Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Agromond Family Halloween with Kit Grindstaff

Happy Halloween, everyone! Today on the blog, I hope to turn up the spook factor by interviewing my good friend Kit Grindstaff along with the creepiest of characters and vilest of villians—the Agromond family from her dark middle grade fantasy THE FLAME IN THE MIST. You’ll want to leave the lights on. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Laura: Agromond Castle would make the ultimate haunted house—secluded in a mist- and ghost- and creature-filled forest with bats circling the belfry and the castle itself lit only by flickering firelight. It is scary enough already, but what would you do to up its fright factor?

Kit: Hmm. First of all, I’d increase the ghost activity that’s already there and encourage those poor lost souls to come out of the cellars and dungeons. And maybe unleash all the bats at once—oh, wait. Shade Agromond wants to say something.

Shade: Halloween? Ghosts? Ha! Child’s play! Would that I could summon Scagavay from the Darkness forever, to roam the castle at will. That would keep away any lily-livered dross and their silly games.

Laura: The Agromonds are masters of casting an evil spell or two. As an Agromond, what one spell would you cast and on what or whom?

Kit: Uh-oh. They’re clamoring over this one—

Nocturna: I would cast a spell on my husband to render him steel-willed, and restore him to the man I believed I was marrying, the man who wooed me with the promise of power! Or else, a spell to dispose of him, so that I could take over rule of Anglavia without him.

Nox: Then I had best cast a spell of invincibility upon myself.

Feo: Perhaps invisibility would be safer, Papa.

Shade: I would hex Jemma and freeze her Powers so that I could take my revenge on her! Oh, to make her suffer what I have endured because of her.

Nox: But Shade, if you could but persuade Jemma to become one of us so that her Powers were in our service, would that not be better? Yes, yes. That’s what I would do. A spell to make Jemma surrender to our family. . .

Feo: I would cast a spell of love. But I can’t say on whom. Mama would kill me.

Laura: What would an Agromond dress as for Halloween?

Kit: Each other? Except that what really scares them is light. So they could dress as the sun, or brilliant lamps, or Luminals.*

Feo: (whispers) I should quite like to experience sunlight. But don’t tell them. (Louder.) I’d dress as a huge rat, to scare Shade and bring her down a peg or two.

Shade: Feo, you idiot. I’d know it was you.

Nocturna: What a foolish answer from whoever that Kit person is! Why in Mord’s name would we want to scare ourselves? The object would be to scare others. So I would dress in long, flowing black silks, and hasten about the castle screaming as though I were Scagavay or a Mordsprite.

Nox: My dear, you are already quite scary enough.

*Luminals are beings of Light, the opposite of the dark entities that the Agromonds love to summon during their Ceremonies.

Laura: The Agromonds—especially Nocturna and Shade—are evil to the core. What could possibly frighten an Agromond on Halloween night?

Kit: Well, Feo just touched on Shade’s biggest fear: rats. So a giant Noodle or Pie in a blaze of light might send chills up her spine. As for the others, probably night turning to bright sunshine. That would be really scary to them. Like vampires, fearing the light.

Nocturna: What utter rot! I do not fear the light. Darkness is just. . . convenient.

Feo: I should only fear one thing, I think: My death, before I was ready for it. Why are you so afraid of rats, Shade?

Shade: You wouldn’t understand. (bites her nails and glowers at the floor.)

Nox: If I were told that my daughter would live forever, I believe that would strike horror into my heart.

Laura: We Trick-or-Treat for candy and sweets. What would be the ultimate Agromond Trick-or-Treat snack?

Kit: I think I can answer for Nocturna, at least. Bees in syrupwater.

Nocturna: Correct.

Feo: Sugared entrails!

Shade: If I could solidify spleen liqueur into edible form, I should make round balls of them like the eyes of Jemma’s horrid rats and devour them all.

Nox: I’m rather fond of apples, myself.

Nocturna and Shade: How very dull!

Feo: What would Jemma’s favorite be?

