Category: Events

Thoughts from a Book Tour

I’ve been traveling quite a bit, off and on, over the last month or so. I visited several cities, a few amazing bookstores, and numerous schools. The people I meet often wonder what a book tour is like. Some people assume it’s glamorous, and on occasion it does kind of feel that way. Some people assume it’s exhausting, and it can be. Some people figure it’s probably not all it’s cracked up to be, and that’s true, too. It’s all of those things, and I love it. But here is the important thing to remember: I am very, very lucky to be given the opportunity.

There are a lot of authors whose publishers don’t support them or their work in that way. Marketing budgets are limited, choices are made, and it is not always fair. I’ve been on both sides of those decisions. I’ve toured for some of my books, and I’ve had little to no publisher support for others, so I feel very fortunate and grateful when I’m given the opportunity to get out there and meet fans and readers. I try very hard not to take that for granted, because who knows when I’ll have that opportunity again. I try very hard to remember the times I didn’t travel anywhere, and I think about the writers I admire who should probably be out there on the road instead of me. When I visit bookstores on tour, I make a point to mention the books I love by other writers to the booksellers and readers. If I have room in my luggage, I buy books by other writers from those bookstores. I talk to kids about other writers and other books, because in the end, it’s all about turning young readers into life-long readers. It’s about making better humans, and books are perfect tools for that. If my being in a school, a library, or a bookstore can help build that excitement in young readers, then I’m honored to be given that chance, and I will always do my best.

P.S. A book tour wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of an amazing publicist. They work tirelessly behind the scenes (and after-hours) to make sure book tours are as successful as they can possibly be. I’ve been so lucky to work with Lauren Felsenstein Bonifacius and Emma Brockway. Now I work with Monica Palenzuela, and if you ever get the chance to make candles with her, don’t pass it up.

Last Descendants giveaway!

AC_cover_412v3I’ve got a couple of signings coming up this Saturday, and I thought it might be cool to make them part of a giveaway. So come by either bookstore, say hi, and enter yourself for a chance to win an advance reader copy of Last Descendants, my Assassin’s Creed novel coming out this fall. Both events are on the same day – Saturday, June 11th – at different times and locations, so take your pick.

The first event:

3:00 pm

Barnes & Noble – Layton Market Center

1780 North Woodland Park Drive

Layton, UT

The second event:

7:00 pm

Barnes & Noble – Gateway Crossing

340 South 500 West

Bountiful, UT

Hope to see lots of you there!

A Halloween Post

It was Halloween over the weekend, which was appropriate to the book I’m currently writing. It’s a Victorian horror novel, and will be for a much older, YA audience than my usual, middle grade books. It’s been a new and interesting challenge to write, and I have to say I’ve creeped myself out a couple of times, both from the writing and the research, because man, the Victorian London underworld was NOT a very nice place. I mean, just to give you a taste, this was a place where guys would sell live sparrows on strings, at a penny apiece, as a kind of one-use toy for children to play with, AKA torture. If that kind of thing is going on, you know you’ve got some serious societal issues with empathy. And fun times for me writing about them! The book will be dark and violent, but I hope it will also be ultimately redemptive and hopeful, and I’m trying very hard to avoid any gratuitousness; when I include something that makes me uncomfortable, I make certain it’s not going in just to shock the reader, but serves a vital narrative purpose that can’t be accomplished another, better way. I’m not sure when this books will be out, but I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the month or early December.

While we’re on the subject of Halloween, I had some fun with my step-kids’ costumes. One of them wanted to be Link, from The Legend of Zelda, but I couldn’t find a belt I could re-purpose into a baldric for her sword. So I went to Tandy Leather, and a young gentleman there was incredibly helpful in getting me sorted out with all the leather and tools I would need for the project. Here’s the finished product:

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The stitching isn’t the best, and my hands felt like they’d been run through a meat grinder for a few days, but it was actually a lot of fun. In fact, I may have just picked up a new hobby.

Jaime made the rest of the costumes, and here’s my step-daughter as Link.

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And here’s my step-son as a “deku scrub,” which, he will correct you, is not a character, but a race from Legend of Zelda.

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It was quite a fun Halloween. I hope yours was, too.

Before I go, just a last bit of writing news and updates. I get MANY emails and comments on the blog asking when the next Quantum League book will be out. I am so, so sorry that I don’t know. That’s up to my publisher, as well as other factors outside my control. I have written a draft of it, and I think it’s pretty cool. If you want to read it, I would recommend letting your local bookstore know that you want it.

But in the meantime, I have a new series starting up with a new publisher. The Arctic Code, book one in the Dark Gravity Sequence, will be out next April, and I’m really excited about it. It’s going to a place I’ve never gone in my books, namely the future. When I have a cover and I can tell you more details, I will.

Finally, a post about my book tour!

