Happy Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to all of our June Sky Pony Books!

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Life Before by Michele Bacon

Life BeforeSeventeen years is a long time to keep secrets, and Xander Fife has gotten very good at it.

Everyone believes Xander has a normal life and a normal family. If he can just get through this summer, he’ll start his real life in college with a clean slate—no risk, no drama, no fear.

Even better, his plans for summer are awesome: lots of pick-up soccer, relaxing afternoons with friends, and an epic road trip. Xander is banking on some long-overdue nights with his ideal girlfriend, the amazing Gretchen Taylor.

Instead of kicking off what had promised to be an amazing summer, however, graduation day brings terror. His family’s secrets are thrust out into the open, and Xander must confront his greatest fear. And survive doing so.

Armed with a fake ID, cash, and a knife, Xander skips town and assumes a new identity. Hundreds of miles from home and in danger, one thing is clear: Xander’s real life is already in progress and just getting through it isn’t enough.

Kingdom in a Horse by Maia Wojciechowska

Kingdom in a Horse_coverDavid Lee is twelve years old and disappointed in his father Earl, a once-famous rodeo clown who has quit the circuit and moved David to a small town in Vermont to start a new life. David has a hard time adjusting to life as a “normal” boy and is hurt that his father never allowed him the chance to be his partner in the rodeo arena. When Earl tries to buy David a horse at auction, David pretends to have no interest in it, and the horse is sold, instead, to a seventy-year-old woman named Sarah Tierney.

Sarah, grief-stricken at the death of her husband, tries to ?nd solace in her new horse, Gypsy, but she needs help from Earl and David to learn how to care for her. As the three of them spend more and more time with Gypsy, they all become entranced—in their own ways—by the horse and begin to learn more and more about themselves. A heartfelt story, this middle-reader novel is a must read for any girl or boy interested in nature and horses.

Treason in America by Jules Archer, foreword by Brianna DuMont

Treason in America_coverTreason can be defined as “the breach of the allegiance which a person owes to the state under whose protection he lives.” But what exactly does it mean to be guilty of a “breach of the allegiance” owed to your country? In a country that guarantees freedom of speech and dissent tp all citizens, the extent to which dissent becomes unlawful may not always be clear. Treason is punishable by the death penalty, underscoring the importance of the question: How do we go about proving that someone is indeed an enemy of his country—a traitor?

In this book, renowned historian Jules Archer explores different cases of treason throughout our history, while encouraging young readers to really question the definition of treason and how it should be treated. He asks readers to consider the similarities between disloyalty and dissent and ultimately urges this generation to take it into their own hands to redefine American duties and liberties for our time

Down into the Nether by Danica Davidson

Down into the NetherStevie and Alex thought they defeated Herobrine completely, but they soon discover that he’s still on the loose. He has returned to Stevie’s nightmares, taunting him with threats to now destroy the human world.

The prophecies on music discs suggest that only Stevie and Alex, plus Maison, Destiny, and Yancy, their friends from the human world will be able to defeat Herobrine. But the prophecies also warn that one of the friends will betray the rest, putting all the worlds at risk. Tensions run high as the group must figure out how to save the world while they try to discern the traitor in their midst. Maison, It isn’t long before the traitor is discovered.

Stevie and Alex find themselves separated from the others and must first journey into the Nether to find a special treasure that will enable them to confront Herobrine. The clock is ticking as they put their heads together to survive in the fiery depths of the Nether. Monsters are waiting for them around every corner and it won’t be much longer before they come face-to-face with Herobrine, who has become more powerful than ever.

Terror on a Treasure Hunt by Winter Morgan

Terror on a Treasure HuntAfter trapping Mr. Anarchy, the evil master griefer who’s been tormenting them, Lily, Simon, and Michael can finally concentrate on trying to escape the Overworld and getting to know their new friends on the server. So when one of their friends invites them along on a treasure hunt, they couldn’t be more thrilled!

But when the gang’s absence from Lisimi Village gives Mr. Anarchy a chance to escape, their hunt for treasure is cut short and Lily, Simon, and Michael must make a hard decision: do they continue their much-anticipated treasure hunt, or do they band together with their new friends to find and recapture Mr. Anarchy, and whatever team of griefers he might be working with?

Nothing is as it seems—and no one can be trusted—in this thrilling third book in bestselling author Winter Morgan’s Unofficial Minetrapped Adventure series.

Abracadabra! by Kristen Kelly & Ken Kelly

Abracadabra_coverSummon your inner Houdini and learn simple magic tricks that will wow your family and friends!

How did he do that? Have you ever racked your brains trying to figure out how that birthday party magician pulled a dove out of his sleeve? Or spent sleepless nights wondering just how he made that coin disappear? Well, what if there were a book that shared a magician’s secrets with you and showed you how to do magic, too?

Eleven-year-old magician Kristen and her magician dad, Ken, reveal secret magic techniques with step-by-step photographs and demonstrate how you can perform tricks that look impossible but are, in fact, very simple to master! You’ll also learn one of the most important secrets about becoming a magician—how to use your confidence, personality, and presentation skills to enchant and amaze your friends and family. Choose from thirty of Kristen and Ken’s coolest tricks and learn how to:

• Make a pencil float in mid-air!
• Bend a key using your mind!
• Make a pile of items disappear!
• Eat a knife!
• And much more!

With Abracadabra!, you’ll see that you don’t have to be an adult to perform magic!

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Dear Teen Me with Melissa Hart, author of Avenging the Owl

Avenging the Owl author, Melissa Hart, writes a letter to her teen self. Check it out below!


Dear Teen Melissa,

I’m writing to you from my tiny writing studio in my big backyard full of purple lilacs and blossoming cherry trees and cats. Remember what you loved about your grandmother’s house in Monterey—all those tall trees, the birds chirping, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees? You have all that now, plus an amazing photographer husband and a nature-crazy nine-year-old adopted daughter.

I know you thought you’d never make it this far. I remember the year you turned sixteen, and your home life fell apart. Your dad yelled and raged. Your stepmother lost herself in aerobics classes. Your beautiful house near LAX felt full of anger and betrayal, too much wine and too many tears, and you couldn’t run away to your mother’s house because she’d lost custody of you seven years before—for coming out as a lesbian in a homophobic era when a judge believed it was better to place kids in an abusive household than one headed by two women.

