Sunday, September 28, 2014

Refections from the Road: The Tweens Read Festival

Yesterday, as the latest stop on the Frostborn tour, I attended the Tweens Read Festival in Houston, Texas. The event is presented courtesy of Blue Willow Bookshop, and featured twenty eight amazing authors. And it blew through their prior (already impressive) attendance records with over 1,700 participants! And while there are a few parents in those numbers, the vast majority of those attendees are a huge sea of tweens. See for yourself:

There was a very nice reception at Blue Willow Bookshop the night before, and then morning of, we were ferried to South Houston High School, where the event took place. The school library was converted into an author "green room," and we were all surprised by the amazing cupcakes set out for us, each with a cover of one of our books.

Then it was on to the auditorium where we were each introduced and Jacqueline Woodson gave the keynote speech.

The way the event was structured, authors were grouped by sub genre. I was in a room with four fellow fantastics, designated "Panel 1: Escape from Reality." My fellows were the amazing authors, Jonathan Auxier (The Night Gardener), S.E. Grove (The Glass Sentence),   Jaleigh Johnson (Mark of the Dragonfly), and M.A. Larson (Pennyroyal Academy).  We were together in the same room all day, for three sessions, and spoke to several hundred kids each session. All my fellow panelist were wonderful, and after spending the day in the same room together, we got to know each other quite well. There were a great bunch, and I hope our paths cross at future events.

Margaret Peterson Haddix was the closing keynote speaker. As I sat down in my seat, a kid behind me chanted "Thrones and Bones, Thrones and Bones", which was, in a word, awesome!

Then we were ushered to a mass signing, so big that it was spread across two gymnasiums. I signed for most of an hour, quite a few copies of Frostborn, and I even signed (and rune-stamped) a few body parts. (Hi girl-in-green-glasses.)

And then the amazing day was over. 

Back to the hotel, where I discovered that middle grade authors are like authors everywhere when it comes to the evening activities. We were out until midnight, shutting down first the restaurant and then the bar. Good times with William Alexander, Jonathan Auxier, Matthew Cody, Jennifer Holm, Varian Johnson, Kirby Larson, Natalie Lloyd, Matt London, and Jennifer Ziegler.

I also enjoyed meeting both keynote speakers, as well as Varsha Bajaj, Jessica Brody, Karen Harrington, Obert Skye, Matthew Ward, Tom Watson, and all the tween volunteers and amazing Blue Willow folks!

This was my first such festival. I sure hope it's not my last! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reflections from the Road: Athens, GA

Monday, I traveled to Athens, Georgia, for two school visits and a bookstore signing. I got into town early enough to explore downtown Athens, where I had an Orange Crush at Hendershot's (because, you know), and worked on the revisions for book two. Then on the advice of numerous Athenians, including Avid Bookstore's event coordinator Rachel Watkins, I had the Golden Bowl at The Grit.

The next day, I was picked up at my hotel by Avid bookseller Will Walton, and it was off to the Clarke Middle School. It was a fantastic time in their media center, thank you Shawn Hinger and all of the great kids. What a great time! The kids were really engaged, asked great questions. One told me I was his favorite author and two girls blurted out "I cannot wait to read this book" before I was five minutes into my presentation. We signed Frostborn afterwards, during which one boy told me he was designing his own game inspired by mine (but not the same game), and added "I have about a page of rules. I'll sell them to you for five dollars." That kid is going

Then Will and I went for lunch at Agua Linda - the "authentic Mexican tacos" were a great choice - and then we headed out to our next stop.

Double Helix STEAM Academy (don't you just want to say "steampunk academy"?) is a small private school with some very smart students. In fact, I think it's the first school I have visited that were able to correctly tell me what a fjord was and how it was formed. I did the Frostborn presentation, and we had about thirty minutes left. The teacher asked me if I could help her students with structuring stories in their own writing, so I pulled out my ScripTips presentation and rapid-fire took them through the first half.

Afterwards, we signed more books, and I was humbled/flattered/overjoyed to see a student-made Thrones and Bones set, and the same student presented me with a painting of the two-headed troll from my novel.

