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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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Good Times at San Diego Comic-Con 2018

  1. Arriving at the Convention Center
  2. Horrific tooth creature from Channel Zero: Candle Cove
  3. Amazing Lord of the Rings models from Weta
  4. A stylized Gandalf
  5. The Moose from Chappie resin kit by Weta
  6. Alita Battle Angel
  7. One man’s interpretation of Edna Mode
  8. Cuphead figures
  9. Star Wars trooper
  10. Scary creatures from Sideshow Collectibles
  11. Warhammer Space Marine Blood Raven
  12. Terrifying evil Batman and Robins
  13. Alien vs. Predator
  14. With NY Times bestselling fantasy author Todd McCaffrey
  15. Bioware power armor suits
  16. With children’s authors M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin
  17. With children’s editor/author Ed Masessa
  18. Author collaboration panel with Jenni Holm, Matt Holm, M.T. Anderson, Eugene Yelchin
  19. Mars panel with astronaut Leland Melvin and The Martian author Andy Weir
  20. Stargate cosplay
  21. Cosplay knights
  22. Comics panel with Stan Sakai, Cecil Castelucci, and Sergio Aragones
  23. YA/MG Fantasy panel with authors Tomi Adeyemi, Daniel Jose Older, Victoria Schwab, Kiersten White, and Maggie Steifvater
  24. Apocalypse panel with authors Cory Doctorow, Scott Westerfeld, and Andrew Smith
  25. Flame Princess cosplay
  26. With NY Times bestselling authors Peter Clines and Jonathan Maberry
  27. Fearless women author panel with NY Times bestselling fantasy authors Rachel Caine, Seanan McGuire, Susan Dennard, Victoria Schwab, and Laini Taylor
  28. With NY Times bestselling author Nancy Holder
  29. Star Wars cosplay
  30. Giant Boba Fett display
  31. Animatronic Deadpool’s Super Duper Dance Party
  32. South Park characters. Kenny lives!
  33. Pacific Rim
  34. Dragonball Z
  35. Dragon cosplay
  36. Self-deprecating Deadpool advertising on toilet seat covers
  37. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein panel with Jonathan Maberry, Kiersten White, and Merrie DeStefano
  38. Frankenstein takes the cake
  39. Academy Award winner Sir Richard Taylor (The Lord of the Rings) sculpting in clay.
  40. With co-panelist and NY Times bestselling fantasy author Laini Taylor
  41. With co-panelist and NY Times bestselling fantasy author Livia Blackburne
  42. With co-panelist and NY Times bestselling fantasy author Maggie Stiefvater
  43. With co-panelist and NY Times bestselling fantasy author Kevin Hearne
  44. Our fantasy literature panel packed the room
  45. Huge Hot Wheels cars
  46. Life-sized LEGO Aquaman
  47. Life-sized LEGO Thanos
  48. Mantis photobombing the Power Rangers
  49. Personalized Magic the Gathering cards
  50. Dungeons & Dragons panel with Naomi Novik, Delilah Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Ray Feist and R.A. Salvatore
  51. Trump’s Titanz standee
  52. Game of Thrones cosplay Iron Throne wheelchair

53. Children’s Literary Agent panel with Taylor Martindale Kean, Tim Travaglini, Jen Baxter, Kari Sutherland, Thao Le

54. Fantasy Literature panel with Victoria Schwab, Livia Blackburne, Maggie Stiefvater, and Kevin Hearne (Laini Taylor not shown)

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Interview with author/illustrator/graphic novelist Matt Phelan

Matt Phelan is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including XANDER’S PANDA PARTY by Linda Sue Park, MARILYN’S MONSTER by Michelle Knudsen, and FLORA’S VERY WINDY DAY by Jeanne Birdsall. He is the author/illustrator of the picture books DRUTHERS and PIGNIC, as well as the graphic novels THE STORM IN THE BARN (winner of the Scott O’Dell Award), AROUND THE WORLD, BLUFFTON, the New York Times Bestseller SNOW WHITE, and most recently, IF WENDELL HAD A WALRUS by Lori Mortensen. Matt lives in Pennsylvania.

For what age audience do you write​/illustrate?

I both write and illustrate picture books and middle grade novels (both graphic novels and prose).

Tell us about your latest book.

