Monday, March 31, 2014

"Dear April": A Writer's Month-By-Month Guide to the Year by Michael Gettel-Gilmartin

I'm sure I'm not the only writer who made resolutions back in January and now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, we're on the precipice of April! If one of you Mayhemmers could come up with an invention to slow down time, it would be much appreciated!!

I'm also just coming off a week of Spring Break with the kiddos, in which lots of fun was had but not much writing was done. So, in honor of the accelerating calendar, I thought it might be amusing to map out the writing year for those of us writers who still have children in school...

  • The calendar pops to another year, and it's time to trot out the writing resolutions (more pages, more fun, more queries to agents/editors.) But the kids are still on winter break and Grandma shows no signs of returning to her home. 
  • Also, you ate too many Christmas cookies and now need to devise an exercise program. Resolve to get up from your chair and meditate by the window at least three times per hour. 
  • Tell everyone that your writing year begins in February. 
  • At last you've got the house to yourself. 
  • You're kicking the exercise out of the park because you have added a regime of walking to check the mailbox every couple of hours to see if those books you won on those blog tours have arrived yet.
  • But somehow you also signed up to be part of the parent team at school to celebrate Chinese New Year AND Valentine's Day.
  • Cheer yourself up by scarfing down a bunch of valentine's chocolate. In a cacao-induced euphoria, plan out a six book dystopian fantasy in your head because, by golly, editors may be tired of dystopia, but kids are still reading it.
  • Check with your kids that they are still reading it. Plan to write a gamer graphic novel instead.
  • Now you're really rolling--especially with filling out your March Madness bracket and dreaming what you're going to do with the $200 pool prize money. Heck, you might even go to a writing conference.
  • The graphic novel's not going anywhere because your 10-year-old ("the illustrator") has "a different vision."
  • Go into a writing frenzy because Spring Break's just around the corner.
  • Parade around the house with the chapter you've finally written.
  • Decree April to be your favorite month--you survived Spring Break, and there are hardly any teacher inservice days!
  • But... you forgot that taxes are due on the 15th. 
  • Spend the rest of the month searching for receipts and forms in your home office (a.k.a. the Black Hole of Despair.)
  • File an extension on your taxes.
  • Decide you're going to write a horror novel, because you overheard your neighbor, Wendell, discussing your weed problem with your other neighbor, Alice. Title the novel "The Weeds That Ate Wendell and Alice." Spend many happy hours plotting more and more hideous torments for poor A & W.
  • Take a mental health day, and spend the rest of the month planning where you'll plop your laptop for the Memorial Day weekend.
  • Freak out because the kids have only 13 more days of school.
  • Calculate they have 82 days of vacation and race to see if you can still sign them up for camps.
  • Discover that the only camps with openings cost several thousand dollars
  • Write a series of poems that remind everyone who reads them of Sylvia Plath.
  • The kids are home
  • The kids are home
  • The kids go back to school
  • Spend the rest of the month dancing around the house singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." After all, all that dancing is excellent exercise.
  • You've become a pretty good dancer, but now you must focus on writing that novel. Take several online tests to see if you are a pantser or a plotter. Discover you are a planter. Or is it a plotser?
  • Admit that the chapter you wrote in March really should be in 1st person present tense rather than third person past. Also, change the sex of the main character from female to male. Now you're ready to make progress.
  • Get derailed by planning Halloween, and then recovering from a midnight assault on the kids' trick-or-treat candy. Vow never to eat a Snickers bar ever again.
  • Spend way too much time reading books entitled "Write Your Novel in 30-Days" and "How to Survive an IRS Audit." Make plans to go back to school and learn to be a massage therapist. After all, you are already an expert in unknotting all the kinks in your own neck--you might as well get paid for doing it for others.
  • Change your mind, and attempt to enroll in culinary school. Experiment with 15 different ways to roast a turkey.
  • Vow never to eat turkey again. Spend Thanksgiving hovering by the dessert table.
  • Wander about, asking everyone who will listen "Where has the year gone?"
  • Show your true writing colors by composing and designing the funniest holiday letter ever. Stick in so many .gifs that rumor has it half your family suffered migraines while reading it.
  • Throw out the previous draft of your novel. Actually, don't just throw it out--dress like a druid on the Winter Solstice and feed the pages one by one into a funeral pyre. 
  • The kids are on vacation. Again.
  • Prepare for the New Year. After all, this will be the one where you finally make it...
Hope your year's been nothing like mine! Remember, keep the faith and keep on writing!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Heroes & Villains #1: Four Villain Archetypes, by Matthew MacNish

