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Rysa Walker, "Time's Edge" Author, on Her Time Travel Favorites

TimesedgeRysa Walker, author of Timebound and the new follow-up Time’s Edge, discusses her passion for time travel novels and recommends a few of her favorites.

When I read, I want to experience things I've never seen, could never see, and might not want to see even if I could. Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, horror—those are the books that jump off the shelves and into my hands. Contemporary slice-of-life need not apply.

Time travel covers multiple bases for me which is why I'm drawn to the genre as an author.  Writing Timebound and Time's Edge, the first and second book in the CHRONOS Files series, gave me a chance to combine a splash of historical fiction with a healthy dollop of sci-fi and roll it all together. 

Sadly, I've had to avoid time travel stories since I began writing the CHRONOS Files, simply because I don't want tesseracts, time-turners, or DeLoreans sneaking into my scenes. But here are a few pre-Timebound favorites that grabbed my imagination and landed on my re-read and recommend list:

Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson My very first time travel book, I checked this out from the library in my early teens. No one else got a crack at it for months because I selfishly hoarded it. I later learned it was reissued as Somewhere in Time in 1980 and won a World Fantasy Award in 1976. All I knew back then was it made me cry buckets. 

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer didn't interest me. I grew up in the Deep South, and they were too much like kids I knew. Still, their presence on mandatory reading lists led me to this snarky bit of social commentary in a time travel wrapper. And this book pointed me toward Letters from the Earth. Those two alone earned Twain a spot on my list of favorite writers.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle A trip through the tesseract is Time Travel 101 for many kids but I didn't stumble upon this series until my late teens. I wish I had found it sooner as it might have helped me weather the conformity of high school.  

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling Hogwarts and time travel?? Yes, please.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver Most readers know Lauren Oliver for her Delirium series. I liked those books but I absolutely loved this earlier standalone that reminded me a bit of the movie Groundhog Day. You can't help but pull for Samantha as she struggles again and again to finally get a critical day right.

Guest Post: Alexandra Bracken, Author of “In the Afterlight”

AfterlightAlexandra Bracken discusses the importance of music in the Darkest Minds series. The final book in the trilogy, In The Afterlight, is out on October 28.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Darkest Minds series is made up of unlikely parts.

It was the product of circumstance, really. I had just moved to New York City after graduating from college and was unprepared for how rough of an adjustment it would be. That’s a polite way of saying that I hated it. My first job left me silently crying in a bathroom stall at least twice a week, I was horribly homesick, and I was subsisting on ramen noodles six days out of seven. If you’re thinking to yourself, Wow, this girl didn’t have an ounce of emotional grit…you are exactly right.

As a survival tactic, I coped by escaping into writing a story I filled to the brim with things I love: sci-fi, road trips, old minivans, teenagers with super powers, the state of Virginia, Waffle House, impossible romance, a “found family” of friends, and classic rock.

Would it surprise you to find out that, of everything element in the series, I get asked the most about the classic rock?

Throughout the books, you’ll find references to songs and bands from the 1960s and 1970s serving as a soundtrack to different scenes, starting with the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” We move through some fine Led Zeppelin selections, the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Some are mentioned by names, some are merely snippets of lyrics, but all were chosen for a reason.

There are number of layers to this. The first was that it was a world-building choice. The series is set in an America in which 98% of the under-eighteen population has died… meaning there just aren’t these young bands to create new music. The economy is shot, so even there’s a business around to produce and package the music, the customer pool is incredibly shallow. And, truthfully, in hard times I think we tend to turn to the comforting, the familiar, to feel something is stable.

More importantly, though, the majority of the songs referenced were written in direct response to times of political, social, and economic strife. They’re protests, accusations, and calls to action, many of which have lost some of their teeth forty years removed from the events on which they’re commenting. A younger generation reading the book might not know the back story that ties them to the Vietnam War, for example, but they’ve become classic because they are universal, and the struggles they depict are ongoing. They even apply to a fictional version of America that’s been ravaged by tragedy, poverty, and fear.