IF WENDELL HAD A WALRUS by Lori Mortensen is about wishing for a special friend and getting one (but not the one you wished for).

Henry: Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope they laugh a lot and also care about the boys in the story. Finding good friends is an important part of life.

What aspect of writing​ or illustrating​ do you find most challenging?

Illustrating a book written by another author is a wonderful challenge. I feel a responsibility to “get” what the author was intending as well as to add something of my own to the mix.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer​/illustrator​?

No matter how many books you have made, it always feels like the first time.

Henry: That makes sense. You’re creating art, not baking apple pie from a recipe.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer​/illustrator​?

I really enjoy visiting schools and talking to kids directly about the process of making books. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege. And maybe I’ve inspired a future author or illustrator.

Henry: With great power comes great responsibility.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors​ or illustrators​?

Draw and write as much as possible. There are many factors to breaking into publishing that you cannot control. However, the one thing you have 100% control over is your work. And that is the key to breaking into publishing.

Henry: Hone. Your. Craft.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: A plan, and not quite enough time.” — Leonard Bernstein. I have that above the door in my studio.

Henry: That should be the illustrator’s credo. “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” — Woodrow Wilson

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write​/illustrate​?

Is drinking coffee strange? How about a lot of coffee? I tend to stay away from rituals. But I take frequent breaks to play some kind of musical instrument in the studio.

Henry: Coffee is not a strange ritual unless you imbibe it intravenously. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Flying, because it has to be the most fun of the superpowers.

Henry: True, but also fraught will perils. See my interview with Edna Mode on this subject.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Jeanne Birdsall (because she’s brilliant and funny), P.G. Wodehouse (same), and Isak Dinesen (because she could tell us all a fantastic story after dinner).

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully offers: Jeanne Birdsall is an American writer of children’s books. She is known mainly for the “Penderwick sisters”, whose third chronicle was published in 2011. The first, which was her debut novel, won the 2005 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse KBE (1881 – 1975) was an English author and one of the most widely read humourists of the 20th century.

Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke (1885 – 1962) was a Danish author. She is best known under her pen names Isak Dinesen, used in English-speaking countries, and Tania Blixen, used in German-speaking countries. 

Blixen is best known for Out of Africa, an account of her life while living in Kenya, and for one of her stories, Babette’s Feast, both of which have been adapted into Academy Award-winning motion pictures.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Medusa is a good one. I’ve always like the Minotaur, too. The Greeks were great at mixing a bit of tragedy with their horrors.

Henry: I’ve always been struck by how flawed their gods were.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing​/illustrating​?

Hanging out with my kids.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

He’s Not Here.

Where can readers find your work?

http://www.mattphelan.com

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Matt.


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WonderCon 2018

I had a great time at WonderCon 2018. Here are some highlights:

With NY Times bestselling fantasy author of Midnight Thief, Livia Blackburne

With NY Times bestselling urban fantasy author of Iron Druid, Kevin Hearne.

With NY Times bestselling fantasy author of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor.

With NY Times Newbery honoree author of Babymouse, Jenni Holm.

With “before” and “after” It (Stephen King) clowns.

With NY Times bestselling fantasy author of Forgotten Realms, R.A. Salvatore.

With talented picture book author of Interstellar Cinderella, Deborah Underwood

With NY Times bestselling fantasy author of A Darker Shade of Magic, Victoria Schwab.

A cosplay jellyfish!

With NY Times bestselling Caldecott medalist kidlit author/illustrator Dan Santat.

With Kim Possible animator Stephen Silver.

Magical Creations panel with (l to r) moderator Maryelizabeth Yturralde and NY Times bestselling fantasy authors Nidhi Chanani, Laini Taylor, Kiersten White, Jessica Cluess, Livia Blackburne.

With Newbery honoree kidlit author/illustrator of Won Ton, Eugene Yelchin.

The Night King from Game of Thrones.

My KidLit author panel with (l to r) Dan Santat, Jenni Holm, Eugene Yelchin, Deborah Underwood and (not shown) Antoinette Portis.

Lest we forget, while we enjoyed WonderCon, millions of others marched in support of gun safety.

 


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Interview with author/illustrator Lisa Desimini

Lisa Desimini grew up reading and drawing every chance she got. Her friends and fellow students told her that she should be an artist when she grew up, and Lisa agreed. She graduated from The School of Visual Arts in NYC. Now, she has written and/or illustrated over 35 books for children. She has also illustrated many book jackets for YA and adults novels.