Here at Project Middle Grade Mayhem, we're starting an informal series focused on Heroes & Villains in Middle Grade Literature. We'll be sharing some of our favorite examples, maybe some poor examples (and why they didn't work), and writing about and discussing heroes and villains, and why they are so important to story, whose most important aspect has always been character.

Today is the first post in the series.

Villains and Antagonists have long been interwoven in the annals of fiction, and while they're not always the same thing, sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't, sometimes it matters and sometimes it doesn't. Point is, they're awesome characters (or entities) and often play a pivotal role in that old muse-esque keystone: STORY.

Myth and tale and epic and adventure, what we really do, all of us, is tell stories. And what's the most important part of any story? Well, characters, obviously.

Carl Jung wrote a lot about archetypes in his studies of the human psyche, and of course the human psyche is tightly knotted up with the psychology of story, (and I covered some of his archetypes on my personal blog, reverse order search link). However, this post will be more about my own inventions, not based on any truly empirical study of the topic, but more on my own anecdotal experience as an avid reader.

And with that, here is an unofficial of the four most common (arche)types of villains I have found in (mostly) middle grade novels:
  • The False Villain (actually this one needs to come last, because it's the best)
  • The Sympathetic Humanized Antognist
  • The Beast
  • The Entity
So reversing that order, because it's becoming a theme at this point, let's get started with:


Tolkien's own Drawing of Sauron, creative commons license
Sauron does not technically come from a Middle Grade novel, and while there is some graphic violence portrayed in the film adapations, and the novels themselves are marketed as adult, I feel perfectly comfortable discussing The Lord of the Rings on PMGM, because I read it as a very young boy, and there is honestly nothing in the books that could outdo the imagination of a lad of ten (with the possible exception of Elves).

So, on to our (arche)type. Sauron has always represented to me a very universal example of evil, villainy, and antagonist-hood. He is the perfect non-character example of a villainous entity, because his presence permeates the books, even though he never really exists on page. I loved what he stood for as a boy, and I love it still, but now that I'm a professional writer, I'm begrudgingly willing to admit there is a certain weakness to this kind of villain.

For one thing, he's not a person. He's not even personified, beyond a minor (ahem) attempt at giving him an eye, but more importantly (and this somewhat more broadly applies to modern fiction than to its historical counterparts like Tolkien) he's never even given a chance to be sympathized with. This makes for far too simple reading in modern times (note that with some background research into Middle Earth, one discovers a bit more of Sauron's past and motivations, but one basically still hates him).



Tolkien's own Drawing of Smaug, also creative commons license
Not to spam this post with Tolkien examples (but I dare you to dare me to come up with one for all four of these archetypes), but I feel that Smaug makes a great example of a Beast type Villain/Antagonist. In an MFA literature sense, he doesn't make much of an antagonist, because he only shows up at the very end of the book, but in The Hobbit, I would argue he very much does make a great villain, because the threat of his presence permeates the entire narrative.

What makes him a Beast type? Well, technically Tolkien personified his most famous dragon in a lot of ways, giving him speech, giving him cunning, giving him even riddles, but Smaug never fully equates with the humanity of a human villain, because we never really sympathize with him to the level that we otherwise might.



Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Fiennes (pronounced Fine) as Voldy, another common license image
Okay, I get it, you maybe (probably) balk at that description of Lord Voldemort, and I understand that, because Ms. Rowling did a brilliant job of making us earn our right to hate him, but she also sprinkled in a lot of right to forgive him for his wrongs, if you read the Harry Potter series as carefully as I did.

He's a monster, to be sure, or at least he becomes one during the historical parts of the Harry Potter backstory, but he's also a human being, or starts out as one (a twisted, warped individual example perhaps, but a human being nonetheless).

Lord Voldemort is probably not the best example of a humanized Major Villain/Head Antagonist in children's lit, but he may be one of literature's best known examples anyway. And even if he isn't the quintessential case, his servant most certainly is:


Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (common license)

SPOILER ALERT: Snape dies at the end. SPOILER ALERT: Professor Severus Snape is not the bad guy. END SPOILERS. He does, however, serve as a great false villain (and sometimes as a great true antagonists--see the difference?) throughout the Harry Potter novels.

I would probably even argue that Snape is the greatest false villain ever written. At least in children's literature (Gollum or Darth Vader might give him a run for his money otherwise). He's perfect because he's nasty, and smelly, and he has greasy hair, but he's even better because especially on a second read through, you discover just how clever and wonderful he is.

Snape is motivated by love (and also a little by hate) but even with his love lost, he still has the loyal dedication to Dumbledore, a man he clearly also loves and respects, and it is this loyalty that drives him to assist Harry when he must, as tedious and annoying as it is for him.

< . . . >

Anyway, that's my little list. Sorry my selections only come from two authors, but those were the best examples that came to mind. Feel free to share your own examples in the comments!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Heroes Needed: No Cape Required

The world is filled with heroes.

It's true. And if you're reading this, odds are you're one of them.
I'm not talking about the tights-wearing, cape-clad, witty banter kind of hero (although what you wear in the comfort of your own home, or while grocery shopping, or when feeding your goats, is entirely your business).
No, I'm talking about the kind of hero that takes the time to share a book with a child. I'm talking about the kind of hero that delights in watching the joyful smiles form on little faces when he or she shares the magic of  a story. You don't need tights, or a cape, or some super emblem on your chest...not when you sit down to share a story with a child. The book, your voice, your time and interest and genuine
commitment to your young audience makes you a hero in their eyes. A shared story, a favorite book, a bedside read...these moments wrap children up in love and affection. These are the moments that can put a smile on a child who has had a bad morning, or comfort a kid who is nervous about his first night without his nightlight. Reading a story to a sick child can help soothe their pain and comfort them in time of need.

Trust me, I know. First hand.

March 25th is always a difficult day for me, and for my family. Eleven years ago, on this day, my youngest brother, Jack, passed away. He was 7-years-old. Jack was born with cerebral palsy. And while he couldn't walk, or talk, he knew what was going on. Despite his handicaps, he was a very happy boy. Jack loved to hear me read to him. His favorite was Dr. Seuss's Fox in Socks. The faster I read it (and I can read it quite quickly), the more he'd laugh and smile. We read many books together, but that was our favorite. So on this day, eleven years ago, as he lay dying at home, comforted by his family and a slow morphine drip, I read to him. I read Fox in Socks and I can still see that smile on his face. Even through the medicine, even through the pain, I know that in that last hour my reading to him helped him when he must have been so scared. While it is not my intent to declare myself a hero, it IS my intent to demonstrate that we can help brighten a child's life just by reading a story to them.

But it does not have to be as heavy a moment. I read to all three of my boys each night. Arms laden
with books, I make the rounds. My 10-year-old and I are reading the Harry Potter books. To my youngest, it's a picture book, or some of the Chronicles of Narnia. I sit at the bedside of my middle-schooler and read him a couple of pages of the Percy Jackson books he's devouring. No, he doesn't need me to read them to him (he tears through the books), but he just likes the experience of hearing my voice; of sharing a few minutes with me. It's an important moment for all three of my boys. So, I guess, in a way, that makes me a part-time hero in their eyes. Maybe?

