Pitch Wars! Pitch Wars! It’s almost time for Pitch Wars!
Hello, potential mentees, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I can’t believe I’m now into my third year as a mentor, but I am more pumped than ever to get this year’s contest underway. Reason being, I have gained two amazing new friends in my 2015 and 2016 mentees, a menagerie of acquaintances via social media, a wealth of ever-growing and delicious knowledge, and a never-ending, burst-proof passion for helping new writers. Phew. What a list! But it’s true. This contest is a win win win for pretty much everyone involved – from mentors to mentees, from entrants to agents, and from the cheerleaders to acquiring editors. Pitch Wars is the place to be!
Plus, Pitch Wars has given me so much for which I am unlikely to ever be able to repay in full. Shortly before last year’s contest kicked off I lost my dad. It was a heartbreaking time and probably one from which I haven’t completely recovered. But, knowing I had the focus of Pitch Wars, the excitement of getting stuck in to editing a manuscript I loved, and the chance to meet a bunch of new writers was such a rock in keeping me grounded. My dad was a tough cookie, always seeing the bright side, and Pitch Wars allowed me to do the same during a pretty dark time.
Anyway, enough of all the gushing, you’re here to peruse my 2017 wishlist. So, wait no more, here we go...
I’m playing it simple this year. I want whatever you’ve got – provided it’s MG, of course, because that’s my category. I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on and it still remains impossible for me to predict which books I’m going to fall for. I am fickle and proud!
Sometimes, a book I’m recommended or new release I’ve been itching to get my sticky fingers on can end up being one that disappoints me or, worse, one I can’t even get through. Yes, shock confession: THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY BOOKS FOR ME TO NAME THAT I’VE MARKED DNF. I juggle a lot of life balls, so my time is limited and there are too many luscious books awaiting my eyeballs, so I feel no guilt.
On the flip side, the book I buy on a whim or read because I’m twiddling my thumbs and it’s the first one within my grasp, can be the book of my dreams – or maybe the one that inspires my dreams.
But, specifically, I do love that dark touch. A plot or character that is a little twisted or unhinged. I lap up horror and mysteries with plenty of suspense and tension. I love to be surprised as I’m the type of audience member who tries to predict the end of a book or TV show at nearly every new scene. So when the writer throws in a curve ball I am always particularly impressed.
Although, despite my ability to see more in a shadow than exists or recognise the murderous thoughts in the glistening eyes of my dogs at 2 a.m., I am also a major sucker for soft, emotional, and feel-good books. I don’t particularly like being made to cry, but saying that, one of my most favourite ever books took me days to read because I wept at every freaking new page!
I care more for characters than I do plot, although that isn’t to say the plot shouldn’t be solid. But I can immediately tell when an author has put time into developing their characters because I care about them. And when I care about the characters, I’m hooked on the book.
And finally voice. Yep, we all hate that “I just didn’t connect with the voice” comment. Urgh. But, different voices sing to different ears, and this is where that brilliant element of subjectivity comes in. Who would want a world where we all liked the same books? What a hideous thought! Voice is you; the words you use, the order in which you place them, and the tone of your story telling. It’s what makes you stand out from the crowd.
So do it! Give me...
Voice-y but original and hopeful contemporaries
Suspense-laden thrillers and mysteries
Dark and twisted horrors
Clever and rich fantasies
Quirky and smart sci-fi
Spooky and heart-pounding ghost stories
Warm and belly-laugh humour
Some of my favourite books that have stood the test of time, and those that are recent additions, include:
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Pass the tissues)
The Unwind Series by Neal Shusterman (YA, I know, but I can’t not mention the genius!)
Winell Road by Kate Foster (Wait. Who put this here?)
Delayed by J.S. Roberts (My 2015 mentee’s mystery!)
Cheesus was Here by J.C. Davis (Another YA but by an MG Pitch Wars mentor of whom I am her number one fan!)
Skellig by David Almond (A masterpiece!)
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (Classic, magical adventure!)
There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom by Louis Sachar (One of my favourite authors ever!)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (Clever clever work!)
What will you get by picking me as a mentor?
The other MG mentors are all pretty amazing, to be honest, and if I were you I’d be struggling to decide too, but what’s different about me is that I like to think of myself as more than a gift you receive just for Pitch Wars.
I’m invested. 100% at your disposal to use and abuse throughout the submissions round, the entire mentor round, the agent round, the winding down stage, and on and on into the distant future. Look at the horizon and you’ll see me waving! I’m like a leech that will refuse to let you go. (That doesn’t sound creepy, no?)
I won’t scrimp on the time I give you but I will expect you to be willing, motivated, open, and ready to work your undergarments off. I will give you plenty of ideas and tell you what is and isn’t working. I will be hands on and give examples rather than just saying do this and do that.
