Happy New Year

Here's wishing all our friends and readers a very happy and successful 2012.  We've got an exciting year shaping up at the Inkpot, including interviews with new and established authors, a give-away, and thought-provoking Topic-of-the-Week posts--so check back frequently! Our next post will be on Wednesday, January 4th. 

Merry, Scary, Fairytale Christmas!

Have a Fairy, Scary, Merry Christmas
(Or Other Winter Holiday!)

by Nancy Holder
Many of the Christmas traditions Americans hold dear were handed down to us by the Victorians—trimming an evergreen tree; stuffing stockings with candy; sending Christmas cards; and caroling.  But one beloved Victorian tradition—telling ghost stories--seems to have fallen by the wayside.  That is, with one notable exception, and that is, of course, A Christmas Carol, the beloved story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who learns to keep Christmas in his heart.
         In his preface to A Christmas Carol, Dickens wrote:

         I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.

         A Christmas Carol has been adapted into dozens of movies, musicals, radio plays, graphic novels, and any other form of storytelling medium imaginable.  But during the Victorian era, telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was tradition; and indeed, for some folks, it was considered the only night of the year for such macabre fun.  (And it provides the explanation for a puzzling line in the Christmas song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” written in 1953: “There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.”)
         English author Jerome K. Jerome, known best for his humorous novel, Three Men in a Boat, wrote in his introduction to Told After Supper, an anthology of Christmas ghost stories (1891):  “Nothing satisfies us [Englishmen] on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters.”  It’s been theorized that this interest in the supernatural was an outgrowth of the Victorian fascination with Gothic literature (Robert Lewis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published in 1886; Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in 1897.)  Others opine that the choice to celebrate the birth of Christ on or near the winter solstice was an artifact of pagan celebrations, such as Yule, in which the longest night of the year represented death of the soul, the sun, and/or of the earth, with subsequent rebirth in the spring.  In Viking Norway, for example, it was believed that the spirits of dead ancestors returned to their home during Yuletide, and beds of straw and food were laid out for them. Yule was considered the second most haunted time of the year, with Samhain (Halloween) being the first.
         The events of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven take place “in the bleak December, when each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.” Henry James’s 1898 The Turn of the Screw is a frame story, in which old friends sit around a fire on Christmas sharing a terrifying tale. 
         But ghosts are not the only supernatural creatures to star in Christmas stories.  In 1823, Edgar Taylor’s first English translation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales was published in England, and tales about fairies and goblins (what we call fantasy) were the new hot publishing trend.  Writers such as Charles Kingsley, Christina Rossetti, and Lewis Carroll became some of the most popular speculative fiction writers of the times (and our times, as well.)
         Most Victorians could not afford to go the theater, concerts or other entertainments, so families gathered around their hearths to sing, tell stories, and or read to each other to pass long, cold winter nights.  The commercialization of Christmas as we know it today began in England in the 1840’s, with the first commercial Christmas cards, and the introduction by Prince Albert of German Christmas traditions.  Prior to this time, the briskest season for book and magazine sales was the spring.  But with the pressure/encouragement on consumers to spend a little extra money at Christmas, publishers began creating “annuals,” sold near the end of the year.  These annuals included fairy tales and ghost stories suitable for the entire family and often, specifically fashioned for Christmastime. In 1846, Charles Dickens contributed The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy-tale of Home, which was a Christmas fairy story intended to be read aloud.  There were annuals created just for children. 
         Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas is a nod to the old ghost story tradition. The BBC ran a series of short films under the name A Ghost Story for Christmas from 1971 to 1978, later revived in 2005. John Hurt starred in the adaptation of M.R. James’s “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” for the series in 2010.   
         In 1993, Scholastic published an anthology called Haunting Christmas Tales for readers nine years and up, edited by Joan Aiken. There are numerous adult paranormal novels and novella-anthologies set during Christmas; for example, Christine Feehan’s The Twilight Before Christmas and A Very Gothic Christmas; and Charlaine Harris and P.N. Elrod edited Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, about werewolves at Christmas.
         However, fantasy as we define it is alive and well in the Christmas tradition.  Of course, St. Nick himself is a jolly old elf.  Audiences the world over attend holiday performances of The Nutcracker, which is based on E.T. A. Hoffman’s 1916 Christmas story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, as adapted by Alexandre Dumas pere, in The Tale of the Nutcracker (1845.)
         The Tall Book of Christmas, published in 1954, contains “In the Great Walled Country,” first published in 1906, a story about a magical forest where the denizens of the Great Walled Country pick presents for themselves like fruit off the vine.  It begins:
         “Away at the northern end of the world, where most people supposed that there is nothing but ice and snow, is a land full of children.”
         “Granny Glittens and Her Amazing Kittens” is about an old lady who uses candies to dye her mittens—with the result that the recipients devour them instead of using them as winter gear.  And “The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy” is a talking animal story about a sad little puppy who wants a boy all his own…and winds up with dozens of them at an orphanage.
         There is a lovely collection of Christmas fairy tales as well as stories about the “Christmas saints” at http://christmasfairytales.blogspot.com/ as well as http://www.fairytalechannel.org/.  Christmas saint stories include stories about Saint Basil, Saint Nicholas, and Saint Lucia.  And while many might not regard them as fairy tales or fantasies, they are often told with the same sense of magical wonder that would delight a Victorian on Christmas Eve…or someone reading this post.
         May your winter holiday be filled with stories…and may all your fantasies come true!


