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1. PLANNING YOUR NOVEL: IDEAS AND STRUCTURE by Janice Hardy - Guest Post and Giveaway!

I'm one of Janice Hardy's Beta readers and I have to tell you how excited I am about her latest book: Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure. So many of the things people tell you about writing are lovely, but leave you with questions of, "How"? Janice answers that. She is not only an amazingly talented writer (author of the Healing Wars trilogy), but she is a gifted teacher. She breaks down complicated ideas into easy-to-understand concepts you can adapt with your own writing. Now that the book is out - I will be shouting about it to everybody I know and using it in my classrooms. I'm honored Janice dropped by to talk:

What Kind of Writer Are You? Finding Your Writing Process
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

     If you put ten writers in a room and ask them how they write, odds are you'll get ten different answers. There's bound to be some crossover, but everyone approaches the writing process differently. The creative process takes many forms and there's nothing wrong if your process differs from another writer's.
     But it's sad how often new writers (and some old ones), don't realize this. I’ve met too many writers who felt they had to write in a certain way to be successful, and that style was contrary to their own natural process. So say it with me...
     There is no right way to write.
     Trying to force yourself to write in a way that feels unnatural to you is only going to cause frustration. For example:
• The outliner who tries to wing it with no writing plan and feels lost, writing a book that’s a huge, unfocused mess.
• The pantser who tries to force her creativity into an outline and feels stymied, making her story go where it doesn’t want to go just because a list of events told her to take it there.
• The freestyler who forces himself to write chronologically and feels his creativity drain out of him when the scenes he’s most excited about fade away in his head.
     If a process makes you miserable and hurts your creativity, there’s a good chance it’s not the right process for you. Don’t be afraid to dump it and try something else.
     However, don’t reject a process idea if you’ve never tried it just because you don’t think it suits you. I’ve had techniques I thought would never work be exactly what I needed to take my writing to the next level.
     If you’re just starting your first novel, you might not yet know what your process is, and that’s okay. Most writers try multiple techniques before they find the ones that work best for them. Experiment with different styles (or adopt pieces from many) until you find the one that feels the most natural to you.
     Let’s look at a few process types and see if any fit your style:

The Pantser
      These writers write by the "seat of their pants" and enjoy sitting down at a blank screen with a general idea and letting the words take them. They don’t want to know what happens before it does happen, and seeing how the novel ends is half the fun of writing it. If you have no trouble finding the words when you sit down to write, but stare at the screen with a terrified look on your face when you try to plot or outline, this could be the process for you.

The Outliner
      Writing without a plan leaves these writers with a mess of scenes and no coherent storyline. They find comfort in knowing how a novel will unfold before they type a single word. They like to list how each scene starts, how it ends, and what happens in between.
     If you need to know exactly where your novel is going and how it’s going to get there before you write it, this could be your process.

The Loose Outliner
      These writers like structure, but they don’t want to know every detail before they write. They prefer to build the foundation of the novel, creating a framework in which to write that lets them control the plot without the plot controlling them.
     If you like knowing enough about your novel to guide your writing without losing the mystery of the story, this might be a good process for you to try.

The Character Writer
      Characters come to these writers first, and by the time they’re ready to write they know them inside and out. These writers don’t always know what those characters are going to do, however, and they enjoy letting the characters chase after their dreams and see where they take them.
     If you’re the type who knows what the characters want and need, but aren’t sure of the plot events to get them there, you might enjoy this process.

The Plot Driver
      These writers see the plot unfold long before they see the faces of the characters. They love the mechanics of plotting and figuring out how the pieces all fit together, and once that’s solid, then they figure out who the story is about.
     If structure and plot is what excites you, this could be the process for you.

The Scene Sewer
      Novels come to these writers in bits and pieces in random order. Scene sewers prefer jumping around when the mood strikes and sewing up the plot later. They’d rather see it in their mind, get it on paper, and worry about how the puzzle pieces fit later.
      If you like to let inspiration strike and then write—no matter where that scene might be in the book—you could be this type of writer.
      And if you fit more than one process? Take the parts that work for you and create your own style.

Finding Your Own Writing Process
1. Which type of writer do you most identify with? How does that fit with your own writing style?
2. What style would you want to try? What about it appeals to you? Why?
3. What style don’t you like? Why not?
4. Is your process working for you, or do you feel like it’s holding you back?
5. If it’s holding you back, why? What about the process do you find frustrating?
6. Can those frustrations be eliminated by trying or incorporating any of the above styles?
     Even if you know your process, it's never a bad idea to dust it off once in a while and re-evaluate what you're doing and why. You might discover you've grown as a writer, and making a few tweaks to your process could make you more productive overall.

What kind of writer are you?
      Looking for advice on planning or revising your novel? Check out my newest book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel.
     Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure takes you step-by-step through finding and developing ideas, brainstorming stories, and crafting a solid plan for your novel—including a one-sentence pitch, summary hook blurb, and working synopsis. 
     Over 100 different exercises lead you through the novel-planning process, with ten workshops that build upon each other to flesh out your idea as much or as little as you need to do to start writing.
     Find Exercises On:
- Creating Characters

- Choosing Point of View

- Determining the Conflict

- Finding Your Process

- Developing Your Plot

- And So Much More!
     Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is an easy-to-follow guide to planning your novel, as well as a handy tool for revising a first draft, or fixing a novel that isn’t quite working.

     Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

     Janice has kindly agreed to give away one free, signed and dedicated copy of Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure to one of my lucky visitors. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below.

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2. Burn Out, by Kristi Helvig | YA Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Burn Out, by Kristi Helvig. Giveaway begins April 19, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 18, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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3. YABC Mailbox Book Haul - April 2014 + Giveaway (US only)


Hey guys! Ready to see what we got in the YABC Mailbox this past month?
First, here's the mess I made unboxing it all:


I bet you already spy some goodies in there, don't you? 

On to the book haul!




Some great titles from Random House Kids! And look, a diverse YA heroine! Woot!