I will do my best to make you laugh, and we can talk movies, TV shows, books, dogs, chocolate, and cookies – whatever you like! Oh, and maybe a bit about Tom Hardy...
I will expect us to squeeze in at least two edits in the two months – one structural and one line – but I also understand about life so won’t be pushy and impatient. (Oo, teeny weeny lie there. Maybe there’ll be a little of the latter – it’s in my nature, sorry!)
I will always be supportive, positive, and upbeat, regardless of my situation.
I am an editor, a publisher, and a writer, and I care. A lot. Writing can feel like a total drag sometimes: what on earth is the point in taking book creation so seriously when there’s no life saving involved? I get it and I hear you. So, I’m here to remind you why you ever wrote in the first place, and to take things back to that original love and passion. Writing well shouldn’t be easy but it should always be driven by excitement and a basic desire to put fingertips to keys. We are the world’s storytellers and we should be proud!
Check out my sample edit on Brenda’s blog here and also the page one critiques I do on my #EditFoster blog so you can see my style. And, definitely check out the past few blogs here as they are all MG centred and might assist with your revisions.
If you want to find out more about me, I did take part in #pwsummersplash on Instagram (@winellroad)...
And that’s it. I could say a lot more but I won’t; I’ll save that for Twitter! But hit me up, chat with me, and then send me all your lovelies. And definitely DON'T go and check out all of these other delicious MG mentors. Got that?
I'm delighted to be helping out fellow Pitch Wars mentor, Clarissa Goenawan, today by revealing her GORGEOUS cover for her book RAINBIRDS. Check it out!
Coming Soon on 6th March 2018
Intertwining elements of suspense and magical realism,
award-winning literary debut RAINBIRDS opens with a murder
and shines a spotlight on life in fictional small-town Japan.
Ren Ishida is nearly done with graduate school when he receives news of his sister, Keiko’s, sudden death. She was viciously stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, failing to understand why she chose to abandon their family and leave Tokyo for this small town in the first place.
But Ren soon finds himself picking up right where Keiko left off, accepting both her teaching position at a cram school and the bizarre arrangement of free lodging at the wealthy Mr. Katou’s mansion, in exchange for reading aloud each morning to Katou’s depressed, mute wife. As Ren gets to know the figures in the town, from the mysterious Katou to fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, he replays memories of his childhood with Keiko and finds his dreams haunted by a young girl with pigtails who is desperately trying to tell him something. Struggling to fill the void that Keiko has left behind, Ren realizes that perhaps people don’t change, and if they don’t, he can decipher the identity of his sister’s killer.
Winner of the Bath Novel Award (UK)
Finalist of the Dundee International Book Prize (UK)
Shortlisted for the Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Award (US)
Shortlisted for the First Novel Prize (UK)
Amazon HardcoverAmazon Kindle
BARNES & NOBLE
Add to your Goodreads shelf!
Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her debut novel, Rainbirds, is the winner of the 2015 Bath Novel Award. Her short stories have won several awards and been published in various literary magazines and anthologies, such as The MacGuffin, Your Impossible Voice, Esquire, Monsoon Book, Writing The City, Needle in the Hay,
and many others. She loves rainy days, pretty books, and hot green tea.
Clarissa is represented by Pontas Agency.
I'm delighted to welcome fellow Australian, kid lit author R.J. Simon to the blog today to help celebrate the release of her first book earlier this month. I've had the pleasure of reading RUBY LANE and can tell you that it's a fun, imaginative, and colourful chapter book. So much in the vein of Alice in Wonderland and in the style of Enid Blyton. It's a perfect escape for young minds, allowing them to stretch their imaginations, laugh, smile, and just embrace the silly. Don't expect a story that makes sense or that follows a predictable path; that's not its purpose or intention. If you have or know a child that loves to leave behind routine or who doesn't always do as they're told, then RUBY LANE is the perfect book for them. I'm sure R.J. Simon has a strong future ahead of writing books that immerse children in the unpredictable.
Here are some more details...
Ruby is overexcited again, and her brain is spinning creative ideas so fast it feels like her head could explode!
Luckily, it’s school holidays, so she’s allowed to stay up late, reading adventure stories and playing dress-ups with her cat.
But when things get out of control, Ruby decides that helping a crazy pirate cat return a malfunctioning book to its rightful owner is the only logical solution…
* Humorous and mysterious, an adventure story for middle-graders worldwide. *
RJ Simon lives in the Australian bush with her husband, their two daughters, and way too many cats! One of those cats is called Pirate. There is also a wild wallaby, who has no respect for gardens, some very cheeky parrots, goannas, echidnas, lots of spiders, and an emu who all visit whenever they feel like it. RJ Simon enjoys writing stories, illustrating children’s books, and many other creative pursuits.
