Birthday Shopping for My ‘Tween Bookworm

I love buying books as gifts. What else can provide so much joy for so little money? Okay, the best things in life are free, as they say. But for things that have a price tag, books are really high on the entertainment value/dollar meter. I’m reminded of this every Christmas and every August when my soon-to-be-twelve-year-old bookworm makes a wish list.

Her wish list was not only books, but it was dominated by them. It included:i read past my bedtime

  • A pre-order of Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  • An “I read past my bedtime” T-shirt (Thanks to Abby Cooper for rockin’ that shirt on Pitch Wars live!)
  • The Divergent Series in DVD (the books have already been read several times over)
  • The Sequels to Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • LOTS OF BOOKS (all caps by the bookworm)

The first four of these are easy. The “LOTS OF BOOKS” request is a bit more challenging. My daughter reads so much it’s tough to keep track of what she’s read and to find something new. Luckily I have suggestions from buds at The Winged Pen, books by presenters at the New England SCBWI conference, and Twitter suggestions cataloged on my Goodreads TBR. I set out to spend $50 on books. How many books do you think that got my little bookworm?

The BFF Bucket List by Dee Romito – $6bff bucket listi'm with cupid

I’m with Cupid by Anna Stanizewski – $8

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee – $8

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry – $7

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – $8under painted sky

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – $7the scandalous sisterhood

Six book, untold hours of fun and adventure, all for $48. It’s a bargain! If only everyone I give gifts to loved books as much as my daughter!

So here’s a shout-out to these authors, as well as the authors whose books already sit on her shelf, for the joy they bring to children! (And to me, ‘cause another thing about buying books for my bookworm is that I get to read them too!)

What books are on your kids’ book list? I need to recharge my TBR now. Help me out with some suggestions in the comments!

Photo by Pam Vaughan
Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Jen Malone Book Review Twofer – THE SLEEPOVER and MAP TO THE STARS

I picked up a copy of Jen Malone’s At Your Service at the 2015 New England SCBWI Conference after attending her great talk on middle grade voice. (Find the book review here.) I enjoyed the story and my 11-year-old daughter became a fan. She now knows to ask for Jen Malone books when I’m heading to the conference, so this year she got The Sleepover and Map to the Stars. Here’s what we thought:

Jen Malone’s The Sleepover is billed as The Hangover for the middle grade audience. It the-sleepover-9781481452618doesn’t disappoint! Twelve-year-old Meghan has never made it through the night at a sleepover, but she’s determined to make it through this one. Her two besties, Anna-Marie and Paige, promise it will be EPIC!

It turns out to be a little too epic. The girls wake up to a disaster of a basement and no recollection of what happened the night before. One of Meghan’s eyebrows is missing…and so is Anna-Maria! The girls need to straighten out the hijinks of the night before, all the while collecting clues about what happened to their missing friend, and they have only a couple hours until the parents show up for pick-up.

The Sleepover is great fun! Jen Malone nails the voice of her tween characters as well as their insecurities. The messes that the girls have gotten themselves into and their plans to fix them will make you squirm. The book ends with an invitation to another sleepover. Does this mean there will be a sequel? We hope so!

Find The Sleepover on:
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

PrintI couldn’t help but dive right into Map to the Stars . Annie, the main character, gets dragged to L.A.the summer before her senior year of high school following her Mom’s career as a make-up artist/hairstylist. But she can’t spend the summer worrying about new friends and a new school because she’s drafted into assisting her mom on a round-the-world publicity tour for teen-heart throb, Graham Cabot, the boy plastered in posters all over her best friend’s walls and ceiling.

Annie is anything but a star-struck fangirl, but she finds it hard to keep her heartbeat from speeding up when forced into close proximity to Graham  – particularly after he rescues her from an attack by crazed fans at Harrods. Graham’s attention lingers on her, but a relationship between the them is complicated by paparazzi and a publicist set-against Graham having a girlfriend.

Jen Malone pulls you into the hearts and lives of Annie, a very likable and relatable character, and even Graham, who initially comes off as arrogant and annoying. She brings the reader along for a ride through heady emotions of a complicated first love. Map to the Stars is a page-turner, a great summer read.

Mom note: Map to the Stars is a young adult book, but is great for tweens who read up as it’s a step up from the world of middle school but doesn’t get more heavy than a couple kisses.

