Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

Leave a comment

San Diego Comic-Con 2021 Panels

I’m thrilled to share that I moderated two San Diego Comic-Con virtual panels.

The first, Young Adult Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi & Horror, features bestselling authors Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns), Mylo Carbia (Violets are Red), Sarah Beth Durst (The Queens of Renthia), Jonathan Maberry (Rot & Ruin), and Seanan McGuire (October Daye). They’ll share their insights into writing dark speculative fiction and the publishing industry, including book to TV/film.
The video stream can be viewed on YouTube.

The second panel is Meet the Creators and Cast of Netflix’s Norsemen. Norsemen is Netflix’s hilarious historical comedy series—think Vikings meets The Office. Participating in this Q&A are actors: Kåre Conradi (Orm), Trond Fausa (Rufus), Nils Jørgen Kaalstad (Arvid), Øystein Martinsen (Kark), Marian Ottesen (Hildur), and series producers/directors/writers Jonas Torgersen and Jon Iver Helgaker.
The video stream can be viewed on YouTube.

1 Comment

26 Publishers of Young Adult Novels (No Agent Required)

By Emily Harstone

Young adult is one of my favorite genres to read, even though when I was a young adult I struggled to find good YA books. These days the young adult genre is profitable, diverse, and covers a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to romance and everything in between.

A lot of young adult publishers are open to submissions without an agent. Not as many as in the romance genre, but a great deal more than literary fiction (for example). Below is a list of all the publishers we have previously reviewed that are open to young adult manuscripts.

Some of these publishers exclusively publish young adult novels, others publish children’s books as well, while others are open to a wider variety of genres and age groups. Not all of the publishers are currently open to submissions, but the majority of them are. If you click on the name of the publisher it will link to our full review of them. All our full reviews contain links to the various publishers’ submission pages.

The list is in no particular order.

Page Street Publishing

Page Street Publishing is a publisher of YA and Children’s publisher. They have excellent distribution.

Blue Moon Publishers

Blue Moon is a boutique Canadian Publisher. They focus on publishing literary fiction and women’s fiction, as well as young adult and middle grade works. The stories they publish span various genres including contemporary, historical, mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.

Shadow Mountain

Shadow Mountain is an imprint of Deseret Book. Both publishers are Mormon, but Deseret Book focuses more on producing faith-based content. Shadow Mountain publishes primarily fiction and they have published a number of New York Times bestselling books. Because the company is Mormon run, books have to be approved by in-house censors in order to be published. They are very firm about publishing “clean books only”. However the authors need not be Mormon.

Charlesbridge Publishing

Charlesbridge publishes high quality books for children and young adults with the goal of creating lifelong readers and lifelong learners. They have good distribution.

Read the rest of the list.

1 Comment

Interview with NY Times bestselling KidLit author David Elliott

David Elliott is a New York Times bestselling writer of books for young readers. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife of 33 years and a rescued Dandie Dinmont terrier mix.


For what age audience do you write?

I write for the very young, the middle grades, and with the release of BULL in March, teen readers. I’m currently working on one of each kind of book. I like to have a few things going at once. It’s the ADD.

Henry: Given the slow speed of the publishing industry, working on multiple projects simultaneously isn’t just ADD, it’s a good idea! Speaking of which, I recently wrote a picture book featuring an OCD owl and an ADD hummingbird.

Tell us about your latest book.

BULL (HMH, March 2017) is an expansion of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. I know that sounds kind of highfalutin – expansion. But I use it because the book doesn’t at all change the outline of the myth; rather, it fills in areas about which the myth remains silent – the Minotaur’s childhood and adolescence, for example. At least that was my intention. The story is told in the various voices of the main players, each character speaking in a distinct poetic form. It practically killed me, but I loved writing it.

Henry: BULL is terrific. Sort of a YA mashup of Homer and Eminem.

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

O dear. I think I’d better leave that to the readers. But it would be terrific if one or two saw that each of us has the potential to become either Asterion — the Minotaur’s’ actual name, by the way, meaning Ruler of the Stars — or the Minotaur. Or maybe even more important, the ability to encourage one or the other in the folks around us. We are now seeing at the national level what happens when the monstrous is excited — the uptick in hate crimes, the increased cruelty in our schools, all of that. Our leaders on both sides of the aisle seem lost in the labyrinth.

