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1. Doodles and Drafts – Roses are Blue Blog Tour with Sally Murphy

Roses are BlueI promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Well, maybe a few tears towards the end might be acceptable, but of course, I was dealing with another verse novel by Sally Murphy, so dry eyes were definitely no guarantee.

Sally Murphy with gabriel evans croppedIt’s not just the subject matter of Roses are Blue that tugs at ones heartstrings. Murphy is simply master at massaging sensitive issues into refined, understated yet terrifically moving poetic verse. Her words whisper across the pages with the soft intensity of a mountain breeze. They are beautiful and arresting; a joy to read.

There are no chapters in this novel. The story ebbs and flows organically in a pleasing natural rhythm. Gabriel Evans’ tender ink and painted illustrations cushion the gravity of the story even more allowing the reader to connect with Amber and her world visually as well as emotionally. Youngsters cultivating their reading confidence will appreciate this generous visual reinforcement on nearly every page.

Amber Rose’s world is turned upside down when tragedy strikes her family leaving her mother devastatingly ‘different’. Overnight, everything is altered: there’s a new school, new friends, new home, new secrets and perhaps hardest of all, a new mum to get used to. Amber vacillates between wanting to fit in and appear normal, aching for how things ‘used to be’ and trying to reconnect with her damaged mum.

As Amber’s mother struggles to free herself from her new entrapment, so too does Amber fight to hang onto to their special shared love until, like springtime roses, hope eventually blooms. Roses are Blue addresses the complex issues of normality, family ties, friendships and maternal bonds with gentle emphasis on how all these relationships can span any ethnicity or physical situation.

To celebrate Amber’s story, Sally Murphy joins me at the draft table with a box of tissues and a few more fascinating insights on Roses are Blue. Welcome Sally!

Q. Who is Sally Murphy? Please describe your writerly self.

My writely self? I try hard to think of myself as writerly – but often fail miserably because I think of other writers as amazingly productive, clever , creative people, and myself as someone slightly manic who manages to snatch time to write and is always surprised when it’s good enough to get published.

But seriously, I suppose what I am is someone who writes because it’s my passion and I can’t not do it. I’ve been writing all my life, pretty much always for children, and my first book was published about 18 years ago. Since then I’ve written picture books, chapter books, reading books, educational resource books and, of course, poetry and verse novels.

Q. I find verse novels profoundly powerful. How different are they to write compared to writing in prose? Do you find them more or less difficult to develop?

I think they’re very powerful too. It was the power of the first ones I read (by Margaret Wild) that made me fall in love with the form. But it’s this very power that can make them hard to get right – you have to tap into core emotions and get them on the page whilst still developing a story arc, characters, setting, dialogue and so on.

Are they more or less difficult? I’m not sure. For me I’ve been more successful with verse novels than with prose novels, so maybe they’re easier for me. But it is difficult to write a verse novel that a publisher will publish – because they can be difficult to sell.

Q. How do you think verse novels enhance the appeal and impact of a story for younger readers?

I think they work wonderfully with young readers for a few reasons, which makes them a wonderful classroom tool. The fact that they are poetry gives them white space and also, room for illustration and even sometimes text adornments.

What this means is that for a struggling reader or even a reluctant reader, the verse novel can draw them in because it looks easier, and gives them cues as to where to pause when reading, where the emphasis might be and so on. They will also feel that a verse novel is less challenging because it is shorter – there are less words on the same number of pages because of that white space.

But the verse novel can also attract more advanced readers who recognise it as poetry and thus expect to be challenged, and who can also see the layers of meaning, the poetic techniques and so on. Of course, once they’ve started reading it, the reluctant and struggling reader will also see those things, meaning there is a wonderful opportunity for all the class to feel involved and connected when it’s a class novel, or for peers of different abilities to appreciate a book they share.

Sally & Pearl & TopplingQ. Judging by some of your previous verse titles, Pearl Verses the World and Toppling, you are not afraid to tackle the heftier and occasionally heartbreaking issues children encounter. What compels you to write about these topics and why do so in verse? Do you think a verse novel can convey emotion more convincingly than prose alone?

Afraid? Hah – I laugh in the face of danger! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). But seriously no, I’m not afraid, because I think these are issues kids want to read about. All kids experience tough times – sometimes it’s the loss of a loved one, or illness, or a tragedy like Mum being sick/injured/absent. Other times it’s a beloved pet dying, or a best friend who suddenly doesn’t want to be friends. Either way, these tough times can feel like the end of the world. I think when children read about tough topics they connect with empathy or sympathy, and thus have the opportunity to experience vicariously something which they may not have. And if they have been through those really tragic tough times, or they do in the future, I hope they’re getting the message that life can be tough but you can get through it. Terrible things happen in the world – but good things do too. It’s really important to me that my stories have happy times too, and even laughs.

For me the verse novel form enables me to convey that emotion, but I don’t think it’s the only way it can be done. If you look at the Kingdom of Silk books by Glenda Millard, for example, you’ll see how brilliantly prose can be used to explore emotional situations.

Q. Many verse novels I have read are in first person. Is this a crucial element of ensuring stories in verse work well or is it something that you fall into naturally?

Off the top of my head I can’t think of any verse novels written solely in third person. There’s no rule that they have to be in first, but I do feel they work best that way for me, although I’m looking forward to experimenting with point of view in a verse novel I’m planning. I think first works so well because it creates an intimacy which the poetic form enhances.

Q. I particularly loved your reference to the Bobby Vinton 1962 hit, Roses are Red. What inspired you to use these lines in Amber’s story?

It’s actually a bit of a nod to Pearl, from Pearl Verses the World, who writes a roses are red poem about her nemesis Prue – but surprisingly no one has asked me about the connection before. I was looking for something for Mum to sing, and there it was. Of course the fact that Mum loves to garden, and their surname is rose means it all ties together nicely.

Gabriel EvansQ. Gabriel Evans’ illustrations are very endearing. How important do you think it is for illustrations to accompany verse stories?

For younger readers, some visual element is essential, and I am delighted with the way Gabriel has interpreted the story. Who couldn’t love his work? Again, the illustrations can help struggling readers connect with the story, but they are also important for all levels of reading ability. Some people are much more visual learners and thinkers than others, and seeing the story really enhances the experience. And gosh, they’re so gorgeous!

Q. What’s on the draft table for Sally Murphy?

A few things. I’m working on a historical novel (prose), several picture books and lots of poetry. I’m also in the early stages of a PhD project in Creative Writing and, as part of this, plan to produce three new works, all poetry of some form, as well as writing about why/how poetry is important.

Just for fun Question, (there is always one!): If you were named after a gem or colour like Amber and her friends, which would you choose and why?

I can choose a name for myself? That IS fun. I was nearly called Imelda when I was born, and (with apologies to the Imeldas of the world) have been forever grateful that my parents changed their minds. Sorry, that doesn’t answer your question. I think if I could name myself after a colour I’d be silly about it and say Aquamarine, because surely then no one else would ever have the same name as me. It’s also a lovely colour, so maybe some of that loveliness would rub off on me and make me lovely too.

Thanks so much for having me visit, Dimity. It’s been fun, and you’ve kept me on my toes!

An absolute pleasure Sally (aka Aquamarine!)

Be sure to discover the magic behind Roses are Blue, available  here now.

Walker Books Australia July 2014

Stick around for the rest of Sally’s beautiful blog tour. Here are some places you can visit.

Tuesday, July 22nd Karen Tyrrell
Wednesday, July 23 Alphabet Soup
Thursday, July 24 Kids’ Book Review
Friday, July 25 Write and read with Dale
Saturday, July 26 Diva Booknerd
Sunday, July 27 Children’s Books Daily
Monday, July 28 Boomerang Books Blog
Tuesday, July 29 Australian Children’s Poetry
Wednesday, July 30 Sally Murphy




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2. Blog Tour: Writing Process

Greetings Illustrator Amigos! Today I am part of a blog tour!

 I was invited by the super talented illustrator and banjo player, Russ Cox! Before I begin, let me introduce you to Russ! 

Russ Cox was raised by a pack of crazed hillbillies in the back woods of Tennessee. Without much in the way of modern conveniences, like a television set or running water, he spent his time drawing and whittling away the hours. All of that drawing paid off. He has illustrated the Freddy the Frogcaster series written by Janice Dean (Regnery Kids). Major Manner Nite Nite Soldier, by Beth and Mike Hofner (Outhouse Ink). A Merry Moosey Christmas by Lynn Plourde (Islandport Press Fall 2014) and his first book that he wrote and illustrated, Faraway Friends, will be released in April 2015 by Sky Pony. 

You can find out more about Russ and see his work at his website, www.smilingotis.com and his blog, www.smilingotis.blogspot.com.

Now on to the questions. This blog tour topic is Writing Process. Here is a little bit about my writing process! 

1. What am I working on? 

I am working on a new picture book- title to be revealed soon- that I have written and am now illustrating. The characters in the book are all sheep and goats set in an ancient (yet strangely modern) middle eastern style royal court. Right now I'm working on character design- it has been a struggle at times, but mostly a blast! Character design sketches to be posted here soon!

2. How does my work differ from others of this genre? 

I have always loved fairy tales and spoofs on fairy tales. My stories usually don't take place in the every day life of a child like many picture books do. I do like to write books that are character driven, but my stories often take place in fantasy or fairy tale- like settings. 

Also a lot of children's illustrations use very flat and stylized and local color , whereas in my illustrations, although stylized, I like to use light and shadow and atmosphere.

3. Why do I write what I do? 

For a long time, I tried to write and illustrate things I thought would work well in the market- what I thought everyone else would want to read. 

But I was not writing what really resonated with me and with who I was.

 So I decided to write and illustrate something that I would want to read, and that's when I really started feeling happy and successful about my work.

4. How does my writing process work? 

When I write my story, I am already thinking of where I can show things with pictures instead of words. I usually write a few drafts of my story before I take it to my critique groups, and then revise it again a few times.  

Then I design the characters and do some other visual development for the book. This takes a while, because I want to get the characters just right for the story. Some of this takes place later in my process- every thing is ongoing. 

Next, I make a pacing book which is 8 pieces of paper, folded in half and stapled together. I tape the words of my story into the book and then turn the pages, and rearrange them until I like the pacing.

After that, I make a storyboard and revise that a few times. At this point I will show the story to my agent and critique group, and do a few more revisions. 

Then I make my dummy book/ more polished sketches, which will also go through a few revisions. 

In other words, write, revise, write, revise, draw, revise, draw, revise, draw again, revise, rewrite, redraw....that's my process!

So now that you know a little bit about my process, I hope you will join my friends next week (July 3rd) to find out about their writing processes. Hopefully hearing from all these amazing talented artist illustrators will give you some good ideas about what you can do to improve your writing craft. 

So without further delay, I would like to introduce you to some of my writer/illustrator friends!

First up, we have Mr. John Nez! I will let him introduce himself. Take it away, John!

I've illustrated over 50 books of every sort, from toddler board books to historical non-fiction. I'm now also writing and illustrating my own picture books and interactive e-book apps, which is a lot of fun.

I draw mostly in a whimsical style with the goal of conveying lots of feeling in my pictures... happy, sad, sneaky, mad, hopeful, afraid... whatever. I'd guess that's about the main point of any illustration.

 I work in Photoshop and Illustrator, which greatly expand the illustrator's toolbox. The combination of traditional and digital mediums allows for amazing new possiblities... and lots of fun.

You can find more about John by visting his website at www.johnnez.com and his blog at johnnez.blogspot.com.

Next up is my food friend, Manelle Oliphant. Here's a little about Manelle:

Manelle Oliphant graduated from BYU-Idaho with her illustration degree. She loves illustrating historical stories and fairytales. She lives with her husband in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

You can see her work and download free coloring pages on her website awww.manelleoliphant.com

And last but not least is another great friend of mine, Sherry Meidell. Here's a little bit about Sherry:

Sherry Meidell loves to tell stories with paint. She is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Utah Watercolor Society, and  Western Federation of Watercolor Societies.  She has received numerous awards and is a member and illustrator coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She keeps her paint brushes busy painting watercolors and illustrating children’s picture books.
 You can find out more about her by visiting her web site www.sherrymeidell.com and blog sherrymeidell.wordpress.com.

