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1. Cover Reveal and Giveaway for Wicked Ink Books!

Happy 2016 to all! I hope the start of your year has been amazing so far. I’m so excited to share my newest book publishing adventure with you, and give you a chance to win a Wicked prize pack! This is the inaugural newsletter of Wicked Ink Books. In this issue: who we are, cover reveal, preorder link and a GIVEAWAY. Read on…

Wicked Ink Books was conceived by a group of Denver-based authors over a few glasses of wine during a writing retreat in Breckenridge, Colorado. We thought, We all write speculative fiction. Let’s publish a series of themed anthologies together.

Today, we’re thrilled to reveal the cover (by talented cover artist Steven Novak) of our 2016 anthology, TICK TOCK: SEVEN TALES OF TIME, featuring seven stories of adventure, mystery, horror and romance.

A serial killer returns years later to finish what was started, by Corinne O’Flynn.
A coffee shop offers a respite for the cursed, by Kristi Helvig.
A hangover masks the horrors of the previous night, by Rebecca Taylor.
A princess’s wedding gift comes with a price, by Sue Duff.
A locked apartment door hides a chilling secret, by Shawn McGuire.
A girl wakes up in an asylum and must survive and escape, by Wendy Terrien.
A young woman must protect the past to thwart a thief from the future, by A.G. Henley.

All it takes is a second… a minute… an hour for everything to change.

If you can’t wait another minute to have it, you don’t have to: pre-order below (paperback version coming soon!) Release date is March 28th.

Preorder Tick Tock: 7 Tales of Time

Want a chance to win a Wicked Prize Pack? A $100 Amazon Gift card and a copy of Tick Tock: 7 Tales of Time signed by all 7 Wicked Ink Authors. Do it below and best of luck!


Contest by Rewards Fuel.

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2. Guest Post & Giveaway: Lisa Papademetriou on Finding the Right Perspective: A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

By Lisa Papademetriou
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

One day, I was at the grocery store with my daughter when I spotted a crazy man in the car beside ours.

Zara was very small, perhaps three years old, she watched while he sat in his car, talking to himself, as I unpacked the groceries.

When I finally sat behind the wheel, I tried to ignore the man, fearing that she would be frightened or concerned.

Instead, she looked at me and explained, “He’s praying.”

When I looked again, I realized that she was right. The man had on a skullcap—he was in his car, praying to Allah. When your religion calls on you to pray five times a day, sometimes the best, most private place is in the car.

My daughter knows that because her grandmother is an observant Muslim, and has prayed in our car on numerous occasions. To Zara, this is perfectly normal. This is the essence of point of view.

Three years ago, I began work on A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic (HarperCollins, 2015). The story is about two girls—one in Texas, one in Pakistan—who each find a copy of a magic book.

Thematically, I was writing about the way in which stories unite us, so the dual setting and protagonists were very important to me. My husband is from Pakistan, and we travel there fairly often. I had been hoping to write the story from the point of view of someone like my daughter, who is very familiar with the culture.

But an early reader felt that, despite the compelling Pakistani setting, Leila’s point of view simply didn’t feel convincing. This reader told me that I needed to discover the story that was in my own heart. Put another way, I had to find the common ground between Leila’s perspective and my own.

I am a Greek American, but I am far more American than Greek. When I traveled to Greece as an adult, people could tell right away that I was Greek. But when they discovered that I didn’t speak Greek, they were disappointed.

“That is a shame,” a cabdriver in Thessaloniki told me, frowning.

Yet, in the iconography of the Greek churches I visited, I would see faces that looked like mine. In many ways, Greece felt like home to me, but it also felt intensely foreign.

This is also how I exist among my in-laws when I visit Pakistan—they accept me as family. In fact, they sometimes accept me so thoroughly that they forget that I don’t speak Urdu, or know what holiday we are celebrating, or even have any idea what clothes are appropriate for different occasions. To them, these things are all second nature, while for me, they are constant sources of confusion and gaffes. I belong, and yet I don’t.

These were the experiences I drew on when I created Leila’s character in A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic. She is a Pakistani-American girl, but she is far more American than Pakistani. She is trying to navigate the space in which the culture is her heritage, but it is not familiar. Like me, she is an insider-outsider.

Acknowledging my own perspective helped guide me toward the story I could most authentically tell. Happily, a number of reviewers who are also Americans with family outside of the United States have noted that Leila’s story arc feels relatable and familiar.

I started by writing about the ways in which stories can connect us to one another. In writing the story of my heart, I learned how true that is.

Cynsational Screening Room


The Story Behind the Story: A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic from PixelEdge on Vimeo.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of two signed copies of A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou (HarperCollins, 2015), plus a special handwritten letter from a character in the book. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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3. Giveaway: Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win a signed, (optionally) personalized copy of The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull (Dutton, 2016). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America only.

From the promotional copy:

And sometimes the Strange came to visit Clare, and dreams walked through her waking life.

Clare Macleod and her father are returning to Ireland to the house where she was born: a house under a green hill, with a tree inside it.

Inside the tree, she finds long-forgotten companions of her childhood: a world made of living lights, and a boy named Finn.

But unless Clare and Finn can defeat an ancient, furious foe, their two worlds will be ripped apart, severing the human world from art and dreams forever.

An adventure story about finding the courage to make—to write, draw, invent, dream--and the courage to throw yourself on what you fear and let it bear you up, the way the wind bears up the birds.

There is no safety, and so we must touch and be touched, and we must fall and fly.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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4. NOOKS & CRANNIES Giveaway, and an Exclusive Interview with Jessica Lawson!



Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson, illustrated by Natalie Andrewson (June 2015, Simon and Schuster, 336 pages, for ages 8 to 12)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory "meets "Clue "when six children navigate a mansion full of secrets--and maybe money--in this humorous mystery with heart. Sweet, shy Tabitha Crum, the neglected only child of two parents straight out of a Roald Dahl book, doesn't have a friend in the world--except for her pet mouse, Pemberley, whom she loves dearly. But on the day she receives one of six invitations to the country estate of wealthy Countess Camilla DeMoss, her life changes forever.

Upon the children's arrival at the sprawling, possibly haunted mansion, it turns out the countess has a very big secret--one that will change their lives forever.

Then the children beginning disappearing, one by one. So Tabitha takes a cue from her favorite detective novels and, with Pemberley by her side, attempts to solve the case and rescue the other children...who just might be her first real friends.

Why I recommend it: Nooks & Crannies is clever and charming, with a spunky, inquisitive heroine and one of the most adorable pet sidekicks ever. Ten-year-old me would have hugged this book and carried it around for days. This is the perfect book for a cold snowy winter day, curled up in your favorite chair with a cup of tea and a few English biscuits.

And now, I'm thrilled to welcome author Jessica Lawson back to my blog (see her earlier visit here) for an exclusive interview!

Jessica Lawson, from her website

1) You must have read quite a few mysteries before writing this book. What were your favorite mystery novels when you were growing up?

Growing up (age 8 or so), my go-to mysteries were the Cam Jansen books. As I got older, I graduated to my aunt’s baskets of paperback mysteries—Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark and P.D. James. I was 10-12 years old when I first started reading them, and remember being fascinated by those books. And, while this isn’t book-related, I think that a big love for the more cozy-style mysteries began as a bonding experience with my mom. Starting around age 8 or 9, she would let me watch Murder She Wrote with her (with the fabulous Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher) and we’d make 25 cent bets on “whodunit” after the first commercial break.

2) That's a fun childhood memory! Can you describe your writing routine? And is your writing area, by any chance, a nook? Details, please.

With little ones around (one who still wakes up at night on occasion), my writing routine is very flexible by necessity. To make writing time happen, I’ve tried various strategies like getting up super early or having ready activities for the kids so that I can get an hour here, a half hour there. I can’t seem to stay up late to write—my brain works best in the morning hours and my creative energy is mostly sapped by the afternoon. So while I can edit at night if I’m on a deadline, I write and revise best in the earlier hours of the day.

During warmer weather, my husband will take the kids outside or on a field trip for a few hours on the weekends, which is a big help. I know that some people say that you need to write a certain amount every single day, but it just doesn’t work out that way for me in this stage of my life. I think about writing and my current projects every day, and will have small plot epiphanies or sparks of dialogue come to me (in which case I’ll jot those down on a post-it for the next time I write). But some days, writing gets shoved off my schedule, and that’s okay.

Jessica's writing space: the kitchen table

Photos courtesy of Jessica Lawson












As for my writing space, sadly, it’s not a nook. How I long for a nook! Alas, instead, I park my laptop on the kitchen table and pile an extra chair with my notes. When company comes over, my “office” is moved to my bedroom floor. Not very glamorous, but between the kitchen table and the living/family room couch, I’ve managed to get a lot of writing done.



3) Well, that space seems to be working just fine for you!  Jess, I'm not ready to let Tabitha go. Will there be any further adventures for our plucky heroine?

Thank you for asking~ I would love to revisit Tabitha’s story and see what comes next! That said, there are no near-future plans for another Tabitha book—the books of mine that will come out in 2016 and 2017 aren’t set in that world. But I will be keeping her in my back pocket for future project ideas. I’ve also dabbled with the idea of writing a middle grade starring a 12-year-old Percival Pensive and his sidekick, Timothy Tibbs (the Holmes/Watson-esque fiction-within-fiction characters from mystery books that Tabitha Crum loves)~ if you read NOOKS & CRANNIES, you’ll see that Pensive novel quotes begin each chapter and those two seem like they’d be loads of fun to write about.


4) That would be fun! If you could live in a mansion with hidden passageways, what would you use them for?

Oh, good question! I would use them for quick access to my massive library/kitchenette (I have my own mansion, right? It MUST have a massive library/kitchenette, right?) and for epic games of hide-and-seek and laser tag with my kids (note: I have never actually played laser tag, but it looks fun).


Thanks, Jessica! I enjoyed having you back on My Brain on Books. 

Jessica's website


And now, for the Giveaway details:

Readers, I'm so in love with this book I want everyone to read it. I'm giving away an extra copy to one lucky winner. To enter, simply be a follower of this blog and comment on this post. Mention the giveaway on social media, and I'll give you more chances to win. Open to US mailing addresses only. This giveaway ends at 10pm on Sunday January 24 and the winner will be announced on Monday January 25. So you only have one week! Good luck!

(And don't forget my giveaway for THE GOBLIN'S PUZZLE, still going on here!)

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5. “365 Devotions for Peace” Book Review, Author Interview, & a Giveaway!

by Sally Matheny
365 Devotions for Peace
by Cheri Cowell

As soon as I saw Cheri Cowell’s name on the cover of 365 Devotions for Peace, I selected it for my reading. I had never read Cheri’s writing before, but I heard her speak at a Write2Ignite Conference last year. Impressed by her speaking, I was eager to read her writing.

Each of the 365 Devotions for Peace are between 150-200 words in length. I found their brevity a nice accompaniment to my daily Bible reading. However, I thought about those battling in the middle of a crisis. Some of life’s torrential storms delay a lengthy basking in God’s Word. This book is perfect for those brief moments of respite.

Each devotion begins with one verse of scripture. Scriptures are taken from various versions of the Holy Bible—NIV, NCV, NASB, NKJV, MSG, and The Voice. 

A devotion follows and ends with a one-to-two-sentence prayer.
Fifteen areas are covered including: Peace with God, Peace at Home, Peace Within, Peace in Times of Trouble, and Peace for the World.