But you're heroes too, or you can be. Make sure you are taking the time to read to your children. If you don't have children, read to your nieces or nephews, or volunteer to read at your local library's story hour, or go to a children's hospital and read to the kids there.

You might be surprised how much of a difference you can make in a child's life just by reading them a story.

Share a book. Be a hero.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Writing Soundscapes

Like many writers, I find an environment conducive to writing is a downright necessity when you're working on a manuscript. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done. The sounds of kids playing, dogs barking, and that blaring pool party down the street might make getting the peace and quiet you need a bit of a challenge.

Of course, not all writers need quiet. I've heard some writers say they write to heavy metal playing full blast on their speakers. I personally would find that a bit difficult, to say the least. Of course, interestingly enough, I also find complete silence EXTREMELY distracting. I need a little something--if only a bit of music or white noise--to fill up that oppressive silence that lingers in the background while I work. Otherwise, it really starts to bother me.

Usually, I fill it up with a little bit of classical or new age music, playing very, very softly. I find music with vocals or lyrics way too distracting. My mind always seems to want to focus on the lyrics of the song rather than the words I'm trying to put down on the page. I also love nature sounds--birds chirping, wind blowing, a low rumble of thunder in the distance. And what is it about the sound of rain, in particular, that I find particularly soothing and inspiring? I can't really say, but I sure like to write to it. Recently, to my utter delight, I discovered that some wonderful folks on YouTube have posted tons of lovely nature soundtracks. This is my current favorite, ten hours of freezing rain. Yes, ten hours. Sometime I play it all day:

This is great to listen to at home. But if I do happen to find myself in an outside environment where noise is a problem, I can simply plug my headphones into my laptop, turn up the volume, and suddenly I'm listening to a lovely rainfall that is just enough to drown out the conversation of the people at the next table.(Yeah, I sometimes like to write at restaurants or cafes.)

But what's so interesting to me is how different writers are when it comes to the sounds and environments they prefer. The heavy metal thing obviously wouldn't work for me, and a writer friend of mine told me listening to hours of falling rain would just make her want to go to the bathroom. I guess we all have our preferences when it comes to what we like to listen to when we write.

What's your writing soundscape?

photo credit: Neil Kremer via photopin cc

Friday, March 21, 2014

Middle Grade Writers, Meet a Writer in the Middle Grades by Dianne K. Salerni

A couple months ago, I showed my 5th grade class a video for Project Mayhemer James Mihaley’s award-winning novel, You Can’t Have My Planet, ButTake My Brother, Please. When I told James how much they liked it, he offered to send us a signed copy, which morphed into a writing contest for my students.

Both my reading/writing classes wrote stories (or a portion of a story) involving elements of James’s book – aliens, robots, and/or rotten siblings. The students voted on six finalists, and James selected a winner.

Since many readers of this blog are middle grade writers and teachers, I thought I’d share the winning entry here, so you can see the bright potential of young writers. James had nice things to say about all six finalists, but this is why he selected Rachel’s story as the winner:

Her dialogue was sharp.  I thought there were some wonderful details, like the blue mirror floating in thin air.  And the ending was superb.
Rachel is excited that I’m sharing her story here today. Please let her know what you think!


