Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dark Triumph Interview with Robin LaFevers!

DARK TRIUMPH - His Fair Assassin Trilogy (Book 2)
Sybella's duty as Death's assassin in 15th-century France forces her return home to the personal hell that she had finally escaped. Love and romance, history and magic, vengeance and salvation converge in this thrilling sequel to Grave Mercy.
Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

Ello - So here I am in love with another Robin LaFevers book and I realize that there is something fundamentally evil about ARCs. Yes, you get to read a book way before others do. But it also means you must wait so much longer for the next book. This is quite evil. Because I really have no idea how I'm going to handle this wait. Fortunately, I have the remarkable pleasure of interviewing the Assassin Nun Master herself and pick her mind for as much information as we can!

 Ello - Congratulations for developing another strong female hero! And what a hero! Dark and damaged but so fierce and yet incredibly empathetic. She is similar and yet so different from Ismae and I love them both! Can you tell us how you approached Sybella and her story that was different from the one for Ismae and Grave Mercy?

Robin - When Ismae first arrived at the convent, both Annith and Sybella just kind of showed up on the page, and Sybella in particular with her brokenness and borderline histrionic personality disorder threatened to take over every scene she was in. It became clear to me that the only way to keep her under control was to promise her her own book. Once I’d decided that, she was able to become the secondary character she was, but she was constantly throwing me heavy, meaningful glances as if to say, just you wait. You promised and you will get an earful. And so I did.

Pieces of it came to me while writing Grave Mercy. For example, I realized halfway through that book who her family was and I was like, Oh my god! And then I had to sit on it for the rest of the book to be certain no hint of it escaped.
One of the biggest differences was the since Sybella had so much backstory and baggage, hers was a much more personal story, told against the backdrop of her own, hugely dramatic life, whereas Ismae was more of a player on the stage of history, and that greatly affected the two narratives I think. Not for better or worse, just different.

Ello – Ah, that explains so much! Because it really did feel more personal and intense! All right - First of all, let me make clear how much I love the Beast! I loved him in Grace Mercy and I just love him to pieces here! I adore the romance between Sybella and Beast, and how they slowly earn each other's trust and respect. At what point in writing this series did you decide for these two to get romantically involved? While you were writing Grave Mercy? Or had you planned all along for them to get together?

Robin - Ah, good question. Let’s see. I think it was also fairly early on in the writing of Grave Mercy that I kept thinking, Beast would be perfect for Sybella, just the sort of guy that would show her what a true heart looked like.  And he was supposed to die there in the final battle of Grave Mercy, but I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t write that death, so I left it open, mostly to ease my own heart, but then it quickly became apparent that my subconscious had known exactly what it was doing.
And then, when I began doing the initial writing for Dark Triumph and saw just how intertwined their pasts were and why Beast, more than any other man in the world, would be able to get in under her defenses, I decided my subconscious had been having a very, VERY good day.

Ello – Your subconscious is very smart because I would have been very upset with you if you had killed off Beast. I’m still harboring a grudge for another death in Grave Mercy that I have YET to get over, BTW! Ok so I was fascinated by all of the weapons used in both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph, like Sybella's secret stash of knives. How did you research what sort of weapons were used in this period?

Robin - Well, I do have two sons and a husband who never met a weapon they didn’t love, so we’ve had a fair amount of practical experience around here. Plus, writing in the Age of Google means that no historic fact or bit of research is ever very far away.

 Ello - Also, if you were a nun assassin, what would be your weapon of choice?

Robin - I’m afraid I’d lean toward gentle weapons and most likely poison would be my specialty. Also? I am squeamish.

Ello – I’m not! (grins – that’s why I love those knives!) I remember reading that it took you five or six years to write Grave Mercy. For Dark Triumph, however, you were under a much tighter deadline. Was it hard switching gears between these very different timeframes? How were you able to manage drafting the sequel so quickly? And do you have any advice for writers who are undertaking similar deadlines?

Robin - Hoo boy. We just don’t realize what a luxury it is to be able to take as much time as we need to write a book until we no longer have that time, do we? Because yes, it was hard switching gears. Part of what helped is that by taking so long to write that first book, I did have most, if not all, of the world building issues firmly in place. I was still able to have fun with it and surprise myself (the charbonnerie!) but most of that heavy lifting had been done.

