Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Friday, December 28, 2012

A Bookish Christmas!

This year I gave lots of books for Christmas. And I make a list of which ones were given, and received. Pretty amusing and enlightening! Here is the full list for your perusal.

To my younger son:
Pym by Mat Johnson (A wacky satire involving Poe, Little Debbie snack cakes, a bag of bones and a seafaring journey)

To my eldest son who teaches history in China and travels all over:
When America First Met China by Eric Jay Dolin ("An exotic history of tea, drugs, and money in the age of sail")  ***check out the incredibly gorgeous book cover above
China in Ten Words by Yu Hua (a humorous, honest, sometimes shocking portrait of China from the 60s on)
Cambodia's Curse by J. Brinkley (portrait of a country haunted by poverty, corruption and the Khmer Rouge-solutions going forward)

To my friend who loves history & art:
Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean ("True tales of love, madness and the history of the world, from the Periodic Table")
Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut (a satire of the artworld)

To one of my writing students:
The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History by Jonathan Franzen (pieces about Franzen's childhood)

From my writing student to me:
Seven Days in the Artworld by Sarah Thornton (snapshots of the weirdness that is the artworld)

To my sister-in-law, interested in psychology and biology:
An Age of Madness by David Maine (a novel about an analyst and her estranged daughter)
Riddled with Life by Marlene Zuk (why and how we symbiotically embrace parasites!)

From my younger son to me, knowing I love DeLillo:
The Angel Esmirelda by Don DeLillo (nine stories about astronauts, nuns, terrorists and travelers, in settings from the South Bronx to outer space)

From my younger son to his older brother:
Nero by Edward Champlin (a reevaluation of the callous emperor who fiddled while Rome burned)
At Day's Close, Night in Times Past by A. Robert Ekirch (Crime, fire, theft and the supernatural: illuminating events that happen in the dark)

To me, from me!
The Twelve by Justin Cronin (Sequel to his blockbuster speculative novel The Passage) and Girl of Nightmares (sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood--unfortunately, the sequel isn't nearly as good as the first book!)

Did you give books this holiday? Did you receive books? 
Your favorites?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

25-page manuscript critique, auction bid goes to Newtown families

As writers, we can help the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy by participating in the auction that fellow teen author SR Johannes and Miral Sattar, founder of Bibliocrunch have generously helped organize. I am offering a 25-page manuscript critique, with a starting bid of only $25. Come bid here for this worthy cause!
There are other great offers as well!
UPDATE! The auction is over--we raised $5,500! 
Thanks to Shelli, Mirae and Kate for organizing this generous event.

The money raised will go directly to relief funds being set up by the Newtown Youth and Family Services through the United Way of Western Connecticut for all of the families and victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Newtown community.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Susan K. Quinn's Cover Reveal and Lots of Prizes!

Free Souls by Susan Kaye Quinn
(Book Three of the Mindjack Trilogy) Now Available!
When your mind is a weapon, freedom comes at a price.
Four months have passed since Kira left home to join Julian’s Jacker Freedom Alliance, but the hole in her heart still whistles empty where her boyfriend Raf used to be. She fills it with weapons training, JFA patrols, and an obsessive hunt for FBI agent Kestrel, ignoring Julian’s worries about her safety and repeated attempts to recruit her for his revolutionary chat-casts. When anti-jacker politician Vellus surrounds Jackertown with the National Guard, Kira discovers there’s more to Julian’s concerns than she knew, but she’s forced to take on a mission that neither want and that might be her last: assassinating Senator Vellus before he can snuff out Julian’s revolution and the jackers she’s come to love.
All of the Mindjack stories are available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, and iTunes (Note Free Souls is not yet available on Kobo or iTunes)
Early Praise for Free Souls
“Quinn paints a picture of a not-too-distant America where politicians inflame the hatred of one section of the populace for another—all for their own gain—and you worry that her world is not so far off from our own.”
Dianne Salerni, author of We Hear the Dead, The Caged Graves, and the forthcoming The Eighth Day
"Free Souls starts with a bang and doesn't let up. Like a mash-up of all your favorite science-fiction adventures from Star Wars to The Legend of Korra, it blends nonstop action, nail-biting escapes, and great romance. I absolutely loved it! A great series conclusion—a must-read."
Leigh Talbert Moore, author of Rouge and The Truth About Faking
“Susan did it again. Free Souls was WOW! I expected Kira to step up to her role as heroine but not like this. Surprises kept coming until the very end which tied up more loose ends than I knew existed. Warning: Don't start reading until you have time to finish. I didn't want to put Free Souls down for a second. It's that kind of book.”
Sher A. Hart, Goodreads Review
Interview Susan's over at Amy Saunder's blog today (12.14.12), answering questions about how she came up with the mages' abilities, what kind of mage she would be, and all about her future works. Digital Box Set Since Free Souls is out, there is now a Digital Box Set of the Mindjack Trilogy for those of you who want the whole series!
Available on AmazonBarnes&Noble
Mindjack Origins Collection Want more Julian? Wondering how Sasha's ability really works? Looking for EXCLUSIVE DELETED SCENES from Free Souls? This collection of novellas, scenes, and other goodies is for those craving a bit more of the characters and drama of the Mindjack series.
Includes: Mindjack Novellas Mind Games (Raf's story) The Handler (Julian's story) The Scribe (Sasha's story) TWO EXCLUSIVE DELETED SCENES from Free Souls (published nowhere else!) PLUS Mindjack flash fiction, an (imaginary) conversation between Raf and Julian, and other goodies for readers who want just a little bit more of Kira, Julian, Raf, and the Mindjack crew.
Available on AmazonBarnes&Noble
ENTER TO WIN one of FIVE ecopies of the Mindjack Origins Collection
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Giveway, reviews, Nano news & Let's Share Holiday Gift Ideas

Here's an array of news, reviews, a giveaway and a report on my Nano progress in November.

First of all, Angel Snyder at her fabulous 909 Reviews asked me very creative interview questions. She's giving away a signed copy of my illustrated YA thriller, Fireseed One! Enter to win it, or just come over to read the interview, which includes a peek at Scarlet's Fire.

Over at Book Labyrinth, I did a guest post called Reinventing YA Sci-Fi. Read it here.  And I want to say thanks so much for the awesome review by Alison DeLuca. Fireseed One made it to the Best in Fantasy blog! How cool is that? Thanks to Mina Burrows for her very thoughtful  review at her Books for Paranormal and Mystic Minds.