Find out more at:
First I should make it known that I write for all age groups, from picture book to adult fiction to non-fiction. What I love most about writing middle grade that it’s fun. Middle graders are at the exact point in life where things can be done solo or with friends, and just before the drama of real life, usually, sets in. Not to say that middle graders don’t have drama, but it’s far less than the trials of boyfriends and girlfriends, jobs, and colleges. Readers are not yet teenagers. They are discovering friendship, themselves, and the world around them in more depth than ever before.
Another reason why I love writing middle grade is because unlike picture books (who doesn’t love trying to tell an entire story in 300 words?!), and young adult (sooooo many words); middle grade is probably the most perfect word count…ever.
When I think about my favorite middle grade book, I always jump to The Truth about Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh. To be honest, anytime someone asks about a favorite book, even if they want an adult book, it’s my go to recommendation. Ms. Yeh’s writing is captivating and funny with a wit of sass. My second favorite author of middle grade is Donna Gephart. Her books (Lily & Dunkin, How to Survive Middle School, As if Being 12 ¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President, to name a few) are perfectly funny with a bit of sophistication for the sub plot.
When I write middle grade it starts with an idea or title. It pops into my mind and I immediately start to sketch out the story. My writing style with middle grade is witty with deep underlining tones pulling each chapter together. I love, LOVE to create ending hooks, making the reader want to not set the book down at the end of a chapter. I also love sarcasm at the middle grade level, and it’s probably the easiest age to pull it off without being too over the top.
Another reason why I enjoy writing middle grade is because the readers at this level are excited to read. They are past the chapter book level where they might still need some word assistance and the stories are shorter. And they have yet to reach the thick books of young adult. Middle grade is the level where they can feel superiorly independent and dive into a great book. Also, the level of homework they have makes it perfect, as they still have free time before the heavy handed high school work load kicks in.
However, past all the delicious candy covered reasons why I love writing middle grade, there is a deep dark swamp of why it can be a challenge. First, you are limited by how far a character can explore certain aspects of life. It’s a trick to put just enough emotion and knowledge into the character. Middle grade is a tightrope walk of balancing the awkward stages between elementary school age and high school. If you think about your schooling, at least with mine, middle grade was by far the hardest time to make friends and fit in. This makes writing a story a great training experience for the mind. Outlining is nearly a must, even if it’s not your usual process. Much like the challenge in selling your picture books to agents and publishers, middle grade is just as challenging because the character can be easily deemed too wise or too young from the reader’s point of view. For example, some middle graders are getting into relationships while others are focused on sports or other academics. Yet, as a writer, you need to be able to balance what is going to be accepted by the community as an author and what will shelf your manuscript for good.
Writing for middle grade can be rewarding, exciting, and emotional. This is why I write middle grade.
Savannah Hendricks is the author of Nonnie and I (Xist Pub., 2014) available in English and bilingual editions. She is also the co-author of Child Genius 101: The Ultimate Guide to Early Childhood Development Vol 1, 2 & 3 (Knowonder Pub., 2013). Savannah has over 25 pieces published in magazines and anthologies such as Dear Nana, Highlights High Five, and Front Vision. She has been a member of the SCBWI since 2006, has a Master’s in Criminal Justice, and a degree in Early Childhood Education. You can learn more by visiting her blog at http://theseashellsoflife.wordpress.com/
She’s twelve years old.
If you’ve known her all her life, maybe she’s still a baby in your eyes. Remember when you changed her diapers? How cute was it when she pronounced “raindrops” as “waindwops?”
But if you’ve never met her, maybe certain words and ideas go off like an automatic flash in the camera of your mind. She’s just a kid. What does she know? You might allow her to speak, but in the end, your grown-up opinion matters more. And maybe you even speak to her like she’s an adorable kitten or wide-eyed toddler. Her “kid-ness” seems to trigger something involuntary in your tone.
But if you’re her—or you’re her age—the story changes.
Twelve years old was a long time ago for me. There was a time where I could remember Jr. High like it was yesterday, but these days, I’m lucky if I can remember half the names of my teachers from those years.
Of course, there are certain aspects I recall all too well: namely, the bullying and the paralyzing fear of not fitting in. And while I’ve utilized these memories in my writing, my silly adult brain still interferes now and then. It likes to, at times, confuse Twelve with Seventeen, or sometimes even Twenty. And much to my chagrin, my brain has, many rough drafts ago, tried just a little too hard to create something that looks like Twelve by slapping on an unrealistic use of modern slang and trends.
So I did something to rewire my brain, and if you write an age group that isn’t your own, I suggest you do the same: I immersed myself in tweenhood.