Aside from that, I hope readers will enjoy the humor in the book and the language used to tell the story, their language (for speakers of English.) It’s resilience. Its playfulness. It’s beauty.

Henry: We should mail balls of string to Congress so they can navigate the labyrinth!

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Oh, writing comes easily to me. But writing well comes very, very hard.

Henry: That pesky adverb well again! When I first began writing for children, I was surprised at how many revisions are necessary. Not like writing when in school, where the first draft was the final draft!

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

I think sometimes people feel that publishing a book changes your life. And I guess it can if you’re someone like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, at least in terms of material security. (Uh . . .that has not been my experience.) But here’s the thing: Even after that book is on the shelves, you are still who you are. There’s no escaping that.

For me, and especially since every book is different, being a writer is a process, not a result. I now try to think of myself as a scribe rather than the more elevated “writer”.

Henry: I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how collegial the KidLit author/illustrator community is. Not at all like the hyper-competitive Hollywood scene.

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

Well, the most memorable is very difficult to describe, and if I did, people would think I was crazy, so let me just say that a few years ago, I was invited to Germany to visit schools there. My wife and I became very good friends with the person assigned to interpret for me. She is still an important of our lives. How lucky is that?

Henry: So, you think describing a memorable experience will push people over the edge on assessing the sanity of a man who fractured a Minotaur myth with rap?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Accept all criticism as one hundred percent accurate.
For twenty-four hours.

Henry: Interesting approach. Another good piece of advice I’ve read, is never read reviews of your own work. The positive reviews don’t tell you anything you don’t already know, and the negative ones are so rarely constructive, that you’ll just end up depressed.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Here are three:
“If you haven’t surprised yourself, you haven’t written.” Eudora Welty.
“Habit is more important than inspiration.” Octavia Butler.
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow

Henry: So, Doctorow was a pantser, not a plotter? Isaac Asimov said “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” Then there’s Ray Bradbury: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?

My entire life has been, and continues to be, One Strange Ritual. I think everybody’s is.

Henry: Capitalizing the phrase makes it sound like a great book title. Well played, sir.

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

I know from the one I already possess – the ability to eat non-stop –that superpowers are very difficult to control. I think it might be wiser to bestow them on those better equipped to manage them.

Henry: Isn’t it only a superpower if you can eat all you want and NOT gain weight?

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

Not many people know this, but Charles Dickens and the Polish poet Wyslawa Symborska are conjoined twins, so if invite Charlie, he’ll have to drag Wyslawa along. (The original meaning of Plus 1, by the way.) That’s also true of Teju Cole and Richard Wilbur. Then there are those famous triplets, George Eliot, Shakespeare and Moliere. Journalist Masha Gessen and the Australian novelist David Malouf are my alternates.

Henry: Boy, give you and inch, and you take a mile! Wikipedia helpfully offers:
Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”.

Teju Cole is a Nigerian-American writer, photographer, and art historian. Cole is the author of three books: a novella, Every Day is for the Thief (Nigeria: Cassava Republic, 2007; New York: Random House, 2014; London: Faber, 2014), a novel, Open City (New York: Random House, 2012; London: Faber, 2012), and a collection of more than 40 essays, Known and Strange Things, published in 2016. He is currently working on Radio Lagos, a non-fictional narrative of contemporary Lagos. Salman Rushdie has described Cole as “among the most gifted writers of his generation”.

Richard Purdy Wilbur is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

As you know, I’ve spent quite a lot of time with The Minotaur recently. I think I might choose someone a little cheerier next time around, The Mad Hatter, maybe. Or someone really solid like the armored bear, Iorek Byrnison, in Philip Pullman’s wonderful book, The Golden Compass. I do wish the Oracle of Delphi had a better sense of humor.

Henry: Please note the minotaur on the cover of MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES in the header image above. But, I’m with you on the panserbjørne!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

These days, I feel like I’m always working. I’ve got three separate and very different (from each other) projects going right now, and the administrative part of the writing life – interviews like this one, for example, are taking more of my time. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Who doesn’t relish the opportunity to talk about himself?) To complicate matters, for the first time ever I’ve become actively political. Nobody is more surprised about that than I am.

