Impractical Halloween Costume

Pippin wanted to go as a Bobcat for Halloween

I told him it wouldn't be practical for trick-or-treating.

He then tricked me with a treat: a dead bird in the house at 5:30 am this morning. Which I took outside, and he promptly brought right back in. Locked the cat flap, but never did get back to sleep!

Winner & RTW: Spookiness

First, let's get to the winner of the signed copy of Behind the Bookcase by Mark Steensland:

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Congratulations, Tricia C.! Thanks to all who entered!

And now on to today's Road Trip Wednesday post. Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: Halloween! What's your favorite scary book or movie?

My idea of a scary movie is probably laughable to a lot of people. Or at least to my husband, who still teases me about the time I ran out of the room during a "gotcha" moment in the movie The Changeling. Or to my childhood friend, who loved to torment me about Gremlins when we were in the POOL. A POOL FULL OF WATER.

But when it comes to books, my own brain knows how much I can handle so it fills in "monster" with something appropriately creepy or frightening, but not enough to give me too many nightmares.

So there are a couple of books that I like to read around Halloween, to help set the mood.

I haven't read any of her other books in ages, but The Witching Hour has the power to immediately transport me to another time and place. It's genuinely startling to look up from the pages of this book and not find myself caught in an intense storm in New Orleans.

Carrie Ryan's zombie series is another great Halloween read, for its dark ambiance and themes. There is one bit of creepiness that's almost unbearable (if you've read it, you'll probably agree which part that is) but so incredibly well-written.

What about you? What are your favorite Halloween reads or movies? Feel free to include the link to your RTW post in your comment if you're participating.

Autumn Postcard

I don't know about you, but it always feels like time compresses towards the end of the year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's day get closer together, blending into one harried season.

This is also the time of year that I reflect on all the things that were supposed to happen. Like this was supposed to be the year of the agent, the book deal, when fame and fortune came knocking at my door. For me, none of those things happened!

It's easy to get discouraged if you dwell on all the things that should happen, and not acknowledge all the good things that did happen. So if you're looking back, remember to inventory all those serendipitous occasions too.

And if you're already starting to stress for the holidays, here is a video I took up along Carson River, with the autumn colors and quaking aspens:

Happy Autumn Everyone!

And don't forget that the giveaway for the signed copy of Behind the Bookcase by Mark Steensland closes at midnight tonight, so go enter here and here.

Halloween Urban Fantasy Blog Hop Is Here!

So the fabulous Yelena Casale, writer of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, got this idea to do a Halloween Urban Fantasy Blog Hop, and I got on board. My current work-in-progress, Crow's Rest, is my first full-length urban fantasy novel. I've written some UF short stories (which will likely never see the light of day) and I've always been a fan of the genre as a reader, so I figured why not join the blog hop?

All of our posts will go up on our blogs today, October 24, and each site is offering a giveaway! And we're answering some questions (brace yourself, it's going to be a long post) to help you all get to know us better. Here are my answers:

1. What do you love about the urban fantasy genre (reading and writing)?

For urban fantasy, it's the possibilities that hook me. Like magical realism, it's our own, recognizable world, but with the possibility of magic and something extraordinary. That's been my favorite part of writing Crow's Rest.

My first book, Spirits from the Vasty Deep, is historical fiction and I did a ton of research before even starting to write. Historical fiction involves world-building as well, but there's also a lot of pressure to get the details correct.

But with Crow's Rest, I had the freedom to indulge all the possibilities without the restrictions of a historical basis. I've made up words, folklore, spells, traditions, an entire present-day town. Sure, I drew on Celtic and other mythologies, but it was more of a guideline.

And urban fantasy is a great place to get your geek on, both as a writer and a reader. So many esoteric facts and fantasies come together within the genre!

2. Who is the sexiest supernatural creature? Who’s the scariest?

The sexiest supernatural character? That would be Damon Salvatore. Oh wait--you didn't want that specific of an answer? But seriously, I don't actually think that vampires are inherently sexy (necrophilia, anyone?)--I think that comes from some brilliant writers and Ian Somerhalder actors having fun with those characters.

I do think it's curious that you can find examples of the same creature as hero and villain within the paranormal and urban fantasy genres. A demon might stoke one person's fires, but be the worst nightmare for another. Except zombies--for a long time, that was the creature I was most scared of, and I can't imagine anyone thinking an animate rotting corpse would be sexy. Oh wait, I just remembered the movie Fido.