Now for Nano. I didn't win, but I ratcheted up a respectable number of words at 35K. It was actually more, because I kept forgetting to update, so let's say it was around 40K. It did light a fire under me, and now I'm on a faster roll. So, it accomplished its purpose! I'm about two thirds of the way through Scarlet's Fire, the sequel to Fireseed One, and I'm loving the weird, wild plot twists! Hopefully, you will too. How did you all do in Nano?

And how are you doing with your holiday shopping? I'm about 2/3 done, and I'm relieved to avoid most of the holiday mobs. For those people on my list who seem to already have everything I'm trying something new: getting them concert and theater tickets! Oh, and coupons for spa treatments. I'd take a massage over a pair of earrings most any day. How about you?

What's up in December for you? Care to share creative holiday gift ideas?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interview with Victoria Strauss on Passion Blue

Today, Idea City interviews Victoria Strauss, a seasoned author of novels for teens and adults about her new novel Passion Blue!

What are the two most important themes in Passion Blue?

Following your dreams, and facing up to your mistakes. Giulia, Passion Blue’s heroine, is separated from readers by centuries of history, and her actual situation, of being forced into a convent against her will, isn’t something that teens are likely to encounter today. But her struggle against huge odds to find her heart’s desire, and her realization that she must take responsibility for her actions and do her best to atone for her errors, are things that transcend historical differences. I think modern readers will find a lot in Giulia to recognize and identify with.

Which character would you want to spend a day with? Why?

I'm going to be predictable and say Giulia! My characters always become very real to me as I write them; having Giulia in my head for the past couple of years has been like making a new friend (yes, I know that sounds kind of schizophrenic!) and I would love to spend some real time with her. I could help her in the workshop, grinding minerals into pigment powder for paint. I could walk with her in the 15th century streets of Padua, with their shady arcades and bustling traffic. She could cast my horoscope, and tell me what’s in my stars.

Give us a hallmark line or two from Passion Blue.

"And all at once, by some strange turn of memory or perception, she was in the sorcerer's house again, the zodiac underfoot and the constellations overhead and the candles burning with flames that were not natural, and she heard the sorcerer say what he had told her when he placed the talisman in her hands: Be very sure you know what your heart's desire is, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive."

Give is a line that reveals the antagonist’s intent, motivation or character.

“My father is a great man. But he’s not always a good one. He can tolerate no rivals, even among the men who work for him. I am a woman, and I would have been his rival.”

What inspired you to write this novel?

The seed of the idea came from an editor who'd read one of my other YA books, and told me she'd always wanted to read a historical novel about astrology. The idea grabbed me, and I started researching, choosing 15th century Italy because it's a time and place that has always fascinated me. At the same time as I was finding out all sorts of interesting and obscure facts about astrology, I found myself drawn to the wonderful paintings of that time and place, which I've always loved more than any others. In the end, from a book about astrology, Passion Blue became a novel about painters and painting, with astrology, and a magical astrological talisman, as its fantasy element.

What do you enjoy doing besides writing?

Reading, watching movies, knitting, running, biking and hiking with friends, hanging out at the beach on a sunny day. But my favorite thing in the world is gardening. I have a big perennial garden that I've built up over the years, with hundreds of different plants. I love working with plants--watching them mature, seeing them come back to life every spring. It's about the only artistic thing I can do (I can barely draw stick figures)--painting a picture with living things that are constantly growing and changing. It's a form of meditation for me, one of the few activities where I'm just in the moment, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

Please provide one piece of important advice to aspiring writers.

Educate yourself about publishing before trying to get published! Knowledge is your best ally, and your greatest defense. I'm co-founder of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that tracks and warns about the many scams that target writers. We hear from so many writers who get caught up in scams because they don't know enough about how publishing works, and aren't able to recognize bad business practice when they encounter it. Whether you're looking for an agent to sell your manuscript to a big publisher, or submitting to small presses, or getting ready to self-publish, you'll be most successful--not to mention safest--if you take some time beforehand to educate yourself about your chosen field.

A hint of what you’re working on next?

I'm writing a sequel to Passion Blue, which will take Giulia out of the convent, and into intrigue and danger in the exotic (and sometimes sinister) city of Venice. After that, I'm thinking about putting my plant knowledge to work in a gothic fantasy about a girl who tends a garden of deadly plants for her father, a professional poisoner. Then, one day, a fugitive thief climbs in over the walls...

Where to find Passion Blue and Victoria on the Web:
Passion Blue in hardcover and kindle from Amazon
Passion Blue from Barnes & Noble
Victoria's website

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful for Great Books! And a review of a New Steampunk series

Alison Deluca is a fellow YA and tween author, who’s written an excellent steampunk series called The Crown Phoenix.

My review of Book One, The Night Watchman Express:
Miriam’s comfortable world is thrown into chaos when her father dies and his so-called business partners, Virgil and Theodosia Marchpane move in take over the mansion. They’ve brought along their spoiled son, Simon, and his friend of more modest means, Neil. Upon the horrid realization that Theodosia is intent on moving Miriam up to the attic and installing Simon in her room, Miriam is not going down without a fight. She throws things, she curses, and is relegated to her room for days with only bread and water.

Book Two

Book Three
Mysterious, steampunky elements appear: twelve silver circles set in the stones near the shore, a seemingly magical night train that inspires strange dreams, and Miriam’s secret possession: her old-fashioned Crown Phoenix manual typewriter, which takes on a larger aura. Miriam overhears Virgil and Theodosia’s whispered business dealings. She reads their private papers and learns of shocking details. The Marchpanes hate her snoopy ways and hire a governess to keep Miriam in line.

Enter Manalapata Postulate, a character every bit as trippy as her name suggests. As Miriam’s new governess, she has a hypnotic hold on everyone—for instance, the very racist Theodosia cannot recall saying yes to hiring Miss Postulate, who is the color of dark chocolate, yet Theodosia’s signature’s on the contract!

At first Miriam rails against her new governess, but soon Miss Postulate, or Mana, not only turns Miriam into a proper lady, she has also, to Theodosia’s horror, charmed young Simon and Neil. When Miriam asks Mana why she’s being so nice, we wonder too! Everyone has a nefarious motivation that is big fun trying to figure out. Danger lurks, and finally, the kids learn that Mana has been taken. Upon trying to rescue her, Simon and Miriam are whisked away on none other than the Night Train that inspires their fearful dreams.