Staring out the living room window into the fields behind our old house is a wonderful thing.

Henry: Can we say your passion for democracy has trumped your desire to focus on writing?

What would you like it to (accurately) say on your tombstone?

He wasn’t afraid.

Henry: You gave me a Monty Python opening, and I’m taking it.

Bravely bold Sir Robin
Rode forth from Camelot
He was not afraid to die
Oh, brave Sir Robin
He was not at all afraid
To be killed in nasty ways
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin

He was not in the least bit scared
To be mashed into a pulp
Or to have his eyes gouged out
And his elbows broken
To have his kneecaps split
And his body burned away
And his limbs all hacked and mangled
Brave Sir Robin

His head smashed in
And his heart cut out
And his liver removed
And his bowels unplugged
And his nostrils raped
And his bottom burnt off
And his penis split and his…

“That’s… that’s enough music for now, lads.”

Where can readers find your work?

Wherever weird books are sold, but especially at your local independent bookstore.

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, David. For something completely, different, check out David’s THIS ORQ (HE CAVE BOY)

Leave a comment

Interview with NY Times bestselling BEAUTIFUL CREATURES co-author Kami Garcia

Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES & DANGEROUS CREATURES novels & the author of the instant New York Times bestseller and Bram Stoker Award nominated novel UNBREAKABLE, and the sequel UNMARKED, in the Legion Series. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES has been published in 50 countries and translated in 39 languages. The film adaptation of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES released in theaters in 2013, from Warner Brothers.

Kami is fascinated by the paranormal, and she’s very superstitious. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found watching disaster movies or Supernatural, listening to Soundgarden, or drinking Diet Coke. She lives in Maryland with her family, and their dogs Spike and Oz (named after characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).


For what age audience do you write?

Both the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES novels I co-author, and the Legion series I write solo, are categorized as Young Adult, but my novels are equally popular with adults. YA is just a shelf in the bookstore. As far as I’m concerned, a good story is a good story, whether it’s categorized as Middle Grade, YA, or Adult. My novels also cross genres. The Beautiful Creatures and Dangerous Creatures series are paranormal romance/urban fantasy, and the Legion Series has been categorized as everything from horror to urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The only thing I’ve ever written specifically for adult readers is a short story called “Soul Collector” in the anthology RAGS & BONES, edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt.

Tell us about your latest book.

UNMARKED is the second book in the Legion series, so it’s difficult to talk about the plot without spoilers. UNBREAKABLE, the first book in the series is a YA dark urban fantasy/horror novel about a girl who discovers that she is destined to be part of a secret society after her mother dies mysteriously. That secret society—the Legion of the Black Dove—is responsible for protecting humanity from a vengeful demon. Even though the story is told from Kennedy’s POV, the Legion also includes four other teens. Each teen has a specific skill that has been handed down for generations (for example, Priest, the youngest member of the Legion, designs and fabricates the weapons the team uses). When readers ask what the Legion is about, my short answer is always the same: secret societies, demons, romance, real and fictional haunted places, voodoo, the Illuminati, Freemasons, and a serial killer.

Henry:  Secret societies, demons, romance, real and fictional haunted places… So, it’s about Washington, D.C. politics?

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I hate writing the first few chapters of a new novel. Even though I know what’s going to happen, I have trouble finding the sweet spot between jumping into the story too quickly and throwing in too much backstory. Without fail, I end up rewriting the beginning after I finish writing the novel.

Henry: I’ve heard it said that revisions are the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a professional.

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

Before I became a writer accidentally, I was a teacher for seventeen years and a serious book-pusher, so seeing BEAUTIFUL CREATURES in print and holding the physical book in my hands was an unforgettable experience. In 2014, my solo novel UNBREAKABLE was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, which was also completely surreal.

Henry: You didn’t mention appearing on a fantasy literature panel with me at San Diego Comic-Con. That must have come in a close third…

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I write in my office, which some people think is a pretty strange place. One wall is covered with photos, lyrics, quotes, and ephemera, and serves as an inspiration board. I have an extensive collection of replica weapons from the Legion series and TV shows like Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Oh, and of course, what every office needs—a replica of Magneto’s helmet that fits me perfectly, so no one can hack my thoughts. Aside from my weird office, my routine is pretty straightforward; I need a laptop, my noise-cancelling headphones, Diet Coke, and junk food.

Henry: Special bonus: See a tour of Kami’s office here.

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

My favorite superhero is Magneto from the X-Men because I like the helmet, and being able to control metal would be useful. Invisibility is a close second, because I could make myself invisible whenever I don’t want to socialize.

Henry: Being a superhero (or villain) is, above all else, a fashion statement. The ability to control metal would also help you avoid undesired social situations – can you say “flying forks”?

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

If we’re talking strictly mythological, that rules out demons and the Loch Ness Monster (I’m still holding out for proof of Nessie’s existence). It’s a tie between fairies (the dark variety) and dragons (the angry, fire-breathing type, as long as they aren’t breathing fire on me).

Henry: I checked with our panel of judges, and both demons and the Loch Ness Monster are both acceptable responses.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Aside from spending time with my family, I love to read. I also watch an insane amount of television, and I don’t discriminate between new shows and old ones. From Orphan Black, The Following, and The Blacklist to Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns, and Arrow to Penny Dreadful, American Horror Story, and Hannibal—I’m a multi-genre viewer. I also love to cook, bake, shop online, and add to my boards on Pinterest.

Learn more about Kami and her books at http://www.KamiGarcia.com & http://www.TheLegionSeries.com and follow her on Twitter: @kamigarcia.

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


Leave a comment

Interview with Young Adult author Christa Desir

Christa Desir writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her novels include FAULT LINE and BLEED LIKE ME and the forthcoming OTHER BROKEN THINGS. She lives with her husband, three children, and overly enthusiastic dog outside of Chicago. She has volunteered as a rape victim activist for more than ten years, including providing direct service as an advocate in hospital ERs. She also works as an editor at Samhain Publishing. Visit her at ChristaDesir.com.


For what age audience do you write?

I’m a contemporary YA writer, mostly ages 15 & up.

Tell us about your latest book.

My most recent release is called BLEED LIKE ME and is a Sid & Nancy type of YA about a co-dependent and very destructive relationship between two teens.

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

My goal with that book was to take a look at the notion that “love makes everything better” and deconstruct it a little when it comes to personal relationships. I have read many stories in which a broken girl gets together with a broken guy and through their love for each other things get better. That was definitely not my experience as a teenager and I wanted to explore what it’s really like when you lose yourself in someone else.

Henry: Right, it can happen, but it doesn’t happen very often. We must strive to fix ourselves.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I’ve always struggled with adding setting and physical description of characters. I was a theatre major and so much of my academic life was spent reading plays. So setting and what characters actually look like were not part of my training.

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

Probably the most powerful lesson I’ve learned is how deeply flawed I am. I will never be able to write the perfect book. No one will, really. You can revise for years and still the book you end up with will never be as good as the book you have in your mind. I think I’ve learned how to be more okay with my imperfections, more okay with everyone’s imperfections, and I’m constantly reminded that we’re all doing the best we can.

Henry: Ah, no good author interview is complete without a small dose of self-criticism. As if all the external rejection that comes with authoring isn’t enough, right? Accomplishment unlocked.

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

I’ve met amazing people as a writer. I got to sit next to Judy Blume for an SCBWI luncheon. I’ve become friends with people whose writing I deeply admire and it’s been such an incredible experience learning from them.

Henry: Coincidentally, Judy Blume mentioned that she was thrilled to sit next to you, so #Winning.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Find really good critique partners. Keep writing, keep revising, read as much as you can. Try to ignore internet drama. Don’t do anything to burn bridges because you never know when you’ll come across those people again. Be forgiving and gracious.

Henry: I completely agree. Good critique partners are vital. They are our eyes for where we are blind (when looking at our own writing).

Do you have any favorite quotes?

This changes all the time for me, but my current favorite quote comes from Sarah McCarry’s ABOUT A GIRL: “It had never occurred to me that trading one life for another might be a passage paid for in loss.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I’m an early morning writer so I always have coffee, but the only real ritual I have is that if I’m stuck, I put on my Cassius Clay T-shirt.

Henry: For fighting writer’s block?

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

I would like to heal people. I have lost too many people in my life and I wish so much I had the power to heal.