Now, not being a parent or teacher, this was no easy undertaking. I worked full time, and as it turns out, most schools don’t let you just waltz on in to watch the kids. So I went a different route.
I have a twelve-year-old nephew and an eleven-year-old niece. From them, I’ve witnessed clear and concise responses to tough questions. Their profundity knocks me upside the head. But I’ve also seen them struggle to explain concepts I myself long ago conquered. They grasp for the right words, say things like “you know? The thingy! With the thingy…?” (Some adults do this as well!) I’ve also seen them bounce off the walls with spurts of random hyperness.
But they are just two out of many kids, and as I am their aunt, my perspective of them is biased. In order to be a proficient portrayer of their age, I knew I needed more.
My sister is a Girl Scout leader, and after I passed a background check, she agreed to let me sit-in on a meeting of Junior and Cadette girls (average age was eleven years). I sat in silence and took notes while their leaders taught them how to handle a run-in with a cougar.
That day, similar to what I see in my niece and nephew, I saw two extremes in this age group. I saw intelligent people, eager to answer questions, passionate about their complex opinions, listening to and supporting one another. I also saw wild beasts, bouncing around the room in play, giggling, growling, and having fun as they acted out scenarios of cougar encounters. Without batting an eye, these kids teetered back and forth between childlike and mature. And oh my, did I have fun watching them! But I knew I needed more.
REAL, RAW, AND WONDERFUL
After my evening with the Girl Scouts, I contacted friends who helped run a tween youth group in a nearby town. They allowed me to drop in, and this time, I saw the same behavior as explained above, but I also saw something else.
This group was larger and mixed—boys and girls. They were subdued. Chill. Easy-going. And they were, I was certain, trying to act a certain way in the presence of the opposite gender. The girls in particular gave off an air of fourteen or fifteen, throwing their hair over their shoulders, laughing coolly, making their eyes sparkle as they sneaked glances at the boys.
And the boys? …Oblivious, in their own world. Passion struck their voices as they chatted with one another about “the game from last night,” the “totally epic episode of (fill in the blank),” and how much math homework sucks. But they scarcely, if at all, interacted with the girls. What they were thinking about could have been something entirely different, of course, but in this setting, I saw a prime example of, at least, external behavior.
And then something amazing happened.
One of the boys got up in front of his peers and gave a testimony. Now that takes guts! His words were simple, but honest. He talked about how before church camp, he had a hard time at home. He said life back then “pretty much sucked.” But at camp, he learned there were other kids who had struggles just like his, and that made life “kinda a lot better after.” He shrugged a lot and avoided eye contact. He used the phrase “and stuff” numerous times. He was nervous and awkward.
And it was wonderful.
The presentation of his story was refreshingly raw. He wasn’t putting on a show. He kept it real, without even trying, I’m sure. And for me, it was an unadulterated gold mine of writing material, because I saw a glimpse of something not everyone gets to see of this age—vulnerability.
USE YOUR CONNECTIONS
If your sister isn’t a Scout leader or you’d rather stab your eyes out than step foot in a church, there are other avenues. Now, of course, don’t just start watching random groups of kids—writing research or not, don’t do anything to warrant unwanted attention from police or angry parents! You can, however, sit at the table next to the giggling group of tweens at the mall. No joke. Do it. Don’t stare at them, but listen, and listen well.
And here are some other ideas:
· Volunteer to drive your niece and her friends to soccer practice on a regular basis—and eavesdrop on their conversations! When friends get together, they sometimes forget there is an adult in their presence! True personalities galore!
· Volunteer to supervise nieces’, nephews’, grandchildren’s, and your friends’ kids’ slumber parties—sweeten the deal by sending their parents out for the night! They’ll love the night off, and you will likely see what the kids act like when their parents aren’t around.
· Tag along with your tween-age nephew and his friends when they go bowling. Pay attention. Talk to the kids, see how they act in speaking to an adult versus how they interact with their friends.
· Watch tweens’ vlogs. You’ll learn what they love and hate—although this one comes with a warning. Often what you see is a performance, which works great if you’re writing about a tween who vlogs, but otherwise, seek out experiences that are more vulnerable and natural.
· If you don’t have access to kids at all, go the extra mile, get a background check, and apply to volunteer with Boys and Girls Club or some other after-school program.
Bottom line, whatever means you choose, your books need you to do this for them. People of a different age group, people who are different from us in general, are almost always different than what we imagine them to be. And me? I’m nowhere done eavesdropping. My subject matter has a lot left to teach me, and you can bet I’ll have my notebook and pen at the ready.
S.E. Eaton has authored and published a variety of genres for adults: dystopian, dark fantasy, suspense, horror, and general fiction. She has published three out of her five works, as well as several short stories; the latter you can read on her website. After experimenting with different genres, Eaton switched gears and is now focused on her true passion: middle grade fiction.
Eaton is married to an entrepreneur, is the proud mother of a sweet beagle named Emmie Lou, and lives in the verdant Pacific Northwest. Favorite authors of hers include C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Richard Peck, Holly Black, and Robert Jordan. Her current works in progress are a middle grade fantasy novel, the first in a series, and a middle grade magical realism novel.
You can contact and follow S.E. Eaton via the following:
Schools and school libraries are excellent places to market a middle grade novel. First of all, you won’t find a more enthusiastic and loyal group of supporters of middle grade literature than school librarians and teachers. They often make of their jobs to seek out good literature and pass it on to their students. Then there are summer reading lists—lists of required or recommended reading often composed by teachers or districts—which can be great exposure for an author and an excellent way to boost sales. Finally, and most importantly, if a teacher or a school chooses your book as required reading, you’ve got instant sales and an audience that is more likely to check out other works by you.
But how do you make your book marketable to schools and teachers and librarians? How do you get your book on a summer reading list, or even better, a required reading list?
In addition to writing books for young people, I’ve been a middle school language arts teacher for fifteen years. When my own kids were young, I was fortunate enough to take a leave from teaching and work from home as a curriculum developer for several major educational publishers. Because of my background in curriculum writing and teaching, I’ve had the benefit of writing Teacher’s Guides for my own novels. My first book, LOSING IT, has been chosen as a ONE SCHOOL, ONE BOOK novel for several middle schools. It’s shown up on several Summer Reading Lists, and even five years after its publication, it’s still being chosen for Battle of the Books competitions.
Teachers love books. We love introducing our students to books. But with Common Core and rigorous mandated assessments, we have limited time and increasingly difficult demands to meet. Anything that makes our jobs even a little easier is appealing.
By creating a Teacher’s Guide for your novel, a list of Story Response Questions, or a thoughtful Writing Prompt that connects your book to other media, you make it that much more likely that a teacher will somehow incorporate your book into his or her curriculum. Here are a few tips on how you might go about creating one.
Where do I begin?
First, decide what grade level(s) you think are appropriate for your book. Your publisher, a local librarian, or any teacher might be able to help you with this. Consider also that most young readers like to read about protagonists that are slightly older than they are. A great resource to help you find other books being read by students at various grade levels is the Accelerated Reader Collections site: http://www.arbookfind.com/collections.aspx. Click on the What Kids Are Reading link and explore.
Next, check out the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) document, which you can access here: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/.
This is a long and complicated document that haunts teachers relentlessly. You’ll probably want to focus on the Reading Literature Standards for your chosen grade level. However, here are a few common standards you could address if you had a book targeting 4th through 6th grades:
--determine how point of view is developed and how it influences the telling of the story
--compare and contrast settings, characters, or points of view within the novel and pull specific passages from the text to support your answers
--explain how a particular scene fits into and contributes to the overall story
--determine the meaning and purpose of figurative language
--determine the theme or central idea, using specific details from the story to explain how it is conveyed
What Should I Include in My Guide?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule on this. But here are a few sections you might consider including—though you may wish to focus on just one or two depending on your time constraints and comfort level.
--a Prior Knowledge or Before Your Read section. This section introduces the students to aspects of your story they may be unfamiliar with (the setting, certain themes, characters’ backgrounds) but that it might be helpful for them to know before reading. This is also a good time to help them make connections with your characters or the story itself, which gets them excited and motivated to read. For example, in the teacher’s guide for my novel, LOSING IT, I did a short preview lesson on teenage obesity, since that was a major theme of the novel.
--a Vocabulary section that includes words they may encounter in your novel that may be new to them. When I develop vocabulary sections for my Teacher’s Guides, I always create context clues activities, such as using the sentence the word appears in to help the reader decipher the meaning.
--a set of Story Response Questions. This is the meat of your guide and if you choose to create only one section for your novel, this should be it. You don’t need questions for every chapter, but your questions should focus on the standards; the major themes, conflicts, and literary elements of your book; and should include all levels of questioning from basic understanding through analysis and evaluation. Varying your questions is key; for example, ask readers to draw an image based on a simile or to write a mini-dialogue showing the perspective of another character.
--a Final Writing Task. Today, we often call these Performance Tasks. These are multi-paragraph writing assignments that use your novel to launch the students beyond the book and that tie your story (or a piece of it) into something in history, science, art, music, or current events. For example, the Performance Task for LOSING IT had students write a multi-paragraph essay on bullying, since that was something my main character experienced. I provided an informational article on bullying as well as a poem written from the perspective of a girl who’d been bullied. They had to use those sources in their writing.