Hey, everyone! I just thought I would poke my head up from writing and post something I’ve been meaning to put up on the blog for a while.

Back in September and October I spent about three and a half weeks on the road, touring for The Lost Kingdom and Cave of Wonders: Infinity Ring Book 5, and I’ve been getting a lot of requests from people for a report. So, I’m here to report that it was spectacular and awesome and a heck of a lot of fun. I traveled quite literally from coast to coast, dipping my toes in both the Atlantic and Pacific (while suffering geographic whiplash to such a degree I actually got the two confused – “which ocean is this?” – for a few moments).

The tour kicked off in Washington D.C. for the National Book Festival. I’d never been before, and the sheer size and scope of the event was a little overwhelming. I got to attend a cocktail reception held in the Library of Congress, a place I’d never been before, and the book nerd in me got pretty excited. Plus, it was fancy:

Reception at the Library of Congress.

And I got to see Thomas Jefferson’s library:

Thomas Jefferson's library

And the main reading room:

The main reading room at the Library of Congress

There may be video of the talk I gave somewhere online. I’m not sure, but here’s a picture of me speaking. Based on my gesture in this image, it’s clearly all about ME.

Speaking at the National Book Festival

Just kidding. Really, it’s not, and I learned that following my talk. During the Q&A, a woman named Lisa approached the microphone and wanted to tell a story. It turned out that she was a writer, but had struggled with a lack of confidence in pursuing that dream. She found Icefall as her father was battling cancer, and Solveig inspired her to find her voice and tell her stories. After her father passed away, as a promise to him and to herself, Lisa buried him with a copy of Icefall.

I was speechless at the end of this story. I felt tears coming to my eyes. I had no idea what to say or do. Really, I just wanted to give Lisa a hug. This is not the kind of effect I think about when I’m writing a story and putting it out there. I have no idea how or if a story might touch someone’s life when I’m writing it, and I take absolutely no credit if it does. That’s the beauty of this job. We come together, reader and writer, and we share an experience with a story, and most of the time I don’t know what that experience has been for the reader. But every once in a while, a moment of beauty transpires in which I see that connection, and I get to feel some of it. I’m so humbled and grateful to Lisa for stepping up to the microphone to share it.

I wanted to talk more with her, but the schedule was so tight, they whisked me away on a golf cart before I could find her in the crowd. We went to my signing, where I met lots of wonderful fans and readers.

Signing at the National Book Festival

I also had the chance to hang out in the green room with friends old and new.

Kathryn Erskine, Jon Scieszka, Lisa McMann, and me

I also spent a day signing stock with Mark Teague, Kathryn Erskine, and Tamora Pierce, and they were great company.

Kathryn Laskie, Mark Teague, me, and Tamora Pierce

From Washington D.C., I traveled to Philadelphia for a few days of school visits and bookstore events. I’d never been there before, and I had a couple of missions I’d set for myself. The first was to visit the historic home and gardens of John Bartram, father of Billy (William) Bartram, the main character in The Lost Kingdom. The second thing I wanted to do was eat an actual Philly cheesesteak. The latter I accomplished right away, at which time I learned you can order your cheesesteak with provolone, American, or “whiz”. I did not order the whiz, but in retrospect, I wish I had.

In Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Krisy from the Doylestown Bookshop took me to the inexplicable and utterly fantastic Mercer Museum, or as I like to call it, the Temple of the Triumphant Hoarder. I love places that make me feel as though I have stepped directly into someone’s psyche (Salt Lake City folks can experience this with our own Gilgal Gardens), and that’s what this place was. I mean, check this out. He built it out of poured concrete, with no architectural plans. It was all just in his head.

The Mercer Museum, or as I like to call it, Temple of the Triumphant Hoarder.

Inside this temple, he housed his collection of crap. Well, at the time it was crap. Just ordinary, everyday stuff that other people looked at and wondered just what was wrong with this Mercer guy for collecting it. But nowadays, all that crap has historical significance and we can call this hoarder’s mother lode a museum. I highly urge you to go check it out if you’re in the area.

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It was also in Pennsylvania that I had the most exciting school visit I’ve ever had. I was in the multi-purpose room, and I’d set up my laptop with the projector. The kids were filing in, and it was go-time, but just then the principal came on the loudspeaker and announced that we needed to evacuate the building for a gas leak, and this was not a drill. So we all filed out of the building into a cloud of sulfurous gas, across the soccer field, to the school’s evacuation site, which was a Church of the Nazarene. Once there, I decided it might help distract the kids if I still gave my presentation, so I offered. The staff took me up on it, so there in the church, without my slides or even a microphone, I gave a talk to what was now the entire school, rather than just the upper grades. I have to say, it went really well, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have another school visit experience that can top it.