3. If you could make any supernatural creature, what would it look like and what powers would it have?

I created a type of fae called a corbin for Crow's Rest. The corbin usually cross over into our world by inhabiting crows, but in specific circumstances they can take over human bodies. If it's with the host's cooperation, then the human takes a dreamy sojourn into Fairy while the corbin inhabits the body. If it's without the human's cooperation, and both consciousnesses are fighting for the body, it usually ends in madness for the human.

In Crow's Rest, some of the corbin are no longer satisfied with crow bodies. Or even the occasional accommodating human. They want to come here in their natural forms, with their full, terrible powers intact. It’s happened before, leading to the fall of Rome and the Dark Ages.

4. Do you have any Halloween rituals?

I don't! I've gotten kind of lazy about Halloween since we don't have kids, my nieces and nephews are mostly grown, and our isolated house doesn't lend itself to trick-or-treaters.

But last year on Halloween, I was actually radioactive. The radioactive iodine for my thyroid cancer was administered on October 31, and it's a little different from most radiation treatments because you are radioactive yourself for some days. So I spent it locked in a room, alone and watching stuff on the computer--interrupted by phone calls where everyone joked about if I was glowing!

So if I go for a costume this year, I'm thinking glow paint or glow sticks.

5. Walking at midnight in a forest on Halloween – crazy, scary or adventurous?

It would be adventurous for me--I'm kind of a nature girl, and as long as I could stay awake until midnight I'd be up for it!

6. What is your worst fear?

Yeah, I'm not answering this one. I'm just superstitious enough to not want to attract the attention of what scares me most!

7. What is one of your character’s worst fear?

 For Lonan, the corbin who's been sent to stop his scheming kin from invading, it's fear of what happens if he fails. There was an attempted invasion years before, which was stopped--but not without casualties. And see question number three above for the stakes if he fails.

8. What is your favorite Urban Fantasy novel?

I have lots of favorites (all of Charles de Lint's books, the Borderland series, the first few books in Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series, and Christopher Moore), but the Charles de Lint book I often recommend is Svaha. I think it has some great concepts, including a dystopian twist, and the story and writing is more accessible for a newbie to the genre. My favorite Christopher Moore book is A Dirty Job.

9. Who is your favorite Urban Fantasy hero/heroine?

There's some definite crossover between paranormal and urban fantasy, so I would have to say Evie from Kiersten White's Paranormalcy series. She's fun and sassy at first, and as she develops as a character, reveals surprising depth.

10. Which hero/heroine would you love to be on Halloween?

I'd love to be able to dress up as Xena, warrior princess, because it's such a combination of badassness and ridiculous campiness. Hmm, I used to be able to manage her ululation--I wonder if I still can?

Okay, if you stuck around for all that, you're probably wondering about the giveaway that was promised at the beginning!

If you comment on this post, you will be entered to win a signed copy of Behind the Bookcase by Mark Steensland! See Monday's interview post for more on the prize, and if you've already entered the giveaway there, you can also comment here for an extra entry. Double the opportunities, double the odds (unless everyone does it, in which case they're still pretty good odds).

You must leave an email address (feel free to disguise it from bots, like emailaddy (at) gmail (dot) com), and only one entry per person please. Winner will be randomly chosen with a random-number generator. Email will be used to contact the winner only; you will not be added to any kind of list.

Entries close at midnight Pacific Standard Time on October 29th (I'll use the time stamp to determine the cutoff) and the winner will be announced on Angelic Muse on October 31, Halloween!

And yes--this giveaway is open internationally!

Good luck, and don't forget to check out the other participants in the Halloween Urban Fantasy Blog Hop through the links below!

Kristie Cook
A.J. Locke
KH LeMoyne  
Yelena Casale

In the spirit of Halloween, today on Angelic Muse we venture into the spooky world created by author Mark Steensland, in his debut middle-grade novel, Behind the Bookcase.

To start us off, here's the short review I posted on
"I received an advance reader's copy of this book from the author for my birthday, and what a great surprise! This is exactly the kind of book I loved as a kid: secret passages into other worlds, mysterious characters (who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?), a sinister setting, and a talking cat. And since I was a scaredy-cat (still am, truth be told), I love that this book is creepy without being nightmare-worthy for kids. A great read-aloud choice, at Halloween or any time!"

And Mark graciously agreed to be interviewed, and to give away a signed copy of his book to one lucky winner (see the end of this interview for how to win a copy for yourself)! But first, a little background:

Author Mark Steensland was born and raised in California. He self-published his first book while in fourth grade, and has been telling stories ever since -- some of them true. He has also written, directed, and produced numerous award-winning films that have played in festivals around the world. He currently lives in Erie, Pennsylvania, with his wife, their three children, a dog, and a cat he is fairly certain is not Balthazat.

You may also want to go check out Mark's radio interview that aired on NPR-affiliate WQLN, hosted by Kim Young. It's especially recommended for writers aspiring to publication, since his manuscript ultimately found a happy home at Random House!

Onward to our interview!  

ARJ: I listened to your radio interview and I laughed when I heard you talk about overuse of the word "just" in your manuscript. That's one of my tics as well. What other kinds of things did you discover about yourself and your writing quirks?

I have a whole list of repeated words. My guess is that it stems mostly from my struggling to emphasize things and choosing the first word that comes to mind. The truth is that I probably don’t need to emphasize so much within the sentence as within the story itself. There are far better ways of making things important than word choice. Pacing and placement come to mind, for instance. But those things take time to develop.

ARJ: So true that it's easy to get caught up in small details like word choice, and lose sight of the overall picture.

What are some of your favorite kids' books, both as a kid and to read to your own children?

I was absolutely hooked on the “Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators” series when I was younger. I’ve been re-reading them since early this past summer and that’s been quite an experience. They are very clearly from a different time, but I still enjoyed them a lot, much more than “The Hardy Boys.” I loved the “Narnia” chronicles when I was young. I also adored “The Hobbit” and I’ve been having great fun re-reading that with my boys. Last October, we read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” together, which never ceases to amaze me.

But I’ve also really enjoyed having them tell me about good books to read. My kids read “Hatchet” and raved about it, so I read it. They were right. It is a great book. My daughter is a sophomore in high school now and she just read “To Kill A Mockingbird.” So I re-read that to be able to help her with all of her assignments around that book. It’s so much fun to think about how all these great books are available to us whenever we want and that they can still speak so clearly across so many generations.

ARJ: I love The Hatchet, and all Gary Paulsen's books. And even though I was a scaredy-kid, I also loved ghost story collections like "Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery".

Can you tell us anything about your next book?

Yes, I can. I’m very excited about it. Many people assume that I’m writing a sequel or follow-up to “Behind the Bookcase,” but that’s not planned at this stage. I suppose we’ll have to see what sort of reaction the book gets, first. But my next book, which I have already sold to my editor at Random House, is a middle-grade called “The Redemption Game.” It’s told by a man to his son about when he was a child and an adventure he had with his father. His father was once the world’s greatest magician and ran a traveling carnival of magicians. An evil magician turned the whole carnival into a deck of cards and the father went into hiding after this because he was accused of their disappearance. But then he told his son that he needed his help to find this evil magician and free his friends from the deck. So they go on a sort of road-trip.

The other element of the book that is very important is that I wanted to do something different with magic. So I’ve envisioned magic as a gift with a limited lifespan.That is, if you have the gift of magic, once you use it, it’s gone. Small or simple tricks use only a little bit of magic, but big tricks use lots of magic. And one of the things this man has been hiding from is the idea that he might not have enough magic to save his friends from this deck of cards. So they must find other magicians to help them. The book itself is designed like a deck of cards. It has 52 chapters and each chapter is another card in the deck--another part of the carnival that has been transformed.

ARJ: That sounds really cool--especially since you've spent time figuring out the visual aspect of the story. Just curious: did you reserve film rights for Behind the Bookcase, or are you content with your role as an author in this case?

I did reserve the performance rights. We went out early with the manuscript and got some interest from a few companies, but nothing firm. We’re going out again with it soon and we’ll see what happens. I think there are lots of ways to make a film out of it that could be really interesting.

ARJ: Good luck with that! In the book, you did a great job with character-building and world-building--does one come easier to you than the other?

I don’t think anything worthwhile is easy. That’s part of what makes it valuable. When I started writing “Behind the Bookcase,” I had been writing mostly screenplays for a very long time. So the early draft was very thin in terms of internal characterization. This was one of the first things the editor pointed out to me. The characters did a lot on the page, but there wasn’t much description of their internal state. That’s because you never write internal states in screenplays.

This also means that the world building part was easier in the sense that I was thinking very visually and so composing those parts of the novel were closer to what I had been doing. I had two editors on the book and both of them were very patient with me as I worked to get back in the groove of getting inside the heads of the characters. The editor with whom I am working on “The Redemption Game” really got me in the right place to approach that story so that the character elements were in the foreground from the very beginning. I’m anxious to see how she thinks I did.

ARJ: I'll be anxious to check out The Redemption Game as well! Thanks so much for giving us some insights into your book and writing process, Mark.

Now you probably all want to know how to enter to win a signed copy of Behind the Bookcase!

No hoops to jump through, no math required to tally your entries--just leave a comment below.

You must leave an email address (feel free to disguise it from bots, like emailaddy (at) gmail (dot) com), and only one entry per person please. Winner will be randomly chosen with a random-number generator. Email will be used to contact the winner only; you will not be added to any kind of list.

Entries close at midnight Pacific Standard Time on October 29th (I'll use the time stamp to determine the cutoff) and the winner will be announced on Angelic Muse on October 31, Halloween!

And yes--this giveaway is open internationally!

Good luck! And don't forget to go here for another entry!

Fangirl Crush: Maggie Stiefvater

I read the Scorpio Races last year and absolutely loved it, so I was excited to read The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater's new book.

And then I found out she was going to be appearing within driving distance (about 2 1/2 hours away) and this fangirl had to go see her! That also meant that I've put off reading The Raven Boys because I wanted to wait for a signed hardcover.

The signing I went to was the last stop on Maggie's tour (excepting some Texas dates) so if you are a fan too and missed out on a signed copy of The Raven Boys, I managed to snag one for the upcoming Pens for Paws Auction in March. Maggie even added a special little doodle, which will be revealed when it goes up for auction.

Thanks, Maggie, for the entertaining reading, and for writing books introducing new readers to myth!

Writer's Digest extended the deadline for their Young Adult Fiction Competition to October 31.

That means you still have time to write and polish your manuscript for submission!

Maximum word count is 4,000 and the fee is $20 per entry.

One First Place Category Winner will receive:
Plus a chance to win the Popular Fiction Awards Grand Prize including $2,500 and a trip to the 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City.

If you want to try your hand at something other than Young Adult Fiction, they've also extended the deadlines to October 31 in the following categories:

  • Science Fiction
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Crime
  • Horror
  • The short story competition has a deadline of November 15.

  • For more info on these, go to their main competitions page.

RTW: Flickering Flames in Fall

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: October!! It is SO fall! How does your writing (place, time, inspiration, etc) change with the seasons?
 I'll answer the place part of the prompt with a photo:

This is where I write longhand and edit year-round, but in the fall we light the pilot for the massive propane heat stove just out of frame. It makes the room so cozy, and during power outages it's our only source of heat. So on those evenings, we play board games by light of the oil lamp and the flickering flames

Sigh. This year we've had record highs for September, but it's finally supposed to drop below 90 tomorrow.
Oh, yeah, we're supposed to tie this back into writing, aren't we? Well, one of the things I've noticed about the change to cooler weather is that I incorporate comfort foods into my books more. In the summer, my characters end up in situations where they can eat ice cream and sip lemonade, but once I'm in my fleece writing uniform it's all about the stews, crusty bread, pies, and pasties.

And rainy days are absolutely writing days! Except when they're reading days, of course. What about you? Does your routine change with the seasons?

Feel free to put a link to your post in the comments if you played along with Road Trip Wednesday. Don't forget to go to the YA Highway post and read all the answers!

Harper Voyager is opening up to unagented submissions, but only for a brief window! From October 1st through October 14th, you can submit your adult or YA adult speculative fiction manuscript for consideration for their digital line.

The completed manuscript must be at least 70,000 words, with 80,000-120,000 listed as their ideal range. And they're looking for these genres:

"We’re seeking all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural. For more idea of the type of books we love to read and publish, check out our authors and their titles at"

They plan to release one title per month, so get polishing if you want to submit during this window!