(The other three glare at him.)

Laura: Thank you, Kit and Agromond family for this interview, although I think I shall officially pass on the sugared entrails. Even on Halloween.

If you'd like the chance to win a hardcover copy of The Flame in the Mist (U.S. and Canada) or an e-book (International), there's a giveaway that you can access from any of the blog stops on Kit's mini-Halloween tour. There's a Top 13 list, an interview with MC Jemma, a review, tips on promo for newbie authors, and a post on why spooky fiction could save mankind.

Find link to them all here. Giveaway open through 11/5. Good luck!

Kit Grindstaff was born near London, and grew up in the rolling countryside of England. After a brush with pop stardom (under her maiden name, Hain), she moved to New York and embarked on her successful career as a pop song writer. Kit now lives with her husband in the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania, where she still writes songs as well as children's books. The Flame In The Mist is her first novel. Check out Kit’s website, or connect with her through Twitter or Facebook.

Laura Golden is the author of Every Day After, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression. Find out more about Laura and Every Day After by visiting her website or chatting with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Meanwhile . . . . Middle Grade


This month for Meanwhile Middle Grade I thought we’d play the very popular, almost famous game of “Name that Middle Grade Debut Author.” 
How well do you know the Lucky 13 Middle Grade Authors? 
1.  Who was pictured in his/her 11th grade yearbook in the green and orange striped shirt he/she sewed?
2.  Who is known as a baby whisperer on Twitter?
3.  Who would love to live in a treehouse?
4.  Who was cast as a dog in the school production of Peter Pan
5.  Who sold a feature film script about a very, very bad cat "Fluffy" to Disney's Hollywood Picture?
6.  Who likes to stick his/her head out the car window like a dog?
7.  Who escaped unwanted sisterly love by hiding in the closet or in the tree in the backyard?
8.  Who turns books into purses?
9.  Who wrote his/her first book at age 9 and first songs at 17?
10.  Who was a spy as a child?
11.  Who was a hypochondriac and is obsessed with parenthetical phrases?
12.  Whose family license plate growing up was 8SGREAT?
13.  Whose summer job was counting fish?
14.  Who always wanted to be a cheerleader but never was one?
15.  Who earned the title Miss Muscles for being able to do more pull-ups than anyone else in school?
16.  Who was bitten by a rattlesnake and survived (obviously)?
17.  Who was born in Calcutta and moved to the states when he/she was 14?
18.  Who recently learned from her mom how to crochet?
19.  Who wore a Tina Turner wig at the Super Bowl and danced behind Christina Aguilera?
20.  Who was scared of piano lessons and hated the 50-yard dash?

21.  Who lives with a flabbergasting amount of toys?
Answers are listed below.

1.  A.B. Westrick


 16.  Polly Holyoke

Thanks for playing!



Monday, October 14, 2013

The 13th Day: Super-Awesome-Bomb-Diggity News

Some people may think that the number 13 is unlucky, but not those of us at The Lucky 13s! In fact, we're celebrating the 13th day of each month by featuring all the fabulous stuff that's been happening to The Lucky 13s.

 Please raise a glass to our super-awesome-bomb-diggity news....

Kelly Fiore's TASTE TEST, a novel about a Top Chef-esque competition for teens, was released on August 27th from Bloomsbury USA. Top Chef Alum, Fabio Viviani calls it "the perfect recipe for love!"

TASTE TEST got a great review from School Library Journal, which said:
"This debut novel is a sweet confection about overcoming the odds and being true to oneself. Readers who are not interested in cooking will still relate to the reality-show setting and enjoy the friendships and romance. The food descriptions are mouthwatering, and the contestants’ recipes included in the back matter feature sophisticated flavors that might even get some readers cooking." 

TASTE TEST was also featured in USA Today's Happily Ever After blog as a featured selection. 

Caroline Carlson's middle grade novel THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT was released on September 10th from Harper Children's. It's also a Kids' Indie Next pick for the fall!