If you know someone who is searching for peace, this book would make a lovely and thoughtful gift. Perhaps you’ll win the copy of Cheri’s book I’m giving away this week!
Read more »

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6. Silly Willy Winston in the Adventures of Inspector Snout: The Case of the Missing Tadpole | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed copy of Silly Willy Winston in the Adventures of Inspector Snout: The Case of the Missing Tadpole, written by Donna Maguire; plus the entire 5 book Silly Willy Winston series! Giveaway begins January 13, 2016, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends February 12, 2016, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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7. THE GOBLIN'S PUZZLE and a giveaway!


I'm back from my blogging break, and for those who remember my TBR pile of eight books, well, let's just say I've read all but one of them, and I'm reading that right now! I also spent a lot of time with family (including my father-in-law who was in the hospital, but he's better now. Thanks for asking!). In the meantime, I missed reading your blogs and I look forward to catching up.





The Goblin's Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton, with illustrations by Jensine Eckwall (January 19, 2016, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 288 pages, for ages 8 to 12)


Synopsis (from the publisher):

THE BOY is a nameless slave on a mission to uncover his true destiny.
THE GOBLIN holds all the answers, but he’s too tricky to be trusted.
PLAIN ALICE is a bookish peasant girl carried off by a confused dragon.
And PRINCESS ALICE is the lucky girl who wasn’t kidnapped.

All four are tangled up in a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, and together they must face kind monsters, a cruel magician, and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. They’re a ragtag bunch, but with strength, courage, and plenty of deductive reasoning, they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle.


Why I recommend it: The Goblin's Puzzle is a deliciously inventive tale, smart and a bit sassy, and brimming with humor and wordplay. You'll cheer for the Boy and for Plain Alice, and even find Mennofar, the Goblin, growing on you. This is the kind of book destined to become a modern classic, one that adults and children alike will enjoy. If you liked The Bartimaeus Trilogy or The Princess Bride, you'll love this.


Favorite Lines: "Though it pains me to taint the purity of such innocence, I feel obliged to point out that in this world, kindness, like the unicorn, is chiefly found in stories told to princesses," said Mennofar. "Ordinary folk look to how the coin falls." (from page 54)


Bonus: This is an excellent (and fun!) way to introduce young readers to the concept of deductive reasoning.


Here's a link to a lively interview with Andrew S. Chilton on Suzanne Warr's delightful blog, Tales From the Raven.  Her giveaway is now over, but mine is just beginning. That's right!

Through the generosity of the publisher, I'm thrilled to award one hardcover copy of The Goblin's Puzzle to one lucky winner. To enter you must be a follower of this blog and you must leave a comment on this post. If you mention this giveaway on social media, please include a link and I'll give you extra chances to win. This giveaway is open to U.S. mailing addresses only and will end at 10:00 pm EST on Sunday January 24, 2016. The winner will be announced on Monday January 25, 2016.




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8. congratulations to three third birthday giveaway winners!

Congratulations!

Congratulations!

Many, many thanks to all of you, my little crispy croutons! You helped me celebrate Frog on a Dime’s third birthday by sending oodles of inspiration for future blogs and buckets of kind, encouraging words. You spoiled me!

Special congratulations to Jennifer Rumburger, Joseph Miller and Lindsey McDivitt–you are the recipients of the birthday giveaway! If each of you would please contact me with your mailing address, I will send a fun surprise your way!

This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


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9. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken: giveaway!

Here’s a fun package that came my way recently–I love the cover, and the goodies tie in nicely to the travel theme. After Tonya’s glowing review for The Darkest Minds, I’m very excited to read Alexandra Bracken’s new book Passenger, which comes out right after the holidays! You know we rarely do promo-only posts, but I like the author very much on social media–seriously, she tweets thoughtful and fun things, and her adorable puppy looks like a baby Chewbacca–and I knew a lot of our readers would be excited about this book, too. (Alex, if you’re reading this, I think you need this shirt for this Friday.) We’re giving you an opportunity to win a copy of the book below, but first, here’s a little bit more about it: About the Book In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar... Read more »

The post Passenger by Alexandra Bracken: giveaway! appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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10. it’s a hoppy birthday frog on a dime giveaway!

I'm so happy!

I’m so happy!

Can you believe it, my little treacle tarts?

Frog on a Dime turns three years old today.

And as that sage Kermit once said, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” Frog on a Dime has been so much more fun (and work) than I ever dreamed–all thanks to you!

To celebrate, I will send a special surprise to not one, not two, but THREE of you who leave a comment on this post before Noon on Monday, December 14.

(Psssst . . . I’d really love it if you’d gift me with ideas for blog topics you’d like to see in the future!)

 

 

 

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come. ~ William Shakespeare

 


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11. Join Jennifer and me in supporting the Giving Tree

On Saturday, December 5, Jennifer and I will celebrate the release of our new holiday-themed books — her Revenge of the Angels and my ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America — with an open-to-the-public event at Austin’s BookPeople benefiting the store’s Giving Tree charity program. Giving Tree provides a way for BookPeople customers to provide books […]

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12. Mary Christmas Season! {+Giveaway!}

Happy Thanksgiving!  It snowed here and so we had a white Thanksgiving.  I love the snow.

I also love digital painting.  When I was a kid taking art, digital wasn’t a thing.  All the art supplies were sooo expensive and messy, and if you messed up, you had to start all over again.  Now you can try and do billion different styles and colors…I sure am grateful for that.

Anyway, here’s a piece that I’ve been meaning to do all year ^_^

PenguinTree_final

I drew it for my sweet Instagram buddy, Nerdpoppins.  She loves Mary Poppins as much as I do!  You should check out her etsy shop–so many amazing MP things!