Happy Holidays of Shamelessness

I literally can't get Christmas songs out of my head right now. HAHAHAHA.

This is the last Shameless Saturday post of 2011 so without further adieu...

Ellen Booraem's SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS made The Washington Post's list of Best Children's Books of 2011, one of five novels on the list. You know what I have to say about that? Um, duh!!!

Another list-maker, Lena Coakley’s WITCHLANDERS was included in the UT Literature Center’s Great Books to Read during the Holiday Season. Again, duh.

In foreign rights news, rights have been sold to Scholastic UK and Egmont Publishing in Poland for Jennifer A. Nielsen's ASCENDANCE trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE (Scholastic, April 2012).

And last but very not least, Megan Crewe's THE WAY WE FALL has gotten it's first two reviews!!!

"As hope wars with loss, this gripping, psychological thriller never loses focus. Though Crewe’s story can be gruesome and horrifying, she escapes the trap of making events too depressing and hopeless, maintaining a strong sense of realism throughout." -Publishers Weekly

"Crewe utilizes a less-is-more approach, subtly closing the walls in on the characters as they run out of resources... Readers will root for the believable characters struggling through heartbreaking situations." -Kirkus Reviews
Not only that, but she has a trailer to debut. And it's awesome.

And that's it for 2011, folks! It's been an amazing year of shamelessness here at the Inkpot and I'm so honored to be the one who gets to share it with you all twice a month. I know for a fact that we have some AMAZING announcements coming in 2012 (including a cover reveal for my very own TEN) so please continue to tune in.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and a safe and happy new year.

Gretchen out.

Interview with Nancy Holder

I am thrilled to interview our own Nancy Holder on her new book written with Debbie Viguie, UNLEASHED.
First a little about the book via Goodreads:
Katelyn McBride’s life changed in an instant when her mother died. Uprooted from her California home, Katelyn was shipped to the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, to her only living relative, her grandfather. And now she has to start over in Wolf Springs, a tiny village in the Ozark Mountains. Like any small town, Wolf Springs has secrets. But the secrets hidden here are more sinister than Katelyn could ever imagine. It’s a town with a history that reaches back centuries, spans continents, and conceals terrifying truths. And Katelyn McBride is about to change everything.
Broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night—welcome to Wolf Springs.
And now the interview!
1. You and Debbie are both quite prolific, but turn out amazing work that could take some of us years. What inspired UNLEASHED? Did you hesitate at all taking it on with so much else on your plate?
Debbie and I had hit the New York Times bestseller list with our WICKED series and had sold our next series, CRUSADE which is mostly about vampires, but also has witches and werewolves in it.  In the CRUSADE series, we have a werewolf named Holgar and we absolutely fell in love with him.  We both realized we have been werewolf fans all our lives, so what better than to base our next series on werewolves?  So now we have THE WOLF SPRINGS CHRONICLES.  
About our output:  We both keep swearing we'll slow down but then something new and shiny ends up nearby.  We're definitely a couple of magpies!
2.How much of the series do you have already planned out? Are you a pantser at all when it comes to writing these things?
We sold THE WOLF SPRINGS CHRONICLES trilogy on an outline and sample pages.  Then we created a chapter by chapter outline that we have modified as we go.  We always Write It Forward.  We never go back to a previous draft . If one of us changes something that the other guy doesn't like, she can write something new but she can't go backward.  That helps us keep our momentum and also saves us from fighting and comparing.  When we think of something different to do while we're working, we check in with each other and then we go for it.  It's kind of fun and terrifying at the same time.  Sort of like being a werewolf.  
3. You've once again managed to tackle an "overdone" subject area with a completely fresh twist. Does it ever intimidate you to go into lore that is so heavily explored? 
Well, thank you!  When we sold UNLEASHED, there actually weren't that many werewolf books out.  There was a panicky moment when we saw how many were coming out, but then we realized there are so many different ways to tackles werewolves, just as there are with vampires, witches, and ghosts.  Besides, we always tweak whatever we go into, so we knew our werewolf book would be different for all the others.  We're having a blast.  We love working together. 
4. Parts of the book had me quaking in my... well, my Sketchers, but you get the idea! Do you view this as more horror or paranormal? Can we expect more of that from the next books?
Thank you!  Then we did our job right!  Debbie and I love the dark.  Debbie's friends call her a Pink Goth.  We consider our books "dark fantasy" because there's a sort of dreamy, mythological aspect in the way we handle the scary bits.  So yes, paranormal.  In book 2, we are trying to maintain the mysterious spookiness of Wolf Springs as well as upping the stakes for Kat.  Things have to get worse--they always do in the middle of a trilogy--and we will not disappoint!

