Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Cabinet of Curiosities: the Curators Speak

The Cabinet of Curiosities is a disturbing little project helmed by four curators: Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, Emma Trevayne, and me, Katherine Catmull. Each week on our web page, we post the stories—the unsettling, creepy, or quite terrifying stories—of some of the objects in our Cabinet of  . . . well, curiosities is a pleasanter word than horrors. 

A collection of those stories, entitled The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister, was published yesterday by Green Willow/HarperCollins. It includes
eight never-before-seen tales and other new material, as well as cover and illustrations—awful ones, in the best sense—by Alexander Jansson

Both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly have awarded it stars, which we keep chained in a little silver birdcage under the stairwell.

To celebrate the book’s publication, I’ve roused my three fellow curators from their magnifying glasses and blood-smeared notebooks to answer a few questions. Also, see the conclusion of the interview for some astounding news.

Curator Catmull: How did this Cabinet business, in which one of us posts a story every week, begin? I know, of course. I am pretending I don’t for dramatic effect. 

Curator Trevayne: I was boiling my bones on a beach in Mexico when the idea of our collection came to me. Naturally, such an endeavor is best not attempted alone, so I quickly recruited the others for assistance. "Assistance" in this case meaning I found three people far more talented than myself and relaxed with a giant chocolate cake as they scurried around making the place neat and tidy and altogether more wonderful than I ever could have imagined on my own.

Stefan Bachmann
Curator Bachmann: I was terribly flattered to be asked to join this intrepid group of curators, as I had been known to shriek ecstatically about their writings at unsuspecting bookstore patrons long before they had any idea who I was, or that we would be embarking on these adventures together. I continue to be pleased by this fortuitous development almost every day, even when chasing nasty, pointy-toothed stories in Siberia.

Curator Legrand: In the fall of 2012, Curator Trevayne approached me asking if I would care to join her and Stefan Bachmann in a new and exciting venture--the telling of short stories for those souls--either young or young at heart--who crave tales of the strange and unsettling. I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Curator Bachmann's first book, The Peculiar, and had had a peek at an early draft of Curator Trevayne's Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, and knew them both to be utterly talented. And I, of course, was eager to stretch my writing skills in new directions. So it took me no time at all to agree to join them--and I'm so glad I did.

Curator Catmull: And I was invited when—after careful calculations checked via abacus and a rusty, steam-powered computing machine—the other three determined that each month contains four weeks. They have been unable to shake me since, and I plan to die in the Cabinet, though not for several weeks at least, unless I miscalculate while animating these carved onyx cobras. 

Which brings me to my next question. Which is more fun—collecting the Cabinet objects, or writing about them? 

I’ll begin: for me, crawling on my belly through a nest of fire ants to reach a cursed goblet rumored to turn any beverage it contains into a flesh-devouring acid is considerably more enjoyable than writing. What about you?

Curator Trevayne: Being a person who quite likes comfortable cushions and readily-available cake, I should likely say that sitting in my rooms and writing the stories is more enjoyable, but I simply cannot deny the allure of visiting peculiar circuses, wandering bizarre museums, or riding the skeleton train to
Emma Trevayne
the sound of their violins. Those skeletons--how we danced and danced! It is always a relief to return home with all my fingers and toes (the former make eating cake that much easier) but also always a delight when I am called away on another escapade.

Curator Bachmann: I am a rather timid soul in essence if not generally in practice, and I do so prefer scribbling in the silent corners of my house to visiting deserted hollows at midnight or ripping out beating hearts, which alas, one is practically forced to do if one is curious (because what is a heart, really, and what dwells within it, pounding its little fists day in and day out as if it wants to escape?)

Curator Legrand: As much as I enjoy fighting my way through scorpion-ridden catacombs and running for my life through medieval villages overrun with goblins (did you know that we Curators can travel through not only time but also universes?), I must say that, for me, the writing of my stories is the most enjoyable thing. For often, when I am writing, I am happily ensconced in the Red Room at the Cabinet itself, which is my favorite writing spot. Sandwiched between the Bottomless Pit and the fairies' mortuary, the Red Room is...well, I shan't tell you why it is such a deep shade of crimson, nor why the air inside it is so pungent. Perhaps you will visit us someday and discover why for yourself.