Afterwards, Will and I grabbed a much needed coffee, where I learned the exciting news that he himself is going to be an author with a young adult novel out from Scholastic next year! Then we went to the Avid Bookshop, where I met a very clever (and ardent) fan who wanted to play a session of Thrones and Bones with me. We played best two out of three, and while I won, it was quite a challenging game. The third and final round went on the longest, and some of the rarer options came into play. It was a tremendously fulfilling experience to play the game with this kid.

I wrapped up by talking with Will and Avid's Frankie (who also has a novel forthcoming, this a dystopian YA from - I think - Bloomsbury!). I gave them a quick rundown of my screenwriting/plotting theories before hitting the road.

Thank you Athens, Avid, Clarke Middle School, and Double Helix. This was a tremendous, tremendous time.

Next stop, the Tween Reads Festival in Houston.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound
That called the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same
I've heard it too many times to ignore it
It's something that I'm supposed to be

-from "The Rainbow Connection"
I think a lot about Kermit the Frog.

Kermit is a fellow southerner, like me.

He left his swamp in Louisiana to pursue a dream of entertaining people and traveled all the way to Los Angeles.

Somewhere along the way, it became less about his own dreams and more about facilitating others' dreams, about accruing and enabling a group of like-minded individuals to reach their own potential.

I find that really interesting. Also, his character is very complex for a frog.

Kermit is long-suffering, but he can fly off the handle when he's had enough. He has wrestled with depression and self doubt throughout his career, but he also finds the strength to carry on by returning to what drove him initially.

I was upset when he moved even further into the background as the producer, but not the host, of the short lived Muppets Tonight. And in the majority of Muppet films from The Muppet Christmas Carolon, he was marginalized in his own movies, taking only minor, supporting parts.

It thrilled me to see him take the leading man role in Muppets Most Wanted, even if he graciously allowed another frog actor to play the part of Constantine, his villainous twin, and I hope that this means, after years of working tirelessly behind the scenes, Kermit has decided to return to that initial dream that drew him out of his swamp to begin with.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Books-a-Million Signing

Tonight I will be signing Frostborn at 7pm at the Books-a-Million at Brookwood Village. Hope to see you there.
Thursday, September 18, 2014 7:00 PM
757 Brookwood Village, Birmingham, AL 35209
Phone:(205) 870-0213

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reflections from the Road: ScripTips Lecture at the Vickery Creek Middle School

Yesterday, I drove down to Cumming, Georgia to give my ScripTips talk on applying screenwriting techniques to novel plotting to the students (and parents) of the Vickery Creek Middle School. It was a small but enthusiastic crowd, and the students asked insightful and clever questions. (Hi to Ricky, who may actually have seen more films than I have). Here is a picture of upcoming writer and smart kid Isaac and his mother, who I hope enjoy the copy of Frostbornthey bought.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reflections from the Road: The Frostborn Tour Part One

This fall, I have been and will be touring quite a bit in support of Frostborn (Thrones and Bones),my debut middle grade fantasy novel. I've been on the road, speaking in schools and signing in bookstores, almost every day since Labor Day weekend through last Thursday, and I'm preparing to hit the road again soon. But in this brief lull, I wanted to recount the adventure so far.

Labor Day weekend was Dragon Con, as exciting as always and one of my favorite conventions in the world. I heard the attendance numbers on NPR the next day, and I believe they were 68,000 or 72,000 or somewhere in that neighborhood. It's a hard show to work, and this year I participated in more panels than usual and did a signing too. In addition to the Writing/Editing and Science Fiction & Fantasy tracks (always a pleasure) I also joined the Kaleidoscope and YA Lit tracks, and had an absolute blast! And on Saturday, I got to sign Frostborn at The Missing Volume's booth alongside my cover and interior artist Justin Gerard.