She was also the host of this year’s “Mary Poppins in the Park”–a Mary Poppins day at Disneyland.  I went and it was so much fun.  Every dressed Mary Poppins-y and THE Mary and Bert came (!!!) Everyone had a great time.

Nerdpoppins is on the right…my sis is in the middle, and I’m on Bert’s arm, dying.  (Isn’t the skirt beautiful?  It was sewn & hand-painted by Nerdpoppins.  I’m in awe.)

11947505_1468044320190897_1758828643777444933_n

Speaking of that event, I gave out a limited edition print to the attendees!  And I have some left over!

IMG_3744

Would you like this sweet little 5×7 print?  I’m gonna mail it out to the first 50 commenters!  Here’s how to play:

1 – Leave a numbered comment of something you’re grateful for.  (So, if the comment before you says it’s #12, you would write #13.)  (If you are reading this from tumblr, you’ll want to comment here, on the actual blog.)

2 – If your comment is below 50, send your mailing address to storyboarder{at}gmail.com  (That’s me!)  And I’ll send you the print right away!

I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving was the best ^_^

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13. and the “groundhog’s dilemma” giveaway winner is . . . [ahem cue drum roll please].

839

Congratulations to Buffy Silverman! You’ve won your very own copy of Kris Remenar’s debut picture book GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA. I’m so happy for you! This adorable book will be available in early December, so I’ll pre-order your copy and have it sent your way quick as a bunny on Red Bull.

Bushels of thanks to everyone who visited Frog on a Dime and offered such kind, encouraging comments for Kris. You’re the best! Honest. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick my finger in my nose, I mean, pie.

P.S. Pssst. Buffy, please send me your mailing address and I’ll whisk your prize to you as soon as its available.

groundhogsdilemma (2)

By Kris Remenar, Illustrated by Matt Faulkner, Charlesbridge Publishing

                                                                       

Though the groundhog and crocus creep into their holes
It’s Spring, and the almanac shows it;
Though a polar wave over the continent rolls
It’s Spring! And we don’t care who knows it!
~ Robert J. Burdette, “March,” c.1888


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14. you’ve sold your first book–now what?

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

We are in for a treat, my little ginger scones. Frog on a Dime is delighted to welcome a very special guest blogger–debut author extraordinaire Kris Remenar.

Leave a comment on this post by Noon (EST) on November 25, and you’ll be entered to win your very own copy of GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA.

Okay, Frog on a Dime is all yours. Take it away, my darlin’ friend!

 

 

 

 

Congratulations! You sold your first manuscript! After you’ve popped the champagne to toast your sale, you might wonder – what do I do now?

Become “findable” online. You want people to know who you are, what you write, how they can buy your books, and how to contact you. Build your own website or hire a web designer. If the idea of a website makes your throat close, start with an author page on a book site like Amazon or GoodReads. Explore social media options like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Trying to do everything at once is guaranteed to scramble your brains, so take it slow and do what works for you.

Set up book signings. Contact local bookstores to set up a book launch party. To broaden thegroundhogsdilemma (2) marketing reach, consider creating signing events with other authors/illustrators. Research events where there will be people with a special interest in your book. Because my first picture book is called GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, Matt Faulkner and I will be signing books at the Howell Nature Center on February 2nd during their annual Groundhog Day celebration. If you’re willing to travel, see if you can sign books at conferences for groups like the ALA (American Library Association) or NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English).

Consider school and library events. Check with area libraries to see if they have author events in which you can participate. For school and library events, you want to offer more than just a reading of your book. For younger ones, plan an interactive story time, and for olders, prepare a presentation about your process, or publishing, or ways your book ties into the curriculum.

Overwhelmed? Reach out to experienced authors and illustrators for advice, or ask librarians and teachers what they’ve seen that works. Hire a marketing genius like Kirsten Cappy of Curious City or an educational guru like Deb Gonzales for promotional ideas.

Literary genius Sarah Miller asked me an important question when I was frazzled making multiple promotional plans: “Will it be fun?” After working so hard to get published, don’t forget to enjoy signing the books and interacting with your readers. There is no magic formula to guarantee your bestseller status. Do what works for you, do what makes you happy, and keep writing so you can go through the whole process again soon when your next manuscript sells.

Illustrator Matt Faulkner and Author Kris Remenar

Illustrator Matt Faulkner and Author Kris Remenar

Kristen Remenar is busy promoting and hugging tightly her first picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA (Charlesbridge, 2015, illustrated by Matt Faulkner) and her first adult book, DRAW WITH A VENGEANCE: GET EVEN IN INK AND LET KARMA HANDLE THE REST (Running Press, 2015).

 

 


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15. Giving Back for the Holidays, Part 3: BookSpring

When Jennifer and I celebrate our new holiday-themed books with an event at Austin’s BookPeople on December 5, we’re going to spotlight the store’s annual Giving Tree charity program. Guests buying any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Jennifer’s Revenge of […]

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16. The Polar Express 30th Anniversary Edition Book Review & Giveaway

No certainly this can’t be true? Has it really been 30 years since that magical Christmas tale of a train pulling up into a young boys front yard and hurling him over hill and dale until he reaches the North Pole? Oh, with hot chocolate of course.

To my astonishment, it’s true. Thirty years later, The Polar Express has become a holiday Caldecott Medal-winning classic leaving children all over the world laying quietly in their beds on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch a ride on that magical train.

For 30 years author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg has inspired us to “believe.”

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has released a 30th anniversary edition complete with a new jacket design, expanded interior layout meaning we get to see and experience more goodness, a letter from Chris Van Allsburg, a downloadable recording of the story read by none other than renowned actor Liam Neeson and a gorgeous golden keepsake ornament.

The added benefit is that HMH has generously given Jump into a Book a copy to give away! See below for Rafflecopter Giveaway details.

Polar Express

Along with this good news are oodles of things to do.