But remember the UCLA Young Writers’ Retreat up at Lake Arrowhead? You got to go after your English teachers saw how you loved to write—short stories, poetry, even those silly profiles you wrote for the school yearbook about sports teams and drama club. Suddenly, you found yourself surrounded by teen writers in cabins among tall trees, and it was snowing . . . snowing! The teachers leading the retreat instructed you all to find a quiet place to write for an hour. Most of the kids stayed inside near the fire, but you zipped up your coat and headed outside up a hill, away from everyone.

Young Writers Retreat

Young Writers’ Retreat

How I wish I could convey how that hour was a life-changer for you, Melissa. You stood in the trees with your notebook, and silent snowflakes fell all around you . . . about as different from your father’s smoggy little backyard as a place could get. You felt peaceful. More than that, you felt wholly yourself. You wrote a poem that day . . . I probably have it in my giant box of spiral-bound notebooks you filled in high school and college. (Note to teen self: Read Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones sooner, rather than later, okay?) But more than the poem, what mattered that hour was that you discovered who you wanted to be . . . a writer, and a woman with an intimate connection to the natural world.

Yeah, okay, so later that night, you met a boy. He was cute and mischievous, just the way you liked them, and you stayed up all night talking in his dormitory hallway about creative writing and The Dead Kennedys, his favorite band. (Later, you’d listen to them and decide that hardcore punk wasn’t your thing—you’d stick to The Beatles and The Smiths.) You two didn’t kiss, but you exchanged letters for a couple of months until you met another boy at yearbook camp who wrote funnier letters and knew how to spell.

When you got home that Sunday night, the snow just a memory and a dampness in your sneakers, nothing between your parents had changed. You stepped into the living room thick with tension and tried to tell your stepmother about your weekend with the teen writers. She didn’t believe you’d ever make it as a professional writer; neither did your father. But you had the support of your mother and your English and yearbook teachers, and your friends. You sought out mentors, and you never stopped believing in your love of language and story.

Yearbook Girls

Yearbook Girls

Dear Teen Melissa, I’m so glad you learned to compartmentalize early on. Home life was home life, and school was school. You walked along the railroad tracks at dawn five days a week, sat in first period wide awake and thrilled to be learning. You ran track, danced and sang in the drama club, played practical jokes with your friends. (I wonder, did the principal ever find out who stacked all the school trashcans in a pyramid on his office roof?) You learned early on to “accentuate the positive,” like that old song says. You allowed yourself to fall in love with life—with the miniscule vegetable garden you managed to coax from your father’s tiny backyard; with the starlings splashing in puddles on the rare days it rained; with boys who loved writing and acting and pranks; with your big orange cat and your running shoes and all those blank notebooks full of possibility.

Hang in there, Teen Me. Take all the classes in literature and creative writing (don’t forget poetry!) that you can. Take theater classes and music classes. Learn everything you can about other cultures, about history, about people. Most importantly, get outside. Don’t stay on your computer all day. Don’t lose yourself in television. Know what phase the moon is in every single night. Know the names of the trees in your backyard, the birds at your feeders, the mountain ranges in your adopted state of Oregon. Nature will save you. Writing will save you. Good luck.

Love, Melissa

Melissa and Richard

Melissa and Richard


Avenging the Owl by Melissa Hart

9781634501477-frontcoverA long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Han Solo avenged the destruction of an innocent planet by helping Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star. Han walked away with a gold medal and the love of his life. But when Solo Hahn—named in honor of the beloved action hero—tries to avenge the death of his gray-and-white kitten, he gets eight months of community service. Eight months of working at the local raptor center helping owls—his now sworn enemies.

For the first time in his life, Solo is labeled a troubled kid, an at-risk youth. He’d always gotten good grades, had good friends, and gotten along with his parents. He used to volunteer to read Reader’s Digest to old people at the retirement home next door, and his favorite thing in the whole wide world was to surf. He wrote screenplays for fun. But when his parents uproot him and move the family from California to backwoods Oregon, Solo starts to lose track of the person he was. Everything is upside down, and he finds himself dealing with things way beyond his understanding. He’s the new kid in town, and he’s got a bad reputation. The question is: What will he do next?

This is a story about staying true to yourself when things get tough. Solo has every reason to lash out, but he ultimately needs to find a way to cope. Avenging the Owl deals with the difficult issues of suicide and depression, but more than anything it captures the powerlessness of being a kid. It won’t be easy, but the wild beauty of Oregon, its cold, empty beaches and captivating wildlife, may be just what Solo and his family need to help them start over.

 

MHart

Melissa Hart is the author of the middle-grade novel Avenging the Owl, as well as the YA memoir Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood, and a memoir for adults. She’s a contributing editor at The Writer Magazine and teaches Literature and Creative Writing for Laurel Springs High School. Follow her on Instagram at @WildMelissaHart . www.melissahart.com

 

 

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Alex Shearer on Ghosts, with Giveaway!

Ministry of Ghosts author, Alex Shearer, writes about ghosts. Check it out below!


Ghosts.

What would you like to know about them?

Maybe the first question most people ask is, Do they exist? And the second one is, If they do exist, then are they friendly?

As far as the first question goes, the jury is still—and probably always will be—out. The matter is undecided and possibly unprovable, one way or the other.

Some people swear they have seen them. Others say ghosts are all in the mind and eye of the beholder. Some people say they have them living in the loft, or in the cellar, or in the washing machine, or under the bed. Others say that ghost spotters have over active imaginations.

Some people claim to track ghosts down for a living and then try to get rid of them for you—a bit along the lines of vermin control.

If you think you have a ghost stomping about the bedroom and keeping you awake at night, then there are plenty of spiritualists and psychics who (for a small—or maybe not so small—fee) will come round to your house with bell, book, candle and prayers, and who will have that ghost evicted in no time. Or so they say.

But maybe that ghost bumping in the night, and that strange wailing sound, are all in your mind and your ears. Maybe it’s all down to that cheese you ate, or to that scary film you watched.  Perhaps you have too vivid an imagination. Maybe all apparently ghostly activity has its roots in the human mind. For, quite often, the question is not, Have you ever seen a ghost? The question is, Do you believe in them? And plenty of people believe in things they have never seen. And why not? No one has seen dark matter, yet scientists believe it to be there. No one has been inside a black hole, but does that mean there aren’t any?