Part two brings us to the island of Lampala where Miss Postulate grew up. She’s been kidnapped and Neil is determined to search for her. It's here that DeLuca crafts her most original setting and language, a testament to her vivid imagination and prowess as a storyteller. Neil is charged with watching a native girl, even more impossible than Miriam ever was, and the earlier plot is echoed in his own creative ways of bringing Riki around. The more serious task is to rescue Mana, who they find hanging in a cage off the edge of a cliff! I admire DeLuca’s quirky sense of adventure, and expertise at weaving together all of the mystifying threads without dropping any. Her prose is gorgeous. Tweens and middle-graders will love this series, as well as teens and even adults.

Where to find Alison and The Crown Phoenix series:
The series on Amazon
At B&N for Nook: Night Watchman Express, The Devil's Kitchen, Lamplighter's Special
Facebook author pageTwitterPinterest, Google+
Book Trailer

What book are you thankful for this November?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Celebrating the Launch of M Pax's The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear

Today, Idea City is helping M Pax, speculative author extraordinaire, celebrate the launch of her new adult urban fantasy, The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear. It's the first book in a new series. And it’s out! The main character, Hetty, is a twenty-two-year-old, stumbling about in an effort to become a full-fledged adult. She struggles with self-esteem, weight, relationships, and making the transition between college and the real world.

Graduation from community college isn’t the magic elixir Hetty Locklear counts on for becoming an adult. Her parents, who work the Renaissance fair circuit, insist she spend part of the summer with them. Hetty doubts pretending to live in the Middle Ages will help her find her way.
 To make it worse, an entity haunts her at her dead-end job, warning her of a dangerous man she doesn’t know. The ghost leads her to a lover who has a lot of secrets. He pulls her farther into peril and into a strange, hidden world of genetic experimentation.
New Adult Urban Fantasy with a contemporary sci-fi twist. Mature content.

Available as an ebook at Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords / iTunes / Kobo
Visit for more links.

M. Pax is celebrating her latest release with a jousting tournament and contest at Cheer for the knights to help them win the grand prize, and you’ll be put in a drawing to win an ebook copy of The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear. Five will be given away. Huzzah!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Frankenstorm, a Personal Report

Flares replace traffic lights downtown

We’re watching news as I’m posting snarky weather updates on Facebook: “If the power gos out you can always hold a séance with your meditation candles.” Then, actual concerns begin, as the wind picks up and rattles the windows hard. We hear of trees down, flooding on Seventh Ave (west side) and Ave C (east side). A gigantic explosion sounds (Generators blowing at the 14th Street Con Ed Station).

The TV and lights splutter off. We stumble around for candles.
Stare out into the black streets. Blink at each other. Hunker under heavy quilts.

The next morning, every store is shuttered. Banks are closed. Trees have crashed down and awnings are ripped. I ask a lone cab driver whether there’s any power in the city. “Above 42nd St.,” he replies. The garage guy painstakingly extricates cars from the cavernous pit with one mini flashlight. My Nissan Cube becomes our chariot of deliverance because no cabs, subways, or buses are running, and gas? “Fegeddaboutit!”

Uptown, one diner is open and mobbed. No waitresses. The cook, speaking only a smattering of English takes all orders. “You’re a hero,” I say, “and your boss should pay you a lot today.” He smiles big. We drive around, shell-shocked.

We buy a jar of instant coffee (Yechh), cringe through a meal of cold, precooked sausages. Amazed that 24/7, colonial people lived with no electricity. Pick up a camping stove, it's broken. Hunker under many blankets and coats. We get out 20 year-old phones that actually work!!! And a battery operated radio. Hear the news for the first time. Stunned that this ancient technology outshines all of the new. I feel like I’m in that show Revolution, and if this continues, maybe The Passage. Weird knowing that people are now shopping uptown at Bloomies and Macy’s as if there’s no blackout—further alienation from uptowners.

Walking at night, we find that the new coffee place has its own generator. Thankful for twenty-something owners who’ve anticipated the apocalypse! Tons of neighborhood types stream in to charge their electronic devices. The valiant coffee baristas work their espresso machine practically to death. Many cool conversations ensure. One man pulls out four live chinchillas from his shirt! There is more than one way to keep warm in the Frozen Apple.

NYU charging station
Doggie charge-up
 New York University opens its doors to the public! We take shelter in the “Quiet Room” and write for two whole days. So much work gets done! NYU is now my hero. People charge up everywhere, even in the ladies’ room. We are mad at Con Ed; how dare they have a stranglehold on the entire city! We need emergency backup systems, sea walls, and a breakup of the conglomerate. We feel terribly sorry for people in Staten Island and Breezy Point, who lost everything.

Still, driving is super-fun now. All parking rules have been suspended! Many have left town, so there are lots of parking places. And none of the traffic lights work. You can go from 14th Street to 125th Street in a matter of minutes. Everything is dark, dark, dark. It’s a giant game of chicken at every intersection. Yee-hah!

But we are filthy. We decide to drive to a friend’s in Queens for a shower. Driving’s no fun when there are massive traffic snarls and lines for gas that snake on for blocks. Is cleanliness really worth it? Maybe so, we feel reborn. Just as I’m sort of getting used to the candles and early bedtimes and games of Crazy 8, and meeting all of the folks at the coffee joint, I’m in the kitchen when I see it—a glow from our robotic vacuum cleaner. I scream, “It’s back on!”

Having been through the apocalypse, I won’t easily forget. Appreciate the little things: a candle and a match. Warm shoes. A teaspoonful of instant coffee. And community. Even the friggin’ crazy Chinchilla guy. Did you lose power? What was your story?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Offutt's Slipstream: Sci-fi, New Physics & Myth

I just read Michael Offutt's new sci-fi novel Slipstream and wanted to post a review here. This is the first in his series A Crisis of Two Worlds. As someone who's read many books on new physics, this subject is of interest to me, and Michael clearly understands the concepts. He also combines myth and fantasy. Rarely have I seen anyone take this all on, much less pull it off!

Jordan Pendragon is a multilayered guy. He’s handsome, an ace at ice hockey and math, but not as at ease with navigating the emotional realms of high school and at staying clean. When he learns that he’s being followed by a strange British man Kolin, and Jordan turns to chase him, Kolin leaves behind a watchband that Jordan soon learns is what’s called a Life Extractor. Jordan is in dire pain when he tries it on and the thing sucks green oil from his arm. Jordan learns later from Kolin that the band is called a Life Extractor, and Green Life is a hot commodity.