I didn't get home from Dragon Con until late Monday night, and Tuesday afternoon I was flying to Colorado. First up was Boulder, where I stayed in the 107 year old historic hotel, the Boulderado. Past guests included Theodore Roosevelt, Hellen Keller, and Louis Armstrong, and I got to drink from a glacier-fed water fountain. And the Spruce restaurant was utterly fantastic. That night I went for a walk and came upon the Boulder Book Store, where I found two copies of Frostborn (in which I hid trading cards, thank you Brandon Sanderson for the idea). The Boulder Book Store is a remarkable store - the kind of sprawling, multistory book shop whose basement and upper floors seem to extend beyond the building's walls into their neighbor's space. I'd love to do an event there on a subsequent trip.

The next morning was Wednesday, September 3rd, and the official start of the tour. First up was the Nevin Platt Middle School, courtesy of Jeff Oliver from the local Barnes & Noble, where I spoke to two Language Arts classes back to back. Thank you to teacher Melissa Dole, and to all her students, you were wonderful and made a debut author's first speaking engagement a joy. Jeff sold out the books he had initially brought for the entire double-appearance entirely with the first class!

That evening, I signed Frostborn at the B&N. They had me up front, and I went through a good number of books before two enthusiastic children and their mothers asked if I were going to do a reading. So we moved to the back, where I read to a small (as the signing had been on for half an hour) but wildly enthusiastic group. Two kids kept me talking for 45 minutes with all their questions. One boy had started reading the book while we relocated, and when I read a passage he was so cute torn between listening to me and wanting to glance down at where he left off. His questions were really wonderful and insightful and I don't wonder but what I may have met the future head of my fan club.

That evening I got to have dinner (again at the Spruce) and drinks with an old friend, roommate, and fraternity brother John Carini, who I haven't seen we graduated college, but we picked up like no time passed. Thank you, John, for a great evening. I hope it's not as long between our next visit as it was from our last.

Thursday, I met media escort Beth Vagle, who took me to Fort Collins, Co. First up, we visited the Harris Bilingual School, a Spanish-immersion school. Some very polite students met Beth and I at the front and shepherded us to the library, where I spoke to around fifty 4th and 5th grade students. The kids were so excited and so fun to talk to, and all the teaches great. Hello to my school contact, teacher Martha Petty! You have great kids! Afterwards, I signed copies of Frostborn courtesy of Old Firehouse Books. Then, as I was packing to leave, Marthy Petty called me into their computer lab, where I was gobsmacked to see every single monitor engaged in playing the Knattleikr Training game on the Thrones and Bones website! I cannot tell you what a thrill it was to see so many kids playing my game at the same time. Unbelievable.

Beth took me to the Snooze Eatery for a fantastic brunchy-lunch, and we got to drop by Old Firehouse Books and meet the owner. Then we went to the Rivendell School, where I spoke to another 50 or so 4th and 5th graders. Again, speaking to the kids was so much fun - and they went wild over the prototype Thrones and Bones board game I had on display! And I signed a ton of Frostborn books, "the best we've ever done" at this school according to one book seller.

After this fantastic start, I hoped a plane to Phoenix, Arizona, and the Hotel Renaissance Phoenix Downtown, where I would spend three nights. I was met early the next morning by media escort Pierre O'Rourke. Pierre has been driving for thirty years and is full of stories about celebrities he's befriended (including DeForest Kelly and James Doohan). He's also an author himself and gifted me a copy of his funny and touching, Note to Gibbs.

This stop was a little different, in that I was asked to teach a writing workshop at two different schools to classes who were “voracious for knowledge”. They didn't let me know about the teaching gig until I was underway, but fortunately, I had just in the days before Dragon Con retailored my ScripTips lecture to be child-friendly in anticipation of a talk I'm giving at the Vickery Middle School in Cumming, Georgia tomorrow night. Even more fortunately, I had it on a flash drive having made a last minute decision to carry it with me in case I needed to rehearse.

