Cover Reveal for The Guardians of Zoone

Cover Reveal for The Guardians of Zoone

I’m excited to reveal the cover for THE GUARDIANS OF ZOONE, Book 2 in my new series with HarperCollins Children’s Books.

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The stunning cover art by Evan Monteiro depicts an exciting moment from early on in the book, featuring portal pirates, a skyger, a cosmic storm, and one of my favourite new characters: Captain Traxx.

Another favourite character of mine, first introduced in Book 1, is also shown on the ship, climbing the ratlines. She’s got a lot to do in this sequel, and I really enjoyed spending this extra time with her.

I’m so pleased with the cover, and very grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the design. Even though I am a professional illustrator, I did not want to provide the artwork for the Zoone series—however, I did want to provide ideas, and I was allowed to do just that.

When my editor asked me what I wanted to have shown on the cover, there were two scenes from the book that came to mind. One was a dramatic chase sequence that takes place in the world of Creon and the second was when the heroes were aboard the airship known as The Empyrean Thunder.

Here is my original thumbnail that I provided to my editor:

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At first, I thought we should focus on my trio of heroes. But I also thought we could work in some of the pirates, so I provided my brainstorming pages of the pirate captain, Captain Traxx, who is the mercurial self-proclaimed “Queen of the Cosmos.”

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I also provided a photo of my brainstorming page of what the ship itself looks like:

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There’s a couple of things to point out:

1) As you can see, I took some inspiration from The Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

2) I love coffee.

3) As you can also see, many of my design ideas made it to the front cover. Instead of zooming in on the characters, the artist decided to pull back and show more of an epic perspective of the scene.

Based on the feedback I’ve received so far, it was the right decision!

Not every author gets the opportunity to participate in the cover design phase of a book. I know many colleagues who simply get shown their cover after it’s complete and are given NO say whatsoever. So, I’ll just repeat how grateful I am that I was consulted.

The Guardians of Zoone is scheduled for release in February 2020. You can find out more about the book here.

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 1

TD Book Week Tour ~ Day 1

Today was the official start of my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour in Toronto and surrounding areas.

Yesterday, I chronicled my long travel day. Despite that long day, and the time difference, I sprang out of bed this morning before my alarm actually went off. Always a good sign!

I had three different places to visit, so I made sure I left with extra travel time to spare. Which I needed, because I got lost twice before even arriving at my visit—the first time just trying to find my way to the hotel parking lot from the front lobby.

Do NOT underestimate my ability to get lost!

Enchanted vessels at Shaughnessy Public School

My first visit was for an audience of K-6 in a gymnasium setting. Gyms aren’t my favorite places to present because they are often so big and vacuous and, for some reason I can never fathom, schools are always keen to arrange the kids so that there is giant 100-foot gap between me and them. At Shaughnessy Public School, though, the gym is small and intimate, and I could easily interact with the kids.

Here’s a picture of me at the presentation (photo by Grace Wu).

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Part of my presentation included an interactive brainstorming session based around the theme of “enchanted vessels.” I led them through the activity, asking them to consider important details for their vessels, including shape, design, decoration, and other sensory details—such as sounds that the vessel might make, or what it might feel like to touch it. Of course, they also had to decide how it could be opened and what it might contain.

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Secret doorways at St. Joseph’s Catholic School

My next stop was only a short drive away. I didn’t get lost! I had plenty of time to unload my kit, drop it off to the school, then go for lunch. The school is located in the Leslie Village neighborhood and I really dug it. There were so many old doors along Queen Street! (Anyone who knows me, knows I dig doors).

Here’s a beautiful flourish I found decorating just one of the many neat doors I encountered.

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After lunch, I headed back to the school and set up my space in the library. I had an enthusiastic group of Grades 3-6 who were bursting with questions about my props and approach to writing.

Similar to the morning session, I led the students in an interactive brainstorming session, but this time around the theme of—you guessed it—doors.

Here are some of the kids’ creations:

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Spellbinding suitcases at the Children’s Book Bank

My final visit was at the Children’s Book Bank, which is a wonderful little hybrid between a library and a bookshop—except no one pays for the book. The Book Bank provides free books and literacy support to children living in low-income neighborhoods across Toronto.

