Wednesday, September 25, 2013


by Mindy McGinnis

I signed my contract for NOT A DROP TO DRINK a little over two years ago. My heart was in my mouth at the time, but I found out it has a funny aftertaste so I've tried to keep it in my chest cavity since then. Starting tomorrow evening I'll be on the Dark Days tour with fellow Harper authors Rae Carson, Michelle Gagnon, Madeleine Roux and Sherry Thomas!

It really is very much a writer's fairy tale, so help me celebrate today by tweeting to me (@MindyMcGinnis) pics of my book in the wild! I'd love to see it popping on shelves as I'm in the air between Ohio and Las Vegas on our first Dark Days tour stop!

Enjoy my trailer, designed by Jennie Bates Bozic and an original song inspired by the book from musician Jack Korbel.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins September 24, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the ThirteenersFrom the Write AngleThe Class of 2k13The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on TwitterTumblr & Facebook.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SKY JUMPERS Release Day!!

by Peggy Eddleman

I am thrilled to announce that Sky Jumpers is out in the world! At times, it felt like 9/24/13 was a lifetime away. But it's actually, finally here!

Wondering what it's about? Instead of telling you, how about I show you?

Find me online:


Peggy Eddleman lives at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Utah with her husband and their three kids. She enjoys painting, playing games with her family (especially laser tag), and of course, reading.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meanwhile...Middle Grade! Back to School...

Back-to-school time can be filled with excitement, dread, or some combination of both. Here at The Lucky 13s excitement certainly wins out. We're celebrating THREE great middle grade debut releases this month: A.B. Westrick's BROTHERHOOD, Caroline Carlson's MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, and Peggy Eddleman's SKY JUMPERS.

In honor of back-to-school season, the middle grade Luckies weighed in on the extent to which school does (or doesn't!) play a role in their characters' lives -- and what memories and others sources of inspiration we draw on to portray it:

Elisabeth Dahl

GENIE WISHES runs from September to June of Genie Haddock Kunkle's fifth-grade year. When I wrote it, my son was in fourth grade at the same school I'd once attended, a school where my mother had taught for thirty years, so it was nearly inevitable: that school became the inspiration for the school in GENIE WISHES. I changed a lot of details for the novel, making it truly a fictional school, but the building's layout and fundamental character stayed the same. Between the emotional truths of my own fifth-grade experience and the more contemporary details of my son's, I hope I portrayed the school environment and experience realistically in the book.

Caroline Carlson

In MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, my protagonist, Hilary, is sent to Miss Pimm's Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. (Since she doesn't have any interest in learning to sew or waltz or faint, however, she runs away as soon as she can.) I had lots of fun thinking up imaginary classes for my over-the-top finishing school, and I have to admit that some of them--like archery, embroidery, and water ballet--are classes I wish I could have actually taken in school. I don't think I would have minded life at Miss Pimm's quite as much as Hilary does!

Ari Goelman

THE PATH OF NAMES is set in a summer camp, so there's not much of a role for school in the characters' lives.  During the first chapter or two, the main character still occasionally thinks about school, but once she starts seeing ghosts and experiencing spiritual possession, she pretty much forgets all about school for the remainder of the novel.  

 My next novel takes place in a private school largely catering to the children of super heroes, so school plays a much larger role in that one, albeit an imaginary school which largely represents what I wish middle school had been like for me.

Kit Grindstaff

School? No such thing in The Flame in the Mist; Education would pose too much of a threat to Anglavia's nasty rulers. Knowledge is power, after all, so Mord forbid the unwashed masses had it in their hands! However, main character Jemma does have an education of sorts: in the healing arts, and combating evil forces – including, of course, the Mist. Her training is ongoing, though, so there’s no "back to school" for her. Jemma’s an eager student, but the dark underbelly of her training is knowing that at some point she's going to have to put it to use against some very unpleasant – and scary – adversaries.

Nancy Cavanaugh

My main character Ratchet is homeschooled, and she tells her story through her homeschool language arts journal.  One of her biggest desires is to go to a real school, with a real teacher, and real school friends.  In writing about Ratchet's longing for her own school experience, I went back to my memories of what it felt like to begin a new school year every fall - new school clothes, new school shoes, and lots of new school supplies.  It is one of my fondest memories of school - that "starting fresh" feeling that came with each new school year.  Ratchet has none of that and, as a result, has a strong desire to find her own way to be "normal" like all the other school kids.

Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson

No matter how old you are, the feelings of middle school affect you for life. (“Affect” is a nice way of saying “scar.”)  Some of the details change, but the sense of endless possibilities and endless opportunities for humiliation stays the same. Neither of us has kids, so we rely a lot on Facebook friends to weigh in on specific details we’re worried about. “Do any of your kids have chalkboards in their classes?” “How does block scheduling work?” “Has your kid ever heard of the Hitchcock movie ‘The Birds?’” (He hasn’t? Why not? What kind of parent are you?)  So we think we do okay. Plus our main character is an accidental fairy godmother named Lacey Unger-Ware, so we’re not exactly Ken Burns here. (Your kid hasn’t heard of Ken Burns? Come on!!!)

Jennifer Ann Mann

In the beginning of SUNNY SWEET IS SO NOT SORRY, Masha and Sunny Sweet have just started at a new school. Masha is having trouble making friends and Sunny decides to help by gluing a bunch of plastic flowers into Masha’s hair. At first, Masha can’t think of anything worse than facing her new school with flowers glued to her head, but there is something worse…going to school bald! In my story, school is a scary hurdle that the sisters help each other jump over.

Polly Holyoke

School does play an important role in The Neptune Project. When my main character Nere is at school, the reader sees how uncomfortable she is with her peers. Nere is an outsider because of her weak lungs and eyes, a product of her genetic engineering. She is invisible to her classmates, and I did draw upon my own experiences to depict her situation. In my high school there were cool and un-cool kids. We existed in the same space but rarely interacted.

Once Nere goes through the Neptune transformation, though, there’s no turning back, and the sea becomes her new school. In their dangerous new environment, my Neptune kids don’t have the luxury of hanging out in separate cliques. Instead, they have to rely upon each other in order to survive.

A.B. Westrick

School plays a huge role in BROTHERHOOD, but it's not a school like any we have today. It's 1867, and the school is a one-room shed. 14 year-old Shad arranges to teach tailoring to the African-American children there, in exchange for reading lessons to help him overcome a learning disability. When his KKK buddies target the school, not knowing he's one of the students, Shad is trapped between old loyalties and what he knows is right.

Kristen Kittscher

School is central in The Wig in the Window: not only is it the main battleground of the cat-and-mouse game playing out between the mystery's potential villain Dr. Agford and 12-year old sleuth Sophie Young, but it also is a point of tension between Sophie and her homeschooled friend, Grace Yang who calls all the shots in their spy investigations but bears none of the consequences. In part I relied upon my own school friendships and experiences to portray Luna Vista Middle School; however,  I also soaked up quite a bit from my years of teaching seventh grade English at an all girls' school...

Hope your back-to-school season has gone smoothly! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Writing like a Tuba Player: The Release of BROTHERHOOD

Sometimes I’ve felt like my son, the tuba player. He does a lot of waiting, counting measures until it’s his turn to play. 

The difference is that I’ve been counting months, not measures. No, make that years! More than two years have passed since Viking bought my manuscript.

BROTHERHOOD is finally out in bookstores! Hooray!

At times the wait has been excruciating, and now the sound is oh, so rich.

“…an impressive debut…” Publishers Weekly

“…an excellent job of re-creating post-Civil War Richmond…” School Library Journal

“Great historical fiction always feels like a gift…” VOYA Magazine

“…this coming-of-age story will spark fruitful discussions about race, identity, social pressure and loyalty.” Kirkus

Anderson’s Bookshop even included Brotherhood as a candidate for their Mock Newbery Award!

I’ve rehearsed for years, months and days for the release of my first novel, and now I’m glowing. (But the truth is that I’m also feeling overwhelmed.)

After ten years playingand lovingthe violin (the kid begged for a violin when he was three, so we got him Suzuki lessons), he switched to tuba because he didn't like being a front-of-the-orchestra musician. No limelight, please. He wanted to power the orchestra from the rear. Now he’s in college, studying tuba performance, computers and the physics of sound, and I get that he’s an introvert. With the release of Brotherhood, I even get the front-of-the-orchestra pressure he talked about.