The second thing that helped was that because Sybella was in Grave Mercy, I had had to figure some of who she was out while writing that book, so I didn’t hit it cold. Plus, I mentally toyed with ideas for the second book during the various down times that come up during the publication schedule for the first book. Having the story have a less broad scope also helped immensely. Even so, it took me seven hefty drafts to get it where I wanted it. No mean feat in just ten months.

Ello – You are amazing, Robin! This book is amazing! From 5 years to 10 months and this book is just as good, if not better! Robin, you know I'm a huge research hound also. And I'm quite jealous of the breadth of historical research you undertook for this fabulous series. And I know that there are always kernels of research that we fall in love with but can't always find a way to put into our books. Did you find some fascinating historical fact that you would like to share with us here that didn't make it into either books?

Robin - You know, I didn’t! I was able to use all the stuff I fell in love with. Or if I didn’t use it yet, I’ll be using it in book three.

Ello – Speaking of book 3, can you take pity on a desperate person and give us a little teaser about Book 3?

Robin - Gosh, I so wish I could! The problem is, well, see answer #5 above. I’ve just spent very little time with Annith. She was so peripheral to books one and two that I didn’t have the advantage of getting to know her even a little bit. Compounding that was that I realized I’d only ever seen her through Ismae or Sybella’s eyes and had never stepped into her skin and been her, which I am doing now and learning all sorts of surprising things. But of course, nothing I can share. Sorry! (Mostly because it’s all very fluid at this point and hasn’t solidified yet.)

Ello – Ok, I shall suffer by whining in an over the top, melodramatic manner! Thank you Robin for sharing with us a little bit about Dark Triumph! And if any of our Inkpot readers have not yet read Grave Mercy, well, what are you waiting for? And if you have and are eagerly waiting for Dark Triumph, I promise you are in for a gorgeous treat!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cute and Creepy: More middle-grade covers

Animals, gorgeous, gruesome, or cute. Spectacular images. Interesting typefaces, sometimes neon

Cover designers, sly bootses all, have an arsenal of tricks to catch our attention.  And if all else fails, you can’t beat a good dragon.
Herewith, day two of our spring middle-grade fantasy cover extravaganza. These books have pub dates between January and June 2013. “Middle grade,” again, means the audience is somewhere between ages eight and fourteen.  We’ll show you young-adult covers April 8 and 9.

As always, if there’s one we’ve missed, please link to it in a comment.

Click on "read more" to see the covers. And tell us your favorite!

Monday, March 25, 2013

In Your Dreams: New Middle-Grade Covers!

If a cover designer wants to draw us into a book, what better way than to tap into our dreams?

Or our nightmares.

And so on this season’s middle-grade fantasy covers, we float or we fly, sometimes on magnificent beasts. We swashbuckle with swords. We hobnob with mermaids and ghosts and our fellow humans. Boys face danger alone and unafraid . . . and just LOOK at the number of girls taking charge of their destiny!

Sometimes there be monsters. Very cool monsters.

This post covers middle-grade covers for books published between January and June 2013. (“Middle grade” these days seems to be anywhere between ages eight and fourteen.) As usual, there are so many we’ve split the post in two—look for more cover awesomeness right here tomorrow. We’ll show you the young-adult covers April 8 and 9.

If we missed one you think the world should see, please link to it in the comments.

The covers are after the break (click on "read more"). Which one's your favorite?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Necromancing the Stone with Lish McBride

Congrats to Van Pham for winning a copy of Necromancing the Stone. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting!

With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn’t exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?

Well . . . not really. He’s pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can’t help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he’s not exactly sure how to use it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.

But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it’s time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead?

Cindy: It is an absolute pleasure to welcome back Lish Mcbride to the Inkpot! I was looking over ourlast interview and giveaway together and it was almost exactly two years ago. At that time, we hadn't met yet. Hoorah that we got the chance at Comic Con in San Diego as well as in Portland! 

You had mentioned Necromancing the Stone in passing in our last interview together, and talked about the consequences of all that happened in Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. I am a huge fan of the follow up consequences books. Because although we write fantasy and fantasy worlds--it doesn't mean that our heroes aren't affected by the magic or power they wield, or the often grim choices they are forced to make. How was it for you writing this sequel--where some tough situations and emotions come into play? 

