Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PM’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Books for Historical Fiction Lovers

Chris here, with part two of the Project Mayhem holiday shopping guide – Historical Fiction. An earlier post covered Books for Fantasy Lovers. Coming up, I’ll be listing Adventure Novels, and then Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Paranormal. I wanted to celebrate some of our Project Mayhem books – order a copy for your favorite middle grade reader, or for yourself! The links are to the author’s website or blog; if you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book. 

Caroline Starr Rose’s May B.: May is helping out on a neighbor’s homestead—just until Christmas, her pa promises. But when a terrible turn of events leaves her all alone, she must try to find food and fuel—and courage—to make it through the approaching winter.

This gorgeous novel in verse by Caroline Starr Rose will transport you to the Kansas prairie—to the endless grassland, and to the suffocating closeness of the sod house where May is stranded. May’s eloquent yet straightforward voice, and her bravery, determination, and willingness to risk it all will capture your heart.

Caroline’s book Blue Birds, set in 1587 in the colony of Roanoke, Virginia, is coming in March.

Dianne K. Salerni’s The Caged Graves (young adult): In Catawissa, the dead don’t always stay where you put them… 17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania in 1867, pledged to marry a young man she’s never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. And a truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she thought she could trust.

Dianne K. Salerni’s We Hear the Dead (young adult): Spirits knock and tables tip for Maggie and Kate Fox, two teenage sisters who convince people they can talk to the dead with their mysterious rapping noises. What begins as a clever prank traps the girls in their lie as neighbors beg for the chance to receive messages from dead relatives. When their older sister Leah realizes the money-making potential of the scam, she takes them on the road to bamboozle newspaper editors, politicians, and the public at large. As their fame grows, each sister pursues a different goal. Maggie loves the attention. Leah seeks wealth and influence. Kate comes to believe in her own powers. Then Maggie meets Elisha Kane, a dashing and romantic Arctic explorer who offers her a chance to better herself — but only if she will turn on her sisters and give up spirit rapping forever. Caught between two worlds, Maggie must decide where her loyalties lie.

Chris Eboch’s The Eyes of Pharaoh: When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt? Then Reya disappears. To save their friend, Seshta and Horus spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police. Will Seshta and Horus escape the traps set for them, rescue Reya, and stop the plot against Egypt in time?

The Eyes of Pharaoh, set in Egypt in 1177 BC, brings an ancient world to life

Chris Eboch’s The Well of Sacrifice: Eveningstar Macaw lives in a glorious Mayan city in the ninth century. When the king falls ill and dies, the city begins to crumble. An evil high priest, Great Skull Zero, orders the sacrifice of those who might become king, including Eveningstar’s beloved brother. Suspicious of the High Priest’s motives, Eveningstar attempts to save her brother, thus becoming the High Priest’s enemy. Condemned to be thrown into the Well of Sacrifice, Eveningstar must find a way not only to save her own life but to rescue her family and her city from the tyrannical grasp of Great Skull Zero.

“[An] engrossing first novel….Eboch crafts an exciting narrative with a richly textured depiction of ancient Mayan society….The novel shines not only for a faithful recreation of an unfamiliar, ancient world, but also for the introduction of a brave, likable and determined heroine.” - Kirkus Reviews


Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift; a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Middle-Grade Books I’m Thankful For



Books always leave an impression on us. Good, bad or otherwise, they leave us feeling something. Over the years, though, there have been certain books that have really left an impression on me, not just as a writer, but as a person. Books that have made me stop and think and really change the way I look at the world. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is a short list of the middle-grade books I’m most thankful for. 

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

This was the first book I ever read as a kid that gave me that “wow” moment. I actually remember sitting up in bed and thinking to myself, ‘So this is why reading is so great! This is what my teachers are talking about!’ Not to mention, the first scene with the owl terrified me!


The Wind in the Willows


The Wind in the Willows was the first book that made me laugh out loud! The antics of Mr. Toad had me rolling on the floor, but I was also deeply touched by the friendship between Rat, Mole, Toad, and Badger. A true book about friendship. 


The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


This book taught me about triumph over tragedy and forgiveness. I cried when the lion died. It was such a tragic scene and such a sad moment for me, but as those of you know who read the book, it did not last long. 



The Call of the Wild


How could you not love Buck? London puts you right there with him, feeling his struggles as he’s thrust into the harsh wilderness of Alaska. It was the first book that really made me feel that I was there in that space and time. I could actually feel the cold. 


Shane


Westerns are normally not a book I’d be drawn to. I’m so thankful to my teacher who forced me to read this! Shane is a powerful story of bravery, faithfulness, and taking the right path, even if it’s the hardest one to take. Shane is thought of as one of the strongest children’s Westerns ever and with good reason.

So, there’s some of the books that changed me as a young person and as a future writer. What are some of yours? 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

World-Building in 1/12 Scale by Kell Andrews

I spent the day cleaning the house. This one:
Which is the same as this one:

That's me in the heart-shaped deely-boppers, behind my little sister. It was my 13th birthday, and that was my new dollhouse. Dollhouses weren't the coolest thing in eighth grade, but that didn't stop me. I liked to build worlds, even if I didn't know that's what I was doing. 

There were no Minecraft, no MMORPGs. Some kids had 12-sided die; I had an X-acto knife and embroidery floss. I used it to recreate my Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Witch of Blackbird Pond dreams (all historical periods mingled in a Mercer Museum fever dream.Here's one of the bedrooms, with a patchwork quilt, cross-stitched pillow, and miniature acrylic self-portrait.
In that painting, I was 14, and I was reading. Age 14 was more of a no man's land then than now, so the book was probably Charles Dickens or Charlotte Bronte. But reading and miniature making were sides of the same coin -- immersion and construction of imaginary worlds.

Writing, whether fantasy, history, or contemporary, requires building the world from the ground up -- and often from the ground down too. Whether a world is faithfully reproduced or entirely invented, the writer must construct it on the page.

I constructed my dollhouse out of scrap calico and wood. I populated it with costumed fur mice, which didn't seem ghoulish at the time but definitely were when I took them out of the non-archival storage of our garden shed. Generations of live mice had scurried through those open-sided walls. My mouse house had become real with time, like the Skin Horse in the Velveteen Rabbit. Like the stories I wrote and bound myself that turned into other stories, and still others that are real books and books-to-be.

So this weekend I cleaned out the mouse droppings and washed the linens. Salvaged broken furniture and paged through the mini newspapers and magazines I had made, complete with crime reports and cigarette ads. (The past was no paradise.)

And now the dollhouse belongs to my daughters to rebuild, redecorate, and repopulate with their own imaginations. I do have a few ideas for hardwood floors and curtains, and I may have time to squeeze them in between drafts. Worlds must be built.

 

What activities, seemingly unrelated to books, helped shape you as a writer or reader? 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

PM’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Books for Fantasy Lovers

Chris here: In honor of the holiday shopping season, I wanted to celebrate some of our Project Mayhem books – order a copy for your favorite middle grade reader, or for yourself! The links are to the author’s website or blog; if you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book.


Today I’m starting with some fantasy novels that involve alternate worlds. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be listing books in the categories of Historical Fiction, Adventure Novels, and Fantasy (our world), Sci-Fi and Paranormal.

Hilary Wagner’s Nightshade Chronicles - Nightshade City: Book One: Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, a kingdom of remarkable rats of superior intellect, ruled by decadent High Minister Killdeer and his vicious henchman Billycan, a former lab rat with a fondness for butchery. Three young orphan rats—brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover—join forces with Billycan’s archenemy, Juniper, and his maverick band of rebel rats as they plot to overthrow their oppressors and create a new city—Nightshade City.

“Fast paced and full of intrigue. One fantasy lovers won’t want to miss.” – Kirkus Reviews

Also in the series:
The White Assassin
Lords of Trillium
Catacomb City

Dawn Lairamore’s Ivy’s Ever After: The kingdom of Ardendale has always locked its princesses in a white tower guarded by a dragon. It’s the only way to lure gallant young princes to the tiny, out-of-the-way kingdom to marry them. But Ivy is a princess who doesn’t care to be rescued, and Elridge a dragon afraid of being slain. Never mind that humans and dragons have loathed each other for centuries, it isn’t long before this feisty princess and rather undragonly dragon have fled the tower and set off on a perilous journey….

* “This is a fun and entertaining fairy-tale based fantasy with a nice balance of character development and action.” –School Library Journal (starred review)

A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, 2011

See also: Ivy and the Meanstalk

Marissa Burt’s Storybound: In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story. But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself….

Storybound has been praised by Kirkus Reviews for its “richly imagined world” and by Publishers Weekly as “an appealing fantasy with strong writing and interesting characters.” 

See also: Story’s End

Chris Eboch’s The Genie’s Gift: Shy and timid Anise determines to find the Genie Shakayak and claim the Gift of Sweet Speech. But the way is barred by a series of challenges, both ordinary and magical. How will Anise get past a vicious she-ghoul, a sorceress who turns people to stone, and mysterious sea monsters, when she can’t even speak in front of strangers?

The Genie’s Gift is a lighthearted action novel set in the fifteenth-century Middle East, drawing on the mythology of The Arabian Nights.


Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift; a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.