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The Website of Jonathan Auxier in which he posts drawings and thoughts about the state of children's books past and present.
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1. SOPHIE QUIRE Launch Party!!

Sophie Quire Launch InviteThis book marks the culmination of 2.5 years of difficult work on a story that I genuinely feared would never see the light of day. And now that it’s about to go out into the world, it feels like a good time to celebrate! Please join us for the Sophie Quire Launch Party at Classic Lines Bookstore in Squirrel Hill. Sunday, April 3, from 3-5pm. Everyone’s invited–please spread the word!

For more information, check out the Facebook Event Page.

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2. Seeing STARS!

Print

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard doesn’t hit stores until next month, but the book has brought in some nice STARRED reviews …

From Kirkus: “This novel should be in the hands of every human young enough at heart to be enchanted by the written word.”

From Booklist: “This affecting, compelling story stands on its own, embodying and highlighting the power and impact of tales well told—and why they endure.”

Now doesn’t that make you want to run out and preorder the book?!

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3. Adventures in Reading …

A while back, my wife and I contributed content to a textbook called Children’s Books and the Developing Reader. I also drew illustrations for the chapters. While switching computers, I came across the files and thought they might be worth posting …

reading final web

fishing final web

balloon final web

Mountain final web orchard final web mines final web Camping final web birds final web sea final web Swing final web

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4. The Collector’s Gift

A few years back, I helped write a short film for the very talented Ryan Kravitz, who had traded in a successful career as an art director to take up animation. It’s finished and out in the world now (apparently having racked up a ton of accolades), so I thought I’d post …

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5. Free SOPHIE QUIRE ARCs and Wraparound Art…

Only two more months until Sophie Quire is out in the world! Already, advanced readers copies (ARCs) are being given out at various conferences. If you’re keen to get one for yourself–check out our Goodreads Giveaway.

 

In the meantime, here’s the full wraparound art for the book, drawn by the brilliant Gilbert Ford! Click the image for a bigger view…

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6. Some SOPHIE QUIRE Art

This week I finished the last of the illustrations for Sophie Quire — 45 drawings in all! Here are a few of my favorites; light spoilers ahead  …

The Bookmender of Bustleburgh

3 - Bookmender of B copy

Deeds of Derring-Don’t
2 - Derring Dont copyThe Book of Who5 - Book of Who copyThe Mandrake11 - Mandrake copyTrapped in the Menagerie22 - Trapped in the M copy
Into the Hinterlands26 - Into Hinterlands copyThe Lighthouse at the End of the World31 - Lighthouse copyEverything But the Kitchen Sink42 - Kitchen Sink copy

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7. How to Get Signed Books!

Just as note as we approach this holiday season: If you want a signed/personalized copy of one of my books, please call Classic Lines Bookshop. They are right down the road and keep my books in stock — which makes it pretty easy for me to swing by and sign things. Just give them a ring and let them know you want a signed book shipped to your address. (If you want it personalized, make sure to let them what name you want in the book!)

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8. ARCS of SOPHIE QUIRE coming this week!

PrintHello pilgrims! Just posting a note that I’ll be at the American Association of School Librarians conference this weekend (Nov 6-7) with freshly printed arcs of Sophie Quire & the Last Storyguard! I’ll be signing free books on Saturday at 11:30 (at the Authorpalooza event)  and 5:30 (during the Meet & Greet). Supplies are limited, so if you want a book — come early!

If you can’t make the event, I’ll also be at NCTE doing a “Nerdy Book Club” panel on Saturday Nov 21 and an ALAN “Whodunnit” panel on  Monday, Nov 23!

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9. It’s done!

I am delighted to announce that after more than 4,000 hours of writing, Sophie Quire & the Last Storyguard is finished!

mss

This book has been without question the most difficult challenge of my career. Two years is a lot of time for most writers, but for me it was a sprint that very nearly broke me. More than a few times, I considered abandoning the book altogether. But every time I got to that point, I thought of Sophie — mending books in a city that no longer read stories — and I knew I had to finish.

Sophie Quire is technically a companion to my first novel, Peter Nimble & his Fantastic Eyes — but it is also a standalone story with a different hero set in a different world. The combined books are in many ways an examination of what it means to live in a world that has lost its sense of enchantment. Peter Nimble and Sir Tode are a major part of the story … but it is not their story. The tone is darker and the stakes are much higher. Also, it has way more monsters! The book will come out Spring 2016.

I cannot wait to share this story with the world.

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10. A Call from the Mouse …

Hello friends! The announcements came through the trades today–DISNEY JUST OPTIONED NIGHT GARDENER! From Variety:

Disney has bought the rights to Jonathan Auxier’s “The Night Gardener.”

It will be developed by Sean Bailey’s Disney live-action group with Auxier adapting the script. Jim Whitaker will produce.

The book is Auxier’s follow-up to his widely popular “Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes,” with this story following two orphan siblings who travel to work as servants at the creepy, crumbling Windsor estate, but neither the house nor its inhabitants are quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious specter and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives.

Disney has had quite the success lately of remaking their animated classics such as “Cinderella,” which just passed the $500 million mark at the worldwide box office, and “Maleficent,” but this acquisition shows they are still interested in developing original IPs.

Obviously this is still very far from being an actual movie, but thrilling nonetheless!

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11. Introducing … SOPHIE QUIRE!

Hello friends! It’s been a while since my last update, and that’s because I’ve been busily finishing my next book! It’s a companion to my first novel, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Here’s the amazing cover, drawn by Gilbert Ford:

Print

The book comes out January 2016. It is without question the most monster-filled story I have ever written. Here’s the summary from the catalog:

It’s been two years since Peter Nimble and Sir Tode rescued the kingdom of HazelPort. In that time, they have traveled far in wide in search of adventure. Now Peter and Sir Tode have been summoned by Professor Cake for a new mission: find a 12-year-old bookmender named Sophie Quire. 
Sophie knows little beyond the four walls of her father’s bookshop, where she repairs old books and dreams of escaping the confines of her dull life. But when a strange boy and his talking cat/horse companion show up with a rare and mysterious book, she finds herself pulled into an adventure beyond anything she has ever read.
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I am so unbelievably excited to share this story with the world. I’ll keep you posted with illustrations and updates as we near publication. Tally-ho!

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12. A NIGHT GARDENER Soundtrack …

Whenever I start a new book, I try to put together a soundtrack that makes me feel the way I want the story to make me feel. It’s a valuable tool, because at some point I become sick of my own book, and the songs help remind me what I’m aiming for. Screenwriter John August puts it well: A good playlist helps you get started. A great playlist helps you finish.” 

I thought I’d share some of the songs that helped me finish The Night Gardener. According to iTunes, I listened to these and a few other tracks more than 300 times …

 










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13. A Children’s Book Week Challenge!

As many of you know, last week was “Children’s Book Week.” Authors were asked to submit 1 min videos talking about books they love. I knew that wasn’t enough time, so I instead made my video into a sort of flashcard challenge:

I got a number of emails from people wanting to know all the book titles, so here’s the master list:

The Little Prince - Alice in Wonderland - The Golden Compass - A Little Princess - Darth Paper - Pinocchio - Rutabaga Stories - Mary Poppins - Bud, not Buddy - The Chocolate War - The White Mountains - The Witch of Blackbird Pond - The One and Only Ivan - Matilda - The High king - Holes - The Higher Power of Lucky - The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles - Five Children and It - The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane - Book of the Dun Cow - Howl’s Moving Castle - Peter and Wendy - The Twenty-One Balloons - Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle - A Wrinkle in Time - Little Women - The Princess Academy - The Graveyard Book - Charlotte’s Web - Dominic - Diary of a Wimpy Kid - The Phantom Tollbooth - My Father’s Dragon - The Neddiad - Anne of Green Gables - Redwall - The Man in the Ceiling - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Winnie the Pooh - Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 

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14. At Last … THE NIGHT GARDENER!

NightGardener - 3d Cover

After nine long years, The Night Gardener is finally out in the world. I am overjoyed with the support that this book has already found among both readers and reviewers.

If you are so inclined, here are some super easy things to do that will go a long way toward spreading the word:

  • Buy the Book! Either for yourself or for a young reader in your life. Early sales go a long way toward helping a new book break out from the pack! If you’ve read and enjoyed the book, loan it to a friend—the more people that know about The Night Gardener the better!
  • Come to an event! I’ll be having a launch party at the CC Mellor Library in Pittsburgh on Sat, May 31 from 2-4pm–children are welcome! Also, if you’re a bookstore, library, or school in the Pittsburgh area, feel free to contact me about setting up an event!
  • Write a Review! If you read and enjoyed the book, please, please, please take a few minutes to write a review on Amazon and Goodreads—that kind of feedback goes a long way to help get the word out!
  • Ask Your Local Bookseller for the BookWith so many books out this spring, a lot of smaller bookstores won’t necessarily have a copy in stock—and that’s why it is SO IMPORTANT to let stores know that you want to see The Night Gardener on the shelf! Don’t know where your nearest bookstore is? Click here!
  • Request The Night Gardener at your Library. Same as above, libraries won’t carry a book unless they know that people will check it out. This has the added advantage of letting you read the book for free! And who doesn’t like free?
  • Spread the word online!  Post a link to the book on your Facebook page or blog. Or you can tweet this announcement.

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15. Early word on THE NIGHT GARDENER!

NG Promotional Banner 3

Reviews are rolling in for The Night Gardener, and things are looking good! Permit me to cheer for Molly and Kip: 

First the book was a Junior Library Guild selection!

Then it was named a Editor’s Pick Best Book for April by Amazon!

Then it was named a “top ten” pick for the American Bookseller’s Association 2014 summer Indie Next list!

And that’s not all. Here are just a few reviews for the book so far:

“Lots of creepiness, memorable characters, a worthy message … make this cautionary tale one readers will not soon forget.” - Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

“Auxier gives readers a spooky story with depth and dimension.” - School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“an Excellent ghost story for middle grade readers.” - VOYA, “perfect ten” review

“Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story … The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.” - Shelf Employed

“Auxier delivers the goods with his precise descriptions of the gothic setting and teasing hints of mystery and suspense” - Horn Book Review

“Auxier achieves an ideal mix of adventure and horror, offering all of it in elegant, atmospheric language that forces the reader to slow down a bit and revel in both the high-quality plot and the storytelling itself.” - Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“The eerie setting, the pacing of the plot and the cast of characters … makes this an ideal family read-aloud and a vacation pleasure.” - Shelf-Awareness

And finally, a review from Betsy Bird’s Fuse #8 blog with perhaps my favorite line ever:

“It is almost as if Mr. Auxier took his whimsy, pulled out a long sharp stick, and stabbed it repeatedly in the heart and left it to die in the snow so as to give us a sublimely horrific little novel.”

Woo-hoo! Order your copy today! Or better yet, pick it up from your local bookstore!

 

 

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16. It’s a NIGHT GARDENER Book Party!

 

Click image for details:

Night Gardener Launch Invite

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be having a Night Gardener launch party on Saturday, May 31 from 2-4pm. The event will be hosted by the historic CC Mellor Library in Regent Square. There will be snacks and activities for children of all ages–so bring the whole family! The folk from Mystery Lovers Bookshop will be on hand to sell copies of both Peter Nimble and The Night Gardener for signing. Please help spread the word by clicking this link–I’d love to see as many people there as possible!

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17. AFTER THE BOOK DEAL

Banner

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Many of these sites will also be doing Night Gardener giveaways, so please follow along and spread the word!

THE SCHEDULE: 

WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out 
April 21 – “Finding Your Tribe” @ Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe
April 22 – “Do I Really Need a Headshot?” @ Novel Novice
April 23 – “I Hate Networking” @ Charlotte’s Library
April 24 – “A Night at the Movies” @ The Lost Entwife
April 25 –  “Giveaways!” @ Smack Dab in the Middle

WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
April 28 – “Can I have Your Autograph?” @ Haunted Orchid
April 29 –  “Cinderella at the Ball” @ The O.W.L.
April 30 – “Being Heard in the Crowd” @ Mundie Moms & Mundie Kids
May 1 - “The Loneliest Writer in the World” @ The Misbehavin’ Librarian
May 2 – “Shutting Out the Voices” @ Shelf Employed

WEEK THREE: The Business of Being an Author
May 5 – “Back to the Grindstone” @ Word Spelunking
May 6 – “The Root of All Evil” @ The Compulsive Reader
May 7 – “Care and Feeding of Your Muse” @ Buried in Books
May 8 – “The Green-Eyed Monster” @ The Book Monsters
May 9 – “Death by 1000 Cuts” @ Waking Brain Cells

WEEK FOUR: Keeping Your Book Alive
May 12 – “A Cheering Squad of One” @ So I’m Fifty
May 13 – “This Part is Awkward” @ TBA
May 14 – “School Days” @ There’s a Book
May 15 – “Crowd Control” @ Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
May 16 – “Keeping the Magic Alive” @ Tif Talks Books

 

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18. In Which I Almost Puke in Front of a Class

My wife and I recently had a new baby, which means I have momentarily become terrible at organizing my schedule.  Case in point, a few weeks ago, I had a Skype visit planned with the great Eric Carlson (@buffaloteacher), a Minnesota teacher who has read Peter Nimble to his class for the last three years.  I love Skyping, especially for teachers as awesome as Mr. C!  Here’s a picture I drew of him last year as a zombie: 

Mr Carlson 2

So this year we had our annual Skype visit lined up, and Mr. C had his class all excited.  Witness some awesome pictures they drew in preparation: 

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BhlNLu6CIAEZqMh

But on the day we were set to Skype … I FORGOT ABOUT IT ENTIRELY!1

Mr Carlson’s class was very forgiving, but I felt like I had to make it up to them.  

So when we had our visit the following week, I added a little “punishment” for myself.  I spread out a whole bunch of food from my fridge along with a bowl and spoon 2After each kid asked a question, I let them instruct me to put one ingredient into the bowl and promised to eat it at the end.  Here’s what it looked like:

Bh1LPIaIYAAjnLe

I had promised to eat the entire bowl, but when push-came-to-shove, I could barely get down a single (heaping) spoonful … I may have even thrown up in my mouth a little bit while saying goodbye.  

All in all, I’d say it was an AWESOME Skype visit! 

  1. see previous point about the newborn
  2. Ingredients: Crispix, milk, maple syrup, soy sauce, catsup, mustard, ranch dressing, chocolate chips, croutons, banana peppers (and juice!), chocolate frosting, parmesan cheese.

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19. A Bookish Craft to Help You Track Your Reading…

Too often Mary and I read library books or listen to audiobooks only to forget that we ever read them–without that spine on our bookshelves, it’s easy to forget.  In 2013, Mary and I decided to start keeping a master list of every book we read … and we decided to make it GIGANTIC. We did this by painting over an old piece of thirftstore art with white primer: 

IMG_0706

We decided to leave a tree and girl on horseback just for fun: 

IMG_0709

Then we started writing down the titles of books that we read with a black Sharpie. I was House Scrivener because Mary has the handwriting of a serial killer:

IMG_0708

Our rules were pretty simple. Only write each title once (per year). That means if we both read a book or if we re-read something, it wouldn’t clutter our list: 

photo 4

One year into the experiment, it’s become a nice ritual. You’d be surprised how the prospect of adding to the list motivates you to finish a book! Here’s the list hanging above our piano in the library: 

photo 1

I like the idea that in 30 years, we will have an entire room filled with pictures like this! 

 

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20. Creative Mornings: Childhood as Source Material

Art by Ed Nacional

Art by Ed Nacional

A few weeks ago, I did a Creative Mornings talk at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum on the topic of “Childhood.” This was my attempt to connect children’s literature to a broader audience–specifically talking about what it means to work in an industry where the audience (children) are separate from the buyer (grownups). Of special interest might be the anecdote I tell about Tom Angleberger at minute 15 … an event he has since claimed didn’t occur (it totally did). Also, of course, I finish things off with a yo-yo show! 

Enjoy: 

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 11.59.51 AM

 

Creative Mornings is a fantastic organization. Find out about the next event in your own city and check it out! 

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21. Hear Me on Public Radio!

photo-21

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down with Paul Guggenheimer of Essential Pittsburgh to talk about Children’s Books. I’m a big fan of public radio, so this was a huge thrill. An excerpt from the transcript: 

Dazzled by the bizarre and eccentric characters of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, children’s author Jonathan Auxier has always been fascinated by peculiar storytelling.

Auxier loves his job, but admits it can sometimes be difficult to write for children of different ages because their maturity and ability are so varied.

He says reading aloud is one of the best ways to connect with a child. Not only is the time great for bonding, but reading a more complicated story to a child can expose them to a reading and thought level above their norm. He tries to juxtapose fun plot lines and characters with interesting rhetorical styles in his own work.

“So in the instance of Peter Nimble, the book is actually fairly dense on a word level, it’s got very complicated language structure. I was working out of a tradition of 18th century neoclassical writers…but the story itself has a very childlike sensibility and I love mixing that.”

You can hear the whole interview (12 min) on the WESA website

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22. THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to write a guest post on the website Books4YourKids about my favorite book of 2013: Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli. 

Many might disagree, but I would argue that this is perhaps one of the most important children’s books written in my lifetime. Here’s an excerpt in which I discuss how this book interacts with Peter Pan

It has been observed that I am somewhat obsessive about JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. More than once, people have asked me what I think about Pan adaptations and sequels written by contemporary writers. My usual response is that I think those writers could better use their time creating their own characters to discuss similar themes. Spinelli has done just that. The fugitive shadow of Peter Pan skitters all throughout Hokey Pokey without ever once needing to be mentioned. To every person hoping to write an “updated” version of Oz, or Wonderland, or Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I would direct them to this book. 

The best response to this post came from Tom Angleberger who objected that he didn’t actually think this was a book for kids (Betsy Bird wondered as much in her excellent review … which is what prompted me to pick up the book in the first place). It’s an interesting question, and one that I suspect I’ll be chewing on for a long time. 

You can click here to read my full review … better yet, just read Spinelli’s book. Because it’s AWESOME. 

 

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23. First Day of Advent …

Having no star or angel, Max decided to crown himself King of the Christmas Tree!

Max on tree

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24. THREE STEPS FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS

Pic - Buried

I often get emails from people looking to break into children’s publishing. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some general advice I find myself giving again and again. Below are three steps, in order of importance, that I think writers should focus on:

1) Write a Really Good Book
First time writers don’t sell books based on partial drafts or outlines. They sell finished manuscripts. And there are a lot of finished manuscripts in the world. That means the first step is completing a book and revising it until it is airtight. Don’t expect an agent or editor to look at a sloppy manuscript and see the potential–that same agent or manager has hundreds (not an exaggeration) of other manuscripts to consider, and they’ll take the one that demonstrates the greatest professionalism and craft. Taking an example from my first book, Peter Nimble, I did about 15 complete re-writes before showing it to an agent … and then did another 3 drafts before the book went to an editor. I have yet to talk to a professional author who didn’t go through the same level of revision before finding a publisher.

2) Join SCBWI
The “Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators” (SCBWI) is a national organization with local chapters all over the country. This group is a fantastic place for both professional and aspiring writers and illustrators to gather and discuss craft and business of children’s publishing. The annual conferences are often attended by agents and editors who are looking for new books. I have a number of author friends whose careers were launched when they met an editor at an SCBWI event who requested to see their really good manuscripts (see above point).

3) Query Agents
If a lot of industries, the “it’s who you know” rule applies. Not so in publishing! Book agents read and consider manuscript submissions from unknown writers all the time–that’s their job. Nearly every writer I’ve ever met was pulled out of the “slush pile” from an agent who discovered them. Your job is to query agents who will best understand your work and be in a position to sell it. This means doing a bit of homework, by reading the Writer’s Market and finding agents who are looking for material like your book. The internet is awash with resources about how to approach agents. A good place to start might be Kidlit.com, a website run by children’s book agent Mary Kole. She answers questions about the dos and don’ts of querying better than anyone!

The above steps aren’t a guarantee of any success, but they are a good place to start! Also, I might as well link to this brief but eloquent video of Neil Gaiman talking about step one (which is really the only step that matters):

 

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25. Early word on THE NIGHT GARDENER!

kirkus

Well, early reviews are rolling in on The Night Gardener, and things are looking good! Permit me to cheer for Molly and Kip: 

First the book was a Junior Library Guild selection!

Then it got a STARRED REVIEW from Kirkus who said: 

“Lots of creepiness, memorable characters, a worthy message … make this cautionary tale one readers will not soon forget.”

Then it was named a Big Spring Children’s Book by Amazon! 

From a review at Shelf Employed

“Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story … The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.”

And finally, a review from Betsy Bird’s Fuse #8 blog with perhaps my favorite line ever: 

“It is almost as if Mr. Auxier took his whimsy, pulled out a long sharp stick, and stabbed it repeatedly in the heart and left it to die in the snow so as to give us a sublimely horrific little novel.”

Woo-hoo! Pre-order your copy today! 

NightGardener_cover_final

 

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