Diana Renn

Mysteries that Matter

Author

Ammi-Joan Paquette launches PRINCESS JUNIPER

Fall is upon us, and with it has come a whirlwind of author events, timed with the busy fall book release season! Summer can be a slow season for book promotion (trust me, I know, having promoted two books in the summer season) so for months I haven’t emerged from my writing cave or shed my pajama-like writing uniform. But suddenly friends’ books are all coming out in rapid succession, so this month I have stepped out!

I kicked off the book launch season by attending the Porter Square Books release party for Ammi-Joan Paquette’s great middle-grade adventure Princess Juniper of the Hourglass. The next week I attended a party for Josh Funk’s outstanding picture book, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast. (There were pancake and French toast cookies, too, so if you missed this event, you really missed out). Days later, I went to the launch party for my very own editor, Leila Sales (also an acclaimed YA author!) who released her fourth YA novel,  Tonight the Streets Are Ours, at Brookline Booksmith. The very next day (whew!) I enjoyed an amazing talk and reading at Porter Square Books by my good friend (and writing group member) Patrick Gabridge, who was discussing his new historical novel Steering to Freedom. This Thursday I’m off to a public library event to see picture book author friend Debbie Sosin read from and talk about Charlotte and the Quiet Place, an important book for kids (well, for all of us!) about mindfulness in a busy world. (Too busy for book events? Maybe. But I’m mindfully trying to see as many as I can!)

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Babar and Friend, tampering with the crime scene

Last Thursday I had a wonderful time talking to teens, parents, teachers, and book lovers at a gem of a children’s bookstore: Blue Bunny Books & Toys in Dedham, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston). I presented with Erin Dionne, a fellow Penguin author, who wrote Notes from an Accidental Band Geek, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, and others (which you should totally read! She’s a great writer and very, very funny!)

The Blue Bunny — which is named after a trademark image associated with antique Dedham pottery — has a strong sense of community and an amazing creative vibe. Maybe because it’s co-owned by the well-known children’s book author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. The store sells books for infants up through teens, runs creativity workshops, publishes a biannual literary arts magazines (by and for grade school kids) called Hutch, houses a teen/young adult book club called Blue2, and hosts author events.

First Erin and I talked about our roads to the writer’s life and publication, and discovered we may actually be the same person. We developed our love of writing early (age five or six) and shared a love of Harriet the Spy (elementary school). In high school she was a band geek (her words); I was a choir and drama geek. And now we’re both Penguin authors. How cool! Her forthcoming novel is an art mystery surrounding the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Which is weird because I wrote an art mystery (Tokyo Heist) and did a lot of my research around that same museum in order to understand art heists and criminal networks.

Dun dun DUN . . .

Cupcakes w/ our book covers, made by Janet Reynolds!

Anyway. The thing that blew me away was how many people came to this bookstore event, despite some pretty stiff competition — we had Halloween and Hurricane Sandy in the same week. But that store filled up. There were actual teenagers there too! Folks, this does not always happen at bookstore events. I see teens at library events, and schools (of course) but not in great numbers at stores. So this made my day. The kids asked excellent questions (okay, adults did too) and we met several young writers — including one who was headed right home after our event to pound out words on her NaNoWriMo project.

So what brought people out on a cold fall night to hear about our books and talk about reading and writing in general? Was it the store’s fantastic promotional efforts? The super smart and friendly staff? The cupcakes with our book covers? (Cute, aren’t they? Pumpkins illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds look on . . . )

Maybe there’s just a wonderful strong sense of community at this store. This is precisely what we don’t get from Amazon. The bookstore as a cozy community living room.Thanks, Blue Bunny! Keep it up!

Erin (& her daughter) and I, about to eat a ton of cupcakes!

I’ve been having a wonderful time meeting readers this month at some bookstore and library events!

I had an especially great time two nights ago at the Cambridge Public Library, meeting with a wonderful book group. About ten kids and their parents meet monthly to discuss a book they all vote on. This month they read TOKYO HEIST, and invited me to join them for pizza and discussion.We talked about suspects and red herrings, the role of parents in YA mysteries, art in novels, and lots of other things. I also learned many new uses for chocolate Pocky. (Hey, did you know you can write and draw with this stuff? One young artist created a couple of masterpieces during our discussion!)

Here are some events coming up soon; if you’re in the Boston area, please come to one or spread the word!

This weekend I’ll be kicking off Teen Read Week with Gina Damico (author of the screamingly funny books Croak and Scorch). What do a budding manga artist and a budding grim reaper have in common? Find out what links our books (there’s a link! really!) at the Belmont Public Library this Saturday, October 13, at 3:00. (And if you’re far away, you can read my recent interview with Gina on the Sleuths Spies & Alibis blog).

Next week more Teen Read Week fun continues with YA fantasy author Erin Cashman (The Exceptionals). We’ll launch a Meet the Author series at Firefly Moon, a unique and very cool gift shop and art gallery in Arlington, MA.

I’ll also be appearing at the Boston Teen Author Festival on October 28, with 14 other YA authors. You guys, this is huge! The festival is hosted by Emerson College and is presented in conjunction with the Boston Book Festival. If you are NOT an Emerson student, you do have to register by October 24, but it is FREE and EASY. Here’s the registration link.

Visit my Events page for more details and more fall events.

Not in the Boston area? Join me on Twitter tonight! It’s the 12th of the month, which means it’s time for the monthly Apocalypsies Twitter chat. The topic this month is MYSTERIES & THRILLERS. My favorite! I’ll be hosting, along with fellow Apocalypsie A.C. Gaughen (author of Scarlet). We have four spotlight authors to introduce you to, and giveaways galore. Follow hashtag #2012debuts and join us at 9:00 PM EST!

(Hey – what happens when you give Pocky sticks to members of the Apocalypsies? APOCKYLYPSIES.)
OK I’m done.

Some wonderful bloggers have invited me to interview and guest post lately, so I thought I’d share a couple of recent links! I should note, I’m not on a formal blog tour, which can be fast-paced and involve many stops. I’d call this more of a “blog cruise.” Leisurely, with time to write meaty answers and lengthy guest posts. I’m enjoying getting to know some bloggers, scoping out their reviews . . . and adding more titles to my TBR pile! (oh no . . . .)

So I visited Katie over at One Page at a Time, where TOKYO HEIST was featured this month for the 2012 Multi-Cultural Book Challenge. I wrote a guest post there, about the multicultural angle in this novel. (And there are three more days left of a TOKYO HEIST giveaway there! Go enter!)

Yesterday I did an interview at Picture Me Reading. I was asked some really interesting questions about the background of the book, and had a lot of fun answering them. I loved discovering this blog, by the way . . . the blogger includes her own art in her book reviews. Here’s her comic-style review on TOKYO HEIST from a few weeks ago!

And, coming up . . . a live event!

Are you in the Boston area? Know people who are?
Interested in strong girls in fiction?

 I’ll be speaking at an event called “Fight Like a Girl,” sponsored by Boston GLOW, on Tuesday, September, 18, in Boston. The event has two panels, one for middle grade authors (at 5:00) and one for YA authors (at 7:00). Click here for the event page with details and RSVP info. There will be lively discussion (no fighting, I promise), book signing, swag bag giveaways, and snacks. (Snacks!) I can’t wait — and I’m so honored to be appearing with the fantastic line-up of authors!

Today’s post will be hasty, as I’m writing to the soundtrack of Tom and Jerry cartoons. It’s breakfast time in our hotel room, and my 5-year-old and his dad are in full vacation mode. That means breakfast with Tom and Jerry on YouTube. Sigh. I’m not exactly a fan of this show. Partly because of the violence, and mostly because of the music, which makes me feel completely frantic. I don’t know about you, but I like to ease into my mornings, not start them with maniacal chase scenes.

Nevertheless. Tom and Jerry are generously giving me some blogging time, so I’ll wrap up my notes from the Seattle TOKYO HEIST tour before the cat catches the mouse! (For those of you who actually have leisure time to read . . . notes from Part 1 of my tour, if you missed them, can be found here. And Part 2 can be found here).

Saturday found me in the beautiful port town of Edmonds, just north of Seattle. Once again, a CSI team beat me to the bookstore! Here’s the creative storefront display at the Edmonds Bookshop:

The Edmonds Bookshop is a real gem, bursting with books and bustling with customers. The booksellers made me feel right at home, and the owner brought in a spread of sushi. I spent an hour chatting with customers about TOKYO HEIST, YA lit, mystery writing, and Japan.

I was thrilled to meet two ladies from the Edmonds Sister City Commission, both of whom had read the book. Edmonds, WA and Hekinan, Japan are sister cities, with a great exchange program for teens. I donated a book and some swag for their upcoming raffle, and they gave me this cool T-shirt (above). One of these women came in adorned in gorgeous contemporary clothing from Japan, including these awesome split toe shoes! She said they’re super comfortable. (If you’ve been following my footwear travails on the previous posts, you’ll know how much I want these!)

After Edmonds, my chauffeur husband, my personal assistant son and I raced, Tom and Jerry style, our feet spinning into blurs, over to the city of Bellevue, for my final book event on the tour.

At the Bellevue Barnes and Noble, I joined my fellow Seattle-area Apocalypsies J. Anderson Coats (The Wicked and the Just) and Marissa Burt (Storybound) to chat about our books. This was especially fun because the three of us had met in Bellevue for coffee at the beginning of our publication journey, about a year and a half ago when we all joined the Apocalypsies. Now we were all presenting together, our books complete at last!

This event had great turnout, despite competition from the huge Bellevue Arts Festival right next door and a street closure nearby. We had excellent audience participation for some fun activities, and excellent questions. I’ve been raving about indie bookstores on this tour, but I have to say, my experiences with Barnes and Noble — here and elsewhere — have also been extremely positive. Every B&N seems to have its own character, and they’ve all been welcoming and enthusiastic. They really do support teen fiction as well as debut authors.

With Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder

At this event, I got to meet two rock stars! One was fellow Apocalypsie Marissa Meyer (author of Cinder) who showed up for a little shopping! Hey, look what she bought!

And . . . I met Realm Lovejoy! Realm’s one of the four artists who did an illustration based on Tokyo Heist, which I displayed here on my blog last month. She’s also an agented YA writer, and I’m hoping her book sells soon and I’ll be seeing HER present at Barnes and Noble. (And if you want to look back at my interview with Realm and her artwork inspired by the novel, you can find that here).

Thanks for reading my Seattle dispatches and book tour notes!

I hear an anvil dropping . . . I’m off to catch the tail end of Tom and Jerry with my son! 

With artist/writer Realm Lovejoy

It’s been a busy week here in Seattle! I blogged about the first part of my tour here, and now that I’ve caught my breath, I’ll try to catch you up on the second part.

Just a few of your friendly neighborhood booksellers!

On Thursday, I met my amazing Penguin Sales Rep, Colleen, who put together a fun lunch with Seattle-area book buyers (complete with a TOKYO HEIST cake! Wow!) We went to one of my favorite Asian restaurants, Wild Ginger, which is also mentioned in my novel. It was great to chat about books with such a knowledgeable group, and to see their side of the book business. I’m amazed by how many indie store are surviving — thriving — here in Seattle. (Compared to New England, where so many have closed). Is it because of the strong indie spirit here in the Northwest, as one bookseller suggested? The gray weather that encourages curling up with good books? Whatever it is, I’m blown away by how many stores there are — I don’t even have time to visit them all — and I love the cooperative spirit of the store owners, and the creative ways they reach out to schools, libraries, and community centers. Yay for Seattle indie bookstores!

Me and my shadow

After that, Colleen and I strolled over to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, where I got to sign stock, meet more wonderful booksellers, drool over the bulging bookshelf full of new YA and MG mystery titles, and blog in the hot seat from their store! I wrote all about this experience over on my Sleuths, Spies and Alibis blog the other day, so you can hop over there for all the details.

You can also check out the post I wrote at gunpoint at their kind request here.

Storefront at Queen Anne Books

Friday was another two-event day, which led me to regret my impractical choice of footwear. It started off at Queen Anne Books, the most charming neighborhood bookstore I’ve ever seen, and where TOKYO HEIST is their teen “Book a Month” selection for July. (15% off all month . . . two more days to take advantage of that, and there are now signed copies in stock!) When I arrived on the scene, I discovered that a CSI crew had beaten me there. Check out their amazing window display!

Bookseller Tegan Tigani made me feel right at home, and served up great sushi in honor of the visit. I had fun signing copies and meeting with customers, and getting to know the great staff there. The multi-talented Tegan also wrote an article about my Seattle tour in Examiner.com, which you can read here.

I thought I might escape empty-handed, but no such luck. I seem to be picking up books everywhere I go, and I left Queen Anne Books with two books and the dangerous knowledge that they have an online store and speedy shipping anywhere in the U.S.!

Author panel at Barnes and Noble, Northgate

Friday evening found me at Barnes and Noble Northgate, presenting with a panel of Seattle-area YA and MG authors: Carol Estby Dagg (The Year We Were Famous), Helen Landalf (Flyaway), Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood), and fellow Apocalypsies Megan Bostic (Never Eighteen), Jennifer Shaw Wolf (Breaking Beautiful), J. Anderson Coats (The Wicked and the Just), and Marissa Burt (Storybound). We had great turnout, and it was fun to hear about everyone’s writing processes and publication journeys — I picked up new tips and, yes, more books! (I was actually so giddy after meeting all these rock stars that I walked right out of the store with an armload of books I forgot to pay for! Which, uh, is a fancy way of saying shoplifting. Yep, I did a Barnes and Noble heist. How embarrassing. I did make it back into the store before sirens wailed, and I did pay for everything, I promise!)

Don’t feed this to children.

There were two more store events yesterday, but I’ll save that write-up for tomorrow, so please check back.

Today I have a real day off, and am leaving momentarily for a family hike in the mountains.

I’ll sign off with a picture of my son’s dubious breakfast the other day: The Mickey Mouse pancake special, served up cold at a bar/diner around the corner from our hotel. Yikes. Ah, life on the road!