Somethings To Do

Want to Ride the Polar Express

This season there are more than 50 Polar Express train rides around the United States. Riders will enjoy listening to author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg reading the book, while they drink hot chocolate, eat nougat as they travel north to meet Santa Claus. Of course there will be a jingle bell to help each traveler to “believe” in the magic of December 24th.

Now here’s the big news……The Polar Express is having a sweepstakes where one lucky family of 4 will get to journey north on the Polar Express from Durango Colorado. The Sweepstake runs from October 15-December 31st 2015. To learn more about how you can enter please visit www.polarexpress.com

The Polar Express sweepstakes

One (1) Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • Four tickets to ride THE POLAR EXPRESSTM Train Ride in gorgeous Durango, Colorado*
  • Four round-trip airfare tickets
  • Two nights in a hotel
  • Four free ski lift tickets to Purgatory Resort
  • A free signed copy of The Polar Express: 30th Anniversary Edition


What inspired author/Ilustrator Chris Van Allsburg to write the Polar Express?

This great interview on Story monsters will give you a up close and behind the scenes look at what inspired Chris Van Allsburg to write this classic holiday tale.

Tasty Treats From the North Pole Kitchen

You know that you get to eat everything you’re not suppose to on the Polar Express and one never gets a belly ache. Here are some favorite recipes from that magical train ride. How could we ever refuse Snowball cakes, cozy hot chocolate, or reindeer chocolate mint cookies ? Well we can’t and it’s as simple as that.

Interactive Count-down Calendar

Starting December 1st, you and your family, classroom, or community, can experience an innovative way the count down to Christmas. Each day holds a ew delight for families, such as Polar Chocolate Nougat Caramel squares, reindeer crafts, online games, mazes, and more. Be sure to go each day to find a little moment of goodness. You can find it right here.

The Ultimate Polar Express Party Kit

All Aboard !!!! Why not host a Polar Express Pajama Party? This kit has everything you’ll need to have hours of fun. Not only are there round trip tickets, but amazing games, crafts, invites, name tags, ideas about how to present the story, more amazing recipes, music, print outs and much much much more. Loads of fun.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

ONE winner will receive a copy of The Polar Express 30th Anniversary book. Giveaway begins November 19, 2015

  • Prizing & samples  courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Giveaway open to US addresses only
  • ONE lucky winner will win one copy of each of the above books.
  • Residents of USA only please.
  • Must be 18 years or older to enter
  • One entry per household.
  • Staff and family members of Audrey Press are not eligible.
  • Grand Prize winner has 48 hours to claim prize
  • Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on 12/31/15

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post The Polar Express 30th Anniversary Edition Book Review & Giveaway appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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17. Guest Post & Giveaway: Greg Leitich Smith on Time Travel & Tracking Dinosaurs

Borrowed Time launch party at BookPeople in Austin
By Greg Leitich Smith
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

There’s a line from the first "Jurassic Park" movie to the effect that the place has all the problems of a major theme park and a major zoo.

I sort of feel the same way about writing time travel fiction: You have all the major problems of historical fiction and all the major problems of science fiction/fantasy.

And in writing a dinosaur time travel novel, I found, to my surprise, that of the two, the more problematic one has been the historical – dinosaur -- aspect.

We are seeing new discoveries and new interpretations of dinosaur behavior and evolution almost weekly. In publishing, of course, there can be up to a two-year lead time from a sale of a manuscript to its publication. A lot can happen in that time.

For example, there is a dinosaur called Tsintaosaurus – long thought to have had a single horn coming out of its head like a unicorn. In 2013, however, a study was published that concluded that the “horn” was placed in the wrong position and Tsintaosaurus didn’t resemble a unicorn at all. Any manuscript set for publication that featured the unicorn became instantly outdated.

Sometimes, though, the science is less settled, as in the case of Nanotyrannus. Nanotyrannus is a name that was assigned to a specimen of a dinosaur that resembles Tyrannosaurus rex but is somewhat smaller (Hence “nano”). Although some of the evidence is ambiguous, some recent analyses suggest that Nanotyrannus was just a juvenile T.rex.

(That said, there are new specimens that some paleontologists believe may prove the existence of Nanotyrannus that have yet to be fully examined).

So, what’s an author to do?

Do your research until it hurts. For me, this involves getting as many primary sources as possible. In the case of paleontology, this means journals such as PloS One, Cretaceous Research, and the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

I tend not to trust media reports of new discoveries but sometimes they link to or you can infer a link to the original article. Most articles on the new discoveries will have a recap of past thinking on an issue.

Know your point of view. Chronal Engine (Clarion, 2012) and Borrowed Time (Clarion 2015) both feature a small tyrannosaur the point-of-view protagonist Max calls Nanotyrannus. Max does mention the ambiguity in the naming (because he’s slightly pedantic), but nevertheless continues to call it Nanotyrannus throughout.

Why? Well, first, “Nanotyrannus” is kind of a cool name and continually referring to the animal as “the juvenile T.rex” would’ve been clunky. Also, he didn’t have the wherewithal to perform an analysis of the creature to determine what species it actually was...

Don’t be afraid to make an informed judgment call – in fiction, at least, there’s room for poetic license. And, besides, the science might catch up to you. Both Chronal Engine and Borrowed Time feature a variety of dinosaurs of differing sizes in the dromaeosaur family (These are the “raptor” dinosaurs made familiar by "Jurassic Park").

In the location and era the book is set, however, the bones of only small raptors have been recovered, although there are some ambiguous teeth believed to be from larger raptors. Consequently, in the books, I feature different-sized species of raptor. And recently, paleontologists announced the discovery of Dakotaraptor, a giant-sized “raptor” dinosaur – somewhat larger than the raptors from "Jurassic Park" -- from the same era in which my books are set.

What’s a reader to do?