Curator Catmull: Please tell us the collecting adventure associated with one of the stories in this book.

Curator Trevayne: Oh, what a great many grand adventures I've had in search of curiosities for the Cabinet, it is difficult to choose just one. However, what comes to mind is the strange incident detailed in "Spidersong." Having traveled quite far and wide for our dear collection, it was strange indeed to happen upon one very nearly on my doorstep. However, there I was, walking through a lovely forest with my dog, and I heard the oddest, most beautiful music. Being a music lover, I naturally followed it, only to run screaming in horror when I discovered its terrifying source--for though I am, as I said, a music lover, I most positively do not have the same affection for our eight-legged, er, friends. I fled home, dog at my heels, and immediately transcribed the tale.

Curator Bachmann: For years, I had been hearing whispers of a little house, small as a doll's, that could rush about on clickety spider legs; I could not have anticipated the difficulty of finding it, however. Its owner had it hidden away, walled up under a staircase. People always try to hide their wicked pasts, but it is we curators’ job to find them. We always do, eventually. And then we take great pleasure in publishing them in children's books for all to read.

Claire Legrand
Curator Legrand: To write about the silver-haired, pug-nosed girl called Quicksilver, I had to journey to the far north, and wander through many icy, underground labyrinths, to which I unhappily lost several digits. (Luckily, Curator Bachmann is a skilled brewer of tonics, and managed to concoct one for the re-growing of maimed body parts right before I returned home from that trip, largely digit-less.) There, I found a stranger hiding in the city hall of a hidden settlement far beneath the Arctic seas. The stranger had vibrant red hair and flaky white skin, but I could not tell if it was a man or a woman. It wore a strange necklace that vibrated with power. To obtain this fascinating artifact, I had to beat the stranger in a game of Nine Lives (which has nothing to do with cats, but rather with testing the skillset of the underground city's resurrectionist). It was a close game, but I eventually bested the stranger--I suspect not through my own virtue, but rather because the stranger, I think, was tired of bearing such a burden.

Curator Catmull: Obviously, we all share our Cabinet living quarters. But many are unaware that our individual rooms are—while contained within the Cabinet—located in entirely different cities. 

For example, my Cabinet rooms are located in Austin, Texas, a rather dry and dusty place where, in every single attic, mournful ghosts sing in harmony to the sound of lonesome guitars. I often wonder why it’s called “the live music capital of the world” when the dead musicians so very much outnumber us.

Curator Trevayne: My Cabinet rooms are located in London, England, a city filled with so many age-old mysteries it is rather difficult to believe someone didn't invent it for a story. Kings and paupers are buried here, as is an entire river which rushes, unseen, far below the streets. On quiet days, in the right places, you can hear it whispering...*

*I hasten to point out that this is, in fact, actually true.

Curator Bachmann: My own room is located in alpine Switzerland, surrounded by copious numbers of mountains and cheese, obviously, and with a lovely view of rolling pastures and a barn. The house that room belongs to is an old one, filled with new things, and sagging under the weight of all the many people who have walked through it over the centuries. There is a loose step on the front stairs, which I am convinced holds secret treasures, or at the very least a skeleton. There is a locked box in the basement that was there when we arrived and has never been opened. My room is under eaves, and was once the servant's quarters, and sometimes I am quite sure they never left, but have simply moved into the walls. . . .

Curator Legrand:  My Cabinet quarters are in a very old place called Princeton, New Jersey, where intellectuals who are very proud of their intellect attend classes and conduct research in an ancient university. I do believe the students think me odd whenever I go into town for supplies, for I can't seem to leave the Cabinet without taking some of it back with me. And Curating as we do is, of course, not something one can learn from a textbook.

Katherine Catmull
Q. Curatorial tale-spinning is not confined to the Cabinet. I myself am the author of Summer and Birdthe story of two sisters who wander into a land where a Puppeteer swallows birds alive, and where the earth and sky clash together like jaws—you know, that sort of thing. I am revising an even uncannier book right now, but on that topic I can say no more. What about the rest of you?