In a tense chase scene in a carnival, where Jordan is double-dating a friend of his sister’s and pretending to like her (and girls in general), he, his sister and Kolin get sucked in through a Slipstream, which he learns is a sort of black hole from which he can come and go.

This lands them in Avalon, a fascinating yet frightening place, an alternate earth of AIs and mega-cities and shiny skyscrapers that churn out Life Green and all manner of questionable digital playthings. Kolin reveals that it’s been prophesized that a boy from earth with the name of an old king (Jordan’s last name Pendragon is the name of an ancient king) would bring order to chaos. Jordan has just been tagged!

In an intriguing blend of myth and sci-fi, adventure the world of Avalon rolls out in breathless fashion! Offutt’s desire to square theoretical physics with spirituality is hugely ambitious and I applaud it. For one, an entity called The Shadow operates a supercomputer in an unknown location that has imprisoned The Light, and Kolin’s Master.

Without giving anything away, I can say that Jordan will find love in the mad action—in the form of Kolin. This serves to deepen his character, and let the reader in more. This world was so cinematic that I could easily see it made into an edge-of-the-seat sci-fi extravaganza!

Buy Slipstream at Amazon
Find Michael Offutt's blog and website here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Advice on social media, trends in YA & New Website!

At long last, I have a newsletter subscription form. Yay! I'd love for you to subscribe to my free newsletter, which will have news of my sequel release, new fiction releases, classes, events, giveaways and swag. Click here to subscribe.

Take a look at my brand new website! Don't worry, I blog here (blogger love), and this blog will also feed into the site. On the page for teachers and book clubs, I've designed free, downloadable guides, and there's a special page for writers, which includes my guest posts on writing, other amazing posts, including two from our own Susan Kaye Quinn, and inspirational writing quotes. If you visit my bio page, let me know what you think of my weird great, great uncle Charles.

Left to right: Me, Nancy, Beth, Alison
Finally, I want to give you guys something too, so I'm posting my handout from the Push to Publish conference panel below. On the Writing for Kids and Teens panel with me was Alison DeLuca, an indie author who has a great blog called Fresh Pot of Tea. I will be featuring her new Crown Phoenix steampunk series very soon! Nancy Viau who writes picture books and middle grade fiction was another panelist. The moderator, Beth Kephart, is an award-winning author of books for teens. Visit Beth's blog here. And now, for my takeaway:

1. How important is social media to your promo plan? When should you implement it?

The best advice I got from an early mentor was to start a blog way before my next big book came out, not when it came out. I started Catherine Stine’s Idea City about two years before my latest novel was published, and by that time I had over 340 followers, who helped with my book blog tour, and other promo posts such as interviews, features and giveaways, as well as me guest posting on their blogs. I had no idea that the blogosphere would be so friendly and eager to help. Part of the fun is that it’s a mixed age-community, with everyone from savvy book reviewers, still in high school, to seasoned authors in their sixties. The key is to care about what others are posting! If you want good comments on your posts, you must return the favor. I’ve learned so much about publishing and writing from this vibrant community, and from indie authors as well as ones who are published with the Big Six. Other important social media to develop: a Goodreads author page, a Facebook author or book page, a Pinterest page and a twitter account. There are others, but this is a great place to start!
Topical online reads:
1. Publishers’ Weekly article on YA Marketing-Digital versus Physical here.
2. Basic Marketing Tips from YA author, Elana Johnson here.
3. What the heck is Pinterest, you ask? Check out a sampling of YA books for OCT on Pinterest!

2. What are the big differences between indie and traditionally published books/authors? Between ebooks and paper copies? How do you see these trending in the future?

I see a blending in the future of who's published traditionally to who's publishing on their own, or with small houses. It will be more about the quality of the fiction and the authors’ growing readership than how authors publish. I’ve published with big houses such as Random House and American Girl, and I’ve also published through my own Konjur Road Press. Many traditionally published authors are now publishing their own out-of-print-books and novels that their agents haven’t placed. As publishing houses become more gun-shy and picky (because of less physical bookstores to sell to!) and authors learn how much they can potentially earn on their own the quality of indie fiction will grow ever higher! There is also a trend toward POD printing—that means print on demand. For instance, if someone orders your POD book through Amazon, or B&N, their publishing arm will print as many paperback copies as are ordered and no more. This has an upside for a beleaguered industry: publishers will no longer have to deal with huge store returns, which lose money for the houses when they must refund that revenue. On the other hand, it means less variety on the physical bookshelves. As more and more readers get comfy with ereading devices, more ebooks will sell. In the Catskills, where I go on the weekends, I feel the burn of bookstore closings. There are no more within 40 or 50 miles! People won’t stop reading, they will always want stories; they'll simply buy more ebooks. A related online article:
1. A post by indie fantasy author, Lindsay Buroker here.

3. Trends in YA? Write to trends or to what I love?

It’s always a gamble to predict specific trends because they change from year to year. One should never write specifically to the trends. You should write that amazing novel only you can write! I tell my students to focus on a subject or theme that they are totally inspired by, because maintaining fuel for those entire 250 to 350 pages is something only fierce interest and passion can drive. That said, there do seem to be trends for 2013/14: realistic YA is making a comeback, after a paranormal and fantasy-saturated market. Vamps are trending out, but there will probably always be room for that unique, geeky or charismatic vamp! Historical fantasy is in with novels such as Revolution by J. Donnelly. Magical realism is growing, as is confidence in YA sci-fi like Black Hole Sun by Gill and space opera, such as A. Ryan’s Glow. Horror and unusual blends are growing in popularity as seen in novels like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by R. Riggs. There is also a trend toward sci-fi romance, as in novels like V. Rossi’s Under the Never Sky. And then, there are the trendbusters whose mind-bending novels start entirely new trends! Will you write one of these?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Writing Conference near Philly, Notes on Revolution & Fringe, & Web-building

Conference sponsored by
Philadelphia Stories Magazine

Anyone situated in eastern PA (Philly, Bryn Mawr, Westchester, Fort Washington, Ambler and the like) want to attend a very helpful one-day conference on writing? I will be presenting on the Writing for Children & Young Adults panel at PUSH to PUBLISH, Strategies and Techniques for Getting Your Work in Print and Online. The event is sponsored by Philadelphia Stories Magazine, and takes place at Rosemont College on Saturday, October 13th. That’s this coming Saturday!
Anyone want his or her manuscript edited and critiqued? I will also be on the speed-dating panel, as a freelance editor and manuscript doctor. There are agents, authors and editors galore. For schedule, full list of faculty and directions info, click here.

