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Texas Debut Authors Panel Recap

Last night I had the honor of hosting 6 up and coming debut authors from the DFW area at my library branch in Grand Prairie, Texas.  2012 Printz and Morris winning author John Corey Whaley was our host for the evening moderating the panel, and he is a very funny guy.  In fact, everyone on the panel was informative, entertaining, and great to spend an evening with.  If you have a chance, I highly recommend inviting them to your school or library to talk.  We talked books, both writing them and reading them, fears, guilty pleasures and more.

So, let’s begin our recap shall we . . .

John Corey Whaley

  • Was once a middle school teacher, though he claims he wasn’t a very good one.
  • He absolutely does not like Faulkner. At all.
  • He just turned in his next book, which he can’t talk about.  But the theme is apparently “absurdity”.
  • Has recently moved and is getting ready to make another move and teach a class on writing.
  • Is currently reading The Shining because he wanted a book that would creep him out.
  • Is a gentleman and really wanted to make the evening about the debut authors.

Lindsay Cummings

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Murder Complex, set in a future where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate.
  • She absolutely loves Twilight and doesn’t care who knows, she says she owns it.
  • She is afraid of “those creepy men who hit on you.” And you know, that is a legitimate fear.
  • While writing she asks herself, “What would Angelina Jolie do?”
  • She says that The Hunger Games is her “guilty pleasure”. 
  • Has 3 dogs
  • Is only 21 years old and is about to get published. She wrote her book when she was in her teens.

Mary Gray

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Dollhouse Asylum, where teens are forced to reenact the lives of tragic literary couples or die.  Such an intriguing concept.
  • Although I begged, she would not say which literary couples appear in the book.  I am intrigued.  Which couples do you think have to make an appearance?
  • Mary Gray is the mother of 3, so finding writing time can be a challenge.
  • Her favorite book series is His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers, book 1 is Grave Mercy and book 2 is Dark Triumph.
  • Is also a huge fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, which inspired her to write a creepy book.
  • She is afraid of strawberries.  I’m not making that part up.
  • Does not like Dickens.

Jenny Martin

  • Is the author of the upcoming book Tracked, a science fiction space race with deadly consequences.
  • Is afraid of “jerks”
  • Does not like James Joyce
  • Can write anywhere with any type of background noise
  • Is a librarian (Woohoo for librarians!)
  • Says her guilty pleasure is Supernatural (how is that a guilty pleasure I ask!) and if you visit her on Twitter, you can see a picture of her with Sam, played by Jared Padelecki.
  • Is reading House of Leaves and Eleanor and Park at the moment.

Julie Murphy

  • Is the author of the upcoming Side Effects May Vary, a story about a girl who his diagnosed with cancer, goes and gets retribution on all the people she doesn’t like or has hurt her in life, and then finds out she has gone into remission.  Again, such an interesting concept for a book.  When discussing writing Murphy said she was interested in knowing what kind of girl she would be, what would her family be like, etc.
  • Hates Jane Austen but loves Degrassi, Blue Valentine and British TV Shows.
  • Told the funniest story about being severely sunburned when she received the call that her book had been sold and how she could barely hold the phone because of the pain.
  • Is afraid of Cicadas because bugs just shouldn’t be that big, it’s scientifically incorrect.
  • Is an academic librarian.
  • Thinks the most beautiful couple ever appears in the book The God Shaped Hole 
  • Says everyone should read Eleanor and Park RIGHT NOW.

Heather L. Reid

  • Is the author of the recently released Pretty Dark Nothing from Month9Books, a story about a girl who sees demons in her sleep and doesn’t know if they are real or if there is something wrong with her.
  • She recently moved back to Texas from Scotland.
  • Is a gamer.
  • Says it took over 7 years to get her book sold and published.
  • She knew she wanted to be a writer as a kid. (Many others on the panel did not. Mary Gray was the only other panel member who said she has known for a long time, since childhood, that she wanted to be a writer.)
  • Is afraid of roaches. She said this is weird, we all assured her it was not, perfectly reasonable fear if you ask me.
  • Says the Shining is the creepiest book she ever read.

Victoria Scott

  • Is the author of The Dante Walker series, a book about a teenage boy who dies, becomes a soul collector for the devil, and is then given 10 days to collect the soul of a girl named Charlie.Book 1 is The Collector, already out.  Book 2 is The Liberator, coming out in August I believe.
  • Is terribly afraid of monkeys. Animals should not have thumbs – she believes this strongly.
  • Watches Teen Mom as her guilty pleasure.
  • Listens to hard rock like Korn.
  • Is more organized than others on the panel in her writing process. She has outlines, character profiles, etc. in a series of folders and subfolders on her computer. Most of the other panel members said they did not outline and wished they were more organized.
  • Is reading and recommends Scorched by Mari Mancusi, she says her excellent writing makes her feel so inadequate as a writer.
  • Says The Hot Zone freaked her out and then tried to freak us all out about the Ebola virus.  Corey Whaley talked about the movie Contagion, which I am actually obsessed with and watch almost nightly in the background when I read (something about it makes good background noise).  I was very upset when I accidentally erased it – and everything else – off of my DVR.