“Matthew! Get up,” I yelled
I strolled into his room.
“Ewww! What the heck is that stuff? It’s all over your bed! Mom is gonna freak!” I said in disgust.
“No she’s not because you're not going to tell her,” said my brother.
“With what price?” I announced
“I'll make your bed for a week?” he said in a questioning voice.
“Nope.” I said.
“I’ll, um, ohhh! I’ll give you twenty bucks?” he said in a questioning voice again.
“Deal!” I said in excitement.
I thought to myself, I can’t wait to spend my money on new boots, or should I save it up? Then all the sudden my mom interrupted my thoughts.
“Alexa! Get down here, you are going to miss the bus!”
“ Umm, mom, can you give me a ride?”
All the sudden I see the bus pass by. Honk,Honk!
“Sorry sweetie, I can't, I have a big meeting at 8:00. Works twenty minutes away. I’ll already be about five minutes late. Love you gotta go, bye!”
“Wait!” I screamed. Too late she was gone.
I dashed to my phone and called Casey. P.S. she is my best friend.
“Come on answer your stupid phone!” I guess the only other thing I can do is walk.
After walking 10 minutes I was almost there. A minute later, a huge shadow passed over me. At first I thought it was an airplane, but the shape was a circle.
I looked up, I gasped, then everything went black.
I started blinking my eyes until my eyes were completely open.
Where am I ?!” I was so dizzy.
“Shhh, relax, you are going to be ok. Just lay down, I'll be right back.”
I thought to myself, ya know, if a person you dont even know tells you to lay down and relax when you're in a place you have never been before, I mean they practically just took me off the streets. Would you listen to them? Obviously I'm not.
I heard my brother’s voice. I tried to get up but my wrists and ankles were cuffed to the chair. What kind of place is this?
I heard somebody's voice coming. This time it wasn't my brother’s, it sounded familiar. I feel like I haven't heard it in a long time, like since I was a baby. A young woman came in. I feel like I have seen her before, like I said, when I was a baby. She had golden strawberry blond hair, she was also very skinny. She looked like she was four foot seven and had big dark brown eyes. I feel like we could be twins except for her height, but other than that we are practically identical.
“Hello, my name is Annika,” the woman said.
“Hi, I’m-” 
She cut me off and said, “Alexa, ya I know I met you before, but to be specific I have meet you twice. Once when you were one, and another time when you were two. I know this might sound stupid, but, you're my sister, and I was a total idiot to leave you alone when you were two with someone that didn’t even know about Matthew’s kind. But I really regret it because now you're stuck here having to have to save a planet that you’re now on, and-”
“Whoa,whoa,whoooaaa, slow down. What are you talking about, I have to save a planet?”
“Ok, we don’t have much time, so here is the plan.”
“Ahhhhhhhhh!” I heard people screaming from outside.
“Oh, no,” said Annika. “Ok, stay calm.”
She took out a silverish goldish colored ball. She threw it on the ground. It turned into kind of like a blue mirror that floated in thin air.
“Come on we have to jump in.”
“Are you crazy!” I said.
“Ok, you have two options: you can stay here, get shot and die, or you could come with me and survive. Tik,tok, we don’t have all day.”
I jumped in. I landed in a room that was all fancy. All the sudden the portal closed. The silver/gold ball fell from nowhere into my hands. I realized that Annika never came through. I threw the ball on the ground and jumped through the portal.
I was in the room I was originally in. There was complete silence. The glass wall was shattered, but there was no one there. The only thing that stood out in the room was a note to me from Annika that said,

To: Alexa
Go to the warehouse on Planet 5.
From: Annika

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Winners of Lords of Trillium Giveaway!

Lords of Trillium signed book winners are...insert drum-roll...

 Dawn Malone and Brenda!!! 
Congrats, ladies! Please send your preferred address to 
the Project Mayhem email listed on the Review Policy link! 

And everyone, don't forget to download Nightshade City for free 
on Kobo, B&N, and Amazon now!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Awkward Adolescent and the Perpetually Grumpy Librarians: A Cautionary Tale by Braden Bell

This post doesn't have much to do with writing. I had something else planned, something with a more obvious connection. But a conversation with a friend today triggered a memory, and for some reason, I think that memory is worth sharing. Because, while not necessarily about writing, it is about kids. The "MG" in MG literature.

I need to preface this by noting that I was possibly the least functional adolescent in the world. Seriously. I didn't have a whole lot going for me (good and loving parents, but that's another story). I wasn't good at school, I wasn't good at sports. I was shy and insecure. I lost things, procrastinated, and was just generally a train-wreck in a pudgy body.

While not actively bullied, I didn't have many friends. I did poorly in school because I never did homework, and because of that, I was often in trouble at home. We didn't know about ADD back then, but I'm quite sure I have it, and that didn't help matters.

I'm not trying to wallow in self-pity. Being a mess during adolescence is the common lot of humanity, and the longer I teach, the more I see that. But in my mind, those were dark times, and I need to establish that to tell the rest of the story.

I had one great joy and solace during these awkward years, and that was the library in my small town. I read voraciously and perpetually. During the summers, I would walk to the library a few times a week, spending hours and hours there, lost among the stacks. I'd check out as many books as my pre-pubescent, unmuscular arms could carry, then I'd return home and happily lose myself once again.

However, being as forgetful, disorganized, and careless as I was, I soon ran afoul of the librarians. Somehow items always got overdue or lost--I didn't know how. It all seemed rather mysterious to me. Nevertheless, my book fines multiplied with rabbit-like speed. Pretty soon, the library staff all knew me by name and, frankly, didn't care for me. I often found myself at the counter, ready to check out a new stack, only to be told I had a hold on my account because of my fines. (To this day, I have sympathy for those people who try to buy food at the store and find out their credit cards are overdrawn). I found myself doing chores around the house to earn enough money to pay down my fines to the level that would still allow me to check books out again.

This went on for a while, and while the librarians were proper and polite, I could tell how much they didn't like me, and I soon felt unwelcome.

I'll admit that I was at fault: you shouldn't lose books (or original cast album cassette tapes of Camelot--I still remember the tongue lashing that got me from the head librarian). Library patrons ought to be responsible, pay their fines, not be late with checked out items, and so on. I'm sure that I was very frustrating to those librarians.

But then I start thinking, wait a minute! Yes, I was annoying and frustrating. But I was also a kid! For crying out loud, for what purpose do libraries exist? If that chubby little kid--the one with no friends and no fashion sense, who fails at nearly everything but loves to read--if he can't come to the library where can he go? Were none of these librarians ever young and foolish? Did they never make mistakes?

Surely it must have been apparent that this sloppy mess of a kid could have used a little kindness. The fact that I didn't deserve it means that I needed it more than ever.

After a few unpleasant years of cold silence, narrow eyes, and occasional chewings-out, a new librarian came from a different branch. She always smiled and welcomed me by name. She didn't act put out when I made enormous numbers of Inter-library loan requests. Back then, it was a cumbersome process. She'd always help with whatever I needed without sighing or tightening her lips, and when she told me I had fines, it was in a matter-of-fact way--she didn't shame or guilt me. Fines seemed to be a routine matter, not a cardinal sin. She would ask me questions about my life, about books, and then acted like my answers were clever. This woman was simply kind and helpful. That was all. In each interaction, she treated me like a valued patron. I still remember how kind she was and how she made me feel.

The story ends happily. In high school, I found a niche, found motivation, and friends. Life went on and got much better. Ironically, one of the friends I made was--wait for it--the daughter of that librarian. I was so surprised when I put that together. She proved to be as warm at home as she was at the library. I wonder if she has any idea what a difference she made.

So, where am I going with this post? Many who read this blog work with kids. Teachers, librarians, writers, parents. In different ways and contexts, we are around those kids each day. And when you think about it, they are really the reason we exist.

I think that's the main thing that the librarians of my childhood forgot. I think they saw their job as safeguarding the treasures on those shelves from the entropy that seemed to swirl around me. That's not a bad thing. Guarding those priceless treasures is important--especially in the pre-digital age. And no doubt, they were overworked and underpaid.

But I think they were mistaken. Their job was not to guard the books from me. Their job was to help me navigate those treasures. Their job was to help me take the natural love I had and turn it into a passion, to point me in new directions I wouldn't find on my own. They could have taught me how to be responsible and careful too. And if more of them had taken time to show a little kindness, who knows what else they could have taught me?

My plea for all of us is to look around and look for that awkward, lonely little kid. The one who needs love precisely because he or she is so unloveable. The one who needs attention and kindness from us because no one else will provide it. We can write books for this child. We can teach and mentor and love this child! We can be a little bright spot of kindness in an otherwise bleak time. And we can help them discover and relish the infinite treasures contained in books.

My plea is to remember that we exist for that child--and not vice versa. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but I still think it is a sermon worth giving. If only for my own benefit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

FINN FINNEGAN - Celtic Lore and Monsters (in Colorado)

St. Patrick’s Day may be over, but the appeal of all things Irish inspired me for this post today. Author Darby Karchut has taken inspiration from a legendary Irish hero, Fionn Mac Cumhail, and fashioned a terrific modern-day story of a boy fighting monsters in our own world: 

“Finn (not bleedin' Finnegan) MacCullen is eager to begin his apprenticeship. He soon discovers the ups and downs of hunting monsters in a suburban neighborhood under the demanding tutelage of the Knight, Gideon Lir. Both master and apprentice are descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan, a magical race of warriors from Ireland. Scattered long ago to the four corners of the world, the De Danaan wage a two thousand year old clandestine battle with their ancient enemy, the Amandán, a breed of goblin-like creatures. Now with the beasts concentrating their attacks on Finn, he and his master must race to locate the lost Spear of the Tuatha De Danaan, the only weapon that can destroy the Amandán, all the while hiding his true identity from his new friends, Rafe and Savannah, twins whose South African roots may hold a key to Finn's survival. Armed with a bronze dagger, some ancient Celtic magic, and a hair-trigger temper, Finn is about to show his enemies the true meaning of "fighting Irish."

I was lucky enough to read an ARC of Finn Finnegan last year before the book was released and enjoyed it so much, I added it to my list I recommend to parents and readers looking for action-oriented stories. I particularly liked the bits of Celtic lore woven in to the story, but I suspect young readers will most enjoy the feeling that there just might be such secretive magical and exciting happenings in the real world, maybe right around the corner from them.

The next book in the series, GIDEON’S SPEAR, recently came out, and I just finished reading it. It’s a great follow-up to the first book, in what I hope will be a long series.

*Author Darby Karchut is a junior high social studies teacher, and I suspect her years of being around 13-year-olds has allowed her to add such realism to her characters - I think I know kids like them.

Happy Reading! ~ Dee Garretson

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Birthday: LORDS OF TRILLIUM Giveway and FREE STUFF!

Read an excerpt of Lords of Trillium here!

Finally, finally, finally, I get to celebrate my book birthday! It's been a while! Hopefully it's St. Patrick's day providence that my post is today!

In honor of the Lords of Trillium release, Book III in the Nightshade Chronicles, my publisher, Holiday House, will be providing free e-books of Nightshade City, Book 1, starting this week and for the next few months! The promotion will be through BookBub, so if you're not already a member sign up now (it takes literally a whopping 5 seconds) and they'll alert you every time free promotional books from publishers come out in the genres you choose, including middle-grade! They have more than 2 million subscribers. You simply choose the genre you want and BookBub will send you links to books currently being promoted on their site. For all of you authors looking to promote, this is a great site to do so on, no matter what your genre. It supplies links for most e-readers (Kindle, Nook, Apple, Kobo, etc), so you do little to no legwork, other than clicking a couple times for awesome free reads.

Also, in further honor of the Lords of Trillium release, I'll be giving away 2 signed hardcovers of Lords of Trillium! In order to enter, follow PM if you don't already and please leave a comment. Winners will be announced this Thursday and books sent out ASAP!

Thanks to everyone who's been so supportive of the Nightshade Chronicles! I love that writers and readers alike are so kind. What a great community we are part of!

Now go signup on Bookbub and they'll alert you the moment Nightshade City is available AND follow Project Mayhem and comment to win Lords of Trillium! May the leprechauns be ever in your favor! ;)