Sunday, July 26, 2015


 Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is sponsored by Shannon Messenger at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe. For a complete list of today's participants, visit HERE.

Judy Young
Sleeping Bear Press
Ages 8 - 12

Eleven-year-old Kaden has managed to stay under the radar for most of his life. With the exception of Kubla, a pet crow, Kaden doesn't have any friends his own age and he's okay with that. After all, friends can ask inconvenient questions. Questions like Why do you live with your grandmother and where is your father? Questions Kaden doesn't want to answer.

Apart from school and a few trips to town, Kaden and Gram keep to themselves, living a simple life at their cabins outside the small community of Promise. But now Kaden's life is getting a lot more complicated. He's starting middle school, which brings its own set of problems for a boy who doesn't fit in. And then he learns that his father, a man he has never known, is getting out of prison and moving to Promise.

After years of being the outsider at school, Kaden is given a chance to come out of his shell when Yo-Yo, a new boy, moves to the area and offers friendship. But can Kaden trust him? Will Yo-Yo be a real friend after he learns about Kaden's father? The true meaning of friendship, love, responsibility, and loyalty is explored in this novel for middle-grade readers.


I was given PROMISE by the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and I honestly have to say I thoroughly enjoyed every page of PROMISE.

From the opening pages, I hoped Kaden would have a happy ending, but I discovered that not all stories do have happy endings. Sometimes things don't turn out the way we want them to, but despite disappointments, there is always hope for something better.

Judy Young does a fantastic job with Kaden and all the friends and family in his life. I kept turning pages because I was so curious to find out what would happen next. If you want a heartwarming read that will stay with you long after you've read the last page, PROMISE is the book for you.


Profanity:  None
Sexuality:  None
Violence:  Mild

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Have you ever had someone ask you "What kind of books do you read?" I've been guilty of asking that question myself. It seems to be a good conversation-starter, finding out if someone likes the same genre of books you do.

But how many of us, really, read only one or two types of books? We might have a favorite genre or author, but I think it's a pretty safe bet to say most of us read a variety of books.

For my job, I read a lot of middle grade books--all genres. I receive on average about 30 books a month in the mail. I can't read all of them, so I send several to my reviewers and pick out one or two titles for myself. My time is valuable to me, so I'm pretty picky about which books end up on my immediate TBR list. And if I start reading a book and discover it doesn't tickle my fancy, I have no qualms about setting it aside for something else.

I also love young adult books. But I am also a sucker for a really good adult historical novel--or sci/fi--or horror! Okay--I pretty much read everything.

So the real question ought to be "What about a particular book makes you pick it up and read it? And what makes you KEEP reading?"

Right now, I'm reading a middle grade novel called HOODOO by debut author Ronald L. Smith. Several things hooked me about HOODOO:

*  THE COVER -- With hundreds, thousands of books being published every year, covers start to run together. A cover that is distinctive will immediately pull away from the pack. I like images that spark the imagination and give you a teaser into the story. I also love unique fonts.

* THE PREMISE -- Hoodoo is a black boy growing up in a 1930s southern town steeped in folk magic. Just the concept alone is different, and I love books with diverse characters and settings.

*  THE WRITING -- HOODOO is really well-written. The voice of Hoodoo is clear, and I was hooked
from the first chapter.

Another book I'm reading right now is KISSING TED CALLAHAN by Amy Spalding. I bought the book because I know Amy. But I'm reading because it is so doggone funny! Her cover is like peeling back the skull of a teenage girl and observing the strange workings within. The characters are a hoot!

I recently read TEN by Gretchen McNeil. The cover--deliciously creepy. The story--scary as hell! I loved it!

Maybe the bottom like is that I like books that are GOOD! Books that are different than anything else out there!

So...what kind of books do you like to read? Or, um, I mean--the book you're reading now, or just finished reading, tell us WHY you love it!

Friday, July 17, 2015


Cleopatra's Legacy, Book III
Dorine White
Ages 8 - 12

Coming in October 2015!!!

Beauty and the Beast.

The world knows it as a cartoon with dancing teacups and broomsticks. To twelve year old Claire La Fleur, it is family history, and the power behind Belle’s mirror is real. Every ten years her family gathers to see if the mirror will awaken, and for the last two hundred years it has slept.

This time, Claire’s touch awakens the magic within the diamond looking glass, a direct portal to the past and a way to communicate with Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt. The lure of power brings with it many perils, and a betrayal close to home thrusts Claire into a treacherous underworld. To protect the mirror, she travels into the Louvre museum in the dark of night, searches abandoned subway tunnels, and walks the catacombs of the dead.

Welcome to Paris, France- where danger follows in every step.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


I wrote a guest blog a few years back about the benefits of using a system I call Road Mapping to write a novel. Road Mapping is creating a detailed outline of a novel prior to writing it. This is how I've always written my books. I am a  planner. I love to make lists. I love to know exactly where I'm going before I begin my journey.

Some people did not agree with my point of view on this. Writers tend to fall into one of two categories: Planners and Pantsers. Pantsers are writers who just start writing and see where the story leads them. Of course, they may have some good ideas to get them started, but they don't follow an outline. They follow their hearts. Feelings run strong in both camps, sometimes too strong.