Lish: Writing No, actually, that's not true. I'm writing a sequel right now and it's fine. NTS fell directly into "second book syndrome." Which means that it fought me every step of the way. Everyone told me that the second book is always the hardest, and man, they weren't kidding. It was definitely an uphill battle. That being said, there's a lot in it that I like. New characters (Taco, Minion, Sexy Gary, etc.) and we get to know a few other characters a lot more. There's certainly a few heart-wrenching moments that were hard for me to write, but they needed to be there. I got a little misty myself at times. I always try to balance it out with some happy thoughts, though. So, you know, there's some battle gnomes, too. 

HMC,N had a lot in it about choices that we make and dealing with the hand that life deals you, and it's not like that ever stops in life. Sam has to just keep on dealing, and since he drags his very human friends with him, they have to deal, too. Sure, it's nice to learn that magic is real and all that, but it's dangerous, and for people like Frank, it's certainly going to be a life-changer. It would feel weird to not examine that in the book. 

Cindy: Loved the battle gnomes! And I really appreciated the way you handled choices in both these novels. One of the interesting and refreshing things about your novels is that you write from the villain's point of view. That isn't often seen in young adult fantasy at all. Did you enjoy writing from his perspective?

Lish: Define "enjoy?" Douglas is one of those characters were it's definitely more like channeling than crafting something. Which is kind of terrifying. I mean, Douglas's pieces aren't even edited very much. Little tweaks, but usually nothing like the massive overhauls the Sam chapters take. It's weird to discover that the one character that's easiest for you to write is a violent sociopath. It certainly shouldn't come naturally to me. Yikes. 

But there's something kind of honest and straight forward about Douglas's narrative. He makes no excuses for himself. He knows that he's a monster, he just doesn't care. He wants what he wants and you better get out of his way. Last week I stopped by a high school to chat with a group of teens and one of them asked me about Douglas's chapters in NTS. He wanted to know why I showed the reader what I did--why I made you feel bad for Douglas. The question made me really happy. Evil doesn't come from nowhere. It grows. It's nourished. I wanted the reader to mourn who Douglas could have become so that you could also see why James loves him. It was nice to know that it worked for that reader. 

Cindy: Totally with you on that one. We all start somewhere, and no one is all good or all bad. This is why I love to write gray characters. I'm always fascinated by themes that arise in our stories. To me, Necromancing has a strong focus on family, loyalty, and friendship. Did these arise by chance, or were they deliberate choices when you began writing? 

Lish: Yes and no. I never, ever, approach a story with that sort of thing in mind. I don't want it to come off all "After School Special." No heavy handed morals and what not. That kind of thing can kill a story. When I was Sam's age, though, those kinds of things were important to me. My family is a hodge-podge of blood relatives, step-whatevers, family friends, my friends, and whatever strays we could pick up. It's a mess. I love it. Family, to me, is about the one you build for yourself, not just the one you're given. My teen years were rough (who's aren't, right?) and the family I built kept me going. And I'm still friends with that group. (In fact, many of them are thanked in my acknowledgements.) They act as beta readers, babysitters, writing buddies, moral support, you name it. I am where I am because of my amazing, loyal, kickass friends and family. Sam's support system is roughly modeled on my own and it only made sense for it to be that way. 

Cindy: I love that response. I think the idea of family is whom you choose to have and build really comes across in these books--of finding your own place. Do you have a favorite character from this series? And what are you working on now, Lish? 

Lish: Hm. It's hard to pick. Sam is so nice. Brid is tough and brave. Ramon is funny and loyal. Ashley is a snarky jerk (I have soft spot for snarky jerks as I tend to be one.). Frank is sweet. Brooke is the Den Mother. James is fussy. Taco is adorable and I love Sexy Gary so much I just had my friend Vlad design a sticker of him. I've spent so much time with them that it would be hard to pick. 

Right now I'm editing my next book and writing the follow up to that. They're not Sam books, but they are set in the same world. They follow Ava, a firebug, who can start fires with her mind. She's forced to work for a mob-style organization as an assassin. It doesn't sound funny, but I promise it's along similar lines as the Sam books. There are biker were-bunnies, for example. All first person so far, though, which feels weird to me now because I've been working on the Sam books for so long. No title as of yet (they rejected mine) and as far as I know the first one is slated for Spring 2014. 

Cindy: Gosh, Ava the firebug sounds so RAD. =D I cannot wait to read this and interview you in the future! Finally, since I've already asked the pastry questions--what is one of your favorite snacks while writing?

Lish: Whatever won't make my hands sticky. I want my snack to not get in the way of me working, but not enough to actually give up the actual snacking. So at this point it's whatever isn't sticky that someone else makes for me. 

