Jasper the Dog is Betrayed, Again

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Author Beth Vrabel’s lovable dog Jasper wrote a guest blog post for us earlier this year. Now that he’s had a chance to read Beth’s newest novel, A Blind Guide to Normal, he’s back with another guest post! Check out his thoughts below!


 

Jasper the Dog is Betrayed, Again

I am betrayed once more.blind-guide-to-normal-9781510702288

Not only does my human’s latest book have guinea pigs on the cover—guinea pigs!—the story also features a…

No, I can’t bring myself to say it.

But I must.

Deep breath.

It features a cat.

Not just any cat, either, as despicable as that might be. No, it features a cat based on one she actually once knew. Her latest book, A Blind Guide to Normal, includes a cat named General MacCathur II. And it’s based on Goldie, a cat her grandparents had when she was a pup (or whatever humans call puppy versions o9781510703827-frontcoverf themselves).

Goldie even gets a shout out on the dedication page, which I know because I heard the Littlest Human ask why it wasn’t dedicated to him.

Great question, Littlest Human, but you got the dedication in my human’s book Pack of Dorks. Did I? No, of course not. I’ve simply dedicated my life to keeping her warm and cozy while she writes, defending her from Vacuum, adding my personal musk to our favorite chair and bringing her the toy she so loves to throw again and again.

Yet I’ve never gotten a dedication. The closest acknowledgment to my influence is the golden version of me on the cover of her book A Blind Guide to Stinkville. She told me that Tooter, the dog in that book, is based on me, but her description of him (a fat, farting dog who goes where he shouldn’t) sounds pretty far off from me.

Yet this Goldie gets a whole dedication.

Okay. If she likes cats, fine.

I, Jasper the Dog, will become a cat.

 

Day One

I consult with Winn-Dixie and Pippin the Guinea Pigs, who lived in a pet store among other animals, including cats, when they were guinea piglets.

“What do you know about cats?” I ask.

“They’re horrid,” they squeak.

“That’s what you say about humans.”

“Yes,” they squeak.

“And dogs.”

“Yes.” Pippin scurries into their hut and away from me. Winn-Dixie darts in and flips the hut. Pippin screeches and chases Winn-Dixie. They do this all day.

“But what do cats do?” I call above their screeches. “How do they cat?”

The pigs pause. Winn-Dixie says, “They sit high on top of things.”

Pippin adds, “Aloof! They’re aloof!”

Winn-Dixie pipes in. “They have beautiful singing voices!”

“They have no need for the humans. They can take ’em or leave ’em,” Pippin adds.

“Take,” I say.

“No, take ’em or leave ’em,” Winn-Dixie says. “Both.”

“I choose take. I’ll take humans. Humans are my favorite.”

The pigs sigh. “Cats are cats’ favorite,” Winn-Dixie says, and resumes their chase.

I’m sure the pigs are wrong. Humans are always favorite. Even so, I can do this, I tell myself. I can cat.

I assume my position atop my human’s favorite chair.

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“Get down, you silly pup,” she says. “You are not a cat.”

Not yet, Human.

Two hours later, I’ve become wedged between the cushion and the chair and cannot move. I am, however, extremely comfortable.

Twenty minutes later, my human yells, “What have you done to my chair? You’re ruining the cushion!” When she notices that I’m stuck, she pulls me free and gives me some pepperoni. Do cats get pepperoni?

This thought troubles me.

I will resume efforts tomorrow.

 

Day Two

I shall be aloof.

I’m going aloof all the way over here, away from the Littlest Human and his even littler friend, away from the Monopoly game and all of its interestingly smelling pieces and their deliciously smelly toes.

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Aloof.

Aloof.

Hold up. They’re leaving the game! They’re going to the OUTSIDE! I love that place! I love The Outside!

We’re going to Play!

This is awesome! This is fantastic!

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I chase leaves and shred them to bits! I bounce through snow and make it splash and splash! I chase the basketball!

This is… not what cats do.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

 

Day Three

I try this singing of which the guinea pigs have spoken.

The humans tell me to Be Quiet and Go Lay Down.

I sing louder.

The humans say Stop It and No.

Soon after, my human leaves for a long time. I am not worried. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.

I’ll just sit here on top of her chair and look out the window.

Still looking.

I’ll take a small nap. I’m sure she’ll be here when I wake up.

She’s still not here! I am not long for this world without her!

I run from room to room to make sure she isn’t just hiding. I even jump up onto her bed, which is a No, Jasper!, and pull back the blankets but no human! I roll around a little on her pillow, just to remember her scent.

I hear the door open but I’m too exhausted from my hunt to find her.

“What are you doing on the bed, Jasper the Dog?” she asks.

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I just roll over.

I’m getting better at catting.

 

Day Four

I smell pupcakes! Is today birthday?

Every other month or so, it’s my birthday. Poor Little Humans only have one birthday a year. I don’t think the big humans have any birthdays. But Jasper the Dog? Seven birthdays every year.

I bet today is birthday.

Pupcakes!

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Troubling thought: Do cats have birthdays?

I run to the kitchen. The Little Human asks, “Can I have one of the cupcakes?”

My human says no. “These are for the party we’re going to later.”

I wait for my pupcake and my pupcake hat and my birthday song. The little human puts dog food in my bowl. Dog food? The injustice!

The biggest human comes home and puts a box on the table. “I’ve got the hot wings!” he says.

Then all the humans shuffle on coats and grab bags—including the cupcakes—and leave without Jasper the Dog.

But then I smell something even better than pupcakes. Hot wings.

“Don’t you eat those!” Winn-Dixie the Guinea Pig squeaks. “Cats don’t eat hot wings.”

I sniff. Somehow I find myself up on a chair.

I sniff again. Somehow my nose has opened the box. I’ll just grab one little hot wing. Nom, nom, nom.

Nom, nom.

Nom.

The garage door is opening! My human runs inside!

I jump from the chair!

I hide behind the couch as my human opens the lid of the box.

“Jasper!” my human yells. “Why are six hot wings missing?”