I’ve been busy designing a brand new website on Wordpress! My old website was run by someone I hired long ago. It was super-frustrating, because I couldn’t change even one line myself. No more! This one will be complete with downloadable study guides that I created for both of my YA novels, and other cool stuff. I'm still baffled by how to add certain widgets and other thorny issues that make me want to scream and tear at my hair. But I am determined to figure this all out.

On another note, I got a very thoughtful review from a blogger in the Philippines at her Books for YA. Check it out here.

Update on my dogged determination to keep watching Revolution. Report: The acting is actually getting better and the shocking switchback twists that JJ Abrahms is so very good at has just paid off with one character. Miles, but I can't say how. Report: The first new episode of Fringe (Last season-bwah!) was effortlessly awesome in comparison to Revolution's clunky, cutesy start. In Fringe, it's jumped to the year 2034, and the Watchers rule. Olivia, Peter and Walter have jumped too, and are still the same age since they were preserved in amber (hahahhahha). The new plot point here, is that the daughter they had is now twenty-something, and she's amazing on so many levels, including being able to kick as*s in the investigatory Fringe kind of way. So, she'll be a part of the team going forward. Sounds contrived but the writer/director/actors managed to pull it off.

Getting back to my work grind, my next quest is to create an online newsletter, and of course, finish that sequel. I’m thinking of doing Nano to help me. Anyone else doing Nano in November? What have you all been up to? Any word to the wise about Wordpress?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What are you reading? Avoiding reading? Watching?

What are you reading? What do you really want to read? What have you avoided reading that you should read? What are you watching on TV? At the movies? What's your opinion of new shows like Revolution?
As for me, I'm very absorbed in Justin Cronin's The Passage. I've never read a book this long (900+ pages!), and I keep being amazed that it's totally holding my attention! Has anyone read it? What did you think? (No spoilers, please). It occurs to me that it's had a huge influence on other plotmasters, including Eric Kripke, the creator of the new TV show, Revolution, where the batteries and power all blinker out in a post-tech world. But if The Passage just came out, that cross-pollination would be impossible, right? I guess it proves that ideas truly ARE "in the air".

Which brings me to Revolution. I found that in the first episode, I was chuckling at the "wrong" places, like the scene where the militias and the villagers exchange fire. No, I'm not a lover of violence. It had much more to do with the fact that this battle seemed so predictable, and staged, and the villagers seemed so perfectly put together in their survivalist gear: patched American Eagle jeans and artfully sweat-dotted tee-shirts. Each woman had a crossbow a la Hunger Games huntress, Katniss Everdeen. Call me cynical, but these types of shows (and novels) need to go further than simply window-dressing a post-apoc, post-tech setting. The one shining gem in the first episode, for me, was the geek guy (worked for Google?) who was really out of shape but super-witty and charming in his dark asides. I am eager to see how this geekster does on a long, grueling hike with only a sinewy squirrel for dinner!

As far as other reading material, I am thoroughly enjoying a client's middle-grade fantasy manuscript, the second one that I've worked on for her. I LOVE it when I can see how much better someone's writing is getting, partially from my counsel. I feel like a proud mama bear.
As far as reading that I should be getting to? Well, I need to re-read Vonnegut's BLUEBEARD, a wicked send-up of the art world of the sixties. I'm teaching this book in a few weeks, and I need to write up class discussion questions and essay prompts. So, it's the surrounding work, not the book itself, that has me a little anxious.
Now, tell me all about what you're reading, avoiding reading, watching!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Next Big Thing!

I've been tagged by the lovely Rossandra White in a blog game called The Next Big Thing, where you answer questions about your work in progress or a new piece, that you'd love to become the next big thing! For me, that's the sequel to my futuristic thriler, Fireseed One. So, here goes:

What is the working title of your work-in-progress?

Children of Fireseed. Or I may just totally get away from that title to something like Sun Chimeras. Chimeras are beings comprised of two very diverse genetics. Too obscure? What about Scarlet’s Fire? Here’s an even better idea: why don’t you all help me think up a title? Best one gets the person a free, signed copy of the book when it comes out, and a $25 gift card too. First read the story summary, and then email me with your awesome suggestion at kitsy84557 AT gmail DOT com.

Where did the idea come from? 

Since it’s a sequel, it naturally takes the Fireseed One story a few more giant steps forward. The main character is Scarlet, the girl with three missing fingers from the Fireseed cult in book one. It’s now eight years later, so Scarlet who was seven is now fifteen. Her love interest is Armonk, the boy from Black Hills Sector in book one, who Varik made the prosthetic leg and arrow for. I wanted to follow those kids and others who had the bad luck to grow up in the Hotzone, and to see how they fared as teens. They meet up at a place called the Greening, a quirky boarding school in the desert, at Skull’s Wrath. It's run by Nevada Pilgrim, the artsy lady caught up in the nefarious ZWC terrorist group from book one.

What genre does your book fall into?

It’s teen sci-fi. It can also be described as dystopian, or a futuristic thriller. It’s set on earth in 2097.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a film version?

My main characters are younger than most of the actors I usually think of, but let me try. Carey Mulligan or Mia Wasikowska would make a good Scarlet, as they have that innocent, dreamy look, while being powerful. Scarlet is compellingly stunning, and rather unhappy about it, as it tends to attract too much attention from the older men in the cult, which yes, is creepy. (She escapes in the first scene!) Either Logan Lerman or David Kross would make a good Armonk. He’s mysterious, raven-haired, and a talented hunter, with a vulnerable, private grin that makes you really want to know what he’s thinking.

Write a one-paragraph summary

If everything about you changes, what remains?
Fifteen year-old Scarlet, long-pledged to the much older Stiles from the Fireseed desert cult, escapes with only a change of clothes, a pouch of Oblivion Powder and her mute little brother, Thorn. Arriving at the Greening, a boarding school for orphaned refugees, she can finally stop running. Or can she? The Greening is not what it seems to be, and as the students care for its secret Fireseed crop, they experience frightening physical changes. When George Axiom, of Vegas-by-the-Sea offers a huge cash prize for the winner of a student contest, Scarlet and Armonk are hopeful they can finally help their families back in the struggling sectors, but when Stiles comes to reclaim Scarlet, and Thorn disappears, the world as Scarlet knows it, is changed forever.