For what age audience do you write​/illustrate​, and in what genre(s)?

My children’s books are for children ages 3-7. Some of my books are for all ages. My favorite genre is fantasy, but I’ve published non-fiction, too. I adore illustrating poetry collections.

Henry: I met Lisa at a book event at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, where she was signing her new picture book. I was especially surprised and pleased to learn she also illustrated the covers for the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) paranormal fantasy novels!

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is THE FLEATASTICS. It’s about an acrobatic troupe of fleas that travel from sleeping dog to sleeping dog to put on a show. Sarafleana’s family wants her to be part of their parasite pyramid, but she dreams of having her own act. When someone in the audience says the forbidden “T” word…Sarafleana gets a chance to prove what she can do.

Henry: My agent is right now shopping a narrative nonfiction picture book told by and about fleas. Fascinating little dudes.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

There are two messages in this book. First, it’s important to do what it takes to follow ones dreams. The second message is that no matter what knocks us down, we have to get back up, brush ourselves off and get back on the horse… But I usually don’t set out with a mission for my books to have a message. It just happens sometimes.

Henry: If you’re a flea, you brush yourself off and get back on the cat.

What aspect of writing​ or illustrating​ do you find most challenging?

For me, writing is more challenging. I write something and, at first, I love it. Then I kind of like it, then I’m not sure about it at all, so I put it away for a few days. When I look again, I say, “OK, this has potential!” Then I show a friend and they make me see something I could do to make it better, so I do it and I like it better. Rinse and repeat and then maybe I send it to my editor and maybe it gets published. I don’t have as much back and forth when it comes to illustration because I’ve been making pictures since I was a little kid.

Henry: I certainly agree that critique groups (the external opinion) is absolutely vital to good writing.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer​/illustrator​?

The powerful lesson I’ve learned is the more research the better! Nowadays, the internet makes it easier to find books, gather information, and see images from different regions. When I was younger I illustrated a book about the Navaho and I thought I did a good job in recreating their hogans, but I got a very sweet letter from the tribe saying they weren’t accurate. I felt terrible. More recently, when I illustrated, SHE SANG PROMISE about a Seminole woman named Betty Mae Jumper, I was thrilled that National Geographic sent my images to the Seminole museum to be approved.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer​/illustrator​?

The memorable experiences for me are when I do a drawing at the end of all my school visits. They’re not preplanned. I use the students’ ideas, and they never cease to amaze me. When their creativity is lit up, there is an exuberant energy in the room. They might call out instead of raising their hands, bounce around, and get a bit loud, but it’s all worth it to me because when creativity is unleashed, it’s wild. It’s not always about being perfectly behaved.

Henry: I also call out instead of raising my hand.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors​ or illustrators​?

I would tell aspiring authors and illustrators to read as much as you can. Go to the library or bookstore every week–read classics and the latest books. Take a class and join the SCBWI. If kid’s books are truly your passion, you will have the energy and desire to follow the ideas that come to you. Some of my ideas have flowed quickly, but most of my books have taken years to come together and sell.

Henry: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has been helpful to many a career. Their website is http://www.scbwi.org.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

My favorite quote: “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

Henry: I also like “Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write​/illustrate​?

I like to clean up and organize before I start working on a new project. Then I read a bunch of favorite books. Even if they’re not related to my new project, they get me excited and revved up about stories and the infinite worlds they create.

Henry: Is that preparation or procrastination? 🙂

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

My superpower would be the ability to teleport myself–anytime and anywhere.

Henry: I love it. No time wasted commuting or in traffic. No greenhouse gas emissions.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Is it OK if I answer a slightly different question–a dinner with my favorite characters from books instead of authors? I love authors, but Owen Meany, Harry Potter and Pippi Longstocking popped into my mind!! Owen because he is so dearly earnest, Harry because of his bravery, and Pippi because of her adventurous spirit!

Henry: No, it is not OK. This interview is cancelled! Per Wikipedia:

A Prayer for Owen Meany is the seventh novel by American writer John Irving. Published in 1989, it tells the story of John Wheelwright and his best friend Owen Meany growing up together in a small New Hampshire town during the 1950s and 1960s. According to John’s narration, Owen is a remarkable boy in many ways; he believes himself to be God’s instrument and sets out to fulfill the fate he has prophesied for himself.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

My favorite creature is a centaur. I like that they have the intellect of a human and an animal’s wild nature.