Curator Trevayne: I am the author of two novels about very strange music (Coda and Chorus, both available now), and one about a boy, a magical doorway, an evil sorcerer, a slightly mad Lady, and a clockwork bird (Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, also available now). My next book, about maltreated faeries, will be available in 2015.

Curator Bachmann: My latest book is called The Whatnot and is the companion and concluding volume to The Peculiar. It concerns a brave girl with twig-hair fighting her way through a dreary and dangerous faerie world, desperate to return to the Victorian England she was stolen from. Furthermore, it concerns a boy with an eye that can see into a dying country, moving prisons, a woman with a porcelain face, cottages that are bigger on the inside than on the out, and one very nasty king. There are other books coming later, different sorts of books, about adolescents instead of children, about terror in deep places and running in the dark, but those are a long way off yet.

Curator Legrand: I have three other books either already out in the world or soon to be released. One is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, about a practically perfect twelve-year-old girl who must face off against a nefarious headmistress to rescue her friend from an orphanage that is not what it seems. One is The Year of Shadows, about a lonely girl who must work with a group of friendly ghosts to save her father's failing orchestra--if, that is, some not-so-friendly ghosts don't first destroy her. The next is a book for young adult readers called Winterspell, and is a dark, romantic fantasy re-telling of the classic ballet The Nutcracker. 

ASTOUNDING NEWS. To celebrate the publication of The Cabinet of Curiosities, we are releasing a series of podcasts, in which each week one of the Curators reads one of his or her own stories. The podcast includes deliciously disturbing music composed and performed by Curator Stefan Bachmann himself, whose talents are almost injudiciously cornucopian. The first podcast, in which Curator Claire Legrand reads her unsettling tale “The Tin Man’s Price,” is available now--or you can subscribe to the entire series at iTunes.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Spring YA Covers: Yes, dresses--but also swords and fire and blood, blood red

There was a time when you could tell a fantasy was “Young Adult” because the cover featured a one-word title and a gorgeous dress or exceptionally great hair. Nothing wrong with that, of course.  But today’s covers—dark, mysterious, sometimes explosive—offer a refreshing variety of images.

Not that designers don’t get messages from the great hive mind. This season (meaning January-June 2014), the message seems to have been “darkly mysterious blue,” alternating with “eye-popping red.” Anything to drag us across that bookstore, right?

Also there are badass heroines and heroes, swords, eyes compelling or threatening, fire, shadow, explosions—and marvelous dresses. Can’t wait to read these books!

“Young Adult” in this case means age 12 to 18. As always, if there’s a cover we’ve overlooked, please link to it in the comments.

Tell us which is your favorite, and why!

(Click the link below to see the covers)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

CHANTRESS ALCHEMY with Amy Butler Greenfield!

This week I got to chat with the supremely talented, Amy Butler Greenfield, about her new book CHANTRESS ALCHEMY, the wonderful second part of the CHANTRESS triology.

Here is the awesome book trailer...
For ease of following our chat - my questions are in blue...

I love the mood you set at the beginning of this novel with the Chantress by the sea - as someone who grew up by the shore, I wondered if you had ever lived there, and how you researched for this? I imagine you walking the sands of Norfolk at night in the wind and rain!

Oh, I wish I could have done that! I’ve always loved the sea, and I expect that’s why there’s a lot of water and water magic in the Chantress books. Growing up, the coasts I knew best were all on the eastern US seaboard, especially the island of Nantucket, where my uncle was a lobsterman.  But ever since I first came to live on other side of the Atlantic, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the British coast better – though my explorations are hindered a bit by the fact that I live in landlocked Oxfordshire!
My favorite part of the British shoreline so far is the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. Initially I planned to start Chantress Alchemy there, but for all kinds of reasons I soon realized Norfolk made more sense.  Because my deadlines were tight I wasn’t able to travel there, but luckily we have friends and family who often go to Norfolk, and I also researched the exact bit of coastline I needed at the library and online. Almost none of the research made it into the book, but it helped make the setting real in my mind – which helped me make it real on paper.

