Friday, August 31, 2012

The Best Thing About Finishing a Book

The absolute best thing about finishing a book is the opportunity to start a new one!

Here is a selection of what I have around the house... one I bought at my kids' school book fair this past May, one I saw in the "newly released" section at Barnes and Noble, one was a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendation, two I know about through the Sasquatch Award nominee list, and one I grabbed off the shelf at the library. I think I am going with One Crazy Summer first!

What books are waiting for you?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Sleuth or Dare #1: Partners in Crime (and Giveaway!)

First let me announce the winner of The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little. My autographed copy goes to:

Amy Sonnichsen

Yay Amy! I hope both you and your daughter will enjoy this book!


Scholastic, May 1, 2012, Age 8-12


When best friends Darcy and Norah have to create a fake business for a school assignment, they come up with a great idea: a detective agency! Darcy loves mysteries, and Norah likes helping people, so it's a perfect fit.

But then their pretend agency gets a real case. Someone is missing, and it's up to Darcy and Norah to take on the search. Unfortunately, there's someone else out there who doesn't want the two detectives stirring up any trouble....

With the help of hidden clues, spy gadgets, and trusted friends, can Darcy and Norah crack the case in time?

Why it is Marvelous - I won a set of the three books in this series from Heidi Grange's blog (thanks again Heidi!) and for some reason, even though we already had Partners in Crime in the house and he hadn't touched it, my son pounced on these and read all three in as many days. Sometimes I will ask my son about the books he is reading... "How do you like it?" or "Did you like it better than this other book?" and really, it's like pulling teeth to get any intelligible answer sometimes. He is 10 afterall. But then I asked "Is there a book you have read that you knew you liked from the first page?" and his answer was Sleuth or Dare! This is a fast, fun read for any mystery lover, and while the main characters are girls, it has plenty of suspense and action to interest boy as well as girl readers.


The other two books in this series are Sleuth or Dare #2: Sleepover Stakeout and Sleuth or Dare #3: Framed & Dangerous.

Where you can find Kim:
Her Website: Kim Harrington
Her Blog: Kim Harrington's Blog
Twitter: @Kim_Harrington
Facebook: Kim Harrington (Author)

Kim was nice enough to answer a few questions about her books!

1. How did you come up with the idea for these books? Did you read a lot of mysteries growing up?

Growing up, I loved any book that was spooky or mysterious. Whenever the Scholastic Book Clubs flyer came, I would circle all the books with dark or spooky covers and beg my parents for them. The idea for Sleuth or Dare is actually a longer answer, but I wrote it up here (Why I Wrote Sleuth or Dare), including a highly embarrassing photo of me at age ten!

2. Since my 10-year-old son loved this series, I was wondering if your target audience was mainly girls, or did you intentionally write them in a way you hoped would appeal to both girls and boys?

I did hope that both boys and girls would read and enjoy the series. I know what they say about boys never reading books from a girl POV or with a girl on the cover, etc. But I'm hoping there are more open-minded boys out there like your son (and mine). There are other characters in the books who are boys. And I think the suspense and mystery aspects would definitely appeal to both boys and girls.


And now for the giveaway!  
I have an extra copy of Sleuth or Dare #1: Partners in Crime and would love to pass it on to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment and I will draw a name next Monday and announce the winner then. It would be nice if you signed up to follow my blog, but not necessary to be entered in the drawing.

No international entries. US and Canada only.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Circle of Secrets, Interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little and a Giveaway!

I am excited to be highlighting Circle of Secrets today by Kimberley Griffiths Little, with an interview and giveaway as well! I can't remember how I came across her blog, but I am so glad I did. Kimberley is a super-nice lady and in addition to her busy writing schedule, takes time to give back to the community through projects like Write On Con, blogging at From the Mixed Up Files... of Middle-Grade Authors, and Spellbinders: a blog for librarians, authors and educators working together to create lifelong readers.

I just went back and read a few of her blog posts over the past year and was particularly intrigued by this one which details all the different writing-related things she had going on in the months previous to the post. It makes me really appreciate the hard work she puts in as a writer and shows her dedication to her chosen craft!