So do ghosts exist or don’t they?

Well, wouldn’t we like to know for sure?—but maybe, we never will.

Yet say they do exist.  Then what are they like?

If horror movies are anything to go by, they aren’t very nice. They come after you in the small hours of the night. They scare the life out of you.  They move the furniture around. They smash up the plates. They turn your hair white. They give you heart attacks. They drive you mad. They haunt your home and they haunt your dreams. They smell something terrible—like a mixture of dry rot and sewage.

Only why should they be so awful? Most people are friendly when alive, so why should they be any different when they are ghosts? Why shouldn’t ghosts be warm and kindly, with a twinkle in their eye and good intentions and with everyone’s best interests at heart?

Is it because only the bad come back as ghosts? Well, that doesn’t sound too likely. It could equally as well be the good. Certainly, the unhappy and unfulfilled and those seeking revenge might return to the world of the living to settle old scores. But then those who had happy lives and many friends might also wish to remain on earth, if only to remind themselves of the good times they had and to be close to the fond memories.

So maybe ghosts—if they exist—are more friendly than wicked. Maybe they make good company, good pets even; maybe every home should have one.

Perhaps someone should make a serious effort to investigate all this. The government could set up an institution to look into the matter and to get to the bottom of things—put it all on an official basis.

Yes, a kind of Ministry of Ghosts, maybe. That might do it. That might settle the perplexing questions, for once and for all.

With a little luck, and some help from two school kids.


The Ministry of Ghosts by Alex Shearer

Ministry of Ghosts_cover

When they ring the bell at the house with the dusty windows and tarnished nameplate to inquire about the advertised “Saturday Person,” Thruppence and Tim don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. A Saturday job sounds ideal! But had that nameplate been properly cleaned, Thruppence and Tim might not have been so keen to enter . . .

Pressured by the stern Minister Beeston from the Department of Economies, the Ministry of Ghosts has been given three months to prove the existence or nonexistence of ghosts, or else it will be shut down! As it seems that children are particularly magnetic to ghosts and supernatural beings, Thruppence and Tim are hired to join the ministry’s ghost-catching team. And although neither of them is scared by talk of ghosts or monsters, they are unprepared for what they’re about discover!

Filled with fun, humor, and twists and turns, this is the perfect book for anyone who loved Harry Potter and who is looking for something similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book—just not quite as scary.

Alex Shearer was born in Wick, in the far north of Scotland. His father was a blacksmith and his mother was a secretary. He enjoyed writing from an early age and sold his first television script about thirty years ago. He went on to write several TV series, stage plays, radio plays, and comedy scripts. Moving into writing for children, his novels Bootleg and The Greatest Store in the World were adapted for television by the BBC, and his 2003 novel The Speed of Dark was short-listed for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He lives in Somerset, England.

 


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Beth Vrabel on Summer Camp and Giveaway!

Camp Dork author, Beth Vrabel, writes about her experience with summer camp. Check it out below!


 

I’m not sure what I did to anger my parents the summer I turned eleven, but I had two weeks of sleepaway camp to think about my life choices.

Yet no matter how hard I racked my mind during those hours of hiking, on the shore of an algae-filled swimming hole, or while trying to choke down breakfast “eggs” (a greenish-yellow powder counselors mixed with water, shook in jugs, and scrambled up on giant skillets), I couldn’t come up with what I had done to warrant fourteen days at Pioneer Camp.

I don’t have too many memories those sticky summer days in the mountains of Pennsylvania. In the twenty-five years that followed, I must’ve blocked most of them.

I do remember questioning the logic of hiking up a mountain. Why? We’re only going to have to climb back down. At the top, I felt like if I squinted hard enough I’d spy my house in the next county. Maybe Mom would see me, a speck in the distance and be overcome with regret. And then I remembered that she’d be inside, where it was air-conditioned, and surrounded by luxuries such as electricity and Oreos.

I recall marveling at the ingenuity of mosquitoes. Never again would I forget to bug spray my knee pits.

I learned that after just ten days of camp, my blond wavy hair became stick straight, brunette, and capable of staying in a ponytail position even without the elastic band. It wasn’t until I was home and unpacking my festering duffel bag that I discovered the seal across my shampoo bottle. “You didn’t wash your hair the whole time?” Mom had asked me.

“Pioneers don’t rinse and lather,” I told her.

“Pioneers didn’t _______ (fill in the blank)” was the standard response to any questions posed to counselors during summer camp.

Why do we have to swim in the lake when there is a pool at the other campground?

Pioneers don’t swim in chlorinated water.

Why can’t I call my mom to pick me up?

Pioneers don’t make long distance phone calls.

Where is the ketchup?

Pioneers don’t have condiments for their hamburgers.

I learned so much during those two weeks.

I understood the cruelty of nature when a thunderstorm erupted the moment I plunged my mountain pie into the fire pit. The downpour doused the flames and my dreams. There is no sadness quite like that of a pizza-deprived eleven-year-old eating white bread soggy with spaghetti sauce and cold shredded cheese while everyone around her devours hot mountain pie.

I grasped the concept of true friendship when the girl in the bunk across from me positioned her portable fan so a drift of hot hair flew across my sunburnt face. (Jamie, you’ll always be a hero in a heart. Tracy—hoarder of that giant vat of aloe vera—you’re still dead to me.)

I understood the power of storytelling when rumor spread that Pioneer Camp began with Ole Jebediah, said to be the first person to settle in the county a couple hundred years back.

Legend has it, Ole Jebediah never made it back from a trek to the watering hole. His spirit still lingers, some say (“some” being teen counselors who didn’t count on this campfire story resulting in twenty eleven-year-olds not sleeping for three days straight).

I spent those nights staring up through the cracks in our A-frame at a sky filled with more stars than I thought possible.

When someone swore they heard Ole Jebediah’s cackling laugh coming from the depths of the outhouse toilets, I also learned the inherent injustice of being a girl when it comes to public facilities.

“It couldn’t have been all bad,” Mom prompted a few days after my pioneer days ended. I sat on my clean, comfortable bed with the air conditioning pumping, my Walkman blaring New Kids on the Block and a bowl full of Oreos by my hand.

I rolled my eyes without answering, but I did whap my slap bracelet against my wrist a little louder.

Mom left the room, quietly saying, “Some day you’ll thank us for this experience, Beth.”

Pioneers don’t say thank you, I remember thinking.

But writers do, even twenty-five years late. So, okay, Mom and Dad. Fine. I suppose two weeks of roughing it, making new friends, swimming in a lake, reaching new heights, and falling hard for stories led to Camp Dork. And that might warrant a smidge of gratitude.

Thank you.


Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

Camp Dork 9781634501811Lucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.

At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

Vrabel, Beth - Blind Guide to StinkvilleBeth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans–becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater–didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now lives in Connecticut with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two guinea pigs, Winn-Dixie and Pippin.

 

 

 


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May’s Newest Books for Minecrafters!

Here’s a list of the latest books for Minecrafters you can pick up from Sky Pony this month!


May 3, 2016:

The Unofficial Holy Bible for Minecrafters: Old Testament by Christopher Miko and Garrett Romines

Holy Bible for Minecrafters - Old Testament 9781510702257 Minecraft has taken the world by storm. More than one hundred million games have been sold. Parents of children who play Minecraft will love this fun, educational collection of Bible stories. With the world of Minecraft as a backdrop, using vivid, full-color screenshots, children will experience the Bible as never before.

Authors Garrett Romines and Christopher Miko are teachers who have used Minecraft to create imaginative worlds in their classrooms. Now, they have created Bible stories with virtual blocks to produce vibrant, 3D worlds filled with adventure and astonishing imagination.

With fascinating scripture and narrative simplified to teach young readers, this is the perfect gift. The images created are not only of magnificent, vast terrains often found in Minecraft but also feature artfully re-created Bible characters, such as Adam and Eve, and superb designs of the pyramids and Noah’s ark. A range of biblical characters such as Jesus and Pharaoh are offered in fun, colorful scenes kids will treasure. Engaging stories including the Tower of Babel and the story of Abram and Lot, to name a few, are here. With over 400 images, young readers will explore the story of creation, the journey of Abraham, David and Goliath, Moses’s great journey, the birth of Jesus, the Last Supper, and many more stories!

The Unofficial Holy Bible for Minecrafters makes the Bible more entertaining, engaging, and accessible for children than ever!

 

May 17, 2016:

Overworld in Flames by Mark Cheverton

The spider queen and the king of the skeletons were both destroyed, but nOverworld in Flamesot before hinting to Gameknight999 that the command blocks they guarded were not the only traps Herobrine had set before he was deleted.

The inhabitants of the Overworld barely had any time to celebrate their victory when the fires started occurring. Flames were devouring more land with every tick of the CPU. The User-that-is-not-a-user knew something was terribly wrong. He also knew who was responsible.

With the fires growing both in size and frequency, entire villages were reduced to piles of smoldering ash. Entire biomes followed. But unlike before, there were no mocking signs or arrogant clues for Gameknight and his friends to follow. Only a single blaze rod was found in the rubble. But if this was the work of monsters from the Nether, where was the portal? And how could Herobrine be controlling fire from beyond the digital grave? The answer lies in a dark land filled with countless rivers of lava and hundreds of monsters lying in wait for them.

For readers ages 9 and up, this is a really fun adventure story set in the world of Minecraft, which many young children play and are familiar with. The author is a father who was inspired to write the series after his son was bullied by other users while playing the game. Using an expert’s knowledge of the game and an exciting plot that mirrors much of what users would actually be doing while playing the game, wrapped up in the engrossing story is a great anti-bullying lesson about overcoming your fears and working collectively and positively with other people.

Skeleton Battle by Winter Morgan

Skeleton BattleAfter a scourge of griefer attacks and a change in headmasters, Minecrafters Academy is once again at peace, and Lucy is working hard to keep up in all her classes. Meanwhile, the school is gearing up for an end-of-the-year talent show, where everyone will showcase their greatest skills, from master building and clever potion-making to strategic fighting.

But when a hoard of skeletons and hostile mobs attacks the campus one night, an all-too-familiar struggle begins. Is Isaac, the school’s evil former headmaster, behind the attacks? Lucy and her friends are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and keep their school safe. As the attacks continue and their search for clues turns up more enemies than friends, Lucy, Jane, and Phoebe must rely on each other to survive—and find a way to save the school.

Fans of Minecraft and magic academies won’t want to miss the latest adventure in the Unofficial Minecrafters Academy series.

 

Mobs in the Mine by Winter Morgan

LilyMobs in the Mine, Simon, and Michael are still trapped in their Minecraft game, but with new friends and a better understanding of their arch enemy Mr. Anarchy, they’re getting closer to finding a way home. But before they can fight the evil griefer and escape the game, the friends need to replenish their resources—and that means trekking deeper into the Overworld.

When their mining party is attacked and hostile mobs reveal surprising new powers, it looks like the end for the trio—and for all their friends in town. Will Lily, Simon, and Michael find a way to defeat the mobs and save their village? Will they ever conquer Mr. Anarchy and escape from the Overworld?

Find out in this exciting, action-packed second book in the Unofficial Minetrapped Adventures series by bestselling author Winter Morgan.

 

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Rose Mannering’s Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings and GIVEAWAY!

Rose Mannering, author of Roses and Feathers, two unique and wonderful fairy tale retellings, shares her favorite fairy tale retellings. Check out her post below!


5 of My Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings

Growing up I loved fairy tales. I loved them cute and fluffy like Disney movies and I liked them dark and twisted in their original(ish), Brothers Grimm form.

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Writing a book about fairy tales therefore seemed like completely the right sort of thing to do. So I did it and it was great fun. I didn’t just do it once either—I rewrote and reworked my retellings of fairy tales over and over growing up; just loving the act of writing and not caring about much else. Never did I imagine that one day I would be celebrating the paperback release of one of those retellings… Roses is out in paperback today and I can’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it when it was released in hardback and I still can’t believe it today. It’s unreal—like a fairy tale (sorry, massive cliché and terrible pun).

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Roses is a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it is the first in a trilogy of retellings called The Tales Trilogy, all based around fairy tales (psst! Feathers, the sequel, will be out in hardback next month!). To celebrate its release in paperback, I’d like to pay homage to some of my favorite retellings of fairy tales in their different forms, so here are my top five:

  1. Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley (book)

Robin McKinley is such a fantastic writer and I love ALL of her books, but her fairy tale retellings are pretty special. I’ve re-read them several times and I’m always taken in by the lyrical beauty of her prose and the imaginative world she creates. Spindle’s End is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty and it is just wonderful. We have a beauty who is maybe not so beautiful and an unlikely romance. It is just the best! I would also highly recommend Deerskin, which is as gorgeous as it is harrowing—a very important novel and a formative text for me.

  1. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (book)

This is super creepy and super amazing! Carter gets to the root of the disturbing truths behind many fairy tales in this collection of short stories. I’ve read this many times and I’ve always enjoyed it in my own unsettled way. I went through a phase in secondary school where I was utterly obsessed with this book. It’s exquisitely written and wonderfully portrayed; I would highly recommend!

  1. Tangled (film)

We had to have some Disney in here! This is just pure delight in a movie—I love the songs, I love the characters. It’s all just fun and sometimes you need your fairy tales to have happy endings.

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  1. Swan Lake (ballet)

I love ballet and the way it can express so much through movement. It is only through watching ballet that I’ve learnt how expressive the body can be (and I think this has helped my writing in many ways). Swan Lake, based on Russian folklore, is one of my favorite ballets and the folklore is actually the basis for the second book in The Tales Trilogy Feathers.

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  1. Beastly by Alex Flinn (book)

This contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast in New York is a real treat from beginning to end. I haven’t seen or read many contemporary retellings, but this is pitched and written just perfectly. If you’re a B&B fan and you haven’t picked this one up—I would highly recommend. It gives you all the feels!


Roses by Rose Mannering—out now in paperback!

9781634501880-frontcoverShe bears no name. Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, the cosmopolitan capital of Pevorocco in the Western Realm. With her mother vanishing at the instance of her birth, she is sent to live with the cruel, rich Ma Dane, where she is punished daily for something, though she knows not what. Tauntingly named Beauty, she flees Sago in a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics and journeys to the farthest point of the country.

But Beauty cannot hide in the grassy Hillands forever. Before long, the State officials find her and threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago where death surely awaits. In a midnight blizzard she escapes them, running into a deep, enchanted forest to a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life.

But can Beauty accept Beast? Eternity is a long time. Now for the first time in paperback, Roses is sure to capture your heart as you fall in love with Beauty and her Beast all over again.

Feathers by Rose Mannering—out July 2016

9781634501651-frontcoverFeathers fell like rain from the sky.

Ode was never meant to be born. An outcast from birth, he discovered how to control his unique, remarkable gift entirely on his own. Unlike the other people of his tribe, Ode can fly. Sometimes his body will shudder and shift, and then Ode will transform. He becomes a great white bird with feathers as pale as the snow. He becomes a swan. He can fly above the tribe’s tepees and soar over the emerald forests of the Wild Lands.

But even with his gift, he cannot save his family from the oncoming war. The Magical Cleansing is spreading across the realm, and strangers arrive from foreign lands bringing with them bloodshed and fear. With the help of his gift, Ode flees to a distant island where answers, Magic, and a girl with golden hair await him. He must be brave, and he must be wise. And he must never turn back.

The exciting and much-anticipated second book in the Tales trilogy, Feathers is sure to keep fans of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder series turning the pages as they journey through the magic world of the Western Realm.


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Dear Teen Me with Stephanie Strohm, author of The Taming of the Drew

Author of The Taming of the Drew, Stephanie Strohm writes a Dear Teen Me letter. Check it out below!


Dear Teen Me,

Congratulations! You did it! You have found your people. I know you are so happy to be playing Lady Larkin in Once Upon a Mattress, and so happy to be spending all of your time with the other self-proclaimed drama dorks. You finally feel like you have a place you belong, and I know how much this means to you, because even when you are twenty-nine, you will still remember the choreography to “I’m in Love with a Girl Named Fred.” (You really didn’t need to hold onto that, Teen Stephanie.)

Enjoy it. This is the second-to-last musical you’ll ever do, because you’re about to decide you’re too “serious” of an actress for anything involving a time step. So for now, sing your little soprano heart out, produce the jazziest jazz hands ever, and relish every whispered bit of gossip backstage about who likes who. And take more pictures with Caitlin, because in about a decade, you’ll be her bridesmaid, and she’ll be yours, and those pictures of the two of you in medieval garb are hilarious. You’ve got one on your fridge in Chicago right now.

Also? Stop blotting the grease off the free pizza you get during tech week. Or throwing the crust away even though it’s your favorite part. I know you’re scared that you can never be a real actress. That you’re not pretty enough, good enough, thin enough. But you know what? No one but you cares how thin you looked or didn’t look in your costume. And you looked adorable, dummy.

yankees Stephanie in Damn Yankees

I’m glad you found an escape from the high school agony you’re constantly writing about in your diary, which can be summed up neatly into two categories: “I’m too fat to be a real actress” and “I’ve never had a boyfriend.” Most boyfriends are overrated, Teen Stephanie! But I’m sorry you feel like your life is only happening on stage. So what if your first kiss was with a gay Phantom of the Opera? So what if you’ve never kissed anyone offstage? I promise, it’s fine! Next year you’ll do a play at an all-boys’ school, and seriously, Teen Stephanie, you should have hit that up earlier. So stop worrying about when that first kiss will finally happen. It’s coming. I wish you could just enjoy being onstage with your friends now, instead of worrying about whether or not these guys you’ve barely talked to think you’re cute, or whether or not you can make it as an actress.

Because guess what—you did it. You’re a theater major in college, and you move to New York because you get cast in an off-Broadway show. People actually pay you to act. In twenty-two different states! It’s not always glamorous, and you end up playing way more amphibians than you ever thought you would, but you did it. You are a professional actor. And no, you didn’t get super skinny. Turns out, you can be a working actor even if you don’t have super prominent clavicles.

Here’s the plot twist, though—that unexpected Act V Hamlet never saw coming—you kind of . . . decide you don’t want to act anymore. There’s a moment, when you’ll be sitting backstage at a Chekhov show, when you realize that you’re actually having more fun in the dressing room than you were on stage. That’s the moment when you realize you’ve fallen totally, completely, head over heels in love, and no, it’s not with the man playing your husband in the show. (You broke that pesky castmate-smooching habit a long time ago when you fell for a guy working in the development office at a theater you performed at in Florida. And love is even better than it seems in musicals, even if he hates dancing. You’re getting married in September, and yes, your wedding is in a barn, but there will be no horses in attendance. Sorry, Teen Stephanie.)

Surprise—you’ve fallen in love with writing. Yeah, remember that thing you wanted to do when you were in fourth grade? Just like Jo March? Guess what? You did that too! You wrote a book! You wrote multiple books! And you realize more and more that you love writing, that you love creating your own worlds, and even thought it makes you feel bad to admit it, you like having a job where no one cares what you look like. Where most people don’t even know what you look like. And you are going to feel so bad about leaving theater. You are going to feel like you’ve given up on your dream, like you’re failing all of your acting teachers, like you’re just the same as every other wannabe actor who couldn’t make it. But you know what? You haven’t failed. Dreams change. You haven’t seen Tangled, because it doesn’t exist yet, but it’s going to be your favorite Disney movie. And when Rapunzel goes out and gets a new dream, you’ll know just how she feels. Because you have a new dream, too.

Oh, and you still put way too much stock in Disney movies. But you actually get to work as a Disney princess, so I think that’s okay.

Keep dreaming big, Teen Me. All those dreams are going to come true. And eat the damn pizza crust.

Love,

Stephanie


The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Taming of the Drew_REVISEDCass McKay has been called stubborn, temperamental, difficult, and that word that rhymes with “witch” more times than she cares to count. But that’s all about to pay off. She has finally landed the role she was born to play—Kate, in The Taming of the Shrew—in the summer apprentice program of a renowned Shakespeare theater company in the forests of Vermont.

But Cass can barely lace up her corset before her troubles begin. Her leading man, Drew, is a complete troll, and he’s going to ruin Cass’s summer. Even worse, Cass’s bunkmate Amy has somehow fallen head over heels for Drew. Cass can’t let Amy throw herself at a total jerk, so she comes up with a genius plan to give Drew the personality makeover he so desperately needs: they’ll tame Drew just as Petruchio tames Kate! But as Shakespeare’s classic plays out offstage, Cass finds it harder and harder to resist falling for Drew herself.

The best kind of entertainment, The Taming of the Drew is smart, funny, fresh, and original. You’re going to love this badass heroine and her friends. You might even end up liking Drew, too.

 

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Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of The Taming of the Drew, Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, Confederates Don’t Wear Couture and the upcoming It’s Not Me, It’s You and Prince in Disguise. She graduated from Middlebury College with a dual degree in theater and history and has acted her way around the United States, performing in more than twenty-five states. She currently lives in Chicago with her fiance and a dog named Lorelei Lee.  Visit her online at www.stephaniekatestrohm.com, follow her on Twitter @stephkatestrohm, and like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stephaniekatestrohm.

 

 

 


This post was originally written for DearTeenMe.com. The site is currently on hold, so, with permission from DearTeenMe, we’re sharing our authors’ posts here instead!

 

 

 

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5 Sky Pony Protagonists As Cool As Black Widow

Captain America: Civil War hits theaters tomorrow! Most of us in the office are so excited to watch the feud between Cap and Iron Man unfold on the big screen but to celebrate the release of the film we’ve been excited to see ever since the credits rolled on The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we want to highlight one of our favorite female superheroes: Black Widow. Avenger, spy, friend, enemy—someone whose bad side you most definitely wouldn’t want to be on—Natasha Romanoff is quite the powerful female character. We imagine that when you’ve seen Civil War once or twice or three times, you’re going to need another source for your awesome female characters. Check out these Sky Pony books with some awesome female protagonists!


 

1. Itzy—Divah

Itzy Nash is the kind of hero who takes everything in stride. She isn’t phased by fallen angels swooping in or demons in her closet. And she doesn’t need a boy to rescue her.

“If Buffy the Vampire Slayer edited Vogue, Divah’s heroine Itzy Nash would be its first cover girl.” —Wendy N. Wagner, author of Skinwalkers

giphy941GkjrYv7pL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Eloise meets Rosemary’s Baby in New York City’s very own Carlyle hotel.

Seventeen-year-old Itzy Nash is spending the summer at the exclusive Carlyle hotel in New York City. But the hotel harbors more than the rich and privileged; it is host to a gorgeous fallen angel, reclusive movie stars, and—Itzy soon learns—demons of the worst sort. When the Queen of the Damned checks in, all Hell breaks loose. Itzy is called upon to save herself—and all of humanity—from the ravages of the Underworld. There’s only one problem: Itzy’s possessed.

Part gothic thriller, part historical fiction, the novel straddles the Upper East Side and the lush trappings of the Carlyle hotel, and Paris during the Reign of Terror in 1789. Marie Antoinette is the Queen of the Damned. Marilyn Monroe is an expert demon hunter. To kill a demon, Hermès scarves, Evian water, and a guillotine are the weapons of choice.

For anyone who loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this has an epic battle between angels and demons with a doomed love story at its core. But it’s also darkly funny, for fans of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and more than anything it’s something original—dark, funny, clever, and glamorous.

2. Tal—Wandering Wild

Tal is a schemer. Faced with challenges that would force most to bend to expectations, she’s determined to make her own luck and write her own path. And it doesn’t always go well for her—especially when what she wants most clashes with what has long been decided for her. But a fierce loyalty, especially to her brother, is the force that always sees her through. After all, “Fortune favors the bold.”

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9781510704008-frontcover“I believe in possibility. Of magic, of omens, of compasses, of love. Some of it’s a little bit true.”

Sixteen-year-old Tal is a Wanderer—a grifter whose life is built around the sound of wheels on the road, the customs of her camp, and the artful scams that keep her fed. With her brother, Wen, by her side, it’s the only life she’s ever known. It’s the only one she’s ever needed.

Then in a sleepy Southern town, the queen of cons picks the wrong mark when she meets Spencer Sway—the clean-cut Socially Secured boy who ends up hustling her instead of the other way around. For the first time, she sees a reason to stay. As her obligations to the camp begin to feel like a prison sentence, the pull to leave tradition behind has never been so strong.

But the Wanderers live by signs, and all the signs all say that Tal and Spencer will end only in heartache and disaster. Is a chance at freedom worth almost certain destruction?

3. Riven—The Almost Girl

Riven is determined and resourceful. She is loyal and fierce and she will do anything to accomplish her goals.
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The Almost GirlSeventeen-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?

 

4. Kora—Beyond the Red

Kora is the first female ruler in generations and remains powerful on the throne though people think her younger brother should rule in her place. Kora is cunning and strong and fights for what she believes in.

giphy39781634506441-frontcoverAlien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

5. Flo—The Wanderers

Flo is a brave and strong character with a lot of sass. She discovers just how strong and brave she truly is on her journey. giphy4

9781634502016-frontcoverA Unique Twist on Shape-Shifters with Fast-Paced Action, Thrilling Adventure, Mystery, and a Bit of Romance

Flo lives an eccentric life—she travels with a popular circus in which the main acts star orphaned children with secret shape-shifting abilities. Once Flo turns sixteen, she must perform, but she’s not ready. While practicing jumping a flaming hurdle in a clearing beside the circus, she spots a dark figure in the trees and fears he saw her shift. The news sends the circus into a panic.

In Flo’s world, shifters are unknown to humans with the exception of a secret organization—the EOS, referred to as “hunters.” Hunters capture and kill. They send some shifters to labs for observation and testing—testing they don’t often survive—and deem others useless, a danger to society, and eliminate them. To avoid discovery, shifters travel in packs, constantly moving and keeping themselves hidden. Up until now, the circus was the perfect disguise.

Believing she has brought attention to the group, Flo feels dread and anxiety, causing her to make a mistake during her performance in front of the audience—a mistake that triggers a violent attack from the hunters.

Flo manages to flee the torched circus grounds with Jett, the bear shifter who loves her; the annoying elephant triplets; and a bratty tiger named Pru. Together they begin a new journey, alone in a world they don’t understand and don’t know how to navigate. On the run, they unravel secrets and lies that surround the circus and their lives—secrets and lies that all point to the unthinkable: Have they been betrayed by the people they trusted most?

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Happy Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to all of our May Sky Pony new releases!

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Ministry of Ghosts by Alex Shearer

Ministry of Ghosts_coverWhen they ring the bell at the house with the dusty windows and tarnished nameplate to inquire about the advertised “Saturday Person,” Thruppence and Tim don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. A Saturday job sounds ideal! But had that nameplate been properly cleaned, Thruppence and Tim might not have been so keen to enter . . .

Pressured by the stern Minister Beeston from the Department of Economies, the Ministry of Ghosts has been given three months to prove the existence or nonexistence of ghosts, or else it will be shut down! As it seems that children are particularly magnetic to ghosts and supernatural beings, Thruppence and Tim are hired to join the ministry’s ghost-catching team. And although neither of them is scared by talk of ghosts or monsters, they are unprepared for what they’re about discover!

Filled with fun, humor, and twists and turns, this is the perfect book for anyone who loved Harry Potter and who is looking for something similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book—just not quite as scary.

Tone Deaf by Olivia Rivers

Tone Deaf_coverHis world is music. Her world is silent.

Ali Collins was a child prodigy destined to become one of the greatest musicians of the twenty-first century—until she was diagnosed with a life-changing brain tumor. Now, at seventeen, Ali lives in a soundless world where she gets by with American Sign Language and lip-reading. She’s a constant disappointment to her father, a retired cop fighting his own demons, and the bruises are getting harder to hide.

When Ali accidentally wins a backstage tour with the chart-topping band Tone Deaf, she’s swept back into the world of music. Jace Beckett, the nineteen-year-old lead singer of the band, has a reputation. He’s a jerk and a player, and Ali wants nothing to do with him. But there’s more to Jace than the tabloids let on. When Jace notices Ali’s bruises and offers to help her escape to New York, Ali can’t turn down the chance at freedom and a fresh start. Soon she’s traveling cross-country, hidden away in Jace’s RV as the band finishes their nationwide tour. With the help of Jace, Ali sets out to reboot her life and rediscover the music she once loved.

Wandering Wild by Jessica Taylor

9781510704008-frontcoverI believe in possibility. Of magic, of omens, of compasses, of love. Some of it’s a little bit true.”

Sixteen-year-old Tal is a Wanderer—a grifter whose life is built around the sound of wheels on the road, the customs of her camp, and the artful scams that keep her fed. With her brother, Wen, by her side, it’s the only life she’s ever known. It’s the only one she’s ever needed.

Then in a sleepy Southern town, the queen of cons picks the wrong mark when she meets Spencer Sway—the clean-cut Socially Secured boy who ends up hustling her instead of the other way around. For the first time, she sees a reason to stay. As her obligations to the camp begin to feel like a prison sentence, the pull to leave tradition behind has never been so strong.

But the Wanderers live by signs, and all the signs all say that Tal and Spencer will end only in heartache and disaster. Is a chance at freedom worth almost certain destruction?

My Amazing Dad by Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Tom Jellett

My Amazing Dad_cover-REVISEDThis dad is not like other dads. He is not good at:

Mowing the lawn,
Getting his children to school on time,
Baking cakes,
Fixing a leaky faucet, or
Remembering bed time

But, he is good at:

Making mazes,
Getting his children to school eventually,
Eating cakes,
Making bubble baths, and
Telling bedtime stories.

And this is what makes him so special.

With bright illustrations from award-winning illustrator Tom Jellett and minimal text by award-nominated Ezekiel Kwaymullina, My Amazing Dad celebrates the unconventional father who may not always get it right but certainly knows how to turn every day into something special.

My Grandpa is a Dinosaur by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

My Grandpa Is a DinosaurThis little girl has been watching her grandpa for a very long time, and she is almost absolutely certain that he is a dinosaur. So why is it that nobody believes her? Why can’t anyone else see what she sees? He roars! (And no, it’s not just a snore.) He has green skin! (And no, he’s not from outer space.) He even has a tail! (And no, he’s not a horse!) Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the little girl goes straight to the source. It’s time to ask Grandpa once and for all: is he a dinosaur?

Just like Gorillas in Our Midst, this book is all silliness and fun. Comic artist Richard Fairgray’s illustrations are filled with wonderful, quirky details for kids to discover with each read. Kids will love that they can see that Grandpa is a dinosaur when nobody else can. And, of course, a story like this can’t end without a surprising twist!

