Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Blog Hop

WINNER: Heidi Robbins!

Welcome to the
MidWinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop!

I am giving away  a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

To enter, be a follower and leave a comment through December 31st. That's it. Winner will be selected at random. 


**Giveaway Ends 12.31.16 and open to all who can legally enter.
Open to residents of the US Only
Must be over 18 or have your parents permission to enter.
An email will be sent and you have 48 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen.
The Winner will be announced within 48 hours at the end of the giveaway.
Giveaway is organized by Bookhounds and sponsored by me.
It has no affiliation with Facebook, Twitter or any other entity.
Void where prohibited.**

Monday, December 19, 2016

MMGM - Adrift at Sea

 Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

A Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho
November, 2016

It is 1981. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a fishing boat overloaded with 60 Vietnamese refugees drifts. The motor has failed; the hull is leaking; the drinking water is nearly gone. This is the dramatic true story recounted by Tuan Ho, who was six years old when he, his mother, and two sisters dodged the bullets of Vietnam’s military police for the perilous chance of boarding that boat. Told to multi-award-winning author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and illustrated by the celebrated Brian Deines, Tuan’s story has become Adrift At Sea, the first picture book to describe the flight of Vietnam’s “Boat People” refugees. Illustrated with sweeping oil paintings and complete with an expansive historical and biographical section with photographs, this non-fiction picture book is all the more important as the world responds to a new generation of refugees risking all on the open water for the chance at safety and a new life. 

This is one of the most beautiful and powerful picture books I've seen in a long time. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy and was blown away by the emotional impact of both the story and the illustrations. It would make a perfect edition to any middle or high school history classroom.

I STRONGLY recommend this one!

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

MMGM - Julie of the Wolves

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

 Julie of the Wolves
by Jean Craighead George

Goodreads Blurb:
Miyax, like many adolescents, is torn. But unlike most, her choices may determine whether she lives or dies. At 13, an orphan, and unhappily married, Miyax runs away from her husband's parents' home, hoping to reach San Francisco and her pen pal. But she becomes lost in the vast Alaskan tundra, with no food, no shelter, and no idea which is the way to safety. Now, more than ever, she must look hard at who she really is. Is she Miyax, Eskimo girl of the old ways? Or is she Julie (her "gussak"-white people-name), the modernized teenager who must mock the traditional customs? And when a pack of wolves begins to accept her into their community, Miyax must learn to think like a wolf as well. If she trusts her Eskimo instincts, will she stand a chance of surviving?

We got 4 inches of snow last night and it's still snowing, so this felt like the perfect book for today. It's a classic, and I love it. It's one of my favorite books--not because it's middle grade, but because it's so wonderful. I love Miyax. She is so brave and resourceful. I fell in love with her wolves and her little, odd bird and the way she made a life for herself in the wilderness. This book ripped my heart to pieces, but I still re-read it every now and then because it is just that good.

If you still haven't read this book, YOU MUST. It's one of those special classics that everyone should read at least once

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born.

 Happy Monday! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

MMGM - Interview With Henry Neff

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

An Interview with the oh-so-awesome
Henry Neff

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.
A: The quick skinny: I grew up in the Chicago area, went off to Cornell University for college, graduated and took about as corporate a path as you can imagine (picture me with hair, wearing a suit and tie, and sitting at a long table where senior executives squint and grimace at PowerPoint slides). The job was challenging and I worked with some truly brilliant and talented people, but I had a nagging suspicion (i.e., would wake up in a cold sweat at 3 a.m.) that I was wasting my life and whatever creative gifts I might possess. A few years later I had a life-changing conversation with my brother, whom I suspect had grown weary of my existential whining. He posed an unexpected question: How would you spend your time if you had all the money in the world? My response was almost immediate: I'd teach high school and write children's books! It's amazing how simple questions can clarify one's values and priorities. Following this conversation, I left my job and secured a position teaching history and fine arts at a San Francisco high school. The day classes let out for the winter holidays, I began writing what would become The Hound of Rowan. I can't overstate the pleasure and fulfillment I felt as I penned those initial, fabulously recyclable pages. The prose was appalling, the ideas half-formed, but I knew that I was embarking on a journey I was meant to take. It was like finding a missing puzzle piece and fitting it into your soul. The experience shaped the way I described Max McDaniels's reaction to the tapestry he finds in the museum. That tapestry shed light on Max's identity and started him on his adventures. Writing did the same for me.