How did this book idea come about and was it always meant to be a trilogy?
My friends and even my mom had ideas about what I should write next but I couldn’t find anything I wanted to start on. 

Then one day sitting in a coffee house, I thought, maybe this is it. I don’t have any more books in me. I always have my journal and pen in hand so I wrote, if I was only allowed one more book what would it be? And something shook itself free and I was able to start. And the three things that came to me were, singing, spy network, ruby, lost girl. And then I knew I really wanted to write this.

This novel is very much a stand alone, which I think is tricky especially for the second novel in a trilogy - so often they become a bridge between the beginning and end. Did you set out deliberately to make sure each part has its own distinct story, as well as an overall arc?

It IS difficult!  But it was something I very much wanted to do, as I always get frustrated when I read a trilogy where the books break off in mid-story – and I’ve always loved books like THE DARK IS RISING sequence and THE CHRONICES OF PRYDAIN (and in a looser sense, the WIMSEY-VANE mysteries and the MARY RUSSELL mysteries), where each book is both part of a whole and a story in itself.  

I underestimated how hard it would be to pull this off, though!  The characters need to develop and grow, and there needs to be some kind of epiphany in each book – and yet you always have to remember where you’re going with the overall arc of the series. And the same is true with the ending:  You need closure, but not so much closure that the reader has no reason to come back.   

I love and also despair at this ending - did you mean to break my heart? Seriously, I need to know what happens next, after you left us on such an 'oh, it had to be this way,' ending - how far into writing the third book are you?

I’m sorry that I broke your heart – but truly delighted that you cared so much about the characters!  I have to admit I cried when I wrote that last scene.  In fact, the first draft had a much happier ending, because I couldn’t bear to write it any other way.  But that ending didn’t feel true to me. So I dug deeper and let the story be what it wanted to be, and I found the ending that felt real.

Of course I left myself quite a job to do in the third book! But I have a full draft of that now, and my editorial letter has just arrived, so we’re on schedule for a Summer 2015 release.  Although it’s been tough writing on such a tight deadline, the book itself has helped keep me going, as it’s full of adventure and all kinds of Chantress mysteries and secrets—with Lucy and Nat facing their greatest dangers yet.

I love how aspects of the Flamel story intertwine with this one, and the elements of court life in seventeenth century England, can you tell how hard I'm trying not to give any spoilers away here? How much research did you do and was it hard to stop?

You are doing a SUPER job not giving away spoilers, Keely!  I adore research in general, but the research for this book was especially fun.  I visited historic houses, sampled old-fashioned foods, and swanned around a fashion museum admiring ballgowns and embroidery.  I even got to research chemical explosions and alchemical secrets. What’s not to love?! (Er, yes…  it was hard to stop.)

I have never heard of calendar houses and am now dying to visit one. Were there any other amazing things you found out that you would have loved to include but just didn't fit into this story?

A ton! But dearly as I love research, I’m a firm believer in only including what’s absolutely necessary for the story, and not letting the cool facts take over. To give an example:  I was fascinated by everything I read about the alchemist Sophie Brahe, but virtually all of it will have to wait for some other book. As will all those gorgeous (and truly wacky) illuminated alchemical manuscripts, and the brocaded seventeenth-century court shoes, and… sigh.  It’s hard not to include it all! But I try to keep in mind that with novels, research is like an iceberg: most of it should stay hidden.

Was it easier to write the second story, as you knew the characters so well, or does it bring its own unique challenges when you're working with the same personalities?

It really was a joy to come back to these characters. In a very real way I felt like I was getting to visit with old friends.  Occasionally I found myself constrained by something I wrote in the first book that I wished I could change, but that was rare. Honestly, I think I had the best of both worlds this time around, since there are also quite a few new characters in this book, and most of them were enormous fun to write. 

So, what is your next project? 
I’ve had the good luck to write about things I love and care about and have a few ideas, but I’ll wait until the end of this project to see which one grabs me, or it might be something completely different!
Okay, as Amy lives just outside of Oxford, and I'm an expat, Brit talk!
Hot buttered crumpets or cream tea? 
Cream tea – with clotted cream, please!
Earl Grey or black tea?  Oh, that’s hard.  But I’ll go for Earl Grey.
Pimms or G & T?  Pimms. It always makes me think of summer in England, which happily is almost here.

I cannot wait to read your next book and what a delight it was to meet you! Thank you Amy Butler Greenfield, for stopping by The Inkpot!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Spring MG covers: The Light! And the genders. Also hooves. And goldfish.

Ever since Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the two-boy-one-girl combo has been a winner. That’s apparent in this season’s roster of middle-grade fantasy covers, although we see pretty much every combination of genders. (Interestingly, there seem to be more all-girl covers than all-boy—we’ll leave you to debate what THAT means.)

The girls, we’re pleased to note, appear to be active  and self-sufficient—we didn't find any “boy reaches out to help girl climb the castle stairs” motifs. Girls have swords nowadays, and they know how to use them.

Once again this season, light is a big factor. Sometimes  our heroes run toward it, sometimes away, but designers know that a bright and mysterious light on a cover always will draw the eye.

Some publishers seem to be lowering the age-range for middle grade—we included several covers this time that were earmarked for ages “8 to 12” rather than the usual “9 to 12” or “10 to 14.” As a result, some of the covers look a little younger than in the past.

These covers hit the bookstores between January and June 2014. If you know of a great one we’ve overlooked, please link to it in the comments. 

And tell us which is your favorite!

(Click the link to see the covers . . .)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Interview with Karen Krossing, Author of BOG

In the midnight forests of the north, a cave troll named Bog has spent his young life hunting with his father and avoiding humans whenever possible. When his father is mercilessly turned to stone by the Troll Hunter’s followers, Bog sets out to find the murderers and avenge his father. But with no leads and little knowledge of the human world, Bog knows his journey won’t be easy. Along the way, he meets a huge forest troll named Small and a young human girl named Hannie. Together, they venture deeper into human territory, where they learn of the legendary Nose Stone—a rock rumoured to bring a stone troll back to life. Hope fills Bog’s heart, but when he discovers the Troll Hunter is also going after the Nose Stone to destroy it, his quest becomes a race of cunning, trickery, and wits.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?  Don't you just want to avoid whatever you're supposed to be doing, make yourself a cup of tea, and curl up with BOG?  (The book, I meanmaybe not the troll!)  Today we welcome BOG's creator, author Karen Krossing to our blog.

Lena: Welcome to the Enchanted Inkpot, Karen! As you know, I am a great fan.

Karen: Thanks for the interview, Lena. If Bog, were here, he’d affectionately yank your nose in greeting.

Lena: Well...I suppose I'd yank his right back, then.

You’ve been very busy lately, haven't you? Your book CUT THE LIGHTS came out in October, BOG is just out, and you’ve just come back from your TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour. Many Enchanted Inkpot readers are in the US and might not know about Book Week, so we’d love to have you tell us about it. Where did you go and what was it like?

Karen: I have been busy! I’m just back from Vancouver, where I toured local schools and libraries, giving writing workshops and readings. Book Week is a national celebration of books and reading, organized by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. For one week, touring authors and illustrators bring the magic of books and reading to over 25,000 children and teens. I was thrilled to be able to connect with readers—and to go looking for trolls in the forests of western Canada.

Lena: I know that you’ve been working on Bog for a long time, that it’s one of those labour-of-love books. How long did it take and what was the writing process like?

Karen: BOG took ten years to conceive, write and publish, and it certainly was a labour of love. I stopped writing BOG several times during those years because the story needed more time to mature. Some books just take longer to develop in the writer’s subconscious, I think. So I researched my characters and world further—both troll lore and the rugged, wilderness setting for my book—and I planned my plot twists and turns. I also approached other writers for feedback on my early drafts.

Lena: What made you decide to write about trolls? Did you research them, or did you make up the

One of Karen's readings in British Columbia, Canada
Karen: I first conceived the idea for BOG after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the ensuing war on terror. I wanted to write about cultural hatred fostered by learned biases from previous generations. But the novel is also a reaction to ethnic conflicts the world over—anywhere where there is prejudice against another cultural group instead of acceptance and understanding of differences.

I chose to write about trolls because, in literature, they’re traditionally considered vile to humans. The point of view of a troll character sets up humans as “monsters,” asking what morals and values make us human versus monster. For me, the novel explores the journey from hatred to tolerance.

I researched troll lore in Norse mythology as well as ingenious legends before creating my version of trolls. These trolls are family oriented and in tune with nature. They tend to avoid humans, and they have a rich storytelling culture. Like in traditional troll lore, they are night dwellers, since sunlight turns them to stone. It was great fun to imagine the details about my trolls and their world, but it was also challenging.

Lena: Bog is such an amazing character. He’s so complex and so flawed. How did you develop him?

Karen: When I started writing a book from the point of view of a cave troll, it fit with who I am. Somehow, writing about a fur-covered beast was natural to me. I developed Bog by thinking about his contradictions. He’s deeply caring yet deeply wounded by the loss of his father. He has adopted his father’s prejudices against humans as well as his strong commitment to family, so it’s hard for Bog to see beyond his family biases to the reality of his world. I think the conflicts that are built into his character make him appealing and fascinating.

Looking for trolls in BC forests
Lena: I love your fantasy writing, but you’re known more for your gritty contemporary stories like THE YO-YO PROPHET. Will you be writing more fantasy now? *crosses fingers*

Karen: Yes! I adore writing both fantasy and realistic contemporary fiction. Although my next book will be realistic (PUNCH LIKE A GIRL, Orca Book Publishers, Spring 2015), my current work-in-progress definitely falls within the fantasy genre. It’s tentatively titled THE WANTON CRIMINAL, and it’s about a fantastical trial of the absurd.

Lena: You seem to really get that middle grade and lower YA age group. What were you like back then? Were you a big reader at that age and if so, what were you reading?

Karen: I was terribly shy, quietly rebellious and fiercely independent. As a teen, I wrote angsty poems and rants, and planned to be a writer—maybe when I retired. I didn’t think writing could become a career, maybe because I’d never met any professional writers. I was also a reader, and I read anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t distinguish between literary and commercial fiction; I consumed everything from trashy romances and Archie comics to Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and Judy Blume. I was hungry to understand the world from any source.

Lena: In addition to your writing, I know that you are very keyed in to the writing community in Canada. You’re the former president of CANSCAIP, you work with teen writers…. Do you find that this feeds your writing or does it take time away from it?

Karen: I find that connecting to other writers helps my writing in many ways. I’m a firm believer in writing groups and the value of quality feedback from trusted fellow writers. I also find that my community encourages me when the daily grind of writing becomes challenging. So I like to give back to that community. I feel it’s important to support the creators of literature for kids and teens, so that we can all have fabulous new stories to read.

Lena: Thanks so much for dropping by the Inkpot today, Karen!  If anyone would like to try their luck at winning a copy of BOG, Karen is having a Goodreads Giveaway.  And have a look at her book trailer!

Lena Coakley's first novel, Witchlanders, was called “one stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for the Americas.  It is a 2013 MYRCA nominee and a 2013 OLA White Pine honouree.  Lena is also the author of two children’s picture books and the former administrative director of CANSCAIP. Learn more about her at

Monday, May 12, 2014

TOTW: Magic Systems in Fantasy

Magic, and the way it's used, can be one of the most fascinating aspects of fantasy fiction. 

Especially when the magic is creating plot opportunities and restrictions that directly impact the plot, like the rule that "the wand chooses the wizard" (and all the plot ramifications that grew from that), as well as the Horcruxes which provided a means to destroy a seemingly invulnerable opponent (though they wouldn't be easy to destroy) in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. 

Then there's The Small Science, a magic system based on light in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy, and Dragonlance, in which spells take time to memorize and vanish from the caster's mind once used. 