If I’ve written Brotherhood well, readers won’t notice me, the author, the same way orchestra patrons overlook the tubists. And that's okay with me. It's good! If they feel my presence at all, I hope it’s like a tuba line, powering the piece beneath the surface. I hope the story resonates with them, and the sound lingers long after they turn the last page.

A. B. Westrick is the author of Brotherhood, the story of a boy who swears allegiance to the Klan before he quite realizes what he's getting into. You can read more about Brotherhood at, follow the author on Twitter, and click here to "like" her Facebook page. Check out the book trailer for Brotherhood on YouTube. It's only 53 seconds.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT -- is released today!

            Today is the release day for the wonderful middle grade novel MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, a story of piracy, gargoyles and the healing power of friendship and good manners.  Ari Goelman recently sat down with the author, Caroline Carlson, to discuss the release of her novel. (Okay, this is kind of a lie.  Actually, Ari e-mailed Caroline his questions, and she e-mailed him her answers.  But metaphorically they sat down.  She laughed at his questions; he laughed at her answers, although not necessarily at the same time.)

Photo courtesy of  Amy Rose Capetta                                    

Ari:  A lot of your novel takes place on and around boats -- was there any particular reason that you were drawn to tell a story with such a maritime theme?

Caroline:  I'm laughing right now because in my college poetry workshop, I developed something of a reputation as that person who always wrote poems about the ocean. And I guess I haven't been able to kick the habit in my fiction, either! I grew up in New England and spent a lot of summers near oceans and lakes, and I love pretty much everything about being near the ocean--the salty air, the swimming, the fresh seafood, the proximity of great ice cream cones that drip all over your toes. Now, though, I'm no longer living near the coast, and I think I'm a little bit homesick for it. Bodies of water pop up in everything I write, even when I don't intend them to--though, of course, it's hard to avoid any mention of the ocean when you're writing a pirate story.

Ari:  What were you like as a middle grader?  What were your favorite books? 

Caroline:  I was really shy and really nerdy, and I devoured books with a speed I've never been able to match since. Growing up, I had myself halfway convinced that eventually, although I wasn't very brave or strong, someone would come along from a magical land and tell me that it was my destiny to save that land from the forces of evil--and, naturally, I'd go off and do it, earning a loyal band of friends and finding True Love in the process. It's probably no surprise, then, that my favorite books were fantasy novels by writers like Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, and Edward Eager. I also loved funny books; Lois Lowry's ANASTASIA series was one of my favorites. Somewhere along the way, it became increasingly clear that no one from a magical land was going to show up and ask me to enter the world of my favorite stories, so I decided I would simply have to write my own stories instead. And, gradually, I got a little less shy and a little less nerdy. I even earned a loyal band of friends and found True Love--and I didn't have to defeat a dragon or anything in order to do it, which is fortunate 'cause I'm still not very strong.

Ari:  I loved the spider-eating, magic gargoyle sidekick in MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. For some reason, I imagined it as a pig-headed bat-winged gargoyle.  Am I right?   You deliberately leave some of the specifics of its appearance to your readers' imagination, but I'm curious how you imagine it.

Caroline:  I love your description of the gargoyle! You're right that I tried to leave a lot of details to readers' imaginations, so I don't think there's any one "right" way to imagine the gargoyle--or any of the other characters, for that matter. I've been thrilled to see how the illustrators of the US and UK editions have envisioned the gargoyle; he's so handsome in both of his incarnations! I imagine him as a sort of roundish, dragon-like creature about the size of a soccer ball (but much heavier and more talkative).

Ari:  When is book 2 coming out?  

Caroline:  The sequel to MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT should be out in the US and Canada sometime in the fall of 2014, about a year after book 1. (In the UK, it'll most likely be out in early 2015, though I don't know that for sure.) The second book follows Hilary on another adventure on the High Seas, with lots of the characters from the first book reprising their roles, and a bunch of fun new heroes and villains as well.

Ari: Do you listen to music while you write?  If so, what kind?

Caroline:  I love music, but I hardly ever listen to it while I write--it's too distracting. I will occasionally listen to a piece of music immediately before I start writing, though, to get myself in the mood of the story. Instrumental music usually works best for that purpose, since there are no lyrics to distract me from the words I need to be coming up with. Before sitting down to write MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT and its sequel, for example, I listened to a lot of Handel.