In addition to starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal, Cat Winter's IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS received a highlighted VOYA Magazine review: “Romance fans will love Stephen's ghostly visits to Mary Shelley... Mystery lovers will enjoy the satisfactory resolution of the puzzle... Recommend this title to fans of Libba Bray's THE DIVINERS.” —VOYA Magazine, highlighted review

The audiobook version of Cat Winters's IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS is now available from Recorded Books.  Check it out here.

Peggy Eddleman's middle grade novel SKY JUMPERS was released on September 24th from Random House Children's Books. Deseret News says:
"Peggy Eddleman gets everything right in her debut novel, Sky Jumpers." and "Sky Jumpers has plenty of action and more than enough heart to work its way into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere."  

Noodle teamed up with the New York Public Library’s Youth Materials Collections Specialist, Betsy Bird, to create an infographic on the best children's books of 2013. Both Peggy Eddleman's SKY JUMPERS and Nate Federle's BETTER NATE THAN EVER made the graphic! Check it out here.

Lydia Kang on Wattpad, starting October 15th!

Delacorte has bought Emma Pass' THE FEARLESS and will publish it in the US in 2015.

Elizabeth May's THE FALCONER, a YA steampunk novel about a faery-slaying débutante in 1844 Scotland, releases in the UK on September 26 from Gollancz!

 SciFiNow Magazine gave THE FALCONER a 4-star "Must Read Now!" review saying:
"Forget Bella, banish Katniss and Expelliarmus Hermione -- there is a new breed of ass-kicker in town . . . Elizabeth May's début is a wicked cocktail of Jane Austen's high society and the Grimms' fairy tales."

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books has given PARCHED by Melanie Crowder a starred review!
"This is a poetic and powerful survival story; readers will want to tackle it with a full water bottle on hand."

Jennifer McGowan's third book in her Elizabethan historical YA Maids of Honor series, MAID OF WONDER, has sold to Simon & Schuster BFYR, for release in Summer, 2015!

Golden Heart winner and young adult author Jennifer Stark writing as Jennifer Chance's DREAM IT, the first book in a new adult series, about a junior entertainment agent struggling to remain professional with her first big client, a former teenage boy-band heartthrob turned very grown up rock star, to Shauna Summers for Flirt, in a four-book deal, in an exclusive submission, for publication starting in early 2014, by Alexandra Machinist at Janklow & Nesbit (NA).

Peggy Eddleman released the book trailer for SKY JUMPERS.  Check it out here!

Sarah Skilton's BRUISED comes out in paperback March 2014 with a fresh cover and an excerpt from her new book, HIGH AND DRY, a twisty high school mystery releasing April 2014.

Rights to Kristen Kittscher's THE WIG IN THE WINDOW have sold to Hungarian publisher Fonix. 

Audiofile Magazine awarded THE WIG IN THE WINDOW's audiobook the Earphones Award, calling narrator Amanda Philipson's performance "effervescent" and praising her for bringing out the "diverse personalities and emotions of the characters" and "conveying the humor and drama in the story."

THE WIG IN THE WINDOW also made a third appearance on the SoCal Indie Bestseller List in August.

Kara Taylor is the writer and co-executive producer of THE REVENGERS, a dramedy for the CW produced by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack.

 BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA got a starred review from Voya:
“A stunning debut with complex characters, an atmospheric setting, and a distinct voice. . . . Tucholke has real talent.”  

Elisabeth Dahl's GENIE WISHES is a recommended title in the October 2013 issue of Library Media Connection:
"Occasional spot illustrations by the author add charm, and Dahl accurately portrays the pitfalls of entering adolescence. . . . Overall, this is a charming portrait of a transition year and clearly shows the changes a group of children go through." 

MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT got several nice trade reviews this month. Shelf Awareness says it's "smart, funny and captivating, and the start to a wonderful new series."  School Library Journal says "the whole package is a silly, rollicking good time," and Booklist says it "delivers all the expected swashbuckling tropes—treasure maps, invisible ink, sword fights, and treacherous villains—and then cleverly upends them."

Woo-hoo, Lucky 13s!

Rachele Alpine's young adult comtemporary novel CANARY is available now. She blogs, or you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to Plan a BIG Launch Party

Here's the thing about launch parties: how YOU want it to be is exactly how it should be. If you want a cozy party with 30-40 people in your favorite indie bookstore, that's what you should do. If you want it to be with a dozen of your friends in a restaurant, that's what you should do. If you want it in a larger location with a few hundred people, that's what you should do. If you want it with your significant other and no one else at an ice cream bar, that's what you should do. Your publisher doesn't care how you do it (or even if you do it at all), so it really should be nothing other than exactly what you want.

If you think you might want a big party with a few hundred people, then you and I have the same likes where launch parties are concerned. *fist bump*  Here's a few tips on pulling it off.

What to do at your party:

This is wide open, and depends largely on the age group you are writing for. Some people like to speak, some people like some form of entertainment, and some people like to recruit friends for some fun skit-ish things. Whatever you do, keep it fun and entertaining-- you can lose a large crowd quickly. (But don't let this scare you. You really don't have to keep them entertained for long.)

Keep in mind that if you have a ton of people there, your signing line will be long. It's helpful if you give them something to do. (My book is middle grade, so I knew I'd have a lot of kids there. I had three activities going to keep them entertained while their parents stood in line. (Shrinky Dink book covers, invention creation with toothpicks and mini marshmallows, and a scene recreation from the book where kids could slingshot foam apples at posters of the bad guys.) I also had a video looping in the background so people could watch if they wanted. It was my book trailer, the filming of the book trailer video, and random book journey-related pictures.)

Speaking of the signing line-- if you expect a lot of people there, it's helpful to print out signing line tickets to hand out as people come through the door. Print 20-25 of the letter A, then 20-25 of the letter B, etc. That way, you can call all with the letter A to the line first, then Bs, etc., and people aren't having to stand there for so long.

Choose refreshments that are easy to grab and eat while standing, and that don't easily make a mess. I chose cookies, because if someone bumps into you, you're not going to be spreading frosting. But if you do want to go the cake route, consider cupcakes, because they don't take a plate and fork. Word to the wise in regards to cookies: kids don't just take one. Also: they freeze well. So plan extra, and take them home if there are leftovers. We had 500 cookies and 500 people. The cookies were gone to the last crumb in ten minutes flat, and most people didn't even get one.

Recruit friends. I didn't ask friends to help with specific things enough (like manning the cookie table!). Luckily, they all jumped in where needed without being asked. If I could redo it, I would've asked people ahead of time to help more with the activities, to stand at both doors with the signing line tickets, more people to hand out raffle tickets, help at the refreshments table, and to go through my signing line, having people write their names on post-its and placing them on the signing page.


Just like with a business, it's all about location, location, location. The closer you can get your location to the bulk of the people you've got coming, the more people will come. The King's English Bookshop is by far and away the favorite place to hold launch parties in my neck of the woods. It's also a 45 minute drive from my area, and I knew that not a lot of people would make the drive. So I chose to have it at my local library, and to have The King's English come on site to sell books. (Which they gladly did, because they're awesome like that. Many indie bookstores are.) My library was less than a mile from my home, so close to all my neighbors and friends, which made it much easier to come to on a rainy evening. I know it wouldn't have been nearly as successful if I'd have had it somewhere less easier to travel to.

Size is a huge thing to consider as well. My library wasn't quite big enough, so there were about 20 people crowded around the outside doors during my speech. It was uncomfortably crowded. If you get too big of an area, though, it can feel like no one showed up. So try to guess how many people you can get there, and choose an appropriate venue. Libraries are a good choice, obviously, but Elementary Schools, Junior High / Middle Schools, and High Schools all have gymnasiums that might work, or even auditoriums. But most importantly, choose one in the best location.