From Philly, I went to Boston, another city I’d never visited. I loved it. The history buff in me was seriously geeking out. I stayed in the hotel where they invented the Boston Cream Pie and Parker House rolls…

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…across the street from the King’s Chapel

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…just down the road from the Granary Burying Ground and Boston Common.

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This is Chloe, a 6 month old Bernese Mountain Dog. I met her while walking through Boston Common, and she and I became instant friends.

One afternoon, I met fellow writer and foodie friend Ammi-Joan Paquette for lunch in Harvard Square, where I ate my first lobster roll (but not my last!), and afterward I walked across the Harvard campus to the Peabody Museum. Jaime Richardson of sophistimom had told me about the glass flowers, and I had to see them for myself. They amazed me in a way that left me doubting what I was seeing.

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These are made ENTIRELY OF GLASS.

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For realz. ALL OF IT IS GLASS.

Boston concluded the east coast leg of my tour. From there, I went to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and then to Nashville, but I think I’ll cover those in another post. Hopefully soon.

Okay, back to work on the book! I’m currently writing the second installment in my Quantum League series. The first book comes out this month on the 28th. I’ll be doing an event that evening with The King’s English in Salt Lake City, so please come. In the meantime, there’s a giveaway of the book running over at goodreads. Hop on over to enter!

 

No way! A Double Launch!

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For probably the only time in my career, I had two books come out on the same day this past week: The Lost Kingdom and Cave of Wonders: Infinity Ring Book 5. I’ll be celebrating this rare event with a double launch party at The King’s English! Please come! I will speak and read and sign your books, even!

When: September 5th, 2013 at 7 PM

Where: The King’s English, 1511 South, 15oo East in Salt Lake City

The Quantum League cover reveal!

Over the weekend, the lovely Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 kindly hosted the cover reveal for my next middle grade project, The Quantum League. It’s a magical crime saga that I’ve talked about a bit before. I’m really excited for it, and I’m happy to now put the cover up here:

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What do you think? I think it is made entirely of awesome, and it incorporates a lot of the book into it. My thanks and appreciation to the talented artist, Jason Chan. To see more of his work, check out his site.

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So, Disneyworld. If you’re planning to go at some point, might I suggest timing your visit with a tropical storm? I was in Florida teaching at a regional SCBWI workshop. The workshop was great. I taught the fantasy class with agent Joe Monti, and it turns out he and I share considerable brain real estate – similar tastes in fiction, similar approaches to writing and books. And we both have a deep and abiding love for Ursula K. Le Guin, something that pretty much guarantees my friendship.

While I was there, I took advantage of the fact that the conference was held inside Disneyworld, and made my way over to the Magic Kingdom. The day’s rain had already started, but I never once considered bailing (pun not intended, although there was a lot of rain). I just bought an over-priced poncho and went for it, and let me tell you, tropical storms do wonders for clearing crowds. The funny thing is, I didn’t actually know it was a tropical storm until the day was almost over, and people were texting me, “Hey, are you okay? There’s a tropical storm going on.” The place was a ghost town. I don’t think I waited longer than 15 minutes for any ride, and I didn’t need fast passes. I mean, look at this:

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“Um, where is everybody? Is there something I don’t know…?”

The storm cleared out by the end of the day, and the crowds piled in, but by then I’d already done everything, and eaten myself silly. I was soaked, and it was awesome.

Then, last week, I taught at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. I love that conference, and I always will. Steve, my agent, was there on the faculty, and so was Martine Leavitt. It was like a little reunion, and it meant a lot to me. I taught the advanced novel workshop, and my class was amazing. So much talent and creativity. I was honored to look at each of their work, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing their books in stores soon.

In just a few short months, Cave of Wonders and The Lost Kingdom will hit the shelves. My book tour is shaping up, so check back here for details to see if I’m coming to your neck of the woods.

PEN Center USA Award, and the first snowfall of the year

A few weeks ago, Scholastic was kind enough to send me to Los Angeles to receive the PEN Center USA Award for Icefall. I have to say, I think this was one of the most intimidating events I’ve been to. It’s partly because I was there alone and didn’t know anyone. It’s partly because it was held in Beverly Hills, and I’d spent that afternoon walking past stores I didn’t think I could even afford to set foot in. The banquet and ceremony were held in a ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and there was a cocktail reception before the event, during which I was just sort of hanging out on my own at the edges, watching the people and simply enjoying being there.

At one point, while I was texting my editor, I looked up and saw someone standing right in front of me who seemed familiar. She had red hair, and it took about five seconds for me to think to myself, “That’s Molly Ringwald.” And before I could decide if it was a good idea to say anything to her, she looked at me and smiled, and I smiled back and blurted out, “Are you Molly Ringwald?”

“Yes,” she said.

I’m sure at this point she usually gets the Breakfast Club or 16 Candles appreciation, but I was more interested in the fact that I thought I’d heard she’d written a book. So I asked her about it. It’s a collection of short stories tied together by a theme of betrayal called When it Happens to You. We talked about that briefly, and then she asked about my work and we talked about Icefall.

