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Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Editing January was a crazy editing month for me. If I told you how many books I edited and proofed, you'd probably think I discovered the secret to utilizing all 24 hours in each day. I'm still not sure how I did it. February isn't quite as packed, but it's still booked.
Into the Fire Special Dates February 6th is my cover reveal for Into the Fire. February 16th is release day. AND February 22 begins my blog tour. I see massive amounts of hazelnut coffee and dark chocolate in my future. ;)
Reading I've been combining reading time with exercise time, which really helps. I have to run on a treadmill thanks to my sciatica, so I read my Kindle while running. I've also gotten used to the Kindle reading to me on the highest speed, which makes me fly through books.
Revising Last week I managed to revise two of my own books in addition to editing. I feel really good about getting to work on some of my own projects in addition to all the editing I'm doing for clients and Leap Books.
Monroe County Book Expo I signed up for the Monroe County Book Expo on April 16th. I'll be there with ALL my Kelly Hashway titles and Ashelyn Drake titles. I'm hoping to have copies of the entire Into the Fire trilogy too, but the last book (Up In Flames) releases just days before, so we'll see.
Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom.
As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past.
Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure.
For the first time ever, I'm bringing in someone to help me review this book. My eight-year-old daughter, Ayla, and I read this book together, so I figured it only made sense to review it together too. So here are our thoughts on The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow.
We loved the mystery right from the start with the old newspaper article. The Begonia House really came alive for us. Ayla loved how the noises from the house and the woman who made an appearance in Fairday's room were really creepy. It really made her want to know what was going to happen next, so much so that we read the book in just three days. Without giving away spoilers, we'll just say that we really enjoyed how the setting came to life, adding to the mystery and excitement of the story. Ayla also would like a pair of those magical ruby sneakers. ;) Overall, this is a fast-paced mystery with just enough creepiness to draw readers in and hold their attention to the very last page. It's also a great story about friendship, both old and new.
Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.
RL.5.6. Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.
That's the 5th grade reading (literature) standard we're just beginning to work on in my class. So that my students can better understand what's expected of them, we deconstructed the standard, brainstorming around these words: describe, narrator, speaker, point of view, view, and influence. Next, we rewrote the standard in our words. Then, I gave them this poem and a series of scaffolded questions that would lead them to describing how the speaker's point of view influences how events are described.
Lo and behold, it worked! Not all, but some, realized that the point of view of the speaker is that of an artist, and "they see everything that is ugly but they can make it beautiful." The speaker will "make things better in the picture." And "An artist can see in detail, and they can make art out of whatever they see." Not bad for a first try.
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Scholastic Book Fair I'm working the book fair at my daughter's school this week. I always love getting to browse all the books, and I'm the crazy woman who has to fix the shelves because series are never together.
Editing My editing schedule is packed! I'm booking for the summer already.
Into the Fire Cover Reveal If you'd like to sign up for the cover reveal, which is a social media blitz (so you don't need to have a blog), you can do so here. It will run February 6th-8th.
Into the Fire Street Team If you haven't been able to apply for the INTO THE FIRE street team but you want to, I'm extending applications until 1/28 due to the demand! You can apply here.
Reading Even though my editing schedule is busier than ever, I've kept to my 2016 goal of making time to read. I've read some great books lately too.
Back in 2012, after Hurricane Sandy, I had a week-long furlough caused by a lack of electricity at my office near Union Square. That’s when I created this crazy idea: Read comics over a period of 26.2 hours, or read 1,572 pages of comics while doing nothing else. With the latest blizzard approaching Mega-City One and residents […]
Paperbacks & Wine is pleased to bring you G. Donald Cribbs- THE PACKING HOUSE virtual book tour January 18-31.
Title: THE PACKING HOUSE
Author: G. Donald Cribbs
Publication Date: 1/18/16
When sixteen-year-old Joel Scrivener has a raging nightmare in study hall and someone records it on their phone, he awakens to a living nightmare where everyone knows the secret he's avoided for ten years. Reeling from a series of bullying incidents posted on YouTube and an ill-timed mid-year move, Joel takes to the woods, leaving the bullies and his broken home behind. However, life as a runaway isn’t easy. Joel finds it difficult to navigate break-ins, wrestle hallucinations, and elude capture. He races to figure out who his dream-world attacker could be, piecing clues together with flashes of remembered images that play endlessly inside his head. Besides these images, the one constant thought occupying Joel’s mind is Amber Walker, the girl he’s been in love with for years. Amber sees little beyond the broken boy Joel has become, despite the letters they’ve written back and forth to each other. But Joel is stronger and more resilient than he looks, and it’s time he convinces Amber of this fact, before he runs out of chances with her for good.
Find out more about THE PACKING HOUSE on Amazon, Goodreads G. Donald Cribbs has written and published poetry and short stories since high school. Donald is a graduate of Messiah College in English and Education, and is currently a graduate student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He and his wife and four boys reside in central Pennsylvania where the author is hard at work on his next book, tentatively titled, UNPACKING THE PAST, the sequel to his debut novel, THE PACKING HOUSE (2016), by Booktrope Editions. Having lived and traveled abroad in England, France, Belgium, Germany, China and Thailand (you can guess where he lived and where he visited), the author loves languages and how they connect us all. Coffee and Nutella are a close second. Find out more on G. Donald Cribbs: on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter and www.gdonaldcribbs.com
At the bell, I head to study hall, my last class. There's a substitute today. Cell phones come out. Someone has their iPod up way too high. In a way, I feel sorry for the sub; as a job, it has to be right up there with garbage collector. I prop a book between me and my backpack then close my eyes, which have been slamming shut all day.
The next thing I know, the substitute is standing over me, his hand on my shoulder, shaking me awake. Someone sniggers nearby.
“Wake up, young man. There's no sleeping in study hall.”
Pushing my glasses back into place, I look up and try to get my eyes to adjust and stay open; I blink a few times and look around wildly. What an idiot. I even forgot where I was for a moment. A flush of warmth starts at my ears and neck before sliding across my cheeks.
“All right, I'm up.”
Whispers erupt in various places around me as I sit up and rub my eyes. Someone laughs. My desk is askew. Something smells bad. Sulfur. Odd… the realization hits me hard.
A female voice remarks, “If I were him, I'd be totally embarrassed!”
“What's your name?” the substitute asks quietly.
The substitute leans down. “Joel? You might want to speak with a counselor about those dreams.”
“What do you mean?”
He leans closer, lowers his voice. “You kept saying, ‘get off me, stop touching me, get off me,' over and over.”
He gives me what he must think is a reassuring smile. Then he leaves.
The only thing worse than getting caught asleep in study hall: getting caught asleep andcrying out from a bad dream in study hall.
There's more whispering, but this time it crackles nearby. A recording—presumably of me—replays the sound of me jerking around in my chair, desk legs scraping against the floor, then “Get OFF me!” and “Stop TOUCHING meeee!”
The bell rings.
Down the hallway, students gather in odd clumps, skittering away from me like I'm the monster. A cacophony of whispers follows a chorus of aborted cackles; I hear my voice playing over and over, like my life jammed on repeat. I'm too stunned to reply, even when Shampoo Girl, who rides my bus, tries to stop me. I'm not good with names. We move too much for them to matter. This girl is heavyset, plain, with nice hair. I like how it smells if I sit behind her on the bus. Shampoo Girl. She's one of the few I've caught glaring at my attackers when I'm dropped into the lunchroom trashcan or tripped with an armful of books between classes. She hasn't said anything to my attackers, like that punk from Algebra II, but her quiet defiance is at least reassuring. Not that I've thanked her or acknowledged her for that.
“Joel? Joel, are you okay?” I definitely don't deserve her sympathy; instead, I look back down the hall.
My own brother Jonathan is with his swim team posse and says, “I can't believe you dudes got this,” before he sees me.
“Izzat rilly yer bro, man?” asks a blond-haired skater-punk friend of Jonathan's, pointing at his cellphone. They must be watching the video of me from study hall just like everyone else. Man, that traveled fast. On the far end, cackling like a fiend, my brother Jonathan laughs at his best friend Elias’ reaction, who is doubled over and turning purple. Skaterdude is on this end, sputtering and waving his arms like he’s imitating me from the video. Between the other two is Elias. God, I hate him sometimes. Why does he stick his nose where it doesn't belong?
“You still owe me a fiver for the Terror Bet,” Jonathan says, slapping the back of his hand on Skaterdude's chest. He should've kept our energy drink bet private, between the two of us, but instead I imagine he thought he'd impress his posse and make a few bucks. So he bet off me, did he? Jonathan looks up and sees me staring right at him. He tosses up two fingers after bouncing them off his chest like a salute to his homies, although I'm clearly not one of them. I'm just his loser brother.
It doesn't matter.
He's right. Jonathan must think of me as another one of his casualties just like him. I'm a cast-off, like Terror Man, my mother's latest boyfriend. To Jonathan, Terror Man and I are just accessories on his social status climb. Even after our most recent beating for touching the shrine of Terrors, Jonathan dared me to try to steal one without getting caught. I thought he was just looking out for me since I haven’t been sleeping much, but I guess I was wrong. If I can't tell the difference between someone being nice or using me, I wonder how I will ever fix things with Amber Walker, the only girl I've ever wished was more than friends.
No turning back now. My social life is officially over. I wonder how long it will take until everyone hears, and probably sees, a cell phone clip of my nightmare.
Only I can't wake up from this one.
I don't plan to collapse on my frameless mattress late that night. By the time I'm fully out.., I'm already drifting down a vaguely familiar set of stone stairs, before I realize the déjà vu—at first a cold tingle then a white-hot shudder that seeps down my spine. As it dissipates, I continue down, despite the thrumming in my ears.
Firelight dapples across shadowed walls near the bottom. Cold air gusts past, chills me until my teeth rattle, and almost blows out the torches. The room opens to the right, but I can't see around the corner.
As I step into the guttering light, I'm knocked on my face so fast I barely get my hands out to break my fall. I gasp for breath beneath this tremendous weight. There's no getting away. Sharp pain bursts along my ribs.
From its grip, I get a twinge in my spine, sharp stings that shoot up my back and spread out across both shoulder blades. Whatever is behind me is huge. Its hulking mass presses me down into the ground. I sure as hell don't dare move.
“C'mere, Joel!” the deep voice snarls against my ear.
I wake up.
Sometimes I wake screaming. How does it know my name? My mother has found me a few times that way; about as comforting as getting caught jerking off under blankets.
When she finds me like that, I roll toward the wall and mumble about a bad dream. I'll be fine. Go back to bed. Please don't ask any more. I'll never live this down if my mother holds my hand and chases away some boogeyman. I've got to figure this out. Better to man-up than be labeled a loser. At least Jonathan's still asleep. I don't need him betraying me any further.
If I could, I'd squeeze my eyes shut and will myself back to sleep. What if that thing is there? The stone stairs. The horrible, personal things it says. The sweat-rot stench of sulfur. I'd rather stare at the blurry ceiling all night. Besides, questions begin to swirl, threatening to keep me awake indefinitely. There's at least three hours until it's time to get up for school. I might have a test. Better not think too much.
Next thing I know, it's light; the roof of my mouth is sandpapery, I've got rank morning breath, and, if I don't get to the bathroom right now, I'm going to have a waterbed for sure.
I have to limp my way there, momentarily forgetting about our lecture at the hands of Terror Man last night. I don’t like him. He’s always in our faces. Always trying to prove what a man he is when he slams us against the wall or some shit.
He’s nice enough when he’s not railing on Jonathan and me for drinking his Terrors.
As I find relief in the bathroom, I start to wonder about this latest nightmare. Then I grab a shower, wincing when the tender spots in my back come under the flow. Maybe I should've let Jonathan take the brunt of it all, since he made the bet, but I couldn't live with myself if I hadn't intervened. I thought he was gonna kill Jonathan this time. What a nightmare. Which reminds me: I've got too many memory gaps to make sense of it all. I need to figure out their source. The root cause.
It's not for lack of trying.
I've scoured every book on nightmares I can find. One said the mind is a strange muscle that remembers every ache. Nightmares are a way we revisit each painful experience, circling back to make sense of what happened. That still doesn't explain how the creature knows me well enough to snarl my name. Is it someone I know? I glance at the clock. No time to dwell; the bus'll be here any minute. Time to get dressed and head downstairs.
My mother is at work, and Jonathan went in on the early bus for swim team. I grab breakfast and ibuprofen and then head for the street corner. My hand lands on the last two cans in my backpack. I'd forgotten all about the Terrors. Jonathan. I'd toss them back in the fridge if I weren't already at the bus stop.
Might as well. Chugging the first one down, I collect weird looks as I let the burp rip. Jonathan still got pretty roughed up; after all, he dared swipe from the shrine of Terrors on the top shelf of the fridge. Terror Man left no visible marks on me, only bruises, but I doubt Jonathan made it out unscathed. I wonder what Coach said to him this morning.
Was Jonathan trying to set me up? Guarantee a win for his second round of Terror Bets, so he could up the ante? It's never enough with him. Jonathan can't seem to leave well enough alone. Like he has to poke the bear or something. Everyone knows you let a sleeping bear lie. Not him.
The last stragglers come out as the bus pulls up. I'm the new guy. Technically, it's Redhead-Dude-With-Braces-And-Acne's stop.
I must space out the whole ride to school because it feels like only moments later when the bus pulls into the drop-off circle by the Broad Run High School, Home of the Panthers sign. Cheerleaders brush past in uniform, and the football team is sporting jersey hard-ons, strutting as we all press toward the door.
School's a bust. I doze through most of my classes, but at least I overhear that the history test has been moved to next week. Now I just have to make it through English class (easy for me), study hall, and I'm out.
We're reading this book Fahrenheit 451, where Guy Montag is an anti-fireman who burns books for a living. If I could talk some sense into him, maybe he'd lay off the bonfires and help me sort through all the bizarre shit in my brain. Yeah, it's a crazy thought, just like the ones about Amber.
I get flustered when I think of her.
Maybe Montag and I aren't as different from each other as I first thought. We both have problems we're running from. Beatty hunts him down when they catch Montag hoarding books in his air vent. I knew he was a reader. His own wife turns him in. Betrayed by someone that close.Man.
That's what set him off running.
My English teacher makes us write on the salamander or fire lizard. Is it a tattoo or just a uniform logo? I consider writing a story or a poem. According to legend, they're not lizards, which are reptiles. Salamanders are amphibians and have an affinity for fire. They can also regenerate lost limbs and tails. Remind me of an Escher tessellation. Patterns that transform from one thing to another. I should go for extra credit.
Speaking of extra credit, my grades have been nothing but toilet water, they're so flushed. Up until now, I've held tight at honor roll. But, just like that time in the closet with Amber, it, too, was a test I knew I was doomed to fail. Now I can't shake these nightmares. Neither could Montag.
If I don't do something soon, I'll have to repeat my sophomore year. Then I'd be in the same grade as Jonathan. That's reason enough to invoke my previous plan.
Before you go, check out this great a Rafflecopter giveaway- get one of 5 amazing paperbacks referenced in THE PACKING HOUSE: The Packing House (Fahrenheit 451, The Chocolate War, The Outsiders, Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird.)
*Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.
I am a romantic. I love the happily ever after of fairy tales. I want the girl to get the guy or vice versa, and I love reading about a good love story, but there’s way too much of it. I don’t mean that there are too many romance novels. I have no beef with that. I don’t even mind that so many of the YA novels being published are romances. What bothers me is that someone seems to have gotten the idea that all YA has to have at minimum a romance, and often a love triangle.
I confess that I am a long time past my teen years, but I refuse to believe that all teen novels must have a romance. When it’s well-written, regardless of the genre it works. The romance fits seamlessly into the story and it works. On the other hand, when the romance is inserted into the book for no reason other than that someone believes it should be there, it feels forced and out of place, and then it pretty much ruins the book for me. In a Huffington Post article called Lovesick and Tired: Unnecessary Romance in YA, Elizabeth Vail suggests that while there is nothing wrong with a good romance, if it’s unnecessary to the plot, don’t include it. If the romance doesn’t fit, readers will be able to tell, and it takes away from the book.
While fiction is to some extent a heightened and exaggerated version of reality, many of these romances go beyond exaggerated to ridiculous. In the Sci-Fi novel I’m reading right now, the heroine is smart, capable, a little bit arrogant, and pretty kick-butt. She makes money by retrieving teens from a virtual reality world if they’ve exceeded their permitted time in the game. In the virtual world, she can outfit herself with whatever kinds of weapons she needs, and she knows how to use them. At the start of the novel, she is contracted by the game’s creator to retrieve his son who is seemingly attempting to remain permanently in the game. They’ve never met. They don’t know anything about one another, and within 24 hours, she’s “seriously making out with him” as she puts it. The book is pretty exciting on its own. The virtual reality world is rich and complex. There is action and danger and tons of suspense to keep me turning the pages, which makes me wonder- why did they hook up? They are in a life-or-death situation. They are trapped in the virtual reality world where somebody or something might be trying to kill their real world selves, and yet they have time to take walks on the virtual beach and fall in love? Despite what we think, teens don’t automatically buy into the “insta-love” trope that has become all too common. Love at first sight is a wonderful and romantic idea, and it’s a device that can make a good romance novel seem even more romantic. But when the world is being taken over by aliens, or you’re in a life-or-death battle against rogue robots for example, how does that insta-love fit?
Perhaps even more overdone than insta-love are love triangles. I know that it’s fun to imagine two different guys fighting over you, and that it’s possible to legitimately have feelings for more than one guy at the same time. In Kiera Kass’ Selection series, the triangle made sense. America already had a guy that she felt something for before she entered the Selection. As she got to know the prince, she developed feelings for him too, but that didn’t mean she automatically stopped feeling something for her childhood love Aspen. Both characters were well-developed and interesting, and it wasn’t a given who she would choose.
On the other hand, in Zodiac by Romina Russell, the love triangle drove me nuts. The world she created was interesting, the story was solid and exciting, and I liked the main character Rhoma. As with the previous Sci-Fi I mentioned, the triangle just didn’t make sense. Rhoma’s world has been destroyed. The rest of the world is under threat, and Rhoma seems to be the only one who can save the entire universe from destruction. It would seem like she has more pressing problems than trying to figure out how to juggle two different guys.
in her article, Elizabeth Vail says that authors shouldn’t write multi-genre novels if they only respect one of the genres, and I highly agree. To quote Gloria Steinem, “If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?” In other words, you shouldn’t try to force a romance into a story where it doesn’t fit. Accept that it doesn’t fit into that particular story and work with what does. There will always be another foot for that shoe.
One of the things I love most about winter is SNOW and being “snowed in” seems to happen frequently (whether officially…or “by choice”). So I’ve decided to dedicate an entire week of posts to our favorite snow books and the things we can do with them. Our book choice for this wonderful week of snow is Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.
There once was a boy who loved snow more than anything else in the whole wide world. Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, celebrates Wilson Bentley’s lifelong love and passion of snow and the snowflake specifically.
Wilson Bentley had been fascinated by snow for as long as he could remember. Snow in Vermont is as common as dirt.
Supporting their son’s enthusiasm for snow, they saved up money and bought him a camera and microscope. To this day, the thousands of photos that Wilson Bentley took are still used in snow and crystals research studies.
Along with telling the biography of Wilson Bentley, author Jacqueline Briggs Martin has nice “how he did it” information boxes in the sidebars.
I have to mention the woodcut illustrations of Mary Azarian. I have long been a fan of her art. The wood-cuttings in Snowflake Bentley bring depth to the text and an invitation to the reader to come and know a little bit more about Wilson Bentley. Her art in Snowflake Bentley was awarded the Caldecott medal and right so. This book has sat as a favorite on the “snow book” shelf since it first came out in 1998. It’s a classic and greatly loved here. Grab your copy of Snowflake Bentley HERE.
**some of these links are affiliate links.
Something To Do
Are you ready to dive into the world of Snowflake Bentley? Let’s start with a visit to Wilson Bentley himself.
How To Take A Photo of a Snowflake
Wilson Bentley wrote about his process and shared his “how-to” in this article.
Creating our Own Snowflake Exhibit
Inspired by Wilson Bentley’s snowflake photos and slides, we decided to create our own snowflake exhibit on our windows. This is a fun arts and craft activity that gives the same feeling as Bentley’s snow slides.
What you’ll need:
Puffy Paint in a variety of colors
Photos of Wilson Bentley’s snowflake photos found on his website listed above.
Tear off a piece of waxed paper as large as your individual window pane. Choosing one color of paint , draw a snowflake design to your liking.
Taking another paint color, create another snowflake on the waxed paper. Keep doing this until your piece of waxed paper is filled with beautiful colored snowflakes.
Let it dry thoroughly.
When dry, take the entire sheet of waxed paper. Turning the snowflake painted side to the glass, just gently press it onto the glass. It will stick there and give a nice frosty, snowflake glow.
Snow Crystals is a very comprehensive website with all kinds of information on snowflakes for all ages. It includes a snowflake primer, collections of photographs, in-depth scientific information and answers to questions such as “Is it really true no two snowflakes are alike?”
Here’s a really great short video on Wilson Bentley. I find it really well done and engaging.
Need to get a multicultural children’s book in front of readers? Participate in this national event as an Author Sponsor and get enjoy many unique ways to gain visibility for your books. Those who lock in their Author Sponsorship before October 31st will get a bonus; 2 guest posts on MCCBD blog, banner ad on the Author Sponsor Page, social media shares and book review opportunities by book bloggers. A great value for only $65. Go HERE for more details.
After an epidemic spreads through the country, Brooklyn Harper’s high school years come to an abrupt end.
Implanted in a rural camp, Brooklyn and her friends are cut off from their families and the outside world. Each day is filled with combat training to assure their safety against the crazed, belligerent, and deadly— those infected with a mysterious virus.
If the world couldn’t get any crazier, a letter ups the insanity…
After being assured day after day that the world outside their little camp had been compromised, Brooklyn’s cabin-mate, Dawson Winters, finds a letter that turns everything they’d known upside down. There is a world outside the trees that surrounds their camp, and the virus they’d all come to fear seems non-existent.
Determined to see it herself, Brooklyn plots with others to attempt an escape…
On the outside, Brooklyn finds the world is as normal as ever. But when they are attacked in the city, they dispose of their attackers far more efficiently than any normal human. Is there more to Brooklyn and her friends then just being highly trained?
As their exploration continues, the group is faced with impossible feats. Betrayal, love, death, and a powerful sense of camaraderie lead Brooklyn and her friends to fight for their life, their freedom, and most of all, each other.
Omen Operation will be available on Amazon for pre-order: 1/16/2016
It will be available for purchase through Amazon and Barnes and Noble: 1/26/2016
Taylor Brooke is the author of the upcoming sci-fi adventure trilogy The Isolation Series. She started out as a freelance makeup artist, and quickly discovered her love of elves, zombies, mermaids, kaiju, and monsters of all kinds. After receiving eight professional certifications in special effects makeup, working on countless projects, and fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures, she turned her imagination back to her one true love- books. Taylor has had a knack for writing since she was a little girl, and received recognition for her skills throughout grade school and junior college. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she can be found haunting the local bookstore with a cup of steaming hot tea in her hands, scanning the shelves for new reads, or hiking one of the many mountains that surround her home of Bend Oregon.
One of the things I love most about winter is SNOW and being “snowed in” seems to happen frequently (whether officially…or “by choice”). So I’ve decided to dedicate an entire week of posts to our favorite snow books and the things we can do with them. Our book choice for this wonderful week of snow is Story of the Snow Children.
I can’t think of a better way to continue our Snow Festival week than with The Story of the Snow Childrenby Sibylle von Olfers. Who couldn’t love Poppy in her little red hat going to a winter’s feast? I was trying to remember the first time I heard this story and I can’t remember. It seems like its been a constant throughout my life.
As Poppy is gazing out of the window she notices the soft gently blowing snowflakes have little faces and are actually snow children. As they dance and swirl in the garden they soon take Poppy away to the snow kingdom of the Snow Queen. There, Poppy is welcomed to the grand festival by the Queen and her princess. Amidst the sparkling snow kingdom is dancing, feasting, and exciting games. At the end of all this play, Poppy sleepily returns home to recount her tales of the snow children to her listening mother.
To grab your copy of this book, go HERE.
To set the stage for the wonderful and exciting snow festival we need to be dressed appropriately. There is nothing better than a message crown to make one feel like wintry royalty.
Something To Do: A Message Crown
An assortment of 81/2 x 10 paper
An assortment of 12 x 12 paper
White card stock or blank index cards
Glue dots or glue
Large Circle pattern
Small circle pattern
Large triangle pattern
Small triangle pattern
To make a message crown you will need the following:
1 woven heart
2 large circles
2 small circles
2 large triangles
2 small triangles
2 -12 inch paper strips, 2 inches wide
How to make the woven heart
Fold a 81/2 x 11 ½ sheet of paper in half
Place the bottom of the heart pattern on the fold
Trace pattern twice onto the paper, each one placed on the fold.
Cut the two center lines on each heart piece.
Weaving Your Heart
Weaving a heart is a little different than weaving. We aren’t going under and over but in and through. The left hand side of the heart I’ve marked ABC. The right hand side of the heart I’ve marked 123. Let’s try this step by step. Look at the photos for help.
Step 1: Place C (left side piece) inside 1 (right hand piece).
Step 2: Place 2 (right hand piece) inside C (left hand piece).
Step 3: Place C (left hand piece) inside 1 (right hand piece).
Step 4: Place 1 (right hand piece) inside B (left hand piece).
Step 5: Place B(left hand piece) inside 2 (right hand piece).
Step 6: Place 1 (right hand piece) inside B ( left hand piece).
Step 7: Place C (left side piece) inside 1 (right hand piece).
Step 8: Place 2 (right hand piece) inside C (left hand piece).
Step 9: Place C (left hand piece) inside 1 (right hand piece).
To Make the Message Crown you will Need the Following:
Two large circles
Two small circles
Two large triangles
Two small triangles
Make the Crown band
Take 2 12 x 12 inch pieces of paper. Place them wrong sides together.
Tape an inch on both the bottom left and right hand sides. This will hold your crown sides together.
Measure 2 inches from the bottom, fold, and cut along folded line. This is your crown band. Crown Assembling
Take a folded heart and turn it over. On the reverse side, place a couple of glue dots down towards the bottom of the heart. Taking your crown band with the taped sides lying horizontally, place the heart in the center of the crown band.
Take one large circle and one small circle. Place small circle on top of the large circle and fasten with a small fastener. Make two of theses. Once together turn both pieces over and place a couple of glue dots on the circle and then place one circle to the right of the heart, and the other to the left of the heart.
Take one large triangle and one small triangle. Place a small triangle on top of the large triangle. Hold them together with a small fastener. Make two of these. Turn the triangles over and place a couple of glue dots on each triangle. Place the triangles to the left of the circles.
Adjusting your crown
Place the crown on the head holding it center on the forehead. In the back of the head, grab the crown band, gathering up the excess. Fold it over and tape it to fit.
The heart on the center of the crown is actually a little basket. It’s a perfect place for friends to leave messages for each other. To make your messages take the card stock and cut it into 8 rectangles. You can also use index cards as well. Cut those into quarters. Use your pinking shears to go around the edges. Write a heartfelt message. During the snow festival go around delivering your messages to your friends.
**Some of these links are affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may get a very small commission. This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!
Kids and nature go hand-and-hand and enjoying the bounty that the great outdoors brings is not just a “summer thing.” The newest book from children’s book authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters teaches families everywhere to enjoy not only the great outdoors with month-by-month activities, but to jump deeper into the classic children’s tale, The Secret Garden! A Year in the Secret Garden is a delightful children’s book with over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. Grab your copy ASAP and “meet me in the garden!” More details HERE!
I keep reading articles that say the blog is dead and then I keep reading blogs because I like them. It could be that there are only a couple of dozen of us out there all reading each others blogs and everyone else is happily hanging out on twitter, tumblr,etc. etc., but I like a blog….I like reading someone’s thoughts on a book or a movie or more and getting a little bit of insight into the life of the person writing it.
It’s a peek at other worlds (just a little peek), and it keeps me going back for more.
But the whole New Year thing makes me look at my own blog (along with every other blasted aspect of my life), and think about how it can be improved. I am sure that readers of Map of My Dead Pilots or my articles in Alaska Dispatch News come by here and are mystified by reading book reviews or family history posts, but it’s the kind of thing I’m into (along with Alaskan aviation and, because of the work in progress, mountain climbing, cosmic rays and archival research). From time to time I think that maybe I should limit the blog content more and just put up reviews or only some kind of reviews but then I see something or hear about something and want to mention it and I end up with the same all-over-the-place blogging that I’ve always done.
(Except now with more mountain climbing, cosmic rays and archival research. There’s going to be a lot more this in 2016, I promise.) (And yeah, I’m still figuring out how to explain the cosmic ray stuff.)
But one thing I do think I can do more of is not wait until I have some bigger, longer blog post to go up here and instead post those occasional interesting things I come across so that my blogging itself can be more regular (I really slacked off over the last few months), and I can ditch the habit of leaving “blog this” notes to myself all over the dining room table. (Serious 2016 Resolution: DITCH THE ENDLESS PIECES OF PAPER IN MY LIFE.)
To wit, I got some books and movies for Christmas and here are some thoughts:
1. Page One: Inside the New York Times. This is an incredibly well done documentary, a fascinating peek into newspaper journalism in general and the NY Times in particular. My husband found himself surprisingly riveted and we both left as devoted fans of David Carr (who sadly passed away this way). I already have a subscription to the NY Times for access to the archives (for the mountain book) but I also added Carr’s book to my TBR list over the next couple of months.
2. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness sounds like a straight-up paranormal thriller with some romance tossed in. It has sold a zillion copies and I wanted to read it because of the history aspects (a mysterious book is found in the modern day Bodleian Library at Oxford which sets all the action in place and brings a witch and vampire together and could mean the end of the world….). It is SO MUCH FUN! A big huge look into tons of history (Harkness is a historian) and I’ve already read book two (from the library) which sends them main characters back to Elizabethan England so it was all Kit Marlowe and Walter Raleigh and the School of Night and on and on. Talk about fun reading—I’m all over book three this week.
3. Woman in Gold is the story of the Klimt painting that the Austrian government claimed was legally willed to the state museum by the owner but her descendants successfully proved in court was actually stolen by the Nazis during WW2. Helen Mirren tears this one up – her emotions are both intense and controlled…she can make you cheer or cry just by looking at the screen. Again, though, it’s the history that blew my mind here and how it got so twisted. “We are keeping this painting for Austria,” the officials argue and their willful ignorance of how it was stolen from Austrians is infuriating. Spoiler: the good guys win.
4. Louise Penny. Read every single book by her, whether you are a mystery fan or not. She creates characters and setting like we all wish we could; I can’t get enough. (Her latest is on my nightstand right now.)
I started 91 books this year and finished 89. I’m now fully in the swing of reading at least 30 minutes before bed which has been great. Last year I had a lot of random low-level health issues which complicated matters a bit but I’m still pretty happy with how the Year in Reading turned out.
average read per month: 7.47
average read per week: 1.7
number read in worst month: 5 (Apr)
number read in best month: 11 (Aug)
number unfinished: 2
percentage by male authors: 59
percentage by female authors: 41
percentage of authors of color: 3
fiction as percentage of total: 73
non-fiction as percentage of total: 27
percentage of total liked: 90
percentage of total ambivalent: 7
percentage of total disliked: 3
The biggest issue this year was that I didn’t actively prioritize reading authors of color and so I just didn’t. No good. Must do better. Did okay with non-US authors but that’s not the same. I did a lot of social justice online reading and kept a bookshelf of worthwhile articles over at This.cm but I needed to translate more of this into book length reading and I did not. Digging into the Louise Penny series upped my percentage of female authors but I still need to work on that. I read a lot of books that I really enjoyed this past year including a history of spam and a photography book about large trees. I got a lot more suggestions from reading Library Journal than usual which was good and bad. I added a few books to my Best in Show shortlist. If you’ve made a reading list for last year, I’d love to read it. Happy New Year.
I'm so happy to welcome back Carissa Ann Lynch, my fellow Limitless Publishing author, to share her newest book, Carnival of Dead Girls. But first, let me remind you about (or introduce you to) the first two books in the Flocksdale Files.
Wendi Wise is a troubled young woman who snorts her breakfast through a straw and spends more time in rehab than in the real world…
Her life is seemingly out of control.
But now she has a plan.
That plan involves a sharp set of butcher knives.
She's going back to where all of her troubles began…
Wendi was lured away from a local skating rink, at the age of thirteen, and held captive in a place she calls 'The House of Horrors.' Dumped off blindfolded on the side of a dirt road, Wendi soon discovered that she was addicted to the drugs they fed her while she was captive.
Too scared to go home, and having a new habit to deal with, she hopped on a bus, vanishing from the family she loved.
Vanishing from Flocksdale…
The town of Flocksdale is littered with fliers with a grainy image of young Wendi, and the words 'Have You Seen This Girl?' written below.
Now, eight years later, she's on a mission—a mission to find the mysterious house from her youth and the monsters who dwell inside it.
Seventeen year old Marianna Bertagnoli is miserable…
Not only did her father abandon her five years ago, now she’s being uprooted and forced to move with her mother and new stepdad to a creepy Victorian house they inherited in the even creepier town of Flocksdale.
Flocksdale has an evil, ugly past—and history has a way of repeating itself…
Marianna notices some strange qualities about her new home, and soon realizes she’s living in none other than the infamous House of Horrors. That’s right, the very house where the demented Garrett family ran a drug ring, leading to the kidnappings and murders of forty young girls.
The dark energy of the town begins to rise again…
Within a week of moving in, Marianna’s mother disappears, one of her small group of new friends is found murdered, and she’s attacked by a man wearing a hideous clown mask. As she searches for answers, Marianna wonders if the malevolence still lingers, somehow alive…and how her stepdad came to own the House of Horrors.
Unsure who to trust, Marianna turns to Wendi Wise, a survivor of the Garretts’ crimes…
Caught up in twisted family ties and surrounded by deceit, Marianna is targeted by a new generation of evil. Doubly imprisoned—in her own body and in the real house of the lost girls—Marianna needs Wendi’s help to unravel the bizarre history of Flocksdale.
But will Marianna survive long enough to bring the evil to light…or will she be trapped in the house of the lost girls forever?
Nothing interesting happens in the podunk town of Lamison Point—until a freak show rolls through…
When a traveling carnival stopsin the sleepy countryside, sixteen-year-old Josie Crowley is psyched to go with her new friend, Freya. But what started out as a fun-filled night ofgames, candied apples, and ferris wheel ridesquickly spiralsinto a gut-wrenching encounter with one of the carnival attractions.
Once the excitement is over, Lamison is missing one of its residents…
When Freya is nowhere to be found, Josiesuspects the carnival has something to do with her disappearance. Her goal to track down the elusive show leads to an alarming revelation—there is no record of it ever existing. And as she digs deeper, Josieis led to a mysterious town with a tainted past—Flocksdale.
Buried in Flocksdale’s sick, twisted history is where Josie may find the truth…
Creepy clowns, disfigured freaks, and a terrifying haunted house are the least of Josie’s problems…now she has to deal with a group of real-life monsters, otherwise known as the evil Garrett family and new, rising generation of hell-bound freaks.
If Josie is pulled into their world, she may become another member of a carnival of dead girls, where she goes in, and never comes out…
Besides my family, my greatest love in life is books. Reading them, writing them, holding them, smelling them…well, you get the idea. I've always loved to read and never considered myself a "writer" until a few years ago when I couldn't find a book to read and decided to try writing my own story. With a background in psychology, I've always been a little obsessed with the darker areas of the mind and social problems so I try to channel all of that into my writing. I'm the author of the Flocksdale Files, Grayson's Ridge, This Is Not About Love, and the upcoming Horror High series. I reside in Floyds Knobs, Indiana with my husband, children, and massive collection of books.
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The holidays are over and with a combination of sadness and relief, our thoughts are now turning to the winter months. This can bring about a feeling of excitement for many parents, or a robust feeling of dread! As the temps dip and the days get shorter , families tend to move from an outdoor focus to more of an indoor one. The result is a LOT of “togetherness” and a LOT of time to fray mom and dad’s nerves!
But, no matter where you live,the colder seasons are perfect for reading old classic books and enjoying new ones. As much as we love reading at Jump Into a Book, we are also always looking for ways to turn reading from a solitary act to one the whole family can get involved in.
If you follow JIAB, you’ve heard me speak of the act of “bookjumping” often. Bookjumping is about pulling books off shelves and stories off of pages. Basically, bookjumping is a “Valarie-ism” that describes creating book extensions for virtually any children’s story as a way to bring the story to life, make reading more fun, teach new skills and bring families together.
So as the frost begins to form gorgeous patterns on the window of my study, and the fluffy whiteness of winter begins to flitter down from the sky, I think it’s time to share some Cold Weather Activities Wrapped Around Reading.
Get into the Kitchen:
Bread baking has always been a favorite in our family and the comfort and warmth of smelling bread baking in the oven is hard to beat. Recently we dusted off the rolling pin and whipped up a batch of Saffron Buns/Lussekattor (pronounced “Lucy cat-tor”) in honor of my Swedish heritage and the Swedish Christmas books that are family favorites.
Before that, reading Roald Dahl books inspired us to make some Fizzy Lifting Drinks and Wonkalicious Chocolate Covered Pretzels!
Mama Panya’s Pancakes makes for a fantastic read aloud. The text is written in little boxes making it easy for young readers to follow along or take a turn reading out loud themselves. Make a batch of Mama Panya’s Pancakes
Booklists, Book-Jumps and Activities “Books Like Percy Jackson” Booklist. Like I mentioned in my recent Janet Allison Boys Alive interview, the Percy Jackson series is God’s gift to all parents who have boy reluctant readers. If this series strikes a cord with your reluctant reader, check into some of these other “Percy-like” books series!
My good friend Marilyn Scott-Waters has some simply delightful paper toys to help readers create their own Horse adventure around their favorite horse-themed books. What better way to stimulate young minds than with some pretend play. Marilyn has some wonderful downloadable paper toys on The Toymaker and a few suggestions to create your own stable of pretty ponies:
How about some paper crafts in step with the winter season? Paper craft lovers will love this TheStory of Snowby Mark Cassinocelebrates the magic of snow through science, math, language arts, music, and visual art activities. The Story of Snow uses a brilliant balance of incorporating photographs of crystals, pen & ink drawings, text for 3 different reading levels, and uncovering the mystery of snow. It serves equally as both a fascinating non-fiction journey and an inspiring nature art book. For those who love snow, The Story of Snow opens the door of awe and wonder of the magnificent wet stuff and takes us on a personal journey.
Learn About our History: Despite what some young readers might think, history is not dry and boring. Family-friendly reenactments of moments in our history make for excellent learning experiences while keeping the cold weather boredom monster at bay. Great JIAB posts that are rich in history would include this one about the Good Ol US of A, life during the “buffalo days” , celebrating our 4th of July traditions, and exploring the lives of inspiring people like Helen Keller.
Play with Nature: Even when the weather is cold, nature still can be a great teacher. Reading books based on nature helps to bring the outside IN and keep young mind stimulated. No matter what time of year it is, there are always stars in the sky. Practice learning and studying the night’s sky or bring the outside in with some fun fort building activities.
Engage in some Pretend Play:
Books and pretend play seem to go hand-in-hand for readers of all ages. Who wouldn’t want to read a few pirate books and then spend the day delving into all sort of pirate activities?!
To the Moon! The anniversary of the first Moon-Walk doesn’t occur until July, but that’s no reason to not have your young readers “blast off” with The Moon Landing Book List and some great book extensions!
Kids and mysteries go hand-in-hand and what better way to pass the time on a dreary day than with your home-grown version of a “whodunit!” Lucky for parents, there are so many wonderful kidlit mystery books out there. Discover the mysteries of Camp Green Lake in the book Holes, enjoy some intrigued from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and delve into some super sleuthing of K.C. Corcoran and her pal, Marshall Li in Ron Roy’s Capital Mystery series.
**Some of these links are affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may get a very small commission. This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!
Would you like to create a afternoon of sleuthing, mysteries and mysterious adventures? Grab a copy of our FREE Secret Codes, Mysteries and Adventure downloadable PDF Activity Guide! This guide is19 pages of fun including activities like Creating and Deciphering Invisible Messages, baking “I Spy” Cookies and learn more about the US President who was a master decoder! Click the image below to get your free copy!
Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge-
Get a FREE Diversity Book for Your Classroom Library!
Teachers! We want to help you build your classroom library with diverse, inclusive and multicultural books! Here’s how to get a free book through Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 27th.
LATEST EXCITING UPDATE! Junior Library Guild has agreed to sponsor this portion of the MCCBD 2016 event and donate up to 200 books for classrooms and teachers!
Go HERE for more details or to sign up your classroom and earn a FREE handcover multicultural children’s book!
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Disconnecting/Enjoying the Holiday I did something very rare for me. I disconnected to enjoy the holiday uninterrupted with my family. I'm behind on edits now, but not checking my email for days felt great.
Editing I have two edits I have to finish before the end of the month. Eek! I'm also booked solid with edits through March.
Into the Fire Trilogy Covers I got a great Christmas present in the form of seeing the drafts of my covers for the Into the Fire Trilogy and seriously they are GORGEOUS! I cried. I've been fortune with covers in the past, but these…I'm speechless. I can't wait until I can share them.
Reading I'm working more reading time into my schedule. It isn't easy, but I loaded my Kindle over the break and I'm determined to get in some much needed reading for enjoyment.
Finished My First Adult Thriller Last week I finished drafting my first adult thriller. It was a tough book to write, but I'm really glad I did.
Those end-of-the-year “best of” book lists can be rough. When you try to come up with only ten or fifteen titles, chances are some very worthy books aren’t going to be included, especially some of those published earlier in the year. It also seems like the same titles are always being mentioned; no doubt those books are great, but let’s share the love a little, yeah? Here then, from PubCrawlers and friends, are our picks for the best middle grade and young adult books of 2015 that you probably won’t find on any other lists. These are terrific choices for last-minute gifts for the readers in your life! In no particular order:
INFANDOUS by Elana K. Arnold. This is a gorgeous, lyrical coming-of-age contemporary (and I don’t often read contemporary!) YA novel set in LA. —recommended by S. Jae-Jones (Wintersong, Thomas Dunne, 2016)
THE STORYSPINNER by Becky Wallace. This book is an easy to slip into YA fantasy, laced with magic and romance, and with a creative MC who I rooted for throughout the entire book. —recommended by Stephanie Garber (Caraval, Flatiron/Macmillan, 2016)
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF ZEBULON FINCH by Daniel Kraus. It was marketed as YA but probably holds more appeal to adults. It follows the extraordinarily long life of Zebulon Finch, who’s murdered as a teenager, but comes back to life and can’t die. I don’t know if you can call a book like this a Bildungsroman, but it has the feel of one. The writing is spectacular, and Kraus somehow manages to make this really horrible character sympathetic and likable. —recommended by Rachel Seigel
CONSPIRACY OF BLOOD AND SMOKE by Anne Blankman. The sequel to PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, it’s amazing historical fiction set in Germany during the rise of the Nazis, and it’s a dang good story. —recommended by Julie Eshbaugh (Ivory and Bone, HarperCollins, 2016)
THIS MONSTROUS THING by MacKenzie Lee is a steampunk retelling of Frankenstein from the perspective of a teenaged mechanic who repairs human “clockwork” parts. A fascinating look at what it means to be human. —recommended by Stacey Lee (Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon, G.P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers, 2016)
ZEROBOXER by Fonda Lee is a science fiction thriller set in a world where zero-gravity boxing can elevate one’s standing in society. Absorbing and fast-paced! —recommended by Stacey Lee
CITY OF THIRST by Carrie Ryan and JP Davis. The sequel to MAP TO EVERYWHERE, this fun adventure series is on par with Harry Potter–it has the most imaginative world I’ve ever been immersed in, and the characters are brilliantly written, funny, brave, and just wonderful. It’s not just a huge hit with me–it’s also my nephew’s favorite book! Definitely dive into this story! —recommended by Beth Revis (Across the Universe, The Body Electric, Paper Hearts)
THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH by Courtney C. Stevens, which is the wrenching and poignant story of a car crash survivor whose mental and physical scars have isolated her from everyone she knows and loves. Court has this gift of being able to look the worst parts of life unflinchingly in the face and somehow still see hope, along with the capacity for healing and change. Lies is one of those books that makes me sniffle and then smile within the space of a few pages. —recommended by Bethany Hagen (Landry Park, Jubilee Manor)
FIRES OF INVENTION by J. Scott Savage. It is about a couple of kids who defy the “no inventing” rule in their underground city and build a steam-powered dragon huge enough to ride. I don’t think I’ve ever read a steampunk with this much heart. It was well written, chock full of action, had great characters and fascinating conflicts and plenty of mysteries to keep you dying to find out what happens next. And did I mention a STEAM-POWERED DRAGON?! —recommended by Peggy Eddleman (Sky Jumpers)
FIG by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz. Beautifully written, moving story and complex characters. —recommended by Elisa Ludwig (Pretty Crooked, Pretty Sly, Pretty Wanted, Coin Heist)
UPDRAFT by Fran Wilde. It’s rare to encounter such an original and fascinating setting as this city with its living bone towers, winged citizens, and frightening sky monsters. Wilde has built a world with a detailed, believable history and society, and layered the story with intrigue, action, and compelling characters—rich with themes of tradition, progress, ambition, and class struggles that will resonate with readers. —recommended by E.C. Myers (Fair Coin, Quantum Coin, The Silence of Six)
2015 was the first year I made any real concerted effort to track my reading habits. After having torched my Goodreads account a few years ago, I confess I came crawling back because I simply could not let go of the shelving function, flawed as it was. (Goodreads, I wish I could quit you!)
Kelly and I gave our Recommended Reads in last week’s podcast episode and looking back at my year in reading, I was slightly appalled by how, well, homogeneous my list looked. In the episode, Kelly and I did touch on how our reading tastes have shifted (and possibly calcified) as we have aged, how working in publishing has changed how much of a fair shot we give new books (spoiler: not as much as we used to), what genres and categories we prefer, etc.
Being incredibly specific with what you like to read helps you in a publishing career because it helps you understand niches in an already-incredibly specialized market, but now that I am two years past having worked the editorial desk, I wonder if that mentality hasn’t taken a slight toll on my reading habits. As a young child I was a voracious reader, voracious and indiscriminate. I read anything and everything. Not just books: I read short stories in the Highlights magazine, the Sunday funnies, articles in Time, those slim National Geographic nonfiction paperbacks about whales, etc.
But as I grew older, my reading tastes narrowed. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing; knowing what you like to read and why is an incredibly useful thing in both publishing and writing. However, while my number of books read is incredibly high, the number of genres, authors of color, LGBTQIA+ authors, disabled authors, etc. is not. I have read 1.5 nonfiction books this year (not including a collection of personal essays, which was a reread). The vast majority of the authors on my list are white. While I am a supporter of diverse voices in fiction, I have done a terrible job of putting my money where my mouth is.
Book Riot and the New York Public Library both have a 2016 Read Harder Challenge. I like the idea of challenging myself to read harder, and not just harder—to read broader. Next year I am going to challenge myself to read outside my comfort zone, and to better support marginalized voices. Author and blogger Dahlia Adler has several lists of recommendations that I think are a great place for me to start:
Sara Night lost her family three years ago in a car crash…
She tried to continue living a normal life, going to school, spending time with friends, and even trying to be a part of the family that took her in. She had almost gotten the hang of it, and moved past the suicide attempt.
Then she was torn away from her new family, her old life, and thrown into a world of guns, knifes, criminals, and where every mistake could get her killed. She was needed for what seems like an easy in-then-out mission.
That was until she got caught.
Sara then had to form an uneasy alliance with a cartel member to escape, which reveals her family’s car crash wasn’t an accident after all.
Is her new life worth more to her than revenge?
Or will she die trying to figure out why her family was targeted?
"Reviewed on behalf of 2 girls who love books blog.
Suicide mission by Sara Schoen I was super impressed with this story from the very opening sentence. It was action packed from start to finish and didn’t leave you disappointed. The story flowed fabulously and is very in depth with its descriptions. The story isn’t dragged out and is very interesting. It’s a spy story about a young girl who is thrown some of the worst circumstances anyone could only have nightmares about but she overcomes those fears to be recruited by an agency to go from not wanting to live at all to having it all to live for. She comes across secrets that cannot be ignored and has you glued to your kindle to find out what is going to happen. Then I get to the end and realise the author is just 19 years old! I have to say I would never have expected such mature literature to come from someone so young. DO NOT LET HER AGE PUT YOU OFF. You need to add this book to your TBR list because not matter what genre you really like you will love this story. I personally will be looking out for more of her work as I just couldn’t get enough. I rate this story an absolute 5 stars!!!!!!"
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Julie here! I am so excited to share the second part of a guest post from YA fantasy author Kathy MacMillan. Kathy’s debut novel, Sword and Verse, will be published by HarperTeen/HarperCollins in January 2016. Kathy also has lots of experience working with libraries, and she is back to share her insights with us! This is part two of two, so if you missed it, make sure you check out part one of Kathy’s tips for writers who want to work with libraries!
In part one, we looked at book signings and other programs. But how do you pitch your program to a library?
Showcases: Some state and regional library associations run performer showcases, where local authors and performers who wish to present in libraries can share a brief taste of their programs (usually 10-15 minutes). Participating in a showcase is a great way to put your presentation in front of lots of librarian eyeballs (and sometimes school contacts as well). You will likely be presenting alongside magicians, mad scientists, and naturalists with adorable fuzzy creatures, so share the liveliest parts of your presentation!
No showcases in your area? Consider creating your own! Join forces with other authors, illustrators, or children’s performers and propose a free showcase session for your state or regional library conference. This is a win-win: you get to promote yourself, and the conference gets a free program. And of course, don’t forget to hand out bookmarks, postcards, or brochures with your contact and booking information!
What kind of program?: If you can tie your program into library initiatives, you will make it easier for librarians to say yes to booking you. Some major trends:
Early Literacy: This is not early reading – rather, it is the constellation of skills, such as print awareness, vocabulary knowledge, and the ability to apply real-world knowledge to a text, that prepares children for the tasks of reading and writing. Check out the American Library Association’s page on Early Literacy and Libraries for more information: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/literacy/earlyliteracy
A Word about Meeting Rooms: Library meeting rooms are often available for use by community groups. This can cause some confusion when writing organizations want to hold programs at the library. If you approach the library about “using the meeting room” for a program, you will likely be given the standard community group reservation policies, which often include a ban on selling anything during the program. However, if you approach the library requesting that it sponsor or co-sponsor a program, new doors are opened. When the library sponsors a program, book sales are usually allowed and the event will appear in the library’s publicity.
Partnering with Other Community Organizations: Bring extra value to your program by brainstorming ways to connect with schools, community groups, and local businesses. Erin Hagar, author of Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures (Duo Press) had a group of middle school students perform a skit about the famous chef at one of her signings. Find local businesses related to your book’s topic and ask them to help get the word out to their customers about your event, through print or social media. If you are traveling some distance for the event, offer a discount if the librarian helps connect you with local schools willing to host a presentation on the same day. Invite the local independent bookseller to sell books at your program. If you’re not sure where to start in contacting these local groups, ask your librarians – providing those resources is their job, after all!
Swag and Selling Books: The number of books you sell can vary wildly from library to library, and you can’t necessarily judge the effectiveness of the program by the number of books sold. Depending on the location, audience, and timing of your program, the audience may not be in the frame of mind to purchase a book. (Case in point: When my nonfiction book, Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (Huron Street Press) came out, I did a mini-storytime featuring American Sign Language to promote it. In libraries where the program was scheduled in place of the regular weekly storytimes, I sold few books – often the parents would tell me that they hadn’t even brought their wallets, because they were in storytime-attendance mode.)
Make sure you have bookmarks or postcards to hand out to each attendee with information about your book and your website. That way, there is a chance that person may purchase the book later (or at least leave the bookmark on a restroom counter and someone else will see it!)
It’s important to clarify whether books can be sold during the event, and if so, who will be responsible for bringing and selling them. The Friends of the Library may be on hand to sell books, or the library may have a pre-existing relationship with a local independent bookseller.
If the library expects you to handle book sales, bring a friend or family member to handle sales so you can focus on signing, or contact a local bookseller yourself. Don’t forget to account for sales tax, and to report your direct sales as required by your state. The Small Business Association has a handy guide for collecting and reporting sales tax here: https://www.sba.gov/blogs/sales-tax-101-small-business-owners-and-online-retailers
Making the event go smoothly: Communication is key! Confirm the event in writing. If you set up the event with a central coordinator, then call the branch where you will be presenting a day or two before the program and find out who your in-person contact will be. Make sure that person knows when to expect you and has your cell phone number to contact you en route if necessary. This day-before call seems like a small thing, easy to overlook, but it is HUGE for creating rapport with your host and showing your professionalism.
During the event itself, be a good guest. Don’t be a diva, and communicate clearly about what you need for the program to go smoothly. Understand that your host may not be able to stay in the room the entire time because the library is short-staffed, or someone is vomiting in the children’s department, or there is a crisis at the circulation desk. (There’s always an adventure happening in a public library!)
Afterwards, send a thank you note to your host as well as to the contact person. Post pictures from the event on your website and social media and tag the library. (Do not post any photos that show faces of attendees unless you have their written permission!)
Keep a record of the staff you work with at each library, so that, when your next book comes out, you can send a personal note – and perhaps secure another invitation to present!
Other Ways to Connect With Public Libraries
Getting the library to carry your book: Most libraries have centralized Materials Selection specialists who develop the collection based on reviews, the library’s budget, and community needs. Even if your book is published by a major publisher and is reviewed in national journals, it’s a good idea to reach out to your local libraries and let them know that you live in the area.
If your book is published by a smaller press, or if you are self-published, then you may have a tougher time. Libraries rely on review sources such as Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, and if you don’t have trade reviews to show them, they may not consider purchasing your book. Many libraries have established a process for local authors to submit one or more copies for the materials selectors to review.
Patrons can also request that the library carry certain books, and the more requests the library gets, the more likely it is to purchase the material. Enlist the aid of your supporters to make these requests at their local libraries.
Public libraries can be an author’s best friend! I hope these tips have given you some ideas on how to start connecting with libraries far and near.
Got more tips for working with libraries? Share them in the comments!
KATHY MACMILLAN is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, librarian, founder of The Sweet Sixteens (www.thesweetsixteens.com) and avowed Hufflepuff. Her debut young adult novel, Sword and Verse, is an epic fantasy that explores questions of power and prejudice. Find her at www.kathymacmillan.com and on Twitter at @kathys_quill.
The Morrow family is taking over the infamous Begonia House December 1st, but here's a glimpse into the mystery...
Release date: DECEMBER 1, 2015 Delacorte Press/ Random House Kids Books MIDDLE GRADE/ ages 10 and up ISBN: 978-0-385-74471-3 Authors: Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson Illustrator: Roman Muradov Publicity contact: Samuel Terris email@example.com
The Begonia House
The car made a sharp right turn as it began to ascend the narrow, winding road that led to the Begonia House. Fairday glanced out the window, and other than the rough road that tossed them about, she could see nothing but a tangled mesh of woods that seemed to spread over the entire hill. Margo had fallen asleep, and her parents had stopped talking, so it was quiet in the car as they trundled up and up. Finally, as the road began to level out, they reached the front gate. It was enormous and made of iron. Twisted vines were wrapped around its pointed black bars, making it look like the entrance to some kind of morbid secret garden. Across the top of the gate, in large letters, were these words:
FEAR NOT THE UNEXPECTED
“Weird,” Fairday said. “It should say, ‘Fear not living a thousand miles from civilization.”
“Oh, now, Fairday, no eleven-year-old as clever as you ever died of ennui. That’s another word for boredom,” Mr. Morrow said. He had been an English teacher for years and was constantly throwing out “new and exciting” words to improve Fairday’s vocabulary. “I’m sure you’ll find lots to do here. Incidentally, this house has a pretty interesting history, very mysterious. Right up your alley, with your little club and all- the Detective Mystery Squad, right?”
“That’s right!” Mrs. Morrow piped up, turning to face Fairday. “You can invite Lizzy for a sleepover, and you guys can investigate. I’m sure the library has all sorts of information on the history of the house. It’s very famous in these parts, and I’ve even heard rumors that it’s haunted. Wouldn’t that be interesting?” Her mother winked. “After you girls have conducted a thorough investigation, you can fill me in on all the juicy details. If you find something fascinating, we can display it when we open up the Begonia House Bed-and-Breakfast."
The Begonia House keeps its secrets. Everyone knows that. Everyone, that is, except for clever eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow, whose family has just moved in. Being the Senior Investigator in the Detective Mystery Squad, more commonly known as the DMS, she’s ready to uncover the mysteries hidden within the strange manor. As the investigation gears up and the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, the three young sleuths enter into a world where anything is possible, and the danger is most definitely real. Can they piece together the puzzle before it's too late? Or will whatever's causing trouble find Fairday and her friends first?
Catch the Book Buzz...
"I really enjoyed this book. It was a marvelously done, debut, thriller novel. Ms. Robinson and Ms. Haight are great authors that really pull you into their story. I couldn’t get out until that final sentence. And, by then I wanted more. To say I want a second book is an understatement. The writing style is compelling, and makes me feel as if I was there with Fairday and her friends. I really like the illustrations in the book. They are like the ribbon on a present, or the icing on the cake. I give this book five out of five bookworms!" ~ Erik Weibel/ This Kid Reviews Books
"Mixing realism and fantasy, Haight and Robinson’s debut opens with 11-year-old Fairday’s move from Manhattan to a small town in Connecticut, where her relentlessly cheerful parents plan to turn a dilapidated Victorian into a bed and breakfast. No sooner has the family arrived than eerie sights and sounds begin to haunt Fairday. The house turns out to hold dark secrets that everybody in town suspects but nobody can explain: a perfect mission for Fairday and her best friend Lizzy’s Detective Mystery Squad (DMS)." ~ Publishers Weekly
"Fifth-grader Fairday Morrow's new home lives up to its spooky reputation, but she and her companions in the Detective Mystery Squad find out why. At Begonia House, strains of bagpipe music issue from behind a padlocked door, grains of sand in an hourglass have stopped falling, and a malevolent weeping willow looms in the backyard. A magic mirror shows an invisible door; a wardrobe hides secrets and a portal. Ruby Begonia vanished more than 50 years ago. Is there also a ghost? Fairday has a new, helpful friend in classmate Marcus, and her best friend Lizzy can visit on weekends to help solve the mystery. What more could readers want?" ~ Kirkus Reviews
And there's a giveaway for 1signed hardcover edition of THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW!
JessicaHaight is a true New Englander, with a deep desire to be near the ocean and a love of the four seasons. She enjoys drawing while standing up and cultivating magic in her garden. She easily floats away in the pages of a good story and is still waiting for her owl from Hogwarts.
StephanieRobinson lives with her husband in a quiet town, though not as quaint as Ashpot. After teaching fifth grade for almost fifteen years, she is now enjoying her role as a school media specialist.
Becca and I love the holiday season–everything is colorful and cheery, the house is filled with cinnamon and ginger as we flex up our baking muscles, and we get to take time to tell you just what you mean to us. Seriously, you guys are the very best readers out there! We are so lucky to have you in our world.
Another terrific thing about this season is that we can celebrate the things we love, and around here, that’s all things writerly. This year with the launch of One Stop For Writers, our mantra is “Elevate your Storytelling.” So Becca, Lee & I sat down and listed out the top three books we feel have elevated our own craft beyond measure.
Why? So we can give them away to you!
Of course, this exercise caused someissues. Choosing ONLY 3 books? So hard! Plus, several of our “top 3” book choices were the same. And I don’t want to point fingers, but certain individuals *coughBeccacoughLeecough* STOLE some of my choices.
But no worries, there are so many amazing books out there that have helped us become stronger writers that we were able to sort it out.
With that, I bring you the 9 Wonders of the Writing Reference World:
Want to elevate your storytelling and win a kindle copy of one of these “best of the best” craft books? Of course you do!
Grow your craft with One Stop’s powerful library. Certificates never expire.
1) Post in the comment section with your TOP 4 book choices. (This will be by random draw, and first come first serve.)
2) Tell us what book has elevated your storytelling. We would love to hear what has given your writing a boost!
3) Pay-it-forward by naming a writer friend (first name is fine if you prefer) who has helped you. If you win, we will send them a 1 month Gift Certificate for One Stop For Writers for their own stocking.
Must be 18, no purchase necessary, open to all unless prohibited by law. For the full legal rules and disclaimers, go here.
As always, social sharing is appreciated, but never a condition of our giveaways. Winners will be drawn and announced on Saturday, December 12th!
Despite the fact that less people are reading books, books themselves are actually growing in length, according to new research from James Finlayson at Vervesearch and published by Flipsnack.
The research analyzed more than 2,500 bestsellers list and found that the average number of pages in a book has increased by 25 percent in the last 15 years. Books published today have on average about 80 pages more than they did in 1999. The Guardian the scoop:
The first five years of Booker-winning novels average out at around 300 pages, but even taking into account Julian Barnes’s 2011 triumph with his 160-page novella The Sense of an Ending, the last five years of Booker laureates weigh in at an average of 520 pages. This year’s winner was brief only in name: Marlon James’s 700-page A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Today I have two great books, and I have to say I love the cover of Fading Away. That's Alex from Kiss of Death (Touch of Death series prequel)!!!
One stupid mistake.
SAMMY STEVENS was tragically orphaned at the age of nine and sent to live with a foster family in the town of Miakoda Falls. She's bullied at school by the arrogant, selfish, one and only... KAI JORDAN.
Kai is your typical entitled teen who's on the verge of attending University and having everything he ever wanted handed to him.
But that all changes when he is involved in a car accident after a night of partying...
He's suddenly and painfully brought into the world of supernatural.
Kai turns to the last person he ever would've expected. Sammy, as he struggles with his new identity and watches the people closest to him move on. And he is forgotten.
As Kai and Sammy grow closer, Kai must figure out a way to either stay human or risk being stuck forever, as a prisoner of his own body…
I was only nine when they died…
I remember the colour of my mother’s hair, and her soft voice. I remember my father’s cologne and the way he used to hold my hand tightly as we walked down to the store for milk. Everything else is a blur; I don't remember what they looked like. Their faces escape me. The memory of my parents is a fuzzy one and all of the photographs are gone now.
It was dark and hot, that much I can remember very clearly. Sweat beads off my forehead and down my neck. My room smells of wood smoke, clogging up my nose and throat, making me cough. Surely the smoke detectors would have gone off by now if we were in trouble? I clutch my pillow to my stomach and watch the flickering orange light dance under the door. A shadow and then Dad is bursting through my door, bringing a cloud full of toxic smoke with him.
“Come on Sammy,” he coaxes me towards him, throwing a fearful look over his shoulder at the wall of heat. I run to him and he scoops me up, spinning and ducking through our burning house. The bright, white hot fire is everywhere. I can feel the blazing heat on my bare skin. It burns.
An overhead beam collapses above us and my dad goes down, letting go of me as he hits the ground. I scream and crawl closer to him.
“Baby girl, you need to get out.” His words come out wheezy. I glance at the burning roof beam lying across his back. His fingers lightly touch my knee and I look back down at him. “Go get help darling, outside. Stay close to the ground. Go!” I nod quickly and weave my way to the front door as fast as I can.
As soon as I push the hot door open, someone lifts me up and sprints away from the house towards the waiting ambulance. The fireman puts me down and wipes my face clean. I cough and point back at my house. He smiles and nods before pushing me further into the ambulance and handing me off to a paramedic.
I wake up in the hospital still clutching my dirty pillow, surrounded by people, none of them my parents.
The other kids at school never see me, and when they do, they whisper. I don't know how, but they know, and being a foster child doesn’t win you any sympathy points or special treatment. It’s more like I’ve contracted an extremely dangerous disease and if anyone was to talk to me or come into contact with me, their parents would magically die too. Kids can be brutal.
I was thirteen when I first met Kai Jordan. He was a kind, gentle person back then. He introduced himself to me with a smile, unaware of my status with the rest of our classmates. Being the new kid, he was immediately snapped up into the popular group at school. If I knew what he would be like as we grew older, I would never have smiled back at him.
I am eighteen now, living with foster parents and on the verge of graduating high school and getting into the college of my dreams…if I can get this stupid paper done. Argh. I slam my pen down on my desk in frustration. It’s due tomorrow and I haven't stung a single sentence together. I shake my head and close my book. I’ll just have to ask for an extension from Mrs. Danby. Gathering my things, I stuff them unceremoniously into my backpack and swing it over my shoulder.
The bell hasn’t released us yet, but that doesn’t stop the chatter from the other students around the room. Ms. Kelly sits down at her desk and starts shuffling her own books into her tote bag. As soon as the bell sounds I follow everyone out of the classroom and drift down the hallways amidst the sea of pushy seniors, thinking about what I'm going to make myself for dinner.
Someone steps out in front of me and I collide head on with their shoulder. I frown up at the dark haired, brown eyed road block and adjust my glasses.
“Watch where you’re going,” Kai Jordan sneers at me as he pushes past. He wouldn’t remember who I am, even if he tripped over me, obviously. I wonder briefly what happened to the happy, friendly little boy he was when he moved here.
Shifting my backpack back onto my shoulder, I continue down the hallway, heading for the exit. People smack me with their books or bags as I push my way through. I feel as though I'm completely invisible. Sometimes I just want to scream, I’m here, just look and see me.
I'm in no hurry to get home. My foster parents gave birth to their first child this year, so I live in the flat above the garage by myself. Not much to look forward too. And no chance of a new foster family, I'm too close to graduating and leaving for college.
“It’s impossible notto believe in ghosts, They light up the night sky every time the sun goes down, reminding us that we are never alone.”
What would you do if you had a second chance at lost love?
Kristian Reed was only seventeen when the love of his life fell to her death. The hardest part of losing someone you love is moving on without them.
After six long years of trying to escape the pain, Kristian starts his new life in the big city, working for one of the top News Networks in the state.
Enter Bailey Nichols, she’s up front, forward and just plain annoying, and what’s worse, she won't leave Kristian alone.
Everything seems to be falling into place, that is until his past comes back to haunt him and he is torn between holding on and letting go.
By denying what’s standing right there in front of him, Kristian could lose everything…
The memories come in flashes. These are the happiest moments of my life. I'm living them all over again.
Kristian leans towards me in a dark corner of Maisy’s house, the loud music surrounding us and the smell of teenage sweat in the air. I don't know how long I've wanted to touch his dark hair or to kiss his lush lips. Every time I see him at school, I make sure to pass his classroom on the way to my own.
Now’s my chance. I grab the collar of his shirt and pull him down so I can reach. As soon as our lips touch, his hands gently grasp the sides of my face, holding me close.
Pulling away slowly, Kristian gazes down at me, the dim light around the shadowed room glinting in his dark eyes. This moment is perfect. One I will remember forever. Kristian’s fingers run down the side of my face, I smile up at him and he returns it.
“You are the most beautiful girl I have ever met Jessica.” I turn away and giggle quietly. Kristian reaches between us and grabs a hold of my hand, leading me out of the shadows and into the room full of our dancing and talking classmates.
I wake close to midday the next day and stretch in my plush bed. All the memories from last night flooding my thoughts and making me blush.
“Jessica?” My mother’s voice sounds from the other side of my bedroom door. “There’s a boy downstairs waiting for you.” A boy?
“Okay Mum, I'm coming.” I jump out of bed, my blanket tumbling to the floor in my rush. I pull my nicest pair of jeans on and riffle through my dresser looking for an appropriate shirt.
Taking a deep breath, I pull my door open, dash down the stairs at breakneck speed and trip on the bottom step. Oh no, I'm going to face plant in front everyone. Strong arms catch me around the shoulders just as I'm about to hit the floor.
Plastering a weak smile on my face, I look up into Kristian's beautiful eyes.
“Whoops, sorry.” Oh god, I could die of embarrassment right now. Kristian smiles and helps me to my feet.
“I was wondering if you might want to go to the movies with me?” He looks almost shy as he asks, as if I'm the gorgeous, beautiful, smoking hot... Okay, that's enough. I have to answer before he thinks I'm dense as well as clumsy.
I lift my shoulders in a small shrug. “Definitely, I would love to.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see my Mum’s head poking around the corner of the kitchen doorway, eavesdropping. I turn discreetly so my back is to her and make a go away motion with my hand where Kristian can't see.
“I’m going out Mum,” I call out over my shoulder as Kristian leads me out to his car. I'm so nervous my palms are sweating. I hope he doesn't want to hold hands. The car ride over eases my nerves a bit. I'm sitting so close I can smell Kristian’s soap. Sort of lemony.
We arrive at the theatre and Kristian buys us both a ticket. I don't know which movie we are going to see, but it doesn't matter. As soon as we are seated, I'm not paying attention to the big screen anyway.
Kristian shifts in his seat and puts his arm around my shoulders. I look down at my lap and smile to myself.
Another flash and I'm walking down the main hall at our high school;Maisy trots along beside me, chattering about the party last Friday. I'm not listening; my eyes are scanning the people standing by their lockers, searching for Kristian.
“Hey, looking for me?” Kristian’s arms come around my shoulders and he places a gentle kiss on the side of my neck. I lean my head back against his shoulder and smile. This is where I want to stay; this is where I feel safe.
The scenery around me changes again.
“So Kristian, have you thought about what universities you will be applying for next semester?” My father is leaning slightly over the table towards Kristian with a stern look on his face. Kristian glances at me unsure.
“Dad!” My father gives me a small mischievous grin and looks back down at his plate, lifting a forkful of pasta to his mouth. This is so awkward. My mother sits across from me, trying to hide her own smile. God, could this be any more embarrassing.
After dinner is finished and I've helped Mum clean up, I follow Kristian out to his car to say goodbye.
“I had a really nice time,” Kristian leans against his car and pulls me into his arms.
“I'm so sorry about my parents. They’re a little annoying sometimes,” I apologize, twisting my fingers into his shirt.
“Stop worrying, I swear I had fun.” Kristian’s hand closes around mine and untwists my fingers. He smiles and leans down to kiss me.
I stand on the front porch until Kristian’s car turns the corner out of sight. “Was all that really necessary?” I ask, shutting the front door behind me.
“Of course, darling,” my mother answers from the lounge room. Dad chuckles from beside her. “We had to make sure he is worthy of our little princess.” Mum giggles like a little schoolgirl and switches on the television.
I huff at them and skip up the stairs to my bedroom. Lying on my bed, I stare up at the ceiling. My cell phone buzzes from my nightstand and I scramble across the bed to grab it. I open the text and nearly squeal in delight.
I love you Jessica Scott.
Another flash, they are coming quicker now.
“Do you think we will stay together after we graduate?” Kristian asks, sitting cross-legged on my bed in front of me. Our hands are touching between us.
“I hope so.” Today is our one-year anniversary. The time we’ve been together has been perfect.
Kristian reaches behind his back and pulls out a long black velvet box. “Oh my god, Kristian.” His eyes crinkle at the sides when he smiles. He hands me the box and I open it almost reverently. The sparkling gems from the bracelet shine up at me, glittering in the dying sunlight coming through my bedroom window. It’s so beautiful. “Thank you so much.”
Kristian helps me do up the clasp as I wrap it around my wrist. When he's done, I crawl onto his lap and kiss him, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him closer.
We fall backwards until he's lying on his back and I'm on top of him, running my hands up his stomach and chest. The atmosphere becomes heated; Kristian's fingers push my shirt up underneath my bra. Is this really happening? I hesitate and then yank Kristian's shirt up, he lifts himself off the bed slightly so I can take it off completely.
“Jessica! Kristian! Dinner is ready,” my father calls out from downstairs. We both falter and look at each other. Had we nearly done what I think we were going to do?
Kristian smiles shyly up at my shocked expression. “I don't think I'm ready for that yet, and neither are you.” I giggle timidly and hand Kristian his shirt. He sits up underneath me and pulls me into a tight hug.
I relax into his hold and whisper into his ear. “I love you.” I can feel his mouth lift up in a smile on the side of my face.
Now I'm sitting in a brightly lit classroom. Math is one of the most boring classes in school. The equations don't make sense to me, and who puts letters in math anyway. Maisy scribbles notes in her book beside me, I'm not sure if they have anything to do with what Mr. Saul is teaching. I tap my pen on my notebook and stare at the clock above the door, the second hand feels like it is going backwards.
As soon as the bell rings, I'm already packed up and leaving the classroom. I walk to my locker to exchange my textbooks and get a new pen.
Maisy is chattering away beside me. “So Jake asked me to the prom. Should I wear blue or green?”
I turn to her with pursed lips, thinking. She has deep red hair and a fair complexion so she would look great in either colour. “Green?”
She nods, “Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Has Kristian asked you yet?”
I spin back around to my locker and turn the knob for my combination. “No, not yet.” I thought for sure he would have asked me by now. I sigh and pull my locker door open.
Dozens upon dozens of colorful flowers and ribbons tumble out onto the floor around me; there’s so many they spill across the hall. Other students stop and gawk at me. I bend down and pick up one of the flowers; it’s a dark yellow rose. Attached to its stem is a small card with black writing.
Each day I love you more, today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow. Please be my date for the prom Jessica Scott. – Love Always, Kristian
I look down at the other flowers, every single one has its own note attached to it. I can't breathe. I'm lost for words. Maisy and all the other students have stopped talking and are staring at me, open-mouthed.
“So will you go with me?” Kristian asks quietly from behind me. He’s so close I can feel his warm breath on the back of my neck. This is the most romantic thing I've ever seen. Even better than a movie. I twist slowly to face Kristian, a look of awe on my face.
“Of course I'll go with you.” He grins and pulls me into his arms, crushing me to his chest.
My mother leans over me, I watch in the mirror as she pins a stray strand of hair up on top of my head. I wince as the bobby pin scrapes against my skull.
“Sorry darling,” Mum apologizes as she sprays glitter into my hair. I'm practically bouncing on my seat in excitement. I'm finally graduating high school and I'm going to prom with the love of my life.
The doorbell rings downstairs, I can hear my Dad’s heavy footsteps as he walks across the lounge room to answer it. Mum helps me stand and I cautiously descend the stairs in my high heels. My light blue, nearly white dress is tight at the waist and loose around my legs, trailing along behind me. Kristian's face lights up as he sees me. He holds his hand out to help me from the bottom step.
“You look beautiful Jess,” Kristian exclaims as I spin in a circle to show him and my father my sparkling dress.
“You two over by the window, please, so I can take some pictures.” Mum holds up her digital camera and waves her other hand towards the lounge room window. I grab Kristian's hand and drag him over to the window. Dad stands behind Mum and smiles as she starts clicking the camera. I glance up quickly at Kristian and pause. He's watching me; I'm caught in his dark gaze. The rest of the world falls away, leaving only us.
The school gym is decorated in hundreds of neon lights of all different colors, making everyone’s lighter colored clothes glow. My arm is tucked in Kristian's elbow as he leads us through the entry way and towards my group of friends.
“I'll be right back.” He kisses me on the forehead and walks back into the crowd.
“You are so lucky Jess, he's so gorgeous.” Maisy and Jenifer come up on either side of me and sigh dreamily. Jenifer hands me a cup of punch and we all sit down at a small table at the edge of the room.
“Did you hear about Stephanie?” Maisy whispers loudly beside me.
“No, what happened to Steph?” I lean across the table to hear her reply.
“She cheated on Brodie!” Maisy’s eyes go wide and shocked. Beside me, Jenifer gasps. She's had a crush on Brodie since fifth grade, so this is big news for her.
“You should make your move tonight Jen,” I tell her with an encouraging smile.
She looks a little worried. “You think so?”
“Definitely,” Maisy pipes up from across the table. Jenifer stands up hesitantly and searches the dancing masses in the gym. After a moment, she nods to herself and walks through our classmates heading for Brodie. Jake jogs up to the table and grasps Maisy’s hand, twirling her out onto the dance floor.
Kristian stops beside me, his white dress shirt glowing under his jacket. The neon lights around the room make his eyes glitter as he holds out his hand. “Do you want to dance?”
I place my hand in his. “Only if it lasts forever.”
Kristian pulls me through the door and into his room before his family sees me. “I've organized for all of us to go and hang out at the waterfalls for your birthday.”
I smile. “Really.”
“Yes, I'll pick you up from your house tomorrow morning at eight.” He drags me down onto the bed beside him and then pushes me back so he's leaning over the top of me.
Flash, and I'm no longer in Kristian’s room. I can hear the excitement from our group as we walk along the narrow dirt track through the trees to the waterfall that our town was named after. There are about ten of us and we’re all dressed to go swimming and lounge about beside the water.
We emerge from the dense trees and I stop to stare as everyone moves past me. The waterfall is even more beautiful than I remember. The clear water sparkles in the sunlight as it tumbles down the rocks and splashes into the pool below. There are wildflowers growing in patches around the entire clearing, butterflies in all sorts of incredible colors hovering above them.
A small group of us heads up the path to get to the top of the falls so we can have a look at the view.
The trees thin out and the rocks beneath our feet turn into slippery pebbles. Kristian takes a hold of my hand and keeps me steady as we exit the trees and reach the edge of the waterfall. I can see everyone down below us, spreading out, talking and laughing.
I let go of Kristian’s hand and take a small step closer to peek over the edge.
“Careful Jess,” Kristian warns, from right behind me. The cascading water looks fast as it speeds over the edge and crashes down into the pool. It’s not a huge drop, but it’s big enough to do some damage. I turn slowly to walk back to Kristian.
One minute I'm gazing at his face, the next I'm falling.
My fingers scramble to hold on to the slippery rocks on the side of the waterfall. Kristian's face appears above me, his expression fierce but afraid.
This is the last thing I remember and it is so clear, as if I saw it all in slow motion, every single excruciating detail. Kristian’s dark, glittering eyes open wide in horror. His mouth opens, screaming my name as he reaches for my hand.
I remember the exact moment my fingers give, ripping my fingernails to shreds as they scrape the rocks, my bracelet from Kristian slipping off my wrist as I fall.
The memories come in flashes. They are what I will remember forever.
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This week, Kelly and JJ recommend ALL THE BOOKS. This is our year-end reading round-up, so be prepared for A LOT OF BOOKS to be thrown your way. (Also Hamilton. Again.)
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In what makes her third musical recommendation since she started the podcast, JJ recommends Deaf West’s production/Broadway revival of Spring Awakening. The cast performed “Touch Me” on Late Night with Seth Meyers, so please watch and tell me this isn’t the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen.
Those of you who can make it, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE GO. PLEASE GO AND LET ME LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH YOU.
That’s all for this year! In 2016, we will return with a podcast about REVISIONS to help those of you who have won NaNoWriMo (congrats!). We also have more Publishing 101 episodes, as well as some other topics we hope you guys will find useful. As always, if you have a question, feel free to ask us!
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Editing I have a client edit and an edit for Leap to work on this week. I think I'll be getting edits on Up in Flames as well very soon. Eek!
Countdown to Christmas Giveaways! I'll be counting down the last five days to Christmas by hosting a giveaway a day. Check my Instagram for more info.
Reading I've been forcing more reading time into my schedule. Yes, forcing. It's tough to find time to read for pleasure when you are constantly reading for your job. I'm doing it though. lol
Writing Fever I've been editing a lot lately, and while I love editing, I miss writing. I was driving home last Friday and all I could think about was drafting. I really want to get back to my adult thriller that I've had to put aside several times now.
Into the Fire SWAG I'm getting my SWAG together for the Into the Fire series, which will release in its entirety in February and March 2016! I'm so excited. I may have gotten some Bird on Fire Jamberry nail wraps for SWAG as well. ;)