I want to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone on the panel for their time and such a wonderful library program and discussion. Everyone in attendance gave lots of compliments on the night.  I was encouraged to hear how all the various writers came to write ya books and that they had both an appreciation for teens and teen literature.  One of the panel members said they actually liked being a teenager.  I think that means they were doing it wrong. I am loo kingforward to reading all the books, they sound so good.

Texas Debut Authors: Meet Jenny Martin, author of Tracked

Today, we’re talking to Jenny Martin, the author of TRACKED, a YA Sci Fi novel debuting 2014 from Dial, an imprint of Penguin. 

How did you become a writer?
When I was little, you could find me in the basement of my hometown Carnegie library, scoping out the children’s section and asking Mrs. Bell, the librarian, if she had any more books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (weirdly, I think I listened to the audiobook of The Headless Cupid at least a dozen times.)
I wrote bad poetry as a teen, and a few short stories, too, but mostly I read. And read. And read…Fast forward to adulthood, when I started work on my Masters in Library Science. Going back to school sucked up all my time, and instead of reading novels for the joy of it, I spent hours every day reading scholarly articles and churning out term papers on things like intellectual property and authority control. When I finally graduated, I think I was so starved for storytelling—it’s like some kind of fictive brain fever took hold, and I remember thinking….I don’t want to write papers anymore. I want to write for me.
So I did. And eventually, TRACKED came to life on my laptop.  
What’s your debut about? Can you share any cool details with us? 

Long(ish) answer:
TRACKEDis about a girl who starts out street racing, on another planet, two hundred years in the future.  But soon enough, Phee Van Zant transforms from rebel to revolutionary after a taking a no-win deal to race the corporate rally circuit, where she’s catapulted between the boy who’s been running alongside her all her life and the intense, castoff rogue who prepares her all too well for the road. Can one street rat dare to compete against an empire? 
Short(ish) answer:
What if Han Solo was a seventeen-year-old girl, and she raced a fast car instead of piloting the Millennium Falcon?  
As for cool details… 
Fun fact #1: My villain is somewhat inspired by Peter Weyland of Weyland Corp, the company developing other planets in the Alien movies. Guy Pearce played Weyland in Prometheus, and I enjoyed the CEO’s fake TEDtalk (a viral teaser clip on youtube) a million times more than the actual movie. 
Fun Fact #2: The idea for TRACKED came to me after watching two things in quick succession: Death Race with Jason Statham and the documentary, Hot Coffee, an eye-opening look at forced arbitration, the legalese of corporate contracts, and the slow erosion of civil rights.  A lifetime of devouring epic sagas like Star Wars and The Godfather probably didn’t hurt, either. 😉 
What cool facts might readers not know about you? 
I don’t know if I have any cool facts, but maybe weird ones? I’m a left-handed librarian who plays electric guitar. I hate to cook, but love to bake. I have irrational fear of potluck dinners. I’m an anglophile who loves Shakespeare and The Beatles in equal measures. I daydream that someday Hermione Granger will run for president. Oh wait…I hugged Neil Gaiman. Okay, I sobbed all over him, and that part was more embarrassing than cool, but still. When was the last time you hugged Neil Gaiman and kept it together? 
Jenny is a librarian, a book monster, and a certified electric-guitar-rawking Beatle-maniac. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son, where she hoards books and regularly blisses out over all kinds of live and recorded rock. Her debut YA novel, TRACKED, will be released in 2014 by Dial, an imprint of Penguin.
Check Jenny out online:

Texas Debut Authors! Meet Heather L. Reid, author of Pretty Dark Nothing

How did you get into writing?

My love of words started like most writers I know. It started with a story. In this case, the stories came from the imagination of my great-aunt, Delia. She weaved magical tales to send me to sleep. She wasn’t a writer, she never wrote any of her stories on paper, and she read to me too, but I loved her stories best. Neither of us knew she was giving me the greatest gift of all, the love of storytelling.

At the age of four I started dictating stories to my mother who would illustrate them for me. By the age of nine, I was writing plays for friends and binding my own picture books with cardboard and string.  At eleven I tried my hand at a first novel. (No, you can’t read it. It’s buried in a deep dark hole somewhere in the Tasmanian Outback and guarded by a three-headed dingo.) It was then I told my parents I wanted to be published by the age of sixteen. I also told them I wanted to be Wonder Woman, a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, a Broadway star, and an archaeologist. Those dreams faded. I never did get that invisible jet, and I would be a lot older than sixteen before I got a publishing deal, but the dream of being a writer stayed with me. After college I decided to stop dreaming and start getting serious. I joined the Society of Children’s book Writers and Illustrators, joined a writer’s group, read books on writing, went to conferences, workshops, and most importantly, I started writing every day. Some of it was crap. Ok, at first, a lot of it was crap, but writing takes work. After over twelve years of studying and writing, my first young adult novel, Pretty Dark Nothing, sold in a two book deal to Month9Books. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m still learning. I write because I have to. It’s a part of what makes me, me.


What is the inspiration for Pretty Dark Nothing?
I think the spark of inspiration for Pretty Dark Nothing has been brewing my whole life. As a child, I suffered from night terrors and sleep walking. Although I eventually grew out of the sleep walking, the nightmares never went away. I would dream of faceless entities and demons on a reoccurring basis. I spent my pre-teen years trying to rationalize my fear while I spent my nights huddled under my covers with a book and a flash light afraid to fall asleep for fear of what would greet me in my dreams. I kept this a secret from my friends and afraid of what they would think. The dark torture of my imagination lasted through three years of middle school and finally faded. I still don’t think my mother knows how terrified I was of falling asleep and I have no idea why the nightmares stopped, maybe they were my way of coping with the stress of adolescence. I don’t know. When I reached college, I went through a particularly bad time in my life, suffered from depression, illness and the nightmares returned. I wasn’t frightened like I was when I was young; I recognized them for what they were. We all have inner demons we battle, those voices that tell us we’re not good enough, taunt us, paralyze us with fear. That’s when the idea for a novel started to form. I asked myself what would happen if those negative voices, inner demons weren’t imagined. What would happen if they were real and they started to manifest outside the dream world? What if they influenced things around us and what if you were the only one that could see them? That’s when Quinn and the idea for Pretty Dark Nothing was born. Quinn and I battled the demons that tortured her together and in the process, she taught me how to battle my own.

Can you describe you main protagonist Quinn in less than 140 Characters?
Pretty Dark Nothing is told from duel POV. Both Quinn and Aaron’s perspectives are told in close 3rd.
Quinn: Damaged but not defeated. Stubborn, self-reliant, sometimes selfish. Bit of a perfectionist. Trust issues, especially trusting herself.
Aaron: Loyal. Loves deeply. Keeps his secrets close to his heart. Would do anything for his friends. Guilt issues. Amnesiac with Physic abilities.
Why should we pick up Pretty Dark Nothing?
Pretty Dark Nothing is full of demons, and I don’t mean the hot fallen angel, bad boy types. These demons are the evil, hairy, sulphurous kind, bent on manipulating and destroying Quinn’s life. Throw in some romantic sparks with a psychic amnesic, an ex-boyfriend she can’t quite get over, and suspension from the cheerleading squad for failing grades, all while the demons are pushing her to the brink of madness, and I hope it’s a recipe for something darkly paranormal and not quite typical.

Favorite 2012 read and why? 
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. When I read the opening line, I KNEW I had to read this book and I wasn’t disappointed. A historical fantasy about a covenant of female Assassins who serve the God of Death? Heck yeah! Dark gods, court intrigue, murder, assassinations and romance, this book hooked me and didn’t let go until the very end. Can’t wait for the sequel, Dark Triumph
Heather L. Reid, author of Pretty Dark Nothing, eats mayonnaise on her fries, loves men in kilts, and met her husband playing Star Wars Galaxies online. This native Texan has just moved back to Texas after living in Scotland, where she wandered the moors in search of Heathcliff and William Wallace.

Visit Heather Online Facebook Author Page Twitter Goodreads

Texas Debut Authors: Mary Gray, author of The Dollhouse Asylum

On Thursday, May 9th, 6 super fab debut authors from the DFW area will be appearing at my library branch, Betty Warmack Branch Library (6:00 PM, be there!)  Today I am excited to introduce you to another one of those upcoming authors, Mary Gray.

Hello, Mary. THE DOLLHOUSE ASYLUM is a great title. Can you tell us how it became your book’s name?
When my former agent, Kat Salazar, submitted my book to publishers, the original title was MY FRAGILITY, but as my editor pointed out, that title wasn’t something concrete, something readers would know what it means. So we texted back and forth, brainstorming ideas for a title, wanting the perfect name to go up with my Publishers Marketplace listing. We knew the book had to have the word “asylum” because of the dual nature of the word (asylum from the monsters, and also crazy place). So when my editor asked her roommate if he had any ideas, she explained how we needed to convey the word “fragile.” He said “dollhouse” and everything just clicked, because Danielle went to my manuscript and realized I’d alluded to everyone as dolls all along. Then in the rewrites, I just brought out that aspect more. It really became perfect.
Would you be so kind as to describe THE DOLLHOUSE ASYLUM in five words?

·         Desperate
·         Brutal
·         Fast-paced
·         Romantic
·         Obsessive
Can you please share one quote with us?
I can, because it’s editor-approved!
“I used to pride myself on not letting others change me, but Teo knew how to burrow inside my heart and squeeze. Around him, I’m this pathetic, whimpering child. Fragile. Breakable. Like I’m obsessed with what he thinks. Not because our lives are on the line, but because seeking Teo’s approval has become this sick goal. And I’ve lived this way for so many months, it’s like I need to be rewired. The problem is that I don’t know if I can be.”
When can readers pick up your book?
I will have ARCs at BEA! My cover artist, the fabulous Jeremy West, will be signing with me (come see us!) or you know, October 22ndis my official release date.
Can you describe your protagonist in 140 characters?

She has a quiet power, and possesses a loyal, fierce love to a fault. She loves classic romances, and can get swept away into romantic gestures, yet has the punch of a contemporary voice.
If you could encourage anyone to pick up Dollhouse Asylum when it releases in fall 2013, what would you say?

A terrifying question! I want to answer it right! I suppose I would say it’s my heart ripped open and spilled on the page. The terror and misguided allegiance is something I’ve felt very real in my life. It’s fast paced, with a few kissing scenes I’m not so sure my mother would like, but it made get friendly with my husband, so that’s good, right?
What is your favorite genre and why?
Dark YA! Or at least YA that isn’t light. My favorite authors all tell haunting or broody tales: Neal Shusterman’s UNWIND, R.L. LaFever’s GRAVE MERCY and DARK TRIUMPH, and Carrie Ryan’s THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. I look for sweeping prose with a chilling plot, something that makes me turn page after page even after I should sleep. Something that makes my heart pound in my chest, and deep, unique feeling love. That’s what I like. 🙂
Is THE DOLLHOUSEASYLUM available for preorder?
Why, yes! Barnes & Noble and Amazon both have it available for preorder.
 Mary Gray has a fascination with all things creepy. That’s why all her favorite stories usually involve panic attacks and hyperventilating. In real life, she prefers to type away on her computer, ogle over her favorite TV shows, and savor fiction. When she’s not immersed in other worlds, she and her husband get their exercise by chasing after their three children. The Dollhouse Asylum is her first novel. 
Full disclosure: This is the personal blog of Karen Jensen, I just sometimes use it to promote events at my library.

Texas Debut Authors: Victoria Scott, author of The Collector

Author Introduction

Victoria Scott
Today I am going to use my personal website to promote an upcoming event at my library, but you’ll want to be there so you can meet 6 debut authors – and the 2012 Printz Award Winning author John Corey Whaley.
Victoria Scott is one of the authors we’ll be featuring at our Texas Debut Authors event, May 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm at the Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prarie, TX. She is the author is THE COLLECTOR Trilogy (Entangled Teen) and the FLOOD AND FIRE Trilogy (Scholastic). Victoria lives in Dallas with her husband and loves all things dark and creepy. 
Victoria, here are your three questions:
1)   If you met the main character from your book, Dante Walker, in real life, do you think you’d fall for him? 
I think my seventeen-year-old self would, absolutely. Today, maybe not. Not saying I wouldn’t eye stalk him, but I like to think I’m past falling for a hot guy who only wants to seduce me. Then again… 😉 
Christie and I both just read and reviewed The Collector for Entangled Teen week
 2)   What’s your favorite city? 
I’m going to go with New Orleans. There’s something about that atmosphere that’s just addicting. It’s got this electricity and this gloom that’s so beautiful.
3)   What are you eating for dinner tonight?
Ha! Um, it’s Friday so it’s definitely going to include a slice of cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. Not saying I’m going to actually eat there, but that thing will be in my belly by the end of the night. True story.  

I’m a YA writer with a die-hard affection for dark and humorous books. My work is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger literary agency. I have a master’s degree in marketing, and currently live in Dallas with my husband, Ryan.

My first YA book, THE COLLECTOR, will be published by Entangled Teen, April 2013. It is the first book in a trilogy. My second YA series will begin with FIRE & FLOOD and is being published by Scholastic in spring 2014.

Victoria is deathly afraid of monkeys.  Find out more at her webpage.