Pierre and I arrived first at the Imagine School of Avondale in Tempe, Arizona, where I spoke to 50 6th to 8th grade students from two classes under teacher Stephanie Walsh. Stephanie had cleared the morning for me, and generously offered me as much time as I (and the students) wanted, so I was able to both give my ScripTips talk and my Frostborn presentation. The classroom, also, had won a grant and was tricked out with a very nice Smart Board and Sony laptops at every desk. The film discussion in particular was so much fun, and the kids asked the best questions. In fact, I think I now understand Avatar: The Last Airbender on a level I hadn't appreciated before (and it's a favorite show of mine). Once again, I got to watch a room full of computers engaged in my game, which is a thrill I'll never get over. I talked somewhere between two and three hours, and then reluctantly tore myself away so Pierre and I could rush to our next stop.

We barely got to Dobson Montessori in Mesa, Arizona in time. And with no lunch! Here I gave the same two presentations to twenty 6th to 8th grade students, and at this point to tell you that the kids were enthusiastic, asked great questions, taught me a thing or two, and were a blast to teach/present to would seem redundant, except that by now I had firmly realized that I love love love talking to kids, and I have found my audience.

That night, I had dinner at Chibo Urban Pizzeria Cafe with author and friend Sam Sykes and friend and Phoenix Comicon Books & Authors Manager Lee Whiteside. I've heard a lot about the Phoenix Comicon, and I hope I can check it out for myself before too long. Later, Sam and I had drinks in the hotel lobby for a bit. But we made it an early night, because, ahem, I'm a middle grade author now with responsibilities.

The next afternoon was an event at Changing Hands bookstore (the one on McClintock Drive). This was as special event because while it was open to the public, it was also for their middle school book club, Club Read, and their August book club pick was Frostborn. Also, staff member Eddie Case was leaving Changing Hands and handing over Club Read duties to Brandi Stewart, so it was a momentous occasion on many levels. But again, the talk was fantastic, with an audience of about fifty people, and we sold the table display down twice on top of the dozen or so books already purchased by Club Read. Fantastic event!

I also had a surprise for the audience. My cartographer Robert Lazzaretti was on hand with his family, so everyone who got Frostborn signed that day had the special treat of getting the map signed by the cartographer in addition to an author signature. Afterwards, Pierre, I, and Lazzaretti's family adjourned to the adjoining cafe for carrot cake and coffee. Lazz's two daughters are budding artists too and each presented me with some very sweet fan art!
Then it was good bye to new friends and back to the hotel, where I met my friend and website/character artist Andrew Bosley and his wife Maren, who drove two hours to meet for dinner. After they were already en route, all our cell phones were blaring with a warning of an approaching dust storm. But the brave Bosley's declined both turning back and eating in the lobby of my hotel. Instead, we climbed into their car and drove straight into the heart of the storm in search of authentic Mexican food. We weathered the brown, post-apocalyptic haze and were rewarded with an excellent meal at Comedor Guadalajara and a good time.

The next morning, I left before breakfast for the flight home. I got back Sunday afternoon, managed one full day with the family on Monday, and then it was off by hired car on Tuesday to travel four hours to Fairhope, Alabama for my next stop.  Dinner that night was at Tamara's Downtown, where I had escargot and chili-glazed salmon.

Wednesday, September 10th was quite the day. My morning began with a loud crash around 5:30 am. I rushed into the bathroom of the Hampton Inn to discover shattered glass all over the floor and water gushing through the ceiling light. I called the clerk on duty, who was flustered and said "Well, that is inconvenient. Are you able to exit your room?" I was, and did, but he told me that no one else would arrive before 7 am and he really didn't know what to do about it. He didn't seem to understand the seriousness of water actively pouring through an electrical appliance, but I eventually managed to get him to at least give me a second room so that I could bathe.

Things brightened up when my media escort Amanda Smith showed up, and we went to the Fairhope Intermediate School. This was the biggest group of kids I have ever addressed. In fact, with the possible exception of an io9-organized panel at the San Diego Comic Con a few years back, it may have been the biggest group I've ever addressed in my life. Six hundred - yes 600! - kids from Fairhope's 5th to 6th grade - the entire student body of the school! Was I intimidated? Right until they introduced me. Then I discovered something. If talking to fifty kids is great, talking to six hundred kids is fantastic!!!

