Friday, January 30, 2015

Reflections from the Road: Saint Rose Academy

This past Wednesday, I visited Saint Rose Academy and spoke to 81 students in the fifth through eighth grade. As she has done before, the wonderful Sara Gassman from Little Professor Book Center in Homewood, Alabama went with me to facilitate book sales for the signing. As she was setting up, a group of kids came running into the gymnasium where I would be speaking and mobbed her table. I came over and was instantly pelted with questions. I explained that they should save their questions for the end of my talk, but they informed me that they were all fourth graders and wouldn't get to hear me. So I answered their questions and gave them all Thrones and Bones trading cards.

Then I spoke to the fifth through eight grade. They were a great bunch of kids. Really enthusiastic and engaged, and the Q&A afterwards was very lively. Lots of questions about the forthcoming books in the series, other areas of my world, how history influences my fantasy, and, of course, the games!

I could have talked for hours--the questions didn't slow down--so eventually I called a halt myself. But it was a really fun time. Thank you to Administrative Assistant & Admissions Director Vivian Hults for arranging a great visit. And thank you to the students and faculty of Saint Rose.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Frostborn: An Excellent Edition to the Genre

Another great review for Frostborn.This one appears at Books, Crafts and Beats, which is, I believe, the blog of a librarian in the Denver, Colorado area. I'm very happy with the opening line of the review:
"Masters of the fantasy genre like Tolkien and George RR Martin have set the bar very high for this genre but Lou Anders' book, the first in a proposed series, is an excellent addition to the genre."
And their closing paragraph:
"This story is one of those rare books that will appeal to both girls and boys. The themes explored: wanting to fit in with one's peers, dual heritage, wanting to chart one's own course different from your parents are universal. Although we learn little about Karn's four sisters and his mother except in one small mention, Thianna for her part has an important female mentor who teaches her important skills. I highly recommend this book for grades 4-7."

Tween Book Club @ Roscoe

Tuesday of last week, I had a wonderful Skype visit talking about Frostbornwith the Tween Book Club of the North Suburban Library District's Roscoe, Illinois Branch. The club is hosted by librarian Tammy Tucker, and meets only twice annually. Each time, they choose one book and meet once a week for three weeks to discuss it. At the first meeting, they discuss the first 1/3 of the book and do crafts related to the read. In this case, the Tween Book Club made their own Thrones and Bones games! In the second meeting, they Skype with the author. In the third, they have a party and eat food related to the book (which, in the case of Frostborn, means they can try some skyr!).

I was able to share my Powerpoint presentation with a classroom of kids and parents, and then take one-on-one questions from them afterwards. Although I have other Skype visits lined up for later in 2015, this was my first one. It was a blast and the kids were great. Here's a shot of the Thrones and Bones board that Tammy herself made.

Update 2/10/15: Here are some scans of some of the menu from the party, photos of the food spread, the poster for the club, and a cool WordSearch puzzle !

Staff Pick: Hoover Public Library's Best of 2014

I've just learned that the Hoover Public Library has included Frostbornin their "Best of 2014 - Juvenile fiction" list. The direct link to a PDF of their list is here.

Back in September, they reviewed Frostborn, saying:
This wonderful fantasy steeped in Norse mythology is by a Birmingham author! Highly recommended for fans of Rick Riordan, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Flanagan.
This is the 11th Staff Pick for Frostborn. The full list of bookstores and libraries that have selected my novel is now Book Shop Santa Cruz, Books Inc., Eagle Harbor Book Co., Hoover Public Library, King's English Bookshop, Mockingbird Books, Politics and Prose, Powell's, Queen's Library, The Waucoma Bookstore and Word Bookstores.

Big smile!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review: The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

It's been a while since a book pulled me through itself as rapidly as Paul Durham's The Luck Uglies. Lately, I've been reading a lot of material because I felt that I ought to, or needed to know about it, or required it for research. I have been wanted to get to The Luck Ugliessince I first spotted Petur Antonsson's wonderful cover, but as time wore on, I was worried that it wouldn't hold up. I needn't have. The book starts beautifully--with a rooftop chase--and it's all uphill from there!

Durham has done a magnificent job constructing the fictional world of Village Drowning and has peopled it with a wonderful cast of characters. 11 year old Rye O'Chanter lives by a set of rhyming rules, rules which don't quite mesh with the law as laid down by Earl Morningwig Longchance. When Rye accidentally breaks one of hers, she has an encounter with a horrifying creature. It seems the Bog Noblins have returned! Unfortunately, the Earl has driven out the only group capable of defeating them, the mysterious and possibly criminal Luck Uglies. Rye sets off to learn about the truth about Luck Uglies, though the answers are closer to home than she could have predicted.