I'm just a *tad* excited to have LET THE STORM BREAK in my hands. 
Great haul from Simon Teen and Random House Kids!


Some more Simon Teen pretties and two from Merit Press!


Here we have beauties from HarlequinTeen, Orbit, and Sourcebooks. 


Titles from Scholastic, St. Martins, Disney/Hyperion, Macmillan, and Entangled Teen!


Gorgeous hardbacks from Harper Teen!


You want more Harper Teen titles? *hands you some*


Still not satisfied? *hands you MOAR HARPER TEEN*



What? Still not enough? You guys are hard to please. 



Ooooh and finally, Candlewick in the house!





Pretties from Candlewick, Scholastic, and Simon Kids.


Cuties from Scholastic and Simon Kids. 


Adams Media, Candlewick, Random House Kids, and Peachtree.
How much does everyone need the Fairies book? Cuz I *needs* it.


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has Middle Grade Mania with these spring titles!


Moar Candlewick, Peachtree, and Random House Kids. I absolutely adore the Alice-Miranda books!


Some incredible hardback cover art from Candlewick and Random House Kids.







I love these little 3D pocket guides from Candlewick. I have a dozen of them and still need more!


Mother's Day picture books! Nothing more adorable.
These are from Random House Kids and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 


A few for the older kiddos from Candlewick. Gimme the Lizzy Bennet's Diary, please!


Beautiful full color picture books from Disney/Hyperion, Candlewick, and Peachtree.



Giveaway Time!

Which books are you most excited about? Fill out the rafflecopter form below and leave your picks in the comments. I'll pick two of you to choose a book from the current Prize Shelf (shown below). 


Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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4. {GIVEAWAY} Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

SEA OF SHADOWS Age of Legends #1 by Kelley Armstrong File Size: 773 KB Print Length: 417 pages Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0751547816 Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (April 8, 2014) Mark on Goodreads Buy on Amazon Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author, takes an exciting new direction with this big, breathtaking blend of fantasy, romance, horror, and pulse-pounding

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Not only have Sarah Dillard and I been roomies at the Kindling Words Conference in Vermont several times, I'm also a huge fan of her work. She read a portion of her latest creation at the last conference, EXTRAORDINARY WARREN and there wasn't a dry eye in the room from laughing so hard!
     A chicken who wants to be special is convinced by a hungry rat that he is no ordinary chicken, but Chicken Supreme!!!! The humor is off the charts hilarious for all readers, even though the intended audience is the youngest chapter book reader. This one hits ALL the buttons. I'm thrilled to have Sarah here today to talk about EXTRAORDINARY WARREN.

Q. Sarah, this is one 'out there' idea! How did it come to you?
Thanks so much. This was such a fun book to do. It started when I did a doodle of a chicken looking at an egg and wondered what that chicken was thinking about. It seemed that he had some pretty big life questions about who he was and where he came from and where he was going. Warren evolved from that. He really is kind of a philosopher I think. I knew I needed a villain and a rat seemed like the obvious choice. I've always loved Templeton from Charlotte's Web. I loved the idea that Warren befriends an egg but I also knew that at some point that egg was going to have to hatch. Somehow it all came together.

Q. Was it tricky to pull off the subtlety all the way through the story?
I think sometimes I am too subtle! But I will say that I wrote and rewrote this story many many times. I was lucky to have had wonderful input along the way from my fabulous agent Lori Nowicki at Painted Words and also my incredible critique group. And I was lucky to have an extraordinary editor in Karen Nagel.

Q. I know you as a more quiet soul - where did this comic genius streak come from!?
I am a quiet person but quiet doesn't necessarily mean serious. I have always had a pretty strong funny side as well.

Q. I love the simple shapes and limited color palette in EXTRAORDINARY WARREN - different from some of your other works. What was your approach?
Before I started writing, I think that my art was more lovely and rich. I thought I would probably write like that too, but everything seems to come out funny. I had to make adjustments to my work. At first that was kind of scary, but then it felt very liberating. Instead of approaching the book thinking I will give this book my look, I turned it around and thought what look does this book need me to give it.
      Warren definitely dictated the art for this book. I tried a lot of approaches but a nice simple line with flat color was what worked best. The limited palette was at the suggestion of my art director. At first it seemed horrifying and impossible. But I started looking at a lot of illustrations are from the 1920's and '30s, which I have always loved, especially the work of L. Leslie Brooke, Maud and Miska Petersham, Maginel Wright Enright and her wonderful illustrations in the My Bookhouse series, and Winsor Mcay's Little Nemo's Adventures in Slumberland. One thing that really strikes me about all of those illustrations is the beautiful line and flat colors. Due to printing processes then, many of those illustrations were just one or two colors and black. I realized that black could be used not just as line but also as a color, which led to a nice bold graphic look that really works for Warren.
      I started the book thinking that I would work in my usual water color and gouache, but it became clear that the best way to achieve the look that I wanted would be to work digitally, which was a big change for me. It does seem sort of ironic that looking at old illustrations led me to work this way!

Click the image above to see it larger in a new window.

Q. I'd love to hear about your path into the publishing biz, and especially about the path for EXTRAORDINARY WARREN to publication. Have you publishers been over the top about it since day one? (I should think so!)
Amazingly, not everyone fell in love with Warren immediately. He was rejected many times, but with each rejection there were useful comments that helped me to make Warren stronger. If I were to give any advice to people trying to get published, it would be don't give up and learn to accept criticism and use it to your advantage. And again, don't give up. Really, persistence is the most important piece of the puzzle.

Q. What will you do to celebrate the release of EXTRAORDINARY WARREN?
I've been visiting blogs and have some book signings coming up but mostly I've been hard at work on Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day, which will be out in October. I don't want to give too much away about that one, but I will tell you that Warren and Egg are going to cross the road.

Q. Thanks so much for stopping by Sarah! I can't wait to see what you come up with next!
Thank You!

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6. Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop - Intl ends 4/24

4th Annual Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

April 17th to 24th

Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Read Now Sleep Later

Thanks to Kathy for letting me co-host this one again! I hope you enter all of the great giveaways on the linky. Here's ours!

