Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays!

The Inkpot will now sit silently until the new year. Those of you living in the colder bits of the world should remember that the days keep getting longer from here to Spring.

Read widely and wildly, everybody.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Winter's Tale

'tis the season for whiling away the hours curled up by a fire, book in hand with the wintery chill firmly closed behind an iron door. Perhaps the fire pops, and the page crackles as it's turned...and is that shadow moving by itself in the corner of the room?
How I love the idea of winter and cold, and snow and all the magic it brings, particularly in fantasy stories, so this post is a celebration of our favorite winter tales!

First up a THE DARK IS RISING and to be honest we all love this book!

Here is Ellen Booraem on why she chose this winter scene...
'For me, the best of all possible invocations of winter is in THE DARK IS RISING. The snow is beautiful, mystical, even fun, but it has elements of menace that surface without warning. Here’s Will grinning at the window after his birthday blizzard: “In the first shining moment he saw the whole strange-familiar world, glistening white; the roofs of the outbuildings mounted into square towers of snow and beyond them all the fields and hedges buried, merged into one great flat expanse, unbroken white to the horizon’s rim.” Three-point-five seconds minutes later, life gets majorly weird. Yup, that’s winter for you.'

Anne Nesbet thought of Terry Pratchett's WINTERSMITH for some lovely cold magic: “They say that there can never be two snowflakes that are exactly alike, but has anyone checked lately?”

and, Susan Cooper's THE DARK IS RISING: "The snow lay thin and apologetic over the world . . . ."

Anne says, 'I grew up without snow, so I learned everything there was to know about winter from Cooper, from Tove Jansson's MOOMINLAND MIDWINTER, with extra information taken from my two favorite snowy non-fantasy books: Laura Ingalls Wilder's THE LONG WINTER and Arthur Ransome's WINTER HOLIDAY.

Snuggling under quilts and putting extra sweaters on just thinking about all these books!"

Anytime a story gives us a good look at snow, I'm basically happy. Perhaps that's because I grew up without much snow in my life!'

Gretchen McNeil chose the wintery scenes in the early Harry Potter books, and the first visit to the nearby town of Hogsmead, in particular from THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN.
'Hogsmead looked like a Christmas card; the little thatched cottages and shops were all covered in a layer of crisp snow; there were holly wreaths on the doors and strings of enchanted candles hanging in the trees.' (Chapter Ten, The Marauders Map)

Mike Jung chose A STORM OF SWORDS

'The Red Wedding scene in the GAME OF THRONES tv show made a big stir with those poor unsuspecting "oh I haven't read the books" viewers, but snobby book people like me feel smug about having been traumatized by that scene when reading A STORM OF SWORDS years ago. But I weirdly remember the books' closing scene with Jon Snow almost as much, although I should explain that I don't remember the specifics all that much. I mostly remember the way I felt while reading it: #$%&ing traumatized by the Red Wedding, including the aftermath involving Robb Stark's direwolf; a muted, complicated feeling of triumph when Jon Snow was named Lord Commander of the Night's Watch (was it good? Was it bad? Oh to be a non-bastard Stark!); and a strange feeling of existential despair that the unrecognized heir of the Stark family was stuck out there in the cold, on the border between kingdoms, hanging out on that damned wall. It was an oddly calming chapter to read, if that makes any sense, even more so because even MORE crazy stuff happened before the book was over. I suppose a final reason that wintry scene with Jon Snow stuck with me is because it felt like a thousand years went by before the next book, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, was published, and I, um, haven't actually read it yet. I'm sure everything's working out for Jon Snow, however, right? All the other Starks took swords to the neck or daggers in the chest and so forth, but I'm sure nobody ganged up to repeatedly stab Jon Snow!'

Lisa Green picked SHIVER
: 'The whole werewolves tied to the weather instead of the moon gives the winter in Northern Minnesota (where I've been many times, brrrr) a whole new layer (pardon the pun).'
There really is something about a wolves call that makes you feel so vulnerable and cold!

Amy Greenfield cast a vote for the opening of THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE.

'I love how we approach the Chase from on high, first seeing the snow lying “white and shining over the pleated hills,” and then the bundled-up men clearing the road, who fear “the wolves, grown savage and reckless with hunger.” As we draw still closer, we see the house itself, a glowing bastion against “the sombre sighing of the wind and the hideous howling of the wolves without.” And that’s only one of many fabulous winter scenes in the book, which include the deliciously dangerous one where Bonnie and Sylvia skate at dusk in pursuit of Miss Slighcarp, only to find themselves pursued by the wolves.'