Henry: Actually, as a writer, you DO have this superpower. Well played, sir.

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

Roxane Gay, Sarah McCarry, and J.K. Rowling. In my deepest heart, I think this threesome could make an excellent effort at solving all the problems in the world.

Henry: We all know of J.K. Rowling; for the others, there’s Google.

“Roxane Gay is the author of the short story collection Ayiti (2011), the novel An Untamed State (2014), the essay collection Bad Feminist (2014), and Hunger (2015). In addition to her regular contributions to Salon, her writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation and The New York Times Book Review.”

Sarah McCarry runs the blog, The Rejectionist. She is the author of All Our Pretty Songs, Dirty Wings, and About a Girl. She is the editor and publisher of the chapbook series Guillotine. She writes for Tor.com and Book Riot.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I like the Sirens. I’m an extrovert and never want people to leave me. Sirens have a super power I can get behind.

Henry: Nice choice. Kami Garcia has some great sirens in BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to knit, I do roller derby, I love to read, I love to spend time with friends, I like walking my dog.

Henry: Knit and roller derby!? Two hobbies I would not think to conflate. Can you do them simultaneously? It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye…

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“Lived a life of integrity.”

Where can readers find your work?

Easiest place for all the links is my website: http://www.christadesir.com

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

1 Comment

Interview with Young Adult fantasy author Kendall Kulper

Kendall Kulper writes historical fiction with a fantasy twist for teen readers and knows more about nineteenth century whaling than she ever imagined. Her debut YA novel, SALT & STORM was published by Little, Brown. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history and literature in 2008 and spent several years as a journalist before deciding to write full-time. She grew up in the wilds of New Jersey and now lives in Boston with her husband and chronically-anxious Australian Shepherd mix, Abby.


What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

There are so many challenging parts to writing, but one that I’ve dealt with lately is keeping my head clear from outside voices and opinions. For example, I don’t really read my reviews, good or bad. I trust certain people’s opinions about my writing—my editor and my agent, my beta readers and critique partners—but otherwise I find it really hard to trust my own instincts when I’m constantly wondering what other people will think.

Henry: Yes, they say that the only thing more perilous than reading reviews of one’s books is responding online to those reviews. That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla.

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

I think writers tend to be observers and tend to think about things from many different angles. Writing really encourages empathy, because the whole process of writing requires you putting yourself in a stranger’s situation and imagining a completely different perspective from your own. I try to take that point of view and carry it into my daily life, and, I hope, it’s made me a more empathetic and caring person.

Henry: Wait, my picture books can be from the perspective of someone other than myself!? ☺ I agree that writing makes us more sensitive to universal truths.

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

The “I’m doing this for a book” excuse has taken me on some really wonderful adventures, and my favorite so far was a research trip I did out to Arizona. I’ve long wanted to write a Western and sort of randomly decided to go to Arizona to check out the geography and history, and I am so happy I did—within a week we drove from 90-degree desert border towns to 30-degree mountain forests and finished with a few days hiking in the Grand Canyon. It’s something I never would have done had I not thought about writing a Western, and because I was book researching, I paid so much more attention than I otherwise would have to the sights, sounds, smells, and feeling of the places we visited.

Henry: That gives me an idea. I shall now go research a picture book about vacationing in Monte Carlo. Thanks, Kendall!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read, of course. Read everything and anything you can get your hands on, and try to read it not as a reader but a writer: ask yourself what works and why and what doesn’t work and why. Try to pay attention to what things about reading that you love and put that passion into your writing. It doesn’t always feel fun, but if it’s not satisfying, you’re doing something wrong.

Henry: A lion is the product of all the zebras it’s eaten, and an author is the product of all the books they’ve read.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

If we’re talking writing quotes, I love this one by John Cleese: “This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.” It’s a nice reminder that the best ideas can come when you let your brain rest, relax, and play.

Henry: Well, if we’re doing John Cleese quotes, then I must add “It’s just a flesh wound!”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I definitely need to be in a very specific mind space. I like to wake up, have some tea, read the papers, do the crossword, and sort of ease into writing. My brain has to wake up and focus on other things first before I can even think about writing.

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

I would have the power to instantly teleport anywhere in the world, so I could visit all my far-flung friends and family any time I wanted.

