Writing a Villain – a Guest Post by Amalie Howard

Amalie Howard, author of many books including Alpha GoddessThe Almost Girl, and The Fallen Prince is the queen at writing nasty, nefarious types. Today, she joins us to tell us the ins and outs of writing a really great bad guy.

As a kid, when everyone else wanted to be Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or Princess Leia, I was the kid who wanted to be Darth Vader.

*whispers to you* . . . come to the dark side . . . 

I don’t consider myself to be a villain, but I do appreciate both sides of the battle as well as the lure of being bad. Because, let’s face it, villains can be awesome. And not only are they awesome, but they’re crucial to most stories. The villain is the antagonist that makes the role and journey of your protagonist so much more meaningful. Put in the simplest terms, they’re meant to keep your hero from reaching his (or her) goals. They’re the obstacles to the hero’s journey. The stone in his shoe. The sand in his swimsuit. The Joker to his Batman. The Voldemort to his Harry Potter. You get the picture.

That said, there are many different kinds of villains: villains who become twisted through some life-altering event or quirk of nature, villains who are simply born bad, villains who like being evil, villains who want to preserve the greater good, villains who have no choice but to be villains, and villains who are heroes in disguise.

But my favorite type of villain is hands-down the complex, misunderstood kind. The kind where the definition of villainous is mired in shades of gray, where moral nihilism starts to beg the question. What’s right? What’s wrong? Who defines goodness and/or badness? Is this villain truly a villain?

Megamind is a great example of this. He’s not inherently evil, but was pegged from the start into that role because of circumstance. In the end, he turns out to be the true hero of the story. Another example of a character often portrayed in a villainous light is Kali in East Indian mythology. She has a bad reputation for being a berserker killer goddess, but a lot of her fury comes from her deep-rooted protective instinct, much like a ferocious mother bear defending her cubs. She is considered to be the great mother goddess, capable of terrible destruction and yet also representative of powerful and nurturing female power. I like that combination of strength and ferocity (which is why I am writing about her in my next YA book, Dark Goddess, out in Spring 2017 from Sky Pony Press).

For me, writing a good villain (not an oxymoron by the way) is essential to my stories. And by “good,” I mean well-rounded, multi-dimensional, and layered. A good villain has to be as fleshed out as much as the hero. As the creator, you have to understand what drives him, what his motives are, what he wants so that these are transparent to your readers. His goals (nefarious as they may be) are just as important as the hero’s. At the end of the day, he is the surrounding pressure—the mold that helps shape your hero into the person he is meant to be. A good villain fosters urgency, creates impetus, causes challenges, incites tension. In short, this friction is what give your story its kinetic energy . . . the force that keeps it moving from page to page. One of the biggest things I talk about in my creative writing workshops is your character’s GMC or Goals, Motivation, and Conflict. Each character must have a goal they are working towards, motivation that drives them to achieve this goal, and the conflict that keeps them from getting there. The cool thing about villain/hero conflict is that their goals will usually be at opposing ends of the spectrum, which can make for very interesting tension.

In my own writing, I like to keep my readers guessing as to who the true villain is. Often, I’ll have a character who checks all of the boxes, but will turn out to be an ally. Conversely, I also enjoy writing characters who may seem wonderful on the outside but may have secret agendas. My favorite villains are the ones you don’t see coming.

Some tips on writing a good villain:

  1. Make sure your villain is complex, layered, and multidimensional. (He is a reflection of the hero so put as much work into him as you would your hero.)
  2. Give him real goals and motivation that make sense in the framework of your story.
  3. Create a believable backstory that brings value to his narrative.
  4. Avoid typical villain clichés (long speeches, disfigured, vain, jealous, angry at the world, abusive, sinister, over-dramatic, dressed in black, etc.)
  5. Surprise your reader.

Some well-done villains in literature:

  1. Alex DeLarge—A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  2. Dolores Umbridge—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  by J.K. Rowling (In many ways, I see her as even more evil than Voldemort.)
  3. Coulter—His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
  4. Ramsay Bolton—A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (I really, really, REALLY hated him.)
  5. Count Dracula—Dracula by Bram Stoker
  6. The White Witch—Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis


Howard, Amalie - Alpha Goddess

Amalie Howard is the award-winning IndieNext author of Alpha Goddess, The Riven Chronicles, the Aquarathi series, and the Cruentus Curse series. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Summer Read.

Her next novel with Sky Pony, Dark Goddess, is a sequel to Alpha Goddess, and will release in Spring 2017.

She currently resides with her husband and three children in Colorado.

Visit her online at www.amaliehoward.com or follow her on Twitter @amaliehoward




Alpha Goddess

In Serjana Caelum’s world, gods exist. So do goddesses. Sera knows this because she is one of them. A secret long concealed by her parents, Sera is Lakshmi reborn, the human avatar of an immortal Indian goddess rumored to control all the planes of existence. Marked by the sigils of both heaven and hell, Sera’s avatar is meant to bring balance to the mortal world, but all she creates is chaos. A chaos that Azrath, the Asura Lord of Death, hopes to use to unleash hell on earth.

Torn between reconciling her past and present, Sera must figure out how to stop Azrath before the Mortal Realm is destroyed. But trust doesn’t come easy in a world fissured by lies and betrayal. Her best friend Kyle is hiding his own dark secrets, and her mysterious new neighbor, Devendra, seems to know a lot more than he’s telling. Struggling between her opposing halves and her attraction to the boys tied to each of them, Sera must become the goddess she was meant to be, or risk failing, which means sacrificing the world she was born to protect.


The Almost Girl

The Almost Girl

Seventeen-year-old Riven comes from a world parallel to Earth, a world that has been ravaged by a devastating android war. As a Legion General, she is the right hand of Prince Cale, the young Prince of Neospes. In her world, she’s had everything: rank, responsibility, and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to rescue his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

Armed with the mindset of a soldier and racing against time to bring Caden home, Riven must learn how to blend in as a girl in a realm that is the opposite of all she’s ever known. Will she be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?




The Fallen Prince

Riven has fought for a hard-won peace in her world, and has come to shaky terms with who and what she is—a human with cyborg DNA. Now that the rightful ruler of Neospes has been reinstated, Riven is on the hunt for her father in the Otherworld to bring him to justice for his crimes against her people.