There are so many ways to add dimension and thematic significance to a fantasy novel through the ways in which magic is used. Curious about which ones the Inkies would pick, I asked them for their favorites:

Elizabeth Bunce:
I was especially intrigued by the way magic developed over the course of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. The magic is formed through wishes, which have varying values, like currency. The source of the magic comes from the energy binding together multiple parallel universes--but no one understands this, so any magic practiced tends to be haphazard guessing, at best. Ignorant practitioners must instead tap into the energy created by pain, so the actual cost of doing magic ends up being very high--which is perfect for the dark, complex, and war-torn world Taylor creates in the series. It also brings magic down to an intensely intimate level, adding another layer of emotional resonance to the books. The magic isn't just there as a worldbuilding background or a prop; it's woven through the lives of all the characters, and it hurts.

Leah Cypress:
I really love the magic system in LJ Smith's Night of the Solstice - it is all about mirrors being used to cross between worlds, and the way she depicts it is magical and poetic, but at the same time it all works very logically. As a kid I was always fascinated with mirrors, and wrote a dozen unpublishable stories about people's reflections coming to life, so this was right up my alley.

Miriam Forster:
One of my favorites is the Tradition magic in Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms books. It's an impersonal, powerful force that tries to force people's lives into the shape of stories that have already been told, mainly fairy tales and often grim ones. (so to speak). The characters have to work around and within Tradition to save people, while trying to carve out new stories for the magic to use. It's a fresh take on some old tales and a lot of fun. 

Amy Butler Greenfield:
One system that I love is Holly Black's magic-meets-the-mob setup in The Curse Workers series, where magic has been prohibited since 1929, but certain families deal in it illegally. There are several kinds of magic-all of which can only be worked bare-handed-and each one has its own Achilles heel. Death workers, for example, lose a body part every time they cause a death. It's a beautiful system that runs as smoothly as a Rube Goldberg machine, set in a universe where the Godfather meets 1940s screwball comedy. Delicious fun.

These are some of our favorites, but now we'd like to hear from you. Which fantasy story has the best system of magic of all time?

Lia Keyes is a London-born speculative fiction writer based in California, represented by Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She's the founder of the Steampunk Writers & Artists' Guild, and development strategist for Ellen Hopkins' non-profit foundation, Ventana Sierra, dedicated to training at-risk youth for a brighter future.
Website:  |  Twitter: @LiaKeyes

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Procrastination Wednesday - Quiz Challenge!

It's hump day, the middle of the week, fantasy can seem so very far away in our day to day lives so today at The Inkpot we're bringing it to you with a dollop of faerie fun and dragon fire.....drum roll.
We bring you the Fantasy Quiz Challenge!

How Well Do You Know You Fantasy Novels?

Which Fantasy Sci-fi Character Are You?

What Fantasy Book Are You?

Fantasy Teen Fiction Quiz

Which Fantasy Writer Are You?

Which Fantasy Archetype Are You?

And finally...

Which Fantasy Novel Should I Read next?

Yes of course there had to be seven, this is fantasy we're talking about after all!

I know, I know, you were looking for ways to procrastinate! We're happy to help!
So what did you learn about your fantasy self this morning?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Diversity in Fantasy - I'll show you mine , you show me yours!

You may have noticed #WeNeedDiverseBooks on twitter starting May 1st and extending to May 3rd.
It was the top trending hashtag and in no small part due to our very own Ellen Oh, with Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon! You can read much more on the background and why it is so important to us, as a community of writers for children here:  Publishers Weekly - Diversity campaign goes viral

So we're very proud to say there were over 107,000 tweets and retweets during the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.And you can see much more about it here: What does the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Tweet archive tell us? and even get a link to the Best Tumblr feeds

Here's the most retweeted post, which came with this heading from Gayle Forman.

The reason : So both my daughters can see themselves—and each other—in books.

So today we're throwing open our virtual fantasy library and sharing our favorite diverse fantasy books and we'd like you to share yours as well!

Here are some of my favorites:
Notice how three are by Enchanted Inkpot authors?

Okay, so now on this gorgeous Cinco de Mayo day - we're asking, what are your favorite diverse books in fantasy?