1 lucky winner (any country) will win a copy of The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M. G. Buehrlen! I recently read and loved this book, though I haven't written a review yet. I will post it soon! In the meantime, use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win. None of the entries are mandatory, but you must do at least one of them to enter!

Publisher's description:
For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

Giveaway Rules:
  1. Open internationally.
  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items.
  3. One set of entries per household please.
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address.
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends.
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner.
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here.
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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7. MORTAL ENCHANTMENT Cover Reveal and $50 Gift Card Giveaway from Stacey O'Neale

Today, Stacey O'Neale and Phoenix Reign Publishing are revealing the cover for MORTAL ENCHANTMENT, releasing on May 20, 2014! Check out the awesome cover and enter to win a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Card!!! On to the reveal! “Mortal Enchantment spins a unique twist on elemental mythology. This series is not to be missed.” Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times

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8. Mighty Dads, by Joan Holub | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed copy of Mighty Dads, story by award-winning author Joan Holub and illustrations by James Dean, creator of the bestselling "Pete the Cat" books. Giveaway begins April 15, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 14, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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9. Coloring Page Tuesday - Rockin' Bunny!

     Here comes Peter Cottontail! Rocking down the bunny trail? Why not! I hope you have a lovely Easter full of pretty blooms and ruffles.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
     **A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**

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10. DON'T LOOK BACK by Jennifer L. Armentrout {Exerpt & Giveaway}

About The Book By: Jennifer L. Armentrout Published by: Disney Hyperion To Be Released on: April 15th, 2014 Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble Add it to Goodreads Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. Sam has resurfaced, but she has no

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11. Peter Salomon on ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS - Guest Post and Giveaway!

I adored Peter Salomon's first novel HENRY FRANKS so am thrilled to have him on today to talk about his latest novel, which has just about the best cover EVAH! Here's Peter...

      In the period of time between the sale of my debut novel, HENRY FRANKS, and the actual release date I had one primary goal: sell my second novel before that release date. So, with that in mind, I got right to work.
      I started writing a YA dystopian novel, because it’s the law: every author is required to write at least one, no? Halfway though, I realized two things: the ending no longer worked and I didn’t really want to write a YA dystopian novel.
      So, I started writing a different book. This one was more YA Action/Adventure, I guess. It was great fun to write but it, too, didn’t sell. By the time I was finished, though, I’d figured out how to end that pesky YA dystopian. That one didn’t sell, either.
      Then, HENRY FRANKS came out in Sept. 2012. One thing quickly became apparent: my genre was definitely YA Horror. With that in mind, I decided my next book had to stay in that genre.
      That, of course, still left me trying to figure out what to write. In the meantime, I continued to interview other authors for my blog to help promote their work. One of the questions I asked horror author C.W. LaSart (www.cwlasart.com) was for her favorite word. Her response was ‘ghastly.’
      Why is that important? Because in talking with her after receiving her answers I responded with this comment:
     I've always loved 'ghastly' by the way, though I ALWAYS wanted 'ghostly' to be far more popular than it actually is, it just feels like 'ghostly' became too watered down (probably by cartoons: Casper for instance) so that it lost the menace and creepiness that it should have had. Oh well…
      Yes, I actually dug up the actual message thread to share this story. So, we discussed the word ‘ghostly’ for a very short while and then she most likely completely forgot about our conversation. On the other hand, I kept thinking that ‘Ghostly’ would make a fun title for a story. If I had ever written a ghost story, which I really hadn’t. So I decided I should.

Peter's writing nook:
      I started brainstorming a ghost story and sent my agent three chapters, totaling about 10 pages (they’re very short chapters). My agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, then asked me one very troubling question: ‘So, what happens next?’ (I might be paraphrasing there). The only problem was, I didn’t actually have an answer.
      All I had was 3 chapters and a title: GHOSTLY. So, after more brainstorming (which basically consisted of driving my kids around town listening to pop music) I came up with a very brief synopsis and sent that along to my agent. She then sent the proposal to my Editor for HENRY FRANKS.
      And Flux bought GHOSTLY.
      Of course, I hadn’t actually written the book yet. All I had was 3 chapters. Written in a very strong, very unique ‘voice.’ One I was terrified that I’d be unable to sustain for an entire book.

Because for the most part I’d thrown out a lot of the traditional ‘rules’ of fiction writing for those 3 chapters. Whether it was the rule against run on sentences or sentence fragments or repeating words, didn’t matter. For GHOSTLY I relied more on the rules of poetry than fiction. And it was a constant struggle to write the book without losing that voice.
      It’s not written in verse or anything like that. It’s prose, through and through. But it has an internal rhythm of language that owes a tremendous debt to poetry.
      For example, this is the final paragraph of those first chapters that were sent to Flux:
      In the corner of the room the shadow screamed, burning the air around me until I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t think, and everything went black and everything changed and everything disappeared and all I knew was pain. Unending, unceasing pain. (to read the first chapter, CLICK HERE.)
      So, in one paragraph, there’s a run-on sentence, a sentence fragment, and two different words repeated 3 times each. There’s also a definite rhythm to the voice, and it was an exhausting battle to sustain that for the novel. But I did.
      Unfortunately, I lost the battle to name the book GHOSTLY. Which, truth to tell, I didn’t fight too strenuously. The word has really lost it’s creep, sad to say. So, now, it’s ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS, which captures the poetry of the book far better than GHOSTLY ever could.
      And all because CW LaSart loves the word ‘ghastly.’

GIVEAWAYAs soon as he receives his author copies from Flux (which may not be until later this summer) Peter will generously giving away a free, signed copy of ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS to one of my lucky commenters in the US or Canada. Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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12. Wonders of Life: Exploring the Most Extraordinary Phenomenon in the Universe | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Wonders of Life: Exploring the Most Extraordinary Phenomenon in the Universe, by Prof. Brian Cox. Giveaway begins April 11, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 10, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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13. Title Reveal: Book 2 in the Alex Wayfare Series by MG Buehrlen + Giveaway (International)


We have a special treat for you today, YABCers! A title reveal!