But when she receives an unwelcome visit from two former allies, she knows that trouble is brewing once again in Neospes. The army has been decimated and there are precious few left to fight this mysterious new threat.

To muster a first line of defense, her people need help from the one person Riven loathes most—her father. But what he wants in return is her complete surrender.

And now Riven must choose: save Neospes or save herself.


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Q&A with HOW TO MAKE OUT author Brianna R. Shrum

We’re delighted to have Brianna R. Shrum, author of How to Make Out joining us today on the blog. We can’t wait for her to share a little more about herself with us!


1. Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

So I write in both fantasy and YA contemporary, and I love 8both* because to me, both genres sparkle with magic. In fantasy it’s right there–the stakes are drawn in magic and blood. But in YA contemporary, I can write someone experiencing this stage of life that is there and gone in a blink, where everything feels HUGE and so fleeting. And that is like magic in itself.empire-of-storms

2. What are you reading right now?

I just finished The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, and oh my gosh, if someone could send me a post on How To Get Over A Book Hangover, that would be great. Ha. So to TRY to get over that, I’ve started reading ! (No one tell me what happens but #TeamRowan forever and ever)

3. If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

OH MAN. This is so impossible because it changes depending on my mood! If I’m feeling waggle-eyebrows and amoral, I want to be Alina Starkov and rule RAvka forever with the Darkling. I was gonna say possibly Alucard Emery from A Gathering of Shadows but that’s technically not YA so….I think Puck from The Scorpio Races. Yes. Puck. ALWAYS.

4. Where’s your favorite place to write? 

I spend most of my time writing on my living room couch by the light of my Harry Potter Christmas tree (which I keep up year round). But my FAVORITE place is this little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop downtown that makes the best chai tea in ALL THE LAND.

5. What’s your favorite classic movie?

Empire Strikes Back. No question.stegosaurus

6. If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

A STEGOSAURUS. I would name him Winston.

7. Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

As darkkkk as possible, please.

slytherin8. What’s your favorite holiday?

CHRISTMAS. I decorate my house like Hogwarts at Christmas and we choose which House won that year and rank them by drawing them with chalk on the fireplace. and decorate the tree in whichever won. Last year was Gryffindor. This year I am fighting for my house–Slytherin.

9. What’s your favorite emoji?

The smirky face or the sweating smiley face. The combination of them basically sums up me as a person.

10. What did you want to grow up to be when you were your character’s age?

So when I was 16? A songwriter. I wound up being something pretty close! Ha!

how-to-make-out-revised-9781510701670How to Make Out

Sixteen-year-old Renley needs three thousand dollars for the math club’s trip to New York City, and she knows exactly how to get it: she’s going to start a how-to blog where people pay for answers to all of life’s questions from a “certified expert.” The only problems: 1) She doesn’t know how to do anything but long division and calculus. 2) She’s totally invisible to people at school. And not in a cool Gossip Girl kind of way.

So, she decides to learn to do . . . well . . . everything. When her anonymous blog shifts in a more scandalous direction and the questions (and money) start rolling in, she has to learn not just how to do waterfall braids and cat-eye makeup, but a few other things, like how to cure a hangover, how to flirt, and how to make out (something her very experienced, and very in-love-with-her neighbor, Drew, is more than willing to help with).

As her blog’s reputation skyrockets, so does “new and improved” Renley’s popularity. She’s not only nabbed the attention of the entire school, but also the eye of Seth Levine, the hot culinary wizard she’s admired from across the home-ec classroom all year.

Soon, caught up in the thrill of popularity both in and out of cyberspace, her secrets start to spiral, and she finds that she’s forgotten the most important how-to: how to be herself. When her online and real lives converge, Renley will have to make a choice: lose everything she loves in her new life, or everyone she loves in the life she left behind.

Brianna Shrum has been writing since she could scrawl letters and has worked with teens since she graduated, either in the writing classes she taught or within youth groups. Brianna digs all things YA, as well as all things geeky, superhero-y, gamer-y, magical, and strange. She lives in Englewood, Colorado, with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband and her two little boys.

Visit her online at www.briannashrum.com, @BriannaShrum on Twitter, and @bchrumby on Instagram!

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Join us for a Live Chat with A MILLION TIMES GOODNIGHT author Kristina McBride!

September 28, 2016 

8:00PM EDT

Join Sky Pony editor, Alison Weiss, as she chats with A Million Times Goodnight author Kristina McBride about her latest release, her publishing path, and what you can expect from her in the future. The only thing we still need? YOU!



You can find the chat right here next Wednesday. Click on the box below and it will even send you a reminder!

Haven’t read A Million Times Goodnight yet? No problem. You have a week! And we’ll attempt to keep the chat spoiler free. Emphasis on attempt.

If you can’t make it, no worries. Feel free to leave your questions in the comments section below, and Alison will work them into the conversation.

Live Blog Live Chat with Kristina McBride

And that’s not all! We’ll be giving away a signed copy of A Million Times Goodnight and a sweet secret surprise! Rafflecopter right here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


A Million Times Goodnight_cover-REVISEDOne Night. Two Paths. Infinite Danger.

On the night of the big spring break party, seventeen-year-old Hadley “borrows” her boyfriend Ben’s car without telling him. As payback, he posts a naked picture of her on the internet for the entire senior class to see.

Now she has a choice. She can go back to the party and force Ben to delete the picture. Or she can raise the stakes and take his beloved car on a road trip as far way from their hometown of Oak Grove, Ohio, as she can get.

Each storyline plays out in alternating chapters. In one strand, Hadley embarks on a reckless adventure with her best friends. spinning the perfect plan for revenge. In the other, struck in a car with her ex-boyfriend, Josh, she’s forced to revisit the mistakes they each made, including whether they should ever have broken up at all. As the events of a wild night race toward an explosive conclusion, old feelings are rekindled, friendships tested, and secrets uncovered that are so much worse than a scandalous photo.

A Million Times Goodnight is a fast-paced romantic contemporary thriller ripped right from the headlines.

Kristina McBride is a former high school English teacher and yearbook advisor, as well as an adjunct professor at Antioch University Midwest and Wright State University. She has a thing for music, trees, purses, and chocolate. She is the author of two previous novels, The Tension of Opposites, and One Moment. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two young children. Visit her online at www.kristinamcbride.com or follow her on Twitter at @McBrideKristina.


