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Holiday Roundtable Part 4

To wrap up our holiday roundtable, we put on our speculative hats and asked, “What silly gift would you like to receive, if only such a thing existed?”

I’m a huge pet lover, so in the book I’m writing now and another YA being submitted, there are tiny companion pets for my heroines. In my science fiction YA (FAR AWAY NEAR) Mari is befriended by a tiny flying creature like a hummingbird called a Candle Fly, which can communicate with her telepathically. In my WIP, a dystopian, my heroine befriends a hand-sized almost magical lizard-like creature she calls Pet. So put a Candle Fly and Pet on my wish list, while I’m telepathically chatting with them, my cats will spin circles trying to chase them. (g).—Linda Joy Singleton, who writes about magical things I wish existed as well as futuristic worlds I hope never exist.

The three things any Galaxy Games player needs: a language implant, to speak and understand any language in the universe; a personal integrity field, to keep the bad germs out and the good germs in; and a quantum entanglement engine for instant transportation anywhere across the Stepping Stone network.—Greg R. Fishbone, author the Galaxy Games series that should have you covered for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 holiday seasons.

I would LOVE a gadget that detects my soon-to-be-favorite books so I know which ones to pick up at the store. Parker Peevyhouse

I wish my stocking could contain an elf that would regularly clean up my laptop, both inside and out: inside by deleting old emails and files I don’t need to keep, and outside by hoovering the dog hair, crumbs, and fingerprints off my long-suffering keyboard and screen.—Joni Sensel, author of THE FARWALKER’S QUEST and other middle-grade and YA fantasies.

Wow, I love all those ideas. Can I have another elf who will do the housecleaning? I’d also like a ghost encounter. I make up stories about them for my Haunted series, but I’ve never seen one myself. That hardly seems fair.—Chris Eboch, author of the middle grade Haunted series about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show

That was fun! Readers, how about you? What’s your Ultimate Fantasy holiday gift?

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Holiday Roundtable Part 3

We continue with our discussion of holiday gift-giving, by your friends at The Spectacle.

What books are you giving as gifts this year, and in what format? Why?

I already have BEHEMOTH by Scott Westerfeld in audio for my dad. I recently found out there’s a 4th BARTIMUS book, which I’m getting for my son. My Mom and I have already gifted ourselves with more books in the charming MISS JULIA adult series by Ann B Ross. And if any relatives want my SEER or DEAD GIRL books, I’m happy to gift them.—Linda Joy Singleton, who writes about magical things I wish existed as well as futuristic worlds I hope never exist.

I’m sure to give some books—I always do—and I even have some bookstore credits to use, but I have not remotely started to think about holiday shopping yet and probably won’t for a few weeks, at least. I do, however, have a stack of new or only slightly-read books that are destined for our local kids’ literacy program as part of a book drive our SCBWI region participates in every December.—Joni Sensel, author of THE FARWALKER’S QUEST and other middle-grade and YA fantasies.

My family always gives books for Christmas. This year I’ll be handing out one of my favorites: CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell. I’m also going to be on the lookout for fantasy adventures for my nephew, who is still hoping for more Percy Jackson books (and I think he would love Greg’s GALAXY GAMES, but that’s not out yet!)—Parker Peevyhouse

I haven’t planned that far ahead, but I enjoy going to a bookstore and browsing. Sometimes you find great stuff on the discount tables toward the front of the store—cool atlases, oddball cookbooks, or goofy humor. I’ll see something I never knew existed and think, “That would be perfect for….” Our SCBWI region is having a book signing and book drive as part of our holiday party this Saturday (Page One bookstore in Albuquerque, 7to 9 PM), so maybe I’ll browse the books on hand for the niece and nephews. I’m also donating a stack of books to the holiday book drive for at-risk kids. You never know when a good book will make a difference in someone’s life.—Chris Eboch, author of the middle grade Haunted series about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show

The New England Mobile Book Fair is a great independent bookstore near me that’s literally the size of a warehouse. They’re the only store I’ve ever seen where books are shelved by publisher, so it’s great for researching the kind of books each house prefers. Plus they have room after room of bargain books. For anyone on my list who likes to be overwhelmed by books, I’m getting a gift certificate. If they’re out of the area, they’ll just have to drive up.
For specific titles, check out the “Friends With Books” section on my website. This season I like “A Crack in the Sky” by Mark Peter Hughes, “Bamboo People” by Mitali Perkins, “Yummy” by G. Neri, and “Bats at the Ballgame” by Brian Lies.—Greg R. Fishbone, author the Galaxy Games series that should have you covered for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 holiday seasons.