Q: Like me, you are also a teacher. How do you balance your teaching job and family with such a successful writing career?
A: I'm sorry to say I haven't taught since 2009 when I got engaged and moved to New York. I do miss teaching, however, and remain in close contact with many of my former colleagues and students. It's incredibly gratifying to see young people growing up, falling in love, doing meaningful work, and making parole (I kid). I hoped to continue teaching when I moved east but I quickly learned that I'd enjoyed an unusually flexible arrangement in San Francisco. The school where I'd taught was on a block schedule, which meant that classes only met on certain days of the week. The head of school had been kind enough to tweak my teaching schedule so I only had to come in three days per week. That support was invaluable to getting my writing career off the ground. While interviewing at several schools in Manhattan, I asked if they could maybe—just possibly—manage a similar arrangement, The question brought polite but incredulous stares. I doubt some of those eyebrows have ever come down. Given the response and my publishing contract, I elected to write full-time. It's probably a good thing — we now have two young boys and life is hectic enough without throwing classes into the mix. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the profession. Someday, I hope to teach again, even if it's just a class or two.

The Tapestry series includes five books. As an author, how did you manage the progression of your story line from book to book (what was your organizational system or thought process to keep it all together in your mind and smooth from book to book?)
A: The Tapestry was originally intended to be a trilogy. After finishing the second book I realized that I couldn't tell the tale I wanted in three volumes. It simply wasn't enough runway to fully develop the story and character arcs I envisioned without accelerating them to the point of absurdity. Truth be told, The Tapestry should probably be six book. THE RED WINTER is a massive finale and could easily be split in two: Rowan's war against Prusias, followed by our heroes hunting after Astaroth. Why was I so off with my initial projection? I can think of three reasons: 1) Some ideas weren't fully-formed when we pitched the series; 2) I was an inexperienced writer who underestimated the time it would take to develop my larger narratives; 3) Stuff changes while you're writing a series — new ideas pop up, cannibal hags demand more screen time, etc. However, I don't mean to imply that I simply made the story up as I went. I'm a fairly meticulous planner and always knew what The Tapestry's final scene would be—even before I started writing the first book. It's always helpful for writers (especially those tackling a series) to have an idea of how they want things to begin and end. The middle is negotiable. Completing six novels has taught me that ideas, characters, and entire story lines will inevitably change during the writing process. While I try to have enough of an outline to peg how certain characters and narratives will develop, I don't plan to the extent that I'm merely executing a rigid blueprint. That would smother those little, in-the-moment epiphanies that spark many of my best ideas.

Impyrium is set in the same world as the Tapestry books. When did you first get the idea to return to that world? 
A:  The initial ideas for IMPYRIUM came knocking in the wee hours while I was on my honeymoon in Rome. I'd recently finished The Fiend and the Forge and my brain was so fried that my imagination was stuck on overdrive. I couldn't fall sleep and was lying in bed, my mind racing through ideas for Books 4 and 5, when it made an unexpected leap into the future—a future thousands of years after the The Tapestry's conclusion. I don't want to give away Tapestry spoilers but the idea hinged on an empire ruled by dynastic families (several descending from established characters) locked in an uneasy truce with ancient demons inhabiting undersea kingdoms. It triggered an avalanche of ideas so exciting that I barricaded myself in the hotel's tiny bathroom so I could flip on a light and scribble them down in a notebook. My poor wife must have thought I had food poisoning.

Q: How did it feel to change the world you had already created?
A: It was a blast! Enough time has passed (3,000 years) since The Tapestry that the world is really very different. It's bit like comparing the present day to the Iron Age. Most of the people living in Impyrium don't even realize we existed. This is partly due to propaganda, but our entire history and civilization have been consigned to a prehistoric, almost mythic past. New York, Tokyo, and Paris might as well be Atlantis. In this future, mankind has essentially split into two species (an aristocracy of magically-gifted mehr├╣n that rule the world, and the masses of ordinary muir that serve them and do the grunt work). Rowan (The Tapestry's school of magic) still exists but its context and character have changed. Building on the world and mythos I'd created allowed me to really stretch and challenge my imagination, but it also made good use of my time as a history teacher. Good historians don't simply memorize facts; they can identify patterns and forces at work over time. I've always been interested in the life cycle of empires, and how institutions can grow, flourish, and later decay into an echo—even a mockery—of the vision and energy that fueled their creation. These are major themes throughout IMPYRIUM and play a key role in the narrative and character development. Overall, it's been a really fun ride and there's a lot of exciting stuff yet to come!

Check out the awesome book trailer HERE
Purchase your own copy of IMPYRIUM HERE 

  • Follow Henry on Goodreads HERE
  • Follow on Facebook HERE
  • Follow on Twitter HERE 


 Or begin the Tapestry Series . . .

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. For a full selection of MMGM posts, visit her website HERE.

Monday, November 7, 2016

MMGM - Lodestar by Shannon Messenger

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Keeper of the Lost Cities
by Shannon Messenger
Release date: November 1, 2016

Dark schemes unfold--and Sophie's loyalty is pushed to the limit--in this thrilling fifth book in the best-selling KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES SERIES.

Sophie Foster is back in the Lost Cities--but the Lost Cities have changed. The threat of war hangs heavy over her glittering world, and the Neverseen are wreaking havoc.

The lines between friend and enemy have blurred, and Sophie is unsure whom to trust. But when she's warned that the people she loves most will be the next victims, she knows she has to act.

A mysterious symbol could be the key--if only she knew how to translate it. Every new clue seems to lead deeper into her world's underbelly and the Black Swan aren't the only ones who have plans. The Neverseen have their own Initiative, and if Sophie doesn't stop it, they might finally have the ultimate means to control her.

This is among my all-time favorite MG series.  I LOVE THESE BOOKS! I have read books 1-4 multiple times already and will likely devour book 5 this weekend. All three of my children have read them, and they each love the series as much as I do. Additionally, I have copies in my classroom, but I never see them because they are always being read. Shannon Messenger is also one of the friendliest, most generous, and utterly sincere authors I know--and the founder of MMGM! You cannot go wrong with any of her books, including her oh-so-awesome young adult series, Let the Sky Fall. But you all know that already.

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. For a full selection of MMGM posts, visit her website HERE.


Monday, October 31, 2016

MMGM - Word of Mouse

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein
Release date: December 12, 2016

James Patterson's newest illustrated middle grade story follows the illuminating journey of a very special mouse, and the unexpected friendships that he makes along the way.

What makes Isaiah so unique? First, his fur is as blue as the sky--which until recently was something he'd never seen, but had read all about. That's right--Isaiah can read, and write. He can also talk to humans...if any of them are willing to listen! After a dramatic escape from a mysterious laboratory, Isaiah is separated from his "mischief" (which is the word for a mouse family), and has to use his special skills to survive in the dangerous outdoors, and hopefully find his missing family. But in a world of cruel cats, hungry owls, and terrified people, it's hard for a young, lone mouse to make it alone. When he meets an equally unusual and lonely human girl named Hailey, the two soon learn that true friendship can transcend all barriers.

As soon as my ARC arrived, it was snatched up by my daughter, who read it in a day. She thought it was "super fun" and asked if she could share it with her friends before I read it. Of course, I said yes. As we all know, there is no such thing as a dud James Patterson book, regardless of genre or reading level. This is another sure-fire winner for MG readers.

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. For a full selection of MMGM posts, visit her website HERE.


Monday, October 24, 2016

MMGM - Sailor Moon

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday


One of the most-beloved of all Japanese manga titles, Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon has enthralled millions of readers worldwide since its debut in book form in early 1992.
When Usagi Tsukino adopts a stray cat, she gets more than she bargains for. The talking cat, Luna, informs Usagi that she is actually Sailor Moon, a magical princess from the future and protector of the Solar System. With the help of her new friends, the Sailor Scouts, and the mysterious Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Moon embarks on a quest to save us all from the evil powers of the Negaverse.

My daughter is twelve and in 7th grade.  For the past few years, she's been voraciously reading MG & YA Manga books.  As I posted recently, her VERY favorite series is Black ButlerHowever, she's read dozens of other series including Sailor Moon, which is a good one for younger manga readers.  The fan-base for these novels is exploding right now.  Our local and school libraries can't keep up with the demand. If you know of young readers interested in giving manga a try, this is a good series.

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. For a full selection of MMGM posts, visit her website HERE.

Monday, October 17, 2016

MMGM - Insignia

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday


by S.J. Kincaid

The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first entry in S. J. Kincaid's fast-paced sci-fi adventure trilogy perfect for fans of Ender's Game.

The planet's natural resources are almost gone, and war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning. The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn't seem like a hero. He's a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones.

As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom's life completely changes. Suddenly, he's someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there's a price to pay. . . .

Insignia is one of the best boy books ever! My son has read it a dozen times, and even did a creative writing classroom assignment based on its plot. Of all the standard MG fare--including Rick Riordan, John Flanagan, and Jeff Kinney--this is hands down his favorite book. 

He tried for quite a while to get me to read it, but my workload and TBR pile were too much. Then I got sick, and he saw that as a perfect opportunity. Determined that I read "the best book ever," he sat next to my bed and read to me . . . for hours. Needless to say, the book did not leave the room with him. I was hooked.

If you have not read this series yet, you need to. I highly recommend it!

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. For a full selection of MMGM posts, visit her website HERE.

Friday, October 14, 2016

From the Master

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair - the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
~Stephen King (from On Writing)

Is that brilliant or what?! Don't you just love Stephen King? We aren't asked to be reverent or politically correct or funny or anything else - he just asks us to be serious about our craft. I think most of us are already serious - painfully serious, even.

We are serious about our craft, about learning and growing in order to better our skills. I'm proud of us. I'm proud of our sharing of information. I'm proud of our questions and answers and problem solving for one another. I'm proud of the way we cheer for those successes while we wait (not-always-so-patiently) for our own.

Stephen King tells us,
This isn't a popularity contest, it's not the moral Olympics, and it's not church. But it's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else. Wash the car, maybe.

 You gotta love it! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Happy Book Birthday! - Motley Education

Happy Book Birthday, S. A. Larsen!


One of my long-time blog friends, Sheri Larsen, celebrated her first book birthday yesterday! I am so excited and happy for her, and I know this MG is a read you don't want to miss. I am purchasing a copy for my classroom and one for myself.

Forget having a lively after school social life, Ebony Charmed is fighting to keep the entire afterlife alive.

Ebony’s less-than-average spirit tracking abilities are ruining more than sixth grade at Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted. Her parents argue so much her dad's moved out. And, even though he’s scared of his own shadow and insists on bringing his slimy, legless lizard everywhere they go, Ebony wouldn’t survive without her best friend, Fleishman.

When Ebony’s Deadly Creatures & Relics’ project goes missing she learns her missing project is one of the keys to saving the spirit world.

Now Ebony and Fleishman must battle beasts from Norse mythology to retrieve her project before spirits are lost, the Well of Urd dries up, and Ebony loses all hope of reuniting her family. But someone lies in wait, and he has other plans…including creating a new world of spirits without them in it.

S.A. LARSEN is the author of Motley Education, the first book in a middle grade fantasy-adventure series. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies, Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Look for her debut young adult novel, Marked Beauty, set for release in 2017. Find her in the land of lobsters, snowy winters, and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty years, four children, a playful pooch, and two kittens. 
You can visit her online at

If you love middle grade or know someone who does, 
hop on over to Sheri's blog HERE  
for a chance to win your very own copy of Motley Education  
a super cool set of Motley Mulisha Playing Cards

Monday, October 10, 2016

MMGM - Girls Got Game

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born.  

Girls Got Game
Edited by Sue Macy

Goodreads Blurb:
Millions of girls are now running, swinging bats and shooting hoops. Here's the first young readers' anthology of new fiction that tells their stories.

"Girls Got Game features a new breed of heroines who are not afraid to sweat. Young athletes will see themselves in these stories; their mothers will wish they'd had books like this when they were growing up."
--Sue Macy

Sue Macy, author of three popular nonfiction books on women in sports, has gathered the best fiction writers and poets to describe the in-the-moment experiences of the millions of girls who are now competing. Here's the first anthology to describe being on the field the way girls are enjoying it today -- as a regular part of their lives that is allowing them to compete, to excel, to feel their own power and potential, and to face defeat and emerge stronger for the next contest. From basketball to soccer, tetherball to swimming to horseback riding, Girls Got Game breaks new ground. This all-star lineup of authors and poets includes Virginia Euwer Wolff, Jacqueline Woodson, and Sue Macy herself in her fictional debut, creating a book that is a great read, as well as an affirmation of what girls are doing every day.

In the spirit of Guys Write for Guys Read, GIRLS GOT GAME is a popular collection of writing about girls in sports--18 stories and poems by a variety of 
authors. I have a copy of this in my classroom, and it is always a popular read with the girls in my class. I highly recommend for young girls who are interested in athletics.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Voraciously Obsessed

If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.
~ Natalie Goldberg

For people who love to write, I think reading is a natural obsession. So many times I've seen us refer to ourselves as "voracious" readers, and I don't think it's hyperbole - we really are voraciously obsessed! Each time we review titles or share a favorite, we gush our enthusiasm or choke on our disappointment. Books are at the core of who we are and who we hope to become. Personally, I can think of nothing I'd rather have at my core than words!

What are some of your all-time favorite reads?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blog Blast - Rice & Rocks

Rice & Rocks

by Sandra L. Richards

Tradition takes flight in Rice & Rocks, a picture book celebrating culture and diversity.

Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed—he does not like “rice and rocks” and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together.

“I feel as if Rice & Rocks was written for the 7 year old me stuck in a foreign country. I wish I could have read it when I was a kid since it would have really helped me to feel a lot more comfortable with my roots, my traditions, in a foreign place with people of other colors & customs.”
– Melissa Robles, The Reader and the Chef

“Rice & Rocks is a beautifully illustrated, culturally diverse children’s book centered around my favorite topic…food!…Parents will enjoy reading it with/to their little ones because the illustrations compliment the story perfectly. This book will also work as a good conversation starter for acceptance of self and others for school age children.”
– D.S. White, Divine Perspective

Author Sandra L. Richards
Sandra L. Richards is the debut picture book author of Rice & Rocks. With Rice & Rocks, Sandra brings a unique contribution to the world of children’s books. An American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents, she hopes the book will serve as an educational resource for families seeking to teach their children the value of their heritage and the importance of cultural diversity.

Blast Giveaway:
 $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 10/28/16 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

   a Rafflecopter giveaway
Stop by and visit I Am a Reader HERE

Monday, October 3, 2016

MMGM - Elliot and the Goblin Wars

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

by Jennifer Nielsen

WARNING! As of today, there are only 7 CHILDREN who have ever read this book and lived to tell about it. 95 CHILDREN successfully read the first chapter, but upon beginning chapter 2, they started BLABBERING in some language known only as "flibberish." 38 CHILDREN made it halfway through this wretched book before they began SUCKING THEIR THUMBS THROUGH THEIR NOSES.

If you're VERY BRAVE, perhaps you are willing to TAKE YOUR CHANCES. Be sure that you have told your family who gets your favorite toys if you DO NOT SURVIVE this book. Read it now, IF YOU DARE. But don't say you haven't been warned, for this is the story that unfolds the MYSTERIES OF THE UNDERWORLD.

Jennifer Nielsen is so well known for her other titles, especially The False Prince series, that this middle grade gem gets overlooked. This series is HILARIOUS and oh-so-fun! My daughter and I did this as a read aloud, because it is too funny not to share with someone. I kept calling her in to read her parts, and we finally just read all three of them together.

If you know any struggling readers, this series may be just the one to help them over the hump. I keep it in my classroom, and it never fails. I can't recommend this series highly enough!

Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. For a full selection of MMGM posts, visit her website HERE.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Cat Food for Lunch

My oldest child has always been a picky eater - always. When he was in pre-school, we had morning trauma if his Pop-Tart was somehow broken. He wouldn't eat the broken one, he didn't want a new one - he wanted the broken one, NOT broken. Like I could somehow magically repair it. He cried, devastated, in that way that makes all moms wish they could wave a magic wand and make everything better.

One of my favorite food moments with him, though, came at the end of a school day. I picked him up at daycare, asked him how his day went, and he burst into tears.

"They tried to make me eat cat food for lunch!"

Of course I tried to reassure him that they would never do such a thing, but he was insistent. "I said I didn't want any, but they made me take a 'thank you' bite!" More tears.

Confused, the following day I asked what they had served for lunch the day before.

Answer: tuna fish!

I know many of you are parents. Have you ever used any of your children's funny, weird, or frightening moments in any of your books?


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

MG Manga - My Daughter's Favorite

Black Butler


Just a stone's throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria's faithful servant...and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master's wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London's underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true...or at least, too good to be human...

The last thing I wanted was for my daughter to get into Anime or Manga. I believed they were just too weird, too non-traditional for me . . . cuz they are.

However, I cannot begin to express the happiness they bring her. She begs to go to the library, where she will fill a bag with 10-15 books. Then, she races to her bedroom where she will sit for hours reading them. She adores the characters. She laughs and cries with them. She obsesses over them and dresses up like them with her friends--all the things we wish for our children when it comes to reading.

While they are not my cup of tea, Manga titles engross MG readers every bit as much as traditional titles. I have been converted and convinced. The key, though, is to make sure they are not reading adult titles, which can be highly inappropriate. Therefore, I'm starting a review series of appropriate MG Manga series, of which BLACK BUTLER reigns (at least according to my daughter *grins*).

Have you read any MG Manga?

Monday, September 26, 2016

MMGM -- IMPYRIUM by Henry Neff

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Release Date -- October 4, 2016

In the first book of Henry H. Neff’s new high-stakes middle grade fantasy series, two unlikely allies confront a conspiracy that will shake the world of Impyrium to its core.
For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faeregines are ripe to fall.
Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the remote provinces, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them.
One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.

Henry Neff is one of my favorite MG authors. I have read and re-read his TAPESTRY SERIES, and it never gets old. IMPYRIUM is set in the same world, but many, many years later. At first, it was a little unsettling to revisit the world of Max and David and Mina without them there, but I quickly became engrossed with the newness of it all and with the utterly likeable new cast of characters. I LOVED IT! Now begins the long wait for the next book. While this works perfectly as a stand-alone novel, I would highly recommend beginning with THE HOUND OF ROWAN and completing the Tapestry Series first. It will add a whole new level of enjoyment and appreciation for Impyrium.

 Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. For a full selection of MMGM posts, visit her website HERE.

Friday, September 23, 2016



The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe, which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
~ Naomi Shihab Nye

This is the kind of fame we can ALL have. It is within our reach every single day. As we strive to finish our WIP's, find our agents, sell our books, and stroke the bindings that proudly display our names at Barnes & Noble, let us NEVER forget to be the one who smiled back.

                                   Go. Be famous. And never forget what you can do.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


"There’s no music in rest, but there’s the making of music in it. And people are always missing that part of the life melody, always talking of perseverance and courage and fortitude; but patience is the finest and worthiest part of fortitude, and the rarest, too."
-John Ruskin

Perseverance . . . Courage . . . Fortitude . . . all good qualities, all necessary to face a career in writing, all challenging.
And then there's PATIENCE. Ah, for me that's the most difficult one of all.  I am now entering the "shopping the manuscript" stage of this journey. It's out of my hands and into the hands of my agent. Time for patience . . .

I can persevere, because I'm stubborn and have all of you for support and encouragement. I can be brave, because it's who I am and I am not afraid of my dreams. I can have fortitude, because I have a loving family and our bloggy community. I have never, ever, had patience--and no one can give it to me.

The worst part of it, though, is that a lack of patience can cause a lack of faith, of hope. That's when I fall into the blues. It's particularly disheartening in the query stage. One day at a time . . . that's what I want my "life melody" to be.

How do you deal with the patience part of this writing journey? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Let Your Whole Self In

Write from your whole self. If you have a sense of humor, make sure that flavor’s in your writing. If you like talking ideas, make sure there are ideas in your writing. Anything less will be unsustainable. You will get bored inside the narrative realm you’ve created, in the same way it’s boring to sit at a desk all day filing papers. The only way to last for the long haul is to avoid boredom, and to avoid boredom you need to let your whole self in. (Not to mention you’ll bore your readers).
~ Po Bronson

The idea that we need to write for ourselves, to write what we love, is not a new one. We can open any book on writing, turn to any friend, tour writing blogs... any number of things. That's because it's great advice - the real thing.

I am drawn to this quote by Po Bronson. There is something about it that connects with me, speaks to me in a powerful way. This quote makes me want to sit down and write. It makes me want to write better and to write in a way that is real.

What is something that draws you to your computer and makes you long to write?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It's Okay

"If you have other things in your life -- family, friends, good productive day work -- these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer."
~ David Brin
We all struggle to find ways to balance LIFE with our writing. We have jobs, kids with a million activities to be shuttled to and from, spouses, friends, churches, obligations . . . and we want to write.  Even those who have the luxury of staying home to write find balance difficult at times.

Guess what? That's okay. It's okay to let LIFE take over some times. It's okay to take a break from blogging or writing or editing or querying. IT'S OKAY.

Today, treat yourself to a day that's guilt-free. Embrace whatever you're doing, and let go of what you're not. It will all be there when you get to it. It's okay . . .

What will you choose NOT to feel guilty about today?

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