He calls me Bad Dog. He never calls me Bad Dog.

I am worse than Bad Dog. I am also Bad Cat.

And my belly is on fire.

 

Day Five

The vet says dogs aren’t supposed to eat hot wings.

He gives me medicine.

The only perk is my humans are now properly interested in the gifts I leave for them in the yard.

My human claps for me to sit with her on her chair.

I jump up and think about jumping further to sit above her head like a proper cat.

Instead, I sit across her lap. She puts away her laptop and rubs my ears and pats my belly. “Silly, pup. You know you might be the best dog ever?” she says. “Love you so much.”

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I sigh and press my head against her shoulder. Best Dog Ever.

That’s me.


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A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

 

A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel

9781510703827-frontcoverBefore Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.

For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.


pack-of-dorks-9781629146232Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel

Lucy knows that kissing Tom Lemmings behind the ball shed will make her a legend. But she doesn’t count on that quick clap of lips propelling her from coolest to lamest fourth grader overnight. Suddenly Lucy finds herself trapped in Dorkdom, where a diamond ring turns your finger green, where the boy you kiss hates you three days later, where your best friend laughs as you cry, where parents seem to stop liking you, and where baby sisters are born different.

Now Lucy has a choice: she can be like her former best friend, Becky, who would do anything to claim her seat at the cafeteria’s cool table, or she can pull up a chair beside the dorks. But can she really be seen with the likes of dinosaur-obsessed Sheldon and nose-picking April? And how will she survive doing a research project on wolves with the super-quiet Sam Righter? Lucy’s about to find out what being a dork is really about—and it might just surprise her.

 

Camp Dork by Beth Vrabelcamp-dork-9781634501811

Lucy 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 Camp Paleo. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air-conditioning, and they’ll dig for fossils during the day. And Grandma’s coming too—as lunch lady for the camp next door.

But Sam backs out at the last minute to attend a gymnastics camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend. And why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush? 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. But when the wrong campers pair up, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

 

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Sky Pony on Instagram!

Just in case you missed it, Sky Pony Press now has its own (semi-brand new) Instagram (@skyponypress)! While we already have a general Skyhorse Publishing Instagram (@skyhorsepub), we really wanted to have a dedicated account where we can post about just our kids and teen titles, run a bunch of giveaways, and give you Sky Pony Press fans a behind-the-scenes look at our books, amazing staff, authors, and all things Sky Pony! Largely thanks to an OwlCrate giveaway of a bundle of our YA titles, we’ve amassed a pretty great following so far, and we’ve been trying to spread the word for kids and teen book lovers to follow us, like our photos, and tag us in their posts of Sky Pony books!

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So if you haven’t already, head on over to @skyponypress on Instagram and follow us! There’s also a live ***GIVEAWAY*** for an ARC of Tara Sim’s highly-anticipated upcoming fantasy, steampunk, LGBTQ YA novel TIMEKEEPER, so make sure to enter for your chance to win while you’re over there. Follow the instructions in the giveaway post to enter!

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Tips for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, a brave challenge some writers take on every November. It involves a lot of work and a lot of motivation. We asked a few of our authors to come up with some tips to help you if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Check it out!


Advice from Beth Vrabel, author of the middle grade novels, A Blind Guide to Normal, A Blind Guide to Stinkville, Camp Dork, and Pack of Dorks

  • Schedule your writing time. This is huge, but the time limit doesn’t have to be. Add writing to your to-do list, but make the goals incredibly achievable. Nothing beats scratching something off a to-do list! When I began my first published novel, PACK OF DORKS,  the only time I had to myself were the two and a half hours each weekday my son was at preschool. The temptation to cram those hours with everything I needed to accomplish—from doing laundry to running errands to catching up with friends—was tremendous. I began to add to the top of each day’s to-do list: Write for twenty minutes. That’s it, twenty minutes. I’d drop off my son and pull into a coffee shop, find a table and open my laptop. Then I’d check the clock. Some days, I closed the laptop twenty minutes later on the dot. Most days, I kept on writing until pick-up time. Either way, I had met my goal. Even more importantly, I prioritized my writing. Let’s face it, no one is going to take this calling seriously until you do.
  • Remember: not all writing is putting words on the page. The bulk of my early writing time looks a lot like staring into space and eating potato chips. That’s because I’m staring into space eating potato chips. But I’m also thinking about my characters, getting to know them and their tastes and interests, figuring out how they speak and see the world. I might spend hours creating the perfect playlist for the story I’m brewing. All of this counts as writing! Nothing is more intimating than a blank screen, but if you can hold off and only open that document file when your characters are screaming to be heard, you’re going to have so much more fun and be way more productive.
  • Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. I think this is a cooking analogy, something about how you can tell if pasta is ready to eat because it’ll stick to tiles. I don’t know; as someone who has twice accidentally melted the interior of microwaves during meal prep, I’m not really all that up-to-date on culinary terminology. When it comes to writing, though, I firmly believe you must, must, must throw everything you’ve got into the story. Reimagine your own experiences, tap into times you’ve shared emotions with your characters, mix in your own authentic observations on life’s absurdities. Not all of this will survive the editing phase. That’s okay. Your best cooked thoughts will stick.
  • Going right along with that last one, make it personal. Get under your own skin and then scratch until you reveal what you—and only you—can share with the world. Look, so many books are out there for readers. But your book? Your voice? It’s brand new. So don’t waste your time thinking about trying to make the next Harry Potter or Twilight or Ramona Quimby or whatever came to your mind just now. Those stories have been told. Yours hasn’t. And only you can do it. Yes, it’s not always going to be easy or comfortable. It will, however, be worth it.
  • Have fun. You love writing, that’s why you’re doing this. Because you love it, or maybe you love having done it. Either way, honor the magic.

blind-guide-to-normal-9781510702288Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.


Advice from Kita Murdock, author of the middle grade novel Future Flash.