Another thing-- make sure the bookstore knows exactly all of the efforts you are putting into getting people there, and let them know any numbers you have-- like the number of people that have said they're going through Facebook events. There's nothing worse than getting a ton of people there, and books selling out within minutes.

Getting your target audience there:

My target audience is kids 3rd to 6th grades. So I lined up school visits for all 3rd to 6th graders in four of the schools closest to my launch party location, and did assemblies for them. I visited two on my launch day, and the other two in the two days preceding. I gave a presentation that had a positive message (working with their strengths, changing the world), but also talked about how characters in my book did just that. I ended with my book trailer (best use of a book trailer ever, imho). TONS of the kids from those schools came with their families (especially because they knew right where the library was). I told them that they DID NOT have to buy a book to come-- they could just come to get their bookmark signed (which I gave them at the visit), and to ask questions. Most who came, though, did buy a book.

If you write for teens, line up middle school / junior high / high school visits. If you write for adults, think about how to reach your target audience, and find a way to speak with them during the last week before your launch party, and invite them. It'll make a huge difference.

Advertising it:

I am sure there are a lot of ways that will work, and ways that will work best in your area. Here's what I did:

I created a Facebook event, and then invited people I am close to, and people in the area. I went through my entire friends list and looked up where each person lived (if I didn't already know). It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r, but I think it's a kindness to invite people who have a chance at coming, and not just blindly send invites to your entire friend list.

I had a designer make postcards, and I mailed out about 150 to friends and family and other people who were a part of my journey. I mailed to family outside of the area, too. (I figured it's akin to a birth announcement-- it lets them know my baby is out in the world.)

When I hit 100 likes on my author Facebook page, Facebook gave me $50 in free advertising. So I created a Facebook ad for my launch party, and targeted it to friends of friends (because I figured then they'd have someone to go to it with), and people who "liked" other authors in my area who also wrote middle grade. I figured that even if I didn't get a lot of click-throughs, it would be on people's mind if they saw it a few times. And if they weren't interested in the launch party, at least it got my book on their mind. I didn't even get close to spending the $50. I actually didn't think I went over $15.

At each of the school visits I did, I brought fliers (1/6 of a page) to go home with each child, telling about the launch party. That way, if I got them excited about it in the assembly, they had the info to show their parents.

My library made posters advertising the launch, and posted them at the library and at each of the schools in our city. It was incredibly sweet of them to do, and they were more than happy to.

My library also asked the newspaper to put it in the "Our Town" section of the paper in the few days before the launch.

Invite the press:

If you're going to go to all the work, get the press there! They love to report on big activities in their communities. My library contacted the newspaper for my county, and asked them to send a photographer. If your host won't do the same, I'll bet your publicist would.

It all took planning, yes, but it was fun planning. It was one of those things I did a little bit at a time, when I needed a break from all the other stuff going on. And it was an incredible payoff at the end of a really long, hard road. I wouldn't change my launch party for the world. If you'd like to see some of the pictures from the launch, you can check out my post on my personal blog, Will Write For Cookies.


Peggy Eddleman is the author of the middle grade action / adventure SKY JUMPERS (Random House Children's Books, 9/24/13). She 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 here:

photo credit for cookies: Mrs Magic via photopin cc

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It's RED's Book Birthday!

My red-letter day has arrived, friends. After two long years of waiting, RED is launching into the world! *fires confetti cannons* It's yours now—I hope you enjoy it!

Let's take care of the business stuff first. Here's what RED is about:

Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.

Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:

I know your secret.

Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say "strawberry blond." Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.

Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?

And here's where you can buy it!

When I learned I was going to be doing a blog tour for RED, I assumed everyone would ask about my experiences growing up with red hair. (I mean, come on, you've all seen my author photo—it seems like a really obvious question.) I had all these answers prepared, and then, bizarrely, NOBODY ASKED. So I'm going to take this opportunity to tell you the top five worst and best parts of growing up with red hair.