I am feeling really cold now and need to go and read by the fire. So, I, (Keely Parrack) will leave you with one of my favorites, THE CHILDREN OF GREEN KNOWE, which I cannot really believe isn't absolutely true and so am still wary of calling it fantasy! 'In the moonlight the frozen meadows looked like sheets of frosted glass and the river like gold...'

Now, tell us, what are your favorite Winter scenes?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You like THE HOBBIT? My book is exactly like that!

There's this fun game we play at Comic Con when pitching our books to potential readers. Find out what they like, and explain how our book is exactly like their favorite book. And what better book to compare against than THE HOBBIT?

So below I give you a holiday shopping guide from the Inkies. For all those fans of THE HOBBIT who can't wait for the movie to come out, here are the many ways our books are exactly like this classic.


P. J. Hoover
How is SOLSTICE like THE HOBBIT? Let's see...the weather gets bad in THE HOBBIT and the weather gets really bad in SOLSTICE.

Erin Cashman
THE EXCEPTIONALS is like THE HOBBIT because Claire Walker finds herself trapped in a cavern deep beneath a mountain, like Bilbo Baggins, and like Bilbo she has to use her wits to escape.

Mike Jung
GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES is like THE HOBBIT because there's a scene where a couple of characters travel underwater inside a giant robot head, which isn't exactly like traveling down a river inside a barrel but I got nothing else and I like the Hobbit game, I WANNA PLAY THE HOBBIT GAME...

Lisa Green
THE BINDING STONE is like THE HOBBIT because Jered finds a magic ring that causes all sorts of problems.

Hilari Bell
THE KNIGHT & ROGUE books are like THE HOBBIT, because this is what Fisk thinks when Michael proposes that they go on an adventure:  A glorious adventure.  In other words, a disaster in the making. 

Lena Coakley
WITCHLANDERS is like THE HOBBIT because Ryder must go under a mountain to find the dark secrets hidden there.

Anne Nesbet
A BOX OF GARGOYLES is like THE HOBBIT (and, for that matter, a little like certain episodes of DR. WHO) because it contains scary stone statues that look like they might recently have been doing some moving around....

Ellen Booraem
TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD is like THE HOBBIT because the main character is a fearful homebody who ends up traveling way, way out of his comfort zone. And he finds his courage there!

Dawn Metcalf
INVISIBLE is like THE HOBBIT because Joy, like Bilbo, must face down a seemingly unstoppable foe in order to get back to a peaceful life.

William Alexander
My book GOBLIN SECRETS is like THE HOBBIT because goblins.

Miriam Forster
CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS is like THE HOBBIT because it has talking animals. :)

Katie Carroll
ELIXIR BOUND is like THE HOBBIT because it is a there and back again tale of Katora and her companions going into a dangerous forest on a mission and having to find their way back home.

Keely Parrack
SNOWPOCALYPSE is like THE HOBBIT because a small ragtag group has to face harsh weather and multiple foes as they battle their way through the mountains.

So there you go! All the many ways our books are exactly like THE HOBBIT! Enjoy reading and enjoy the movie!


P. J. Hoover is the author of the 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, December 9, 2013


In celebration of the release of THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG on December 13th, we here at the Inkpot (HOBBIT loving fans ourselves!) have a quiz to test your knowledge of the book, and refresh your memory before the big release! 

We will choose 5 winners and each winner will receive a signed copy of a book from an Enchanted Inkpot Author! And come back tomorrow, as we discuss how our books are like THE HOBBIT in a very fun post!
And here are thirteen Questions, one for each Dwarf, and because the movie comes out on December 13th:

1. What is Bilbo’s mother’s name?  
2. What was the rumor about the Tooks? 
3. How many are in the company, and of what races?   
4. What does Bilbo decide to call 
his sword?
5. What is the color of Bilbo’s Sword when enemies are close?
6. Where does the company first encounter the Elves?
7. What is the riddle that Bilbo stumps Gollum with? 
8. What mountain are the Dwarves trying to reclaim? 
9. Who discovers the Arkenstone? 
10. What special item does Thorin give to Bilbo from the treasure, that is featured again in LOTR? 
11. Who kills Smaug? 
12. After Smaug is defeated, what two races might go to war with the Dwarves over the treasure?
13. Who takes the Arkenstone from Thorin?