Henry: Nice. Teleporting: the greenest of transportation modalities.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Well, right now I’m busy with my newborn, so sleep is my number one non-writing priority. But when the baby is occupied, some of my favorite things to do are go running with my dog and cook up multi-course meals—they’re both great ways to unwind, especially when my brain is all turned around from thinking about my novel!

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to TweetInterview with Young Adult fantasy author Kendall Kulper at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-P6 via @Nimpentoad

1 Comment

5 Powerful Writing Techniques That Bring Stories to Life

Excerpt  from my article on The Write Life

Take a moment, close your eyes, and recall a story that truly engaged you as a reader — one whose world and characters became completely real for you. Got one?

Now, take off your reader hat and don your analytical writer hat to think about what makes that story so captivating. What writing techniques did the author use to bring the story to life? Was it the wrenching appeal to your emotions, the vivid and brutal action scenes, or the high stakes facing a character? Mastering these and other storytelling methods is the key to writing your own engaging tale.

Just as a lion is the product of all the zebras it has eaten, a writer is the product of all the books he or she has read. Reading the works of skilled writers is a fabulous way to hone your craft and learn how to effectively employ the writing tactics that help you create your own captivating story.

Here are five great examples of writing techniques that bring the story to life for readers, as demonstrated by five accomplished writers.


1. Invoke multiple senses

When you experience a situation, you pick up more than just its sights. By describing sounds, scents, tastes and sensations, you’ll immerse readers in your story’s world.

The following scene from Saladin Ahmed’s “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” does a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the story by using senses other than sight.

Her voice is more beautiful than any woman’s. And there is the powerful smell of jasmine and clove. A nightingale sings perfumed words at me while my mind’s eye burns with horrors that would make the Almighty turn away.

If fear did not hold your tongue, you would ask what I am. Men have called my people by many names—ghoul, demon. Does a word matter so very much? What I am, learned one, is Abdel Jameela’s wife.

For long moments I don’t speak. If I don’t speak, this nightmare will end. I will wake in Baghdad, or Beit Zujaaj. But I don’t wake.

She speaks again, and I cover my ears, though the sound is beauty itself.

The words you hear come not from my mouth, and you do not hear them with your ears. I ask you to listen with your mind and your heart. We will die, my husband and I, if you will not lend us your skill. Have you, learned one, never needed to be something other that what you are?

Cinnamon scent and the sound of an oasis wind come to me.

Read the rest of this post at  The Write Life

If you enjoyed these excerpts, find the full stories in the new dark fantasy anthology Beyond the Pale.

Click to Tweet: 5 Powerful Writing Techniques That Bring Stories to Life at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Fu via @Nimpentoad

Leave a comment

Meet the Authors of “Beyond the Pale”

Beyond the Pale is an anthology of 11 fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal short stories. Below are short bios of the award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors of Beyond the Pale.


Cover art by Abigail Larson


Saladin Ahmed
Saladin Ahmed’s poetry has earned fellowships from several universities, and has appeared in over a dozen journals and anthologies. His short stories have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards, have appeared in numerous magazines and podcasts, and have been translated into five foreign languages. He has also written nonfiction for The Escapist, Fantasy Magazine, and Tor.com. Throne of the Crescent Moon is his first novel.


Peter S. Beagle
Peter S. Beagle is the Hugo, Nebula, Inkpot Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement winning author of The Last Unicorn and Two Hearts. The Last Unicorn ranked #5 on Locus subscribers’ All-Time Best Fantasy Novel list. The Last Unicorn was adapted to an animated movie. Peter also wrote the screenplay for the 1978 movie version of The Lord of the Rings.


Heather Brewer
Heather Brewer is the NY Times bestselling author of the Vladimir Tod series. She grew up on a diet of Twilight Zone and books by Stephen King. She chased them down with every drop of horror she could find—in books, movie theaters, on television. The most delicious parts of her banquet, however, she found lurking in the shadowed corners of her dark imagination. When she’s not writing books, she’s skittering down your wall and lurking underneath your bed.


Jim Butcher
Jim Butcher is the NY Times bestselling author of the Dresden Files series, the Codex Alera series, and a new steampunk series, the Cinder Spires. His resume includes a laundry list of skills which were useful a couple of centuries ago, and he plays guitar quite badly. An avid gamer, he plays tabletop games in varying systems, a variety of video games on PC and console, and LARPs whenever he can make time for it. Jim currently resides mostly inside his own head, but his head can generally be found in his home town of Independence, Missouri.