  • You don’t have to be sitting at a desk to create stories. As a working mom of three, it’s challenging to find time to in front of the computer to write, which is why most of my story creation occurs on the running trail behind my house. While running (or driving or even in line at the supermarket) I work out storylines and characters in my head. By the time I get a chance to sit at the computer, I am typing out what I have already developed.
  • Seek inspiration. Whether through reading a compelling book, watching a show with a great plot line, or contemplating a piece of art, I am always motivated by other people’s artistic expression.
  • Read about the craft of writing. I was an English major and always have been an avid reader, yet when I attempted to write my first novel, I found there was a lot I didn’t know. Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Bell was an essential read when I was starting out and Stephen King’s On Writing is a book I come back to time and time again.
  • Find some good readers. It’s important to find honest editors. My mom and two writer friends always read my first drafts and the pages come back to me covered in useful suggestions.
  • Have fun! My best writing happens when I’m enjoying myself and letting myself get lost in my story.

future-flash-9781510710115For as long as she can remember, Laney has been having “future flashes”—visions of the future that she sees when she makes physical contact with another person. Left on a doorstep as a baby, Laney’s past has always been cloudy to her, despite the clarity with which she can see the future. Her caretaker, Walt, claims to be her father, but Laney has a nagging suspicion that he isn’t quite telling her the entire truth. And when a new kid, Lyle, moves to her small town, Laney is dreading meeting him—she almost always gets a future flash when first meeting someone new, and the flashes aren’t always good. Unfortunately, her meeting with Lyle isn’t just bad; it’s painful. Engulfed in flames, Lyle’s future flash is the worst Laney’s ever experienced. But what does it mean? Is there anything Laney can do to change the future? And will she be able to save Lyle not only from a fiery death but also from the merciless class bully without becoming a victim of his antics herself?

In this thrilling and imaginative middle grade novel from author Kita Helmetag Murdock, follow Laney as she works against the clock to understand her past and prevent the disaster looming in the future.


Advice from Bibi Belford, author of Canned and Crushed

Bibi Belford’s secret to writing great middle great novels, is the BIC Pill. The BIC Pill is not for everyone; read on for more information:

Medical News Flash: The BIC Pill. Miracle Drug for Writers. Writers flock to pharmacists for the BIC Pill before NaNoWriMo. This new drug effectively produces cohesive and prolonged writing attention. During clinical trials, 87% of writers created hooks with character, voice, and mystery generating novels bursting with concept, character, theme, and structure.

Full disclosure of BIC Pill ingredients: B-Butt, large appendage in rear. I-In, directional preposition, C-Chair, seat on four legs in front of desk. Use of BIC Pill may cause recurring scene revisions, prolonged echoes of character voices lasting more than four pages, and full manuscript requests from agents and editors.

canned-and-crushed-9781510716612Fourth grade’s tough. But how much trouble can one kid get into when he’s just trying to help his sister?

When Sandro Zapote finds out his little sister needs heart surgery, he is determined to help his parents raise the money so she can get treatment. Sandro’s dad is in the States illegally and must work two jobs to support the family. For one, he picks up roadkill for the department of streets and sanitation and gets paid by the carcass. For the other, he collects scrap metal to recycle for cash. Sandro helps his dad with some of the scrap metal heavy lifting, and one headboard, a weight bench, some gutters, and a few car parts later, Sandro has a brilliant idea: can collecting. Save the environment. Save his sister. Maybe even save some spending money for the fabulous, fast new bike he’s been coveting.

Well-meaning and with funny inner monologue, Sandro is the kind of person you can’t help but cheer for. He’s a boy who loves drawing, soccer, and his little sister. And whether he’s fishing a fuzzy, dust-coated turtle out from under his sister’s bed or organizing a school-wide can drive all by himself, Sandro is a smart, self-aware hero who makes just a few mistakes along the way.


Advice from Melissa E. Hurst, author of The Edge of Forever

Last year, while drafting On Through the Never, I was desperate to find a way to focus on writing because I usually procrastinate when I’m stuck. I searched for tips and discovered an app called 5000 Words Per Hour by Sly Fox Applications. It was extremely helpful because I could set the timer to sprint and it would keep up with my average words per hour. I started out sprinting for five minutes at a time, gradually increasing until I was writing for thirty minutes without any urge to procrastinate or edit. Trying to beat each previous sprint’s word count became my goal instead of making everything perfect. I ended up writing almost fifty thousand words in a month using that method.

edge-of-forever-9781632204240In 2013, sixteen-year-old Alora is having blackouts. Each time she wakes up in a different place with no idea how she got there. The one thing she is certain of? Someone is following her.

In 2146, seventeen-year-old Bridger is one of a small number of people born with the ability to travel to the past. While on a routine school time trip, he sees the last person he expected—his dead father. The strangest part is that, according to the Department of Temporal Affairs, his father was never assigned to be in that time. Bridger’s even more stunned when he learns that his by-the-book father was there to break the most important rule of time travel—to prevent someone’s murder.

And that someone is named Alora.

Determined to discover why his father wanted to help a “ghost,” Bridger illegally shifts to 2013 and, along with Alora, races to solve the mystery surrounding her past and her connection to his father before the DTA finds him. If he can stop Alora’s death without altering the timeline, maybe he can save his father too.


Advice from Amalie Howard, author of Alpha Goddess, The Fallen Prince, and The Almost Girl

50,000 words in 30 days. I know it seems daunting, and it is. I won’t lie. Even the most seasoned of writers will tell you that seeing such a large word count sitting next to any kind of deadline will make them break out into a cold sweat. You’re not alone. But here’s how you do it. One bite at a time. Just like Melinda Mae who ate that whole whale in the Shel Silverstein poem, you can do it. One word at a time.

My best advice for NaNo writers is to try to hit whatever goal you’ve set for that day, no matter what. In a perfect world, you’re set to write 1700 words a day like clockwork. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and if you miss a day, you will need to make those words up so that you don’t fall behind. Stress can be cumulative, so do what you can. If you’ve exceeded your word count and are on fire, KEEP GOING. Nothing beats being on a creative roll when the words are flowing. And bonus, you’ll be ahead of the game and have some cushion for those days when you do fall behind.