After reading a couple of comments about my post defending the Pantser way of doing things, I decided that to be fair, I really needed to try writing a novel without a safety net -- just once. So I did. That summer I set a goal. I would write every day for 90 days. All I knew ahead of time was the book's basic premise (I had no idea what the plot would be) and that the finished product would be a 50,000 word young adult paranormal novel.

So I set off without a map, without an outline, without any idea where this would end up. I wrote every day for about an hour, and by September I had a finished manuscript. That manuscript was CONTACT, which was published in 2014 with Hallowed Ink Press.
So, I can honestly say that I've written novels using both the Pantsing and the Planning methods. Here were my thoughts on them both.


Pantsing gave me results faster than Planning has. My other novels all took around a year to write, including the planning stages. My pantsed novel took three months.  The amount of time I'm spending in revision is about the same.  This is not what I expected, because I thought my pantsed novel would be full of holes and need to have significant patch ups. It hasn't needed any more repair work than my planned novels.


I found that while my planned novels were easier to actually sit down an write because I knew exactly what I wanted to write by the time I turned on my computer, the actual process of figuring out the plot was the same. I still mulled it over in my brain, still dreamed about it, still got excited when I figured things out. The only difference was that in one case I jotted down my thoughts first, and in the other I went straight to writing the text.


Well, of my plotted novels, one is being published in May. Another won 1st place in a contest and has garnered some great attention in another. My pantsed novel has already drawn attention from both a publisher and an agent. So, I have to say pantsing did not diminish the quality of the finished product.


I am left on the fence on this one. I can no longer say one method is better than the other. I've done them both and had success with both. I think in the future I may not rely so heavily on outlining as I once did. But I do like to know where I'm going in a story, even it's just in my head. But I may very well try my hand at winging it again one of these days, just for the fun of it. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Today is our fifth and final post in my  HOW TO WRITE A REAL PAGE-TURNER series. In week #1 I defined what a page-turner is and why authors should write them. Week #2 I shared five Sure Fire Fun-Suckers, what to avoid that are sure to put your readers to sleep.  Week #3 I discussed the first of three Page-Turner techniques, Shorter Chapters. Week #4 was the second technique, Multiple Points of View. Today let's tackle the third technique:


Now, the three techniques I presented are by no means exhaustive. There are many other techniques writers use to create page-turners, such as varied pacing, action, and so forth. But the three I discuss here can be applied not only to new writing projects, but also to manuscripts in need of a little umpf.  They don't require entire rewrites, just a little tweaking here and there.

So what is a cliffhanger chapter ending? Simply it is the sort of chapter ending that leaves a nagging question in your reader's mind, a question they feel compelled to answer by turning the page to find out what happens next.

There are four types of chapter endings that can get the job done:


Foreshadowing is a hint or suggestion that something important, scary, shocking or life-altering is about to happen. Take a look at this chapter ending from Devil in the White City by Erik Larson:

            “Even Depew, however, did not foresee the true magnitude of the Forces that were converging on Burnham and Root. At this moment he and they saw the challenge in its two most  fundamental dimensions, time and money, and these were stark enough.
             Only Poe could have dreamed the rest.”
The question readers are left asking is - Dreamed the rest? What rest? And if only Poe, the master of horror and suspense, could have dreamed, it must be something truly, and deliciously, awful!

Turn the page.


While all cliffhanger endings create a question in your reader's mind, some create a partial image or expectation that can only be fully realized by reading on. The following example is from Wonder by R.J. Palacio:

“My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

The author here gives us just the briefest suggestion that something is wrong with this kid's face, but what?

Turn the page.


Chapter endings can also be used to increase anticipation for the reader. You've built up his expectation of something truly traumatic or climatic, and just as that expectation is about to pay off you draw it out just a little bit longer. Take a look at how Dan Brown achieves this in The Da Vinci Code:

           “Langdon could hear the tape rewinding now.  Finally, it stopped, and the machine engaged.  Langdon listened as the message began to play. Again, the voice on the line was Sophie’s.

           ‘Mr. Langdon,’ the message began in a fearful whisper. ‘Do not react to this message. Just listen calmly. You are in danger right now. Follow my directions very closely.’”

That's the end of the chapter! And of course we have to know what those directions are and what danger he is in!

Turn the page.


Finally, chapter endings can be used to provide a sudden and startling revelation that will make your reader gasp. Here is a biggie from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

           “The crowd draws in a collective breath and then you can hear a pin drop and I’m feeling nauseous and so desperately hoping that it’s not me, that it’s not me, that it’s not me.

            Effie Trinket crosses back to the podium, smoothes the slip of paper, and read out the name in a clear voice. And it’s not me.

            It’s Primrose Everdeen.”


Turn the page.


Now, take some time and read through your current work in progress. Search for that AH-HA moment in each chapter, where something remarkable or shocking happens or is revealed. End your chapter there, either right before or after that climactic moment. That's right. Just cut it.

Begin your next chapter either where you left off, or if you're writing in multiple points of view, switch to somewhere/someone entirely different. Then come back to that AH-HA moment later on.

Not every chapter has to be a cliffhanger chapter ending, and not every ending has to illicit a gasp from your readers, but there should be plenty of motivation for your readers to turn those pages late into the night.

If you're not confident about pulling this off, I highly recommend you pick up a book or two that you consider page-turners and study--not just read, but study--that author's techniques and then apply them to your own writing.