Book Description: (from Amazon) Critically acclaimed author Kimberley Griffiths Little weaves a haunting story of friendship and family and the power of faith, once again set against the lush backdrop of the Louisiana bayou.

After her mother walked out on Shelby Jayne and her dad, Shelby thought she'd never speak to her mamma again. But with her dad leaving the country for work, it turns out she doesn't have a choice: Shelby has to move back into her mamma's house, deep in the heart of the Louisiana bayou.

Her new classmates tease and torment her, so Shelby's relieved to finally find a friend in Gwen, a mysterious girl who lives alone on the bayou. But Shelby can't help wondering if Gwen has something to do with the puzzling messages she finds hidden in the blue bottle tree behind her house. The only person who might be able to explain is her mamma -- but Shelby's not ready to ask. Not yet. It may take a brush with something from the beyond to help Shelby see that the power to put her own ghosts to rest is within her reach.

Kimberley Griffiths Little's haunting and powerful tale brings one girl's attempt to grapple with family, friendship, and forgiveness to beautiful, vivid life.

What makes it marvelous: Right away I felt a reason to feel sympathy for the main character. Shelby Jane's daddy is leaving her in the care of a mama she wants nothing to do with, in a swamp house you can only get to by boat. By the third chapter a mystery reveals itself: secret notes left in the blue bottle tree. After Shelby Jane has a hard time making true friends at school, I wanted to root for her - in finding a friend in Gwen, and in repairing the bond she desperately needed with her mother. I found myself staying up late one evening because I just had to see how it all worked out.

Note from Kimberley: I had asked her if there was an order to Circle of Secrets and The Healing Spell and this was her answer. "I guess technically you should read The Healing Spell first but they are stand-alone books (it was a blast to revisit the world in a whole new way). You may want to read The Healing Spell first. The surprise at the end may have more impact. 


Interview with Kimberley!

Where you can make friends with Kimberley:

1. In another interview you mentioned "leaving one agent to acquire my dream agent." Can you tell us how that connection came about, and how you knew it was time to leave the first agent?
I made my connection through an art form known as “stalking”! Ha!
Okay, here is “The Story”: I published three MG novels with my first agent over a decade ago, and then I had what I call “The Famine” where, for 7 years, I kept writing like crazy, but couldn’t sell anything (for a variety of reasons.) One reason was my agent wasn’t subbing to more than a very few publishers (3-4); she lived out of the country for part of that time; eventually she stopped spending much time in the children’s lit arena, focusing instead on adult titles and genres. So we parted ways – very amicably. It was my husband who pushed me into moving on because I was just spinning my wheels, although I never stopped writing new work. But trying to find a new agent can be just as difficult as finding the first one so I was pretty nervous and worried that it would never happen again.
I’d heard great things about Tracey Adams through the online grapevine so when I began querying for a new agent, I researched her and emailed clients to find out more. But when I was ready to start my query submissions Tracey closed her agency for a time period, only taking submissions if she’d met you at a conference. I found out which conferences she was attending that year—as soon as possible!—and stalked—I mean “followed” her to SCBWI Los Angeles. I made a point of meeting her at the evening social, she asked what I was working on, I pitched two books (a MG and a YA) in a sentence or two, and she asked me to submit. Two months later I did (after polishing some more!), but I waited many months before hearing from her because she came home from SCBWI absolutely swamped!  I was getting requests for full manuscripts from other agents, but when Tracey wanted to set up a phone call appointment, I was elated. We talked for nearly two hours and it was a done deal. I couldn’t ask for a better agent. Within 6 weeks she sold a 3 book deal for me to Scholastic (stand-alone books). And last year she sold a YA trilogy to Harpercollins for me in an amazing deal. The first book will launch Fall 2013 as a lead title. It’s impossible to tell you how thrilled I am after a lot of very, very hard work.

2. How did you decide on the bayou swamps for the settings of your MG books The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets? Do you have a connection to that area of the country, and what kind of research did you have to do in order to make the books feel authentic?