The first five people to get all questions right win! (Hint - if you're stumped, the answer to some of the questions may be found in our Hobbit read along posts of last year) You will be asked to pick your first, second and third choice from one of the following books (in alphabetical order by author) donated by Inkpot members. The book will be signed by the author and mailed to you. Good Luck - and remember to come back tomorrow!

THE LAST KNIGHT, by Hilari Bell 
Need a Hero? You've got one in Sir Michael Sevenson. Although there hasn't been a knight errant in over two hundred years, this young noble has decided to revive the trade. He's found himself a reluctant partner in Fisk, a clever rogue who has been given the choice of serving as Michael's squire or going to jail for a very long time. Now Michael and Fisk are on a quest to right wrongs, protect the innocent, and make the world a happier place. It's not going to be easy. On their first attempt at rescuing a damsel in distress, they break a lady out of a tower, only to discover she was there for good reason: awaiting trial for poisoning her husband. Now the would-be heroes must find Lady Ceciel and return her to justice or be condemned themselves

A Kirkus Starred Review
Conor O’Neill always thought spiders—and his little sister, Glennie—were the worst kind of monsters life had in store. That was before an inexperienced young banshee named Ashling showed up in his bedroom. The arrival of a banshee, as Conor soon learns, means only one thing: Someone in his family is going to die. Not only will Ashling not tell him who it is, it turns out that she’s so fascinated by the world above that she insists on going to middle school with him. The more Ashling gets involved in his life, the harder it becomes to keep her identity a secret from his friends and teachers—and the more Conor worries about his family. If he wants to keep them safe, he’s going to have to do the scariest thing he’s ever done:  Pay a visit to the underworld. If only there were an app for that.

THE EXCEPTIONALS, by Erin Cashman 
A Bank Street College of Education Best Book of The Year, 2013
In a famous family of exceptionally talented people, fifteen-year-old Claire Walker is ordinary . . . or so she leads everyone to believe. Yet the minute she steps out of line, her parents transfer her to Cambial Academy: the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities, or “specials”. Although Claire can’t see ghosts or move objects with her mind like the other students, she does have a special she considers too lame to admit: she can hear the thoughts of animals. Just as she is settling in, one by one the most talented students – the Exceptionals – go missing. After years of ignoring her special gift, Claire decides the time has come to embrace her ability . . . before it’s too late.

WITCHLANDERS, by Lena Coakley 
A high fantasy full of swords, snow monsters, and singing magic. Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher's Weekly Starred Reviews. High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future. It’s all a fake. At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated? But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned— Are about him.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die. Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life. 

 THE BINDING STONE, by Lisa Gail Green 
Tricked into slavery by the man she loved, the Djinni Leela has an eternity to regret her choices.

Awakened in the prison of her adolescent body, she finds a new master in possession of the opal that binds her. But seventeen-year-old Jered is unlike any she's seen. His kindness makes Leela yearn to trust again, to allow herself a glimmer of hope. 
Could Jered be strong enough to free her from the curse of the Binding Stone?

Benjamin is different from other kids—he can read minds and use telekinesis. But it isn’t until he’s sent to summer school on a hidden, underwater continent that he learns the truth. 

It turns out, Benjamin isn’t really human at all—and the powers he thought made him special, just make him normal. But then the mysterious Emerald Tablet chooses him as its champion and he’s thrust into a mission to save the world.

Thanks for entering and see you tomorrow!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Gift of Fantasy

 The fantasy that gave me the greatest gift was Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series.  I was in first grade, and every few days I’d check out a stack of picture books limited only by the need to get my hands underneath it and my chin on top.  One day the school librarian handed me The Book of Three.

“I think you’d like this,” she said.

“I don’t know,” I said.  (Just like every kid in the universe confronting their first novel.)  “It’s awfully thick.”

“Give it a try.”  And she smiled.

So I opened that thick intimidating book and started to read, and fell into a real, long, dense story for the first time in my life.  I think I lived in Prydain more than I did in the real world for the next few years.  If Mrs. Burris had handed me some other book, a mystery for instance, I might not be a fantasy writer today.  Or even a writer today.  So that’s the fantasy that’s given me the greatest gift.  (And thanks to Mrs. Burris, too!)