This is a delightful fantasy adventure set in a quasi-medieval village, light on the magic but high on the adventure, that digs deeper than the usual good verses evil dichotomies to ask questions about the nature of monsters and outcasts. The world building is top notch, the pace brisk, the balance of humor and tension perfect, and the pay off most satisfying. If I have any quibbles, they're not worth sharing. It's been too long since I enjoyed a work this much. Highly recommended for kids and adults alike. I started my son on it the day after I finished, and he loves it as well! I preordered The Luck Uglies #2: Fork-Tongue Charmersimmediately upon reading THE END. It can't get here soon enough.

Visit Paul Durham's website at

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reflections from the Road: The Altamont School

Last Friday I spoke to 172 kids ranging 5th to 8th grade at The Altamont School in Birmingham. This is a private school with a history of literary achievement among its alumni. As you walk in, you pass between two glass cases showcasingall the books that former students have written. Several famous names, including Daniel Wallace(Big Fish). It made me wish that I had gone to Altamont, so that Frostborn could be there as well!

Their brand new theater space was one of the nicest I've been in in 19 or so school visits. Incredible stage, lights, acoustics, etc... (and thank you to Jack for handling sound and lights during the show!) It was an incredible 45 minutes, and I've discovered that I am happiest--and best--when you give me a wireless mic. I was running up and down the seats, asking questions of the audience like the most hyper active talk show host ever.

Then they put me in a conference room and let kids who had bought the book eat lunch with me, ask questions and get their copy signed. And the kids were great. Tons of questions about other locations on the world, the game, lots of "where can I buy this?" on the board and card game, lots of questions about future books etc... Also, these kids are sneaky - their boundless enthusiasm got me to open up about all kinds of secret details of the world, stuff I haven't told anyone yet.

They then took me to the lunchroom to eat with the teachers, where we had a very energetic discussion of writing and film. Altamont has a great cafeteria, and the conversation was fun. (The Avengers is too a perfect film, and I'm not changing my mind.)

Thank you to Mary Martin (Librarian) for arranging the visit, Thomas Goldsmith (Director of Admissions) for taking care of me upon arrival, Margaret Whiteside (Marketing & Communications) for the pictures, Altamont-parent and old friend Tad Lidikay for dropping by, and all of the wonderful students and faculty. I had a great time and it's so gratifying to hear you all did as well.

The Legend of Korra: Season Three

Yesterday I finished watching Legend of Korra: Book Three - Change(I'm behind I know - no spoilers). Incredibly powerful season finale. But also, the best of this series since Avatar. I love this show, and I love Korra, who has got to be one of my all-time favorite protagonists. But one thing I love the most about both Avatar and Korra is the way that they create complex characters. Tenzin is simultaneously a stick in the mud you wouldn't invite to a party and the coolest guy on the show. Sokka, on Avatar: The Last Airbender, never outgrew his horrid sense of humor. He matured into a great strategist and leader, but his humor never improved. Korra herself is an incredibly strong young woman, but the writers aren't afraid to show her making a lot of dumb mistakes. The fact that she's imperfect doesn't diminish her strength of character, it makes her real. Love love love these shows and this world! It has got to be up there as one of my all time favorite fantasy milieus. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Creatures, Quests, and Secret Worlds Sale

Powell's Books is having a "Creatures, Quests, and Secret Worlds Sale." 20 fantasy books for young readers, including my own Frostborn, are 30% off for a limited time. I love their promo for their promo! They write:
Follow the spotted unicorn deep into the heart of the woods, past the Forbidden River teeming with man-eating sturgeon, beyond the willow grove where the fairies mock the elves, around the giant tortoises munching on snakeroot and ragwort, over the sleeping dragon blocking Hermit's Pass, and there, in the clearing, lies the treasure you've been seeking: 20 shiny-new fantasy books for imaginative young readers, all 30% off for a limited time. The bounty is yours for the taking, but you better act fast.
With that copy, how can you not?

Friday, January 09, 2015

Frostborn: Top Ten Debut of 2014

Over on Fantasy Book Critic, Frostbornmakes one of ten of Mihir's "Top Ten Debuts of 2014" and I am one of five "New Authors to Look Out for."
"Lou Anders is a name that is already well known to many fantasy fans. He had established Pyr books and has been a very successful editor. With this book, he makes the switch to the other side of the writing craft. His debut focusing on Norse mythology and two young kids completely won me over with its charm, buddy travel adventure trope and the gorgeous world set within. Lou Anders has a written a fun story that is sure to be hit among younger readers and those elder readers with a younger heart. Very highly recommended & I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel."

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Updating the Accolades

So, so far Frostborn has....