Lastly, remember, you’re doing this because you love it. You’re a writer! Have fun and own the process. You can do it!

alpha-goddess-9781626362086In 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.


Advice from Yvonne Ventresca, author of Black Flowers, White Lies and Pandemic

Nabokov said, “The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.” When you’re plotting, make sure that the rocks (or complications) you choose are meaningful. During one chapter of Pandemic, I needed “something bad” to happen. My initial thought was that a house burns down. While that did qualify as something bad, it didn’t really fit. A better complication was that looters steal the main character’s supplies and make her fear for her safety, a running concern throughout the story. So don’t use random rocks—choose them wisely.

black-flowers-white-lies-9781510709881Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a supernatural connection. Since her mother discourages these beliefs, Ella keeps her cemetery visits secret. But she may not be the only one with secrets. Ella’s mother might be lying about how Dad died sixteen years ago. Newfound evidence points to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not as a result of a tragic car accident as her mother always claimed. After a lifetime of just the two of them, Mom suddenly feels like a stranger.

When a handprint much like the one Ella left on her father’s tombstone mysteriously appears on the bathroom mirror, at first she wonders if Dad is warning her of danger as he did once before. If it’s not a warning, could her new too-good-to-be-true boyfriend be responsible for the strange occurrences? Or maybe it’s the grieving building superintendent whose dead daughter strongly resembles Ella? As the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, Ella becomes terrified about who—or what—might harm her.

Soon the evidence points to someone else entirely: Ella herself. What if, like her father, she’s suffering from a breakdown? In this second novel from award-winning author Yvonne Ventresca, Ella desperately needs to find answers, no matter how disturbing the truth might be.


Advice from Randall Platt, author of Incommunicado

Randall Platt’s Writer’s Toolbox—it’s fun, it’s useful, and it’s portable!

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  • A thick skin to ward off the naysayers, critics, and rejections
  • A healthy ego demanding, “What I have to say is worthy of being read!”
  • The courage to come back better and stronger, time after time after time
  • The grace to accept a bad review, even from Mumzie
  • Duct tape to cover my mouth to remind me that the best way to save face is to keep the lower end of it closed (especially with Mumzie)
  • A pen (or reasonable facsimile)

There you are! Go get ’em!

incommunicado-9781629146461Just about everyone is incommunicado in the small, sleepy Oregon coastal town of Sea Park during the winter of 1941. That is, until Pearl Harbor is attacked. Then Sea Park springs to patriotic life. But is Ruby Opal Pearl (aka Jewels) Stokes the only person to see what’s really happening here? Tommy Kaye, the one person in her life who has provided security, shelter, and a smidgeon of respect—and who owns the biggest resort on the coast—is now the cause of the town’s rage. Tommy’s Japanese ancestry makes him the prime target of an angry mob, not to mention he’s also rich, has a shady past (which includes Jewels’s eccentric mother), and everyone in town owes him money.

As the town’s patriotism blossoms into paranoia and turns violent, Jewels has to do something to protect Tommy from internment (or worse), even if that something is going up against the town and the government, not to mention the FBI. Thus begins a twelve-year-old girl’s war within a war.

 

 


Advice from Sarah Glenn Marsh, author of Fear the Drowning Deep

When you’re stuck, moving past the block is the hardest thing.

My advice on how to push through while drafting is to focus on the next scene you’re really excited to write (for me, usually a romantic scene!). Hold that exciting scene in your mind, as it’ll motivate you to keep drafting so you can get to the good stuff!

Some s9781510703483-frontcoverecrets are better left at the bottom of the ocean.

Sixteen-year-old Bridey Corkill longs to leave her small island and see the world; the farther from the sea, the better. When Bridey was young, she witnessed something lure her granddad off a cliff and into a watery grave with a smile on his face. Now, in 1913, those haunting memories are dredged to the surface when a young woman is found drowned on the beach. Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her Granddad to leap has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, people in Bridey’s idyllic village begin vanishing, and she finds an injured boy on the shore—an outsider who can’t remember who he is or where he’s from. Bridey’s family takes him in so he can rest and heal. In exchange for saving his life, he teaches Bridey how to master her fear of the water—stealing her heart in the process.

But something sinister is lurking in the deep, and Bridey must gather her courage to figure out who—or what—is plaguing her village, and find a way to stop it before she loses everyone she loves.


Advice from Tara Sim, author of Timekeeper

Struggling t9781510706187-frontcovero write your next scene or chapter? Think about the most interesting part of the scene you’re about to write. Begin there.

I was in an accident. I got out. I’m safe now.

An alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, where a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

A prodigy mechanic who can repair not only clockwork but time itself, determined to rescue his father from a Stopped town.

A series of mysterious bombings that could jeopardize all of England.

A boy who would give anything to relive his pat, and one who would give anything to live at all.

A romance that will shake the very foundations of time.

The first book in a dazzling new steampunk-fantasy trilogy, Timekeeper introduces a magical world of mythology and innovation that readers will never want to leave.

 

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A Spin the Sky Playlist

Spin the Sky hits shelves today! To celebrate, author, Jill MacKenzie shares some behind the scenes information with us! Check it out!


I listened to all of these songs while writing Spin the Sky—many of them on repeat for hours and hours at a time.  Some I was originally drawn to for the tone or for the lyrics, some helped me evoke that kind of hopeless emotion that Mags felt throughout the story, and others are just really great songs that made me want to dance and, in turn, write powerful dance scenes. Each of them, however, correlates to a specific scene in the book.

sky-pony-press-qa-jill-mackenzie


Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie

spin-the-sky-9781510706866Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the townspeople throw at them, Mags thinks she’s destined to pay for the horrible, awful thing her mom did—and that she’s left her and Rose to deal with—until the day she dies.