I tend to be the type of reader who gets annoyed by factual errors. They trip me up and make me less trusting of the author and less willing to suspend disbelief. So here’s my strategy:

Whenever I pick up a book for the first time, I always look at the first publication date (often the copyright date). I had assumed that everyone did this or learned to do this, and was surprised when I was informed this was not so.

But the original date of publication will give you a heads up on the mindset of the author, the era in which he is writing, and what facts are known (or should have been known) to him or her at the time.

For example, Arthur Conan Doyle’s portrayal of sluggish and scaly dinosaurs in The Lost World (published 1912) is very different from the active and intelligent predators in Michael Crichton’s Lost World (1995). But I’m willing to accept Conan Doyle’s portrayal because of the era in which he was writing. (I’m also willing to accept Crichton’s featherless raptors because his book was published prior to the discovery that raptors had feathers).



Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win signed copies of Chronal Engine and Borrowed Time by Greg Leitich Smith (both Clarion). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America.

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18. Tips for Loosening Up, Plus a Bonus Giveaway

Watercolor illustration of a bear and snail in a forest by Jessica Lanan

Hello, dear readers! Today I have a mishmash of a post to share with you, so I hope you’ll bear with me. (Ha.)

I have been on a bit of a quest lately to loosen up my technique. If you also struggle with this, know that you are not alone. It takes an enormous amount of practice to get the “quick and effortless” look instead of the “catastrophic disaster” look, so we watercolorists often get very tight and controlled in order to compensate. Of course, there are many different ways to work with watercolor and some artists do the “controlled” thing extremely well, but if you’re looking to loosen up, here are a few techniques I’ve stolen from other artists over the years that I’ve found helpful:

  • Using brushes that are much larger than I find comfortable
  • Minimizing the number of washes. The entire background of this image was one big, wet wash, not twenty-seven separate washes detailing every single leaf and bush
  • Using a lot more water and paint than seems reasonable; enough that I often end up having rivulets of liquid draining off the paper
  • Getting to know the paint. Many colors lighten in value or lose saturation when they dry, so it needs to be even darker than you think when you paint it on
  • Waiting for a wet-on-wet wash to completely dry before moving on to add details
  • Varying textures. I used some dry brush technique in the trees to simulate pine needles
  • Painting lots of really bad paintings that will never, ever see the light of day. I plan to burn these so that no one can accidentally find them when I die
  • Working as fast as I possibly can
  • Occasionally closing my eyes. (Just kidding! Or not…?)

I hope those help someone out there just as they helped me!

In other news, copies of The Story I’ll Tell are here, so I can also do that second giveaway that I promised you several weeks ago.

The post office didn't do the best job ever on this one

The post office didn't do the best job ever on this one

Fortunately, the books are just fine.

Fortunately, the books are unscathed!

Leave a comment below if you’d like a chance to win a signed book! I’ll announce the winner next Wednesday.

 

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19. Author Interview & Giveaway: Angela Cerrito on The Safest Lie

"The Power of Poetry," an award-winning play!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Welcome back, Cynsations reporter Angela Cerrito, and congratulations on the release of The Safest Lie (Holiday House, 2015). Could you tell us a little about the novel and what inspired you to write it? 

The Safest Lie follows the fictional Anna Bauman attempting to hide her Jewish identity and pass herself off as Anna Karwolska in Warsaw Poland during WWII. She confronts many of the same hardships and horrors children actually faced during the war. 

I was inspired to write about Anna when I learned of Irena Sendler’s covert operations to rescue children from the Warsaw ghetto.

How did you approach the research?

First, I read everything I could get my hands on in English. Next, I relied on translators to help me translate documents from Polish and German.

I applied for and was awarded an SCBWI grant that allowed me to travel to Poland for research. In Warsaw, I was able to study primary sources including testimonies of children recorded when they were staying at a home for Jewish children immediately after the war. Those first-hand accounts, documented so close to the actual events, were extremely valuable to me as a writer.

I was also able to meet and interview Irena Sendler and her biographer Anna Mjeszkowska. Reading extensively prior to the interviews was a great help because it allowed me to go deeper into the subject matter and clear up inconsistencies in my research. Also, like most biographers, Ms. Mieszkowska was very passionate about her work and eager to share research that wasn’t included in the published biography.

What were your biggest challenges in terms of craft and framing the story for young readers?

Excerpt & Educator's Guide
You’ve asked the question I repeatedly asked myself while writing this novel. How can I possibly write this story for such young readers?

I was determined to be honest, completely honest, yet it was important that I use language and experiences appropriate for young readers. This was a difficult balance. 

Some of the early versions were too bleak. Yet, there were some things I couldn’t change and still portray what children actually faced.

Over time I was able to have Anna learn about things that happened to other children rather than experience them herself. Also, as the many revisions turned into an actual novel, there was more of Anna’s past, before the war.

The turning point for me was when one of my versions introduced Jacob as a more significant character. This prompted me to explore more of Anna’s past and helped give the book the balance of honest yet hopeful.

What advice do you have for other historical fiction writers?

Advice for historical fiction writers would be the same as advice for any writer: write what you want to write in your very own way. No one else can feel your stories, no one else can imagine your words. Write.

How was writing your sophomore novel different from writing your debut, The End of the Line (Holiday House, 2011)?

I actually wrote the first draft of The Safest Lie before I finished The End of the Line. The writing process wasn’t significantly different, although The Safest Lie required many more drafts. And obviously from the long time from start to finish I took many breaks from the novel along the way.

Though the two novels are very different: The End of the Line is contemporary and features a boy protagonist at a school for troubled youth while The Safest Lie is historical and follows a girl protagonist hiding in plain sight.