Then, there are the personal reasons: my own parents raised me on a steady diet of the good stuff. We debated bands on long car rides and were woken up by my dad blasting the Moody Blues’ greatest hits every weekend. There’s a feeling I’m always trying to capture, the one that comes when your favorite song is suddenly on the radio and you crank it up. The sunlight is streaming in through the windshield and you’re singing and singing and singing along. One character proudly declares the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” is “the music of [his] soul,” not because it describes his life, but because he’s chasing the feelin--that all-consuming, lifting feeling that comes with hearing it.

And, as much as the book is about teens with dangerous superpowers, let’s face it: the Darkest Minds series is also one epic cross-country road trip, and no ride is complete without a good set of tunes.

Exclusive Q&A with Gerry Duggan

When Arkham Asylum is no more, where does Gotham keep it's most infamous and dangerous criminals? Writer Gerry Duggan talks about "Arkham Manor," and a new side of Batman in a new and different Wayne Manor. 618c0SXjJBL

Charlie Chang: You are writing what is arguably one of the most original and interesting stories happening in the Bat universe right now. What is your favorite thing about writing this book?

Gerry Duggan: My favorite thing is that I am able to play with these characters in a little bit of a different setting and...costume. Meaning they are the characters you know and love and some of them, Batman, in particular has a new mask. So he's had the Matches Malone disguise as an old character and his way of immersing himself in the criminal underworld. Well, he has a character now that will allow him to observe the criminally insane in Gotham. It might be a little overdue but the moment is right because there is a murder mystery now in the new Arkham. We don't know if an inmate is able to kill patients at will or whether it is a staff member. Something is going wrong in the new Arkham Manor. The great thing about the name Arkham is that when you hear it you immediately think, "uh oh, what's gone wrong?" It's an unlucky star-crossed name, the Arkham family has been doing this for the good of Gotham so in that way they are like the Waynes but they're the unlucky Waynes.

CC: Gotham in and of itself is already such a terrible place to live where terrible things happen and it feels like at the epicenter like a constant thread is Arkham (Asylum). When you bring that many bad people into one place, something is bound to go wrong right?

Continue reading "Exclusive Q&A with Gerry Duggan" »

Exclusive Q&A with Meghan Hetrick

Meghan Hetrick is one of the many artists bringing the Vertigo’s miniseries Bodies to life by taking the reader across four different time periods, with four detectives and four dead bodies. Meghan talks about what it’s like to work with so many different collaborators. 51WIfzgJ1iL

Charlie Chang: Bodies is such a beautiful book and you're there to contribute to one part of this book. It's got to be so cool to work with one writer but also alongside a bunch of really talented artists.

Meghan Hetrick: Yes!

CC: Can you talk about the early stages of conceptualizing this book?

MH: I really only had control of Shahara in terms of design but everybody really did their own work on this book. So they really came up with the look for their sections and the artists really really nailed what they were trying to do. Shelly (Bond) and Si (Spencer) could not have picked better artists. Not to toot my own horn [laughter] but the rest of the artists have done absolutely beautiful work.

CC: The whole book is great and even though each section is so different artistically, it all still works together.

MH: Thankfully! [laughter]

CC: Did you get to see what the other artists were doing or were you working in your own silo?

Continue reading "Exclusive Q&A with Meghan Hetrick" »

Guest Post: C.C. Payne, Author of "Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair"

Lula-bellIn honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, C.C. Payne, author of Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair, shares the books that helped her through some rough days in middle school.

Hey! I’m Lula Bell Bonner. That’s my picture right there on the cover of the novel, Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair—not that I think I'm cool or anything—nobody thinks that. I'm in the fifth-grade, where I'm trying desperately to fit in but (sigh)... it’s not going so well.

See, fitting in at school is a very delicate art form. For starters, it requires the right lunch, the right clothes, the right friends, and relatives who don't show up unexpectedly. I have none of those things.

My Grandma Bernice (who showed up at school this morning WITH HER CURLERS STILL IN HER HAIR!) says that’s okay, because we're not made to fit in; we're made to stand out. But she’s wrong. Standing out or being different in any way is bad—very bad. It causes other kids to make fun of you, laugh at you, and humiliate you until you no longer want to just “fit in”; you want to disappear.