Cindy: So practical! And it makes sense. But it discounts Cheetos for me, which is heartbreaking for obvious reasons. Lish, thank you so much for taking the time in your busy schedule to talk with us here!!

To learn more about Lish and her books, visit her website:

Inkpot Giveaway

I will be giving away a copy of Necromancing the Stone to one lucky winner! +1 Simply comment in this post to enter. +1 entry if you are a follower of our blog. +1 if you tweet or fb status, etc, with a link to this post and mention of book giveaway. For a total of +3 entries. I will pick a winner on Wednesday, 3/27 and post winner name at the top of this entry. Good luck! (Open to US mailing addresses.)

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Her first published short story is featured in Diverse Energies, a multicultural YA dystopian anthology from Tu Books (October 2012). Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at

Monday, March 18, 2013

TOTW: "I'm not crying - it's just been raining on my face."

In today's post, I'm inviting those of you who are not quite as mired in denial as Bret and Jermaine here to share MG/YA fantasy books that made you weepy. Here are a few of mine to get you going.

*The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis - I have a very distinct memory of sitting in the Wendy's in the University of Oklahoma student union hoping nobody noticed the tears running down my cheeks as Narnia was born out of Aslan's roar (I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe several times as a kid, but didn't get to the other Narnia books until I was in college - my reading habits were somewhat idiosyncratic).

*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling - (Are we still doing spoiler alerts for this? Becuase yeah - SPOILER ALERT!) There are so very many sob-inducing moments in this book, but the one that really did it for me was Snape's death. He was such a wounded and complicated guy, but his love for Lily gave him the capacity for great sacrifice and heroism. RIP, Severus.

*The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo - Reading a Kate DiCamillo book is sort of like having someone put their fist through your ribcage and squeeze your heart into a pulp. In a good way. 

*Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - It may be kind of pushing it to peg this as fantasy, but I'm going to allow it, because this is my blog post and I can do that.  And no other book has ever made me ugly cry like this one did. Seriously, y'all - great heaving sobs. It wasn't pretty.

Your turn, gentle readers. Which books made you misty?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Interview with Jenn Reese - MIRAGE

A thrilling sequel from an exciting new voice in middle-grade sci-fi tracks two ocean-born children braving the dangers of the Above World.

Photo credit - Rita Crayon Huang

The desert is no place for ocean-dwelling Kampii like Aluna and Hoku, especially now that Aluna has secretly started growing her tail. But the maniacal Karl Strand is out to conquer the Above World, and the horselike Equians are next on his list. Aluna, Hoku, and their friends — winged Calli and Equian exile Dash — race to the desert city of Mirage, intent on warning the Equians. When they arrive, Strand’s clone, Scorch, has gotten there first. Now the Equian leader has vowed to take all his people to war as part of Strand’s army. Any herd that refuses to join him by the time of the desert-wide competition known as the Thunder Trials will be destroyed. To have any chance of defeating Scorch and convincing the Equians to switch sides, the four friends must find a way to win the Trials. The challenge seems impossible. But if they fail, the desert — and possibly all of the Above World — will be lost to Karl Strand forever. Here is the action-packed follow-up to Above World, which Kirkus Reviews called "a thrilling sci-fi adventure. Imaginative and riveting."

How much do I love this book? I can’t even begin to express my love for it! First of all we get to see the Equians and the Serpenti, snake-like people, in this amazing desert back-drop that is just epic! You know I loved Above World, but I have to say I loved Mirage even more! And I’m so glad to have Jenn here to talk a little bit about Mirage with us today!

Ello – I have to say that I’m so crazy about this world and cast of characters you’ve created in both Above World and Mirage! So last year we had this amazing interview about Above World (link here) where we talked about the world and characters in your first book. And now we are here talking about your amazing sequel, Mirage! I’m blown away! It’s the same characters we’ve grown and loved but in such a different world and culture! I’m really in awe of your world building. Can you please talk to us about how you went about creating this rich and complex world of amazing cultures and species?

Jenn – Quite frankly, I cheated. When I was back in college, I ran a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for which I created a race of honor-bound centaurs called the Minrabi Horsemen. Although that D&D party never got to meet the Minrabi, I’ve never forgotten about them. Mirage gave me the perfect excuse to bring back these herds of desert warriors as the Equians.