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Q&A with MONSTERVILLE author Sarah S. Reida

We’re delighted to have Sarah S. Reida, author of Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production joining us today on the blog. We can’t wait for her to share a little more about herself with us!


stitch hi

1.. Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

I grew up in a pretty rural area, and some of my best memories are of finding new hideouts in our woods, where I’d stay for hours to read. Fuzzy book memories!

Also, when I was in grade school, I connected so much with books. I was moved by them, read the same ones over and over, wanted to know the characters. . . . I write books for middle schoolers because of how much books meant to me when I was that age.

2. What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading The Clinet by John Grisham. I’m a lawyer, so it’s fun to read fiction about the legal field and be like, “THAT’S NOT HOW IT GOES DOWN!” Grisham’s pretty good, though. And hey, I like Legally Blonde, and we all know THAT’s not accurate.

3. If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

Hmm. Harry Potter came to mind first, but there’s so much responsibility for poor Harry. Probably Charlie Bucket, after he got the factory. Maybe my decision shouldn’t be based on candy, but when I was growing up, my dad owned a convenience store and we went to candy conventions every year. That was pretty much the best experience a kid could have.


candy ya


4. Where’s your favorite place to write? (Please include a picture!)

Aw, I don’t have some picturesque place to describe. Usually I hang out on my porch, or I go to Panera Bread Company and fill up on bagels and coffee. There’s also my office, but where’s the fun in that?

5. What’s your favorite classic movie?

I really enjoyed Whatever Happened to Baby Jane with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. They’re both so good in that! That’s one of the rare ones I think could be re-made successfully, though I hope that doesn’t happen because of the risk.

6. If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

I immediately thought “squishy white bunny trained to hug and sleep in bed with me,” but that was followed by the image of what my cat, Wyatt, would do to it. So I’ll go traditional and stick with cats. I’m a writer. We’re cat ladies.

cat computer morning

7. Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

Dark chocolate, unless it’s Christmas, and then white peppermint bark.

8.What’s your favorite holiday?


Here are some hints: my husband and I were married on Halloween, my debut book is all about Halloween, and my first child is expected around Halloween.

9. What’s your favorite emoji? OR What’s your favorite GIF?

To be honest, I’m not a fan of those, BUT when I was in law school and used IM a lot. I had an IM avatar that looked like a white baby seal with huge eyes that made the cutest expressions. I called him Mopsie.

animals baby snow white seal

(Editor’s Note: Not Mopsie, but terribly cute.)

10. What did you want to grow up to be when you were Lissa’s age?

Oh, I always wanted to be a writer. Always.




Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production

Beware what lurks beneath your bed. . . . It could lead to a monstrous adventure!

Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is miserable when her parents force her to move from New York City (the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress) to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s nothing to do there, except play her little sister Haylie’s favorite new game, Monsterville, and hang out with her new neighbor Adam.

But when a walk in the woods lands her face-to-face with a swamp monster hungry for brains and then a Sasquatch that moos, even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring. With Adam’s help, she catches the culprit behind the drama: a shape-shifting goblin who’s fled from the monster world of Down Below.

And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? Make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will the the secret to her big break.

But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and the monster must venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

“The perfect book for the director who might have to take on a starring role.” —Kelly Jones, author of Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

“An absolute delight. Full of humor with a fresh voice, and just plain fun to read.” —Penny Warner, Two-time award-winning author of The Code Busters Club series

“Chutes and Ladders with monsters–and an aspiring filmmaker determined to capture them all. Monsterville is creepy good fun!”—Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, Mark Twain Award finalist for Ordinary Magic

“Overflowing with humor and fabulous in its overturning of many movie clichés. Kids will love puzzling over the chain of clues that lead Monsterville‘s lovable heroes through the world of Down Below.” —Claire Fayers, author of The Voyage to Magical North

Sarah S. Reida loves Halloween, classic movies, and fostering underdog animals. Growing up in the Midwest (Illonois, to be precise), she read everything she could get her hands on and watched many, many movies during her parents’ “camping” trips involving electricity and s’mores in a microwave. By day, she is an attorney and lives with her husband, dog, and four cats with big personalities in Marietta, Georgia. By the time this post goes live, they will probably have acquired another animal. Monsterville is her first novel.

Visit her online at www.lissablackproductions.com or on Twitter at @SarahSReida.

Not Blue and Haylie, but they could be:

boo monsters inc sully




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A Day in the Life of an Editor

It’s a wide-spread belief that editors sit at their desks all day reading and editing, complete with the iconic red pen.



I’m not going to lie. When I first contemplated a job as a children’s book editor, I did the same thing. I can read children’s books for a living! That would be great!


But the truth is, while editors do read and edit a lot, most of that happens on our own time on evenings and weekends:


cat cute kitten sleeping sleepy


It’s a rare day when I actually get to edit in the office.

So, what does an editor do all day, then? Well, here’s a day in my life. Let’s see. I don’t even know what will happen!

9:00 AM – Get to work. I grab a cup of coffee and quickly skim my emails to see if there’s anything I need to deal with right away. There isn’t. I write a fast update email to an author and agent, and mark a couple of emails to come back to later in the day or later this week.

That done, I settle in for my daily ritual of checking sales orders and look for tasty book-related news and great pieces about my authors’ books to share on social media. Do all editors engage in one or both of these activities? I have no idea. But this is my pattern to ease into the day.

9:30 AM – Author calls to check in on something. We have a lovely, quick chat.

9:35 AM – Bethany stops by my desk to check in.

9:45 AM – Time for another cup of coffee. Off to the kitchen I go!

coffee black and white vintage advertisement coffee lovers

9:50 AM – Start writing the draft for a deal announcement for a book I’ve recently acquired. Sometimes the editor takes the lead on this, sometimes the agent. And sometimes the announcement copy comes very quickly, and other times, not so much . . .

This one was a little tricky. It takes a while.

10:15 AM – Email agent draft copy of deal announcement for her thoughts and comments. Cross that off the list. Phew!

10:22 AM – Start typing up this blog post and realize it takes a long time to sound elegant AND research appropriate photos and GIFs. (I do it for you, dear reader.)