Afterwards, Amanda took me to lunch at Master Joe's Sushi and a blended drink at Mr. Gene's Beans. Then a brief tour of Fairhope and on to the J. Larry Newton School, where I spoke to another three hundred students from the 4th to 6th grades.

I arrived at the Page & Palette bookstore thirty minutes early, where store contact Stephanie Emrich helped me set up in the nick of time, as students from both school talks were already starting to arrive when I got there. I signed Frostborn for two and a half hours, and after 6pm, when I was packing to go, had to unpack my stamp and pen to sign more!

Finally, I stepped outside the bookstore to discover no one waiting for me. Random House sent a limo service to drive me down to Fairhpe, but when I came out after a full day of speaking and signing, there was no return car! A Page & Palette employee named Brett Foster kindly gave me a lift to a rental car service, which was closed, then another, also closed. He ended up sitting with me for two hours at Moe's BBQ while we waited for a car to come from Mobile, AL. As it turned out, Brett was a long time Star Trek fan, and I hope I entertained him with dinner and my tales of being on the sets of Trek and Babylon 5 in my journalist years, but I know he had somewhere else to be and work he needed to get done that night. As a result of Brett's above and beyond the call of duty kindness, I'm directing people who want signed copies to Page & Palette, who have a limited number of then on hand despite an amazing signing event (they ordered a lot!).

Also, a big shout out to Gary Williamson of Southern Comfort Limousine, who provided excellent service and company and was my white knight after a very long day. I didn't get home and in bed until around 1am! But what a day!

No rest for the wicked because the next day I spoke at Homewood Public Library, giving a presentation to one hundred and ninety 4th-6th grade students from Our Lady of Sorrows and Creative Montessori. If I had any fears about "prophets in their hometown," these kids put it to rest. I couldn't ask for a better crowd for the last leg of the Frostborn tour part one. And their enthusiasm spilled over to my signing that night at the Little Professor Book Center. A huge shout out to bookseller Sara Glassman both for organizing all of this and for working on her birthday - the cake bites were delicious! (Little Professor also has signed books on hand too).

Finally, I was home and done with the tour thus far. But did I rest? No!  Friday, September 12th was spent signing 500 books (505.6 lbs in 42 cartons) that were supposed to be shipped out of here today! (More on where they are going later - and possibly on the difficulty getting them there, as the shipping service just refused to enter my house and left empty handed!)

And tomorrow I'm teaching in Cumming, Georgia. But don't feel sorry for me! I'm having a blast! Turns out I love talking to kids even more than I love talking to adults, and everywhere I go, people are unbelievably excited about Frostborn. I'm already getting fan mail, fan art, and photos of Thrones & Bones sets that families are making so that they can play at home. This is amazing!

And again, let me thank all the excellent people - teachers, students, booksellers, media escorts, drivers, friends old and new - and everyone else who has made this an experience I'll never forget. And a big shout out to my publicist, Lydia Finn at Random House, who made all of this possible and gets me home when I'm stranded on the road!

Looking forward for the next arm of the tour! Catch you on the road!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Frostborn: Word Bookstores and Queens Library Staff Pick

Frostborn has been chosen as yet another Staff Pick, this time by the Word independent community bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City. Bookstore staff Jasper writes,"This is the most fun I’ve had since the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

Frostborn has also been selected as a Staff Pick by Queen's Library for their Children's Chapter Books category.

Frostborn has been previously chosen as a Staff Pick by the Waucoma Bookstore and by Powell's, and was an Editor's Choice of Amazon for the month of August, and a Publishers Weekly "PW Picks: Books of the Week" selection for the week of August 4th. Publishers Weekly also gave it a starred review.

Next Stop: The Page & Palette Bookstore

The Frostborn tour rolls on. Next up, catch me at the Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope, AL on Wednesday, September 10th at 4pm.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Frostborn Tour Begins!

The Frostborn Tour begins this week. Here are the tour dates currently scheduled. Note some changes from earlier versions.