My family traveled through Louisiana about 13 years ago and I fell in love—hard. I went home and read everything I could get my hands on and immediately started planning a detailed research trip. I’ve spent the past 13 years going back over and over again, making lots of friends, boating on 6 different bayous with local fisherman, researching at the Louisiana State University. I think I’ve been to just about every small town in Cajun country—between Lafayette and Morgan City, as well as north to Pierre Part and south to Houma and Thibodeaux, too. I love the people, the culture, the food, and the magic of the wild scenery.

3. In your acknowledgements you mention contacting real traiteurs. What were the traiters' reactions to you contacting them, and what tips do you have for authors who are needing to interview people for research?
I was so touched at how open and warm and friendly the traiteurs were to welcome me into their home and talk freely about their work, their beliefs, and the various ways they get trained and practice their healing arts. I also had the generosity of their friends or family members who helped me set up a visit, usually on the spur of the moment! I initially read about traiteurs in some of my nonfiction reading by professors at LSU (extremely brief references, but I was very curious!)
I kept digging around the internet for more info (this was before Facebook or Youtube, even) and discovered a beautiful documentary done by a local film company who highlighted more than a dozen traiteurs. That documentary helped enormously to jump start my own personal visits as well as scouring the archives at LSU library for more information.

4. I won The Healing Spell from you on your blog (thank you!) and you also sent me a bunch of bookmarks (double thank you!) My son spied the bookmark for Circle of Secrets and said he wanted to read it. I was surprised and quickly answered "but it's about a girl." He didn't seem to care and proceeded to read both books before I cracked open either of them! Did you write these books hoping to connect mostly with girls or did you intentionally try to write them to appeal to both girls AND boys?

I love hearing this about your son, Julie, and so glad he enjoyed both books!
I knew that girls would probably be the primary reader of the books because the MC’s are girls, but I always seem to put boys into the story that play an important role, or that affect the MC in a huge way. I don’t consciously think, “I need to put a boy into the story” though. My boy characters have naturally evolved as I’m thinking about the story and plotting. They just sort of spring, full-blown into my mind and I know they’re the right catalyst for my MC, like Livie’s annoying cousin, Thibodeaux in The Healing Spell. He figures out the secret Livie is hiding and also commits an act at the end of the story that breaks Livie’s heart—but she has to forgive him in the end, just as she has to forgive herself for her own “sins” as well as the rest  of her family.

It has been very gratifying to see boys purchasing the books and email me fan letters. At my live bookstore or school events, boys even buy the charm bracelet to look at while they read the book! I think the stories are very universal and there is a “mystery” in each story, too, that appeals to both boys and girls.

5. How were you paired with Erin McGuire for your MG book covers? How much involvement did you have in this process?

Scholastic has an Art Department with professional designers and artists who discuss various cover concepts with my editor (as well as choosing the fonts, layout, interior design, borders, chapter heading artwork, etc). The art dept folks receive portfolios of artists around the country and keep abreast of the artists in the industry who are doing picture books or other book covers, and choose the one they think will evoke the concept the best.
Erin McGuire was chosen to do Circle of Secrets, and she spends a few weeks coming up with thumbnails of potential covers or concepts to show the art dept. They then discuss and choose some sketches they think are close to what they’re hoping for, have the artist work some more on it, or change this or that, and then the final is chosen from a second round of thumbnails with final tweaks until everyone is satisfied.

Circle of Secrets is a spooky, moody cover (I love the headstones and the dripping Spanish moss on the trees) and Scholastic liked it so well that they asked Erin to do the cover for my new book, When the Butterflies Came (April 1, 2013). It’s a completely different feel and color palette, but you can tell it’s Erin’s beautiful work. She created thumbnails and the final within about a week or so—very fast! Erin shared her process for When the Butterflies Came in this blog post on her website. It’s fascinating to see the sketches and hear about the final tweaks. Something we writers often don’t get to see!  