They have much in common. Both characters long for their family and are struggling with identity. Robbie and Anna are both trying to find a way to be the person they were before. In Robbie’s case, he can’t forgive himself for Ryan’s death and wants to be, in his words, normal again. Anna, wishes she could be her true self though her very life depends on hiding her identity. I enjoy exploring the internal emotional conflicts of characters and their struggles with identity.

You're involved in SCBWI International and the Bologna Book Fair! Can you tell us more about your related efforts? 

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is very special to me. It was the very first SCBWI event that I ever attended. The SCBWI presence in Bologna has grown and we now have an exhibitor’s booth where SCBWI members, from anywhere in the world, can display their recently published PAL books. There is also an SCBWI Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery.

In 2016, we will display the top illustrations and for the first time ever we will have a People’s Choice Award where visitors to the SCBWI exhibit at the fair will vote on their favorite illustrations.


Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito (@angelacerrito) is an author and playwright. Her newly released novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House, Fall 2015) is based on research in Warsaw, Poland including interviewing Irena Sendler, a mastermind spy in the Polish Resistance who rescued 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. 

Her debut novel, The End of the Line (Holiday House 2011), about a boy coming to terms with his role in the death of a friend, received many awards including VOYA’s Top of the Top Shelf, a YALSA Quick Pick and a Westchester Fiction Honor Award. Her play, "The Power of Poetry," was awarded the Best Play Audience Choice award at the 2015 IMCOM Europe new play festival. Angela is a Cynsations reporter, covering Europe & beyond.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a bookplate-signed copy of The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito (Holiday House, 2015). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

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20. Monsterland, by Michael Phillip Cash | Giveaway

Would you rather be a werewolf, a zombie or a vampire? Enter to win an autographed copy of Monsterland, by Michael Phillip Cash; plus a living dead themed travel mug and a $50 Amazon gift card! Giveaway begins November 14, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 16, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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21. Voyagers Giveaway


Voyagers: Project Alpha by D. J. McHale

About the Book: Earth is in danger! Without a renewable source of clean energy, our planet will be toast in less than a year. There are 6 essential elements that, when properly combined, create a new power source. But the elements are scattered throughout the galaxy. And only a spaceship piloted by children can reach it and return to Earth safely. First the ideal team of four 12-year-olds must be chosen, and then the first element must be retrieved. There is not a mistake to be made, or a moment to lose. The source is out there. Voyagers is blasting off in 3, 2, 1…


GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I was thinking the other day about trends in middle grade lit and I realized that science fiction and stories set in space are becoming more popular. Add that to the multi-platform trend of middle grade books written by various authors (think 39 Clues, Spirit Animals) and you've got a winner. I know that I have an audience of readers ready to go crazy over Voyagers. I mean, what's more exciting than the idea that only kids can save the world and they have to go into space and have adventures in order to do so? In some ways, Voyagers could be likened to Star Trek for tweens if kids were sent on a mission. 

The books are action packed, part mystery, part science fiction, part adventure and they are lots of fun. The cast of characters is also diverse. I really love Piper, who is in a wheelchair, yet demonstrates that that won't stop her from traveling in space and being part of the team-she can do what everyone else can. (If you're a savvy reader, you'll figure out from the cover of book 1 who gets chosen for the mission, but there are still surprises along the way, so don't worry!) 

The additional elements on VoyagersHQ.com are engaging and fun. I love the videos of the possible candidates and the quiz-kids really get a chance to feel like they're part of the Voyagers mission. 

The series is fun and exciting and sure to be a hit with middle grade readers who are fascinated by space-and can also be a good intro into science fiction for young readers. 


Want to win The Voyagers Experience prize pack?




THE VOYAGERS EXPERIENCE prize pack
Get the full Voyagers experience! One (1) winner receives:
·         The first two books in the series;
·         Branded iPhone6 case and home GadgetGrip button to deck out your device while experiencing the Voyagers app.

Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Random House Children’s Books.

FIll out the form below to enter! One entry per person. Contest ends 11/22

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22. The Impostor Queen glossary + giveaway

Today, we’re kicking off a mini tour for Sarah Fine’s upcoming book The Impostor Queen! Sarah is one of our favorite authors here at The Midnight Garden, and we’re all pretty excited about her new series. About the Book: Publication Date: January 5th, 2015 The elders chose Elli to be queen, but they chose wrong in this beautifully crafted novel in the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Victoria Aveyard. Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule. But when the queen dies defending the kingdom... Read more »

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23. Giving Back for the Holidays, Part 1: Women’s Storybook Project of Texas

When Jennifer and I celebrate our new holiday-themed books with an event at Austin’s BookPeople on December 5, we’re going to spotlight the store’s annual Giving Tree charity program. Guests buying any hardcover children’s book to donate to Giving Tree will be in the running for the giveaway of signed sets of Jennifer’s Revenge of […]

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24. The Scorpion Rules: Review + Erin Bow dinner + giveaway

You get two for the price of one today–Layla has a review of The Scorpion Rules for you, and Wendy has a giveaway + recap of the Erin Bow event she attended awhile back! Review: I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I have been in the middle of a fairly severe reading slump (and am also reading nonstop for my dissertation, so you know, take that into account, too) and The Scorpion Rules is one of the few books that have successfully broken through the haze of grumpiness I’ve been in for the last few months. But The Scorpion Rules really worked for me. From what I can tell, though, it seems like it’s been a fairly divisive read – you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. Luckily for me, I am firmly on Team Scorpion Rules (and Team Talis!). If you like dark humor, morally ambiguous AIs,... Read more »

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25. New Voice & Giveaway: Christine Hayes on Mothman’s Curse

Mothman Selfie Sheet
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Christine Hayes is the first-time author of Mothman's Curse, illustrated by James K. Hindle (Roaring Brook, 2015). From the promotional copy:

Josie may live in the most haunted town in America, but the only strange thing she ever sees is the parade of oddball customers that comes through her family’s auction house each week. 

But when she and her brothers discover a Polaroid camera that prints pictures of the ghost of local recluse John Goodrich, they are drawn into a mystery dating back over a hundred years. 

A desperate spirit, cursed jewelry, natural disasters, and the horrible specter of Mothman all weave in and out of the puzzle that Josie must solve to break the curse and save her own life.

How do you psyche yourself up to write, to keep writing, and to do the revision necessary to bring your manuscript to a competitive level? What, for you, are the special challenges in achieving this goal? What techniques have worked best and why?

I so envy writers who are able to follow a set routine. That would be the ideal. I’d love to be more productive, more disciplined! But the truth is, while I try to spend time every day writing or revising, I often end up staring at the computer screen, reworking the same passage over and over, or finding jobs to do around the house that could easily wait.

If I go several days without any forward writing progress—and to me that can include blogging or marketing efforts—then I become anxious and unsettled.

Christine's work space
I find I have to set small, measurable goals and break big projects up into bite-size pieces to fool myself into not feeling overwhelmed. I’ll mark a deadline on the calendar, then work backward to determine how much I have to get done each day. Even imaginary deadlines can be valuable motivators!

Then I try to follow through in unconventional ways, mixing up my routine from day to day. I’ll work a few days at home at the kitchen table, another day sitting in the car at the park, another at a local café. On a few occasions when I was facing critical deadlines, I checked into a hotel to sharpen my focus and cut down on distractions.

For first drafts, I get the most done with a notebook and pen, writing things out by hand. Later, as I type what I’ve written, I’m able to self-edit, adding or cutting as needed. It’s an effective way to shape the story early on.

For the next round of revisions I often print out a chapter at a time and use a red pen to mark it up. Sometimes there are only a few usable sentences left per page once the ink dries. It’s tough to watch the word count shrink, but satisfying to see those few sentences that are able to withstand a more intense level of scrutiny.

As far as making a manuscript competitive—polished, professional—I think it’s a dichotomy. You can’t compare your work to others, because you will always feel like you fall short.

Christine's pottery collection
I love the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I see this with my kids all the time. If I were to give them each a cupcake, they’d be happy for a minute or two, but they would inevitably notice that a sibling has more frosting or less frosting or a better color of frosting or whatever. As adults, we never quite grow out of this.

At the same time, you should be reading every day—books both in and out of your genre, news articles, magazines, something. Not to compare, but to fill your mind with words of all kinds, drinking in what’s beautifully done, learning lessons from work that’s perhaps less polished, clichéd, poorly paced, etc.

Set a high standard for yourself. Maybe six months ago you wrote something and said, “This is my best work.” But then you write something new and when you revisit your earlier work you realize that you’ve grown as a writer. It’s a beautiful and amazing process.

I struggle with procrastination and self-doubt. I also tend to overthink, to tinker with passages too much, but at some point I have to stop fussing and just let go. The gauge for me is feeling like it’s the best I can produce in that moment in time, until my agent or editor gently points out the many ways a piece can be improved!

As a paranormal writer, what first attracted you to that literary tradition? Have you been a long-time paranormal reader? Did a particular book or books inspire you?

I’ve been fascinated with the paranormal since grade school. As a young teen, I would check out stacks of ghost story anthologies from the library. I had mostly given up on kids’ novels at that point. I found it so disappointing when I would choose a book that seemed like it was about a ghostly mystery, only to discover that the “ghost” was a fake, dreamed up by the bad guy to hide some evil plot. I craved books that celebrated the unexplained.

One book I do remember falling in love with was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (FSG, 1963). Though not precisely a paranormal story, it was full of wonder and possibility.

I had the same teacher, Mrs. Tapscott, for both fourth and fifth grades. She read to us every day, and one of the books she read was A Wrinkle in Time. She had this sweet southern voice, and she had no patience for kids who thought they were too cool to listen during reading time.

She also read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (George Allen & Unwin, 1937), The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Avon, 1969), and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (Dutton, 1959). She was an incredible lady.

I also remember seeing commercials for a series of Time Life books called Mysteries of the Unknown. I wanted so badly to own every volume. A few years ago I found one at a garage sale for a dollar. Of course I snapped it right up! Isn’t it funny, the things we carry with us from childhood?

Outside of books, one specific influence that stands out in my memory is the show “In Search Of,” hosted by Leonard Nimoy in the late 70s/early 80s. Each week they would explore an aspect of the unexplained: the Bermuda Triangle, aliens, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster. I ate it up.

Then, of course, were the slumber parties where we watched movies like "Psycho" and "The Lady in White." It was delicious, that shared feeling of fear: hiding behind our pillows, imagining footsteps outside the window—because in fact we were perfectly safe. We were seeing new facets of the world, exploring what it meant to be brave.

I think spooky books are appealing because they offer adventure, escape—a vicarious experience in a parallel world. They allow kids to view fear through a lens that hopefully makes their real-world problems a little less scary, a little easier to face.

These days I love "M Night Shyamalan" movies and the show "Supernatural." I even watch the occasional episode of "Ghost Hunters." My husband teases me about my “creepy side.” But I’ve never enjoyed slasher movies or anything gory, especially zombies. They give me nightmares!

It’s probably why I write middle grade. I love a good scare, but nothing graphic. I think what you don’t show can be even scarier than spelling out the grisly details. The movie "The Village" comes to mind here. It wasn’t well-received by critics, but it created an almost tangible atmosphere on the screen. It had gorgeous, enticing cinematography, a washed-out color palette with hints of red (“the bad color”), and an epic soundtrack. I thought it was beautifully done.

I’m also fascinated by old things and abandoned places. Every broken-down barn or rusting piece of junk tells a story. You can almost feel the history there as you imagine the ghosts that might be lingering. It’s my go-to source for inspiration.

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