The Serpenti, my half human, half snake people, were invented for a very specific reason: because I wanted someone to teach Aluna the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. (Or a version of it that might exist in about 700 years.) Capoeira uses a lot of leg sweeps, and I thought both mer-people and snake people would be able to use their tails to great effect in this style… with a few modifications, of course. With that seed, I worked backward to develop a race of people with a very different philosophy than the other races we’d met so far in the series.

Ello – And it is a really awesome philosophy! So Mirage brought me a whole new set of favorite characters, my most favorite being Tal, the Equian character who is an outcast. I absolutely loved her character. A very close second was Nathif, the Serpenti character who is the healer. You have this ever growing cast of characters that you do a great job keeping the reader completely invested in. I know how challenging this is. Can you tell us some of your new favorite characters and attributes of Mirage?

Jenn – I hadn’t realized how many new characters I’d introduced in Mirage until the audiobook director emailed me to ask how to pronounce their names. There were over twenty-five new characters on his list! I guess I got a little carried away.

My favorite new characters are Tal and Nathif, who you’ve already mentioned, and a crotchety Upgrader named Rollin who’s favorite pastime is lobbing objects at Hoku. She’s actually named after a character from the original Mission: Impossible TV series, Rollin Hand, although she bears no other resemblance to actor Martin Landau. I loved writing her brusque speech patterns almost as much as I loved writing Nathif’s jokes.

Ello – Oh, I loved Rollin's also! She was a tough old gal! Once again your fight scenes are just incredible! What did you research this time and what was your thinking to match the fighting styles to your characters?

Jenn - In this book, Aluna has to deal with her growing Kampii tail. She has to learn to ride and fight in a whole new way. I’ve already mentioned the capoeira (which the Serpenti call “cappo’ra”), but Aluna also has to learn to fight with a partner, her horse Tal. Aluna isn’t nearly as strong as her massive Equian opponents, but she is far more adaptable and well-rounded, and that gives her a big advantage. It’s a philosophy inspired by the teachings of Bruce Lee (although Aluna doesn’t know that).

My only regret was that I wasn’t able to teach Aluna to use tonfa, which are simple Okinawan weapons wielded in pairs that could have doubled as crutches. She watches someone use them in book 3, but that’s as close as I got.

Ello - What were the challenges you faced writing this book?

Jenn – Please picture my eye twitching here. The biggest challenge I faced was writing this book in five months. I had the ending all worked out, and I was happy with it, but I just couldn’t get the beginning right. I’m thoroughly embarrassed by the draft that I showed my novel workshop friends. It was appalling. I trashed it and rewrote the first 10,000 words again. They were better, but still not good. Luckily, my editor is brilliant and said just the right things to help me find a better path.

But during this time, I was a horrible person to be around — surly and short-tempered, in constant need of chocolate and kind words. Thankfully my friends and my partner were true heroes and never gave up on me. I’m a very lucky writer. (And yes, I developed an actual eye twitch while working on this book.) 

Ello – I think all writers go through these stages where we need to beg forgiveness from our loved ones! Lastly, please share with us a little teaser of book 3. I seriously can’t wait until next year. You must write faster!!!

Jenn - I’m revising as fast as I can, I swear!

In book 3, Aluna, Hoku, Calli, and Dash are tired of chasing Karl Strand around the Above World and decide to take the fight to him — and they start by infiltrating a group of Upgraders! Perhaps the most surprising part of the book, though, is that Calli and Dash get their own PoV chapters for the first time. I had so much fun with those. I truly hope I’ve given readers an ending they can celebrate.

Ello - Damn it! I want it now!! Ok thank you for sharing all this great stuff with us Jenn!
Jenn - Thanks so much for inviting me to talk about Mirage!

Jenn's publisher has generously provided the Inkpot with a paperback copy of ABOVE WORLD and an ARC of MIRAGE! To enter, all you have to do is tweet or facebook this interview and leave a comment here on this  post and you will have a chance to win both of these ARCs!!! This contest will run for two weeks so help us spread the word and maybe you will be the lucky winner!

Monday, March 11, 2013

TOTW: Systems of Magic

In medieval times, witchcraft was believed to be a craft: arcane, complicated, and work-intensive. To the modern mind, though, this might seem dubious; we find it easier to think of magic as the power of the mind, a simple if powerful force, not requiring potions or incomprehensible words or weird ingredients gathered at midnight. Think “the Will & the Word” from David Edding’s Belgariad series, where magic is just a matter of mental focus.