Readers, tell us about the books you’ll be giving this year (unless the recipients are also readers of The Spectacle and you want to keep a secret!).

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Holiday Roundtable Part 2

We continue with our discussion of holiday giftgiving, by your friends at The Spectacle.

Who would be the perfect recipient for a book or series of yours?

An outdoorsy tween or young teen who will feel cooped up in winter’s rough weather and would like to at least read about the magic of wandering through nature would probably like my Farwalker books.—Joni Sensel, author of THE FARWALKER’S QUEST and other middle-grade and YA fantasies.

My Haunted series should appeal to young readers who want action and adventure—maybe even those reluctant reader boys who’d rather get a videogame. Halloween may be the big time for ghosts, but a good spooky scare is fun all year round. Or if someone has read The Ghost on the Stairs, I hope they’ll want the next two books in the series, The Riverboat Phantom and The Knight in the Shadows.—Chris Eboch, author of the middle grade Haunted series about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show

Most of my fan mail for THE SEER 6-book series is coming from girls between age 12-15 who love the fast-paced, romance and mystery. My DEAD GIRL WALKING trilogy gets a slightly older audience as this crosses over nicely for adults with the fantasy of finding out what it’s like to live in someone else’s body.—Linda Joy Singleton, who writes about magical things I wish existed as well as futuristic worlds I hope never exist.

This year, THE PENGUINS OF DOOM would make a great stocking stuffer for anyone with ginormous stockings intended for flat rectangular feet. It’s a humor story and you’d sure need a sense of humor if your feet were the size and shape of hardcover books! Also there are funny pictures to look at and penguins, penguins, penguins!—Greg R. Fishbone, author the Galaxy Games series that should have you covered for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 holiday seasons.

Authors in our audience — tell us about your books, and who would be the perfect recipient.

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Holiday Roundtable

If you’ve been inside a store lately—just about any kind of store—you know Christmas is coming (along with several other holidays that don’t get as much attention). This weekend, millions of shoppers will hit the stores for “Black Friday,” so named because many stores go into the black on the day after Thanksgiving, as customers start the holiday shopping spree. To get into the spirit, Spectacle blog members answered questions about their own holiday wish lists, focusing on books, writing tools, and of course a bit of speculative creativity. We’ll post the answers over the next four days. Join us for some holiday fun!

What is on your holiday wish list as an author or a reader?

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the new PC version of Scrivener–I wouldn’t mind giving that program a try. It’s supposed to be great for organizing plot notes and moving scenes around. I also wouldn’t mind getting a program for writing crossword puzzles–I love puzzles.—Parker Peevyhouse

As a reader: Zero books, so I might have some chance of catching up on the TBR pile in 2011! I wouldn’t turn down a copy of MOCKINGJAY, though, since I’m the last person in the kidlit world yet to read it. Also an iPad, since wish lists are intended for dreaming.

As an author: To make the e-book of my third Farwalker book available before the holidays, or at least year-end. But I’m not sure how much Santa can help me with that.—Joni Sensel, author of THE FARWALKER’S QUEST and other middle-grade and YA fantasies.

Please send writing tools! Word 2010 is on my wish list. My old version of Word decided it no longer wanted to run on my computer—it was a promotional version of Word 2007 that I got at a developers’ conference, and seems to have had a built-in self-destruct mechanism. The newest LibreOffice looks nice but it keeps choking on my files. I’ve also had an issue with magically disappearing text in the new Windows beta of Scrivener.

For my reading wish list, all I require is an extra 26 hours in the day so I can fit more reading into my schedule. I already have a backlog of amazing books on my shelf!—Greg R. Fishbone, author the Galaxy Games series that should have you covered for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 holiday seasons.

I gave my daughter a list of books I’d like downloaded to audio CDs since I love to listen to books in the car. I asked her for books which will appeal to my parents, too, since we share our audio books. So I asked for either:

* HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS by Arthur Slade—loved this book and would enjoy it again on audio.

* SKIN HUNGER by Kathleen Duey—wonderful fantasy with a complex world that I read in book form and would like to listen to it before reading the second in the series.

* SEPTIMUS HEAP #3 by Angie Sage—was able to get first 2 in audio but not any others.

* TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY—My dad, who is a UFO buff, will enjoy this action, bizarre, fun book.—Linda Joy Singleton, who writes about magical things I wish existed.

What’s on your holiday wish list?

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Ideas for Speculative Books

Every writer knows that ideas are everywhere. Even for speculative fiction, which may be only loosely based in reality, story or book ideas can come from real-life facts or mysteries.

Here are just a few examples, from interviews I conducted:

Laura Ruby said, “I wrote my ghost story, Lily’s Ghosts, based on some stories my friend Andrea told me about her family’s “haunted” house. I got the idea for my fantasy-adventures, The Wall and the Wing and it’s sequel, The Chaos King, after I asked my then 12-year-old stepdaughter and her friends which superpower they’d like to have if they could have any. Three of them said they’d like the ability to fly; the fourth said she’d like the power of invisibility. I thought it would be great fun to write about a world in which everyone could fly, and it was.

Q. L. Pearce, author of three scary story collections, said, “I look at ‘average’ people in supermarkets, shopping malls, etc. and ask myself, ‘What are they hiding?’ Then I let my imagination run wild. I also love antique stores and swap meets. There are objects in such places that just ‘scream’ a story.”

Lois Szymanski and Shelley Sykes write the Gettysburg Ghost Gang series, which uses a contemporary setting with civil war era ghosts. “Our ideas come from our history research and our experiences on actual ghost investigations,” Szymanski said. “For instance, in our history research we found that hundreds of women fought in the Civil War dressed as men.” This inspired A Whisper of War.

Tom Sniegoski said, “Just flip on the evening news, or open a newspaper. There’s plenty of stuff to be afraid of. In Sleeper Code I have these untrustworthy government agencies set up for the good of the people, but their true purpose is anything but. That, I feel, is a real statement about the current mistrust in our administration.”

Cynthia Leitich Smith said, “The classics offer me inspiration and ensure my work is original. So does keeping up with new books in the genre. In crafting Tantalize (Candlewick Press, 2007), I drew my initial inspiration from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Stoker’s classic includes as a secondary character a Texan, Quincy P. Morris, among its original vampire hunters. Intrigued by the Irish author’s choice, I brought the mythology “home” to Texas, offering my new protagonist, Quincie P. Morris—an updated and gender-flipped nod to Stoker’s old school.”

I honestly can’t remember where I got the idea for Haunted — it’s just been too long. It was before all the ghost hunter TV shows, though I might’ve heard of an early one. A WIP started as a realistic mystery, but I was struggling. At the Tucson Festival of Books this spring, I sat next to a fantasy author/illustrator during a signing. Someone asked him about writer’s block, and he explained that you just have to work through it. Then he said, “And if that doesn’t work, add more giants.” So when my mystery seemed slow to start, I thought, hmm, no giants for me, but maybe I need to add a ghost!

Chris Eboch with Haunted books

Chris Eboch think she’ll pull out every story and novel she ever wrote, and add ghosts. Lots of ghosts!

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Middle Grade Trends in Speculative Fiction

Yesterday I discussed speculative trends for teen readers. (By the way, I forgot to mention some prime paranormal examples: the Dead Girl series by our own Linda Joy Singleton, the Ghost Huntress series by Marley Gibson, Dead Is the New Black by Marlene Perez, and ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley.)

So what about middle grade readers? Vampire romances and dystopian suspense haven’t trickled down to preteens, but paranormal is supposed to be on the rise with preteens. That should be good news for my Haunted series. But how new and strong is this trend, really?

Most of the current ghost series are targeted at teenagers, like the ones I mentioned above. It seems like most of the single title, middle grade ghost stories I pick up at the library are from the 80s and 90s.

Of course The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is a recent bestseller. Peg Kehret has been writing suspense novels for years, mostly contemporary realistic stories involving robbers or kidnappers. She came out with The Ghost’s Grave in 2007

But let’s look back a bit…. Richard Peck’s series that began with The Ghost Belonged to Me started in 1975, and that title was re-released in 1997. Bruce Coville released The Ghost in the Third Row in 1987, and continued the trilogy with The Ghost Wore Gray in 1988 and The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed in 1991. Haunting at Home Plate by David Patneaude came out in 2000.

(Read my Amazon list mania “More spooky ghost books” for brief descriptions and links to all these books.)

Then, of course, there’s Goosebumps. According to Wikipedia, the Goosebumps umbrella featured 62 books published between 1992 and 1997. An average of 10 books per year from one author, and that doesn’t even count his Ghosts of Fear Street (a spinoff of Fear Street targeted at younger readers), which started in 1995. Now THAT’S a trend.

So when, exactly, did paranormal go away? Based on this very unofficial survey, it seems like the 90s were a prime paranormal time, though the trend may have dipped in the early to mid-2000s.

Maybe the lesson here is that some topics are eternal (just ask Dracula, who made his appearance in 1897). Or perhaps there’s a message about the futility of trying to write to trends. Or the inaccuracy of all this trend prediction, anyway (look at yesterday’s post about the supposed decline in fantasy). Or maybe the real point is, we just shouldn’t worry about it, and focus on reading and writing what we enjoy.

Chris Eboch with Haunted books

Chris Eboch needs to go investigate that strange noise in the basement now. Oh wait, she doesn’t have a basement. CREEPY!

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Teen Trends In Speculative Fiction

Three years ago, I interviewed some editors for an article on horror and paranormal fiction, and asked what they saw as upcoming trends. Let’s see if they were right….

“There’s definitely been a rise in the popularity of thrillers, ghost stories, and stories based on the paranormal,” a Delacorte editor said. “I think the most popular books are the ones that set the ghost story in the contemporary world. There’s something about believing those things are out there right now that is thrilling for young readers.”

“Pure horror will probably never explode the way fantasy or sci-fi have exploded at different times,” a Scholastic editor said, “but the wave of terror ebbs and flows. During any given year, some subgenre or another seems to take off. For the past couple years, apocalyptic zombie stories have been big, thanks to Max Brooks, Brian Keene, and others.”

At Llewellyn, an editor said, “We see good, steady demand for well done paranormal thrillers, books that might even be called ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘urban fantasy,’ especially for girls. Witty, graphic horror, such as the books by Darren Shan, seems to work well for boys.”

In a Candlewick Press editor’s opinion, “I think we’ll see more graphic fare in all of these areas as the graphic novel continues to gain popularity. It’s a natural fit. For middle-grade readers and younger, the emphasis seems to be on series publishing and story collections, while YA readers range more between genre/series fare and lush, literary novels like Twilight.”

Seems like they did pretty well. And how about today? At the SCBWI New York conference a few of months ago, Susan Raab said that mystery and ghost stories are thought to be growing. Vampires and werewolves are still big, but not expected to last. Fantasy in general is softening, but dystopian fantasy is growing.

Of course, who really knows? A fantastic book may be ready to launch, and pull back up one of these trends, or start a new one. And as for fantasy, editor Ari Lewin noted that eight or nine of the top 10 books on both the hardcover and paperback children’s bestseller list that week were fantasy of some kind. We keep hearing about the death of fantasy, but that seems to be wishful thinking on the part of editors who are tired of it. Readers just keep on reading. (Note that these were not high fantasy (knights and dragons), but lots of dystopian and paranormal books.)