How long did the first draft take to write?

I’m still at it. It’s a work-in-progress!

What other books would you compare this to, in your genre?

This treads newish ground in the genre, in terms of strange human hybrids. In terms of sensibility (not plot) it is similar to Rossi’s Under the Never Sky.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It’s a natural extension of the big questions in Fireseed One. How do we live in a forbidding future environment? When we are terrified and our backs are up against the fire, how do we avoid the urge to take sanctuary in false refuges like the Fireseed cult? How can humans extend the limitations of the human body to be best suited for extreme heat? Lack of food and water? When one is not entirely human can one retain humanity and compassion? Can one love?

What else about this story might pique the readers’ interest?

The sweet romance between Armonk and Scarlet.
The deadly struggle between the students of the Greening for power and answers.
Dr. Varik’s diagnosis of the unsettling changes in Thorn, Scarlet and Armonk.
Thorn's amazing creation, after being overlooked as mute and slow.
The future-fabulous playland that is Vegas-by-the–Sea.

And now, I will tag a few more writers, whose new works deserve an extra-special look, and just may be the next big thing! Look out for their posts in the next few days.

Helen Mallon
Donna Galanti
Kelly Hashway

Oh, and I'd love for you to give your opinion on my sequel title on your way out. Thanks!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Huge Giveaway & Chocolate Blogfest, Two Treats in One!

Idea City has two exciting events: a giveaway and a blogfest! First, we invite you to help celebrate fellow blogger and author Sheri Larsen’s signing with Literary Agent Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary! As you know, Sheri has an awesome blog called Writers’ Ally. And because she thinks that our literary community is so freaking fabulous, she has decided to have a Bigger-Than-A-Shopping-Mall GIVEAWAY!! You only need to enter one Rafflecopter for a prize. Enter all three and you have a shot at the grand prize. The giveaway’s open until September 27. Winners will be chosen on September 28.

And now for the What’s Your Chocolate Blogfest that M Pax, Laura Eno, Brinda Berry and Ciara Knight are running. Chocolate, ahhhh, the essential treat that we writers need by our side, along with a hot cuppa joe, for long writing stints. They want us to relay a chocolate memory, or reveal what our fave chocolate is. The memory that sticks in my mind, (literally), was when I was around ten, and my dad took me to the Philadelphia Orchestra. I had on a fancy dress and brand new pink wool coat. He bought me a Swiss chocolate bar, which I half unwrapped, in order to start munching along to the violins and horns. Well, I guess the Beethoven, or whatever it was got pretty distracting, because the next thing I knew, I couldn’t find the chocolate bar anywhere! 
After the concert, as we stood up to walk out, my dad gasped. I spun around, and he pointed to my back. The chocolate bar had melted onto the right seat of my pink coat! Talk about embarrassed! To read other chocolate tales jump over to M Pax’s list of participants here.
But first, don’t forget to enter Sheri’s three giveaways and leave a chocolate-inspired comment on your way out. Everyone who does gets a virtual Hershey’s Kiss. Thanks!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click to open the last-a grand prize entry
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 3, 2012

Is it still cannibalism if...? & other odd questions

Happy Labor Day, and beyond. Today's post will be a potpourri of random bits, not unlike my mind today.
First order of business: We had a great party at our Catskill retreat on Saturday, and someone fed the leftover hamburger/cheese dip to the cows in the meadow, which they scarfed down with glee. Question #1: Is it still cannibalism if the eaters don't realize they're munching their own kind?
Unsuspecting cattle

Secondly, I start teaching tomorrow, and I look forward to it, while at the same time, feeling spoiled by months of free time. Now that my time is in large part claimed, will I put the rest of it to better use that I did in my laze-about summer? I teach at the School of Visual Arts and I noticed on Gallery Girls (Very catty but fun show that is my new addiction) one actor is attending SVA. Will I see camera crews milling about there? Question #2: Have you seen camera crews shooting Gallery Girls around Manhattan and Brooklyn?

This reminds me of another summer event: Law & Order, Special Victims' Unit used our foyer this summer to film a scene where the head guy is dragged out in handcuffs after they find him bedded down with a dead prostitu*e!!! His hands were all dripping with fake blood. Interesting to watch the takes, though the actor that I was secretly hoping to see was Ice Tea, who wasn't in that episode. Look for it, folks. That's our very own front stoop he's dripping his fake blood on!

Fireseed One book news: we are a Weekly Featured Great Read on Digital Book Today through this WED and there's ONE more week to buy Fireseed One's ebook version at the summer sale price of $0.99 before it drifts back to $2.99.

I hired a designer to revision the Fireseed One Facebook page, and he did a gorgeous job! What do you think of it? Check it out here and please follow for news, sequel info, swag and more.

Fireseed One also has a brand new twitter page, and would love you guys to follow it too!

Soon, I will have a redesign of my website and a brand new study/book club guide, so I guess I haven't been totally lazy this summer.

Oh, I did a guest post on sequels and trilogies on the fab YA's The Word. Read it here.

What have you been up to, talented writers, and what are your first fall activities?
Stay tuned for Idea City's post on Monday, September 10 to help Sheri Larson celebrate her new agent. We'll have LOTS of giveaway items so check back in!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Create your Own Writing Retreat

Western Catskills Writing Gang
I've been to excellent writing retreats and conferences. There's Squaw Valley on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, there are multiple ones along coastal California and Southhampton conference out on Long Island. There's a popular one put on by the Highlights Foundation in PA during the summer. Basically, writing communities pop up in places where swimming or nature walks abound.

Some of my favorite ones are homegrown. For years I've attended a retreat on Cape Cod with good friends. Coffee on the morning porch, then a bit of exercise, then writing on the same wraparound porch--all afternoon until words swim in one's head and pages unfold on laptop screens. Then it's a bracing swim in the ocean, and a dinner of tacos or chicken burgers, followed by evening readings.
I couldn't get to the Cape retreat this year because I was invited to teach creative writing in Greece. Boo hoo, right? I wasn't complaining, except, when I came home and settled in, it felt as if something big was missing.
My awesome Summer Seminars in Greece writing students
strike a Zen-ish pose
And then came the July from h**l, where the gas to the entire building was shut off because there was a leak and people called Con Ed instead of the super. I had minor surgery (Went well and I'm great, thanks) and I was unable to shower. We also had a huge thunderstorm and the drains clogged and flooded, and... you get the picture. During all of this I developed writers' block, which I've never, ever had. And I kept wondering, was it from all of the calamity?