10:55 AM – Respond to agent asking about when client will receive editorial letter.

10:56 AM – Back to the post.

11:05 AM – Rachel stops by to catch up on some points since she’s just back from what sounds like a gloriously relaxing vacation. We talk ARC set up, some administrative concerns, and reviews among other things. We also discuss the impending Lesbian Hillbilly Militia attack, which I promised her I would include in this post. Link here: http://www.dailydot.com/irl/lesbian-and-transgender-hillbillies-are-taking-over-your-town/?llid=xKlJ&ls=dd&type=cpc&campaign=xKlJ

11:25 AM – Last catch up on the post. I’m almost up to current! I need to figure out the next task to tackle!

11:29 AM – Realize I missed social media-ing a teaser from one of my forthcoming books that went live this past Tuesday! (Check it out here.) So I tweet the link.

11:32 AM – Update an offer form with agreed terms. I like to have one sheet with everything clearly laid out. It makes it easier when it comes time to draft the contract.

11: 40 AM – Derailed by important email. Do a little research and respond.

11: 56 AM – Send updated offer form to agent to make sure it’s all as agreed.

11:58 AM –  Create folder for new author. Love adding the new!

12:02 PM – Agent likes the deal blurb! Hooray! She’s sending it on to other involved parties to make sure we’re ready to submit.

12:05 PM – General administrative reorganizing.

12:14 PM – Sit down to review a proofread. For me, this means printing out the PDF, inserting proofreader’s comments, and giving it another read. Once the book is typeset, I just catch more on the physical page. When I have everything together, I’ll mark it all back into a PDF and send it to the author for her to confirm she approves all the changes.

I suspect that this new development will be most of the rest of my day. . . . Life an editor = you don’t actually get to plan out your days and keep to that plan.

And, contrary to the above, I’m actually editing in the office, today! Caveat, though. This kind of editing in the office isn’t all that unusual for me. It’s the structural and deep line edits that usually happen outside of work hours. Going through a proofread is much more akin to proofreading—just working out he last kinks, making sure every t is crossed and i is dotted.

12:51 PM – Adobe starts a cycle of freezing. Contemplate throwing something at my computer. Decide that would be unwise.

tumblr angry work computer frustrated

1:43 PM – Ask that we order in more red pencils. Hey, I need them!

1:47 PM – Go heat up my lunch. I’m hungry!

1:50 PM – Eat lunch while working. Periodically look up to see emails, etc. and deal with them, but mostly just making sure everything in this book is shipshape. Very apropos since it’s a pirate story!

3:00 PM – Wonder why this office is so cold! The blistering conditions I’m reading about in this book are not helping.

4:00 PM – Jacket meeting. See all kinds of pretty in progress.

4:30 PM – Back to the desk to keep editing.

5:15 PM – Scroll through PW’s Children’s Bookshelf where a deal I’ve had to keep under wraps for a long time is being announced! Send the newsletter to the agent, and gleefully go share the news on social media!

5:48 PM – Off to home. It’s been a really long day and its time to get cozy, maybe do some more editing, or curl up with a manuscript to read. Until tomorrow!

Alison S. Weiss is an editor at Sky Pony Press, where she works on picture books through YA. Some of her favorite book as a kid were Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Eloise, Anne of Green Gables, and Paddington. As a grownup, favorites (that she has not edited) include Barkbelly, The Goose Girl, Circus Mirandus, The Penderwicks, and Savvy. She loves assassins and spies and sleuths, friendships that feel like they’ll last forever, and love stories that will twist you into knots before they’re through. She’s especially eager to find a middle grade with a cozy feel, and a voice-driven, sweeping, romantic YA.

Recent and soon-to-be released projects include Jessica Taylor’s Wandering Wild, Kristina McBride’s A Million Times Goodnight, the Project Droid series by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Krulik, Amanda Burwasser, and illustrated by Mike Moran, dotwav by Mike A. Lancaster, Timekeeper by Tara Sim, Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production by Sarah S. Reida, Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh, and It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! by Wendy MacLeod McKnight. She’s worked with New York Times best-selling author Jessica Verday (Of Monsters and Madness), Agatha Award winner Penny Warner (The Code Busters Club series), YALSA-Award winning Sarah Cross (Kill Me Softly and Tear You Apart), ITW Award Finalist Kristen Lippert-Martin (Tabula Rasa), Amalie Howard, and Sarah McGuire, among others. She also assisted on Christopher Myers’s H.O.R.S.E., which won a 2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award and the 2014 Odyssey Award.

Follow her on Twitter @alioop7.

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Q&A with Project Droid Authors Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser

We have a special treat today. We’re interviewing not one, but two authors on the blog!. The first two books in the Project Droid chapter book series, Science No Fair! and Soccer Shocker! just hit the shelves. Authors Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser were kind enough to sit down and answer our questions to give us a little bit more insight into who they are and how they came to write these hilarious books. They’ve known each other forever—they’re mother and daughter, after all—and now they’re going to answer our questions!




1. Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

Nancy: I think, deep in my heart, I am a third grader. And I love watching kids discover that reading is fun. Chapter books are the first books kids gravitate to once they’ve stopped decoding and begun comprehending. Also, I don’t have the patience or stick-to-itness for the time it takes to write a whole novel.

Amanda: I work with children and wanted to be able to write things my students would enjoy.

2. What are you reading right now?

Nancy: Max Perkins, Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg

AmandaWaging Heavy Peace by Neil Young


3. If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

Nancy: Nancy Drew—she’s smart and funny and she used to drive a roadster. Not that I know what a roadster is exactly, but still, it sounds super cool.

Amanda: Max imaxn Where the Wild Things Are, because like Max I like create my own little worlds inside in my head.





4. Where’s your favorite place to write? 

Nancy: I always write in our piano room—partially because it’s right next to the kitchen which is great for snack and coffee breaks, and partially because it’s bright and right in the center of things.


Amanda: Under my apple tree in my yard.


5. What’s your favorite classic movie?

Nancy: Does The Rocky Horror Picture Show count as classic? If not, anything with the Marx Brothers (I was raised on their films).

AmandaBreakfast at Tiffany’s—I’ve loved that movie since I was a little girl.

black and white unicorn black and white gif unicorn gif

6. If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

Nancy: I think I would stick with my dog, Josie. She’s a crazy beagle mix, and she makes me nuts, but I’m pretty crazy about her.

Amanda: A unicorn.

7. Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

Nancy: Dark chocolate is healthier, but milk chocolate is the ultimate treat (especially with raisins and almonds!)

Amanda: Milk chocolate.

8. What’s your favorite holiday?

Nancy: My kids’ birthdays! (And Halloween.)

Amanda: Halloween.

9. What’s your favorite emoji?

Nancy: I love the food ones—particularly coffee. coffee

Amanda: Rock On!  rock-on

10. What did you want to grow up to be when you were Logan’s age?

Nancy: I wanted to be an actress—or, more accurately, a movie star like Katharine Hepburn. (I told you I was raised on old movies, right?) But I am the world’s worst actress, ever! Amanda, on the other hand is extremely talented in the theater arts.

Amanda: Either a member of the Spice Girls or an actress.  I actually was an actress for a while, but I never became a Spice Girl.

Science No Fair 9781510710184 Science No Fair!

When you have an android cousin, losing your head take on a whole new meaning!

There’s nothing Logan Applebaum has ever wanted more than to have another kid around the house. SO when his inventor mom builds him a robot cousin, Logan’s really excited—until he finds out that it’s not so easy keeping Java’s android identity a secret. Because even though Java is really smart, he doesn’t seem to understand anything.

Still, with the third grade science fair coming up, having a cousin with a computer for a brain just might come in handy. Does having Java around mean Logan finally has a chance at winning first prize? Or will those nasty, super-sneaky Silverspoon twins outsmart him again?


Soccer Shocker 9781510710191

Soccer Shocker!

The Purple Wombats’ secret weapon has a really big secret.

Anyone would love having a super-scoring robot Java on his soccer team. Well anyone except Java’s human cousin, Logan. That’s because, up until now, Logan has been the Wombats’ top scorer—and he has no desire to share the field with the team’s new start player. Especially because Java won’t let the other kids get near the ball—never mind score any goals. If it were up to Logan, he would just kick Java right off the field. Because as far as Logan is concerned, there’s no I in team, and there shouldn’t be a droid on one, either.



Praise for Project Droid:

“This quirky new chapter book series is fast-paced and full of Amelia Bedelia–style gags. Moran’s black-and-white cartoon drawings add to the humor and appeal. Java is an endearingly naive and enthusiastic character, and Logan is believable as a frustrated kid trying to keep his cousin’s robot nature a secret. VERDICT This entertaining new series will appeal to fans of funny stories and robots.” —School Library Journal

[F]unny enough to keep fledgling readers turning pages.” —Kirkus Reviews

Nancy Krulik is the author of more than two hundred books for children and young adults including three New York Times bestsellers and the popular Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo; George Brown, Class Clown; and Magic Bone series. She lives in New York City with her husband and crazy beagle mix.

Amanda Burwasser holds a BFA with honors in Creative Writing from Pratt Institute in New York City. Her senior thesis, a screenplay entitled Born to Me, earned her the coveted Pratt Circle Award upon graduation. This former native New Yorker is now a preschool teacher residing in Santa Rosa, California.

Mike Moran is a dad, husband, and illustrator. He has worked for really fun clients, and his illustrations can be seen in children’s books, animation, magazines, games, World Series programs, and more. He often dreams of playing first base for the New York Mets, being a songwriter in Nashville or the fifth Beatle. He lives in Florham Park, New Jersey.

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Where Were You on September 11th?

Just a Drop of Water 9781510712348

This weekend, America will observe the fifteenth anniversary of the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. While most children today were not alive when the attacks happened, many authors, parents, teachers, and librarians vividly remember that day. We asked Kerry O’Malley Cerra, author of Just a Drop of Water, a middle grade novel inspired by the events of September 11th, to tell us what she remembers about living through the tragedy.

Growing up, I’d heard older people tell stories at get-togethers that often began, “I remember exactly where I was when . . .” While too young to really understand why these events mattered enough for the adults to talk about them, one thing was clear. Their stories and their faces were consumed with sadness. I knew that whatever happened altered the person’s world in some way, and I hoped I’d never witness an event where I’d say the same thing some day. But then, September 11 happened.

And now I’ve often found myself saying, “I remember exactly where I was that morning,” and I’m suddenly a member of a club I never wanted to be part of.

My oldest child—a daughter—had just started kindergarten. She wanted more than anything to be a Daisy Girl Scout, and when no one else signed up to be troop leader, I somewhat reluctantly agreed to do it. On the morning of 9/11, I’d dropped her off at school, my second off at pre-school, and with my youngest in tow, headed off to the Girl Scout Council office to learn all I needed to know. As I sat with the nice lady who explained the meaning of each petal of the daisy flower to me, my cell phone rang. I glanced at the number and saw it was my husband. Not wanting to be rude and interrupt the current conversation, I let it go to voice mail. But he called again . . . and again . . . before I finally answered.

At the time, my husband was an assistant principal at a local high school. He sounded frantic—totally out of character for him—on the phone, and I had to tell him to calm down, just to make sense of his words. He told me two planes had hit the twin towers in New York City. He told me he believed it to be deliberate. He told me he thought we were being attacked.

I thought he was crazy.

This is America; this wouldn’t happen here.



Innocent lives targeted.


He begged me to pick up our two older kids and get home. Stay home. Wait for him to call me back with more information. But I still didn’t fully believe what he was saying. By this time, the Girl Scout office had become quieter than a church sanctuary—mouths gaping, teeth clenching knuckles, tears falling silently—and as we watched the replay of the planes crashing on TV, no volume was necessary. We knew. We grasped it. My husband was right.

I grabbed the materials I’d come for and headed home with my son. I didn’t pick up my other two from school right away. My gut told me that even though we were being attacked, our little corner of the world—a small Florida town—would never be a target. I needed to find out exactly what was happening before I got them because I had no intention of exposing them to this horror. They were safe in school. And I needed answers from my TV before I could go on.

The answers were not what I expected. Disbelief consumed me. The personal stories that began flooding the news shredded my heart into pieces that I wasn’t sure would ever be fully put back together. Eventually, I did go pick up my kids—the last parent to do so, which I felt terrible about. I felt terrible, too, because as much as I wanted to shield my babies from the truth, it was clear they were going to hear a million stories beginning with “I remember where I was when the planes hit the World Trade Center.”

With heaviness in both my heart and unmistakably in my words, my husband and I gathered the kids around the kitchen table and explained what happened as best we could. The whole time we talked, my kids were playing with the Daisy petal (badges) that I’d tossed on the table earlier that day. Next to it was the sheet, explaining what each petal represented—things like honesty, making the world a better place, courage, respectfulness, etc.—I was struck by the irony. On a day so tragic, I had this small gift of hope. Hope that these little kindergarten girls wouldn’t just hear that phrase about where we all were, but that they’d be able to counter that with what they’d done to make the world better. That became my goal for our troop.

Sadly, our Daisys had many opportunities immediately following this, because it was quickly discover that Atta, the lead hijacker and mastermind of the attacks, lived just around the corner from us, in our small town that I was sure—so, so sure—would never be impacted by such a horrifying event. FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies swarmed our city, working tirelessly to piece together our part of this national tragedy. What was catastrophic and unfathomable became a teachable moment about community, humanity, and love. Most of what we did was on a small scale, bringing water to the authorities investigating, baking and delivering treats to our police headquarters, and attending a city-sponsored candlelight vigil.

Yet on a deeper note, we talked about religious and cultural differences in our troop. We then expanded that to include people we knew outside the troop. We talked about feeling left out, or noticing others who were left out, and possible reasons why. The girls then challenged each other to meet at least three new people in their school who they’d not normally see themselves hanging out with, and find out three interesting things about them. In essence, they were to befriend three people most opposite themselves. It took courage on their part, but they reported back to our troop in the following weeks that each had not only been successful, but had legitimately made new friends. In March of that year, we participated in a county-wide troop event called International Day and our Daisys were excited to learn even more—particularly about cultures we hadn’t yet studied within our own troop.

I hope each of their little Daisy hearts were opened in a way that has remained with them over time. I’ve lost touch with all of them but my own daughter, but I’d like to think their enthusiasm to befriend others and excitedly learn about other cultures has remained with them. After all, acceptance is the key to peace.

It was an honor to be a part of that Daisy troop. An honor to watch them earn those badges. An honor to teach a code that is based on simple merits of decency. And I can’t help but wonder if, had those terrorists been taught these basic principals as kids, they might have turned out differently. Sure, there may have been others to take their place and attack, but in my perfect world, everyone would follow the principals of scouting.

Leading the Daisy scouts became therapeutic for me that year. I realized that sharing stories helps people deal with tragedies. It allows people to ban together to take positive action. Talking about it heals!

So I ask you, “Where were you when 9/11 happened?” I look forward to reading your answers in the comments below, because even fifteen years later, we’re still healing. Hugs, my friends!

Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart—and outrun—the rival cross-country team. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens, and it’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.

© Erica Brooks

According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, and so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI, and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. In the end, Jake must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.

Kerry O’Malley Cerra is a former high school history teacher who often enhanced textbooks with historical fiction to bring time periods to life. Just a Drop of Water, her first middle grade novel, was inspired by a deeply personal reaction to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Visit her online at KerryOMalleyCerra.com.

Additional links for Kerry: Website | TwitterInstagram

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Danica Davidson on Cyberbullying and Approaching Real-World Issues through Fiction

Armies of Herobrine
To celebrate the release of the fifth book in her Unofficial Overworld Adventure series, we asked Danica Davidson to talk about how her adventure-packed books touch on real-world issues that kids face. Read on below, and be sure to check out Danica’s other books here.

I’m very excited that The Armies of Herobrine, the fifth book in my Overworld Adventure series, is being released! I think this is the most action-packed book yet in the series, and Stevie and his friends will fight an epic, world-spanning battle against Herobrine, the worst villain they’ve ever faced. It’s my hope that it will keep kids on the edge of their seats while they read . . . and I hope they also enjoy the deeper elements of the book, including stuff about friendship, teamwork, and cyberbullying.

When I first began writing my books for Minecrafters, I knew I wanted to write something that was really exciting but also had substance. There are tons of books out there you read, throw away, and never think of again. I think kids deserve better. In the first book, Escape from the Overworld, I have Stevie, a citizen of Minecraft, find a portal to Earth, where he makes friends with a girl named Maison. Maison is feeling insecure about her new middle school and the bullies she deals with there. Stevie, who’s never been to school, follows her there and sees firsthand what bullying is like. (Then there’s also a situation where zombies come through the portal and attack the school, because this is an adventure novel, after all.)

The talk about bullying continues in the second book, Attack on the Overworld, and this time it gets into cyberbullying. Two cyberbullies hack into Maison’s computer and let themselves into the Minecraft world. Then one of them tries to stage a zombie takeover. Stevie and Maison have to put a stop to it.

The third book in the series, The Rise of Herobrine, gets us into the Herobrine arc. One of the cyberbullies from the second book has created a mod of Herobrine and put it in Maison’s computer, thinking nothing of it. However, since being created, the Herobrine mod has gained consciousness, and because he was created from a cyberbully’s anger, that’s all he knows. So all he wants is destruction and suffering. Our heroes continue to chase Herobrine through the fourth book, Down into the Nether, and with the newly released The Armies of Herobrine, they’ll be ready for their final battle with him.

Cyberbullying is a real issue, and I think most people who have an online presence have experienced it to one extent or another. My books are aimed for ages seven through twelve, which is about when kids first start establishing an online presence. The cyberbullying is in my books not just to keep the pages turning, but also to get young people thinking about cyberbullying. It’s very easy to be hurt by what anonymous people say online. It’s also very easy to be tempted to say nasty things because you’re anonymous. I hope my books can help kids know how to protect themselves online, and to also think about what they say online. I think teachers and parents can use these books as both fun adventure reads and also a platform to encourage kids to talk about cyberbullying. Because my cyberbullying stories are detached from the real world (you can’t really make a mod of Herobrine come to life), they can also give people a safe distance from these issues to make talking about these things easier. My books for Minecrafters aren’t just about zombies . . . they’re meant to empower kids, too!