Wednesday September 03, 2014 5:30 PM
Barnes and Noble Reading/Signing
Crossroads Commons
2999 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80301
(daytime visit to the Platt Middle School)

Thursday September 4th, 2014 
(daytime visits to the Harris Bilingual School and the Rivendell School)

Friday September 5th
Changing Hands Bookstore
6428 S. McClinktock Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85283
*school visits only

Saturday September 6th, 2 PM
Changing Hands Bookstore
6428 S. McClinktock Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85283
*daytime event with the Changing Hands Kids Book Club (and general public)

Wednesday Sept. 10th, 4:00 PM
Page & Palette
32 S. Section St.
Fairhope, AL 36532
(daytime visit with Fairhope Intermediate School and J. Larry Newton School)

Thursday Sept. 11th, 6:00 PM
Little Professor Book Center
2717 18th St. S.
Homewood, AL 35209
(daytime presentation at the Homewood Public Library for the Our Lady of Sorrows and Creative Montessori schools)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 6:30 PM-8PM
Young Authors Program
Vickery Creek Middle School 
6240 Post Road
Cumming, GA 30040
Event and location details forthcoming. Time subject to change.
Open to any student in Forsyth County and their families.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 7:00 PM
757 Brookwood Village, Birmingham, AL 35209
Phone:(205) 870-0213

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 4:00 PM
Avid Bookshop
493 Prince Ave
Athens, GA 30601
Phone:(706) 352-2060
(daytime presentations for Clarke Middle School and Double Helix)

Saturday, September 27, 2014
Tweens Read Book Festival
South Houston High School
3820 Shaver St, South Houston, TX 77587

Thursday, October 9, 2014 3:00 PM - 3:45 PM
New York Comic Con
Panel Name: Coffee Talk with Dragons and Monsters
Description: What makes a monster something to be feared? To become a force to be reckoned with? To be bigger than life? Are its eyes too big, teeth too sharp and does it have a tail? Is it Human? A Creature? Supernatural? Powerful? Diabolical? Insane? Or Maybe just misunderstood? Join R.L Stine (Party Games), Caitlin Kittredge (Black Dog), Lou Anders (Frostborn), Brandon Sanderson (Steelheart and Firefight), Paul Pope (The Rise of Aurora West), Ethan Reid (The Undying), Ransom Riggs (Hollow City; Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children) and moderator Thomas Sniegoski (Walking in the Midst of Fire) as they discuss the “monsters” in their books and what makes them truly something or someone you would not like to meet alone in a dark alley...or a dark forest, or a dark cave....

Friday, October 10, 2014 1:00 PM - 1:45 PM
New York Comic Con
Title: Geek Geek Revolution
Description: GEEK GEEK REVOLUTION is a no-holds-barred geek culture game show featuring six science fiction/fantasy authors competing for the chance to be TOP GEEK. In addition the audience members will be asked to 'write-in' questions in hopes of stumping the authors and winning a prize pack of books. Hold onto your hats, nerf herders, this might get ugly. Featuring authors: Peter Brett, Maureen Johnson, Django Wexler, Rachel Caine, Lou Anders, and Lev Grossman

Saturday, October 12, 2014
wik'14: Writing & Illustrating for Kids*
Spain Park High School (Birmingham)
4700 Jaguar Drive
Hoover, AL 35242
* Not a Frostborn-specific event. I am teaching a two part lecture "ScripTips: Hollywood Screenwriting Techniques from 10am-11:45am, but I will happily sign books.

Friday-Sunday, November 14-16, 2014
Windycon 41*
Westin Lombard Yorktown Center
70 Yorktown Shopping Center, Lombard, IL 60148

*Not a Frostborn-specific event. I'm Editor Guest of Honor, but will happily sign books.

Additional dates in other cities are being added. I'll update this list as they are confirmed.

Frostborn Giveaway and Interview

The magnificent Marjorie Liu, talented author and comic book scribe and all around wonderful person, kindly interviewed me over the weekend for her blog. We talk about POV, travel, and she gets me to list a number of potentially surprising facts about myself you may not have heard before. What's more, Marjorie is hosting a GIVEAWAY CONTEST. Leave your name in the comments of her blog to win a copy of Frostborn!The contest ends September 5th and has to be restricted to US residents, but please drop by her blog, read the interview, and enter!