***Fun Little Tidbit: My editor asked me if I had any cover ideas for When the Butterflies Came and I gave her a couple of concepts I’d thought of. My first choice became her first choice and that’s the one that Erin created! I love that I got to be a part of the creative process and see my idea come alive in the gorgeous cover. (I use it as my wallpaper on my computer, too. :-))
6. What is one question (about writerly stuff) you have never been asked but always wanted to answer? Oh, and please provide the answer too!
Okay, here goes a dorky answer!
“If you came across a genie while walking along the banks of the Rio Grande (where I currently live) and she told you that you could have one wish to live inside the world of one of your favorite books, which book would you choose to live inside?
It’s hard to make a choice, but in the end I’d have to go with The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. The book takes place in 19th century England. A country manor house, hills and forests and lakes, and also a place filled with lots of magic so that every day would be beautiful and an adventure. I also love the bedroom the MC gets to stay in at her uncle’s “castle”. You’ll have to read the book to find out about the circular room with stars on a domed ceiling and a snug, miniature door that only Maria can fit through.
I’ve always been an “olden-days-castle-girl” and about a year ago started writing a YA novel set in a castle in Scotland. I’ve written half of the first book and the entire trilogy is now planned out. (Hopefully I’ll sell it one day). Years ago I stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle outside of Edinburgh. One of the best things I’ve ever done on a trip. I highly recommend it!


Thanks again Kimberley for taking the time to answer my questions. I enjoyed learning more about you and your publishing journey and I hope others will too!

Where you can make friends with Kimberley:

And now for the giveaway!

I have a signed copy of The Healing Spell that I won from Kimberley and would love to pass it on to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment and I will draw a name next Monday and announce the winner then. It would be nice if you signed up to follow my blog, but not necessary to be entered in the drawing.

No international entries. US and Canada only.


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Randomness Right Now

What we are reading:

MOM (not revealing my age!) -
  • My first manuscript from a critique partner. So honored!
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead - I just finished this one that I found through a MMGM recommendation by Michelle Isenhoff.
  • The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford - Reading this one to my kids... and funny that it has a quote on the cover from Rebecca Stead, author of the other book I was reading at the same time! Another one I remembered seeing on a MMGM post by Barbara Watson and grabbed at the library.
SON #1 (age 10) - This boy reads like there is no tomorrow. I'm really impressed with the diversity in his reading this summer. He has read a few books that one might classify as "girl books" and really enjoyed them.  
  • The Genuis Files by Dan Gutman - This book looks like so much fun, but my son isn't loving it - although he says he will finish it. He has stopped and read others in the mean time.
  • The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford - I am putting this here too b/c when I didn't have enough time to keep reading out loud, he went ahead and finished it on his own!
  • Storm Runners series by Roland Smith - He gobbled up the three books in this series! This is one I grabbed off the shelf at the library and it sat and sat until he finally cracked it open... ahhh, I love it when I pick a winner!
  • Circle of Secrets and The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little -  He really enjoyed these and wanted to know if there was a sequel to Circle of Secrets!
  • Sleuth or Dare series by Kim Harrington. I won these from Heidi Grange who blogs at Geo Librarian. They arrived yesterday and he is almost done with the first one!
DAUGHTER (age 8) -
  • The Magic Half by Annie Barrows - She loved the Ivy and Bean books so I am hoping she enjoys this as well.
  • This Means War by Ellen Wittlinger - She LOVED this book and re-read parts of it and had me read parts of it. This was her free book from the summer reading program at our library!
  • How to Beat a Bully by Scott Starkey - I think she really liked the concept here but I haven't asked her how it's coming along.
SON #2 - a few favorites (he is age 1) - I have to get this little guy some new books. I know repetition is key at this age but we really need to branch out a bit!
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Elmo's Big Lift and Look Book by Anna Ross - This is a great interaction book. He is a little young to understand everything but I tell him what all the pictures are and he loves lifting all the flaps! As a parent I highly recommend this book.
HUSBAND #1 (LOL!) - He doesn't read.

Blog Awards:  I have been presented with several blog awards lately, so I am going to combine them and bend the rules a bit.

Elise Fallson passed me the Fabulous Blog Ribbon award. Thanks so much Elise!
I did a little searching and other blogs have a different set of rules listed, beyond thanking and passing it on, so I am going with those since it will make things a little more interesting.