But when a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. Not only have they spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but also it could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to win the grand-prize money and get her and Rose out of Summerland, a chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, a chance to show the town that she’s not—and has never been—a “no-good Woodson girl,” like her mother. But will the competition prove too steep? And will Mags be able to retain her friendship with George as they go head-to-head in tryouts? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.

bio-picJill MacKenzie, a Vancouver native, is an ex-ballerina and contemporary dancer. Now working toward her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Jill chassés between roles as part-time student, full-time mom, and always-writer. Though Jill no longer studies dance, she still tries to dance herself clean whenever she can. Currently she lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she spends her free time beach-bound with her husband and two beautiful daughters.

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Spin the Sky author, Jill MacKenzie takes on the Sky Pony Q&A

Spin the Sky hits shelves in less than a week! We’re celebrating this week by sharing teaser quotes and images on our social media (do you follow and like us everywhere?). Author, Jill MacKenzie took on the Sky Pony Express Q&A so you lovely readers can get to know her a little better before you meet her protagonist, Magnolia Woodsen! Check it out below!


Q: Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

To me, writing YA literature was always a no-brainer. Those years between thirteen and nineteen have always been the ones I’ve gravitated towards, the ones that I reflect on now most often. It’s not so much that my own high school years were amazing (trust me, they weren’t) but more a case of knowing that those years shaped who I am as a person today. And when I say shaped who I am, in no way do I mean that my teenage years defined who I am—quite the opposite, actually. I’m a very different person now than I was as a teenager. I’d like to think that I’m a nicer one. I know that I’m a quieter one, a more introspective one. But my teenage years are when I started my journey of self-discovery and that was pretty huge for me. That’s when I really started to feel different and knew that others weren’t really seeing the world the way I was. Back then, I always felt uneasy in my own skin and moved through life carefully, like if I said one wrong thing my whole world would explode. I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that it’s okay to be different. I guess that’s why I write YA. So that when I write teenage characters now, I make sure each and every one of them know it’s definitely okay—preferable actually—to be different.

Q: What are you reading right now?

I’m reading a few books right now and choose which one to read each night based on my mood or what kind of day I’ve had. These include: Eileen Cook’s With Malice, A.S. King’s Still Life with Tornado, and Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility. I’ve also got Jaye Robin Brown’s Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit and (You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki loaded up on my Kindle. So I’ve got a lot going on, reading-wise! But that’s a good place for me to be in. My best place, actually.

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

Right off the top of my head, I’d say Amber Appleton from Matthew Quick’s Sorta Like a Rockstar. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a character with the kind of strength that parallel’s Amber’s and I envy that because I’m naturally a pretty fearful person. I fell in love with Amber pretty instantly. As I did with Kidd from Matt de la Pena’s I Will Save You, though I think it was a different kind of love with Kidd. I’d like to be Amber. But if I’m Amber, I want to meet up, one day, with Kidd.

Q: Where’s your favorite place to write?

Sadly, my favorite place to write isn’t the place I write in on a daily basis. Usually, I write at home in my office (pajama clad, of course) with my little Siamese, Gloria, curled up on my lap. I love her. She’s snuggly. Plus she enforces that I sit in my chair for a minimum of three hours a day, as per her nap schedule. Here is a picture of me (or, at least, my lap) on usual, Monday-Friday days.

jill-cat

But that’s not necessarily my favorite place to write. Last year, I went on a writing retreat to Tennessee. The cabin/mansion I was staying in (packed with about thirty other writers) was nestled in the Blue Mountains and it was pretty huge for me because, although I grew up surrounded by mountains, my South Florida home has no mountains to be seen. This is a picture my retreat roommate took of me writing in Tennessee. I think it’s my favorite place in the world to create characters. I don’t know if I’ve ever written prettier sentences than I did while I was here.

jill-writing-spot

Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?

Easy! Field of Dreams. I am a girl who doesn’t like sports. Probably because I don’t understand them at all—like, I don’t know the rules to any sport at all. So, a movie about baseball has to be pretty awesome to make me love it the way I do. Field of Dreams is definitely that, plus the miraculous W.P. Kinsella wrote it. I’ve always loved his work.

My other favorite movie—though not a classic—is called Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. Everything about this movie speaks to me. I’ve seen it over ten times when most people haven’t even heard of it. I definitely recommend it.

Lastly, I really love the movie rendition of Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes. I think I’m sort of alone in my bursting-heart-bubbles feeling on this film, but it doesn’t happen often (for me at least) where a movie casts characters so right, so completely authentic and true to its book counterpart. Tiger Eyes did that for me, absolutely.

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

A miniature donkey, hands down. Have you seen those things? Serious cuteness overload. Like a tiny horse, but with a feistier personality. Like a large goat but without the weird eyes. Omg, I’m dying here.

donkey

Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

Milk! I eat chocolate every single day of my life without exception. But I’m a purist about it. It pretty much has to be Godiva, Cadbury’s or Hershey’s (if I’m feeling a little desperate) or I won’t eat it at all.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?

Promise you won’t laugh? It’s Valentine’s Day. I know what people say about it being a Hallmark holiday or whatever but I just love it. I love the little candies, I love the exchange of school Valentines, I love the colors red and pink and I love the red and pink together. It’s just a sweet little day without too much build up and if that’s what it takes for everyone to be a little nicer to each other, so be it.

Q: What’s your favorite emoji? OR What’s your favorite GIF?

My favorite emoji is this one here:

eye-roll

Giant eye roll. I often use it in text when I know I’ve just said something eye-roll worthy. I just put it out there so that the person on the other end doesn’t have to.

Favorite gif? Easy one, too! Someone sent this to me with the caption that said, “my current process” in regards to crafting a story. I was like, “oh my god IT’S MY CURRENT PROCESS TOO.” Ack.

via GIPHY

Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were Magnolia’s age?

Well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But for a time (a long time, actually) I was told that the chances of actually being a writer were probably pretty small. I also wanted to be a Social Worker for at-risk youth so I tried my hand at that for a year as well. It was so incredibly hard and I didn’t make it at that kind of job very long. But when I was Magnolia’s age, I was very much a wanderer. All I wanted to do back then was travel the world and read books and do a little work along the way to support this travel-plus-books habit. That’s about as far as my ambitions went back then!