Today we're honored to reveal the title for Book #2 in the Alex Wayfare Series by MG Buehrlen releasing Spring 2015 from Strange Chemistry. Before we get to the title, here's a note from MG:


I was certain there would be months of agonizing title trials as we searched for the perfect title for the sequel to THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE. Mainly because I'm horrible at coming up with titles and place names and character names. The pressure! It's just too intense, and I get bogged down by silly details. But luckily, the very first suggestion I tossed on the table was the one my publisher loved. I sent it around to my critique partners and beta readers asking their opinion, and it got the green light. So it's a go! I think it's the perfect addition to the series. And HINT: it has to do with a pretty major reveal in Book 2, one that only a rare few of you may have already picked up on in Book 1. Oh, the suspense! 
~ MG Buehrlen (THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE, Strange Chemistry)



Ready to see?

Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!


































Here it is!






by MG Buehrlen
Release date: Spring, 2015
Publisher: Strange Chemistry



mgbweb2.pngAbout the Author

When she’s not writing, M.G. moonlights as a web designer and social media/creative director. She’s the current web ninja lurking behind the hugely popular website YABooksCentral.com, a social network for YA (and kids!) book lovers. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is her debut novel. M.G. lives nestled away in Michigan pines, surrounded by good coffee and good books, with her husband and son and three furbabies. Say hello on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Connect with MG:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mgbuehrlen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mgbuehrlenbooks

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17878473-the-fifty-seven-lives-of-alex-wayfare

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mgbuehrlen/alex-wayfare-series/

Tumblr: http://mgbuehrlen-the-hermit.tumblr.com/

Web: http://www.mgbuehrlen.com/




Giveaway Details

Ten winners will receive a copy of the first book in the series, THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE. International addresses welcome!

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries:

What do you think about the title?



a Rafflecopter giveaway


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14. IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK by Brianne Farley

I love to feature unusual or high-design-looking picture books like Brianne Farley's debut picture book IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK, especially since I teach Design in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating Children's Books at Hollins University each summer. I also love Ike's story - he's the ultimate procrastinator when it comes to writing. Not that any of us can relate to that. *ahem* Brianne dropped by to talk about her cutting edge style...

Q. Brianne, CONGRATULATIONS on your first picture book IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK! You've been an illustrator for some time now, how did you fall into picture books?
Thank you! I’m so happy that INK is a real book. Sometimes I see it at a random bookstore in the middle of nowhere and it’s always weird and surprising that this thing I made is out in the world, loitering in random bookstores.
      I’ve always loved books and always loved drawing. Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake were my childhood heroes. As a kid I spent a lot of time reading while sitting in a tree, for some reason. It’s actually very uncomfortable. I don’t recommend it. I went to college as a Creative Writing major and Studio Art minor. At the time I wanted to be an editor, but after a few internships realized it wasn’t for me. College is where I was first introduced to and fell in love with printmaking and became interested in combining words and pictures. A few years later I went back to school for my MFA in Illustration and focused on picture books from the get-go.

Q. Your style is so cutting edge - almost editorial or with that elusive "European look." Do you have a philosophy behind your style?
Ooh, thanks! Well, my work is usually finished digitally but I’m very much inspired by printmaking. There’s a wonderful printmaking technique called chine-collé that I was thinking about when I made these illustrations. Also, I made the first draft of INK while in grad school, and getting it published was the farthest thing from my mind. So, I was able to focus on making illustrations I would like to see in a book, rather than something I thought would be marketable. I was also just hoping to write and illustrate a good story, not necessarily a children’s book. The picture books I like best are the ones that have something to offer to any age reader. That being said, kids are smart people with giant imaginations, so they’re a great audience.

Q. How do you work? I see hints of cut paper, computer, pen and ink...
Yes, good eye! The illustrations for IKE’S INCREDIBLE INK were first drawn with ink (um, I mean incredible ink) and a dip pen. I then scanned these drawings along with a “library” of ink splotches for Ike’s body and an embarrassing amount of found paper (beautiful handmade paper, old graph paper, dry cleaning tags, etc.). I “cut” the paper digitally and layered it behind the ink drawings. You can see some of the process HERE.
      INK is a story about writing and story telling, but it’s also about craft! It’s about ink on paper. It’s about getting your hands messy and having an experience worth writing about. So, that’s part of the reason I chose to use ink and cut paper. My next book (yay!) is about an imaginary tree fort (of course!), so the illustrations are a little looser.

Q. Can you share a photo of your studio?
Haha look at my studio. I like my desk to be perfectly clean and my walls to be a perfect mess. My studio is in a little nook in my apartment that my roommate was kind enough to let me take over. My desk is a glass-top kitchen table I turned into a giant light table with some cleverly placed Christmas lights. It’s probably a fire hazard.

Q. Being your first picture book, I'd love to hear your path to publication.
I made the first draft of INK for a class in grad school. We were asked to complete a cover and three finished spreads, but as a total crazy person I decided to finish the whole book. Author/illustrator/friendly-human Peter Brown was on campus to give a lecture on picture books and stopped by the illustration grad studio (where I was working like a crazy person). He liked my book and suggested I send it to his agent, Paul Rodeen at Rodeen Literary Management, who is now my agent. It took a while, but the wonderful Elizabeth Bicknell at Candlewick Press gave INK a home. She and Ann Stott and Heather McGee and the rest of the Candlewick team helped me refine and improve the work I started in school. They’re a dream team.

Q. Ike does everything in his power to stall having to actually write. Might your own situation have inspired the story?
Haha MAYBE. The line in which he needs to “find his favorite pen” before getting to work is definitely inspired by real-life events. Sigh. BUT I would also make the argument that INK isn’t all about procrastination. It’s also about getting out and finding your story. My favorite thing about Ike is that he isn’t afraid. He wants to go to the moon so he just starts building a rocket. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing but no matter, tally ho. I want to be like that.

