July 6, 2016

If you like...

You'll LOVE...
Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads of in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster ... that is, until the villainous archeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward's parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb.

Edward and his sisters set out on a perilous pursuit across the Martian wilderness. Together they must evade Sir Titus's minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can't, they will never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward's family.


What are your favorite books?

June 28, 2016

If You Like...

Kicking off my "If you like..." series of posts to help give parents and kids ideas for new books to read this summer. This first one is one that I read this spring and it is truly a great, fun mystery and adventure. So, without further ado....

If you like...

You will LOVE...
About the book: Some things are better together. Like peanut butter and jelly. Or Annie and Jason. So when her best friend's house is threatened with foreclosure, Annie Jenkins is bursting with ideas to save Jason's home. She could sell her appendix on eBay. (Why not?) Win the lottery. (It's worth a shot!). Face the evil bankers herself. (She's one tough cookie, after all.) Or hunt down an elusive (and questionably real) pirate treasure. Whatever the plan, it has to work, or this is undoubtedly THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY.

About the author: Janet Sumner Johnson lives in Oregon with her husband and three kids. She bakes a mean cinnamon twist and eats way more cookies than are good for her, which explains her running habit. Though her full-time occupation as evil tyrant/benevolent dictator (aka Mom) takes most of her time, she sneaks in writing at night when her inner funny bone is fully unleashed.


What are your favorite books?

THE TIME KEY by Melanie Bateman

What an incredible and unique book! If you're looking for a deep, complex, and well-written time travel adventure that delves into themes of redemption, perspective and sacrifice, look no further. THE TIME KEY by Melanie Bateman is a little bit of a sci-fi/fantasy version of, "It's a Wonderful Life" mixed with a touch of Neil Gaiman's voice to me. Plus, she also illustrates her story throughout which is a delight. I'd recommend this for teens on up. It's definitely worth checking out!

About the book: When Stanley saves a man, he's given a mysterious device that allows him to travel through time. But he soon learns that changing his past doesn't necessary lead to a better future. Traveling over 100 years into the future may be the only way Stanley can change his fate and save his family.

About the author: Melanie Bateman was born in Caracas, Venezuela and moved to the U.S. at age nine. She has an associate's degree in fine art from Utah Valley University, emphasizing in illustration. From a very young age she's had a passion for drawing, specifically nature and the human figure. It is from this creative look on the world that she began to write stories.

June 25, 2016

Let's Read!

Some kids gobble up books all summer long.


Not so much.

For some children, days and weeks can go by without having cracked open a single book unless they're dragged into it by the meanest mother in the universe. (That would be moi.) I'm not so concerned about the summer slide even if I should be. What I'm most interested in is that kids fall in love with reading. I love this infographic from Big Universe. It focuses on ways to make reading fun!

One of the best ways to make reading FUN is to find great books that they'll enjoy.

Next week, I'll start a series on really great books--old and new--for kids to enjoy! If you have a book that you think would totally turn kids on to reading, let me know in the comments. Or if there is a book that hooked you when you were a kid, I'd love to know!

Until next time, happy reading!

June 4, 2016

THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH'S by Lee Gjertsen Malone

One of the best things I get to do as an author is get to know other authors and read their books. THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH'S is no exception. What a fun, full-hearted story this is! If you're looking for a good summer read, this is it. Check it out and see the interview below that I did with Lee.

Blurb: A seventh grade prankster is determined to escape the all-girls academy where he’s the only boy—by getting expelled—in this “spectacular debut” (Kirkus Reviews) that’s perfect for “fans of Jerry Spinelli’s Crash and Loser” (Booklist).

Seventh grader Jeremy Miner has a girl problem. Or, more accurately, a girls problem. 475 of them to be exact. That’s how many girls attend his school, St. Edith’s Academy.

Jeremy is the only boy left after the school’s brief experiment in co-education. And he needs to get out. But his mother—a teacher at the school—won’t let him transfer, so Jeremy takes matters into his own hands: he’s going to get expelled.

Together with his best friend Claudia, Jeremy unleashes a series of hilarious pranks in hopes that he’ll get kicked out with minimal damage to his permanent record. But when his stunts start to backfire, Jeremy has to decide how far he’s willing to go and whom he’s willing to knock down to get out the door.

Hi Lee! Thank you so much for joining me on my blog, Lee! I loved THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH'S! Where in the world did your story idea originate? This is one of those books that just the premise and the title are hook enough!

My husband went to an all-boy’s high school that went coed a few years after he graduated. (Successfully, I have to say!)  We get newsletters from them periodically and after reading one, I was intrigued — why would a school choose to do this? how would they know that people would want to come? And what if kids didn’t want to go to there? I think most of us imagine a school going coed with each year having more and more kids of the opposite gender, but in my mind, I thought of a school where it was going the other way — every year there were fewer and fewer. At the same time, I had been mulling the idea of a story that centered on a strong platonic girl-boy friendship and so this failed coed school was the perfect setting.

How long did it take you to write and revise. How long did your query process take? Can you share a bit about your path to publication for readers out there who are still on this journey?

First things first: This is not my first completed novel. I actually had another novel, another agent, and a whole other submission experience prior to this one (though that book never sold). So my journey has been on the long side, shall we say. In the case of this book, it started life as a YA novel that took me about 9 months to write. But after querying for a while and getting some excellent advice, I decided to completely revise it as an MG novel, which took another year.  Then I was chosen for Pitch Wars, which was an amazing experience, and began querying again…which took it’s own amount of time. The amazing thing is that after all that, I wasn’t really on submission to editors for very long — slightly less than two months. Which is probably a good thing, since by then my nerves were pretty much shot.

It sure can take a long time, but your perseverance and hard work paid off! Growing up were you a prankster? How did you come up with so many wild and crazy ideas to include in your book? Are there any pranks that didn't make it in your final book?

I was not a prankster, though I hung out with some. I call myself “prankster adjacent,” — at least as a kid. I did more pranks in college. The pranks in the book come from all sorts of sources, including rumored pranks from my high school days, Internet research, and my own head. Amazingly there’s actually only one prank that got cut from the book, and that’s because it was replaced with a much better one. Finding prank ideas was easy, but finding ones that would work in the story I wanted to tell was much more difficult. Especially since I knew that the pranks needed to seem harmless, at least at first. There’s a lot of mean pranks out there but those were wrong for my book. 

Your writing style is so well-done and easy to read, as is the dialogue in your book. Do you have any favorite writing tips?

One of my favorite things to do is to read the entire book out loud in the space of about a day, focusing on flow, voice and dialogue. I usually do this at least twice — my husband can always tell when I have a read-out-loud day because when he gets home my voice is shot. But I don’t know a better way of capturing what works and what doesn’t work in dialogue and voice than reading out loud, and for me, it has to happen almost all at once, so I can hear how it all works together.

That's great advice! I've heard of reading one's book aloud, but not all in one day. What are you working on now?

I’m nearly done revising another contemporary realistic middle grade novel that I hope to share with the world at some point. *fingers crossed*

Congratulations and good luck on the next book, Lee!

Bio: Lee Gjertsen Malone is a Massachusetts transplant via Long Island, Brooklyn, and Ithaca, New York. As a journalist she’s written about everything from wedding planning to the banking crisis to how to build your own homemade camera satellite. Her interests include amateur cheese making, traveling, associating with animals, shushing people in movie theaters, kickboxing and blinking very rapidly for no reason. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband, daughter and a rotating cast of pets.


Twitter: @Lee_G_Malone
Facebook: /LeeGjertsenMaloneBooks