5. Who was your favorite character in the book? The POV sticks close to Kat, who I loved from page one. But is there a supporting cast member that steals your heart? 
Trick, for me.  I love Trick.  But he's a bit of a handful.  If I actually knew him, I would probably deck him once or twice.  He's got a lot going on.  He still does in Book Two, which is called HOT BLOODED.  We had to create a dream cast and the only character we couldn't cast was Trick.  I also have a huge soft spot for Jesse.  
6. Trick or Justin? Who would you choose?
It would depend on where the moon hung in the sky!  Justin's 19 and he's been dating the same girl for 5 years.  Some of our readers take issue with his undeniable attraction to Katelyn.  They say he's a boyslut.  But he's trying very hard to be a good guy.  I was chuckling at a comment we got from a reader--"*I* would never go on a motorcycle ride with a guy I had just met." Oh, really?  
Thank you, Nancy! I recommend you all check out UNLEASHED. Werewolves, scary forests, and hot guys, what more could you ask for?

TOTW: A Look At Light Fantasy

When it comes to fantasy, I tend to read pretty widely, but I've found that in the past year or so, I've been more and more drawn to what I call "light fantasy." This is probably not the actual technical term, but when I say light fantasy, I mean a story that takes place in the contemporary world and has a magical element thrown in. Going back to Lisa Gail Green's handy post on the different types of fantasy, I would say that light fantasy falls under the contemporary fantasy umbrella.

Some examples of light fantasy are Eleven Birthdays by Wendy Mass in which a girl must relive her eleventh birthday over and over, and You Wish by Mandy Hubbard in which a girl's birthday wishes start to come true. Both stories feature everyday characters dealing with magical situations. I think part of the fun of stories like this is that you don't need to travel far to be in the world of the story, and thus the unusual events seem almost plausible.

When I've talked to people about light fantasy, I've found that many don't even think of it as fantasy. For lots of readers, fantasy equals dragons and elves and magical quests. When a story is set in the real world and only features one fantastical element, it almost doesn't feel "otherworldly" enough to be fantasy. I think that's why this kind of fantasy has a broad appeal, even for readers who are often hesitant about reading fantasy.

As for why it appeals to me personally, I love imagining the real world with a twist. Throwing a magical wrench into the regular world often results in humor and some serious shenanigans--it's so fun to watch!

Any other light fantasy fans out there? What do you think of this type of fantasy?

Inkpot Andre Norton Award Roundup - Part II

As promised, here is another collection of books eligible for the Andre Norton Award, as recommended in the comments to the previous post!

Plus, a discussion in the comments led to the realization that mid-grade books are also eligible for the Andre Norton. So, the mid-grade books featured in the Inkpot this year are also included below.

Remember, February 15 is the voting deadline! 

(The Andre Norton Award is SFWA’s award for young adult and mid-grade speculative fiction. All writer members of SFWA can vote, and the current voting period, for books published in 2011, is Nov. 15 - Feb. 15.)


Interview With Kersten Hamilton

This is now my most favorite interview ever. Not only do I love Kersten's books, but her answers to these questions have made me smarter, I think, just from reading them (or cleverer, or prettier...something-er, for sure). Although I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since it was her interview with Ello that made me move TYGER TYGER from the seems-kind-of-intriguing pile to the must-read-NOW pile (which turned out to be a very good call, since I LOVED it).

And now that the second book, IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT, is out, I get to talk to Kersten about it! Woohoo!

From Goodreads:

Teagan, Finn, and Aiden have made it out of Mag Mell alive, but the Dark Man’s forces are hot on their heels. Back in Chicago, Tea’s goblin cousins show up at her school, sure she will come back to Mag Mell, as goblin blood is never passive once awoken. Soon she will belong to Fear Doirich and join them. In the meantime, they are happy to entertain themselves by trying to seduce, kidnap, or kill Tea’s family and friends. Tea knows she doesn’t have much time left, and she refuses to leave Finn or her family to be tortured and killed. A wild Stormrider, born to rule and reign, is growing stronger inside her. But as long as she can hold on, she’s still Teagan Wylltson, who plans to be a veterinarian and who heals the sick and hurting. The disease that’s destroying her—that’s destroying them all—has a name: Fear Doirich. And Teagan Wylltson is not going to let him win.

Hi Kersten! Since we've had a bit of your history before, in your interview with Ello, I'm going to go about the intro a bit differently: what five(ish) things have you done or not done that have led to where you are today, with the second book in the Goblin Wars trilogy having just come out? Things you are glad you did; things you shouldn't have done but turned out well, things you (wisely or not) avoided doing?

Five? I’m sure you don’t want five! I will tell you about one that I shouldn’t have done; one thing that might have crippled me. I had been submitting stories for a few years, and gathering hundreds of rejections. One day I decided that I wanted to be published too much…maybe more than I wanted God. So I sacrificed my dream. I promised God I would never write again.

And I didn’t, for four whole years. Not a word. Then one day, not a birthday or a holiday or an I’m–sorry–I–forgot–our–anniversary–day, but just a day, my husband brought me a present. An electric typewriter with a spell checker.

I had given up my dream before we were married. He had no idea that I wanted to write. He had no idea that I’d given it up forever. Under fierce interrogation, he admitted that he had no idea why he’d done such a terrible thing as bring me a present.

The next day, I was left alone with that typewriter. I set it on the table and circled it. I discussed it with the Almighty, but the discussion was one sided. I poked the typewriter with one finger. I sat down, breathed a prayer of repentance—whether I was repenting of making that stupid promise, or repenting of breaking it I wasn’t quite sure—and began to write.

One story. I allowed myself to write one story, and told myself that if it sold that meant God wanted me to write. I chose to retell a Bible story I’d never seen in a magazine. One with zip and zing. I slapped it in an envelope and sent it out. Then I didn’t touch the typewriter again. For two whole weeks, because that’s how long it took for the acceptance letter to arrive.

At this point, I probably should mention that the Creator of writers and Forgiver of young fools has a terrific sense of humor—the story I’d never seen in a magazine before? The one that sold to a national Christian children’s magazine in record time? It was about a eunuch—a man who had been intentionally maimed so that he could never have children. The way I would never have had book children if I hadn’t repented of my foolishness. God had never asked me to give up writing. I’d never even asked Him if it was a good idea. I’d just done it in a fit of religiosity.

The thing is, I didn’t know the Creator of creation nearly as well then as I do now. I was passionate, religious, and completely ignorant of the love a parent has for a child. Now, if I meet young people who tell me that they have given up writing, or music or art because they think they love it too much and God would not approve (or would be jealous) I take them by the shoulders and lovingly shake them until their teeth rattle.

You see? That was just one story. If I told five your readers would all give up on us. Or fall asleep. ☺

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Inkpot Andre Norton Award Roundup - Part I

It's voting time! For those of you who are members of SFWA, Nov. 15-Feb. 15 is the voting period for the Nebula Awards -- and for the Andre Norton Award, which covers young adult speculative fiction published in 2011. (more info here, or here if you are a SFWA member)

Needless to say, a lot of the books featured on the Inkpot this year qualify for the Andre Norton Award. Below are the fantasy books we’ve featured that qualify.

And of course, these are only a few of the many great books that are eligible -- so if you have other favorite YA books that you think belong on the ballot, mention them in the comments and we'll feature them in our next post!


Day Late Shamelessness

I beg forgiveness. Second Shameless post in a row that I've not posted until Sunday? How, exactly, is it supposed to be "Shameless Saturday" on Sunday? Fail, fail, fail.

But I was running around to a bunch of author events yesterday so I'm going to forgive myself. :)

Just a few pieces this week, but they definitely deserve the spotlight!

Ellen Booraem's SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS made another "best of the year" list, this time Kirkus Reviews' "Best Childrens Books of 2011." Kirkus called Ellen's middle grade fantasy "smart, earthy, and thoughtful."

Not only that, but SMALL PERSONS also was one of five books recommended by School Library Journal blogger and New York Public Library children's librarian Elizabeth Bird in "Books for Harry Potter Lovers," a video she made for About.com. Ellen is on FIRE!

Anna Staniszewski also has an awesome review for MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE, from the Girls' Life website. Plus, Anna has teased to me that there might be some more exciting shameless news next week, so stay tuned!!!

From November 28 through December 19, Leah Cypess is running a blog tour with a unique grand prize - a one-of-a-kind edition of MISTWOOD annotated by the author! Comment on any of the stops on the tour and be entered to win. Full tour schedule here.

Time to start that gift list!

Naughty? Nice? Faeries? Mice?

It’s never too early to panic about holiday giving. But what’s a better present than a book? We’re partial to middle-grade and young-adult fantasy, of course, so we figured we’d look for (and maybe hand out) a little genre advice for gift-givers.

In the comments, please weigh in with suggestions for five middle-grade or young-adult novels you’d give your favorite fantasy lover. They don’t have to be new titles-- whatever you think belongs on the gift list.

We’ll be checking it twice.

[posted on behalf of Ellen Booraem, due to technical difficulties!]