Q. Are you working on another book?
I am! I’m working on another book with Candlewick. It is about an imaginary tree fort, but it’s also about siblings. It’s inspired by one ANONYMOUS bookish older sister and one enthusiastic younger sister who, many years ago, spent a lot of time together in the woods in their backyard, drawing plans for tree forts.

Sounds great, I look forward to it!

Candlewick has kindly agreed to give away a free copy of IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below!
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IKE'S INCREDIBLE INK. Copyright © 2013 by Brianne Farley. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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15. Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. Giveaway begins April 9, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 8, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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16. Coloring Page Tuesdays -

     Easter is coming! Have you ever heard the phrase that if your ears are itching, somebody must be talking about you? Can you imagine how that must be for a bunny rabbit? Gads!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**

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17. Itch Rocks: The Further Adventures of an Element Hunter, by Simon Mayo | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Itch Rocks: The Further Adventures of an Element Hunter, by Simon Mayo. Giveaway begins April 7, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 6, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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18. {Giveaway! Two Copies!} THE FOREVER SONG by Julie Kagawa

THE FOREVER SONG Series: Blood of Eden (Book 3) by Julie Kagawa Hardcover: 416 pages Publisher: Harlequin Teen (April 15, 2014) Mark on Goodreads Buy the book: Amazon Review of The Immortal Rules Review of The Eternity Cure VENGEANCE WILL BE HERS Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer. MONSTER Allie

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19. YA Authors as YAs: The Christian Schoon Edition + Giveaway (International)


Welcome to the latest YA Authors as YAs interview!

Our goal? To prove that your favorite authors — no matter how AWESOME and COOL you think they are — were once awkward, weird, and they geeked out about fandoms and guilty-pleasure music JUST LIKE YOU when they were teens. (Most of them still do, you know, and that’s totally COOL, because being yourself is the ultimate in EPIC COOLNESS.)

Don’t believe me? 

Maybe Christian Schoon, author of Under Nameless Stars – A  Zenn Scarlett Novel, April 2014, can convince you with tales from his teen years (and his rock 'n roll hair). 


***Click here to read our interview and enter to win a copy!***





Publisher: Strange Chemistry

ISBN-10: 1908844876

ISBN-13: 978-1908844873

Release date: April, 2014


Under Nameless Stars, due out in April, 2014, is the sequel to Zenn Scarlett, and chronicles the continuing adventures of a novice exoveterinarian student specializing in the care and treatment of very large, often dangerous, profoundly fascinating alien life forms. 

As the story opens, Zenn Scarlett’s novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister exovet school on Mars isn’t exactly going to plan…

After facing a plot to destroy her school and its menagerie of alien patients, could things at the cloister get worse? Yes, they could: her absent father has been kidnapped. Desperate to find him, Zenn stows away aboard the Helen of Troy, a starliner powered by one of the immense, dimension-jumping beasts known as Indra. With her is Liam Tucker, a Martian boy who is either very fond of her, very dangerous to her, or both. On the verge of learning the truth about her father, Zenn’s quest suddenly catapults her and Liam thousands of light years beyond known space, and into the dark heart of a monstrous conspiracy. 

Braving a gauntlet of lethal environments and unearthly life forms, her courage, resourcefulness and budding exovet skills will be tested as never before. With the fate of entire worlds in the balance, Zenn Scarlett is racing headlong into trouble... again.


Here’s what some nice humans had to say about Zenn Scarlett:

"Zenn's moxie and determination make this a debut to remember. Highly recommended!"
-Phoebe North, author of Starglass
"... delightful, bizarre and occasionally terrifying." 
-Mike Mullin, author of Ashfall
“All future veterinarians will want to read Zenn Scarlett and her adventures with veterinary medicine on alien animals.” 
-Temple Grandin, author of  Animals in Translation

"Mars, monsters, and mysteries: Zenn Scarlett is a thoughtful and thrilling science fiction adventure that's perfect for readers who think they've seen it all! It's refreshing to encounter an original young adult story that defies expectations, and the breathtaking conclusion will leave you desperate for more."
-E.C. Myers, author of Fair Coin and Quantum Coin 

"Utterly imaginative, Zenn Scarlett is sci-fi at its best. Fantastic worldbuilding. Deep characters. I couldn’t put it down!"
-Melissa West, author of Gravity and Hover


ABOUT Christian:

Following a stint as an in-house writer with the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, CA, Christian became a freelance writer for the entertainment industry and scriptwriter for live-action and animated TV programming for companies including Warner Bros., NBC, Hallmark, FoxKids, Saban and Hanna-Barbera. Currently, he writes from his 160-year-old farmstead near Iowa City, which he shares with a fluctuating number of rescued horses (generally less than a dozen, currently at 18 head), numerous cats, two dogs, two ferrets, one lab mouse saved from being fed to a friend’s snake and… a surprisingly tolerant wife. Christian’s volunteer work with various animal welfare groups has exposed him to the awesome talents of a number of local veterinarians who treat both domestic and exotic critters like bears, cougars, pythons, alligators and other large reptiles. This experience has fed into and extensively informed his Zenn Scarlett novels. 

Author blog:  http://www.christianschoon.com          
Author Twitter: @cjschoon              

Zenn Scarlett on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zenn-Scarlett/329723773792797?ref=hlv                                                         

Zenn on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Zenn-Scarlett-Christian-Schoon/dp/1908844558




Christian will give away three shiny new copies of Under Nameless Stars, print or eBook; available internationally in April, 2014


***Click here to read our interview and enter to win a copy!***


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20. YA Authors as YAs: The Helene Dunbar Edition + Giveaway (International)

Welcome to the latest YA Authors as YAs interview!

Our goal? To prove that your favorite authors — no matter how AWESOME and COOL you think they are — were once awkward, weird, and they geeked out about fandoms and guilty-pleasure music JUST LIKE YOU when they were teens. (Most of them still do, you know, and that’s totally COOL, because being yourself is the ultimate in EPIC COOLNESS.)