As a writer, you might be drawn to one or the other based on personal inclination, but it’s worth notingthat both these ways of dealing with magical systems have their advantages and disadvantages.

The arcane method can give a sense of flavor and, especially in historical fantasy, authenticity; plus, it can be useful for plot reasons, giving your characters motivations for getting into all sorts of trouble. (This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel is a great example of this.) On the other hand, the reader might either be bothered by the fact that there’s no cohesive magical system, or, alternatively, bored by your explanation of how exactly it all works.
On the other hand, the “modern” method has the advantage of simplicity and believability. Plus, magic that comes from within can be useful in terms of character development.

As fantasy writers and readers, which system of magic do you prefer? Does either feel more authentic to you? Which makes for better stories – or does it depend on the type of story?

And last but not least, please share any books that you think do a good job of using one or the other!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Hi, P. J. Hoover here, and today at the Inkpot, I'm so very happy to feature fellow Tor Teen author, Mindee Arnett. Huge congratulations to Mindee on the release of her debut novel!

THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR by Mindee Arnett (March 5, 2013)

And now, here is Mindee!


PJHoover: You’ve run into an old classmate from high school and you tell them THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR just came out. They ask what it’s about. What do you say?

MindeeA: 16-year-old Dusty Everhart is a literal Nightmare, a magical creature who must feed on dreams to fuel her magic. When she discovers her secret crush, Eli Booker, is dreaming about a murder that shortly comes true, she and Eli must join forces to stop the killer before he strikes again.

PJHoover: I love hearing happy publication stories. Can you tell us the path to publication for THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR?

MindeeA: I’d love to! It was pretty straight forward, actually. I started writing short stories in high school and college, eventually publishing some in semi-pro magazines before turning to novels. I wrote a couple of “practice” novels, and I made the mistake of querying two of them too soon. I received a handful of rejections and moved on to a book that I spent more time with before submitting. It received a couple of full requests from agents but in the end, no one liked it enough to sign me.

While licking my wounds from this painful rejection, I started to write The Nightmare Affair. I took a lot of time with it, revised like crazy, and found some awesome critique partners. I then plucked up my courage and started submitting again. I sent out a grand total of ten queries, and within just a few short weeks I had an offer of representation from rockstar agent supreme, Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. I signed with her as quickly as I possibly could.

Within a month, and after a couple of quick rounds of editing, the book went out on submission. I had an offer from Tor within 17 days.

So in summary, I spent a LOT of time writing, had a rough couple of years of rejection and heartache, and then I signed and sold so fast I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around it. But yeah, I’d consider it a very happy story.

PJHoover: I love all the fun and mystery and fantasy of NIGHTMARE. Can you tell us what biggest influences were for the story?

MindeeA: The big ones, the ones I turned to in order to help get the feel and tone I wanted for the book were Veronica Mars, The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and Harry Potter, of course.

PJHoover: There are tons of books out there. What are five awesome reasons why THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR should be the one for them to read?

MindeeA: Oh boy, what an unfair question. I object! Kidding. But I seriously am not sure how to answer so I guess I’ll just wing it.

1. No cliffhanger ending guaranteed — hooray!
2. Lots and lots of magic and mayhem — hello? The MC hangs out in dreams. How cool/weird/fun is that?
3. A hot boy who is not abusive or an asshole.
4. The jokes and humor outweigh the angst. For real, there’s almost zero angst. Dusty is way too busy trying to figure out the murder for that.
5. If you don’t read it, a Nightmare will have no choice but to seek you out while you’re sleeping. And trust me, not all of them are as nice and cuddly as Dusty. Mwhahahaha…

PJHoover: If the apocalypse came, would you still find a way to write? If yes, then how and why?

MindeeA: I think I would certainly try, even if I only had a pen and paper to do it with. Writing has been the way I cope with life. Really, if the apocalypse happens I might spend even more time writing just to stay sane.

PJHoover: When it comes to marketing, what do you think makes the biggest difference in whether a book is successful?

MindeeA: If the book trailer is posted when the moon is in the second house of Jupiter. Seriously, I have no idea whatsoever, although I think the most important thing is the story itself. If you read something you love you tell somebody about it. That’s how I am at least.

PJHoover: Finish this sentence, and tell us why. Writing is a lot like…

MindeeA: Having a baby. There’s a lot of chocolate and food binges involved, sleepless nights, and moments of pure, inexplicable joy.