The Armies of Herobrine by Danica Davidson

The portal between the Overworld and the real world may have been restored, but Herobrine is still at large—and Stevie knows that a confrontation is inevitable. While Stevie, Alex, and their friends try to awaken humanity to the threat posed by Herobrine’s messages, the Overworld’s armies prepare for an epic battle.

When Herobrine creates his own portal to the human world and releases vicious creepers, skeletons, and zombies at the Middle School Halloween party, the students are convinced the attack is just an elaborate prank—until the night takes a violent turn. With war breaking out around them, it’s up to Stevie and his friends to defeat Herobrine and restore peace.

The epic, world-spanning battle that follows will test friendships, reveal the group’s true allies and their most dangerous foes, and decide the fate not just of the Overworld, but of all of humanity.

Danica Davidson has written for MTV, The Onion, the Los Angeles Times and about fifty other publications. She is the author of the rest of the Overworld Adventure series, as well as the how-to guide Manga Art for Beginners, from Skyhorse Publishing.

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Disaster Preparedness: Five Lessons Learned by Yvonne Ventresca, author of Pandemic


The end of the world or apocalypse-inducing pandemics might seem like just the stuff of fiction, but natural disasters happen surprisingly often—would you be prepared if disaster suddenly struck? Since September is National Preparedness Month (no, we’re not kidding), Yvonne Ventresca, the author of Pandemicdropped by the blog to share her top five disaster preparedness tips. 

During my research for Pandemic, I learned about emerging infectious diseases and the concept of sheltering in place. The more I read, the more I became convinced that my family should have decent emergency supplies in the house, just in case of a disaster. You know how right before a hurricane, grocery and hardware stores will run out of flashlight batteries? I wanted to be prepared ahead of time.

I made lists of what we needed, bought supplies, then neatly stored everything. I thought we were ready.

That October, New Jersey was hit with a freakish ice storm. The ice broke many large tree limbs, causing widespread power outages. And I realized that we were not prepared after all. I lasted three days before packing up the kids, their Halloween costumes, and our dog to stay with family who still had electricity.

Here are a few lessons learned:

  1. Pretend you don’t have electricity for an evening and analyze your preparations. Can you find the flashlights in the dark? Do you have a way to prepare food without power? Can you easily access vital records if you need to leave? Also, test any new gadgets ahead of time. I wanted to throw our inexpensive hand-crank phone charger across the room, because one hour of tiresome cranking resulted in a miniscule battery charge.
  2. Keep supplies on hand for pets. Make sure you have extra food available, as well as pet medicines. If your dog frequently throws up, for example, having some extra anti-vomiting tablets is a good idea. Driving to the vet during a disaster is best avoided, if possible.
  3. Stock up on over-the-counter pain relievers, rehydration drinks, broth, and crackers. It doesn’t require a pandemic to be grateful for these. A bout of stomach virus or food poisoning will do the trick. (Also, if you’ve written a novel about contagious diseases and don’t keep these items in the house, your family will be understandably bitter.)
  4. If there is a possibility of losing power, hold off on using the washing machine. If the spin cycle can’t complete, you will need to wring out all of the laundry manually and find a place to let it air out (like in the shower or bathtub). Otherwise, you will end up with moldy, smelly clothes.
  5. Books make everything better. Stock up on easy reads, suspenseful novels, funny ones. Have books on hand that the whole family can enjoy. You’ll want something to keep you distracted from the puking dog, the stomach ache, or the laundry stench. And don’t forget to buy extra flashlights batteries to read after dark.

Pandemic_cover_with_sealEven under the most normal circumstances, high school can be a painful and confusing time. Unfortunately, Liliana’s circumstances are anything but normal. Only a few people know what caused her sudden change from model student to the withdrawn doomsayer she has become, but her situation isn’t about to get any better. When people begin coming down with a quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat, Liliana’s worst fears are realized. With her parents called away on business before the contagious outbreak, Liliana’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread illness and fatal disaster.

With friends and neighbors dying all around her, Lil does everything she can just to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.


Yvonne Ventresca Author PhotoYvonne Ventresca’s debut YA novel, Pandemic, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. School Library Journal called Pandemic “an engrossing apocalyptic story.” Her next young adult novel, Black Flowers, White Lies will be published by Sky Pony Press in October 2016. Her other works include the short story “Escape to Orange Blossom,” which was selected for the dystopian anthology Prep for Doom, along with two nonfiction books, Publishing (Careers for the 21st Century) and Avril Lavigne (People in the News). You can learn more about Yvonne and her books at YvonneVentresca.com.

Additional links for Yvonne: Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Instagram | Pinterest

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Middle Grade Gets Real with Kathleen Burkinshaw and Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Part II

Just a Drop of Water 9781510712348

This month, five middle grade authors have been talking about the tough topics kids deal with—and that middle grade lit can help them process—on sites all over the web, using the hashtag #MGGetsReal. You can learn more about the campaign here. Last week two of those authors, Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of The Last Cherry Blossom, and Kerry O’Malley Cerra, author of Just a Drop of Water, stopped by the Sky Pony Express to discuss their books and why they write for kids about situations that are both difficult and realistic. This week they’re back to finish that conversation! 