Don’t believe me? 

Maybe Helene Dunbar, author of THESE GENTLE WOUNDS published by Flux, May 2014, can convince you with tales from her teen years. 


***Click here to read our interview and enter to win a copy!***




ISBN: 0738740276

Publisher: Flux

Release Date: May 2014


What do you do in the wake of a life-altering tragedy? Survive.

After a horrible family tragedy, Gordie moves in with his half-brother Kevin’s family. It is an ideal arrangement, because Kevin is his safe haven and the only person who can deal with Gordie’s post-traumatic stress disorder.

But just as the fifteen-year-old’s life is becoming normal—star goalie of the high school hockey team, interest from an attractive girl—Gordie’s biological father comes back into the picture, demanding a place in his life. Now there’s no hiding from the grief and guilt, nothing to stop him from falling into a horrible tailspin. The only one who can help Gordie is himself . . . if he can find the strength to confront the past and take back his future.


ABOUT Helene:

Helene Dunbar usually writes features about fiddles and accordions for Irish Music Magazine, but she’s also been known to write about court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She’s amazed that she has a day job that pays her to spend time on Facebook and Twitter, and that, on a good day, gives her time to let the voices in her head out into the world to tell a story. If she had to put money on it, she’d bet that if music didn’t exist, she wouldn’t be able to write. She’s lived in two countries, six states, and is currently holed up in Nashville with her husband, two cats, and the world’s friendliest golden retriever.

Website: www.helenedunbar.com

Twitter: @Helene_dunbar

Facebook: www.facebook.com/helenedunbarwrites

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/helene_dunbar



One international winner will receive a copy of the book when they are available. 



***Click here to read our interview and enter to win a copy!***




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21. Miss Flimp’s Destiny, by Zoe Ainsworth-Grigg | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed copy of Miss Flimp's Destiny, written by Zoe Ainsworth-Grigg and illustrated by Kathy Kerber. Giveaway begins April 3, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends May 2, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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22. SOPHIE'S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller - GIVEAWAY!

SOPHIE'S SQUASH written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf has set the entire kidlitosphere abuzz. So much so, SOPHIE'S SQUASH recently won the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Award for best picture book text. Wowsa! It even has its own facebook page! And it deserves the attention for the spot-on humor and cleverness. Truly, half way through I wondered "How is Pat going to get herself out of this quandry?" And she did! In such a charming way. Sweet magic.
     I'm thrilled to have Pat on my blog today...

Q. Pat, SOPHIE'S SQUASH is your debut picture book - and what a debut it is! How long have you been writing and what's been your path to publication?
I have been seriously working on picture books for about six years. But before that, I was always writing something. Newspaper stories, magazine articles, corporate communications … But I can honestly say that writing picture books is the most fun, by far!
      My path to publication was like that of a lot of debut authors. Loads of rejections, a few close calls, many more rejections and then, a yes! I had almost given up on finding a home for SOPHIE when Anne Schwartz of Schwartz & Wade called.

Q. How did the idea for SOPHIE'S SQUASH come to you?
The initial idea came from something my daughter, Sonia, did when she was three. We were shopping for groceries, and I put a butternut squash in the cart. When it came time to check out, I couldn’t find the squash. That’s when I realized Sonia was rocking it like a baby. When we got home, she drew a face on it and carried it around like a doll. We never did eat it.
      So that got the story going. Then, I added a lot of things that hadn’t really happened to make it a better story. That’s the benefit of writing fiction. You can make things end the way you wish they would have in real life. (SPOILER ALERT: The parents in my book are much more patient than I was.)

Q. I love the humor in SOPHIE'S SQUASH. It's both for adults and clever children - for Sophie is indeed a bright little girl. The best picture books speak to all the ages that will be reading them (children and their parents). How did you nail that?
Well, my daughter, Sonia, has had a very dry sense of humor from an early age. So when I made the dialogue up, I wanted it to be something I could imagine Sonia saying. A few editors said they thought Sophie sounded too grown-up, but I think that’s part of her charm, and the humor.
      And, now that I’ve read this story out loud to lots of groups of people, I’ve noticed that adults and kids laugh in different places. I’d like to say I planned that, but I really didn’t.

Q. We always hear that children should solve their own problems in stories - it empowers them. Sophie definitely did that. But I wonder if that was hard to noodle out?
It was! My earliest drafts had the story ending with Sophie’s dad going to the grocery store to get her an acorn squash and a spaghetti squash. So Sophie didn’t solve anything. Then, the dad came home with Ace the goldfish after Bernice lingered and died. That didn’t work either. It was too sad.
      It took me a bit – and some good advice from my critique group friends – to have Sophie ask the farmer for advice and then plant Bernice in the garden.

Q. You received the Golden Kite Award for SOPHIE'S SQUASH!!! Congratulations!!! And how did that feel?
It was amazing. I had obviously heard of the award, but it was never on my radar that I might actually win it. So when my phone rang and the caller ID said “Lin Oliver,” I thought it might be an automated message about needing to renew my SCBWI dues.
      Instead, it was Lin herself, telling me I’d won. It was a very happy moment. I think I tweeted something like I was happy, just like Pharrell Williams, except he was a better dancer and wore cooler hats. Some spontaneous kitchen dancing may also have occurred. But there were no witnesses, so nothing can be proved.

Q. You have now become the Squash Queen! (I love this photo of the Dallas Arboretum somebody shared on Sophie's FB page as a perfect place to visit.) Are you having fun with it?
Oh, yes. I think the biggest change is that while I still eat squash soup and risotto, I now feel slightly guilty doing so. And I’ve received adorable photos and stories from readers. A few of my favorite moments are:
      • A girl who dressed up as Sophie and took her own Bernice to school. The kids were supposed to dress up as Dr. Seuss characters, but she wanted to be Sophie and Bernice.

     • A little boy who had a mini pumpkin he was treating like a baby. His mom read him the story so he’d know that it wouldn’t last forever.