Spin the Sky by Jill MacKenzie

spin-the-sky-9781510706866Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the townspeople throw at them, Mags thinks she’s destined to pay for the horrible, awful thing her mom did—and that she’s left her and Rose to deal with—until the day she dies.

But when a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. Not only have they spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but also it could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to win the grand-prize money and get her and Rose out of Summerland, a chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, a chance to show the town that she’s not—and has never been—a “no-good Woodson girl,” like her mother. But will the competition prove too steep? And will Mags be able to retain her friendship with George as they go head-to-head in tryouts? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.

bio-picJill Mackenzie, a Vancouver native, is an ex-ballerina and contemporary dancer. Now working toward her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Jill chassés between roles as part-time student, full-time mom, and always-writer. Though Jill no longer studies dance, she still tries to dance herself clean whenever she can. Currently she lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she spends her free time beach-bound with her husband and two beautiful daughters.

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Q&A with DOUBLE EXPOSURE Author Bridget Birdsall

We’re delighted to have Bridget Birdsall joining us today on the blog. Her fabulous debut novel, Double Exposure, is out in paperback this month—so if you haven’t yet read it, now’s the time! And we can’t wait for her to share a little more about herself with us today.


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

It may sound dramatic to say that books saved my life, but for me, it’s true.

I desperately wanted to read, but a fairly chaotic home life and serious struggles with dyslexia created challenges in my ability to both read and write. Yet deep in my soul I yearned to connect with others. It was a book called The Sojourner, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, that unlocked some secret code in my soul—a protagonist twice my age, from a different place and time, taught me I was not alone.

Today, I write for young people of all ages, including those that live within us, no matter how old they may be. I do not limit myself to any particular genre, but instead aspire to write books that touch people’s hearts, especially young people’s.

I read for the same reason: to connect. I believe some of the best fiction being written today is in the young adult genre. My fiction focuses on the struggles of those whose stories need to be told, from those whose voices need to be heard. Because these are the books I want to read.

Double Exposure is clearly young adult fiction with a realistic bent, but I am currently working on a middle grade cowgirl novel, and helping an amazing woman tell her story, a James Bond feminist spy-thriller.

Never fear, though; I have more young adult novels percolating inside of me. Including one that tackles another tough topic. Stay tuned.

2. What are you reading right now?

Just finished reading a bunch of middle grade novels. My favorite pick from the pile would be The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen. Last night I started reading E.M. Kokie’s YA novel, Radical.

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

I would be a character in any of Roald Dahl’s books. Why? Because I love the sublimely subversive worlds he created. There are great to read aloud to a mixed age audience and, like me, Roald Dahl was dyslexic. His humorous,truth-infused stories inspired me, as young person who struggled with reading, to actually read. Today, his stories still warm my heart and make me laugh!

4. Where’s your favorite place to write? 

415w2dw2fil-_sx322_bo1204203200_I’ve learned to write wherever I am. However, my favorite place to write would be anywhere outside or near an open window (unless it’s twenty below), especially one with a view. In my home, when the weather cooperates, you’ll find me on the front porch or on the deck, tapping away while a remarkably authentic-looking, bubbling brook recirculates rain water.

I have also been known to write in the car, on the sofa, on my anti-gravity chair, standing up in my office at my desk, at coffee shops, libraries, and bus stops, on airplanes and trains.

But I no longer write in bed! Why? Because when I wrote Ordinary Angels I often wrote almost all night, albeit obsessively, because the book both haunted and possessed me. After I finished it I had completely exhausted myself and it took me two months to recover my regular sleep schedule and to even be able to write!

5. What’s your favorite classic movie?

It would have to be a tie between two very different movies: Star Wars, which I found to be completely captivating, and To Kill a Mockingbird with Gregory Peck, who in my opinion became Atticus Finch.

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

falcon3A talking falcon. Why? Birds ignite my imagination. They are magical. According to indigenous Shamans, birds are the original shape changers. They can transform themselves into any form they chose: human, angel, whatever. And as the story goes, my last name, which contains the word bird, comes from the royal falconers, those who cared for the royal falcon, who often resided in the castle where the birds where housed: a place called “bird’s hall.”

7. Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

Dark: pure, full strength, good for the heart. Go deep, go big, or go home.

8. What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving. Experiencing the death of my brother at a very young age taught me that life is fragile, precious, and sometimes the brutal truth is that someone you love can be here today and gone tomorrow. Literally.

Practicing gratitude, even for the hard stuff in my life, keeps me from sinking into fear or grief or despair. It helps me remember what is truly important. Which has nothing to do with how many books I publish, how much money I make, or what kind of car I drive. Nope. None of that matters.

What matters? Did I love and treat with respect the people I was given to love, even the hard ones, even when the hard one was sometimes myself?

emoji9. What’s your favorite emoji?

Smiley face winking!

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

In truth, my focus was survival. But if you had asked me then, I probably would have said an artist. But only if you had let me whisper it in your ear, because my father told me repeatedly that artists starve, and at the time the idea that I might be a writer or a poet was a joke. Now who’s had the last laugh? HA!


Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall

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Fifteen-year-old Alyx Atlas was raised as a boy, but she knows something others don’t: she’s a girl. Born intersex, Alyx has always questioned her gender identity and struggled to fit in. But it’s after her dad dies—and after she sustains a terrible beating from her classmates—that she decides she can’t live as a boy any longer. She and her mother move from California to Wisconsin to start a new life, and Alyx begins again, this time as a girl.

Alyx quickly earns a spot on the girls’ varsity basketball team, and for the first time in her life she feels like she fits in. But as the team racks up one victory after another and the state championships approach, a jealous teammate sets her sights on Alyx. Hotheaded and fiercely competitive, Pepper Pitmani is sure Alyx is keeping a secret, which Pepper is determined to reveal. If she succeeds, the truth could destroy Alyx’s one shot—not just to take home the trophy with her team, but to live as her true self.

Honest, raw, and uplifting, Double Exposure is for every teen who’s longed to be seen, struggled to find the courage to be different, or dared to face adversity head-on.