I absolutely adored the space in its beautiful brick building with its delightful corners for curling up and reading a good book or two.

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But there was no time for ME to disappear into a book during my visit. I was busy presenting to two different afternoon groups!

I was also treated to a great surprise—two representatives, Emma and Kirsti, came from the Children’s Book Centre to watch me at work and take photos. I actually like it when parents, teachers, school board trustees, and other representatives come to see my workshops and presentations because I think that’s the only true way to really get to understand what I do.

Having said that, what I delivered at the Children’s Book Bank was pretty different from what I usually do. Because of the intimate setting, I didn’t show slides, but simply sat down, and told stories using all of the items in my wizard’s suitcase as visual aids.

They were enthralled, to say the least—which was good, because the activity I had for them was decorating and designing a suitcase that might belong to a traveler who would visit Zoone. Afterwards, they got to think about what that traveler might have inside his suitcase.

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It was all over in a blur!

Favorite question of the day

I get bombarded with questions during a school visit, and I always like to try and pick out one or two that really stand out. The first question that pops into my head came from Shaughnessy Public School. A girl asked, “How do you get all these names for these characters and worlds?”

But I think my true favorite question came from a little girl at the Children’s Book Bank, who asked, “Can I buy your notebook?”

The answer, of course, was “NO!” Why? Well, that brainstorming notebook is howI come up with all of those names for my characters and worlds!

You can see the brainstorming book in the photo below (photo courtesy of Emma Hunter at the Children’s Book Centre).

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About Book Week

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.

 

10 Easy ways to support an author

10 Easy ways to support an author

This spring has been a busy one for myself and many of my friends. Seems like everyone in my author circle has a new book to launch, so we’ve been having fun celebrating and getting lots of personally autographed books.

My own book, The Secret of Zoone, came out officially on April 9th, and we celebrated by launching at our favorite local indie store, Kidsbooks.

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However, it wasn’t the first launch of the season. Preceding mine was the release of two new books by my friend Holman Wang: Great Job, Mom!and Great Job, Dad!

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At his launch, Holman talked about the different ways that readers can support authors. And make no mistakes about it—authors need support! Even though it might not seem like it to the casual reader browsing the shelves of the local bookstore (or the virtual shelves of amazon or any other online retailer), authors aren’t necessarily automatically getting tons of reviews or attention for their books.

Any attention helps!

So, provided to me by Holman, here are ten easy ways to support an author’s book:

1. Tell your friends about the book
The age-old strategy of word-of-mouth is still the best!

2. Write a review of the book online.
For the record, here are the links to the pages for my new book The Secret of Zoone:

Please consider rating the book (which is a simple click on most sites). If you have more time, consider leaving a review. Honest ones are welcome; this may not seem that intuitive, but ALL reviews generally help authors—even negative ones.

3. Take a book selfie for Social Media
This one can be a lot of fun, especially if you want to get creative. Some people like to show them reading the book in a certain location that relates to the book. (For The Secret of Zoone, I encourage people to take pictures of them reading it in front of doors. The older the door, the better!)

4. Turn the book face out on store bookshelves
You know when you peruse the shelves and you see some only as spines and others as facing out with the cover? Well, obviously the ones face out will get more attention!

5. Read the book in public
I don’t know about you, but whenever I see someone reading at the coffee shop, or on the subway or plane, I always sneak a peek at the cover!

6. Check out the book from the library
Some people feel bad for not buying a book, but only taking it out from their local library. But this really helps! It keeps an author’s book in circulation. Plus, if the library doesn’t have the book, but is getting lots of requests, then they will order copies of the book.

7. Lend the book to a friend
That’s the great thing about books—you can pass them on. Personally, I always love it when I see a dog-eared copy of my books knocking about at a school or library. It means that it has been read.

8. Ask your favourite bookstore or specialty retailer to carry the book.
There are thousands of books published every year, and not all of them automatically go into stores. So public engagement and requests really help.

9. Follow the author’s social media
This is a simple click, and most current authors are on the major sites. Myself, I’m on facebook, twitter, instagram, and youtube. I also have a newsletter that you can sign up for here.

10. Buy the book for yourself and others
If you (or your child!) loved an author’s book, then buy extra copies as gifts for birthdays or other special occasions. Book gifts can always be combined with other items that relate to the books. For example, you could buy a small stuffie of an animal that might appear in the book. (Sadly, there are no “skyger” stuffies yet—but let’s hope that happens!)

Of course, it’s one thing for ME to ask people to support me, but I feel that being a part of this community means also doing the supporting. I’m really lucky that a big part of my career is teaching creative writing to tweens and teens—that means I have a lot of opportunities to introduce books to my students, and to connect them to the authors.

Each time we have a book discussion in one of my classes, I tweet and tag the author so that they (and others) can see that we’re focusing on their book that day. This has been a huge success for me as a teacher because my students have LOVED connecting with the authors and are always thrilled when authors acknowledge our messages.

One recent success for us was when we discussed the book Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger (he of the Origami Yoda fame). I tweeted out a picture of my class holding up the book and wearing—you guessed it—fake mustaches. Tom Angleberger was so thrilled he offered to host questions from my students about the book. What an opportunity for them!

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So, I’ll close out this post by giving a shout out to some of my friends and colleagues who have recently launched books.

I already mentioned the books by Holman Wang, but here they are again—Great Job, Mom!And Great Job, Dad!:.

Matab Narisimhan‘s new middle-grade book, Embrace the Chicken, came out in January:

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Eileen Cook’s new young adult book, You Owe Me a Murder, was launched March 8th:

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Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Kallie George launched their new books, Mya’s strategy to Save the Worldand Wings of Olympus on April 25th:

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Nafiza Azad’s debut, The Candle and the Flame, comes out May 14th:

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Lots of books to celebrate this spring season. I hope you enjoy them. As for me? Yep, I have a lot of reading to do!

Thank you for a successful launch of The Secret of Zoone

Thank you for a successful launch of The Secret of Zoone

April 9th was the official book birthday of my new middle-grade book The Secret of Zoone and we celebrated in the best way possible—by launching at our phenomenal local book store, Kidsbooks in Vancouver.

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The event sold out, which meant all the aisles and corners of the stores were teeming with young fans. It’s hard to get bored in a bookstore, of course, but I made sure there were plenty of Zoone-related activities for attendees.

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The Secret of Zoone is about the nexus of the multiverse, where a thousand doors lead to a thousand worlds. During the events of the book, Zoone is also the site of the Convention of Wizardry, which means there’s an entire conjuring of magic-makers descending upon the nexus. All of this is to say that I had a lot of inspiration to draw from one in terms of giveaways, prizes, and displays.

Every attendee was given a travel sticker of one of the Zoone worlds, along with a “ticket-key.” The kids got to choose their own sticker as well as write in the name of their own imagined world on their tickets.

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As for prizes, these included including book dust jackets, specially 3D-printed Zoone keys, and a pair of my hand-crafted dragon eggs.

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The main display (in addition to books, of course!) was my wizard’s suitcase, complete with its selection of magical creature items.

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Once everyone had their own ticket-key to Zoone, we began our program, beginning with an introduction to the book, followed by a short reading. I decided to read from Chapter 3 of the book (“A Skyger on the Sofa”), partly because it’s a fun scene that introduces one of Zoone’s most vibrant characters, Tug (just to tell you, he’s a skyger, which is a winged tiger).

The other reason I chose this section is because it was the very first scene I ever wrote for this book, way back in 2007. Of course, the scene evolved A LOT—in the original scene, it wasn’t a skyger on a sofa, but a lion in the living room. But the spirit of the scene certainly stayed the same over all these years.

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After the reading, I took a few questions, then drew the tickets for the door prizes, awarding Zoone keys, dust jackets, and dragon eggs! One of my long-time creative writing students, Joanne, helped me with the draw! (You might be able to tell she’s quite the character.)

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After that, the only thing left to do was sign books! 

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Signing - CWC family

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I’m so thankful for all the support and love I received that night. Of course, I’m so honoured to be able to launch at Kidsbooks. I’d also like to thank some specific people who helped make the night a success: Rob Stocks and Sarah Bagshaw for their moral support leading up to the launch (and for transportation!), Jeff Porter for 3D printing the Zoone keys, Jina Kim for her awesome photography (these are her photos decorating this post!), my CWC family for spreading the word, my wife and son for being their awesome selves, and—of course—all the teachers, students, and fans who turned up to rejoice in Zoone’s release to the multiverse.

 

Happy book birthday to me!

Happy book birthday to me!
Today is the book birthday for THE SECRET OF ZOONE!
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It has been a long journey!

The very first idea for this book arrived in my brain way back in 2007—before any of my current readers were even born!

There was a long period when I wasn’t sure if this book would ever see the light of a book shelf, or if I would even be published again at all. This can be a tough industry, but on days like today, we celebrate!

I want to thank everyone who helped bring this book to life:


My agent, 
Rachel Letofsky, for believing in Zoone way back when it was just a manuscript.

My incredible editor at HarperCollins, Stephanie Stein. I know most authors rave about their editors, but mine is actually APPEARING ON JEOPARDY this week, so I like to think that mine wins the sweepstakes! (But hopefully, not the literal sweepstakes at Jeopardy, because I don’t want her to retire.)

My cover team! I absolutely adore the art by Evan Monteiro and the hand lettering done by Michelle Taormina.

My pre-reading team: Nadia Kim, Bohyun Kim, Renuka Baron, Sarah Bagshaw, Kallie George, and Paige Mitchell.

Aunt Temperance's Zoone KeyJeff Porter, who took my simple design for a Zoone key and turned it into a file for 3D printing! (Doesn’t it look great

My Scooby Gang—your moral support has meant everything to me along the way.
All of my friends at Children’s Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia…; your moral support has also kept me going along the way.
The team at CWC, including Sarah-Steven Hong, Joon Park, and all the countless students. Many of them BEGGED to be in this book, so I decided to make you GLIBBERS. (If you don’t know what a glibber is, you will find out!)
My family, of course—biological, chosen, and otherwise! (My sister says this book is so good that it sounds like I didn’t even write it!)
And, the best for last: Marcie Nestman and Hiro, who have had to live with the rollercoaster life of an author and who have provided me with so much joy along the way.
It is such a privilege to be published by HarperKids Books. When I was a kid, my go-to series was The Chronicles of Narnia, currently published by . . . you guessed it! HarperCollins!

Dreams do come true!

The book is available at your favorite brick-and-mortar or online retailer. Here are some handy links for you . . .

US:
Indiebound: https://bit.ly/2EE6RvY

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PPNfpM

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2CnqlTc

BAM: https://bit.ly/2Ly1TS9


Canada: 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2QKTVeh

Chapters: https://bit.ly/2EAxIIx

Kidsbooks:https://bit.ly/2AaBl4C

 

I hope you enjoy discovering The Secret of Zoone.

You can win a free copy of my new book

You can win a free copy of my new book

In less than three weeks, my new middle-grade book, The Secret of Zoone, will be hitting bookstore and library shelves and HarperCollins is giving away a free copy through Goodreads.

Just click here to enter.

(If you’re not a member of Goodreads, it’s easy and free to sign up!)

The Secret of Zoone is the first book in my new series. It’s about a boy who steps through an enchanted portal and finds himself in the nexus of the multiverse, where a thousand doors lead to a thousand worlds. Along the way he meets Tug, a skyger with crippled wings, Fidget, a princess with inappropriate hair, and Salamanda a wizard’s apprentice, who may have just taken the wrong job.

I’ll be hosting some other contests in the upcoming weeks to help celebrate Zoone, giving away books, dragon eggs, and prize packs—please check out my twitter feed for more information!

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Enter the Goodreads give-away for The Secret of Zoone

Enter the Goodreads give-away for The Secret of Zoone

My latest middle-grade fantasy book, The Secret of Zoone, is being released in March 2019, but you can get a sneak-peek by entering HarperCollins’ contest on Goodreads for a chance to win an advanced reading copy.

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Just visit the Goodreads page by December 19, 2018, for your chance to win a copy of the ARC. These tend to be prized collector pieces down the road, but you might want to enter the contest simply for the chance to visit Zoone before anyone else.

After all, who wouldn’t want to visit the nexus of the multiverse, where a thousand doors lead to a thousand worlds? While visiting, you can hang out with a clumsy kid, a princess with inappropriately purple hair, and an overly-friendly skyger.

I’ll be talking a lot about this book in the coming months, but for now I encourage everyone to check out the page for a chance to win your very own copy of the ARC for The Secret of Zoone.