     • A pre-school class that added a squash to its classroom, took great care of it and then planted it when it started getting soft. They sent me picture of it sprouting in a pot. The class also tied taking care of the squash to its kindness curriculum, which made me very happy indeed.

Q. I hear you're working on a sequel?
SOPHIE’S SEEDS, which should come out in 2016, follows Sophie to kindergarten. She brings Bonnie and Baxter with her, of course, but her classmates don’t immediately appreciate their value.
      And let’s just say Sophie doesn’t immediately appreciate her classmates either. But things eventually work out. (And again, I drew on one instance from my daughter’s pre-school days for the heart of the story.)

Q. I also heard you mention a new story inspired by somebody's Facebook post. How do you go from idea to finished story?
Oh, goodness. It really varies. I guess the common thread is that I hear or see some small nugget of something that I like – either because it’s nicely phrased, or odd, or silly or charming. Then, I work with it to see what it could become. Sometimes, the story falls into place fairly easily. Other times, it seems I struggle for every word.
     I have three critique groups I’m in where I get really good feedback, and that helps bring my stories together, too.

Q. Did you do anything special, or squash-related to celebrate the release of SOPHIE'S SQUASH?
I had a great book launch party with squash for the kids to decorate and temporary tattoos with designs from the book. But the coolest thing came from writer Lisa Morlock who’s in one of my critique groups. She sent me a beautifully painted, hollow gourd that now has a place of honor in my writing room.
      Lisa also sent me a card with some famous quotations she’d modified to make them appropriate for the occasion, like:
      “Well-behaved squash rarely make history.”
     “The earth laughs in squash.”
     “Hope is a thing with squash.”

Q. I can't wait to read more of your work Pat! Thanks so much for stopping by!
Thank you so much for having me!

Pat has kindly agreed to send one free, signed and dedicated copy of SOPHIE'S SQUASH to one of my lucky commenters! Must live in the continental US to win. Enter below!
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23. MG Author Mikey Brooks's The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour...

Welcome to The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour!

A middle-grade fantasy-adventure by Mikey Brooks.

Don’t forget to check out the GIVEAWAY at the bottom this post
for a chance to WIN a $25 Amazon Gift card and other great prizes!

Using the Old to Create Something New
A guest post by: Mikey Brooks

I discover fun and interesting things with each book I write. For The Stone of Valhalla I did a lot of research into old Norse mythology and legends. I wanted to base my “otherworld” off something that still had familiarity in ours. World building is really fun in the fact that you get to create everything from the ground up. You get to create their religion, their folk songs, their folklore, everything.

While researching I came across a cool story about a dwarf prince that was turned into a dragon because of his greed with gold and a magical ring. I wanted to put the story into mine but wasn’t sure how it would fit. I ended up using the name of the prince as a dragon in my own story. Fáfnir was the name of the dragon from the Völsunga Saga in Norse legends and he became one of the masters of the Stone of Valhalla in the history of my “otherworld”.

I loved sharing that story so much I decided to write in my own folklore. I created a story about another dragon. Nottigin is a dragon who falls in love with a princess. One night he steals her away and hides her in his cave behind a great waterfall. One night the princess goes wondering and slips to her death. Traumatized by the loss of his love the dragon throws himself off the Cliffside and drowns in the water below. Yes, a tragic story, but it added something magical to the story. The place that my character’s camp at is a grand waterfall called Nottigin’s Fall.

I had a lot of fun writing this book and incorporating many of the things I took for Norse mythology. A lot of the names you will find in The Stone of Valhalla all come from the old Norse legends. I loved taking the old and turning it into something new.

I am thrilled to announce the release of my newest middle-grade fantasy-adventure: The Stone of Valhalla. In it you’ll find sprinklings of Norse legends here and there but that’s not where the fun lies. The fun is in the story of Aaron, from our world, and how he is destined to save another.


Aaron was chosen to save their world, but it might come at the cost of losing his own.

Breaking into an old lady’s basement was supposed to reward 13-year-old Aaron with new friends. Instead he finds an enchanted amulet that transports him to another world—one at war with magic. Before he knows it, he is accused of witchcraft and invited to a bonfire—where he’s the main attraction. If that’s not bad enough, a goblin army shows up and toasts the town...literally. The good news: Aaron escapes being charbroiled. The bad news: the goblins are after him. They want his amulet and will stop at nothing to get it. Battling to find his way home, Aaron teams up with a not-so-magical-wizard and learns it’s his fate to destroy the amulet and save this new world. But is he willing to sacrifice his own?

Check out what these talented authors are saying about it:

The Stone of Valhalla is one of those books that only comes along once in a great while. Brooks doesn't just create a world, he puts you inside of it, allowing you to experience the wonder in a way that only he can. His characters are likable and fun. His twists leave you asking ‘Why?’ Treat yourself to an exciting adventure through a beautiful new land. Make new friends and be a part of the magic. This is a book that you will not be able to put down!”
—J.R. Simmons, author of Ragesong: Awakening.

 The Stone of Valhalla drew me in from the get-go. Aaron’s journey is reminiscent of Dorothy’s trek in The Wizard of Oz. Magic, sword fights, danger, and more danger, sprinkled with humor and unexpected twists. This is one of the ‘best’ fantasy adventures I’ve ever experienced!”
—BBH McChiller, author of The Monster Moon Series.

The Stone of Valhalla is a riveting mystery revealing true friendship, loyalty and sacrifice. Brooks engages the curiosity of middle graders and older sleuths alike, until the very end. Fantastic!”
—L.R.W. Lee, author of The Andy Smithson series.

Where to Find The Stone of Valhalla:
Exclusive price for the eBook release is just $2.99! (List Price: $4.99)
And only $9.99 for the paperback!(List Price: $12.99)
On April 12th2014 the price will return to the List Price

Another special offer:
During The Stone of ValhallaBlog Tour
Mikey’s other great middle-grade eBooks will also be set to the low price of just $0.99!