C. C. Payne here. Like Lula Bell, I often wanted to disappear as a middle grader. Like Lula Bell, I was bullied—though there was no official word for it back then, no anti-bullying campaign, and no training for educators or parents on how to handle such situations. My teacher overlooked my torment under the heading of “Kids will be kids.” My dad told me it shouldn't matter if some people didn't like me. My mom’s solution was to “kill with kindness,” even going so far as to have me look up my bully’s phone number and dial it with trembling hands and with the intent of inviting her over (!!!). Thankfully, no one answered. After that, I never again complained. Instead, I silently swallowed my humiliation, pain, fear, and dread. But that was about all I could keep down. Since my stomach was constantly upset, I ate very little—I became even thinner. This caused rumors that I was anorexic—as if I didn't have enough problems. No one understood.

Except for Judy Blume. Her honest portrayal of the pack-mentality that often comes with bullying in the novel Blubber, let me know that I wasn't alone. Wanting to “fit in,” the protagonist, Jill, goes along with the other girls as they bully an overweight classmate, whom they've nicknamed Blubber. Thirty years later, I still believe that Ms. Blume is one of the best friends a middle grade girl—and her parents—can have.

Author Ellen Potter is another worthy friend. 12-year-old Owen, the protagonist of her novel, Slob, is an overweight genius. Naturally, Owen’s classmates—and his gym coach—find these traits unforgivable and Owen finds himself a victim of bullying. Even so, he doesn't feel sorry for himself. No, Owen copes exceptionally well—demonstrating intelligence, resourcefulness, and good humor.

Of course, bullying doesn't only affect those who are overweight. In Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Auggie is a fifth grade boy with severe facial anomalies, who, despite being different, dares to want the same things we all want: acceptance, friendship, and belonging.

All of these books provide understanding, comfort, hope, and courage—not to mention laughter—to those in need, to those who are different, to those who fail to fit in, because they're made to stand out—to shine.

Kelly Barnhill's Recommended Halloween Reading

Witches_boyWitches, wolves, and a very sharp knife--Kelly Barnhill, author of The Witch's Boy, shares her five favorite Halloween reads for middle graders.

When autumn drifts into the forests and prairies of Minnesota, it is easy to believe in ghosts: the shadows become long, all spindly legs and needle-like fingers; the desiccated leaves whisper in the darkness; the skeletal trees scratch at the thinning sky. When I was a young child I used to hunger for scary stories, but my hunger was never so great as it was in autumn. A terrifying tale leaves a peculiar mark on the soul. I recommend these unsettling stories for your late-night reading. They are sure to leave a mark. Possibly forever.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken Because the universe is cruel and capricious, I never managed to connect with this book as a child. It is a pity, because it has all the things that my dark little heart would have adored: evil governesses, malevolent men on trains, wicked schemes, bees, cruel twists of fate, resourceful children, orphanages, and wolves. Also: Mortal Peril. Which never gets old, really.

The Witches by Roald Dahl It is, when it comes down to it, very similar to several family vacations I remember from my youth: a hotel filled with child-hating witches who are concocting a scheme to turn the nation’s children into mice and subsequently setting the exterminators on them.

Well Witched by Frances Hardinge I read Well Witched as an adult, though it was the eleven-year-old version of me, still holding court in my brain, who insisted that I stay up deep into the night reading this sinister tale of kids who steal coins from a wishing well—and the witch who makes them wish they hadn’t. I would suggest starting this book during full daylight. And maybe leaving the lights on at night for at least a week.

Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen Now this is a book with odd similarities to a Certain Other Book about a wizard’s school, but Yolen’s slim volume came out several years before the first of the Potters, and both magical worlds are distinct and unique from one another. What sets this book apart is the terror of the dark wizard’s plot—attacking the wizard’s school with a terrible beast. And what’s worse is that the beast is a quilt. With teeth. And each square of the quilt is the soul of a wizard that has been devoured by the beast. I know, right? Terrifying.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” And so begins a tale of a boy who escapes death—indeed his whole family has just been murdered—and finds safety in a graveyard, under the protection of a kindly vampire and a new family of ghosts. The macabre mixes with the mundane, allowing the journey of childhood to be seen as exactly what it is: a dark, dangerous road, fraught with peril, confusion, and pain, where those who love us will help us when they can, but we must be brave enough to face the darkness on our own. This is why children love scary books, by the way. Because nothing is as scary as childhood itself. Nothing at all.