5) Old ladies are always touching you in the supermarket. You know how everyone touches pregnant ladies' bellies like they've suddenly turned into communal property? Red hair has the same effect on people, especially when it's curly. I cannot explain this phenomenon, but every redhead I know was constantly petted by old ladies growing up, as if we were adorable puppies. Many of them like to supplement the unwanted pats with stories about how their hair used to be exactly that color. Children of the future—I promise I will never do this to you.

4) It's possible to get sunburned in less than ten minutes. My skin is basically the color of typing paper, and I can feel it start to sizzle the moment I step into the sun. Sometimes it doesn't even matter if I'm wearing sunblock. In the summer, I slink along in the shadows of buildings like a vampire while my friends frolic on the beach. Relatedly, it's extremely difficult to find a concealer that actually matches my skin tone. I might as well just use Wite-Out.

3) It is absolutely impossible to hide in a crowd. This was great for my parents when I was little—they never lost me on the playground, and I glowed like a beacon during my school assemblies and dance recitals. But it's significantly less awesome when I end up standing on a subway platform with some guy I went on a bad date with three years ago or some girl I hated at an old job. It's always just a matter of seconds before they spot me.

2) Sometimes people can't see past the hair. When I was in college, I once went to a Halloween party wearing a waist-length black wig. The first person I saw was a girl who lived on my hall, so I went over to talk to her. She stared right at me and had absolutely no idea who I was—apparently, the hair was so distracting that she'd never bothered to look at my face.

1) Men shout lewd things at you on the street. Every woman has this problem to a certain extent, but there's something about red hair that screams, "Hello, every creepy man in a two-mile radius! I would love for you to come over here and talk to me!" I cannot tell you how many strangers have told me about their "thing for redheads" or speculated out loud about whether the hot-and-spicy-redhead stereotype is true. One guy in his sixties took my hand on the subway and refused to let go because I reminded him of some redhead he had a relationship with in Atlanta. Another man started asking a guy I was dating extremely personal questions about me right in front of me. I do not have a stereotypical redhead temper, but that is one sure-fire way to get it to flare.


5) You're incredibly unique. In the United States, only 2-4% of the population has red hair. I also have blue eyes, the rarest color for redheads, which means I look like less than one percent of the population. The only time I've ever been told, "You look so much like someone I know," the person in question turned out to be my second cousin.

4) You never leave home without a flashy accessory, whether you're trying or not. A couple years ago, a friend and I were getting ready for a party, and as I watched her apply her colorful eyeshadow, I said, "Do you think I should start wearing more makeup?" She looked at me like I was insane and said, "What? No! Why would you do that? You have your accent color all taken care of!"

3) Tons of celebrities want to look like you. Apparently red hair is very "in" right now. I like the idea of amazing people like Christina Hendricks paying a bunch of money to be part of a club I'm already in.

2) You're part of the Redhead Sisterhood. I live in New York City, Land of No Eye Contact, but when I pass another redhead on the street, I'll often give her a little nod. Moms with redheaded kids always smile at me. Meeting other redheads is kind of like meeting someone else who grew up in your hometown—even if you don't know each other, you probably inherently understand a lot of things about each other's backgrounds. My agent is always saying she's pretty sure there's a Ginger Mafia out there. (I'm not saying there is, but I'm not saying there isn't.)

1) Red hair is an instant cure for shyness. I love making new friends, but I'm incredibly introverted, and it's hard for me to approach people I don't know and start talking, even at an event full of friendly book nerds. But because I'm so easily recognizable, people are always coming up to me and saying, "Hey! I know you from Twitter!" It totally eliminates that scary first-contact step, and I've made a surprising number of friends that way. 

Thanks for the good times, coppery curls. My life (and Felicity's!) would've been very different without you.


Unlike Felicity, Alison Cherry is a natural redhead. She is a professional photographer and spent many years working as a lighting designer for theater, dance, and opera productions. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at or follow @alison_cherry on Twitter.