The Dream Keeper:
Kindle | Nook | Kobo

The Dreamstone:
Kindle | Nook | Kobo

You’re Invited to PARTY!!
The online launch party will take place on Thursday, April 10th at 4pm (MST). The party will run for 2 hours and you’re invited to drop by anytime. The longer you stay the more chances you have of winning prizes! We have slew of eBooks to giveaway, as well as a Stone of Valhalla necklace AND a $25 Amazon gift card! It is hosted by LovingtheBookLaunchParty on Facebook. Just follow this link to join the event: http://goo.gl/Q2Fd3r.

What’s that? Another Party!
That’s right! If you’re local to Utah you don’t want to miss this kickin’ party. We are having a launch party to celebrate the release of this awesome new book. Of course there will be plenty of giveaways there too, but what’s even better are the guest authors! Just check out these fabulous names: J. Scott Savage, Chad Morris, Lisa Mangum, Jenni James, Ali Cross, and many more. The Launch Party is: Friday, April 11th from 6-9pm at the Viridian Center in West Jordan, Utah. Follow this link for a map: http://goo.gl/dqVc0u

About Mikey Brooks:

Mikey is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several books including the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creaturesand Bean’s Dragons as well as the middle-grade fantasy-adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works full-time as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast. You can find more about him and his books at: http://www.insidemikeysworld.com/.

The Giveaways!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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24. Sarah C. Campbell's MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS - Guest Post

I have been a fan of Sarah C. Campbell's scientific picture books for years now. From WOLF SNAILS to GROWING PATTERNS: FIBONACCI NUMBERS IN NATURE (which I use in my classrooms to teach design). I'm thrilled to help Sarah celebrate her latest - MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS: FINDING FRACTALS IN NATURE. She stopped by to tell us more about it...

      My greatest stroke of luck in creating MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS: FINDING FRACTALS IN NATURE was securing the help of a mathematician who was a colleague of the discoverer of fractals, Benoit Mandelbrot.
      Michael Frame, who teaches math at Yale University, checked my writing and photographs for accuracy and wrote an afterword that included stories and photographs of Mandelbrot as a child and discussed ways we use fractals today.
      How without Michael would I have learned that when Mandelbrot died of cancer in 2010, he believed one piece of his unfinished business was a book for children?
      I found Frame through an online course on fractals he taught in person at Yale.
      During our recent correspondence, Frame mentioned his desire to share MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS with Mandelbrot’s widow, Aliette.
      “She knew a project for this audience was on Benoit’s mind, but he died before we could get to it. That the project was done, and done so well, would have delighted Benoit, and will delight Aliette,” Frame wrote.
      Having an expert review a manuscript for accuracy is a critical step in the process of publishing nonfiction. Based on my experience with three nonfiction titles, all published with Boyds Mills Press, here are a few tips for finding an expert and working effectively with him or her.

      Expert review is a step that happens very late in the publishing process – after the text, images and design are complete. This is because all the elements contribute to understanding – or misunderstanding. As a writer of nonfiction, however, I begin interacting with experts long before the final draft. In the case of my first book, WOLFSNAIL: A BACKYARD PREDATOR, I first interviewed Dr. Melissa Harrington, a neuroscientist who studies wolfsnails in her lab, and consulted numerous print sources. When it was time to have the final manuscript reviewed, however, my editor and I agreed I should find a snail scientist. At Harrington’s suggestion, we asked Dr. Timothy Pearce, a malacologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Know the financial terms.
      With my first two books, Boyds Mills Press asked expert reviewers to review manuscripts without compensation. In my experience, many people are very generous with their time – especially for a children’s book. The hardest part of asking for people’s time without paying them is dealing with the vagaries of publishing deadlines. By now, I more or less know what I’ve signed up for – shifting deadlines, seemingly impossible turnaround times, etc. But it’s hard to pass that kind of uncertainty along to someone who is doing you a favor. With MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS, we had a small stipend to offer. Also, even though I suggested Michael Frame as our expert reviewer, it was up to my editor, Sarah Zhang, to do the formal asking and handle the correspondence. Sarah also edited Michael’s Afterword.
Sarah's workspace:

Don’t be afraid to ask.
      It’s easy to be intimidated by the term “expert review.” It sounds a little like a test that you’ll either pass or fail. In reality, I’ve had good back-and-forth discussions with experts. Knowing an expert will come into the process down the line does not excuse you from doing your homework. For example, I was having a hard time explaining how clouds are fractals. I had a small debate with myself about whether I should admit to Frame that I didn’t fully understand how clouds were fractals. When I wrote to him, I explained why I was confused, using two examples from difference sources. In his reply, he acknowledged that clouds could be difficult, and that Mandelbrot’s mathematical proof (with Shaun Lovejoy) was too complicated for most college freshmen in Frame’s classes. He suggested a possible approach. In the end, I had to cut clouds as an example because I couldn’t get the explanation and an accompanying photographic example just right. If anything, my willingness to share my unease with the cloud aspect of fractals probably helped Michael see me as serious about getting it right. When the final draft was finally ready, he found one thing I had gotten wrong. And, I was grateful he did.

Be open to new ideas.
      I’ve already said that Michael wrote an Afterword. What I didn’t say was that it was his idea. By the time Michael came into the process in April 2013, Sarah Zhang and I were already worrying about how we were going to fit everything into the 32-page book. When Michael offered to write a section – either a foreword or an afterword – I was worried we didn’t have the space. I understood, however, that as a colleague of Mandelbrot, he could write about him in a way I could not, and he was offering to get childhood photographs from Aliette Mandelbrot. I agreed that his contribution could make it a better book. And it certainly did. Each of the book’s reviews thus far, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, has mentioned the Afterword.
     Last autumn, after the book had gone to the print house, Richard and I were in Boston visiting family and friends so we took the train to New Haven to meet Michael in person. In this photograph that Richard took, you can see that Michael has a patch covering his left eye. Through all this time we’ve been working together, Michael has been living with an inoperable tumor. I remain in awe of his generosity in sharing his energies with me, and with all the readers of MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS.

Sarah has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win - enter below.
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