Find Map to the Stars on:
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

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Photo by Pam Vaughan.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Secrets of a Great Author Photo: An Interview with Pam Vaughan

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Jennifer Jacobson. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

I met Pam Vaughan at my first NESCBWI (New England Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators) Conference in 2014. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the awesome authors all around me and my mind buzzed with all I was learning from the great workshops on craft and the publishing industry. I kept catching glimpses of Pam running around everywhere with her camera.  I soon realized she was the conference photographer and was trying to get a picture of each of the 600+ attendees!

 

After the conference, I checked out Pam’s photos on the NESCBWI Facebook page. (I’m not sure she got all 600, but it seemed like she was pretty close!)  Her pictures were awesome! They let me relive the weekend. I even came across a picture of myself sitting at breakfast with another author (who was trying to turn a query letter I’d written into something that might actually get a request). This reminded me that I’d heard several times at the conference that I needed to be on Twitter. I liked the picture and with a download and a crop, BAM, I had a photo to replace the egg on my newbie Twitter account.

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Deb O’Brien. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

Fast forward to the 2016 conference – that picture still on my twitter account as well as my blog, The Winged Pen blog, and my Google+ account. When I ran into Pam again, I asked her if she’d be willing to take an “official” author photo of me since I was ready for an upgrade. I was psyched when she said yes!

I asked Pam if she could share some of her photography insight.

Rebecca: Your pictures are fantastic! How long have you been taking pictures? What types are your favorites to take?

Pam: I’ve been taking photos for years. My father has taken photos since I was young so I’ve learned so much from him. I’m constantly picking his brain about everything photography. I take pictures at sporting events; it’s great when I can capture the action and emotion of the athletes. I love to photograph nature; birds, animals, landscapes, especially things around the ocean. I was asked to be the NESCBWI conference photographer for 2014 & 2015. It was a wonderful experience!

Rebecca: When we met to take my photo you brought another author also. That was great! I find it hard to smile naturally with a camera pointed at my face. But Deb was so funny, she made it easy to ignore the camera and just smile. What other secrets do you have for taking great author photos?

Pam: The secret to taking great photos is, “Take a lot!” With digital cameras it’s easy to

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Rebecca J. Allen. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

take a myriad of pictures. I like to move around and take shots from different angles, and sometimes vary the poses. I never know which ones will end up looking good. I also think people look their best when they are relaxed and comfortable. Having someone else there doing the same thing makes the session so much better. People talking and engaging with each other makes the interaction less awkward and more fun, so it’s easier to take more photos. Plus, everyone enjoys meeting people this way, and we all walk away with new connections!

 

Rebecca: You mentioned that you were “working on the photos” on your computer. What kind of magic do you do behind the scenes?

Pam: Well if it’s magic, I probably shouldn’t divulge! Joking aside, compared to outdoors, taking pictures indoors is much more challenging. The lighting can be difficult.  Also, in a large conference like NESCBWI it’s hard to get just the right subject in my frame. The editing I do involves adjusting the lighting, cropping and sometimes cloning. That means if I see something distracting, like a fire extinguisher next to someone’s head, I’ll take that out. I have a few other tricks, but I can’t tell you all of them!

Rebecca: I heard in a talk on school presentations that it’s important to have an updated picture on social media so that the students and teachers recognize you. Are there other benefits to having a good author picture?

Pam: People are using photos in so many places now. Blogs, Websites, Facebook, Twitter, just to name a few. Authors and illustrators are also using their photos on their book flaps, business cards, and promotional materials. You don’t always want the same photo in all places, so having a few options is helpful.

Rebecca: I didn’t realize when I downloaded and cropped that picture that I should have been giving you a photo credit all that time! Sorry! What should be included in a photo credit?

Pam: No problem. For me, you can simply say, Photo courtesy of Pam Vaughan or Picture taken by Pam Vaughan. Or even a simple thank you often works. I can’t speak for everyone. I think it depends on the photographer and his/her individual policies.

Rebecca: How can people contact you if they’d rather entrust their photos to you than take their own?

Pam:  They can email me at pamvau11@gmail.com. I’m also on twitter @pamvau. I live in central MA.

Rebecca: When you aren’t taking picture what else do you do?

Pam: I attend the NESCBWI conference because I write middle grade and picture books. I’m on the Board of Directors at The Writers’ Loft (www.thewritersloft.org) and I’m one of the co-directors of the SCBWI Whispering Pines Writers’ Retreat (We’re working on our website). I’m planning on taking some author photos at Whispering Pines next year. I also present workshops on Leadership, Mental Toughness and Team Building (www.pvteamconsulting.com).

Rebecca: Thanks Pam! Thanks also to Jennifer Jacobson and Deb O’Brien for allowing us to use their photos!

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Photo by Pam Vaughan.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Write Believable Heroes, Villains, and Emotions with The Positive/Negative Trait Thesauri and The Emotion Thesaurus

RebeccaThe Emotion Thesaurus has had its own special place on my writing desk forso long, I had to look on Goodreads to see when I’d first read it. January 1, 2014. I’ve been using it for a while.emotional thesaurus

When I first started using the book, it opened my eyes to conveying emotions through actions. Well, okay, I used the easy ones all the time. The shrugs, nods and raised eyebrows. But the thesaurus helped me think about a more diverse range of actions humans use to convey emotion, and more subtle ones. I mean, you can only have characters’ brows furrow so many times in one story, right?

As I continued my writing journey, I started making notes on the pages. The thesaurus isn’t exhaustive; it only lists as many expressions as can fit on one page for each emotion. It also focuses on adult, mainstream characters. Where are the fist bumps for my middle graders? The face palms? I created my own mini-Emotion Thesaurus with the frequently used quirks of for my characters. I did this partly for character consistency throughout a story, but also to make sure that different characters’ expressions are distinct enough. I don’t want all my tweens biting their lip every time they get nervous.

Even with my personal Emotion Thesaurus, I still turn back to the original. When I’m stuck on how a character might convey their emotions in a scene, I like to push back from the keyboard for a second and visualize the action like a movie. What feels like the natural expression? When doing this, a scan through the appropriate page in The Emotion Thesaurus starts the ideas flowing.

Laurel: When coming up with a new story, writers can use The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus as:

  1. Paint chips. To “shop” for character flaws and strengths. Sometimes I have a feeling about what’s going wrong for a potential character, but I can’t quite figure out what flaw or strength it is. When I read through the table of contents in either of these thesauri, my characters can try on a trait for size. My imagination doesn’t always call these traits by the same names so having a list helps me tease out what kind of positive traitscharacter I’m writing about. Without the thesauri, you have to hold two things in your mind at once: what your character is like and what possibilities there are. I love tools that free up my imagination.
  2. A Story Trap. The Reverse Backstory Tool in the appendix of The Negative Trait Thesaurus is the perfect trap to catch core of your story on the page. Take ten minutes to try it out and see what I mean. (Download it here.) For more, see my blog post here.
  3. A Ratchet For Conflict. The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus include a section for each trait called: “Traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict.” Let that sink in for a moment.

Laurel and I want to send high-fives and a big “Thanks!” to Angela and Becca for these great resources. I’m sure you can imagine why we’re excited about the new tools coming out this week, The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus. Find out more about them here.

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Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. Unlike many writers, Rebecca did not write her first story at age eight…at least not fiction. She was the editor of her high school yearbook and wrote for her college newspaper. But her first fiction course scared the bejeezus out of her! Having overcome her fear of fiction, Rebecca loves see how much trouble she can get her characters into, and sometimes back out of. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

laurelLAUREL DECHER writes stories about all things Italian, vegetable, or musical. Beloved pets of the past include “Stretchy the Leech” and a guinea pig that unexpectedly produced twins. She’s famous for a nonexistent sense of direction, but carries maps because people always ask her for directions. When she’s not lost, she can be found on Twitterand on her blog, This Is An Overseas Post, where she writes about life with her family in Germany. She’s still a Vermonter and an epidemiologist at heart. PSA: Eat more kale! 🙂 Her short fiction for adults, UNFORESEEN TIMES,originally appeared in Windhover.

Fangirl Report: Catching Maggie Stiefvater on The Raven King Book Tour

maggie stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater. Photo by R.J. Allen.

I am an unabashed fangirl of great writing, and have the photos to prove it here. So when I heard that Maggie Stiefvater would be nearby on her book signing tour for The Raven King, the fourth and last book in The Raven Cycle, the date immediately went on my calendar. Luckily, someone cheered on Twitter about getting off the wait list for an earlier stop on Maggie’s tour because…what? Sold out seats on a book tour? I found out when the tickets would go “on sale” (they were free but registration was required.) Good thing. They were sold out the next morning.