So what’s the next big trend? Have you read — or written — a book that you think will light some fires? Personally, I’m hoping that Rick Riordan’s new Kane Chronicles series will reignite interest in ancient Egypt, both historical fantasy and straight historical fiction. Because, you know, I have this Egyptian novel I haven’t beChris Eboch with Haunted booksen able to sell yet….

Chris Eboch has this fantasy that she’ll start a new trend and beginning authors will submit their manuscripts with covers letters that says, “It’s the next Chris Eboch” so often that it becomes a cliché.

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Whatcha readin’?

We all know that writers have to be readers, too. But we don’t all have to be crazy readers who go out and buy a zillion books and then stack them in the kitchen so that we can stare at them woefully and wonder when we will have time to read all of them.

We don’t *have* to be. But we are. Of course, by “we” I mean “I” and by “a zillion” I mean “a million zillion”.

Here are some of the books I’m staring at right now, unread, calling out to me:

THE BOOK THIEF by, Markus Zusak (I know I’m really late to the party with this one, but I’ve just started it. Not enough spaceships.)

(Kidding about the spaceships part.)

ESCAPE FROM EARTH: NEW ADVENTURES IN SPACE edited by, Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (This one is a compilation of short stories by folks like Joe Haldeman and Orson Scott Card)

LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by, Susan Beth Pfeffer (Meteors! Earthquakes! Tidal waves! The end of the wooooorld!)

The last few books of the GREGOR THE OVERLANDER series by, Suzanne Collins (I loved the first books so much, and my oldest son is devouring them. I can’t wait to finish the series!)

PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS by, Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry (I bought this one and PETER AND THE SHADOW THIEVES) ages ago and just haven’t had the chance to sit down with them. One of these days….)

And of course there are the books I want to buy, but don’t have the time or the money (must get on the waiting list at the library): INCARCERON, LEVIATHAN, THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, THE DEAD TOSSED WAVES, BATTLE ROYALE, and more more more.

Those are just a few of the books staring me down. What books are eyeing you? What have you read recently that I can add to my growing pile?

K.A. Holt, a reader (if only in her mind sometimes)

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Coming Soon to a Theater Near You…

Spec Fic’s in the theaters, y’all! Here are some great books hitting the big screen first quarter 2010:

January 15
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold-the story of a teenage girl who, after being murdered, watches from heaven as her family and friends go on with their lives, while she herself comes to terms with her own death.

February 12
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan-A teenager named Percy Jackson discovers that he’s the demigod son of the Greek god, Poseidon. He embarks on a journey across modern-day America with his friends to save his mother, return Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt, and prevent a war between the gods.

March 5
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll-Alice Kingsley, now 19, attends a party at a Victorian estate, only to find she is about to be proposed to by a rich suitor. She runs off, following a white rabbit into a hole and ending up in Wonderland, a place she visited many years before, though she doesn’t remember it.

March 26
Clash of the Titans from snippets of Greek mythology (yes, I’m cheating a bit here)-Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus and unleash hell on earth.

Check back with us in April for more book-to-big screen magic!

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Right now in Speculative Fiction

catchingfireFrom Presenting Lenore, we hear the first public viewing for The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, will occur at BEA. Think those babies are going to be snatched up pretty quickly? Now how can I get one?

fragile_eternityMelissa Marr’s hugely anticipated sequel (is this the right word for third in a series) Fragile Eternity has launched. Melissa is bringing us back to the story of Seth and Aislinn and Keenan. Me? I’m looking forward to it. And one great thing I love about reading books is being able to recommend them to others.

Do kids like speculative fiction? Check this list out before you answer. There are some amazing speculative fiction books on this year’s YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten Nominations list.

Stardate 05.07.09 – Need I say more? dscn2170

And finally, the stuff science fiction was born from. Is Gliese 581 d or e the next Earth?

pjhoover_casual1

PJ Hoover is ready for other planets to be colonized.

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