Cape Cod Writers' Coffee
No. Not really. My real problem was that I missed that infusion of writerly energy that comes from good friends sitting on a porch together and writing all afternoon and spurring each other on. I missed the war stories over coffee, and the shared tales of triumph too.

So, I decided to create my own writers' retreat after the fact; at my place in the Catskills, with some very good writer buddies. It was perfect weather--pre-September fall at 65 degrees, sun in a teal sky. We sat outside in the tall yard grass and wrote all afternoon. At night, we cooked together, and then read the Tarot for each other. We also played a fun dictionary game, and another where you sing songs that use certain words. Writers' games.

There was talk of angsty obstacles overcome, of strengths and fears. All of the stuff that binds people together and helps us face whatever, whenever. I'm unstuck, I'm writing again, and the best thing? We've already reserved a three-day weekend for a winter version of the retreat. Writing by a crackling fire with hot chocolate in hand. And breaks for snowy playtime. Yup.

Mr & Mrs Snow with their
two snow boys
Is everything.
How do you replenish your writing spirit?   

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ai Weiwei, on artist & society, plus a clarification of a confusing Kindle topic

I saw the Ai Weiwei film by Alison Klayman last night called Never Sorry. Ai Weiwei, a powerhouse conceptual artist from Beijing was silenced and under a sort of gag order since authorities in Shanghai built him a studio, and then singlehandedly dismantled it with bulldozers! Go figure. In 2011, he went through 81 days in secret isolation for no reason that made sense. And before this, police broke into his hotel room in the middle of the night and beat his head so badly that he developed swelling of the brain, which required surgery. Why? Perhaps it had something to do with him designing the Beijing Olympics "Bird's Nest" stadium, and then protesting the Olympics, after he realized that many houses would be torn down and many people displaced in the process. It also could have been the government's embarrassment at Weiwei documenting the devastating earthquake in 2008, which killed thousands of school children in Sichuan province, that the government tried to cover up.

Up until this time, Weiwei documented all of his art on Twitter, and he is a real proponent of the Net as a truly democratic form of communication. His art is irreverent, such as painting the Coca Cola logo over vases of antiquity, or covering the Tate Modern gallery in millions and millions of sunflower seeds that were actually fake, hand-painted seeds.

Hearing him talk about art and life is truly inspiring and he refreshed my own vision of the creative life and all it entails. For someone to persist against so many odds, and prevail is sobering yet uplifting. Here is an interview Weiwei gave for the Guardian.
You can also follow his news on his Facebook page and on twitter at #AWWNeverSorry.

His beautiful Zodiac heads were on exhibition here in New York and Los Angeles last year. Steven Little, the curator of the LA exhibition had this to say about them: "Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads are a multi-layered meditation on political power, the nature of time, and the often tormented relationship between China and the West, at the same time calling into question the arbitrary nature of such concepts as national treasure."

On a publishing note, author Donna Galanti posted this link to Moira Roger's helpful article about Kindle Lending Library vs Lending Kindle Books, a normally confusing topic that many would love clarification on!

What do you think the responsibility of an author or artist to his or her audience? To herself? To the world?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Alligators Overhead! The Launch of C Lee McKenzie's new middle grade adventure

Today, Idea City helps celebrate the launch of our own C. Lee McKenzie’s middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead! Great cover, huh? Here's a story synopsis:

Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren't your average neighbors. Unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree Swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town's bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he's up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn't the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete's guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find the witches and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.

Where to buy Alligators Overhead:
Amazon Kindle, B&N, Amazon Author Page

Where to find C. Lee online:
Facebook Page
To follow her other tour stops and read interviews click here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

After a month of Hitchcock-style events...

Sometimes you get that perfect, thoughtful review by someone who totally gets your book. In the middle of a dreadful month of apartment floods, five weeks of no hot water and gas for cooking due to a gas leak, no Internet and other Hitchcock-style horrors, I got one of those reviews that made my heart stutter with delight. Indie Ebook Reviews had actually posted in April what I'd just stumbled across. It was like digging up that perfect, golden potato under the soil. Because Ms. Glass so got it, I will post it here:

In the world of YA fiction, the paranormal romances Twilight inspired have recently been replaced by an outbreak of dystopian fiction – with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games leading the way and Scott Westerfield’s Uglies and Ally Condie’s Matched close behind.  Catherine Stine’s Fireseed One taps into this trend, although its slightly retro cover signals she is steeped in traditional sci-fi and not just an arriviste to the genre.

Also differentiating it from those other recent hits is the fact that the lead character is male – 18-year old Varik – although he is soon joined by the feisty Marisa Baron.  The novel is set in 2089, with the US a lethal ‘Hotzone’ full of ‘refugees’ who the propaganda channel known as ‘the stream’ insists are dangerous. Varik’s father, a marine biologist, has been murdered leaving his son in charge of his sea-farm and valuable seed-banks, which are the world’s main food supply.  When he catches Marisa stealing seeds and his crops are struck with the plague, Varik sets off with her on a quest that leads him into the Hotzone to find the ‘fireseed’ his father is rumored to have created, learning along the way that the lines between good and evil are more blurred than he thought.

The vision of the future Stine creates – of a world divided into have and have-nots by climate change and utterly dependent on GM crops – is convincing.  The book has a strong satirical slant, with interesting things to say both about the way the media demonizes refugees and how advertising penetrates every corner of our lives – each news update from ‘the stream’ ends with an ironic sponsor’s ad, devastating news of riots being: ‘brought to you by Restavik Chophouse, where the boar is better than home-grilled and the ladies drink free on Saturdays.’

Shin Kaskade, Tech Wizard
by Catherine Stine
The writing is strong, using the present tense to create freshness and full of vivid verbs.  It is the little, specific details that make this world so three-dimensional.  In the first few pages we get the horrific, cinematic image of Varik’s father’s corpse (‘famished viperfish had gouged his hands’), along with tender details that really nail the father-son bond (‘I’ll miss our docksides fish fries, our midnight boat rides…our poker games for abalone.)  Varik’s trendy friend Audun has a ‘shark-tooth earring’.  A firestorm burns the sky with ‘molten arteries of light.’  Stine has also created a believable slang for the teenagers, with Varik exclaiming ‘yummo’, ‘fry me’ and ‘burn it’.