The whole interaction lasted maybe two minutes, but it was kind of fun to have a Hollywood moment while I was there. I thought about asking to take a picture with her, but after feeling the mood of the room, I decided I didn’t want to be that guy.

During the banquet, I was seated at a table with several of the judges for the award, as well as one of the other finalists, Gretchen Woelfle (for All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts). Everyone was lovely, and Gretchen already wrote up a great piece on the event and what PEN Center USA is all about. It’s definitely worth a read.

That’s me giving my speech. Thanks to Drew Filus for snapping the picture.

When I went up to receive my award and give my acceptance speech, I talked about what an honor it was to receive the same award that had been given to Ursula K. Le Guin a few years ago. I haven’t ever blogged about Ms. Le Guin in detail, or what her work has meant to me. I think that’s something I need to remedy in the near future. I am a writer because I read her books.

It was a really wonderful evening. Thank you again to PEN Center USA for the honor, and to Scholastic (I’m looking at you Candace!) for their support in sending me. And congratulations to the other finalists!

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We had our first snowfall of the year a couple of days ago, and woke up to this:

The back yard.

The front yard.

Pretty magical. I looked out the window and felt a bit like Ralphie in A Christmas Story on Christmas morning, with the harp music playing and everything. It has put me in mind of the holidays, that’s for sure.

And speaking of holidays, a good friend of mine, Kimball Fisher, has written a short story for the Christmas season. It’s titled Finding the Baby Jesus. I really enjoyed it and blurbed it. It’s available through Amazon.

 

Icefall in German

Yesterday, I received copies of the German translation of Icefall. I think it’s a really interesting take, and I particularly like the tattoos on Solveig’s hand and face. I had never pictured her that way, but I think it’s pretty cool. It’s also fun to see how widely interpretations of the material can vary, when comparing this, the more realistic German cover:

to the more fantastical, almost ethereal Italian translation:

In some ways, this is actually a reflection of the different ways people read the book.

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Just a reminder, I’ll be in Utah this week doing a couple of library events on the 17th, in Murray and Brigham City. If you’re in the area, come on by! Details to the right in the sidebar.

 

 

PEN Center USA, and the Infinity Ring launch

I’m honored and pleased to announce that Icefall has won the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Children’s Literature! I continue to be humbled and touched by the attention Icefall has received. As I’ve talked about many times, Solveig and her story are very close and personal to me, and I love that the book has resonated with others. Congratulations to the other finalists, including Trent Reedy for Words in the Dust, Allen Say for Drawing from Memory, and Gretchen Woelfle for All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts. One of the judges for this year’s award did a write up here. I look forward to going to the banquet to receive the award next month.

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Last month, James Dashner’s Infinity Ring Book 1: A Mutiny in Time came out in bookstores, and I was fortunate enough to be there for the big launch in Salt Lake City on August 29th. James did a couple of school visits that day, and I went along with him. We went to Canyon Rim and Rowland Hall, and both schools were a blast (in spite of the fact that James told the kids I was a serial killer. I mean, look at this picture:

Now tell me, which of us looks more like a serial killer?) It was a special treat going to Rowland Hall, because the librarian there, fellow author Becky Hall, was once my 5th grade teacher at Uintah Elementary.

I love doing school visits. More so now, I think because the school year has started and I’m not working with the kids on a daily basis anymore. It’s been a bit odd for me. Even though I am so excited to be writing full-time, a part of me misses it.

After the school visits, Jennifer Nielsen joined us for the launch event at the Salt Lake City Public Library, hosted by the amazing folks at The King’s English. At the event, I told the audience that The King’s English is the heart of the writing community in Utah, and I meant it. During the event, James, Jen, and I did a reader’s theater, each taking one of the three main characters in the Infinity Ring, with special guest Brodi Ashton as the narrator.

And afterward, we signed books and posters. Those who came were able to get both signed by all three of  us:

The event reminded me of a few of things. First, how fun it is to be involved in something like The Infinity Ring, with such talented writers and friends. Second, how amazing it is that three of the six Infinity Ring authors are from Utah. And third, how much I miss the people with whom I have formed such meaningful relationships while I lived in Utah.

Thanks again to the Salt Lake Library, The King’s English (especially Rachel!), and Chris and Charisse from Scholastic for putting together such a great event.

One More Spot

Really quick, I just wanted to let everyone know that one of the spots in my Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers workshop has opened back up. So if you wanted to take my class, but didn’t get in, now is your chance. And let me also take a moment to once again recommend the conference. There are still some amazing instructors with spots in their classes. If you’re serious about a writing or illustrating career, this workshop is a tremendous opportunity. Register here.

And here’s a video of success stories from the conference.