Tickets in hand, next on my “to do” list was catching up on my Stiefvater “To Be Read” list. I’d finished Shiver and The Raven Boys. I’d read The Scorpio Races at least two and a half times. But The Raven King is the fourth book in The Raven Cycle. I had 848 pages of The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue to devour in two weeks. All I can say is: thank goodness for audio books!

IMG_3251An Unlikely Story, the book store hosting the event, has a huge room above the retail space which was filled to capacity with over a hundred and fifty fans. Maggie didn’t disappoint. She spoke for forty minutes without any notes, relating and sometimes acting out stories from the tour (she stayed in a luxury silo and a haunted house in Connecticut while traveling), on research for The Raven Cycle (She visited Welch castles and ley lines while deathly ill), and of racing John Green on a dirt track in Minnesota (John Green crashed his car and it caught fire. He’s fine now. Maggie won.)

Maggie also relayed some writerly advice that I was sure friends at The Winged Pen and subscribers would appreciate. When asked about her writing process, Maggie said she spends a lot of time on research. “I’m not a very good writer. I’m a better thief.”

Hmm. I’m going to go to work on my thieving skills.

She related the story of selecting her undergraduate major. Maggie got into her first-choice college and knew she wanted “an extraordinary life” that combined her love of music, art, and writing. She auditioned for the music department at the college. She was rejected. She could not be a music major or even take lessons. She submitted her portfolio to the art department and was rejected. Maggie had already written several books and submitted her best to the English department. Again, she was rejected. Maggie majored in history and was not allowed to take a single class in music, art or writing while at college.

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Maggie Stiefvater. Photo by R.J. Allen.

Maggie said she knew  the “no’s” from the professors weren’t personal. She considered them a “not yet” and a challenge to come back with something even more impressive. Hitting the New York Times’ bestsellers list qualifies!

Thanks to Maggie for so many great books and for her inspiring story of perseverance! Find out more about Maggie on Tumblr.

 

 

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Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids.

Unlike many writers, Rebecca did not write her first story at age eight…at least not fiction. She was the editor of her high school yearbook and wrote for her college newspaper. But her first fiction course scared the bejeezus out of her! Having overcome her fear of fiction, Rebecca loves see how much trouble she can get her characters into, and sometimes back out of. She’s on Twitter and her website is here.

 

 

 

Writing for Fun: Reflections on a Workshop with Jo Knowles

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Photo by Pexels.com

When was the last time you did wrote just for fun? I have to admit I haven’t for a long time. It’s hard to squeeze writing time in around the rest of life, so when I get it, I feel pressure to be productive: write the next chapter, deepen a character arc, start on revisions. Something needs to get checked off the list.

So when I saw that Jo Knowles was leading two workshops at the New England SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference, I let out a SQUEE, put the workshop on creating memorable characters down as a must-have, and eyed suspiciously her second one titled Improv for Writers: Reinventing Your Approach to Writing “Just for Fun.” Jo writes “feel all the feels” books, like See You at Harry’s and Read Between the Lines, so part of me wanted to take the workshop, whatever it was. Another part of me wasn’t sure. I signed up anyway.

This was a Sunday afternoon workshop, the last time slot in a three-day conference. I was exhausted and my mind buzzed with overstimulation, so I couldn’t imagine being able to sit and focus on writing. But Jo, over two hours, challenged us with writing prompts on settings, characters and conflict, pushing us deeper as we transitioned from one topic to the next. She asked for volunteers to read their pieces, all words dashed off in five minutes or ten, and always found something special to highlight.

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Photo by Pexels.com

Two things struck me about “writing for fun.” First, it was easy. I’d been entirely prepared to forgive myself for not coming up with much from the workshop except for brilliant insights collected from Jo. But spending just a few brief minutes envisioning a character or a setting let me take them farther than I would have imagined. I realized that this would be a great exercise for getting to know settings or characters when I got ready to draft a new story. Thinking about them freely before they needed to be fit carefully into a scene could make them deeper and more real.