To see examples of all of these sections, I have numerous Teacher’s Guides on my website that you can check out and model yours after: http://curriculumspecialists.weebly.com/our-guides.html
Is It Worth Spending My Time to Create a Teacher’s Guide?
That probably depends on your book. A more commercial book with superheroes defeating aliens or a series that will sell on its own probably doesn’t require a guide. But historical fiction, literary novels, novels with cultural connections and diverse characters, and those with meaningful and universal themes might get an extra boost by a well-thought-out teacher’s guide.
Books chosen for classroom reading lists and those that find their way into a teacher’s heart have a better shot at longevity since teachers tend to use them again and again. I hope you find a teacher out there who connects with your novel in that way.
Erin Fry is also the author of Losing It, Secrets of the Book, and The Benefactor. She has a fourth novel, a middle grade entitled, Undercover Chefs, coming out with 50/50 Press in February. When she’s not writing, Erin teaches at a middle school in southern California, where she also coaches cross country. She has worked in educational publishing, and writes book reviews for Publishers Weekly. You can find out more at her website: www.erinmfry.com or follow her on twitter: https://twitter.com/ErinMFry
I'm super excited to be a part of my lovely friend Eliza Nolan's book release today. FROM THE ASHES is born! And, honestly, having had the pleasure of reading the sequel to her bestselling PHOENIX AWAKENS, I personally think this one is even better! Check out the details!
In this exciting sequel to Phoenix Awakens, Nolan whisks her readers off to Istanbul where the Legend of the Phoenix is the centerpiece in a centuries old battle for power.
It’s been three months since Julia Long discovered she’s a magical being called The Phoenix, and she still hasn’t mastered her ancestral powers. But when a mysterious visitor provides evidence that Julia’s birth mother has been kidnapped in Istanbul, Julia must try to save her.
Meeting her mother's family for the first time is wonderful, but discovering there are other kids her age with magic is better, even if one of them is infuriatingly dark and handsome.
But not everyone is happy letting kids be kids. Some seek to use these gifted youth as pawns in a game of power and intrigue. And just by the nature of who she is, Julia's now the most powerful piece on the board. But if she doesn’t play her part perfectly, she could lose everything, including her mother.
Grab your copy from Amazon now!
And, if you haven't read book # 1 then as a special treat it's 99C! Go buy it!
Awesome! Congratulations, Eliza. You've done an amazing job and work super hard. You deserve this success.
Eliza Nolan was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She lived in Charleston, South Carolina, for a few years, after which she returned to icy Minnesota - where she now lives with her two unruly cats in a house smaller than your closet.
She is an avid reader and writer of YA who has ghostwritten a novel or two, but also writes her own stuff.
Sign up for her newsletter to hear about new releases, giveaways, and deals: http://www.elizanolan.com/p/mailing-list_30.html
Middle Grade Books: Increasingly Inappropriate?
An eleven-year-old boy and an eleven-year-old girl feel awkward after the girl compliments the boy, and they don’t know what to say as they look at each other with uncertainty. The boy’s eleven-year-old friend says, “Get a room.” As everyone knows, “Get a room” is a euphemism for “go make out or have sex” in private.
This scene occurs in a very popular middle grade book I bought for my then-ten-year-old, Little Brother mentee. As any responsible parent or mentor should, I read the book first. When I got to that line, I threw it into the trash—something I never do with books.
This book has rave reviews from parents on Amazon. If those parents actually read the book and think eleven-year-olds having sex or even hinting at such behavior or joking about it is cute, there’s something wrong with those parents. Sadly, pushing the envelope in middle grade fiction is happening, just as it did long ago when teen lit was christened “Young Adult” (even though young adulthood, according to psychologists, and the law, ranges from age eighteen to twenty-five.) Thirteen years olds are young adults? According to the book industry they are. In reality, they are far from young adulthood. These are middle school kids, still adolescents, still children. Not young adults. Not even close. Even at eighteen, legal adults are still teens. But pushing kids to leapfrog over necessary developmental stages seems to be the current intent of all media, including books.
On Amazon, a middle grade book featuring twelve or thirteen year olds is listed as suitable for eight-year-olds. Why? To make more money for the publisher and Amazon. Anyone who’s ever raised children or taught them knows that a twelve-year-old is way ahead of an eight-year-old on the developmental scale, and no conscientious parent would allow their eight-year-old to pal around with twelve or thirteen year olds. So why is it suitable for eight year olds to read books aimed at twelve and thirteen year olds? It isn’t.
The excuse has been that children are demanding books about kids older than themselves. Not true. Children are curious about everything. If you put age-inappropriate material in front of them, they will watch it or read it, and then their brains will have been rewired so that they want more inappropriate stuff. That’s how our brains work, and it’s the essence of addiction. It’s bad enough that Hollywood seems bound and determined to rob children of their innocence, but the book industry used to take its job more seriously. Way too many TV shows aimed at children depict ten, eleven, twelve year olds on the prowl for a boyfriend or girlfriend, and the on-screen kids lament that they’re not in a relationship. Children haven’t changed. What they’re exposed to has. Especially social media. No child under high school age should have a smartphone, but millions do.
I often see what middle school kids post on social media, and it’s not good. A ten-year-old once told me he wanted a girlfriend. I asked why, and he didn’t know. But I know. That boy already has a smartphone and is on social media, where the message is loud and clear—if you’re not in a relationship, you’re a worthless failure and have no value in your own right, no matter your age.
I know twelve year olds with babies. This is a bad situation, for them and the babies they produce. Encouraging children and teens to have sex—even in wink, wink, nudge, nudge ways—is beyond disturbing, and I can’t understand this agenda to adultify children at younger and younger ages. It makes no sense. How often do you see boys and girls as young as eight or nine referred to as young men or young women in the news or on social media? Attune yourself to that notion and you’ll see it everywhere. Labelling children “young adults” defies all common sense and rationality. And it damages the children more than anyone else. If you convince twelve-year-olds they are young adults with such verbiage, and allow them to access age-inappropriate media that calls them young adults, they are going to think they can engage in adult activities, like sex or drinking alcohol, to name two.
An acclaimed middle grade book is called Wonder. In most ways, this is a terrific book with positive messages about acceptance. However, in this story, ten-year-olds are depicted as partying like teens, pairing up in boy-girl romantic relationships, and dating. And the worst part? These behaviors are presented as normative. Only one parent in the entire book tells her son he’s too young to date. At ten, he’s too young to date? Ya think? Of course, he is!
The fact that editors and publishers allow such messages to be sent to children brings me back to the agenda question. What is the agenda, and who stands to gain by it? I know who stands to lose—the children. They are sent so many mixed messages by media and society these days, it’s no wonder the number of adolescent mental health cases in America has skyrocketed in recent years.
As authors, I believe it is our responsibility to present developmentally appropriate stories for children and teens. Books should be a more conscientious form of entertainment than Hollywood and social media, which seek to suck children into the addiction trap. Middle grade fiction should be for eleven, twelve, and thirteen year olds only, since they are middle schoolers, and the publishing industry needs to stop telling Amazon and other sites to list them as suitable for eight-year-olds. In addition, books with thirteen-year-olds can certainly involve skittishness on the part of boys and girls with each other, because that is reality, but nothing more is needed. Just as violence is kept at bay in middle grade fiction, romance/sex should be even more so.
As parents, we have so much to do without having to police the books our kids read like we police the media they pursue. But for the sake of children going through their natural developmental stages, we must be vigilant, and at least skim through any books our preteens want to read. At the very least, check the book out on LitPick.com, an online review site wherein teens and children review books aimed at their age group. They rate the books and provide content warnings, under the supervision of adults. Commonsensemedia.org also has content ratings for children and teen books that are well-articulated, written by both parents and kids. Also, if a book on Amazon is rated for age eight-twelve, it’s important to read the “What’s Inside” preview and the reviews. Check the negative reviews and look for clues to inappropriate content.
Childhood is already too short. If we allow Hollywood, social media, and now books to steal it away, that’s a crime of insurmountable proportions. Unplugging our kids from media, and making sure they have good books with positive, age-appropriate themes and messages, is an essential step toward molding them into healthy teens and decent adults.
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in San Rafael, California. He majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University and went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
Michael is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens and serves as a volunteer Big Brother with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and has been a volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles for over thirty years. He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.
Michael’s goal as an author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world. The most prevalent theme in his writing and his work with youth is this: as both a society, and as individuals, we’re better off when we do what’s right, rather than what’s easy.
HARRY POTTER versus RON WEASLEY
The Winner is all about VOICE.
Harry Potter was very different from Ron Weasley and not just because Ron had red hair and Harry had brown and Junie B. Jones is by no stretch of the imagination similar to Matilda.
The thing that makes people stand out from one another in a crowd of characters isn’t necessarily how they look – although that is something that catches your eye…at first. The truth is people are different in so many complicated ways that go far beyond appearance. They speak different, walk differently, and even sit in very distinct ways.
This is a writer’s job: to capture all these differences on the printed page to make one character stand out from the other. This is what people call “Voice” in the writing world. It’s the “voice” of a character that makes us want to travel on the journey through a book with them and it’s what makes us love a person or despise the very ground they contaminate for us.
Think about it… your best friend is important to you because __________.
Only you can fill in that blank and perhaps there are many reasons, but can you capture those reasons in a short paragraph about her/him?
Let’s all do a little writing sample that “shows” your friend to the reader, without “telling” us what those characteristics are that made you want to spend your time with him/her.
That’s essentially what you have to do in your stories, show us your characters by having us see how they talk, walk, and yes, even how they sit differently from the characters in your story.
Think about Katniss Everdeen. How did Suzanne Collins bring this young girl to life on the printed page that made Hollywood want to invest in her future enough to bring her to the silver screen? And, what was it about Katniss that caught Jennifer Lawrence’s attention enough to want to portray her on the big screen?
That’s your job as a creative writer to capture the character so well with your words that everyone either loves or hates him so much they just have to turn the page to find out what happens.
It’s not an easy job but it’s the challenge every writer deals with every time they boot up their laptop or pick up their pencil…now that’s another example of the unique way people are different from one another…laptop, pencil, what does that “show” you about the writer without anyone “telling” you a word about the person? You might be able to assume that one writer is older than the other, or perhaps one writer is struggling financially while the other has so much money he can afford extravagant technology.
Remember, everyone has their own mannerisms, attitudes, and body language. These are the attributes that make human beings different from one another.
And even if characters are using the exact same words, no two people would ever say anything in precisely the same way.
Watch this short clip to see exactly what I mean.
And, if you want to read more about voice, check out these sites:
If you’d like to help Kim, check out her latest middle grade book, IRMA THE INVENTOR, soon to be released: COMING AUGUST 21, 2017
If you want to read more about Kim or connect with her, check out her
Amazon Author Page
Or just contact her by clicking here
So freaking excited to be helping with a DOUBLE COVER REVEAL today for my fantastic friend and one of the most talented storytellers I have ever worked with, R.L. Martinez. Her high fantasy series THE WITCHBREED has had a makeover as we approach the release of book # 2 in the series. Anyway, CHECK THIS OUT...
And here are the covers, amazing artwork by Diana Pinguicha, close up and in a convenient slideshow...
So pretty! If you haven't already read book # 1, IN THE BLOOD, I highly recommend it and these links below will help...
A snake. A lion. A return.
In a time when magic is feared, Lady Oriabel Dominax has no choice but to conceal her healing powers while she cares for her father’s struggling estate. One touch of the Witch’s Tree shows her visions of witches hung and burned at the very hands of the people for whom she cares, the people who love her. But with the arrival of a new lord, a man hiding secrets of his own, falling in love might be one wrong move too many.
Incarcerated for an unspeakable crime, fearless warrior Lady Ottilde Dominax is plagued by mysterious dreams of her sister’s death. When a hooded figure offers her the chance of escape, although untrusting, she does not hesitate. Racing across nations to reach Oriabel, her journey is cut short by an encounter with a wedowyn, a formidable beast which she has no chance to overpower alone. Though it is not death that greets her, but something far worse.
Blackmail, betrayal, and murder are only the beginning as a darker magic is awakened. And someone has plans for the Dominax twins, plans more terrifying than anything they could ever imagine.
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And then I recommend you pre-order book # 2, BENEATH THE SKIN...
Abandoned, betrayed, and wanted for murder.
Lady Oriabel Dominax is a witch on the run. The deadly magic now awakened inside her is hungry, and it is all Oriabel can do to control it. With no choice but to trust strangers as her guardians, she quickly discovers not everyone is who they say they are and the very magic she fears might be her only weapon to protect those she loves.
Since rescuing her sister from certain death, Lady Ottilde Dominax’s only goal is to keep Oriabel safe and alive. Not an easy task when both the enemy and their so-called allies are hunting them. Placing all her trust in the very man who held her prisoner, Ottilde must open her heart and mind to a future she could never have predicted, a future guided only by love and survival.
Life, death, and tragedy lie ahead as the Dominax twins set out on a perilous journey to safety. But knowing they are mere pawns in someone else’s game means fighting for family is all they have left.
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And, here's a super dooper Rafflecopter giveaway to enter!
And here's a bit about R.L. Martinez...
Being a stay-at-home mom is probably the hardest job Robin’s ever had (and that’s after working at places like Goodwill, MCL Cafeteria, and Captain D’s). Her house is never clean! No matter how many dishes she does or toys she picks up, her two little ones come right behind her and make a whole new mess. Anyway, this is the first time she hasn’t had some sort of job outside the home since she was fifteen. Kinda scary!
Now that her kids have both started all-day school, she can fling herself into the stories that constantly swirl inside her head. One of the main reasons she writes is to read books that she wishes other people were writing. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, two small sons, two naughty canines, and a mouse-killing cat.