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3. Bad Luck Girl Blog Tour: Author Interview with Sarah Zettel

Please welcome Sarah Zettel to GreenBeanTeenQueen! Her amazing historical 
fantasy series, The American Fairy Trilogy, concludes with book three, Bad
Luck Girl.
About Bad Luck Girl: After rescuing her parents from the Seelie king at Hearst Castle, Callie 
is caught up in the war between the fairies of the Midnight Throne and the Sunlit Kingdoms. 
By accident, she discovers that fairies aren’t the only magical creatures in the world. There’s also 
Halfers, misfits that are half fairy and half other—half paper, half steel girder, half electric spark. 
As the war heats up, Callie’s world falls apart. And even though she’s the child of prophecy, she doubts she can save the 
Halfers, her people, her family, and Jack, let alone herself. Bad Luck Girl, they call Callie, and she’s starting to believe them.

The American Fairy Trilogy is historical fantasy. What about history inspires 
you to write?
That’s a big question.  I guess the first reason would be because history is full 
of people and people are endlessly fascinating and inspiring.  The actions of people 
who did big things, small things, good things, bad things, both, who survived, who failed to, are the raw stuff 
of stories.  Add to that a dramatic landscape, like, say, the Dust Bowl or Chicago in the age of Depression 
and jazz, and how could anybody fail to find inspiration?  Plus, I am very much interested in the way things 
work, and it’s only by studying history and trying to understand it that we find out how the present works, 
and how the future might work. One of the reasons I write is to learn, and writing about history is one 
heck of a way to learn about history.

What does it feel like to have your trilogy come to an end?
There’s a certain amount of relief.  It means I don’t have to work on it anymore.  For me, there comes
a point when, no matter how much I love a story, I just never want to see it again.  There’s a certain amount
of satisfaction as well, as there always is when you’ve finished a big job.  Of course, I’m a little sorry too. 
 I spent a lot of time with Callie, Jack and their world.  I had a lot of fun, a lot of frustration and I certainly
learned a lot with and from the process of writing these books, and it’s always hard to let that go.  

What are you working on next?
I always have more projects in the hopper than is good for me, or my long-suffering, hard-working 
agent. I’ve just finished the third book in my other YA historical trilogy: Palace of Spies.  Book #2 in that 
series, Dangerous Deceptions, is coming out this November.  I have a mid-grade book about a girl who 
finds unicorns and monsters living in the shopping mall her parents manage.  I’m working on another
historical YA set in Greenwich Village during the Red Scare.  Oh, and did I mention the thriller,
and the epic fantasy and…

What time period would you travel back in time to if you could?
Me, personally, I wouldn’t go back.  I like history, I enjoy the mental exercise of setting stories there.  
But when it comes down to it, the past is a messy, uncomfortable place where I wouldn’t have had 
many rights, not to mention conveniences like antibiotics and eyeglasses.  If I was going to time travel,
I’d go forward, maybe fifty years?  Maybe a hundred?  See what the future holds.  

Thanks to Green Bean Teen Queen for letting me stop by!

Sarah Zettel

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4. M.K. Hutchins Blog Tour: On Mythology, Maya Culture, & More!

To celebrate the release of her debut novel Drift last week, author M.K. Hutchins has been stopping by blogs throughout the week to talk about her writing process, Maya culture, and more.

drift, m.k. hutchins

Here’s a bit about Drift:

There’s no place for love on the shores of hell.

Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. His island, a massive Turtle, is slowed by the people living on its back. Tenjat is poor as poor gets: poor enough, even, to condescend to the shame of marriage, so his children can help support him one day.

But Tenjat has a plan to avoid this fate. He will join the Handlers, those who defend and rule the island. Handlers never marry, and they can even provide for an additional family member. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. And just in time: the Handlers are ramping up for a dangerous battle against the naga monsters, and they need every fighter they can get.

As the naga battle approaches, Tenjat’s training intensifies, but a long-hidden family secret—not to mention his own growing feelings for Avi—put his plans in jeopardy, and might threaten the very survival of his island.

You can read sample chapters from Drift online hereKirkus Reviews has called it “totally fresh” and Sarah Beth Durst, author of Vessel and Conjured, has called it “a fantastic adventure set in a stunning, original world. . . . Some of the best worldbuilding I’ve ever read.”

M.K. Hutchins’ tour schedule is below, so if you haven’t picked up Drift or you have and loved it, check out the following blogs for some great insight and conversation into this fantastic world!

June 19: John Scalzi’s Whatever BlogM.K. Hutchins on worldbuilding and cultural ecology here

June 20: Supernatural Snark – M.K. Hutchins on being inspired by Maya mythology here.

June 23: It’s All About Books – M.K. Hutchins’ top 5 most influential books here.

June 25: Read Now Sleep Later - Check back for the link!

June 26: The Brain Lair - Check back for the link!

Still want to learn more about M.K. Hutchins and Drift? Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter!

Filed under: Book News, Diversity in YA, New Releases, Tu Books Tagged: blog tour, debut author, drift, fantasy, m.k. hutchins

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5. Unstoppable Official Summer Blog Tour

Unstoppable Official Summer Blog Tour

As you all know, I love bloggers. They have always been so wonderful in supporting me and my books. Here are some great upcoming articles and interviews that you may (or may not :) find interesting. Follow along for some 411 and giveaways!

This week:

June 5th - Dorothy Dreyer, We Do Write, Guest Post: "The rise of powerful female characters in teen fiction." 

June 6th - Shannon O'Donnell, Book Dreaming, Guest Post: "Creating a peaceful writing environment: here's how!" 

June 7th- Huntress (CD Coffelt), Spiritcalled, Guest Post: "Advice for young authors." 

Coming Up:

4. June 9th - Heather Robbins, SupaGurl Books, supagurlbooks.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "Get to know your character- walk in their shoes for a chapter." 

5. June 10th, June 11th (review) - Page Eberhardt, One Book At A Time, http://onebooktime.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "The Rising Realm of Self Publishing." 

6. June 10th, June 17th - Lena Marsteller, The I Love Books Club, http://ilovebooksclub101.blogspot.com, Review and Guest Post: "How to write a gripping YA thriller." 

7. June 10th- Heather D Rosdol, Buried in Books, http://wwwBuriedinBooks.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "New Indie reads and why we love them." 

8. June 10th- Louisa Paarskmart, 23 Diamond Ridge Place, http://writingcrazyme.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "What makes a good YA protagonist." 

9. June 13th- Kai Strand, Strands of Thought, http://kaistrand.blogspot.com/, Character Interview

10. June 16th - Meradeth Houston, Write Stuff, http://meradethhouston.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "Being a literary composer: the perks of using music in writing." 

11. June 17th- Jenna, Avid Reader Musings, http://avidreadermusings.com, Guest Post: "Creating a strong character: what you need to know." 

12. June 18th- Emily Davis, Goodreads, http://goodreads.com/user/show/3142762-emily-heinlen-davis, Review

12. June 19th- Kelly Polark, Kelly Polark, http://kpolark.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "How Marketing and Writing work together." 

13. June 20th- Sheila Deeth, http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "How to prepare for a book release: the ins and outs." 

14. June 21st?- Jamie Johnson, Fantasy Book Chick, http://fantasybookchick.blogspot.com, Guest Post: Cover TBD

15. June 23rd- Elana Johnson, Elana Johnson, http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "Indie blogs and why they're hot." 

16. June 25th- Brooke Bumgardner, Brooke Blogs, http://brookeblogs.com: Guest Post, "An author's walk through the woods: how writing and nature compliment each other." 

17. June 27th or 30th- Britney Wyatt,  Living Fictitiously, http://living-fictitously.blogspot.com, Guest Post: "A hint of Grace- the animals in her life and why they matter. "

18. Date TBD - Liz Ziolkowski, Fictional Candy, http://www.fictionalcandy.com, Review

19. Date TBD (Before Xmas)- Sharen Seiple, Bookend Crossing, http://bookendcrossing.blogspot.com/, Interview

If you would like to join in the summer tour, go here! We would love to add you :)

If you would like a free ebook to review, please fill out form.

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6. Interview: Shirley Vernick

While I was watching the trailer for Shirley Vernick's latest book, The Black Butterfly, two regular customers wandered into the bookstore and asked what I was watching. I showed them the video and told them I was preparing to interview the author. They immediately wanted to know the author's identity and the book's premise. Then they contributed interview questions, which I've marked with our initials so you know who's who. LW is me, Little Willow; JY is the one with the cool yellow high-tops; RF is not R.F. Simpson from Singin' in the Rain, but I'll have to ask her the next time she comes in if she likes that film as much as I do! In the meantime, let's learn about the ghosts and hosts behind Shirley Vernick's brand-new YA novel, The Black Butterfly...

Question from JY: Do you feel any emotional connection to your main character?
Yes! Like Penny, I felt like an outsider during high school, and I didn’t know how to break in. I mean, a complete body and personality transplant might have done the trick, but otherwise, no clue. Other traits Penny and I share: love of new foods, a bit of a wisecracking sense of humor, and a fear of flying in puddle-jumpers.

JY: What inspired you to set the story in Maine?
I wanted to put Penny way out of her comfort zone - and in a place she couldn’t easily run away from. So once I plucked her out of her familiar urban surroundings, a tiny island off the coast of frozen Maine seemed like the perfect place to plop her down.

RF: How did you come up with your title?
The Black Butterfly is the name of the inn where Penny is staying during the story. I selected the name because I like its contrasting qualities. I associate butterflies with lightness and warmth, while I connect the color black with the dark of winter and of supernatural beings. The story combines these attributes in ways I think readers will find compelling.

RF & LW: How did you come up with your character names?
I spend a lot of time picking out my characters' names. I’m not scientific about it; it just has to feel right. So Penny is a name I’ve always liked, and I know a bunch of Georges who are great guys. Rita seemed to fit for an older woman from another country. Bubbles - Blanche - is named in honor of my own mom. I found the name Blue on a list of early 20th-century names, and that timing is pertinent to his character.

RF: What prompted you to make it a love triangle?
The characters made me do it! Seriously. I put the characters together in an inn, each with their own personality, backstory and desires, and they demanded it.

LW: What's your favorite ghost story?
Charles Dickens' "The Signal Man" creeps me out in a deliciously eerie way. It's not just that there’s a ghost, it’s that the ghost presages terrible accidents, and you never know who’s going to be the next victim. It's real sleep-with-the-lights-on stuff.

LW: What's the key to plotting a suspenseful tale?
Start with characters that readers care about. Put them in danger of abruptly losing something significant. Add obstacles but also allow progress, so readers won't know what to expect next. Keep the stakes high, and keep the possibilities open - you don't want readers to know how it's going to end until it actually ends.

LW: What's the story behind the snow globe in the trailer?
First of all, I love snow globes. More to the point, the snow globe in the trailer symbolizes the happy, cozy side of winter and the holidays: home (however you define that), family, friends, and the security those things bring. This stands in sharp contrast to many of the things Penny encounters this winter: strange surroundings, isolation and danger.

JY: Would you ever write a sequel or prequel to The Black Butterfly?
I’d love to write a sequel - picking up the following summer when the characters reconvene at the inn during high tourist season.

LW: You posted on your Twitter that you treated yourself to a Miyazaki film festival. Which one is your favorite?
Wait, I can only pick one? Then I’d have to say Kiki’s Delivery Service. It’s a wonderful animation about a teenage witch who, as part of her training, must live alone for one year. She leaves her village for the big city, where she supports herself by starting a delivery service - after all, what’s a flying broom for, right? Along the way, she learns about herself, discovers new worlds, and meets a boy.

Check out my previous interviews with Shirley Vernick from 2011 and 2013.

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Title: Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story Written by Clara Bowman-Jahn & Susan April Elwood Illustrated by Lynne Bendoly Published by eTreasure Publishing, April 26th, 2014 I am delighted to be the first stop in Clara Bowman-Jahn and Susan April … Continue reading

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8. Interview: Joy Preble

Last year, I got acquainted with author Joy Preble when I redesigned her website. In 2013, she was preparing for the release of her book The Sweet Dead Life, a YA novel about a girl and her not-so-angelic brother, who becomes her guardian angel. Now, there's a sequel, The A-Word, which was released just this month. Pull up a chair, put on your wings, and check out my exclusive interview with Joy Preble.

Congratulations on the release of The A-Word! Did you always plan to write a sequel to The Sweet Dead Life, or was that initially supposed to be just one book?

Good question! Initially, this was definitely going to be a one-off. But the initial reaction to the project from both the publisher as well as some TV/movie types was so strong that my editor said, "Let's develop the world. Where could we go from here?" So although nothing further has come (yet) of the pie in the sky movie stuff, we did find that there was a lot more to Jenna and Casey's story. So I was able to know that as I finished The Sweet Dead Life and seed in some material that would allow me to advance the story in The A-Word. Plus, I love the heck out of Jenna! She is honestly the most fun to write of any character I've ever come up with. I never seem to have a problem channeling her voice. I could write Jenna for the rest of my writing career!

How did the original story, The Sweet Dead Life, come to be?

The original story actually came as an idea from Dan Ehrenhaft, my editor at Soho Press. We'd worked together briefly at Sourcebooks (publisher of my Dreaming Anastasia series) and our story telling sensibilities are very compatible. He basically presented me with a two sentence thumbnail idea: Mysteriously ill girl's stoner brother comes back from a fatal car accident as her guardian angel and together they unravel a big mystery. And he said, "I think you could totally write this." To which I replied, "Yes." Because my philosophy in the publishing world is that for the most part when asked to do a book you always say, "yes." After that, I wrote about 20 sample pages and told him that the story was going to take place in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. I expected him to balk, but he was cool with it. And of course since we'd worked together before, we already knew it would be both serious and comic. We argued a bit about the title (his original suggestion was Plop, which is seriously the WORST title I have ever heard. But we had envisioned this as Fallen meets Veronica Mars meets Pineapple Express, so it sort of fits), but mostly we were completely compatible about where the story was going.

In what ways, if any, does the relationship between Jenna and Casey resemble your relationship with your siblings?

Thanks for noticing that I am indeed writing a sibling story here! Jenna and Casey aren't very much like my brother and me personally, but what I do find myself mining is the idea of siblings in general. Jenna really loves Casey and Casey really loves Jenna (in a good way, not a creepy Flowers in the Attic way!) and their relationship definitely drives the story. I am always gratified when reviewers comment on this and for the most part every reviewer who mentions it finds their relationship not only sweet but also very authentic. You know, growing up, I didn't really have a lot of rules. My parents were older than most of my friends' parents and honestly the only thing they wanted from me was to 'take care of your brother.' In retrospect, they really let us run almost completely at our own discretion. By today's standards where parents (including myself) hover so much, it's actually kind of shocking that they'd just let me take my brother to Cubs' games and amusement parks and biking for hours at a time or whatever. Essentially, it was like a training ground for writing YA novels: my parents were largely absent from most of my daily existence. So I do find that this kind of odd tension does inform the story a great deal. Casey and Jenna are largely on their own and Jenna even more so in The A-Word. I find it not only fun to write but also sort of fun and therapeutic!

Your trilogy of Anastasia books draw from historical events and figures. What draws you to the story of Grand Duchess Anastasia?

I have been hugely fascinated by Anastasia Romanov since about 7th grade when I read the biography Nicholas and Alexandra. The Romanov story is so enormously tragic that I just couldn't get enough of it! Pretty people on the wrong side of history; creepy sexual predator with enormous possibly supernatural powers bad guy Rasputin; Russia, which in general is enormous and dramatic and filled with this grand folklore; and Anastasia herself, because she was this beautiful and vivacious teenager who was gunned down before she could live her life. It is no surprise that she creeped into my fiction. (Along with genre fiction and my overall adoration of all stories Whedonesque.) Which resulted in a girl who thinks she's ordinary but who collides with a handsome, temporarily immortal hottie and learns that she is actually SPECIAL and can save the princess Anastasia who happens to be held captive by the Russian witch Baba Yaga. Uh, yeah. For those who haven't read yet, it's a trilogy, and it's complete now, so I would love you to dig in! It's definitely a genre-blending project and while it's not as well-known as some other YA fairy tale retellings (which it is in part), it has a small but very devoted fan base!

Would you ever write a story influenced by something that happened to your family, your relatives, in a time before you lived?

Yup! My Russian grandmother actually influenced some of the above, although only because she was gloriously unhappy. She was also a pretty unmotherly mother and some of her antics have definitely influenced a lot of what I write, including next year's book, Finding Paris.

Can you tell us more about Finding Paris?

Finding Paris comes out from Balzer and Bray on April 21st, 2015. I think the cover is almost ready but it isn't yet as I type this. It's my first non-paranormal YA and is a contemporary road trip/mystery/sister story that was inspired by something that happened to me on a road trip from Dallas to Houston. It's dark and twisty and there's a cute boy named Max and some very dark secrets and a narrator named Leo, whose full name is Leonora. It starts in Vegas, heads to LA, and ends somewhere else entirely. For now, that's what I'll tell you.

Which authors and artists have influenced you as a writer?

So many! But some of my top influences include: Libba Bray, Emily Lockhart, Maggie Stiefvater, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I've yet to visit Texas, which is your stomping ground. Tell me about a place that I simply must see there.

Austin. Definitely. Pretty much everything about it, including but not limited to the Congress Street bats and the food trucks and the music scene.

Houston, because I live here. And it's actually the 4th largest city in the US. Plus we have NASA. And shockingly good restaurants. And the best guac ever. Plus the Livestock and Rodeo every March. Come for that.

Dallas. And all the Kennedy assassination sites. There's even an X on the street where he was shot. It's creepy and sad and I avoided seeing it for years.

Barbecue in general. Look it up. Pick a few. I just ate lunch at City Market in Luling on the way home from the TLA conference in San Antonio with author Kristin Rae. It's so trippy, this smoke-filled bbq pit and all this meat! No plates, just butcher paper. It's like cave man eating. This primal thing.

The fake Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas. It has a red cowboy hat. Also, this may be a slight spoiler for one of my books.

That's a small start. It's a big state.

What are your ten favorite books of all time?

Geez! 10? I have like a million. And the list changes frequently. But 10 that will probably stick around for a long time: The Great Gatsby, Little Women, A Wrinkle in Time, The World According to Garp, Outlander, Fault in Our Stars, Half Magic, To Kill a Mockingbird, Hunger Games, and MORE YA BOOKS THAN I CAN NAME!

The Sweet Dead Life was released on May 13th. The official book launch was held in Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston. The book is available in stores and online internationally!

Click here to check out Joy Preble's website.

The A Word Blog Tour Banner

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9. My Favorite Thing About Zita the Spacegirl Tour

I love the moments when I can recall a book off the top of my head and impress my library patrons with my book knowledge. It's always fun and makes me feel a bit like a superhero. It's easy to remember the popular always asked for series and where they are located, who the author is, or the order of a series. But it's even more fun when you are given just a few details about something and you can come up with the book a patron is looking for.

I had a young boy come into my library one evening with his very stumped grandmother. He had been talking about a book where a girl and her friend hit a red box and that's all he could remember. His grandmother said he had been looking for it for awhile and couldn't recall the title. I immediately said "Zita the Spacegirl!" Luckily we had the first Zita book on the shelf that evening and my young patron went hope very happy to rediscover the book he was looking for. 

There are so many things I love about Zita the Spacegirl. I love her spunk and charm. I love that even though she finds herself lost in space on a crazy adventure and is trying to get home, she is always looking out for others and trying to help them. She finds good in people and wants to help those around her. She's funny and even though she might be seen as a savior of planets, she's still a normal girl who just wants a day off to have some fun. She doesn't always enjoy the celebrity of being Zita the Spacegirl, but she accepts it as well. She's a wonderfully strong character and I like that she's a girl who goes on awesome space missions to save those around her. She's resourceful, has a fun cast of characters around her, and she gets to pilot some awesome spaceships!

In my review of the first Zita the Spacegirl book, I said "One thing I love about graphic novels is the way the artist can connect the reader to the characters and portray emotion in a powerful way. Ben Hatke excels in that and there were characters I grew to love in this short graphic novel." 

And as I re-read the first two Zita books and read the third title in preparation for this tour, I was reminded of how much I love Ben Hatke's artwork and storytelling. I love his art style. I've been thinking about how best to explain it, but I'm stuck. All I know is that Ben Hatke's art makes me connect with his story and characters. When Zita is homesick, I'm homesick. When Zita is trying to save others, I want her to succeed. When I come across a large spread of Zita traveling through space, I have to stop and take in every detail of the artwork because I want to soak it all in. I love how the story combines humor and heart. Strong-Strong makes me smile with his big heart. I love Mouse's loyalty to Zita and Piper's sometimes sly ways and his wit. I love how Zita's story somewhat reminds me of a Wizard of Oz set in space tale. And I love how throughout the three books, the story weaves together and details you read about it book one come back in the third book for a nice full circle. 

There is so much to love about Zita the Spacegirl. Yet I think what I love the most about this series of graphic novels is recommending it to other readers. It's a great adventure story, a fantastic space story, and a wonderful graphic novel. It's a series I know I can give my readers at the library and they will excitedly devour it. I can give it to my avid readers and my kids who think they don't like reading. There really is something for everyone in Zita. And that's why I love her. 

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10. Countdown to 5th June and Blog Tour- Essence by Lisa Ann O'Kane

Hey, today I have two exciting things. Well, one exciting thing

for two reasons- we’re kicking off the blog tour for Lisa O’Kane’s Essence, and being the next stop on the Countdown to 5 June tour organized by Jim at YAYeahYeah which has been generally fabulous over the past few weeks, and will continue to be so. So here, my interview with Lisa.

1. What emotion or feeling would you think drained Essence the most?

I drew inspiration for the concept of Essence from the Taoist belief that every light must have a dark and every good must have an evil. Therefore, Centrists believe positive emotions are just as dangerous as negative ones, and they try their best to repress everything.

That being said, I know I have personally felt my most incapacitated in times of great loss and sadness. These emotions were almost always due to my attachments to other people, so I’m sure the Centrists would probably say I shouldn’t allow myself to feel things so deeply.

2. Would you rather live in the security of the Centrists or the freedom of the Community?

Easy. I would much prefer the Community and the freedom to make my own choices, even if I ended up making some bad ones.

I think one of the best ways to grow is to take risks—and to fail from time to time! Our struggles keep us humble, and they make us appreciate our victories in a way we couldn’t otherwise.

I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to find my own balance. As John Augustus Shedd once said, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

3. What was your favourite thing about writing Essence?

I am very analytical and organized by nature, so I initially approached ESSENCE the way I would approach any other project: I analyzed, categorized, structured and dissected it. Unfortunately, the story fought back, and it died on me every time I tried to control it.

The moment I dropped the reins and finally allowed the story to tell itself is the single most terrifying and exhilarating moment I have ever experienced as a writer. I will never forget the electricity of that feeling.

4. Who would be in your dream cast of Essence?

I am a very visual person, so I have spent a lot of time thinking about my characters’ appearances. I haven’t picked celebrity doppelgängers for everyone, but I definitely have a short-list of actors and actresses I think would be perfect for my dream ESSENCE cast:

Photo Courtesy of Anomoly1101
Photo Courtesy of Etlfc1999

Photo Courtesy of MyCanon

Photo Courtesy of LGEPR
Photo Courtesy of MingleMediaTV  

5. What do you want people to get from Essence?

The biggest thing I want people to know about ESSENCE is that it is not a traditional dystopian novel. It is a novel about cults, and although cults inherently have dystopian qualities, ESSENCE is instead a very personal account of one girl’s experiences as she escapes from one cult only to find herself accidentally joining another. 

The theme of ESSENCE is balance: between right and wrong, between too much and too little, between feeling everything and feeling nothing. I hope readers will find its message empowering, and I hope it will inspire them to question things and to be true to themselves while they search for their own personal balance.

6. What's your favourite thing about being a YA author?

I have always considered myself a people watcher. I love exploring the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, so my favorite thing about being a YA author is the opportunity to create characters and allow them interact with each other.

7. How do you write? Do you have any rituals/specific things that need to be in place, or can you do it anywhere?

I am definitely the hare, not the tortoise. My muse is fickle and hard to catch, so I often have periods of intense creativity followed by stretches of intermittent spurts and droughts.

When my muse is active, I can write pretty much anywhere. If she’s a little more hesitant, I do have a few rituals that usually help jump-start me. My favorites are Nag Champa incense, a strong cup of chai tea and any music by Bob Dylan, the Shins or Bon Iver.

8. What other books or authors would you recommend that are coming out on 5 June?

I am so honored to be in the company of so many incredible authors! I am particularly excited about TAKE BACK THE SKIES by Lucy Saxon, LIES LIKE LOVE by Louisa Reid, and TRUST GAMES by Simon Packham. This is going to be a fabulous summer for UK fiction!

Essence will be released as an ebook from Strange  Chemistry and can be bought from the following places:
Amazon (U.S.): http://www.amazon.com/Essence-Lisa-Ann-OKane-ebook/dp/B00H6J6KHK
Amazon (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lisa-Ann-OKane/e/B00IH39H24/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 (This is a link to my author page. The link for my eBook won't show up until my release date, apparently.)

Here’s the blurb: Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall. 

Here’s Lisa’s other links- site, twitter and facebook. Check on Tez Says tomorrow for a post from Lis a on plotting.

As for the Countdown, check tomorrow on Debbie’s site Snuggling on the Sofafor something with Lucy Saxon. 

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11. Blog Tour: The Souls of Aredyrah series by Tracy A. Akers

Tour Schedule

Indie Hoopla Gala (5/5) | Mary's Cup of Tea (5/6)
Siren's Dreamscape (5/7)
Njkinny's World of Books (5/8) | Carpe Diem (5/8)
My Twisted and Kinky World (5/9) |  Indie Author How-to (5/9)

 Saintz Realm Spotlightz (5/12)
Fated Dimensions (5/13) | My Inner Muse (5/13)
A Saintz Dream (5/14) | The Blood Flow (5/14)
My Fae-void Demon (5/15)
Laki Loves Indies (5/16) | Hell Fyre Risen (5/16)

Series: Souls of Aredyrah

About the Series
Game of Thrones meets Narnia in this epic tale of two boys whose chance meeting leads them to a disturbing discovery: Not only are they bound by blood and prophecy, but their opposing beliefs are founded on similar lies. With adventure and romance, mysticism and cultural conflicts, this coming-of-age tales asks: What would you do if you learned everything you’ve been raised to believe is false—and those in power will do anything to stop the truth?

Book 1
In the world of Aredyrah, things are not what they seem. An ancient Purge has plunged the island into darkness, isolating its cultures by superstition and fear. Dayn lives in the northernmost region of Kirador and knows nothing of the great city-state of Tearia far to the south. All he knows is the Kiradyns are the only survivors of a god’s fiery wrath, and he looks nothing like them. Meanwhile Ruairi, a prince destined for greatness, resents his Tearian obligations, longing for a life he can never hope to have. But when tragedy takes his beauty as well as his name, he finds himself exiled by the very beliefs he once held dear. Both boys long for acceptance in societies that cling to religious ideals, but when fate throws them together, Dayn and Ruairi discover some unwelcome truths: not only are they bound by blood and prophecy, but the teachings they have been raised on are nothing more than lies. Will they reveal what they have learned, risking their lives and the security of those they love? Or will they keep silent, denying their destinies and the future enlightenment of their world?

Buy Book #1: The Fire and the Light
Ebooks: Kindle | Smashwords | Nook | Sony

Book 2
The Prophecy has come to life in Tearia, and the Temple wants nothing more than to see it dead. Whispers say the Unnamed One walks amongst them, and there is little doubt as to who that person is. Reiv is oblivious to the hopes turning in his direction, just as he is ignorant of a plot being waged against him. He has no time for rumors or innuendos; he is too busy trying to build a new life for himself. But the life he longs for will have to wait. A rebel movement is growing, and Reiv’s cousin Dayn has joined the insurgents in their cause.

Angered by Dayn’s involvement, Reiv reverts to his old self-serving behaviors. He wants nothing to do with prophecies or rebellions, and isn’t sure he wants anything to do with Dayn either. But when tragedy throws Reiv into new turmoil, he finds himself facing a dangerous choice. Someone he loves is dying, and there is only one chance to save him.

Will Reiv choose to be a Transcendor, fated to sacrifice his life for another? Or is he truly the Unnamed One, a hero destined for glory? One will save the life of an individual, the other that of an entire kingdom.

Buy Book #2: The Search for the Unnamed One
Amazon  |  Smashwords  |  BN  |  Kobo


I asked Tracy to answer some fun questions about herself and her series. I hope  you enjoy her answers.

To write a series or not...What was the motivation/reason behind writing a series? Did you set out to do that or was it something that just came about? Would you ever write another series?

insert questions

Book 3
The saga of Aredyrah continues as Dayn and Alicine return to Kirador to find things very different from when they left. Their house has been ransacked, their parents missing, and evidence of spell work has put a price on Dayn’s head. Frightened, they go to the nearest place they know of: the homestead of Haskel, a man who has never been accepting of Dayn’s differences, and even less so of his own son’s.

Back in Tearia, Reiv has settled into the quiet life of a Shell Seeker. But while the rhythm of his routine is calm, the longings of his heart are not. He turns to Cora, an eye-catching girl who has also drawn the attentions of Lyal, a man whose hatred of Reiv goes far beyond jealously. But romance is the least of Reiv’s worries. A terrible plague is spreading, and Reiv’s brother, the King, is determined to burn it from the land—even if it means killing innocents along the way.

While Reiv risks annihilation by Tearia’s increasingly brutal king, Dayn suffers challenges of his own. His disappearance from Kirador months before not only ended the existence he once knew, but started a witch hunt that threatens his safety and the survival of his clan.

Both Dayn and Reiv find themselves facing a difficult choice: Leave their homelands in order to save themselves and those they love, or stay and fight an evil they cannot hope to defeat.

Buy Book #3: The Taking of the Dawn
Amazon  |  Smashwords  |  BN  |  Kobo

Book 4
In this final installment of the award-winning Souls of Aredyrah series, Dayn and Reiv find themselves facing an old foe and falling into the trap of a new one. Struggling to make their way home through a bitter landscape, they soon discover they are not alone. A tribe known as the Taubastets has captured them in a life-or-death scenario, and the tribe’s chief is determined that one of them must be sacrificed. When a young warrior named Tyym vows to see them home, they face decisions that will not only affect their survival, but the spiritual salvation of their world.

While Reiv, Dayn, and Tyym navigate a web of conspiracy and doubt, Dayn’s sister Alicine struggles with loss and the impending threat of invasion. The king of Tearia has not abandoned his quest to slay them, and his seemingly unstoppable army is nearly through the pass. But when Tyym enters the scene, hope is rekindled. Even Alicine cannot deny the charisma of the mysterious warrior who has wormed his way into their lives, and into her heart.

The game is in play. A traitor is in their midst. Can the souls of Aredyrah hope to defeat a monster disguised as a king? Or will they succumb to a darkness beyond their understanding?

Buy Book #4: The Shifting of the Stars
Amazon  |  Smashwords  |  BN  |  Kobo

Tracy A. Akers is a former language arts teacher and an award-winning author. She grew up in Arlington, Texas, but currently lives in Florida with her husband, three naughty pugs, and a feisty chihuahua. She graduated with honors from the University of South Florida with a degree in Education, and has taught in both public and private schools. She currently divides her time between writing, lecturing, spending time with her family, and costuming at fantasy and science fiction conventions.

Ms. Akers has won numerous awards for her Souls of Aredyrah fantasy series for young adults. As a Florida Book Awards winner, she was acknowledged for her contribution to YA literature by the Governor of Florida during the 2008 Florida Heritage Month Awards Ceremony. Books One and Two of the Aredyrah Series are included in the Florida Department of Education’s 2008 Just Read Families Recommended Summer Reading List. In addition, Ms. Akers has been an invited guest author at major book events and writers’ conferences, a panelist at fantasy and science fiction conventions, and was on the steering committee for Celebration of the Story, a literary event held at Saint Leo University.

The Souls of Aredyrah Series is Ms. Akers’ first series of novels for young adults.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads


$25 Amazon.com or BN.com Gift Card giveaway Ends 05/31/2014. Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com or BN.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kisha from Indie Hoopla Services & Promotions, http://indiehoopla.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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12. The Secret Hum of a Daisy Blog Tour and Giveaway

Thanks to Tracy Holczer for including us on The Secret Hum of a Daisy Blog Tour! 

Blog Tour Schedule

May 9: AuthorOf

We have something a little different for you -- a guide to planning your own book club, literacy cafe, or party centered around her debut middle grade novel. I recently had the privilege of attending Tracy's launch party and her friend threw her a beautiful, daisy-filled one. Your own event might not be as star-studded (a ton of our friendly neighborhood YA and MG authors were there) but that doesn't mean it can't be just as fun! Read on for our ideas, info about the book and author, as well as a giveaway!

About The Secret Hum of a Daisy

After the sudden death of her mother, twelve-year-old Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met in a small town she's never heard of. A town Mama left years before--with Grace in her belly and a bus ticket in her pocket--and never looked back. It doesn't take long before Grace desperately wants to leave, too.

Until she finds the first crane.

A mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on, takes Grace on a journey to find home. And it might just be closer than she thinks.

The Literacy Cafe

My good friend Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy and I are in an adult YA book club that meets every month. Sure, we get together because we love discussing books, but we also get together because we love to hang out with friends and eat delicious food. Usually we theme the menu around the book we have read. You can do that with this book, too! You would be surprised how often food helps spark discussion and recall of what happened in the book. This is part of what makes a literacy cafe such an interesting event to host and to attend.

Alyson usually does literacy cafes at schools, and to help students engage with the books they are reading and discussing, they sometimes do a writing exercise or craft activity related to the book. This helps make it not just memorable, but also creative and fun. (Note: I was planning to have photos of all the examples I was going to give, but this week just got away from me! I will add them into the post when I can get around to it.)

For resources, I have linked to websites I think might be helpful in case you want to find out more, or actually want to make my suggestion happen for yourself. If I wrote out all of the info here, this would be a very long post! 


There are lots of foods mentioned in The Secret Hum of a Daisy. Part of Grace's search for home involves some basic needs: food and shelter. (This would be a great lead-in to a discussion of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.) Here are just a few:

  • Soup (p. 119) - The Spoons Souperie is the diner in the town where Grace's mother grew up. Grace meets and gets to know various people here. Their menu has the usual: corn chowder, matzo ball, and split pea, but you can serve your favorite soup. Mine is beef and cabbage, with lots of pepper! You could also make it a potluck and have everyone bring their own soup to share. Just make sure someone brings some fresh-baked, crusty bread for dipping.
  • Brownies (p. 146) Grace and her neighbor Jo have to bake brownies in the book, but they're not allowed to eat any! You can, though. Here is a basic recipe for brownies, but you can make them how you like: out of the box, with nuts or without, cakelike or fudgy. Blondies instead? I'm an edges kind of girl, myself. Once you know why they bake brownies in the book, you can talk about the choices Grace makes and how they lead up to brownies!
  • Chocolate Toast (p. 210) I know the other one already has chocolate, but someone makes this for Grace. It has something chocolatey (Nutella? Cookie Butter Swirl? It's up to you to choose) and slices of banana on top. This is definitely a "Live to Eat" moment rather than an "Eat to Live" one. While you eat it, you might want to discuss what your favorite comfort food is. Does it remind you of a certain place where you are from, or where you felt at home? Does it remind you of a person who used to make it for you? 

Poetry and writing figure quite centrally in the story. There are lots of different things you can do depending on the interests your students/guests/group members have.
  • Snippets Guessing Game - Have everyone bring in snippets of their favorite poetry to read out loud, and see if anyone else recognizes the poem or poet.
  • Unsent Letters - Not everyone might want to share this with the group, and that's ok. Bring pens or pencils, paper, and envelopes to the event and have everyone write a short letter to someone else that they have wanted to write, but couldn't write before now. They can choose to share the letter, or keep it to themselves. They can choose to send the letter -- though it won't be unsent anymore!
  • Answer Jars - Late in the story, someone shows Grace their answer jars -- Mason or canning jars filled with bits of words and phrases. When they can't decide on something, they reach into the jars for some answers. You can recycle jars or containers and use magazines or small pieces of paper to add your own answers. 
Art and sculpture also are pivotal to the story. You don't need a lot of fancy equipment, just found objects, scratch paper, and the usual materials (scissors, Mod Podge or Gorilla glue depending on what you're working on, writing/painting utensils).

  • Origami Cranes - The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a story about grief, but it is also about hope. Grace sees origami cranes as clues in a scavenger hunt like the ones her mom used to put together for her. You can learn to fold origami cranes with some patience and some perfectly square paper. While you're folding, discuss: where do you hope your cranes would lead you? (link to instructions
  • Found Objects - Grace's mom sculpts birds out of odds and ends. Maybe birds are not your thing, but what is? What's your power animal? Collect some bits and pieces, odds and ends, things that look interesting but maybe incomplete on their own. Get some Gorilla Glue if you're gluing smooth objects like plastic or metal and sculpt your penguin, bear, meerkat, or whatever you come up with.
  • Self-Portrait - Grace isn't just searching for home, she's searching for her identity. She's trying to define the people around her, and trying to define herself now that her mother is gone. There are some great self-portrait ideas in the book. Try composing a shadow box: what would you put inside? 
  • Another Self-Portrait - Alternatively, start with a sturdy cardboard or masonite surface, then draw an outline or silhouette of your head. Now brainstorm some words that describe you... write, letter, or paste them onto the back half of your head (um, the illustration of it, not your actual head). Now go back to your stash of found objects and compose your face out of items that might fit. Glue them on, then stand back and admire your handiwork. It doesn't have to be perfect, but hopefully it's thoughtful and expressive, which is sometimes the most we can get out of life :)

I hope you enjoyed my ideas for hosting a literacy cafe or book club meeting with The Secret Hum of a Daisy. If you've read the book and would like to share more ideas, please leave a comment. Don't post any spoilers, please! I left out some of my ideas since they might give away some later plot points in the story that are better discovered by the reader on their own.

If you do host one, please take photos and share them! I'm sure Tracy would love to see them, too.

About The Author

Tracy Holczer lives in Southern California with her husband, three daughters, and two rather fluffy dogs named Buster and Molly. She has a deep love for the mountains where she grew up so she writes them into her stories.

A 2014 ABA Indies Introduce New Voices pick, her debut middle grade, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, was written in praise of both nature and family, and all that can be found if you're willing to hunt for treasure. It will be also be published by Konigskinder/Carlsen in Germany, fall 2015.

Find out more:
Follow @tracyholczer on Twitter
Blogging on the 30th of each month at http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com

Buy the book:
Autographed copies (note request on the order or they won't know it needs to be autographed!) available at Once Upon a Time in Montrose, CA

US only, ends May 20

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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13. Ontario Teen Book Fest Spotlight on Sarah Skilton

Thanks to Ontario Teen Book Fest bloggers What a Nerd Girl Says and Fangirl Feeels for inviting us on the OTBF Blog Tour!

Today we're shining the spotlight on Sarah Skilton, author of contemporary YA novels Bruised and High & Dry. Check out her Q&A, enter the giveaway, and plan to see her in person at the Fest!


This is a FREE and UNTICKETED event!

When: Saturday May 17th, 9 am to 5 pm

Where: Colony High School 3850 E. Riverside Drive, Ontario, CA 91761

The Ontario Teen Book Fest Website: http://www.ontariotbf.com

The event is sponsored by Mrs. Nelson’s Book Fair Company. They will have books available for purchase at the event. There will also be t-shirts and posters available for purchase as well.

Their website: http://www.mrsnelsons.com/

Confirmed authors

Katie Alender
Elana Arnold
Robin Benway
Livia Blackburne
Jessica Brody
Ava Dellaria
Katherine Ewell
Lauren Kate
Jessi Kirby
Catherine Linka
Lauren Miller
Mary Pearson
Lissa Price
Sarah Skilton
John Corey Whaley

About Sarah Skilton

Sarah Skilton is the author of BRUISED, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and which The Horn Book called, “nuanced and honest.” Her second book, HIGH AND DRY, has been called “A dark, well-constructed mystery with a strong voice” by Kirkus. She lives in southern California with her magician husband and their young son.

Q & A

RNSL: What was the first step you took to becoming a writer? Has becoming a published author been a childhood dream come true or just a recent development for you?

SS: Becoming an author has definitely been a childhood dream come true for me. When I was in elementary school, I wrote letters to James Howe (Bunnicula) and Tad Williams (Tailchaser's Song) and both authors wrote back! That definitely helped inspire me. My sister and I also scripted and recorded "radio shows," including dramas, comedies, game shows, commercials, and talk shows. I've always loved telling stories and reading stories.

- - -

RNSL: Your second novel, High & Dry, has just hit the shelves. What do you like the most about releasing a book out into the world?

SS: It's exhilarating to see a book "in the wild" of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and to speak on panels with other authors because I love hearing about their experiences.

- - -

RNSL: My friend Kimberly @thewindypages recently tweeted: "High and Dry by @Sarah_Skilton is fun noir you don’t want to miss. Makes me want to read some [Raymond] Chandler or watch Brick”. Did either of these actually inspire the book?

SS: Yep! I was a big fan of Brick, and of the TV show Veronica Mars. I also read tons of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett stories and watched my favorite 1940s and 1950s films (such as In a Lonely Place starring Humphrey Bogart, based on the short story by Dorothy B. Hughes) to prepare for writing High and Dry.

- - -

RNSL: What are you working on next?

SS: I've written a third contemporary YA, and I'm also working on an adult book.

Quick-fire questions!

RNSL: It's the middle of the night. You can't sleep! What do you do instead?

SS: I actually sleep very well (confession: I go to bed extremely early!!) but when my son was born, sleep was a laughable concept. To unwind, I would watch episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker or Doomsday Preppers. I inexplicably found them comforting.

- - -

RNSL: You're in a buffet that claims to serve everything you could ever want to eat. What's on your plate?

SS: Nutella and bacon crepes stacked to the ceiling, with a side of strawberries and mangos.

- - -

RNSL: Is there a book out there that you read and then thought to yourself, "I wish I'd written that!"

SS: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

About High & Dry

Framed for a stranger’s near-fatal overdose at a party, blackmailed into finding a mysterious flash drive everyone in school seems anxious to suppress, and pressured by his shady best friend to throw an upcoming match, high school soccer player Charlie Dixon is juggling more than his share of drama. Add in a broken heart and the drinking he’s been doing to soothe it, and he’s near the breaking point.

In this fast-paced, layered mystery, Charlie spends a frantic week trying to clear his name, win back the girl of his dreams, and escape a past friendship that may be responsible for all his current problems. This book captures the tone and style of the best crime fiction while also telling a high-stakes story of peer pressure gone tragically awry.

Find out more about Sarah here:

Blog Tour Schedule

May 2nd: Spotlight on Jessica Brody -- What A Nerd Girl Says
May 3rd: Spotlight on Elana K. Arnold -- Nite Lite Book Reviews
May 4th: Spotlight on Catherine Linka – Fangirl Feeels
May 5th: Spotlight on Livia Blackburne -- The Thousand Lives
May 6th: Spotlight on Lauren Kate -- She Reads She Blogs
May 7th: Spotlight on Katie Alender -- Movies, Shows and Books
May 8th: Spotlight on Lauren Miller -- A Bookish Escape
May 9th: Spotlight on Sarah Skilton -- Read Now Sleep Later
May 10th: Spotlight on Lissa Price -- Recently Acquired Obsessions
May 11th: Spotlight on Jessi Kirby -- What A Nerd Girl Says
May 12th: Spotlight on Katherine Ewell -- iFandoms Collide
May 13th: Spotlight on Mary Pearson -- The Windy Pages
May 14th: Spotlight on John Corey Whaley -- Read Now Sleep Later
May 15th: Spotlight on Robin Benway -- Adventures of a Book Junkie
May 16th: Spotlight on Ava Dellaira -- Fangirl Feeels

ends May 20, US only

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14. My Writing Process - Blog Tour

I was invited by the lovely and talented C. Lee McKenzie to join in the fun for The Writing Process Blog Hop, so here we go…

What am I working on?  

With the urging of my critique group (thanks Karin and Marilyn) I have dusted off a middle grade manuscript that I've been working on and off for several years now (yes, I'm embarrassed to say so, but exhilarated that I'm back in the saddle again of fine tuning this manuscript). Thanks ladies! 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Thus far my children's books have ended up in the theme of overcoming obstacles without preaching to the reader. 

Why do I write what I do? 

I enjoy writing for children and watching the expressions on their faces of joy and wonder of escaping into an exciting book. 

How does my writing process work?

I always write my first draft in long hand with my favorite pen, Graf von Faber-Castell away from my computer and email distraction and of course my cell phone off. I then put it to the side and read through for the first time at least several hours to a day or so later giving myself a fresh set of eyes and perspective. Then I get down to task of typing it into my computer. Yes, I'm old fashioned, I then print it out for my next round of proofreading. 

I'm delighted to have tagged the following talented writers in The Writing Process and visit them May 5th...

Penelope ColeAward Winning Author of Magical Matthew and Magical Mea  and Mágico Mateo (Spanish Version of Magical Matthew)

Karin Larson - debut children's author, Bedtime Kisses 

Nancy Stewart - Amazon Best-selling author and award-winning author - Sea Turtle Summer and One Pelican at a Time 

Wishing you an inspirational day! 


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Award-winning Children's Author
Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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15. Doodles and Drafts – How to Get to Rio with Julie Fison

The choices kids are offered in life are often not worth writing about, at least not in their books. ‘Eat your brussel sprouts or go to bed hungry.’ Hardly welcome decision making. Yet understanding action and consequence is vital for building character, strengthening confidence and learning that ‘choice, not chance, determines ones future. Opportunities might come our way by chance, but it’s what we choose to do with them that is important,’ so believes author, Julie Fison.Julie Fison

This sentiment is the crux of a new series of choose-your-own-adventure books providing tween-aged girls with the heady liberation of ‘choice’. I remember books like these from my youth; the thrill of remaining within the book for up to eight stories and the omnipotent joy of choosing my own endings. Happily, they are making a powerful resurgence. This contemporary series is aimed selectively for girls aged 10 – 14 who are farewelling simple chapter books in favour of more complicated life themes about boys, crushes, and friendships.

Today we welcome versatile writer, Julie Fison to the draft table to uncover more about her and her newest release from the Choose Your Own Ever After series, How to Get to Rio.

How to get to Rio from coverKitty MacLean is crushing hopelessly on possibly the cutest boy in the world, Rio Sanchez. She is torn between camping with her besties or pursuing a friendship with popular-girl Persephone at a swanky beachside resort. What she decides to do and whether she ever manages to link up with Rio is all up to the reader!

This story bore all the buzz of a pick-your-own-path book that I expected (and previously enjoyed), but with more modern girlie-smartphone threads woven through it. I especially appreciated the descriptive arrows at the bottom of each page reminding readers which path they are currently following. Without these, I’m not sure where I would have ended up with Kitty! Let’s see how Julie managed it.

Q. Who is Julie Fison? Describe your writerly-self.

I am the author of nine books for children and young adults. These include the Hazard River series – fast-paced adventure stories with an environmental twist, two titles in the Smitten series for teens, and How To Get To Rio – part of the new Choose Your Own Ever After series. I also write travel and parenting stories and offer copious amounts of unsolicited advice to my two teenage sons.

Q. What is the most appealing aspect about writing for children for you?

Blood Money coverI started writing fiction for my own children. We were on holidays on the Noosa River and they teamed up with friends and spent their time exploring sandbanks, dodging stingrays, building bush camps and avoiding snakes. I turned their adventures into the Hazard River series. My sons loved the stories – probably because they were in them! It was very rewarding to have the boys involved in the writing process. They didn’t just inspire me; they also helped with the editing and gave me encouragement along the way. I still borrow snippets of their lives for my stories and value their editorial input.

Q. You’ve covered a variety of genres in kids’ writing. Which one (if any) did you least enjoy writing? Why?

!cid_14F12706-950E-49D5-938C-C08D95DED070I really enjoy the variety of writing for different age groups. A 10,000-word adventure story for 10 year olds, like Shark Frenzy (Hazard River series), and a 50,000-word young adult romance like Tall, Dark and Distant, are very different projects – in terms of plotting, character development, voice and themes. But there is definitely a common thread in my work. They are all essentially a fun read. The characters face danger, but the stories ultimately all end happily. Holiday adventures feature heavily in my stories, and there is a boat scene in virtually everything I write. I spent a lot of time on boats when I was a girl, so they just seem to be an integral part of a story to me.

Q. Do you have any favourites from the titles you’ve written, if so which ones?

That’s a tough question. I like them all for different reasons. But if I had to choose, I’d say Blood Money from the Hazard River series, the young adult romance, Lust and Found, and How To Get To Rio from the Choose Your Own Ever After series.

Blood Money is about a gang of kids who discover a bag of money in the mangroves at Hazard River and have to decide what to do with the cash – leave it where it is, keep it, or take it to the police. I particularly like this one because it’s a fun adventure and a great moral dilemma for the characters. It was inspired by a story I spotted in the newspaper. Two boys found a bag of money while fishing in a quiet creek in northern NSW. They handed the money to the police and when no one claimed it, they got to keep it! When I talk to students about this story the room always goes crazy with excitement. It’s a story that really engages kids.

Lust and Found is another one of my favourites. It’s the story of a uni student, who goes on a physical and personal journey as she travels through Cambodia looking for her lost brother. Sienna is a bit of a princess, and can’t stand Cambodia when she first arrives. But she warms to the place as she explores it with her brother’s flatmate, the maddeningly cute Guillaume. I had a lot of fun writing the story. Sienna’s personality meant there was plenty of scope for tantrums, misadventure and transformation.

My other favourite has to be my newest story, How To Get To Rio. I love the whole premise of this pick-a-path series – that every decision has consequences, and that choice not chance determines our future. In this story, Kitty’s first choice is between going camping with her best friends or going to a beach resort with popular-girl Persephone. Kitty is really torn and I would be too!

Q. Choose Your Own Ever After books have a Ctrl Z / Reset quality about them. Do you think this adds to their likeability or befuddles readers? How does the format enhance the story and characters?

I think kids will love having the chance to make choices throughout the story. It definitely adds to the books’ appeal. I often read a story and think – I’m not sure I would have done that. In the Choose Your Own Ever After series, the reader gets to decide every time there’s an important decision to be made.

Q. Did you find writing Rio, more difficult than writing a straightforward, beginning to ending story?

How To Get To Rio definitely had its challenges. I am not a great planner, but I spent a lot of time working on the pathways and endings with my editor, before I got started on this story. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to come up with enough different threads to offer the reader genuine choices. But once I got writing, the characters took over (as they always do). Pathways evolved, choices emerged and the story came together.

Q. Discuss your approach and process used when writing a-choose-your-own-path adventure.

The key to writing a choose-your-own-path story is getting the set-up chapters right. The threads for all of the pathways start from here. That means the characters have to be established very early – their motivations and the potential for conflict have to be revealed right from the beginning. It’s what I would try to do in any story, but the challenge in How To Get To Rio was to get the threads of seven different stories into the opening chapter! From there I wrote the pathways as I would read them – taking one thread all the way to the end and then going back to the last choice and writing another ending. As there are a series of choices to be made throughout the book, I kept going back to the previous choice and following that to its conclusion. (It was actually easier to write than to explain!) There was a big advantage to writing this style of book. When I got stuck on one storyline, I just moved on to another one.

Q. What’s on the draft table for Julie?

I am working on another book in the Choose Your Own Ever After series that comes out in July. In The Call of The Wild, the main character, nature-loving Phoebe has to choose between going to a party with her best friends or helping at a save-the-orang-utan fundraiser. I am very concerned about the plight of orang-utans in the wild, so that story is close to my heart.

Counterfeit LoveThe other story on my desk is a young adult novel – Counterfeit Love. Lucy Yang is an ambitious television reporter, who gets more than she bargains for as she hunts down a big story in Hong Kong. That book comes out in July, too.

I have a head full of ideas for other stories all fighting for attention, including a travel memoir. But that’s something for the future when I have more time to travel!

Just for fun Q. If you could Ctrl Z one thing in your writing career thus far, what would it be?

I wish I had started writing fiction earlier. I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. On the other hand, I don’t produce my best work when I try to force a story. So, I am glad I had that holiday on the Noosa River when I did, otherwise I might still be wondering if I should write a book!

Thank you for having me, Dimity. I look forward to visiting again soon.

Always a pleasure Julie! Stick around and help us trek down more interesting facts on Rio.

Hardie Grant Egmont Books April 2014

Follow Julie’s Blog Tour on How to Get to Rio, here.

Book tour details:

1 April: Sherryl Caulfield http://www.sherrylcaulfield.com/

9 April: Kids’ Book Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

15 April: DeeScribewriting http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

23 April: Cereal Readers http://www.cerealreaders.blogspot.com.au/

28 April: Boomerang Blog with Dimity Powell

Bug in a Book http://buginabook.org/

Buzz Words http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/

The Book Chook http://www.thebookchook.com/


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16. Pasadena Teen Book Festival Blog Tour - Spotlight on Tracy Holczer

I'm so excited to kick off the Pasadena Teen Book Festival blog tour! Make sure you read through for an interview with debut YA author Catherine Linka as well as a couple of giveaways and a renaming contest!

Event date: Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 12pm-4pm

Venue: Pasadena Public Library, 285 E Walnut St, Pasadena, CA 91101

Tue March 25 - Read Now Sleep Later - Spotlight on Catherine Linka
Mon March 31 - The Windy Pages - Spotlight on Gretchen McNeil
Mon March 31 - The Windy Pages - Spotlight on Holly Goldberg Sloan
Wed April 2 - FangirlFeeels - Spotlight on Jesse Andrews
Fri April 4 - What a Nerd Girl Says - Spotlight on Andrew Smith
Mon April 7 - What a Nerd Girl Says - Spotlight on Margaret Stohl
Tue April 8 - Adventures of a Book Junkie - Spotlight on Amy Tintera
Thu April 10 - The Consummate Reader - Bridge to Books Guest Post
Fri April 11 - iFandoms Collide - Spotlight on Rachel Searles
Mon April 14 - Nite Lite Book Reviews - Spotlight on Sarah Skilton
Tue April 15 - Nite Lite Book Reviews - Spotlight on Allen Zadoff
Wed April 16 - The Reader's Antidote - Spotlight on Elizabeth Ross
Mon April 21 - iFandoms Collide - Spotlight on Carol Tanzman
Tue April 22 - The Book Twins - Spotlight on Carrie Arcos
Wed April 23 - Read Now Sleep Later - Spotlight on Tracy Holczer
Thu April 24 - Birth of a New Witch - Spotlight on Katherine Ewell
Fri April 25 - The Consummate Reader - Spotlight on Lissa Price
Date TBD - A Bookish Escape - Spotlight on Ann Redisch Stampler

About The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place like gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she's found it her mother says it's time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother's sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met. She can't imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe itis her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

Lyrical, poignant and fresh, The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a beautifully told middle grade tale with a great deal of heart.

Spotlight on Tracy Holczer

RNSL: What inspired you to write The Secret Hum of a Daisy?

TH: So many things, really. Living life. Having loved and lost. Soup and all its meanings :) And like a good soup, it all came together in HUM.

RNSL: Grace comes from a very creative family: they make things, they write, they help things grow. Other than writing, what are your favorite creative pursuits?

TH: Really, writing is my only creative pursuit. I don’t even listen to the radio in the car. And any “art” I might produce is pretty much limited to unrecognizable stick figures. My kids never asked me to help with any creative project because, even at age five, they were much better than I could have been. Mothering is a creative pursuit, and I am a mother to three wonderful daughters.

RNSL: The Secret Hum of a Daisy is very much about relationships and emotions. Which relationship (i.e. mother/daughter, girlfriends, etc.) or emotion did you have the hardest time writing about?

TH: Being an only child, the hardest part for me was writing about friendship. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a loner or outcast (even though I’ve felt that way at times), but I definitely enjoy my solitude, as any good introvert will. I’ve been more successful at friendship as an adult than I ever was as a child because I did so much observing rather than connecting back then. I wasn’t around very many children until I was in school, and so they baffled me.

RNSL: There's a lot of poetry in your book. Have you always read and written poetry? Did you grow to love it just recently or did it start when you were a child?

TH: I have always written spectacularly bad poetry about love gone wrong. Example:

Yesterday’s rain had left me alone
Locked up inside of my room
Where I unfolded my memories.

December, 1983

Interestingly, I’m not a huge fan of all poetry. I love simple things, poetry included.

RNSL: I love the Spoons Souperie restaurant in your story. What's your favorite soup?

TH: My small but mighty Italian grandmother, who I outgrew when I was ten, was a great soup maker. She had soup for every occasion. Minestrone, Straccetti (which was what she called egg soup even though actual straccetti has nothing to do with eggs), Lentil, and my very most favorite, square soup.

What is square soup you might ask? Well, its soup with little squares in it. Sounds simple, but nothing was ever simple in Nonni’s kitchen. She’d boil the chicken for the stock (always) and hand roll the pasta for the squares. She cooked them Just So and they were the slightest bit chewy. Even I haven’t been able to replicate it, but I have my memories. No problem was ever too big for the healing properties of Nonni’s square soup.

You can find more about Tracy on her website, www.tracyholczer.com, and follow her on Twitter @tracyholczer


#1: ARC of A Girl Called Fearless
Winner may request personalization/autograph
Open to US residents only - ends 4/25/2014
Enter with Rafflecopter #1

#2: Choose from 1 of the books featured at the Pasadena Teen Book Festival
Winner may request personalization/autograph
Open to US residents only - ends 4/25/2014
Enter with Rafflecopter #2

#3: $50 Gift Card to Vroman's Bookstore
Open to attendees of the Pasadena Book Festival only! - ends 4/21/2014

To enter, suggest a new, unique/clever/fun name for the Pasadena Teen Book Festival. Examples of other cool names for teen book fests include (already taken, unfortunately) Teen Author Carnival, YALLFest, and YABFest. What should we call our event from now on? Email your top 3 best name suggestions to info@pasadenateenbookfest.com OR fill out this form! A panel of judges will choose the best name from all of the submissions. The winner will be announced at the Festival!

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17. Mark your calendars: Unstoppable - June 3rd!

The release date for Unstoppable is June 3rd!

At that time it will only be available in print and at Amazon. 

To catch up on the series - Untraceable is currently free and Uncontrollable is $3.99.

You can add Unstoppable to your Goodreads 

If you would like to be a part of the summer blog tour - sign up here.

After everything that has happened, Grace goes to the Everglades to live with her grandmother, Birdee. Even though she is now home-schooled by her bird-obsessed grandmother, the move gives Grace time to relax. She learns to scuba dive and starts boating with old man Rex, Birdee's casual friend/boyfriend. 

One day while out in the marshes of the Everglades, Grace rescues an abused Florida panther, currently on the endangered list. The more she dives into the animal’s horrific condition, the more she ventures into the underground world of the roadside zoos that run rampant in Florida with a total disregard for the law. Eventually, she stumbles upon one large roadside zoo filled with a variety of endangered and illegal animals. 

Before she can gather evidence and report her findings to the authorities, she is kidnapped by the ruthless owner and dragged deep into the Everglades for a hunting challenge. Only this time, Grace is the prey. 

During a sick game of cat and mouse, Grace is offered one chance at survival. With a one-hour head start and very little supplies, time and skill are now all that stands between the hunter and the hunted.

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18. Blog Tour de Toby Turtle 2014!

Pack your snorkel and fins. It's time for the Toby blog tour!

Toby is my upcoming picture book about a plucky sea turtle's adventures from egg to nest. I'll be signing books, talking turtles, divulging my innermost rhyming secrets (and just how many pencils I chewed through to finish this story!).

Without further ado, here is the tour call out:

Award-winning author Stacy Nyikos will be hosting a blog tour June 8-14, 2014, to celebrate the launch of her new book Toby.

Stacy is offering blog interviews, guest blogs, and a limited number of books for review and giveaways.  About Stacy Nyikos – In a quiet little office/at a comfy little desk/Stacy Nyikos chews on pencils/and scribbles silliness…when she’s not plucking splinters from her teeth, that is. Stacy holds an MFA is Writing (silliness) for Children from Vermont College. She spends her days chasing—or being chased—by stories. Toby is her latest catch. He sees it the other way around—catching her in the form of two very curious but courageous rescue sea turtle’s she met during a behind the scenes tour of her local aquarium. Either way, a lot of pencils got crunched writing his story.

About Toby - Birds, and crabs, and crocs - oh my! - stand between Toby and his new ocean home. Can he outslip, outslide, out-double flip and dive them? Join this plucky little sea turtle on his adventures from egg to ocean to find out!

Interviews and guest blogs should be completed prior to May 31, 2014.  This is a perfect opportunity for students, librarians and bloggers to access an award-winning author at no cost.  Bring the arts to life; involve students in the interview and blogging process.

If you require a book/book review prior to an interview, please let me know your mailing address.  We have a very limited number, so contact me right away.

The tour will be publicized by Provato Events through a press release prior to the event.  All interviews will be listed on the Provato Events Website and on Stacy Nyikos’ Blog with links to the blog sites. 

To participate in the blog tour, please contact me today. 

Thank you!

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]--> Michele Kophs
15114 NW 7th Ct. | Vancouver, WA 98685
360.597.3432 Direct | 646.219.4841 Fax

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19. Pasadena Teen Book Festival Blog Tour

I'm so excited to kick off the Pasadena Teen Book Festival blog tour! Make sure you read through for an interview with debut YA author Catherine Linka as well as a couple of giveaways and a renaming contest!

Event date: Saturday, April 26, 2014 from 12pm-4pm

Venue: Pasadena Public Library, 285 E Walnut St, Pasadena, CA 91101

T-Shirt sign-ups at CustomInk

Tue March 25 - Read Now Sleep Later - Spotlight on Catherine Linka
Thu March 27 - Untucked Magazine - Spotlight on Andrew Smith
Mon March 31 - The Windy Pages - Spotlight on Gretchen McNeil
and Holly Goldberg Sloan
Wed April 2 - FangirlFeeels - Spotlight on Jesse Andrews
Fri April 4 - What a Nerd Girl Says - Spotlight on Margaret Stohl
Tue April 8 - Adventures of a Book Junkie - Spotlight on Amy Tintera
Thu April 10 - The Consummate Reader - Bridge to Books Guest Post
Mon April 14 - Nite Lite Book Reviews - Spotlight on Sarah Skilton
Tue April 15 - Nite Lite Book Reviews - Spotlight on Allen Zadoff
Wed April 16 - The Reader's Antidote - Spotlight on Elizabeth Ross
Fri April 18 - A Bookish Escape - Spotlight on Ann Redisch Stampler
Tue April 22 - The Book Twins - Spotlight on Carrie Arcos
Thu April 24 - Birth of a New Witch - Spotlight on Katherine Ewell

About A Girl Called Fearless

Avie Reveare has the normal life of a privileged teen growing up in L.A., at least as normal as any girl’s life is these days. After a synthetic hormone in beef killed fifty million American women ten years ago, only young girls, old women, men, and boys are left to pick up the pieces. The death threat is past, but fathers still fear for their daughters’ safety, and the Paternalist Movement, begun to "protect" young women, is taking over the choices they make.

Like all her friends, Avie still mourns the loss of her mother, but she’s also dreaming about college and love and what she’ll make of her life. When her dad "contracts" her to marry a rich, older man to raise money to save his struggling company, her life suddenly narrows to two choices: Be trapped in a marriage with a controlling politician, or run. Her lifelong friend, student revolutionary Yates, urges her to run to freedom across the border to Canada. As their friendship turns to passion, the decision to leave becomes harder and harder. Running away is incredibly dangerous, and it’s possible Avie will never see Yates again. But staying could mean death.

Romantic, thought-provoking, and frighteningly real, A Girl Called Fearless is a story about fighting for the most important things in life—freedom and love.

Spotlight on Catherine Linka

RNSL: What inspired you to write A Girl Called Fearless?

CL: I am pretty passionate about the plight of girls in developing nations, and how many of them are taken out of school so they can support their families, or are sold into marriage, some as young as twelve. I wondered what it would be like for an American girl to have her world changed so completely by a cataclysmic event that she and her friends lose all control over their lives. Imagine knowing how life used to be-- driving a car, hanging out with guys, going away to college, falling in love--and you see the world returning to normal after this horrible period, and you think that in a year or so, you'll be off at college when, bam! Your father sells you into marriage to a man twice your age and you have to decide if you've got the guts to make a run for freedom.

RNSL: Your book's premise is pretty scary! What research did you have to do in terms of currently proven science facts? Did you then bend the rules towards fiction or do you think these events could really happen in our future?

CL: Thanks for asking about the science behind the Scarpanol disaster. I'm a big current events/politics dork, so I knew that Europe had banned American beef, because their researchers believe that synthetic hormones in beef act as endocrine disrupters, causing breast cancer. I switched that up by linking a new synthetic hormone for cattle to ovarian cancer, because it is very hard to diagnose, and the survival rate is much lower.

Could these events really happen? While I think that the US is pretty careful about testing drugs and additives in food, there's a lot we still don't know. And I was blown away last year when a Chinese company was allowed to buy Smithfield, the largest pork producer in America. Smithfield dictates to pork farmers around the US exactly what feed and drugs to give the pigs. Imagine what could happen if a foreign government decided to attack the US through our food supply.

RNSL: When did you first start working in the book industry?

CL: Actually, my first job in the book industry was when I'd just graduated from college and went to work as a field sales rep for a college textbook company. I traveled to colleges all over Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, calling on college professors and encouraging them to use our books in their classes. I had summers off. It was a great job.

RNSL: What got you hooked on reading and/or writing?

My mom. My mom read to me all the time. I remember when the new library opened in our town and we were the first in line for a library card. Hers actually had number "1" on it and mine had number "2."

RNSL: What's the most delicious food on earth? Not just your favorite--the one that if it were all things bad for you, poisonous even, you would still really really want to eat it?

CL: Well, I don't know what the most delicious food on earth is, but I just discovered chocolate covered cashews with caramel and sea salt. I ate an entire box last week!

You can find more about Catherine on her website, www.catherinelinka.com, and follow her on Twitter @cblinka


#1: ARC of A Girl Called Fearless
Winner may request personalization/autograph
Open to US residents only - ends 4/25/2014
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#2: Choose from 1 of the books featured at the Pasadena Teen Book Festival
Winner may request personalization/autograph
Open to US residents only - ends 4/25/2014
Enter with Rafflecopter #2

#3: $50 Gift Card to Vroman's Bookstore
Open to attendees of the Pasadena Book Festival only! - ends 4/21/2014

To enter, suggest a new, unique/clever/fun name for the Pasadena Teen Book Festival. Examples of other cool names for teen book fests include (already taken, unfortunately) Teen Author Carnival, YALLFest, and YABFest. What should we call our event from now on? Email your top 3 best name suggestions to info@pasadenateenbookfest.com OR fill out this form! A panel of judges will choose the best name from all of the submissions. The winner will be announced at the Festival!

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20. 7 Things You Don't Know About Me

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this month's blog series at readergirlz! I had a lot of fun gathering candid and heartfelt responses from authors. Lorie Ann asked me to post my own list, so here goes nothing:

7 Things You Don't Know About Me

1) I've been writing stories and songs since birth, practically.

2) I am capable of charming squirrels out of trees.

3) There is no television show I have loved more completely from start to finish than Leverage.

4) I love word play.

5) Synchronicity and causality are recurring themes in my life.

6) Chances are, I'm shorter than you.

7) I project. In more ways than one.

So there you have it! I hope March has been lovely for all of you. Don't forget to mark your calendars for Operation Teen Book Drop 2014, which will be happening in just a few weeks on April 17th. Stay tuned to the readergirlz blog, Facebook, and Twitter to learn how you can participate and #rockthedrop!

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21. Into the Dark Blog Tour: Bree Despain Guest Post Plus Giveaway

I am so excited to be part of the tour of Bree Despain's new book, The Shadow Prince. This is the start to a great new series, Into rhe Dark, which is inspired by the Persephone myth.

As a librarian, I always love to hear from authors about their library experiences. After reading about Bree's, I'm sure we're kindred spirits. I love her story of a remolded library and how far she'd go for the book she wanted! 

And be sure to check out the other spots on the tour! 

Thursday: Book Briefs

Some of my fondest memories are of making new discoveries in libraries. One of my earliest childhood recollections is of the story-time room in my little local library. I remember getting to pick out my own carpet square and look at the rainbow colors on the walls while one of the librarians read from books like Chicken Soup With Rice and Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak was always my favorite) and then begging my mom to let me search the aisles of books to discover something new to borrow. I remember when my library got a computerized cataloging system for the first time (wow, that makes me feel old) and I’d sit in front of the kiosks, entering the names of famous people, subjects, and authors, and being amazed by the lists of books that would pop up in front of my eyes. (Can you tell I was the kind of kid who would read the dictionary for fun?)  

At the time, I had no idea how publishing worked. The way books were made was a mystery to me, and authors didn’t seem like real people at all. They were magical as far as I was concerned. I didn’t know that I wanted to be an author yet, but I still daydreamed about being able to type my own name into the computer catalog and find a list of books either by me or about me. How cool would it be to know that I had left a piece of myself behind for someone else to discover?

When I was in middle school, I found YA books for the first time in the shelves of the library’s used book sale. YA wasn’t very much of thing when I was a teen (remember, I’m old) and I was intrigued to find a book that seemed like it was written just for me. I bought it for fifty cents and took it home—and became obsessed. I spent the next few years searching the shelves of my little library to find more books like that, and then sharing them with my younger sister.

Then I went off to college and walked into my university’s massive library for the first time and discovered that there was more than the hundreds of books I’d had at my disposals as a kid—there were now hundreds of thousands of them. I remember walking up and down the aisles and aisles of books and wondering if I ever wrote a book how anyone in the world would ever find it among all the others?

Discovering books in that seemingly endless library became quite the unexpected adventure. At the time I was obsessed with the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters—a series of books about a family of archeologists who solve mysteries in Victorian/Edwardian Egypt. I remember asking a librarian for help to find the next book in the series, and her replying, “How badly do you want it?” I blinked at her and said “desperately.” That’s when she said, “You’ll need these,” and handed me a flashlight and a hardhat. As it turned out, the library was under going renovations (to become even bigger!) and the floor with the book I wanted was under construction. With no electricity, I had to use the little flashlight and crawl under what felt like miles of plastic sheeting in the dark, between looming shelves, to find the book. I felt like an archeologist myself, searching for hidden treasure. I have to admit, it was kind of scary experience, but undaunted, I returned week after week to go crawling through the dust and the dark for the next books in that series. I always wondered if someone out there would be willing to do the same to find a book that I had written.

Years later, when I was a new mother and young writer, I would take my toddler son to the new Salt Lake City library for story time. I’d help him pick out his own carpet square and listen to the librarian read books like Chicken Soup With Rice and Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak was always his favorite) and then we’d brave the glass elevators (I’m afraid of heights) to go up to the YA section where I would check out books for myself by Meg Cabot and Laurie Halse Anderson—throwing in a few “how to get published” guides—and daydream about entering my own name in the computer catalog system and showing my son my list of books.

A few years later, I sold my first book, and a year after that it hit the bookshelves. Now I had two sons, and took them to our local library with the hopes of finding my name in the computer catalog. Maybe we would even see it on a shelf. I held my breath, not knowing what I would discover when I entered my name. And then it happened, the thing I had been daydreaming about since I was kid: a book by me appeared on the screen. But the library didn’t have my book—because all the copies had been checked out. And not only that, it had more than sixty holds on it. People—lots of people—had discovered my book among all the others. I burst into tears in the middle of the library and my kids thought I was total nut-ball, but they let me cry and point at my name on the screen until they pulled me away, begging to search through the aisles of books to discover something new for themselves.

With the publication of The Shadow Prince last month, my list of books in the library catalog has grown to four—and looking up my own name to see if others have discovered them never ever gets old.

Want to win a copy of The Shadow Prince? Leave a comment below with your own library memory.

-ages 13+
-US or Canada address only
-one entry per person
-ends April 8
-giveaway thanks to Egmont USA

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22. Blog Tour: Task Force Gaea Series by David Berger

I'd like to introduce fellow author, and a good friend, David Berger. I'm a big fan of Top Ten style lists so I asked David, who are his top ten Favorite Heroes/Heroines & why.

1. Wonder Woman: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved this character. Not only does she have her origins in Greek mythology, an obsession of mine, but she also embodies strength, compassion, wisdom, and love, qualities that both women and men can share. She has “encourage[d] women to stand up for themselves, to learn to fight, and be strong, so they don’t have to be scared, or depend on men” according to her creator, William Moulton Marston. In a way, she was one of my role models growing up, partly because I have a strong mother figure.

2. Black Canary: She ranks up there as a top heroine for me because she’s another strong woman. Simply because she’s a skilled hand-to-hand combatant with no superhuman strength and she can hold her own does she have my respect. Even though she does have her “canary cry,” a shrill scream that can deafen her adversaries, she is known largely because she can go toe to toe with the male heroes.

3. Zatanna: I grew up with more egalitarian sensibilities, so when I was a kid, I loved the idea of female magician who would speak her spells backwards. As a child raised with fantasy fiction and comic books, I saw that she fit both worlds easily, and she has a strength that transcends the physical.

4. Aquaman: We had a pool when I grew up in New York, and I couldn’t wait to go swimming in the warmer months. As a comic book kid, I used to pretend I was Aquaman while I splashed around, trying to communicate telepathically with the imaginary ocean life swimming with me. He used to be looked down upon because he wasn’t the strongest hero or the one with the coolest powers, but I think that’s why I liked him so much. Later, when I learned more about his ties to Atlantis, my connection was cinched since he was also tied to a mythological place, just like Wonder Woman.

5. Green Lantern: My earliest memories of Green Lantern come from Saturday morning cartoons of the Justice League of America and, later, the Super Friends. Like with Aquaman, I used to pretend I had a power ring that could create anything my mind could imagine. The idea that the mind could be so powerful that it could create objects fascinated me, and it was when I was older that I realized that, as a writer, I could also create objects with my mind.

6. Superman: For as much as I love Superman, he’s not in the top five. I think because society tends to favor him and Batman more, and I don’t follow norms very well, I have avoided the idol worship of Krypton’s last son. He’s a powerful member of the Justice League, however, so he deserves great respect, and that’s why he’s one of my top ten heroes. Being the perpetual Boy Scout always fascinated me, too, since he always seemed to find ways to avoid killing his adversaries.

7. Flash: The Flash reminds me of a superhero version of the Greek god, Hermes, and since I’m obsessed with Olympians, I’ve always had a special place in my comic-loving heart for him.

8. Batman: The Caped Crusader entered my life through comics and the Adam West TV show, and he was always a fascination, with his utility belt, his detective’s mind, and even his irreverent playboy vs. staunch hero dichotomy. Even with that, and I’m sure I’ll catch flak for this, he’s not higher on the top ten for me. I attribute that to Batman overload over the past decade or so.

9. Perseus: A list of favorite heroes wouldn’t be complete with Perseus. Ever since the original Clash of the Titans movie with Harry Hamlin and Ray Harryhausen’s animation, I’ve been a huge fan of the guy who slew Medusa. It was one of the first myths I read in school, and seeing how he was just a man who used his mind and the gifts the gods gave him to tackle some enormous obstacles, I had so much respect for him as a character. He was one of my first “superheroes” growing up.

10. Odysseus: When I read the Odyssey in school, I fell in love with Odysseus. Like Perseus, he was like a superhero for me, and reading about his exploits over his twenty year journey to return home to his wife and son just showed me that anyone can overcome obstacles, even seemingly insurmountable ones, with the right mindset.

About his series, The Task Force Gaea

During the age of Olympos, when a vengeful goddess shatters the Sacred Scales, both immortals and humans alike suffer. Apollo, the god of truth, goes from a glorious existence as The Shining One to a victim of Zeus’ wrath, and his journey makes him question his godhood, his role in the cosmos, and his views on humanity. Prophecy and the Fates direct his course, and he must make difficult, yet vital, choices. Millennia pass, and Dan, Aleta, Brandon, and Sarah—four reluctant modern-day heroes gifted by ancient civilizations born of the gods—bound by prophecy, have to choose whether or not to save their world when it could mean they never existed. They must master their new powers while battling against incomprehensible forces from the Underworld and repairing the Sacred Scales, destroyed long ago. With the equilibrium between Order and Chaos unhinged, and the Olympian gods struggling to exist, these four must ally themselves with the United Nations to protect an endangered world, becoming the only group who can fight against metaphysical threats to the Earth, forging Task Force: Gaea. Can mortals succeed where gods cannot go?

Buy the book

Amazon | Smashwords | BN

For Aegis, Zodiak, Aether, and Talon, operatives in the United Nations Task Force: Gaea, life should have returned to normal after they restored the cosmic balance that a reckless elder goddess shattered, but because of the intervention of the Fates, they would never remember what life was like before. With history now unfolding the way it was supposed to, paranoia plagues this new time line, and tight-fisted governments mandate control through a pervasive military presence, DNA scans, and surveillance cameras.

Inexplicable occurrences all over the world give way to a new mission for Task Force: Gaea when an ancient cloudlike evil referred to in prophecy only as The Nebulous One emerges from Tartaros, with the intention of devouring the Olympian gods. But, before she can find them, all of the gods but Apollo have disappeared.

Leaving chaos and human corpses in her wake, she oozes her way across the globe to satisfy her hunger. Apollo will not face this threat alone, and it then becomes a race: will he and Task Force: Gaea find and vanquish this primordial goddess without falling prey to her power before she finds the gods?

Aegis and his teammates, perhaps as a side effect of their encounters with The Nebulous One, have to battle personal demons in the form of potent memories that could jeopardize their mission’s success, seemingly insurmountable obstacles that could indeed mean the end of their team.

Starting in antiquity and moving to the modern day, this epic battle between good and evil leaves both immortal and mortal alike wondering whether memory can be a blessing… or a curse.

Buy the book

Amazon | Smashwords | BN

David Berger
Boston born, I grew up on Long Island in New York, and have my B.A. in English with a Master's in Secondary Education. I currently teach AP English Literature, IB English, and Creative Writing in Land O' Lakes, FL. My avid appreciation for fantasy fiction came from a childhood love of Greek mythology and comic books, especially Wonder Woman. Stemming from this literary love affair, I published my first novel, Task Force: Gaea—Finding Balance, in February 2012.

In addition to my fantasy writing, I have written poetry, much of which was influenced by my travels abroad, namely to Ireland. My hibernophilia extends not only to a great love of the Emerald Isle itself, but also to the writers who hail from there, namely W. B. Yeats, and I studied this poet in a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship at the National University of Ireland in Galway in 2005.

Additionally, I have traveled to Spain, France, and England—all with trips I have led with students—and hope to show more of my students what the world beyond Florida looks like.

I'm "living the dream," as it were, and I love life—I just hope it loves me in return. I reside in Land O' Lakes, FL with my partner of 13 years, Gavi, and our two cats, Yankel and Shayna.

Official Author Website  |  Series Website  |  Series Facebook Page  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads


$25 Amazon.com or BN.com Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 04/30/2014. Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com or BN.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kisha from Indie Hoopla Services & Promotions, http://indiehoopla.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
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23. Review: The Eighth Day

It's a long drive from where I live in California to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, twenty-two hours to be exact. But I made good use of my time. During the trip I was able to start and finish an ARC that I won of THE EIGHTH DAY by Dianne K. Salerni. Five pages in and I was lost to the world. Stopping for dinner was a huge inconvenience. And did my family really need to interrupt to point out the snow / lake / mountains / wild animals we were passing? I think not. In fact, I was so engrossed in the book that I failed in my role as navigator and we ended up more than twenty miles off course before I looked up and realized what had happened. Needless to say, hubby might not be as big a fan of Dianne as I am :P

So what did I love about this book? For starters, the concept is cool: an extra day stuck in the middle of the week that only a few people know about. The problem lies with what certain people decide to do with all that extra time on their hands. By blending modern day situations with Arthurian legends and throwing in a few Dr. Who and Ancient Aliens references, Dianne has created something completely original. Filled with heart-pounding action and wonderful characters–people who grow on you even when you start out thinking you won't like them–this is the type of book that I finish reading and hand off immediately to my kids. If you have a chance to get an ARC, jump on it. Otherwise, look for it when it releases next month. You'll definitely want to add this to your TBR list.

As for the WISH YOU WEREN'T blog tour, there's plenty of fun stuff happening this week. Reviews, deleted scenes, 25 things you might not know about me, and of course, plenty of give aways. Here's where you'll find me around the blogs this week:

Book Dreaming: Shannon O'Donnell reviews Wish You Weren't.
Read This Instead: Kathy will be sharing a deleted scene from Wish You Weren't.
Me, My Shelf & I: 25 Things you may or may not know about me :)
Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile: Jessica will post a review of Wish You Weren't.

All of these sites will be giving away prize packs as well (printed copy of Wish You Weren't, astronaut ice cream and a wish token), so stop by and enter your name to win!

Of course, you can always get your very own copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T from these magnificent retailers. And when you buy the print version from Amazon, you get a free e-book download, too -- bonus!

Amazon   |  Kobo  |  B&N  |   Smashwords  |   Solvang Book Loft

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24. Thrive by Meenoo Rami

We are thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Meenoo Rami's new professional book Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching. We are early in the blog tour and there are many great stops coming up where you'll learn more and more about the book and Meenoo. So, our post will be the random things we love about Meenoo and the book--the reasons you'll want to pick it up soon!

I first "met" Meenoo on Twitter as #engchat was one of the first Twitter chats I participated in.  It was the one that hooked me on Twitter chats because it taught me just how powerful these conversations could be. And Meenoo INVENTED #engchat.  I remember her telling me when I finally met her in person at NCTE one year, that she created a talk for teachers on Twitter as a way to give back to the community that has given her so much. I realized then what a generous and genuine person Meennoo is. She mentioned that she was thinking of writing a book and I knew that whatever book she would write, I would buy it. I knew that whatever she had to say would be thoughtful and important.

I was lucky to interview Meenoo several weeks ago for a Choice Literacy Podcast. The podcast, "Finding Meaning and Joy in Teaching" can be found at Choice Literacy's website. So much of what she said in the interview continues to live with me.  As I think back on my 27 years of teaching, so much of what she teaches us are the things we don't learn in student teaching, but things that are most important to our lifelong work.  What she writes about are the keys both to being a true professional and to staying true to our students.

There couldn't be a better time for Meenoo to share her voice on the topic of (re)invigorating our teaching lives.  It is easy to be tired about our work these days -- tired from the mandates and the politics and the testing and the criticism.  And Meennoo describes, with honesty, how lonely this work can be if we don't reach out.  Then she reminds us how wonderfully energizing our work can be when we do reach out. I love that this book focuses on the people in our lives.

I love this book because after 27 years, it totally resonated with me.  I think no matter how long you've been teaching--20 days or 20 years, there are ruts in our teaching lives. There are times when staying energized gets hard and times that we feel alone, no matter how many wonderful colleagues we have.  Meenoo talks about those first few years of teaching and how lonely they often were, how isolated she sometimes felt. But she took charge of her teaching and her learning and reached out and found people to learn with.

And I love this book because it reminded me of mentors and I love the way that Meenoo thinks about them. She talks honestly about mentors who were assigned to her and she shares mentors who have been part of her teaching life.  I love that she doesn't talk about one mentor but the idea that we need lots of mentors and each mentors us in a different way.

Meeoo is someone you want to follow. Her book is powerful but so is her blog and her Twitter feed (@meenoorami). She shares thoughtfully and generously and invites us all into the network she has created-- a network of learners who thrive in even the toughest times.

THRIVE Blog Tour Stops!
Be sure to visit all these great blogs who are celebrating Thrive
Hear what they have to say about Thrive 
and read guest posts and interviews from Meenoo herself!
Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts!
Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Kira Baker Doyle at Kira J Baker-Doyle, Ph.D.
Sarah Mulhern Gross at The Reading Zone
Kate Roberts and Maggie B. Roberts at Indent
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Troy Hicks at Hickstro
Joy Kirr at Genius Hour
Tara Smith at The Teaching Life
Antero Garcia at The American Crawl
John Spencer at Education Rethink
Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsberg at Unleashing Readers

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25. Total Eclipse of the Moon

redmoonTax day approaches – everyone's favorite day of the year. Tonight I plan to stay up past midnight and watch the day arrive. Not because I waited until the last minute to do my taxes (although there's that) but because tonight there will be a total lunar eclipse.

Most of North America will be able to see the eclipse and since the moon is close to full it should be pretty dramatic. Because of the timing of the eclipse, sunsets and sunrises in other parts of the world will make the moon look blood red. Kinda cool! If you have cloudy skies or too many city lights to see it, The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will broadcast the eclipse live starting at 9:45 p.m. PST.

This is also the last week of the blog tour for WISH YOU WEREN'T. Here are the planned stops.  

The Book Cellar: Erica posts an interview about my reading and writing habits.  
Books and Needlepoint: Kristi will post her review of Wish You Weren't.  

Book Loving Mom: Amy will post her review of Wish You Weren't.

I want to thank all of the bloggers who hosted me during this tour. Book bloggers are seriously the coolest people. They don't make money from this. They do it because they love books and I'm totally honored to have been part of so many awesome blogs.

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