                                                                        --Hilari Bell

From Elizabeth Bunce:

For me, it came about ten years ago when I read Sharon Shinn's ARCHANGEL for the first time. I had spent so many years reading To Learn the Craft, to soak up knowledge and study storytelling techniques, that reading had become more work for me than pleasure (although I didn't realize it at the time). I had lost sight of one of the most important things: Reading should be fun. But Archangel swept me away like no book had in years. I picked it up, dove in, and before I knew it, five chapters were past, and I REMEMBERED. Shinn brought back that sense of reading for pure delight that I had lost somewhere along the line. I've said that this is one of the most important lessons I've ever learned as a writer... but it's also the greatest gift: the reconnection to the experience of reading a great book for the pure joy of it. Thank you, ARCHANGEL!

From Erin Cashman:

For me, it was Lord of the Rings. I was having a hard time my freshman year in high school - 3 middle schools all joined together, and I found that my good friends were hanging out with another group of girls -- and one of the girls decided I was not welcome. One night I started reading Lord of the Rings, and instead of worrying or crying (as I had been doing every night) I completely forgot about my troubles and was swept up in the story. I read it straight through -- claiming a stomach ache and missing the next two days of school. For some reason, when I returned to school I didn't care that much anymore (maybe it was simply that a mean girl is not so scary when compared with the Nazgul!) and I sat at lunch with two girls I didn't know, who became good friends. I realized then the power of a good book - and the ability it has to transport the reader to a new world, away from the issues and problems of every day life. Lord of the Rings inspired me to
become a writer, and even to this day when I feel down, my escapism is often found in the pages of a fantasy novel.

From Dawn Metcalf:

I'd consider "starter" fantasy books like BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson, PROTECTOR OF THE SMALL by Tamora Pierce, DRAGONSONG by Anne McCaffery and, of course, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE by J.K. Rowling can start a lifelong love of fantasy books!

For old folks like me, I love transportive, quirky and somewhat shadowy fantasy and I'd give THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern, THE DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor, NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman or THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger.

(And if kids are darker like me, then I'd probably wrap up a copy of HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones, ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer or our own William Alexander's GOBLIN SECRETS!)

From Pippa Bayliss:

I consider every fantasy novel I've ever read as a gift which isn't very helpful to you for your TOTW :) but what stands out as a particularly special novel to me was Roald Dahl's 'Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator'. It's the sequel to the better known 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and an old dilapidated copy found its way into my hands. My son was a reluctant reader so I started reading it to him out loud at bedtime. He loved it. Even though it was so old and strange, it became one of his favorites., and he'd make me repeat any parts that involved the 'vicious knids' - no silent 'k'. Just the sound of k-nids made him laugh and that alone gave us both a gift that I'll always cherish.

From Will Alexander:

I don't know if this counts, since it isn't a fantasy novel, but my first thought is Lewis Hyde's The Gift: a book-sized essay about the role of art and the artist in society. It's made up of the same raw material as a fantasy novel, given that it's filled with folk and fairy tales, and it's a boon to any artist trying to sort out their own gifts and how best to use them. (Hyde's Trickster Makes This World is also very, very good, but given the focus on trickster figures that one commits gleeful theft rather than offering presents.)

Let me try again with an actual fantasy novel. When I took over reading bedtime stories to my youngest sister, we first picked up The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. That was a gift, I suppose. "I loved this, and I think you'll love it, so here. Let me read it to you." It utterly failed as a bedtime story, though. We didn't sleep at all. We just read straight through until dawn, and finished The Dark is Rising while the sun was rising.

From Ellen Booraem:

One marathon weekend in the dregs of high school, THE LORD OF THE RINGS opened a new world for me. And I don’t mean just Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth—I mean the universe of fantasy written for anyone older than ten. My parents weren’t fantasy readers, so up to that point my experiences with speculative fiction consisted of fairy tales, Pooh, and a couple of other books distinctly written for younger crowd. I had no idea that you could give up childish things and still read about dragons and elves. Imagine how the top of my head blew off when I met Bilbo. And Gandalf! In fact, I barely slept that weekend—read the entire trilogy, day and night, stopping only for meals and to exchange a word or two with my long-suffering parents. Thank you, Professor Tolkien.

So tell us, what fantasy story has been a “gift” to you?