Been a Staff Pick at these bookstores (and one library):

Book Shop Santa Cruz
Books Inc.
Eagle Harbor Book Co.
King's English Bookshop
Mockingbird Books
Politics and Prose
Queen's Library
The Waucoma Bookstore
Word Bookstores

Received a Starred Review in Publisher's Weekly

And shown up on these recommendation lists:

PW Picks: Books of the Week selection for the week of August 4th.
Editor's Choice of Amazon for the month of August
io9's list of "Must-Read Science Fiction And Fantasy Books For August."
Tween Us: "5 books tweens will love that make great gifts."
Aleksandra's Corner: Tied for 1st Place in "Top 10 of 2014: Best Books I've Read in 2014!"
The Thousand Lives of John Zeleznik: 1 of 5 top reads (out of 63 books read).
Joseph Mallozzi's Weblog: Best Books of 2014
Children's Atheneum: 1 of 3 Best Action/Adventure Book in "A year in Review 2014"
Amy Plum on Nice Girls Don't Read Naughty Books: 3rd of 3 "Top Books of 2014"
SciFiChick's Best of 2014: 1 of 5 best "YA Fantasy" (out of 155 books read)
Kidspace (Springfield, Missouri district library): A Guide to the Good Stuff - Fantasy Ages 9-12
Fantasy Book Critic,  Mihir's "Top Ten Debuts of 2014" and 1 of 5 "New Authors to Look Out for."
Bookworms, Etc. "A collection of (some of) the best children’s books of 2014"

Which is not too shabby, no?

Monday, January 05, 2015

Fantasy Author Visits Storybook Castle

This past weekend, my family and I got to visit an actual storybook castle!

Let me explain. To celebrate the end of 2014 and ring in new year, we traveled to Fairhope, Alabama for some warmer weather, a change of scenery, and an escape from household chores. It was four days of eating too much, riding bicycles, visiting the awesome Page & Palette bookstore, enjoying ice cream at Mr. Gene's Beans, dining at Dragonfly Foodbar (get the five-spiced duck tacos!), and picking up some Magic the Gathering booster packs at Mini War Game, but one excursion really stood out for us.

We got to visit the Mosher's Storybook Castle! Yup, a storybook castle in Alabama.

Sometime after World War II, a man named Craig Sheldon moved his family to Fairhope, Alabama and began work on a house. He was in the construction business, and brought home scraps and leftover materials, and what he did with it is quite amazing. The result was Sheldon Castle, a rather unique place - but the tale is only getting started. When his daughter Pagan married an artist named Dean Mosher, they purchased the property next door to Sheldon Castle and began their own storybook home. Building every single piece of the castle by hand, and working over a period of 30 years, Dean constructed Mosher Castle. It actually dwarfs the original, and has got to be one of the most unique structures I've ever been in.

So how did this come about you ask?

I heard about the castles in a news article, and read that the Moshers didn't object to people taking photographs of their castle's exterior. Still, I didn't want to invade their privacy, so I wrote to them and asked if it was true that it was okay to take pictures. Pagan Mosher wrote me back and unexpectedly and enormously generously invited us to join them for lunch and a tour!

We visited their house on Saturday, for food, coffee, and a long visit between our two families. The Moshers are all very creative people, even if they didn't live in a castle. Pagan is the Artistic Director at Children's Dance Theatre of Fairhope and Owner/Director at Creative Outlet Dance Center. Dean is an historic painter whose work is in museums around the country. His “Wilbur Wrights Greets Lady Liberty" is on permanent exhibition in the Early Flight wing of the National Air & Space Museum! The story of the year's long research period for the "Battle of Flamborough Head" is jaw-droppingly amazing. Dean actually constructed a 20 foot wide section of a ship's hull and fired a cannon ball through it to get an accurate rendition of the blast effect and debris! And that's just one aspect of his process. The detail and historical accuracy of his work is amazing, and someone could make an incredible (and enjoyable!) history book by charting the process of creating one of his paintings start to finish (all of which are photo-documented and backed up by scholars and experts). Check out his portfolio here. Their son and his girlfriend are also creative types and were very fun to talk with too. I didn't get a chance to meet their daughter, but, in addition to being a television producer, she is also an author, having co-authored a book called The Spirit of Fairhope with her father).

As to the castle itself - wow! Every door, window, every stone in the floor, ever pane of glass, ever timber and beam - all beautifully hand-crafted. There was a story everywhere I turned my eyes. In fact, it was hard to keep to one line of conversation or maintain eye contact with anyone for more than a few minute, because everywhere I turned my head, there was something amazing leaping out at me.

It was a delightful afternoon with the Moshers, who are wonderful and creative people. Check out their work, Dean's studio, and their castle. And thank you to the Moshers for generously sharing their time and opening their home to us (as well as for the copy of Frostborn they left out on the coffee table!) - it was absolutely the highlight of the trip and an experience we'll never forget.

Nice Girl Reads Nice Book

I don't know if, as the website says, Nice Girls Don't Read Naughty Books or not, but I'm grateful one nice girl - author Amy Plum - included Frostborn as #3 in her Top Books of 2014.  Amy writes:
"I rarely read middle grade, and this fantasy is pure enchantment. A boy who turns his gaming obsession into real world triumphs and a half-giant girl who actually wants to be bigger and stronger than the boys...what kids aren't going to gobble this up? I haven’t loved a female protagonist as much as I did Thianna since my major girl-crush on Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird."