Tag Archives: The Broken Lands

In Which I Sneak onto a Very Important Panel by Organizing It (Please Come)!

Yes, folks, I get to talk upper middle-grade with Rebecca Stead, Mariko Tamaki, and Nancy Paulsen! I’m kind of dying of joy, in part because, as an author, bookseller, reader and mom, I am a HUGE, HUGE fan of these women, and in part because this is a conversation I want to have as often, and as loudly, as possible.

Last year, I was really fortunate to be able to take part in a panel discussion at last year’s NESCBWI conference with Laurel Snyder and Aaron Starmer on the subject of upper middle-grade fiction. We called the panel “The Blurry Space of Thirteen.” It was a phenomenal discussion, and I’ve been on the lookout ever since for another chance to dive back in. After all, before Greenglass House, all of my books fell squarely into this awkward upper middle-grade range. My next book is upper MG. Nearly every book in my head is upper MG.

Now, if you have visited this site before basically ever, you know that I’m terrible at updating it. In the last year, I’ve blogged exactly twice, and one of those posts was this one: Just One Reason Why THIS ONE SUMMER’s Caldecott Honor Matters a Lot. 

You can read the whole (excessively long) thing if you have time, but basically my thesis is, books for the set of readers who fall in the icky transitional space between kid and teen are hard to serve in the kids’ book world for Reasons (see post for specifics). But it’s critically important that we serve these kids–they’re going through some of the worst years of their lives, if my memory is to be trusted at all (and I had it better than most kids). To serve them, we have to understand that their needs sometimes include books that touch on subjects that can make adults uncomfortable, and as book creators, we have to acknowledge that those stories often don’t seem to fit comfortably in either traditional MG or in YA.

That post scratched the we-have-to-talk-about-upper-MG itch for a while. Then this spring, I got my hands on an advance copy of Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, which lives squarely in the aforementioned blurry space,  alternating between middle-school and high-school POVs in its discussions of Things That Adults Are Uncomfortable Thinking About Kids Dealing With.  Cristin Stickles, through some magic that only she possesses, convinced the wonderful Nancy Paulsen, President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books at Penguin Young Readers, to moderate our discussion, and NOW IT’S HAPPENING, GUYS! IT’S HAPPENING NEXT WEEK! I hope you’ll join us if you can. I truly believe this is an important conversation to have. All ages are welcome.

And now I leave you with the words of the wonderful Cristin Stickles, my partner-in-crime at McNally Jackson Books:

A great rule of thumb is to never trust someone who enjoyed middle school. It’s a miserable time for any halfway-decent human, that murky area between being a kid and a teenager, between Charlotte’s Web and The Outsiders, between elementary and high school.

The right books can be key to surviving this purgatory, but writing for the 11-14 year old set poses its a very unique set of hurdles. Join three authors who are up for the challenge in conversation about the not-so-wonder(ful) years and the books that can help kids get out (relatively) unscathed.

Join us, won’t you?

Shoot, I forgot a title…CONTEST WINNERS!!

Well, the weekend is nearly at an end, and I’m shaking off my post-vacation jet-lag to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who participated in this week’s contests in celebration of the beautiful new cover for The Broken Lands, and the nice things that several generous readers have said about it. So without further ado, may I announce your winners:

The winners of the art contest are…

Okay, I’m sorry, but I warned you that I might do this. Four pieces of art were entered, and I am invoking the contest moderator’s right to give awards to all four artists, because every one was fantastic, and every one was so completely different. Two focused on setting the scene, and two focused on the villain introduced in the excerpt. So instead of one four-way tie, I’m going to say we have two two-way ties.

First and foremost, may I present the two most recent entrants, which arrived during my flight back to NYC from Israel, who will share the Award for Best Evocation of Historical Period, also known as the Award for Knowing Kate Well Enough to Know You Get Extra Points For Including Trains. Here they are:

A study in pencil by Edie P.

A study in color by Luci P.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you’ve been by this spot in the past week, you will probably remember the first two entries, but just in case, here they are, as well.

B&W Magic from the Rabbit-Hearted Girl

He Brushed the Dust from His Sleeve

 

 

Shannon and Candi, I hope you’ll forgive me for not being able to choose between the two of you for the Award for Best Illustration of my Beloved Villainous Gambler, a.k.a. the Creepy Hands Go a Long Way Toward Making Kate Happy Award. So I’m calling this one a tie, too. Candi got some extra points for the fact that her High Walker makes me think of Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop, and Shannon got some extra points for giving us a look at the process of bringing High Walker to life in this speedpaint. But in the end, I love them both too much to pick.

So we have four art winners! Congratulations! Prizes for everybody!

And now for the amplifying-the-chatter portion of the contest. Mentions were culled from Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and the comments of this site. The names were scrawled on haphazardly-torn-up pieces of paper and one was drawn at random. And the randomly-drawn winner is…@kindleaholic!

So, instead of two winners, we have five. Winners, I will need for you to let me know your preference for hardcover or advance copies of The Broken Lands, and I will also be sending you Sonya Hartnett’s The Midnight Zoo (illustrated by Andrea Offermann). Kindle-aholic, you get the same choice, but you also get to choose your second prize from among the following books by the authors who said such nice things about my beloved second book:

  • A Tale Dark and Grimm (Adam Gidwitz)
  • The Inquisitor’s Apprentice (Chris Moriarty)
  • The Book of Blood and Shadow (Robin Wasserman; advance copy)

So congratulations and my most heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated. Send me your preferences and your addresses by email if you wouldn’t mind (check the “Contact Kate” page here at Clockwork Foundry for the address).

And with that, friends, I sign off for the moment, but only for a short while so that I can put together a second post, which I’ll post tonight before I die of jet-lag-induced exhaustion. And just in case the cover isn’t enough excitement for you, I’ll have another excerpt for you to go along with it. Thank you so much for playing this game with me all week!

Cover coming up next…

 

The Broken Lands, a First Look: Introducing High Walker

Have fun, kids. Draw me something cool.

From The Broken Lands, Chapter One: CHARACTER, CHANCE, AND CHEATING

Coney Island, August, 1877

The arrival of the four o’clock train at the terminus of the Prospect Park and Coney Island Railroad line announced itself with a squeal of brakes battling the forward momentum of two hundred tons of iron. The freckled man in the white linen suit scowled as a fine dust fell onto his cuffs. He looked up at the luggage rack, malevolence in his red-rimmed black eyes, and stared at the carpetbag that had fallen over onto its side.

He brushed the dust from his sleeve with fingers tipped with nails that had been filed to points. It had been about a week since the man had last used those nails to mark a hand of cards, though, so the points were dulling a bit.

With the handle of the bag in one fist and his slim wooden gambler’s case under his other arm, he joined the stream of holidaymakers spilling onto the platform and surveyed his surroundings. To the west, he knew, were the streets of Norton’s Point, all full of thieves and gamblers and criminals in hiding from the law. A few miles to the east, wealthy guests lounged in grand hotels where piers stretched like manicured fingers into the water. The expanse in between, the bright festal wilderness of West Brighton, was given over to bathers, garish painted banners, grifters, mugs of lager that were two-thirds froth, questionable intentions, and carousels.

Taken all together, this jumble of folks, rich and poor and working and thieving, was Coney Island, the notorious seaside town just south of Gravesend, Long Island.

The black-eyed man leaned on the rail watching, listening, and acclimating while he inhaled the brew of sea air and coal smoke. There was something else in the air, too; a deep note, buried far below the scents and sounds that stirred on the summer breeze. It would’ve been nearly impossible for anyone else to detect. Humans were notoriously blind to the simmer of violence—which always amused him, considering how like a drug it was to them.

The freckled and black-eyed man, not being human, could smell it as sharply as cologne. It was everywhere here, just like it was everywhere he’d been in this country in the last twenty years, at least. Maybe more. It was easy to lose track of the passing years. He was far older than the flashy young fellow he appeared to be.

This year, though . . . this year it was strong. It had been building through the long years of Reconstruction; it had kept on building during the years of depression; and this summer it was as if it had been incorporated into the very molecules of the air. In the rebuilding South, in the growing West, even here in the North where folks claimed to be so very civilized. Silty, flinty, stony, metallic, the scent was edged with the smell of human sweat . . . and yet sweet, like the perfume of overripe fruit just before it turned and began to rot.

He stood there until the platform cleared, and then he remained a few minutes longer. At last he sighed, picked up the carpetbag and the wooden case, and started in the direction of the beach.

There was still plenty of daylight left, but long shadows were stretching across the sand as he trudged toward the relative dark below the ferry pier, rolling his eyes at the squeals of girls in their woolen bathing costumes and little boys chasing each other through the surf.

In the gloom beside the pilings, the man dropped the carpetbag. He peeled off his suit jacket, draped it carefully over the bag, sat and leaned back against it as if it was a pillow.  He removed glittering cuff links and rolled up his sleeves, folded freckled arms across his chest, and closed his eyes.

Then he winced and swore as a blow caught him between the shoulder blades. He sat up straight and punched the bag with his elbow. “Patience, you moldy old bastard,” he hissed. Then he sat back against the bag again, harder this time.

Nothing to be done until sunset.

Countdown to THE BROKEN LANDS: the Cover, and a Contest or Two

About a week ago I got to see the final cover of my next book at last. Yes, The Broken Lands jacket art has been finalized, and all I can say is that it’s truly beautiful. Not that I expected anything less for a moment. Andrea Offermann, the amazing artist behind the cover and illustrations of The Boneshaker, returned for this book, and I’m just in love with what she’s done this time. In fact, I’m so in love I want to celebrate a little.

Here is Andrea. Wonder what she's working on...

I’ve also been receiving some fabulous comments about the book from some fabulous writers, educators, and librarians. I want to celebrate that, too. I’m just feeling generally celebratory. So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking: how about I show you the jacket art next weekend, and how about before do, let’s have a CONTEST? In fact, let’s have TWO OF THEM!

Contest #1: Draw some stuff.

I’ll post an excerpt from The Broken Lands later this afternoon, to introduce you to the setting and one of the characters. I invite you to bring either or both of them to life any way you like. Post a link to your art in the comments of the posted excerpt any time this week.

Contest #2 (for those of you who, like me, lack any drawing capability whatsoever): Help get the word out about this contest and the cover reveal next weekend.

Post a thoughtful comment or question here, tweet or re-tweet links about the contest, mention it on Facebook, do what you can to keep the chatter going. Those cool comments about the book I mentioned? I’ll be dealing some of those out on Tumblr this week, and you can re-blog one or two of those if you’re so inclined. I’ll do a random drawing from all chatter-amplifying commentary I can find, and select a few winners. It’s probably best, so that your efforts don’t slip my notice, that you also make it easy for me to find them. Use my Twitter name, @katemilford, or my Facebook name, @katechellmilford, or comment here on the blog as to how you’ve passed the word along. Thoughtful comments or questions will earn you an extra entry. What constitutes a thoughtful comment or question? I don’t know, but I know one when I see it.

WHEN DOES THIS AWESOMENESS CONCLUDE?

The deadline to enter is Friday the 10th. I’ll post the cover Saturday the 11th, and announce the winners Sunday the 12th.

HOW WILL YOU CHOOSE THE WINNERS?

The winner of the chatter portion will be drawn at random, but multiple contributions will earn you multiple entries. The winner of the art portion–well, it depends on how many entries there are. If you’re the only person who steps up and gives it a shot, YOU WIN. If you’re one of only two or three, you probably all win. My blog traffic isn’t that high, so honestly, your chances are pretty good. I’d give it a go.

ARE THERE PRIZES, OTHER THAN A VIRTUAL A PAT-ON-THE-BACK?

My endless gratitude. Oh, and yes, books. The winner of the art portion will receive the ANDREA OFFERMANN CELEBRATION PRIZE: a copy each of The Broken Lands (your choice, advance copy in about a month, or real-live bound book in September) and Sonya Hartnett’s The Midnight Zoo, which Andrea also illustrated.

The winner of the chatter portion will receive the SAYING NICE THINGS ABOUT MY BOOK CELEBRATION PRIZE: The Broken Lands (same choice, arc very soon or hardcover this fall) and your choice of a book by one of the wonderful writers who so generously gave their time to read The Broken Lands. I’ll let you know the specific choices at the end of the week, but there are clues here as to whose books will be up for grabs if you look closely enough.

I should also warn you that I’m overseas this week, six hours ahead of you. It’s 8pm here, and I have somewhat limited internet. So please don’t panic if I don’t reply right away–or, you know, for six hours. Or if something gets stuck needing me to moderate it. Just think of it as part of the fun. And while you’re waiting, here’s an interview with Andrea from just a couple of days ago to keep you busy.

So, without further ado…let’s start…NOW!

Today I Go In Search of a Villain.

This is a fascinating state of affairs for me. I will tell you why.

But first, let me say this. I love writing villains. I love dreaming them up, deciding on their quirks, their monstrosities, and the cuts of their bespoke suits (I’m looking at you, Walker). I love choosing which slivers of humanity to reveal, and when. I love when my beloved beta-reading genius editor kids tell me, “No, that’s not too scary. I think he could be a little scarier. And by the way, are you going to write more about Jake Limberleg?”

I love villains so much that, from time to time, they turn up in my head before the hero does. It may surprise you that this is what happened with The Boneshaker. That’s right; Jake Limberleg surfaced before Natalie Minks. The Broken Lands was a little bit different. I knew the villains in advance, but I knew the main characters in advance, too; and unlike Natalie, I knew them just as well, maybe better, than High Walker and Bloody Bones, the folks they were going to go up against.

So now we come to my current project. Let’s call it Peculiar Springs, since this is what it’s called in my head. This one is coming together in an entirely different way: the place happened first. This has happened to me before, too, but I didn’t start thinking about a book set in that place until I discovered I had a protagonist and a villain in mind. Fortunately, the minute I began building the Peculiar Springs Hotel in my head, I knew immediately who was going to have an adventure there, and why–partly because I was looking for an adventure idea for this particular character. Let’s call her…well, let’s just tell the truth and say it’s Natalie.

So now I have a place and I have Natalie. In the last month, since this idea first occurred to me, you would not believe the details that have come together for this story. This is how I always know I’m on the right track. Unrelated strange and interesting things suddenly reveal their connections to each other. I read something I’ve really been looking forward to, and immediately I see how it relates to Natalie in Peculiar Springs. Five or six different characters have shown up and come to life. But the one who hasn’t turned up yet is the villain.

So I’m ready to get moving, to start writing–and I’m missing my adversary. This is not normal. I always know who the villain is, because the villain is half the fun for me. What to do?

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