R. L. Stine: "My Time of Year"

HauntedmaskHalloween provides plenty of material for R. L. Stine, creator of the Goosebumps series. The author discusses the inspirations behind his many spooky tales.

Halloween is my busy time of year. I'm always traveling to bookstores and schools and libraries, scaring kids (which is my job). I've probably written more Halloween stories than most authors. I've written about haunted masks and inhabited costumes, eerie pumpkin patches, parties that turn into screamfests,  and jack-o-lantern people who invade from another planet.

Weirdo Halloween. Headless Halloween. The Five Masks of Dr. Screem.

Yes, those are Halloween titles that I have to take credit for.

Perhaps the most popular of all my Halloween books is The Haunted Mask. That book—and the TV adaptation of it—comes up whenever I speak to groups of kids or adults.

Someone always asks, "Where did you get the idea for that book?" Strangely, it is one of the few books I have written that began with an incident from real life.

It was approaching Halloween time, and my son Matt was five or six. I was watching him from the doorway to his room. Matt was trying on a green rubber Frankenstein mask. He pulled it down over his head—and then he couldn't get it off.

I watched him tug and tug, but the mask was stuck. And I thought, What a great idea for a story.

I know. I know. I should have helped him pull the mask off—shouldn't I! I guess I didn’t win the Good Parent Award that day. But the idea for The Haunted Mask began to form in my head, and I couldn't wait to start jotting down ideas.

The story turned out to be about a girl named Carly Beth, who is tired of being bullied and teased and considered the biggest 'fraidy cat in school. She buys the most frightening Halloween mask she can find. Unfortunately, it turns out to be haunted.

It tightens around her face, sticks to her skin, becomes part of her. And then when she realizes the mask can't be removed, it begins to change her personality. It turns Carly Beth evil.

Often, people tell me how traumatized they were by this story. Many have told me they couldn't wear a mask for years after reading the book or seeing the TV show. So I guess I did my job well.

I'd like to tell you more about The Haunted Mask. But I have yet another  Halloween story deadline upon me.

Anyone have any good ideas?  

Lois Duncan: Why I Write Horror

Twisted_WindowIn anticipation of Halloween, Lois Duncan revisits the inspirations behind her horror thrillers including The Twisted Window, Gallows Hill, and more.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t plan to be a writer. I started submitting stories to magazines when I was 10, painstakingly pecking them out on my mother’s manual typewriter, and at age 13 I actually started selling them. When I was 20, I wrote my first full-length book, a sweet romance titled Debutante Hill. It was by necessity a young adult novel, because what did I know to write about other than teenage issues that reflected my protected childhood? That book was published and won a national award, and without any conscious intention for it to happen, I found myself a “niche writer,” known for her gentle love stories.

However, the time soon came when I found that restriction boring. I had outgrown my niche, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. I began to take cautious risks, like placing my characters in dangerous situations and then extracting them safely with a platonic kiss at the end. My publisher was not happy with my changing what was then considered the “established formula” for my youth books. So I found another publisher, one who would let me write mysteries as long as they weren’t “edgy.”

But I wanted to be edgy. I kept pushing beyond my limits, with scarier situations and more sophisticated plotting. So again I had to change publishers. But now I was having fun and kept on pushing, and suddenly—overnight, it seemed, although it had been many years coming—I found myself being described as “Lois Duncan, the Matriarch of Young Adult Horror and the Macabre.”

Here was I, gentle, grocery-shopping, laundry-running, mother-of-five, revealed to the world as a woman with a terrifying dark side! My husband and children were stunned, but I was delighted. Writing was now not only my career and my passion; it was a game. With every new novel I tried experimenting with something different. In Killing Mr. Griffin, my protagonist was a teenage psychopath. With I Know What You Did Last Summer, I used a double-identity twist, (which worked well in the book but was omitted from the movie). The theme of Stranger With My Face was astral projection; Gallows Hill was based upon reincarnation; and Down a Dark Hall, (soon to be a major motion picture), was a ghost story.