Second, I realized everyone in the room was very inspired by the exercise. By just the act of writing for fun, writing something that they may never use in a project. Jo always had several volunteers willing to share their response. At the end of the workshop, she made a recording of everyone in the class saying, in just a sentence, why they write. If you listen to it here, you’ll hear the inspiration in the voices.

Coming out of the workshop I felt “writing for fun” was something I should fit into my everyday routine. I can afford to spend ten minutes on a writing prompt before I dive into the revision list, or on the weekend when I’m not doing “serious writing.”  Since, in the back of my mind, I’m still thinking about the “to do” list, I plan to start by directing my “writing for fun” to pieces that I may use in future stories.

When I asked the Pennies if they write just for fun, I found that most want to, but seldom have time. I did find a couple free writers. Julie Artz said, “I love free writing and would like to do more! I almost always start a new story by free writing everything I can think of about the story idea (this grows into my long form synopsis). I also free write when I get stuck (often poetry).”

Laurel Decher said, “Freewriting helps me to process life and catch funny incidents. It’s like Dumbledore’s Pensieve. In my Scrivener ‘spare parts’ file I have a folder for free writes so that I can easily move pieces to a project or a blog post.”

I’d love to hear how you fit writing for fun into your routine in the comments! Do you do it never? Sometimes? Always? Do you focus it on things that might be useful on a future project or just write about whatever’s in front of your eyes or on your mind?

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Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids.

Unlike many writers, Rebecca did not write her first story at age eight…at least not fiction. She was the editor of her high school yearbook and wrote for her college newspaper. But her first fiction course scared the bejeezus out of her! Having overcome her fear of fiction, Rebecca loves see how much trouble she can get her characters into, and sometimes back out of. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Author Chat with Carrie Firestone, author of The LOOSE ENDS LIST

I loved the ARC of Carrie Firestone’s debut YA novel, The Loose Ends List! The book will be released on June 7th by Little, Brown. Carrie is insanely busy – both with getting ready for the launch and with edits for her second novel, but she graciously let us steal a few minutes of her time to tell us about preparing for her debut novel’s pub date.

carrie firestone

FoWP: The ARC for The Loose Ends List came out in September, 9 months before your launch. What happens during the time between the ARC’s release and the pub date? What has your publisher been doing to get the word out about the book? What have you been doing?

Carrie: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to be part of your fantastic blog! It seems like books take forever to hit the shelves. And in some ways that’s true. My editor acquired the LEL in June of 2014 and it will be released in June of 2016. The ARC (Advance Reader Copy) has been circulating around to booksellers, bloggers and other reviewers. Little, Brown has an amazing team dedicated to marketing and publicity. They have been getting the book into the hands of people who will create buzz. They also have a pre-pub online plan through their website NOVL. I am just beginning to work on my website, and create Facebook and Twitter author pages to be more available online.

FoWP: As a debut author, this is your first time preparing for a book launch. Was there anything that surprised you about the process?

Carrie: I am part of a YA/MG debut community called the Sweet 16’s. I was surprised by how warm, encouraging, and supportive this group of authors has been. There’s no competitive nasty stuff. Everyone has been collegial and welcoming. It’s great to be able to talk to people who truly “get it.”

loose ends llist

FoWP: You sold The Loose Ends List as the first book in a two-book deal, so you’re writing another story while preparing for the book launch. That must be hectic! Tell us about balancing your time between the two projects.

Carrie: I’m still trying to figure out how to balance everything. You should see my laundry piles! When I’m working on a draft for book two, everything else is on hold. It’s a very intense process. Then I turn the draft into my editor and I have several weeks to work on the marketing/social media/social part of preparing for book one’s launch. Balancing those things is easier than balancing all the other family/life responsibilities.

FoWP: What advice do you have for writers still in the query and submission trenches?

Carrie: I queried agents with two other books and got LOTS of rejections before I landed my wonderful agent, Sara. I advise writers to study query-writing websites, and ask other writers for feedback on the letter and the manuscript. Then listen to the feedback. Be willing to make sweeping changes. When I look back at the first two books, I realize they just weren’t good ENOUGH. And the query letters were terrible. If you’re getting a lot of rejections, you may want to put your current WIP away and start writing a new book. It sounds harsh, but this business is very Darwinian. I used to say to my mom, “I’m not submitting it. It’s not good enough.” She thought I was being hard on myself. But I wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t MY best work. Don’t jump the gun and get excited and start submitting until it’s your VERY best work. That takes time, and practice, and probably a drawer full of rejections. We’ve all been there!