Kami Garcia
Kami Garcia is the NY Times bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels and the Bram Stoker Award nominated novel Unbreakable, and the sequel Unmarked, in the Legion series. Kami is fascinated by the paranormal, and she’s very superstitious. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found watching disaster movies, listening to Soundgarden, or drinking Diet Coke. She lives in Maryland with her family, and their dogs Spike and Oz.


Nancy Holder
Nancy Holder is a Bram Stoker Award winning and NY Times bestselling author (the Wicked Saga) also known for her novels and episode guides based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teen Wolf, Beauty and the Beast, and other TV shows. She also writes and edits comic books. She lives in San Diego with her daughter Belle.


Gillian Philip
Gillian Philip’s books include Crossing the Line, Bad Faith, The Opposite of Amber and the Rebel Angels series – Firebrand, Bloodstone, Wolfsbane and Icefall. She has been nominated and shortlisted for awards including the Carnegie Medal, the Scottish Children’s Book Award and the David Gemmell Legend Award. Her home is in the north-east Highlands of Scotland with her husband, twins, three dogs, two cats, a fluctuating population of chickens and many nervous fish.


Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America,” is the author of over 300 books, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic and How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? The books range from rhymed picture books up through novels. Her books and stories have won two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, the Golden Kite Award, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, among others. She is also the winner of the Kerlan Award and the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal, and named a Grand Master for both the Science Fiction Poetry Assoc., and the World Fantasy Assoc. Six colleges have given her honorary doctorates.

Henry Herz (editor)
Henry writes fantasy and science fiction books for young readers, including Nimpentoad and Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes. He enjoys moderating sci-fi/fantasy convention panels and eating Boston Crème Pie. He lives in San Diego with his wife and two co-author sons Josh & Harrison.

Get your copy of Beyond the Pale.

Click to Tweet: Meet the Authors of Beyond the Pale at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Fz via @Nimpentoad

Leave a comment

Interview with Christine Kohler, YA author of ‘No Surrender Soldier’

Christine Kohler is a graduate of the University of Hawaii. The characters and premise for NO SURRENDER SOLDIER grew out of her experiences living in Japan and Guam. Kohler was a political reporter and foreign correspondent for the Pacific Daily News, a Gannett paper covering the West Pacific.


Tell us about your latest book.

NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is a historic YA-crossover novel published by Merit Press (Adams Media/F+W Media). It takes place during the Vietnam War, 1972, on Guam. A 15-year-old Chamorro boy, Kiko, discovers that his mother was raped by a Japanese soldier during WWII. What he doesn’t know is that a WWII Japanese soldier is hiding in the jungle behind his house. The story is told in two points of views between the Chamorro teen and the WWII soldier. NO SURRENDER SOLDIER is based on a true event and soldier in history who hid on Guam for 28 years rather than surrender or commit suicide.

What aspect of world-building do you find most challenging?

The biggest challenge is in revision, deciding what to cut and where to weave, so the descriptions, settings, and historical and cultural background don’t overwhelm or get in the way of the story. There’s nothing worse for a reader than background or info drops stopping the action and plot from moving forward.

What memorable experience would you have not had if you hadn’t been a writer?

Flying into Johnston Atoll with a gas mask and hypodermic needle and antidote to tour the first incineration of WWII chemical weapons brought out of East Germany when the wall was torn down. Flying in a hot air balloon. Interviewing politicians, sheiks, human shields, negotiators, and refugees, plus a lot of regular folks with interesting life stories.

Henry: Ah, but have you ever interviewed a sheik in a hot air balloon? You know they frown on hypodermic needles near hot air balloons. ☺

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Study your craft. Write the story and don’t worry about whether it will sell. Revise deeply. Submit. Shrug off rejections. Persevere.

Henry: So true. Improve, be resolute, be indefatigable.

Do you have a favorite quote?

This is one I often quote: “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

However, this one best applies to how I wrote my novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER:
“For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain [and] the noise of battle.” – John Cheever

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

I’d invite Herman Melville, Chaim Potok, and Graham Greene to dinner and listen to them discuss writing. I love how they layer their plots with history, politics, religion, and even sexual connotations.