I do think there’s one plot hole – if the entire world is dependent on Agar as a food-source, why would it be left in the hands of one nice, ordinary seeming biologist and then his disinterested 18-year old son?  This was, ultimately, a bit unconvincing – especially when Varik leaves the last feeble Agar plant in the hands of his best mate who seems more interested in baking scones.  A brutal regime which uses propaganda to stamp out sympathy for the starving would surely be a bit more hands-on about its supply chain!
...It’s a great young adult book though, with a sweet central romance and lots of inventive thrills.

Review by Evie Glass

by Catherine Stine
To celebrate, I am offering a signed paperback copy of Fireseed One at a huge discount--$5 (includes postage)--to anyone who emails me at kitsy84557 (at) gmail (dot) com.
Or, if you prefer, order an ebook, on sale at B&N or Amazon for $0.99, and I'll send you a signed copy of an illustration from Fireseed One.
Offer good for two weeks (Through Aug 15).

Now, to do a power visualization that Con Ed will come turn on our gas and hot water!

Cheers, Catherine

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview with YA author Amy Kathleen Ryan, about Spark, Book #2 in her Sky Chasers Series!

Please welcome the fabulous author, Amy Kathleen Ryan. She's talking about the characters in Spark and about writing. First, a short synopsis of Spark:

After a desperate escape from the enemy ship, Waverly has finally made it back to the Empyrean. The memory of home has been keeping her alive for the past months… but home is nothing like she left it. Forced to leave their captive parents behind on the New Horizon, she’s returned only to find that Kieran has become a strict leader and turned the crew against Seth. What happened to the Kieran she thought she knew? Now Waverly’s not sure whom she can trust. And the one person she wants to believe in is darkly brilliant Seth, the ship’s supposed enemy. Waverly knows that the situation will only get worse until they can rescue their parents – but how?

Before they have time to make a plan, an explosion rocks the Empyrean, and Seth and Waverly are targeted as the prime suspects. Can they find the true culprit before Kieran locks them away… or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? Now more than ever, every step could bring them closer to a new beginning – or a sudden end.

And now, she answers some questions:

Tell us a little about the main characters in Spark
There are three: Waverly, Kieran, and Seth, and they all have very different ideas about leadership. Waverly is kind of a humanist, and believes in a secular form of government, though her traumatic experiences on the New Horizon make it hard for her to find a balance in her approach. Kieran believes that people need to be inspired, and he uses religion to do it, usually to great effect, though sometimes he gets into trouble. Seth is more of a pragmatist than the other two. He’s also ambitious, but he comes from an abusive upbringing, which has polluted his moral compass greatly.

In what ways have they changed from Glow?
They’ve all been traumatized, and they’re all reacting to what happened before. Seth made a lot of mistakes after the initial attack on the Empyrean, and now he’s trying to put things right, though he has little hope that he’ll ever live down his mistakes. Kieran is terrified that Seth will be able to stage another mutiny against him, and he starts to cross the moral line to ensure that he stays in power. Waverly is probably the most changed of all of them. She’s got a lot of anger about what happened to her on the New Horizon, and that anger comes out of her in explosive, dangerous ways. These are all good people, but they are fallible, and they’re living through events that would be difficult for anyone to overcome.

Give us your favorite line from your protagonist:
Seth to Waverly: “I don’t care anymore that I’m not good enough for you.”

From an antagonist: Anne Mather to Kieran: “If you think a bunch of kids can overcome a seasoned adult crew, you’re deluding yourself.”

An emblematic, teaser paragraph: Whatever Max had done, whatever those sounds had been, Kieran would surely blame Seth for the whole thing, and would likely use it as an excuse to keep him in the brig forever. If those booming sounds were bombs, and Seth was blamed, everyone would believe he was a traitor. And what would Waverly think of him then? Seth had only one choice: he had to find Max and turn him in. He had to prove to Kieran, Waverly, and everyone else that he had not done this. And somehow, he had to do it without getting caught.

How is it writing a trilogy? Challenges? Fun aspects? 
The biggest challenge for me is all the loose threads that can be left dangling from one book to the other. The third book has been the most difficult to write, because there is so much to tie up. I want to be balanced about it, though, and not leave everything too perfectly “pat.” Knowing how to do that without leaving readers hanging has been tricky.

What keeps you going when inspiration flags? Fear of failure!

What truly inspires you?
Honestly, reading a great book. I get more ideas reading that at any other time.

Best words of advice you ever received?  From my teacher Jeffery Renard Allen: “People in MFA programs all have talent, but hardly any of them publish because they don’t have the will.” In other words, you have to persevere and work very hard if you want to be a writer.

Worst? This person shall remain nameless: "Don't worry about promoting your novel. That's your publisher's job."

Can you offer some writing advice to aspiring and new authors? It’s good to have raw talent, but you still have a lot to learn. Take writing classes, go to conferences, start a critique group. You have to have an ego, but you can’t let it get in your way. Learn to take criticism or you’ll never improve. For most people it takes years to hone their craft enough to get published. Get started now.

Which do you enjoy writing most: action, romance, setting or dialog?   I really enjoy writing dialogue between two intelligent characters that are working at odds with each other.

What is the most important theme of book one? Book Two? 
From GLOW, I hope people take away that when religion and politics mix, things get extremely volatile. Religion is about the black and white, good versus bad, right versus wrong. Politics is about gray area and compromise. For that reason, the two aren’t very compatible.
When reading SPARK, I hope people will be forgiving. All my characters make mistakes, and they compromise themselves terribly. I think I’m trying to show that when people are hurt and angry, they don’t always make very good choices. The important thing is for people to admit their failings and try to be good people.

Care to share a hint of what’s to come in book three?
Waverly and Kieran will have to learn to deal with their enemies on the New Horizon. They’re in close quarters with them now, and they’ll both find that they’re being used as pawns in a dangerous game. Seth is a fugitive, and he’ll try to help topple the power structure from the outside, though he’ll find he’s not as powerful as he thought he was.

Where can readers find you on the web? 
My website and blog and on Facebook

Where can people buy Spark, and your other books? From indiebound, Amazon & B&N

Amy Kathleen Ryan is a graduate of the Creative Writing for Children MFA program at the New School in New York City. She lives in Colorado with her family.