About the author:

Carrie Firestone is a former New York City high school teacher who now lives and writes in Connecticut.

About The Loose Ends List:

A refreshing, funny, and moving debut novel about first loves, last wishes, and letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

Pre-order The Loose Ends List:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

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About R.J. Allen

I write middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. My best story ideas come from my two crazy kids. Connect with me at writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen.

Book Review -GENIUS: THE GAME by Leopoldo Gout

Starring…genius

Rex – a 16 year old Mexican-American coder

Cai – a 16 year old Chinese blogger/activist

Tunde – a 14 year old Nigerian engineer who up-cycles garbage into technology for his Nigerian village

These teens are online friends who get the opportunity to meet IRL (in real life) for the first time when they’re invited to a competition hosted by the world’s top tech visionary, Kiran Biswas. Winners will receive spots on Kiran’s team doing cutting-edge tech development. Um…yes, I’ll read that arc, please!

To win the competition, Rex, Cai and Tunde will need to outsmart the top two hundred teen minds in the world. They have to do this while each of them simultaneously faces a threat to himself/herself or their family. I was particularly drawn in by the plight of Tunde, who has never been far from his small village, let alone to Boston, where the competition is being held. His family is held captive by a Nigerian military warlord. His parents and his entire village will be wiped-out unless Tunde both wins the contest and develops a new, powerful weapon and delivers it to the warlord, forcing him to choose between saving his family and helping a vicious killer.

Genius: The Game is tightly written and, of course, has tons of cool technology. Readers who love games, tech, and conspiracies will love it! Release date: May 3.

Find Genius: The Game on:

Goodreads

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

 

 

MORE BANG FOR YOUR BOOK, a series on book marketing, interviews Karin Lefranc

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Karin’s debut picture book, I Want To Eat Your Books, launched September, 2015. She talks with us today about all she learned from that book launch.

FoWP: Karin, readers have fallen in love with your zombie and the boy who tries to keep him from devouring every book in the school. A big part of getting this book into readers’ hands was you. You were everywhere when the book launched in September – signing books in bookstores and libraries, even the YMCA! What was your game plan for the book launch?

Karin: I wanted to generate as much excitement as I could for I Want To Eat Your Books anywhere and everywhere! My publicist at Sky Pony sent press releases to the media and bloggers. I visited many bookstores for book signings and I got the word out about all my readings on Twitter and Facebook.

FoWP: Where did you get help from your publisher and where did you need to make things happen for yourself?

Karin: My publicist at Sky Pony, Cheryl Lew, was a huge help! She wrote a press release to the media, including bloggers, a month or so before publication. She also worked with the Sky Pony sales teams to generate excitement for selling the book.

FoWP: What was the most non-traditional place you went to talk about I Want To Eat Your Books?

Karin: Probably the YMCA. It’s not a place I would have thought of, but I’m a member there and so they asked me to be a part of their Halloween celebration—as the author of a zombie book I fit right in! We had a huge cardboard cutout of the zombie, and sponges made to look like books for the kids to toss into the zombie’s mouth. This awesome creation was actually made for the launch party at Simsbury Library. The Simsbury librarians went above and beyond, creating cool crafts, games and treats for the children.

FoWP: I loved your book trailer. Did it cost a fortune to make?

Karin:  Not at all. At first I thought it would, too, but I went to fiverr.com. I got lucky and got found Anne-Rae, and she did a wonderful job. When I wanted to add audio, she was more than willing to add it if I sent her the voice over. And it all cost less than $75. Here is her link: https://www.fiverr.com/amongus.  I got the trailer on Twitter, Facebook, andYouTube. If you have a book trailer, it’s also a good idea to add to teachertube.com and teacherspayteachers.com so teachers can find your book.

FoWP: You had events scheduled during the week and every weekend. It must have been exhausting! How did you balance appearances with everything else in your life and what advice do you have for other debut authors?