Izzy the Very Bad Burglar by Amy Proud

9781634501743-frontcoverIzzy comes from a family of excellent burglars. But every time Izzy takes something that doesn’t belong to her, she gets a bad feeling in her stomach that won’t go away. She tries to tell her parents about the bad feeling, but whenever she mentions it, they tell her she needs to be a good burglar.

Izzy finds ways to make the funny feeling in her stomach subside. She and her friend, Frog, start by tidying up as they burgle. They make the beds, dust, wash the dishes, and do the laundry. When the people come home, some of their things will be gone . . . but at least they won’t have any chores to do.

But that isn’t quite enough. So Izzy also starts baking her special double chocolate brownies with gooey caramel chunks. When the people realize they’ve been burgled, at least they will have a nice, tidy house with no chores to do and something sweet to eat.

But that isn’t quite enough either. Will Izzy ever find a way to get rid of this funny feeling she gets every time she has to steal? Will she find a way to be a good burglar and a good person, too? Readers will fall in love with this little troublemaker with a very big heart.

Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

9781634501811-frontcoverLucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.

At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

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Writing a Sequel with Amalie Howard

What does it take to write a sequel? Amalie Howard shares her experience on writing a sequel. Check it out below! 


No one ever ever tells you that writing a sequel is hard. Like really, really hard.

First of all, I have to preface this post by saying that I loathe cliffhangers. I don’t mind small cliffhangers after all the major plot points have been resolved, you know, to whet your appetite for the next book in a series. However, I absolutely abhor those books that just end, and then you find yourself turning pages to the end, being confused, going back to re-read the last ten pages because you’re convinced you must have somehow missed the resolution, and then curling up in a corner with cushions rocking back and forth with a handful of cookies muttering to yourself about cursed cliffhangers.

So when the time came for me to write my own sequels, it was a daunting prospect. Because expectations. And those things weigh a ton. After all, with a sequel, you need to write a whole new story, roughly a hundred thousand words, with the same characters in the same world, and not repeat stuff you’ve written before. You don’t want to disappoint readers waiting breathlessly for that second book. Or worse, write a “filler book” that is meant to lead up to the last in a trilogy. That’s a total sell-out move. Fillers make me want to break things. I was lucky, I guess, because a few of my series were duologies. A relief on the one hand, and yet, so much added pressure to make that closure super satisfying.

Let’s address handling the same elements from book one to book two. Readers come back for a sequel because they want more—more of the same characters, more of the setting, more relationships, more challenges, MORE. And you, as an author, have to deliver. While making the story different. No one wants a remake. Unless it’s Star Wars. Then you can remake until the cows come home. But let’s pretend your book isn’t Star Wars, even though, inside, you hope it is. You have to work. And plan. And re-read Book One. And outline. And re-read again. And then write. A story board can help with keeping track of details. I use post-its or an excel spreadsheet, but many people like programs like Scrivener. Do what works for you.

Character growth is essential in a sequel, and that has to come from what your characters have accomplished or achieved in Book One. Unless your main character loses his or her memory (beaten to death trope), you have to work within the parameters you have built. Your readers went with you on a journey in Book One. Don’t devalue that by taking the easy route and erasing everything they’ve co-braved your hellfire for. Unless you’ve consulted with JJ Abrams and your memory loss hook is genius, brainstorm another route. Work with those brilliant, flawed characters you’ve created, and then ruthlessly throw your darlings to the wolves.

Let’s talk The Almost Girl and The Fallen Prince. In Book One, Riven was a soldier. By the end of her journey she learned to come to terms with what it meant to be human. In Book Two, I knew I had to springboard off that growth and take it a step further. To do this, I had to put her into situations that would test her mettle and push the limits of her newfound sense of self. In a similar fashion, I wanted to put Caden—the new king of Neospes and her love interest—into challenging situations of his own, forcing him to find a balance between his heart and his political strategy. My dependable hero from Book One is forced to face some serious issues. Growth has to push the character forward. Yes, there can be setbacks, but overall, everything should be moving your story to a new place.

Next, honor your rules. You’ve built an amazing world with structure and rules. Uphold those. They are still the cornerstones of your sequel. If you start breaking the rules you created down without good reason or undermining them, your readers will revolt. So change rules judiciously and with valid reasons, otherwise the world-building will start to unravel. In The Fallen Prince, I introduce a new pocket of civilization within the rules of the desert world I’ve built, however it’s an anomaly because said colony uses an extinct resource. Without giving away spoilers, I had to make the existence of this new society make sense within the established rules of the parallel universe. If Book One is set on a desert planet, you better be sure if Book Two is underwater, that they’re space explorers, or time jumpers, or something that you’ve already set up in the first book. Otherwise you risk alienating your readers.

Finally, your sequel has to make sense. If it’s not a sequential story, then it’s not a sequel. That’s a companion novel . . . which is a whole other beast. Give your readers what they are salivating for—characters they’ve connected with set in a world they love with a whole new adventure to look forward to. And write the end. You owe them that.

Here are a few pointers:

Do:

  • Write an outline
  • Brainstorm a different and fresh plot
  • Go for higher stakes
  • Flip things upside down
  • Introduce new characters
  • Deliver a great villain
  • Maintain consistency and style
  • Adhere to rules

Don’t:

  • Repeat the story you’ve already told
  • Be afraid to kill your darlings WITH VALID REASON (think George R. R. Martin)
  • Cliff hang (cliff teasers are okay)
  • Go off into left field (making it too difficult for readers to connect)
  • Make your sequel a set up for Book Three. Just don’t. Been there, done that, and it didn’t end well. Plan to write the end and make it a satisfying conclusion. Your readers will thank you.

 

Howard, Amalie - Alpha Goddess

Amalie Howard is the award-winning IndieNext author of Alpha Goddess, The Almost Girl, The Fallen Prince, the Aquarathi series, and the Cruentus Curse series. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Summer Read. She is currently working on Dark Goddess, the sequel to Alpha Goddess, which will release from Sky Pony Press in Spring 2017. She lives with her husband and three children in Colorado.


Amalie Howard’s Books:

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

9781510701700-frontcoverRiven 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.

 

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.

 

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