Ari:  What part of the writing process is your favorite part?  Drafting, revising, polishing, going for a walk afterwards…?

I tend to feel that whatever I'm working on at any given moment is the hardest and most painful step of the process, and that whatever comes next must be a thousand times easier! So I'm tempted to say that my favorite part of the writing process is taking a nap. But really, there's a lot that I love about each step of the process. I love the amazing, synergistic moments of creation that happen during the first draft. I love feeling victorious when I've revised a scene for the second or seventh or tenth time, and I've finally gotten it right. And I love examining each word carefully as I polish the manuscript, making sure every sound and every beat is in just the right place. Writing a book is not easy and not always fun, but there is a lot to love about the work.

Ari:  Where do you write?  

Caroline:  I wrote the first draft of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT in our old apartment in Baltimore, on a very uncomfortable IKEA sofa. Now, though, I have my very own tiny office in our house in Pennsylvania. My desk is our old kitchen table (thanks again, IKEA!), and it's right up against a window that looks out onto our neighbors' yard, where I can see trees and rabbits and flowers and people taking out the trash. (This makes me feel a little bit like Harriet the Spy.)

Ari:  I heard a rumor that there are a few sequels in the works.  How many?  What has it been like to write the sequels?  (e.g. more fun, knowing you have an editor ready for them?  Less fun, given the pressure?)  

Caroline:  Yes, there will be three books in the VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES series. Writing the second book was both fun (because I knew it'd be published someday) and terrifying (because I knew it'd be published someday). I felt like I had to make sure the second book lived up to the first one, and it was difficult to compare my messy early drafts to the final draft of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. For a while, I didn't know if I was even capable of making the second book as strong as the first, and that was pretty nerve-wracking. But now that I've finally finished writing book 2, I'm really proud of it, and I feel a lot more confident that I'll be able to write a third book that can stand side by side with the first two.

Ari:  Thanks Caroline!  Good luck - can’t wait to read book two!  

Find more about Caroline and MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT at

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The rejection letter that changed everything

By Karen Harrington

A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success. - Bo Bennett

Years ago when my children  were ages one and two, I received a life changing phone call. I was mopping the floor at the time and Sesame Street played on the TV. “We’d like to publish your novel!” said the voice on the phone. Those are the words every aspiring writer longs to hear. I’d been waiting to hear them all my life.

I dropped my mop.

One year later, I was ecstatic at the release of my first adult novel, Janeology, published by Kunati Books. And one year after that, Kunati Books closed. My novel went out of print almost as fast as it came out.

I got busy writing a new novel. Around the time I finished the new work, I got a nice letter from a reader of Janeology. “After the mother is sent to a mental institution, what happened to the little girl?” the letter asked.

Interesting question, I thought, and then pushed the idea aside. After all, I still had to polish my other novel. And get an agent. Who had time for interesting questions?

After sending out scores of queries and collecting scores of rejections, I got what I now refer to as My Favorite Rejection. The agent loved the writing, but said, “I don’t know who would buy this.” It was that agonizing rite of passage every writer I know has crossed. It happens when an agent says “this is close, but not quite there.” And then she added a sentence to her rejection that made it unforgettable: “The solution for you is easy. Just write another novel.”


I said a lot of mean things to my computer screen.

This happened close to November, which is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’d participated in this month-long challenge before and decided to write that “easy” novel and get the agent’s voice out of my head. I cast about for an idea and decided that, like the reader who emailed me months back, I, too, was curious about what happened to the little girl in Janeology.

Fueled by a fair amount of indignance and a lot of caffeine, I wrote about a spunky, word-loving, twelve-year-old girl finding hope and courage despite living in the dark shadows of an infamous, mentally ill mother.

That novel turned into what is now SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY, which was released last month by Little, Brown Books. Many writers cite the one story that is their “heart” book. SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY is my heart book. 

Of course, now I have a different perspective about that agent and her irritating rejection. Her advice turned out to be one of the great gifts of my life. Ultimately, she gave me confidence by suggesting I should keep writing and not give up. I think that anytime someone offers that gift to a writer, she should take it and run!

Now, because I owe a lot to writer friends who’ve supported and inspired me (including the writers here at The Lucky 13's) I share my rejection anecdote in the spirit of encouragement. Just in case you are thinking of giving up, don’t.