Karin: My husband would laugh at this question because my life was a rather unbalanced at the time! As authors, we are usually on our own writing and so marketing our book is a whole other way of life. It’s about constantly putting yourself and your book out there. I tried to schedule two book signings nearby if they were far away. There is only so much publishers can do unless you’re a big name author, so it’s really up to the author to get creative. I made cute badges with the cover of the book and found a company that did square ones, which looked more like a book than a round one. Here is the link:http://24hourwristbands.com/shop/custom-buttons/custom-square-buttons. I also made bookmarks, another inexpensive marketing tool you can giveaway at book signings as well as leave with libraries and bookstores. I called all the bookstores in my area and told them I’m a local author and available to come and do a reading and/or book signing. Every Barnes & Noble has a customer relations manager that you can ask to speak to, or you can also email them with your press release, reviews etc.

FoWP: What did you learn from marketing I Want To Eat Your Books that would change your marketing plan for your next book?

Karin: I would start earlier—at least six months out. I would do a cover reveal on several Children’s blogs. I would do more online blog contests. I think it’s important to use whatever makes your book different and interesting to generate fun ideas and promotions. There are lots of grown up zombie lovers out there, so my goal was also to be where they were online and even at the popular zombie running races around the country. My book is also about the love of reading and the power of reading so I am now targeting literacy groups to find ways to work with them.

Thanks for all your marketing advice, Karin! Find out more about the launch of Karin’s debut novel, here.

I Want To Eat Your Books
By Karin Lefranc (writer) and Tyler Parker (illustrator)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Sky Pony Press

Find I Want To Eat Your Books:
Goodreads
Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

How have you gotten MORE BANG FOR YOUR BOOK? Share your book marketing and promotion ideas in the comments below!

2014-5 NESCBWI croppedAbout R.J. Allen

I write middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. My best story ideas come from my two crazy kids. Connect with me at writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com/ or on Twitterat @RebeccaJ_Allen.

Author Chat: Karin Lefranc talks about her debut picture book — I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 
I have lived in five countries but am now settled in a quiet Connecticut town with my French husband and brood of three girls and one boy. Apart from a few years owning a children’s store, I have always worked in publishing from newspapers to books. I like the written word in all its forms!

What do you do for fun when you are not writing?
I love reading, of course, and hiking, movies, yoga. In fact, I am a certified children’s yoga teacher and am busy creating a yoga lesson plan for I Want To Eat Your Books for teachers to use in the classroom to focus their students.

When did you first start writing?
Unlike many writers I had no idea I was going to write fiction until about five years ago. However, I have always loved writing. I was in English major and then went on to write for a local newspaper in Connecticut, which was soon followed by writing cover copy and press releases for a publishing company in London. I thought creative writing was for other people until I was overcome by a strong urge to write poems and stories. And once I dipped my pen into the world of fiction, I was hooked. I now write it all from poems to picture books to novels.

Did you have a favorite book or author that influenced you when you were growing up?
I had many different influential writers at different stages of my childhood. I grew up in England so loved Enid Blyton mysteries, but also Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I loved the classics like Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty, Flicka, The Sword in the Stone, Watership Down, The Hobbit. I lived in South Africa from age six to twelve, and there was minimal television, so books were a big part of my creative world.

What was your inspiration for I Want To Eat Your Books?
After three girls, I had a son. He loves monster stories and he was especially fascinated by zombies. I saw this same fascination when I taught kids yoga classes—these kids were craving zombies. There are lots of books about ghosts and ghouls and monsters in all shapes and sizes but most zombie books were written for older children, so I decided I want to write one for the little guys!

What was your favorite part of the book, and why?
I like the part where the boys show the zombie the book about the brain, and he stares at an illustration of the parts of the brain from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdale—and is sucked in…to the world of books!

How did you and the illustrator collaborate on this project?
We did most of our collaboration through our wonderful editor Julie Matysik at Sky Pony Press. She would send me Tyler’s illustrations and if I had any suggestions I would make them through her.

This is such a fun book for the Halloween season! What will you dress up as for Halloween? 
I shall be a zombie mommy! But I am hoping children will enjoy this book any time of year, not just Halloween.

What project are you working on now?
I am writing a middle-grade contemporary fantasy about a timid twelve-year-old girl called Hedda who finds out she’s related to the might Scandinavian warrior Beowulf and has to face her own fears in order to save the troll king’s daughter.

I Want To Eat Your Books
By Karin Lefranc (writer) and Tyler Parker (illustrator)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Sky Pony Press

Find I Want To Eat Your Books:
Goodreads
Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes and Noble