1. Thank the blogger who gave you the award and share a link back to the awarding blog.
2. Name 5 fabulous moments in your life.
3. Name 5 things that you love.
4. Name 5 things that you hate.
5. Pass the award to 5 deserving bloggers.

Name 5 fabulous moments in your life.
  1. Getting married. After seeing it rain on about seven of the previous 8 Saturdays, our wedding day was blue-sky gorgeous! It was a beautiful day, and a fun, fun reception.
  2. The births of my children. Cliché, yes, but so very true. It is hard to put into words the amazing experience of bringing another human being into the world. 
  3. Completing the Nike Womens' Marathon. This was a great experience... from the almost 5 months of training to the actual event. I must say,  I am very proud of this accomplishment.
  4. The first time I got an e-mail from Creating Keepsakes asking to publish one of my scrapbook layouts. I think I let out a little happy scream. If this is how I feel about a scrapbook layout, I can't imagine how good it feels to have a book published! Hopefully one day I will know the answer to that.
  5. When my son sang in the school talent show as a kindergarten student. He did so awesome and I was so proud. 
Name 5 things that you love.
  1. Danon coffee yogurt. And no, I don't drink coffee.
  2. Taking a shower at night and then reading in bed until I fall asleep.
  3. Reading out loud to my kids... unfortunately I have a habit of falling asleep mid-sentence when I do this, often in the middle of the day!
  4. Road trips. I love being able to plan the route and really go wherever you want along the way.
  5. Digital Scrapbooking. This is a big part of my life and I love seeing my completed pages put together in a book/binder and sitting down with the kids and reading through the journaling. 
Name 5 things that you hate.
  1. Mean, spiteful people... luckily I have not crossed paths with many of them.
  2. Weeds in the cracks of driveways and sidewalks - get some weed killer people!
  3. Clutter, and my lack of ability to deal with it properly.
  4. When my kids fight. It makes me sad.
  5. Cooking. Well, I don't exactly hate it but I wouldn't turn down a personal chef either. 
Pass the award to 5 deserving bloggers. See below

Thank you L.G. Keltner for passing the Liebster Blog award to me. The German translation of liebster is favorite or dearest, so thanks so much L.G.!

The 'rules' of the award are the following:
  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
  3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less.
  5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.
Passing on to these 5 wonderful bloggers. I am going to cheat a little and list 5 blogs (which I know of) that provide some sort of a service to writers. Not all these bloggers play the "awards game" so if they happen to see their name here great! :-)
  1. Krista Van Dolzer blogs at Mother. Write. Repeat and has a contest series called An Agent's Inbox. Her next contest starts on August 13th so hurry on over!
  2. Matthew MacNish blogs at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment and helps writers polish their queries with his own critiques and anyone who would like to add their two cents in the comments section.
  3. Kimberly Gabriel blogs at The Art of Infiltration and does a weekly post (on Monday) about any contests, blog hops, and give aways she knows about.
  4. DL Hammons blogs at Crusing Altitude 2.0 runs a fun contest called Write Club, where two writers go head-to-head and get some valuable feedback along the way. You can enter at anytime so hop on over to his blog for details.
  5. Kimberly Derting. OK, so she is a successful author (and I heard her speak yesterday) but she has a great blog with "writerly advice and links" so go check it out.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I was trying to come up with just the right title for this blog post – a word or phrase which sums up how it feels to be critiquing a fellow writer’s manuscript. I think honored is the right word. She is entrusting me with 50,000 of her own words that represent hard work, imagination, and a dream. Her dream. And she is asking me to help her reach that dream. This is important stuff!

This is the first MS I have the honor to critique and I feel bad that I have had it for a week and am not even half way through. Not because I am not interested. Unfortunately, even when a shiny new document shows up in my inbox, life continues all around me. And last week and this week are messing up any extra reading time I might have had b/c I just can’t keep away from the Olympics. I thought since track & field started I might not be as interested but I am finding all the running fascinating as well. Bah!
So no Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post this week (I’ll be back next week with Circle of Secrets and an interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little!) and probably no new (published) books read this week either. I am finally reading a book out loud to the kids and am off to do that right now.