Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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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?