Henry: I still have a children’s version of Moby Dick from when I was a young kid. I drew a sperm whale on the title page. I no longer draw in my books, which is just a little bid sad.

Per Wikipedia, “Chaim Potok (1929 – 2002) was an American Jewish author and rabbi. Potok is most famous for his first book The Chosen, a 1967 novel which was listed on The New York Times’ best seller list for 39 weeks and sold more than 3,400,000 copies.”

“Henry Graham Greene (1904 – 1991) was an English writer, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene was noted for his ability to combine serious literary acclaim with widespread popularity. Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. Several works such as The Confidential Agent, The Third Man, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.”

What would you like the epitaph to read on your tombstone?

She never missed a deadline.

Henry: Well, I hope you’re late for that deadline. ☺

Where can readers find your work?

Any bookstore or library. If not in stock, ask them to order my books.

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Leave a comment

Interview with NY Times bestselling ‘Teen Wolf’ author Nancy Holder

Nancy Holder is a New York Times bestselling author who writes dark fantasy and horror for adults and young adults, and is also known for her “tie-in” novels and episode guides for Teen Wolf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hellboy, Hulk, and many other TV shows and movies.


For what age audience do you write?

I have written for every age group from early readers to adults.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is ‘Teen Wolf: On Fire’, which is an original novel based on the hit MTV show.

Henry: You are my hero! Now if I could just convince a publisher to let me write a picture book based on Family Guy.

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

I hope that fans and non-fans of the show will see their own questions about life and identity mirrored in the characters’ questions and quests.

Henry: Personally, I’d like to gain greater insight into why, like a werewolf, I have body hair growing where I don’t want it…

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Writing lean. It’s easy to “hand-wave” with a lot of extraneous verbiage, which can only bore and confuse readers. Alas, it never impresses.

Henry: Brevity is the soul of wit. FYI, I did not write that.

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

Diligence and honesty win out over stage fright.

Henry: Indeed, there is no escaping the pesky requirement for hard work.

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

Sitting with Joss Whedon on Spike’s crypt on a sound stage at Buffy and asking him if he thought he was an auteur. He demurred. I adore him.

Henry: That is pretty cool. I’ve been privileged to meet some awesome writers in person, including yourself, Ned Vizzini, David Brin, Jonathan Maberry, Jason Hough, Kevin Hearne, Brandon Sanderson, Jenni Holm, and Dan Gutman.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read. Read. Read. Watch a lot of TV. Write more than that.

Henry: There’s that pesky diligence, rearing its ugly head again.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Even in the darkest place, there is hope.” (Me)

Henry: You just conducted a literary selfie by quoting yourself!

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

MUST HAVE COFFEE. And I create playlists to listen to, and watch lists of movies to watch. When I am writing dark, I watch a scary movie every single day. In the sunlight.

Henry: You are livin’ the dream!

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

Freezing time so I could get it all done.

Henry: It probably won’t surprise you to know that is the most common superpower requested by authors. Another options is obtaining a host of minions.

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

Well, you, of course. Because you are a great writer and a fascinating guy. And Shirley Jackson and Joss Whedon, because they are my writing heroes.

Henry: You are beyond gracious to put me in such company. Flattery will get you everywhere. I’ll bring Mallomars for dessert.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Elves if they look like Orlando Bloom as Legolas!

Henry: Fine! Then I want Kate Beckinsale as the vampire Selene in Underworld. I know it’s not literature, but Kate Beckinsale.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Zumba! And spend time with my daughter. She’s a writer, too, and we’ve sold two short stories together.

Henry: Isn’t Zumba the robotic device that vacuums up floors? Or is it Rumba performed by Zombies? It’s very cool that you’ve written with your daughter. As you know, my young sons are involved in my writing too.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Good Writer, Great Mom

Henry: Well, done and done. You’re ahead of schedule.

Where can readers find your work?

Bookstores and online. My beloved home store is Mysterious Galaxy: http://www.mystgalaxy.com/book/9781451674477

Henry: Yes, Mysterious Galaxy was gracious enough to host the launch party for our first book, Nimpentoad. Great people.

This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.