Ming Doyle was born in 1984 to an Irish-American sailor and a Chinese-Canadian librarian. Since earning her BFA from Cornell University in 2007, she has depicted the sequential exploits of zombie superheroes, demonic cheerleaders, vengeful cowboys, and dapper mutants. Tantalize marks her first full-length graphic novel as well as her first encounter with a were-opossum. She lives in Boston.

More on Tantalize: Kieren’s Story from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand. Note: the graphic novel is also available from Candlewick Press in the U.S./North America and will be released by Walker Books (U.K.) later this week.

Cynsational Giveaway Coming Soon

Readers from Australia and New Zealand will be eligible for a Tantalize series giveaway to be announced here on Cynsations later this week! Check back for details!

Boston Event — Illustrator Ming Doyle

Illustrator Ming Doyle will be signing Tantalize: Kieren’s Story at 2 p.m. Oct. 2 at Brookline Booksmith (279 Harvard Street) in Brookline, Massachusetts in the United States. Guests are invited to participate in a vampire/werewolf costume contest for a chance to win prizes.