PJHoover: What is next? WIPs? Future publications? Please tell all!

MindeeA: Aside from the sequel to The Nightmare Affair, which should be out in about a year, the first book in my sci-fi series, AVALON, is due out winter 2014 from Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins). I’m deliriously excited about it. It’s an undeniable space-based sci-fi. There’s a short description of it over on Goodreads.

PJHoover: What has been your favorite experience as an author thus far?

MindeeA: I can’t really point to one single moment, but definitely the most rewarding has been hearing that people liked the book and enjoyed it. That is by far the best. Especially if said person is a total stranger who has absolutely no reason to be inclined to like the book even if it sucks. You know, like your mom or sister or something.

PJHoover: Please share your favorite inspirational thought!

MindeeA: I’m not sure if this an inspirational thought, but it’s definitely the absolute best advice I can give based on my own experience—if what you’re doing hasn’t succeeded so far, then change it up and try again. Seriously, don’t think even for a second that you have it figured out. There’s always something new to learn and ways to improve. The key to taking a book from the drawer to the bookshelf is by not being stagnant. Keep searching for the method/voice/story that works for you.

PJHoover: Thank you so much for being here!

MindeeA: Thanks so much for having me. I had an absolute blast.



Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.


Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli's dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.



Mindee Arnett is the author of two young adult series. The first book in her contemporary fantasy series, The Nightmare Affair arrives March 5, 2013 from Tor Teen (Macmillan), while her YA sci-fi thriller, Avalon debuts Winter 2014 from Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins). She lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space.


P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children's, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Scattered Musings on Music & Magic

Music is magic. This is known. Innumerable fantasy novels feature magical tunes and sorcerous musicians. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones—a list of cliches in the form of a travel guidebook, as useful as it is hilarious—catalogues several forms of magic in fantastical fiction: magic that comes with a price, synecdochically sympathetic magic, nature magic "done by attuning to trees and breezes and things," and so on. She gives a full paragraph of explanation for every kind of magic but one: the ninth entry is simply "Music," with no explanation given or required.

Supernatural singing is as fixed in our shared imagination as the idea that you can make some things happen by talking about them—especially if you speak Latin, or Quenya, or the language of dragons. In Tolkien's Silmarillion the world begins with singing rather than speech. And according to Oliver Sacks "music occupies more areas of our brain than language does." Dr. Sacks often writes about patients who suffer severe neurological damage and afterwords need music to maintain memory, identity, or the ability to tie shoelaces. The right tune can hold them together.

Now here's Karl Paulnack, Director of the Boston Conservatory, in a 2004 speech to new students. You can find the whole speech on Amanda Palmer's blog. This bit is from the beginning:

Ptolemy's Wizardry 
The Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of…helping us figure out the position of things inside us. 

This bit is from the end:

Well, my friends, someday at 8 pm someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

Readers likewise come to books overwhelmed by the outside world (I do, anyway). And fantasy is escapism, right? It offers an escape from the world we know—and the possibility of returning to it whole afterwards.

William Alexander won the National Book Award for his debut novel Goblin Secrets. His second novel, set it the same world and city, is yet another fantasy about music

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shameless Oopsie!!!

I think I totally forgot to post last week.  My brain is...old.  :)

Portlandians and Horror fans! Our very own Nancy Holder will be one of the Guests of Honor at the 2014 World Horror Convention in Portland, Oregon, May 8-11.  Make your travel arrangements now!

Dawn Metcalf's INDELIBLE is available for pre-order.  You should probably just order it now. You know you want to.

We have some fabulous award and reading list news this week, starting with Leah Cypess, whose short story "Nanny's Day" (Asimov's 3/12) was nominated for a Nebula Award.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

Not to be outdone, THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen has made yet another awards list, this time earning the 2012 Cybil Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy!

Speaking of short lists, Kate Milford's THE BROKEN LANDS is on the Locus Recommended Reading List in company that makes me want to pass out cold. Way to go, Kate!!

In foreign rights news, P. J. Hoover's The Forgotten Worlds trilogy has sold in Hungary!!! THE EMERALD TABLET, THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, and THE NECROPOLIS, sold to Fonix by Lex Copyright Office, on behalf of Taryn Fagerness Agency and Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Oh yeah.  I had a cover reveal.  HA! TOTALLY FORGOT THAT ONE!!!!  Here's the cover for 3:59, my sci fi parallel universe dopperganger horror novel due out September 17th from Balzer + Bray.  :)