Bridget Birdsall believes books have the power to change and save lives. She grew up in Milwaukee, earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College, and now resides in Madison, Wisconsin.

Visit her online at www.bridgetbirdsall.com and on Twitter at @BridgetBirdy3.

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Top 5 Monsters from the Big Screen by Sarah S. Reida, author of MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION

Halloween season means monster movies! Thank goodness we have Monsterville author, Sarah S. Reida, to help us pick the best scary guys from the big screen. Now, if you need us, we’ll be hiding under the bed and hoping we don’t find ourselves Down Below!


The title character of Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production, is a huge movie fan. That’s why she’s bummed when her family moves from exciting NYC to the sticks of Freeburg, Pennsylvania. How can Lissa break into the movie business if she’s trapped in the middle of nowhere?

If she finds a shape-shifting goblin, that’s how! Add the ready-made set of her parents’ creepy new woods, and Lissa has all the makings of her very own monster movie. Freeburg ain’t so boring after all.

To create her masterpiece, Lissa does some research – she watches monster movies! Now, just in time for Halloween, she’d like to share her top five monster picks with you. Sure, you probably recognize all of them, but did you know Lissa’s fun facts before reading this blog?

 

Number Five – Sully (Monsters, Inc.)

 

thumbnail_sully

Voiced by John Goodman, an actor with the rare distinction of appearing in two successive Best Picture winners (The Artist, Argo), Sully is a towering, huggable-looking creature. Bill Murray was the top pick to voice this character in Pixar’s monster hit, but he had (has) no agent and the filmmakers were unable to reach him to give him the part.

Number Four – Maurice (Little Monsters)

thumbnail_little-monsters

 

Played by America’s Got Talent judge, Howie Mendel, Maurice befriends Brian (Fred Savage) after climbing out from underneath his bed in his new home in Chicago. Capitalizing on the enormous popularity of Fred Savage (who was then appearing in The Wonder Years), the film also features Daniel Stern, who provided the voice-over in that show, as well as Fred’s real-life little brother, Ben (of Boy Meets World).

 

Number Three – The Gremlins

thumbnail_gizmo

 

Gremlins, as they came to be known in Steven Spielberg’s 1984 film, were loosely based on Roald Dahl’s (Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) very first children’s picture book, which was about mythical, mischievous creatures fond of sabotaging the British Royal Air Force’s aircraft. Howie Mandel (Howie! Again!) provided the voice for Gizmo (above).

Editor’s note: We  hope Lissa learned the importance of following the rules from these little guys. Gizmo may look cute, but watch out if you feed these guys after midnight or get them wet!

 

Number Two – Pennywise the Clown (It)

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Singlehandedly responsible for ruining clowns for children across multiple generations, Pennywise is quite possibly Stephen King’s scariest creation. Played by Tim Curry in the television mini-series, Pennywise tempts children with balloons and is known for the phrase, “they all float down here!” You may recognize Tim Curry from his lead role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and as the hotel staffer intent on busting Kevin in Home Alone II.

Number One – Beetlejuice

beetlejuice

Even though he refers to himself as “the ghost with the most,” Beetlejuice is more monster than ghost given his shenanigans. An early Tim Burton creation, Beetlejuice was played by Michael Keaton, who did such a great job that Burton insisted he be cast as the title character in Batman (across from the prolific Jack Nicholson as the Joker), which Burton was also directing. Years later, Michael Keaton would be robbed of the Best Actor Oscar for his incredible role in Birdman.

Not only does Lissa know movie trivia backwards and forwards, she knows monster movie rules. That comes in handy when Lissa’s little sister Haylie is kidnapped to the monster homeland of Down Below, and Lissa must use her movie knowledge (and a mysterious board game called Monsterville) as a vital tool to get her back.


MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION

9781510707337-frontcover 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 be 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.

Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice.


“What a fun read! The perfect book for the boy scout who wants to be prepared in Monsterville, for the monster who can’t decide what to become, and (of course) 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. Sarah Reida’s Monsterville is creepy good fun! —Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, Mark Twain Award finalist for Ordinary Magic

“This book is the best fun, overflowing with humor and fabulous in its overturning of many movie cliches. While adults are chuckling at the jokes, 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 Voyage to Magic North


sarah-edited Sarah Schauerte Reida is a writer, lawyer, and ugly animal advocate. Growing up in the Midwest (Illinois, to be precise), she read everything she could get her hands on, as well as watched many, many movies during her parents’ “camping” trips involving electricity and s’mores in a microwave. A member of The Sweet Sixteens, Sarah’s debut middle grade novel, “Monstervile: A Lissa Black Production,” is her first novel.
A graduate of Saint Louis University (B.A). and Case Western Reserve University School of Law (J.D.), Sarah makes a living helping veteran business owners compete for federal contracts. She and her husband Scott live in the Atlanta area with their dog and four cats. By the time this biography reaches print, they will probably have acquired another animal.

For fun movie trivia and resources for teachers and young film-makers, visit Sarah S. Reida’s website at www.lissablackproductions.com  and follow her on Twitter at @SarahSReida.

 

 

 

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Danica Davidson on Writing the Unofficial Overworld Adventure Series

To celebrate the release of the sixth and final book in her Unofficial Overworld Adventure series, we asked Danica Davidson to talk about the experience of writing the series. Read on below, and be sure to check out Danica’s other books here!

When I started writing Escape from the Overworld, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if it were going to be a stand-alone book or a series, or what kids would think of my Minecraft/Earth worldbuilding.

Now there are six books in the series: Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine, and Battle with the Wither, which was just released this month. With all these books out, I can sit back and think how fun it’s been to tell all these stories and get to know these characters.

There are always bumps in writing, and some days my main character Stevie was a little more helpful than others in getting the words down (sometimes when you’re writing, it feels like your character is dictating it to you). Stevie turned out to be a really fun voice to tap into, because he’s so well-meaning but still makes plenty of mistakes, so he feels really honest.