Henry: I like them too. One is featured on the cover of my first book.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing​/illustrating​?

When I’m not writing, I like to be with my husband and our kitty Crash, cook, read, watch movies, be in the garden and do yoga.

Henry: But not all at the same time…Yoga cooking!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I plan on being cremated and turned into a tree, so my treestone would say, “She always tried to be better and do better.”

Henry: I’m going to go out on a limb and say the root of that choice is that one must be thick-skinned to be an author.

Where can readers find your work?

You can find my work in bookstores, libraries and on my website: http://www.lisadesimini.com

Henry: Thank you for spending time with us, Lisa!


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At the 2018 Charlotte Huck Children’s Literature Festival

I had a wonderful time at the 2018 Charlotte Huck Children’s Literature Festival. I presented “Using Fiction to Interest Young Readers in Nonfiction”, and got to meet some amazing authors.

With literary agency sister Erin Dealey, author of K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN.

With Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of BOYS OF STEEL.

With Janay Brown, author of IMANI’S MOON.

With Karen Jameson, author of the upcoming MOON BABIES, and Dianne White, author of BLUE ON BLUE.

With Newbery Honoree Kathi Appelt, author of MAYBE A FOX.

With Coretta Scott King Medalist illustrator James Ransome and his equally talented wife author Lesa Cline-Ransome.

Closing session speaker Georgia Heard presented “Seeing the World with a Poet’s Eye.” I loved the following slide that said poets…

  • Observe the small moments around us
  • Find poetry in the ordinary
  • See beauty in the ugly
  • Are curious and filled with wonder
  • Look at the world in a new way
  • Pay attention to and write from all our feelings
  • Love the meaning the sounds of words
  • Give voice to the unspeakable
  • Are empathetic


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California School Librarian Association Conference – Feb 2018

I had a fantastic time at the California School Librarian Association Conference, held in Yosemite, CA.

I was on a picture book panel with fellow authors (l. to r.) Marcia Berneger, Linda Joy Singleton, and Erin Dealey.

Erin moderated, so I introduced her.

As the panel progressed, audience member (and author-illustrator) Ashley Wolff sketched us!

Life imitates art.

My literary agency, East-West Literary was well-represented by fellow authors (l. to r.) Patricia Newman, Erin Dealey, and Gayle Pitman.

Our dinner centerpieces honored SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen.

Got to say hi to Mac.

The next morning, my wife and I went for a walk in the woods. Here’s a pair of trees hugging.

Here is one determined little sapling.

And here I am, bold outdoorsman with a dorky hat.


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Photos from San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Here, in no particular order, are photos from San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Only D&D fans will get that pun.

A classic Comic-Con mashup. Elvis Boba Fett!

Cabbage merchant: An obscure, but lovable character from Avatar: The Last Airbender

A huge dragon you could ride. Stuffed animal sold separately.

D.VA’s mech video game character from Overwatch

A flying (thanks to magnetic repulsion) Iron Man and friends.

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Gail Carriger

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy from Batman

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Ilona Andrews

Life-sized Iron Man model

Pint-sized General Grievous and Boba Fett

The eloquent First Second editorial director Mark Seigel

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Mary Pearson

Megaman video game character

My fantasy novel panel with Seanan McGuire, Robin Hobb, Gail Carriger & Mary Pearson

The authors of my panel packed the room!

Authors Todd McCaffrey, the Winner twins, and Seanan McGuire

The world’s largest Pikachu (from Pokemon)

Two fun posters. “Gandalf Airlines. Fly you fools! Our planes are never late. Nor are they early.
They arrive precisely when they mean to. You shall not need a boarding pass!” and
BatPug: “I am the night… but mostly I just piddle on stuff”)

Three princesses, or perhaps two princes and a Mother of Dragons

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Robin Hobb

Even the animals get in on the cosplay action. Ye scurvy dog!

Does this Skyrim helmet make me look fat?

Super Saiyan Blue from Dragon Ball Z

Some fun toothy artwork I bought.

Fantasy/sci-fi authors Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire and Scott Sigler.

And, of course, Wonder Woman.