KathleenBurkinshaw: Kerry and I are back today, finishing up our chat about her book Just a Drop of Water and mine The Last Cherry Blossom. Again, it is wonderful to be discussing important book topics with another Sky Pony author.
KerryOMalleyCerra: Yes, and I’m still grateful to have met you through our #MGGetsReal campaign. It’s a great movement that spotlights books with tough topics for kids who might need them most.
KB: Exactly, and our goal is that these books might help a child replace fear with hope. So let’s get back to our books … Just a Drop of Water will be out in paperback next month and it will be the 15th anniversary of that terrible day.
KOC: Yes, and it never gets easier. The images of the horror that day are still so fresh in my head. I’m not sure they’ll ever leave.
KB: Speaking of images, did you look at many photos and do a lot of research for your book? Or did you go from memory?
KOC: Yes, much research. But I do love that part.
KOC: I can get lost in the research and forget to actually write.
KB: Same here!!
KOC: But, that said, for this book, I think the hardest scene to write was the actual day of Sept. 11. My main character is only 13, and I had to be authentic to his voice, a voice of a kid who had no idea what was actually going on. I worried he might sound shallow as he narrated the attacks. And when I viewed one YouTube video after another to make sure I described it as Jake would, it got to be too much. I actually went for a walk and threw up. Hard watching those people die over and over again.
KB: Oh, I can only imagine. It was very authentic though. Did the act in the cafeteria with Bobby and the burger actually happen somewhere?
KOC: No, that was fictional. Before I began writing, I visited an Islamic organization that was recording these types of incidents across the US, post 9/11. I took pages and pages of notes. So while this one was made up, there were many just as harsh. I needed one that fit the middle school scene.
KB: Oh, it felt so real, and I’m sure sadly that something like that happened somewhere.
KOC: But with Bobby, I wanted to show what a product of his father he was, hence that scene.
KB: You did a great job with that.
KOC: And that part is all too true—how kids can become their parents sometimes.
KB: Yes, and it still does. Sadly. That’s why I hope our books humanize the people.
KB: Exactly. Kids need to know that they shouldn’t hate someone because they are different from them, they don’t understand their customs, or worse yet, hate because that’s what they learned from adults in their life.
KOC: Yes, I hope our books can do this, too.
KB: Our books’ messages are important, so that we don’t forget the past. We need to learn, not blame.
KB: It was a powerful moment when I watched President Obama at Hiroshima.
KOC: Yes, and we can’t let fear steer us. I did that when I doubted my friend’s family after 9/11. I’ve never forgiven myself, though they’ve forgiven me.
KB: But that’s why your book is so good, because it is not emotions we didn’t have, but those we did, you showed how to work past the fear and blame.
KB: And open our eyes to the person.
KOC: I hope so.
KB: My mother gave me some interesting info when she said that she wasn’t hateful after the bombing.
KOC: She wasn’t?
KB: Maybe a little angry. But the mindset was that it was war, and war is hellish. There is no winner.
KB: It was the mindset of a lot of the people there.
KOC: That’s actually impressive.
KB: They had been at war for many years before 1941 and wanted it over.
KOC: She had every reason to hate, that’s for sure.
KB: Not that they didn’t grieve.
KB: Or resent for a while, but not outward hate.
KOC: I love talking to you about this. I’m learning so much more. You did a good job of conveying that in the book, that everyone wanted it to be over. I was super impressed with how you wove that in.
KB: Thank you. That is one of the things that surprises students is that Japan was at war for a few years before 1941.
KOC: That was another bit of authenticity we may not have otherwise known—how the Japanese people felt during this time period.
KB: So many supplies were gone, as well as the men.
KOC: Exactly. It was so drawn out.
KOC: Sadly, war usually is.
KB: Yes, you are so right.
KB: But in your book there is hope, too.
KB: Fear begins to be edged out by hope, understanding on both sides.
KOC: I definitely strived to convey a theme of hope in my book because honestly, if we don’t have hope, we really are left with nothing. You know?
KB: Absolutely. I loved how you used the song “Dust in the Wind.”
KB: You had me listen to it in a whole new light. The message that one drop can cause a ripple effect. It can tear down walls.
KOC: Ha! Thanks. I love that song, but it didn’t show up in the book until my very last draft.
KOC: Before that, the book was titled “September 13.” So it all changed when I added that thread in. Glad you liked it.
KB: Ah….it works very well as the new title!
KOC: Thank you.
KB: You know I had my title before I even had an outline for my book. 
KB: I was so glad I could keep it!
KOC: Your title is AMAZING and the cover, well…no words.
KB: Katy Betz is AMAZING. I would never have thought of it, but it fits so well. Beauty from ashes.
KOC: Oh, gosh! Beauty from ashes…so perfectly stated. Yes! That!
KOC: I have always loved cherry blossoms. I decorate my house with them. And the scent—well, at least the scent from Bath and Body Works—is my favorite. Someday I hope to see and smell an actual Cherry Blossom tree, even if it’s just here in America.
KB: Yes! Me too with Bath & Body Works and decorating.
KB: I believe Katy did an award-winning cover for you as well. 
KOC: Katy is pure talent and class.
KOC: We’re both lucky to have had her design our covers.
KB: Yes indeed!
KB: I’m involved with Green Legacy Hiroshima where seeds are taken from trees that survived the bombing.
KOC: That sounds amazing! How cool.
KB: I have set it up so that the University of North Carolina Charlotte campus will be planting one in front of their education building.
KOC: For real? When?
KB: Around September. It will be dedicated to all the victims in Hiroshima and especially to my mom and her family.
KB: Bringing a piece of Hiroshima to where I live now.
KOC: Incredible and moving!
KB: Thank you. I was thrilled when they agreed to it.
KOC: That is a step in the right direction, towards future peace and healing.
KB: Yes, I think so too.
KOC: Well, I can’t wait to find out if a sequel will actually happen. It’s been great chatting with you, Kathleen. And congrats on a beautiful debut.
KB: Thank you so much, and I’ve loved chatting with you about your book!
KOC: Friends, The Last Cherry Blossom is available now. Go buy it. It’s one you’ll want to keep on your shelf forever.
KB: They can put it next to your wonderful book! So relevant for today.
KOC: They will look fantastic together.
KB: Your paperback of Just a Drop of Water comes out September 20th, right?
KB: Friends, you must look for it in the stores next month. Definitely a book to be used over and over by teachers.
KOC: Readers, thanks for joining us. We hope see you, or at least hear from you, soon. Thanks for stopping by to read our chat. Peace!
KB: Yes thanks for stopping by!

Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart—and outrun—the rival cross-country team. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens, and it’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.

© Erica Brooks

According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, and so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI, and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. In the end, Jake must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.

Kerry O’Malley Cerra is a former high school history teacher who often enhanced textbooks with historical fiction to bring time periods to life. Just a Drop of Water, her first middle grade novel, was inspired by a deeply personal reaction to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Visit her online at KerryOMalleyCerra.com.

Additional links for Kerry: Website | TwitterInstagram

If you missed last week’s chat, don’t forget to go back to learn more about Kathleen Burkinshaw and The Last Cherry Blossom! And don’t forget to check out the #MGGetsReal campaign, and the other wonderful books and authors featured, here.

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