But probably the most challenging story I ever tackled was The Twisted Window. This was an experiment with viewpoint, inspired by the fact that witnesses to a crime will appear in court and convincingly describe very different recollections. It occurred to me that the same is true of readers. They are totally influenced by the statements of the viewpoint character. But what if there were two viewpoint characters, and each saw the same thing and interpreted it differently? Would it be possible to keep spinning the reader’s responses to events in the story to coincide with opposing beliefs of each viewpoint character? It would be like gazing at the same scene through a twisted window so that things appeared one way and then abruptly appeared otherwise.

That is the reason The Twisted Window has been classified as a “horror book.” There’s no violence, no gore, no multi-fanged vampire. In fact, there’s not even a villain. The horror is the fact that readers have to keep switching their beliefs from chapter to chapter.         

Such crazy-making can be the greatest horror of all.

Gena Showalter's Recommended Halloween Reading

ZombieheartsGena Showalter introduces her latest book, The Queen of Zombie Hearts, and shares what's on her Halloween reading list.

I didn’t have Halloween in mind when I started writing Alice in Zombieland or its sequel Through the Zombie Glass—I was actually inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass—but my publisher and I agreed that October would be the perfect month to launch each new title, and I’m beyond thrilled to complete the trilogy this month with the release of The Queen of Zombie Hearts. My zombie-slaying heroine, Ali Bell, and her crew of slayers are ready to get you into the “spirit” of the season (hint, new twist on zombies, hint). I hope you enjoy falling down the zombie hole with Ali, her sometimes Cheshire-like best friend, Kat Parker, and my own secret, favorite crush, Cole Holland, who at times might just seem a little bit mad. 

The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole—Poison Princess and Endless Knight: Apocalypse now, baby! The end of the world has come, and the teenage embodiments of the Arcana cards must fight to the death…because only one can survive. 

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire: Murder and mayhem: All the girls at Vienna High dream of getting on “the list,” where the hottest girls in the school are named. But this year, if you’re on the list…your life ends.

See Me by Wendy Higgins: A fantastical world of leprechauns, fae, and human magic. A modern day teenage girl must come to grips with an arranged marriage to a handsome Irish boy, but as things start to go her way, she’ll realize some things aren’t what they appear to be.

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto: I haven’t had a chance to read this book yet. But what embodies Halloween better than an eerie, romantic tale with touches of horror featuring a girl haunted by ghosts and a 157-year-old tragedy involving an intriguing young man who is long dead?

The White Rabbit Chronicles by me: If I don’t like my own books, I shouldn’t be writing. Alice in Zombieland, Through the Zombie Glass, and The Queen of Zombie Hearts tell the story of Alice “Ali” Bell, who learns through a terrible tragedy that the invisible monsters her father always raged about are real—and she was born to slay them.  

Heather Graham's Top 5 Halloween Reads

Best-selling paranormal romance author Heather Graham gives us a spine-tingling reading list to help celebrate one of her favorite holidays. Her latest book, "The Betrayed," is on sale now.

51-KVC4lWFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays—as it was with my family. I grew up in an Irish household, so the stories abounded, and when they ended, there were more wonderful stories told by brilliant authors from way back—and during our own time.

Choosing the five I love most? Impossible! But I’m going to give it a try.

First, I’ve recently reread Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus—since I decided to make use of the historical “year without a summer” when Shelley wrote that story in one of my own, Waking the Dead. What I love about Frankenstein isn’t just the shivers—it’s Shelley’s tug on human emotion as we see the tragedy befalling the innocent—and the monster.

Then there’s Hell House by Richard Matheson. What can I say about such a master? Once again, characterization is key—and fear creeps down your spine as you read.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub—the book is both scary and heart-wrenching. As you can tell, “slasher” flicks aren’t my favorites—I love a lot of emotion with my fear!

For a vampire tale? They Thirst, by Robert McCammon. I couldn’t put the book down—and jumped several times in broad daylight.

Ghoul by Michael Slade. It’s tremendously…ghoulish!

Okay, quitting is hard. And I’ll cheat a bit by mentioning a few more. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, The Keep by F. Paul Wilson, anything by Poe and Lovecraft, and of course, there’s Dracula...

Finally, (forgive me) I can’t resist mentioning my own The Betrayed, out now and set in Sleepy Hollow at Halloween!