Some of my favorite things about writing this series included Stevie’s total cluelessness about Earth culture and how to respond (like how he thinks fingers look like squid tentacles), the cast of characters (the kids Stevie, Maison, Alex, Yancy, and Destiny all have very distinct personalities), and trying to come up with cliffhangers for every chapter to keep the pace up. Yancy is the most entertaining character to write, because you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth (sometimes I don’t know until I’m writing!).

I also liked watching the characters grow, because on top of the action, I also wanted these books to have depth. Stevie is not the same person in Battle with the Wither that he was in Escape from the Overworld. I feel as if I grew as a person and as a writer during the course of this series. I’ve been writing stories since I was very little—I was dictating stories to my parents when I was three, and regularly writing novels starting in middle school—but after years of closed doors and rejection letters, these were my first published books, and they allowed me to call myself a professional novelist. I’ve wanted to be called that for years!

When you’re a writer, you get attached to your characters. Sometimes I even dream about these guys. I had a dream not long ago where Stevie was helping me sell copies of my books. Apparently he wanted everyone to know his story!

By the way, the release of each book was also a good excuse to pose my pets with the latest book, because I figure just about everyone likes pets. Can you say no to a pet and a book? I know I can’t, and I can’t say no to my characters, either.

porthosbook tippybook


Battle with the Wither by Danica Davidson

After finally defeating Herobrine and rescuing his father, Stevie is looking forward to putting the prophecy far behind him. Bidding his friends farewell, Stevie returns to the Overworld to make up for lost time with his dad.

But their reunion is cut short when a Wither attacks the Overworld, destroying their house. When Stevie rushes outside to survey the damage, he can’t believe his eyes; they’re surrounded by deadly ghasts, blazes, and zombie pigmen from the Nether! Somehow, Herobrine has found a way to retaliate from beyond the grave—and now the entire Overworld must face his vengeance.

In the exciting conclusion to the Unofficial Overworld Adventure series, it’s up to Stevie, his dad, and their friends to restore balance between the Overworld and the Nether, defeat the Wither, and—most importantly of all—protect each other.

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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Live Chat with FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP Author Sarah Glenn Marsh

Here we go, folks! Please feel free to jump into the chat! And the transcript will live here after!

9781510703483-frontcover

“Haunting—gripping—beautiful. So powerful!” —Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Beka Cooper trilogy

Live Blog Live Chat with FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP Author Sarah Glenn Marsh
 

And there’s more! We’re running a Rafflcopter! Sarah’s graciously agreed to sign a copy of Fear the Drowning Deep and we’ll be giving it away to one lucky winner. Enter below!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP

Some secrets are better left at the bottom of the ocean.

Sixteen-year-old Bridey Corkill longs to leave her small island and see the world; the farther from the sea, the better. When Bridey was young, she witnessed something lure her granddad off a cliff and into a watery grave with a smile on his face. Now, in 1913, those haunting memories are dredged to the surface when a young woman is found drowned on the beach. Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her Granddad to leap has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, people in Bridey’s idyllic village begin vanishing, and she finds an injured boy on the shore—an outsider who can’t remember who he is or where he’s from. Bridey’s family takes him in so he can rest and heal. In exchange for saving his life, he teaches Bridey how to master her fear of the water—stealing her heart in the process.

But something sinister is lurking in the deep, and Bridey must gather her courage to figure out who—or what—is plaguing her village, and find a way to stop it before she loses everyone she loves.

e2bade3aa4885e31996644816c7838a0-300x300 Sarah Glenn Marsh writes young adult novels and children s picture books. An avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life, she s been making up words and worlds ever since. When she s not writing, she s most often engaged in pursuits of the nerd variety, from video games to tabletop adventures and dungeon crawls. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and four rescued greyhounds.


Fear the Drowning Deep is gorgeous. Lyrical. Atmospheric. Magical. Sarah Glenn Marsh’s debut is perfect for anyone who’s ever looked out at the sea with awe, and wondered what kind of creatures lurk in the deepest places. Utterly haunting.” —Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate trilogy, the Orphan Queen duology, and My Lady Jane

“Beautifully-written with mysteries and love lurking within the pages as dangerously as an ancient evil waits in the drowning deeps of Sarah’s unique setting on the Isle of Man. Don’t miss this one!” —Martina Boone, author of Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy

“Readers will be swept away by Bridey’s love story, every bit as thrilling and mysterious as the Isle of Man’s deep, dark sea.” —Tricia Rayburn, author of the Siren trilogy

“Sarah Glenn Marsh’s debut is a captivating tale of love and loss, fear and doubt, monsters of the sea and inside ourselves, and the strength it takes to endure and conquer them all. Hauntingly written with a richly developed setting of the Isle of Man in the early 1900s, you can smell the salt of the sea with every page you hungrily turn.” —Lori Goldstein, author of Becoming Jinn and Circle of Jinn

“[A]tmospheric historical fantasy . . . evocative setting, memorable characters, and use of obscure folkloric elements all contribute to the novel’s strong sense of place.” —Publishers Weekly

“[T]his watery take on “Beauty and the Beast” will be catnip to paranormal-romance readers.” —Kirkus Reviews

 

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Meet the New Pony: Q&A with Editor Becky Herrick

becky

 

Sky Pony Press has just welcomed Becky Herrick to the team as editor! Becky is originally from Columbus, Ohio, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan. Most recently, she was an editor at Scholastic. To introduce her a bit more, we asked her a few quick questions:

 

Q: What type of books do you like to work on?

I like all different types of books and love working on a range of age levels (chapter book, middle grade, YA)! I especially love friendship stories and books that can make me laugh.

 

book books story read library

Q: What were your favorite books when you were growing up?

Matilda by Roald Dahl, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

 

matilda book books reading reading gif

 

Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?

Do Disney movies from the 90’s count as classic? If so, Aladdin! Otherwise, probably The Sound of Music.

aww aw awww awwww aladdin

 

Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

DARK, always and forever

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[Editor’s Note from Alison – We approve this SO much.]

 

Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An art teacher! I loved my elementary school art teacher, and I still love doing all different sorts of arts and crafts in my free time (when I’m not reading!). Last year I had a lot of fun taking a screen-printing class.

painting

 

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