Don’t give up until you’ve found the right story. DO NOT GIVE UP. You might be at the point where the advice “just write another novel” is frustratingly necessary. You might be on the verge of writing your heart book.

So if you're at an impasse in your writing career right now, just write another novel, okay? (Feel free to shout at the computer screen now. It helps. Then get to work.) 

Also, consider participating in this year's National Novel Writing Month Challenge. Take a look at this long list of published authors who have also participate in NaNoWriMo.


Visit Karen Harrington at  Check out her book on Indiebound,  Amazon, or Barnes & Noble

At my first book signing for
Sure Signs of Crazy

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Debut Author Ponders What To Pack on Tour

by Mindy McGinnis

As a debut author about to take NOT A DROP TO DRINK on the Dark Days tour, I've been contemplating just exactly what the hell to put in my suitcase. Surprisingly, I've decided that the most important thing to remember is that while I'm an author on tour, I'm also still a regular human being, with regular, boring human being needs. With that in mind, I've made some notes to myself about what to pack.

1) Underwear. Like, cotton stuff that won't be uncomfortable. I'm going to be flying in planes, sitting in cars, walking (possibly running occasionally) and pretty much involving myself in every known method of transportation at one time or another. Comfort is key.

2) Hairbrush. This is something I consistently forget. I'm really good at not bringing stuff to maintain my hair with. Probably because in the average week I "do" my hair approximately zero times. I have been yelled at, often and loudly, by a co-worker who says I have great hair and need to "give a @#*#@" about it. Yelled at nicely, I should add.

3) Clothing. Yes, I need to remember to pack clothing. I'm sure I won't forget my phone, my iPad, my chargers, my bookmarks and business cards... but will I remember to not be naked in public?

4) Toothbrush & Toothpaste. How much money have lobby necessity stores in hotels made off me in my life? A lot. Like, more than you would guess.

5) Shoes. Yes, I have forgotten to pack shoes before. I wear flip flops on airplanes to ease the security process, and sometimes... well, sometimes that's just what I end up wearing everywhere on my trip because I didn't pack anything else. Evidenced in the Class of 2k13 shot below, taken at the swanky Chicago Hilton where we had a panel. With Veronica Roth. And I had on flip flops.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins September 24, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the ThirteenersFrom the Write AngleThe Class of 2k13The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on TwitterTumblr & Facebook.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cover Scoop: SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman

This is the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. No, wait-- no. This is the story about my cover.... which is remarkably similar to Goldilocks.

From the very beginning, I very purposely kept all thoughts of what I wanted to be far away. I knew that authors generally don't get a say in their covers, and I wanted to make sure I wasn't disappointed. But still, I had hoped that there would be sky jumping on the cover. (The book was originally titled "Through the Bomb's Breath," and although you do have to go through the Bomb's Breath to sky jump, that title didn't guarantee the scene I had hoped for. :))

My cover design team started in early April 2012 on the cover (yes, more than 17 months before release), in hopes that it would be finished in plenty of time for the August 2012 marketing launch. They worked with an artist whom I adore, making several renditions of the cover-- some sky jumping into the Bomb's Breath, and some not. When they showed the final cover at list launch and got everyone's reactions, they decided that the cover was too young and too cartoonish.

So, they went with cover artist number two in September-ish, about a year before release. Another artist I loved, and I was so excited to see what see what he came up with. This one didn't have the kids jumping into the Bomb's Breath, but had some serious skill with creating characters. After a month or two of working with him, they decided that the cover was too old and too realistic.

Then, late December, at the point where everyone was getting panicked that the cover still hadn't come together (and I was dying for a cover), they found artist Owen Richardson. When he turned in his first color sketch, we all knew they had chosen the artist that got it just right. The age fit the target audience, and on the scale of cartoonish to realistic, it hit in just the right spot.

So, in April of this year, almost a YEAR TO THE DAY from when work on the cover began, my cover was revealed, and everyone cheered and breathed a sigh of relief. It was finally done! I think my cover team deserves a medal for their hard work and willingness to stick with it until it was.... Yep, you got it-- just right.

Peggy Eddleman lives at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Utah with her husband and their three kids. She enjoys painting, playing games with her family (especially laser tag), and of course, reading. You can visit Peggy online at here: