Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2015?

I’m in the process of prepping for NaNo next month. Lots of outlining is going on. I’m pretty excited about it for two reasons. My first reason for being excited is because I’ve outlined not only the first book in a new series but I have a strong concept and rough outlines for the other two books. So if I run short (I write short) in the month of November, I’ll just hop over to the next book.
The second reason I’m jumping up and down, is because this year I plan on dictating my draft using Dragon NaturallySpeaking instead of typing.
Yep, my Dragon, Sherlock (recent obsession), and I have been working on drafting together lately and I think NaNo is the perfect opportunity to let him fly. As I said, I’m very excited to see how this goes. So keep in touch and if you are planning to do National Novel Writing Month on November 1st, buddy me on the NaNo site and keep me posted on your progress!!

Are you going to write your novel next month?

Nanowrimo tips
Posted in Indie Life, Uncategorized, Writer's Tools, Writing, Young Adult Tagged with: , , ,

CTA and Why Indie Pub Needs Them

call to action

 

 

 

Do you know what a Call to Action is?

It’s an easy visual for your readers to learn more about you and your writing.

I’m in the process of cleaning up my website. Getting rid of extraneous information. There are only a few things we really want and need our websites to do for us as authors.

  • We need our websites to be a location of quality, free content (like this informative post 🙂 ) for our readers
  • We need our website to showcase our latest book as well as our backlist.  Our readers need an easy way to learn about and buy our books. Above all else we want to make our books available to those readers who want them. (This is why I’m simplifying my own site this week!!)
  • We also need our websites to allow readers access to our email list in the easiest way possible.

It is vitally important for an author to have a dedicated email list of their readers. After all, beloved readers are our customers and we want to make them happy.

We can make our readers happy with the next new book, but we can also share free short stories, behind the scenes content and exclusive promotions as a benefit for being a part of our email list.

A Call to Action is a simple visual that lets a readers know about an opportunity.

On our websites we want only important Call to Action buttons. A button for downloading free content (books or videos) and buttons for buying books. That’s it. Nothing complicated, but very very important for your website.

Here are a few links on CTA’s and how to get started:

So do you have CTA on your website? If so, share a link to your site and show us!

Posted in For Writers, Indie Life, marketing Tagged with: , , ,

I said Yes.

I said Yes.
Sounds like a wedding proposal response doesn’t it? Heather Kelly and I joked about the similarities of organizing the 2015 New England SCBWI conference with organizing a wedding. Lots of people, lots of food, and lots of planning.
Kwame Alexander graced us with his presence this year and we were thrilled to learn he had won the Newbery for The Crossover. He is a wonderful speaker and his theme “The Answer is Always YES” struck a chord with me as well as a number of attendees (and keynoters!).

Natasha Sass, Kwame Alexander, Heather Kelly. Isn't this a great photo??

Natasha Sass (me), Kwame Alexander, Heather Kelly – Isn’t this a great photo?? photo credit: Pam Vaughn

I believe strongly in the power of saying YES to opportunities. I had very little clue of what I was getting myself into when I said YES to co-chairing a regional SCBWI conference. I enjoy saying yes and taking on new challenges because it’s within those challenges we find opportunity.

Two years ago I said YES to self-publishing my novel. After much research I jumped in with both feet and said YES and my creative self could not be happier. Saying YES to the conference co-chair position gave me an opportunity to let other authors know about the possibilities of indie publishing and it let me meet a number of wonderful people this year.

I want to thank everyone who participated and helped to make the 2015 conference such a success. Every volunteer who donated their time, great and small. Every faculty member who created and presented such wonderful content for their workshops. The hotel for accommodating all 650 of us for the 3 days. The keynoters who inspired us. And best of all, to all the attendees who came to the conference to help make this community what it is. My gratitude goes out to all of you!
I am so very glad I said YES!

Posted in For Writers Tagged with: , , ,

High Concept – Write YOUR Book

The idea of high concept has been around a while. It makes us sit up and take notice.

From dictionary.com:

high concept

noun

1.

  1. popular appeal
  2. high-concept. (as modifier): Baz Luhrmann’s high-concept Romeo and Juliet

 

 

I have to admit this definition doesn’t do it for me. It’s much too broad. A few years ago I wrote up a post on high concept, and I actually had a hard time researching the topic. Not a lot of information was out there on what it really meant to write something “high concept”.

But lately high concept has become a buzz word and although I’ve done more research no one can come to a decision on what it really means.

I actually am writing this post to say that high concept is something much more complex than the definition “Popular Appeal”.

I truly believe that high concept idea has to be as basic a plot as there is but also be as unique as the writer who has created it.

Important Point #1: Basic plot

Basic plot does not mean boring. The idea of plot is that it be as straight forward as it can be. Grab a copy of Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey,or Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat both are brilliant at demonstrating the very basics of plot construction.

Think of Star Wars.  Follow this link and scroll down to the storyline portion of the page. You’ll see how easily condensed the plot is. When creating high concept, your plot MUST be able to be condensed into a single sentence that tells it all. And don’t use shortcuts “It’s like Frozen, meets Godzilla.” That’s cheating.

A great device I use to create that single sentence synopsis is taken from Debra Dixion’s book on GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict, also an excellent resource.

This sentence needs to have Who=Character, What=goal, Why=motivation, Why not=conflict.

Here is the framework of your synopsis sentence:

A character wants a goal because he is motivated, but he faces conflict.

Use this to create your story’s simple but concise plot description. Easy. Right?
Important Point #2 (and this one is scary and challenging because it involves YOU)
In my original post on high concept I mention The List. As a creative artist you NEED this list. This list is created by you, and only could be created by you.
This list should have on it, every movie, book, activity, event that you have ever experienced that MOVED you. Not what you think would move other people, but moved you, or continues to move you.
Add hobbies that make you happy, books that make you cry, movies that make you sit on the edge of your seat, or make you twist ideas around in your head. Whatever moves you, add it to the list.
Keep The List safe, don’t share it. It’s yours. Uniquely you. And from this list you’ll be able to pull ideas that will excite you. To create something high concept using your list, simply smoosh (technical term) two or three of the items on your list together. Chew them up, play with them and see what comes out.
If these ideas excite you, they will excite your audience, because every writer has an audience unique to themseles and your audience will LOVE what you create from your list.
Read through your list from time to time, add to it, mull it over in your mind and let your unconscious play with it. Focus on the basic plot line. I can bet you’ll come up with something brilliantly high concept, guaranteed!

Want some help? Comment below!

Posted in For Writers, Indie Life, Writer's Tools Tagged with: , ,

Tony the Phony and the Cursed Mansion – The End

Today’s post is part of a Choose Your Own Story written and hosted by T. Isenhoff and M. Isenhoff on their Storyboys blog. T. is in 3rd grade, and M. is in 6th grade. This story was their winter homeschool project. Travel over to their blog first to start at the beginning, the story will lead you back here. Have fun!

 

 

 

Cursed Mansion

The footsteps stopped right in front of the sideboard door. “Hey!” came a shout. “Someone stole my Oreos.”
“We’re dead meat,” Ed whispered.
“Come on, this way.” Tony led them down the black tunnel. His light barely cut through the darkness. Spider webs brushed against their hair. The tunnel widened enough to stand upright, but the air smelled dank and moldy.
They walked a long way. “I think we’re safe,” Tony muttered. There was no sound of pursuit. “We gave Meatloaf the slip.”
“And I still have his Oreos,” Ed snickered.
“But where are we?” Tony asked.
“Maybe we better go back the way we came,” Ed suggested.
They started back for the kitchen and met a brick wall. “This wasn’t here before. Did we turn off somewhere?” Tony asked.
“I don’t remember any turnoffs,” Ed said.
“Well, we must have gone wrong somewhere. Let’s turn around.”
But only a few minutes’ walk brought them to a wall with a tunnel leading to the left and another to the right.”
“I know we haven’t seen this before,” Ed mumbled. “It’s a maze down here.”
“A magical maze,” Tony glowered. “It’s shifting and changing on us.”
“We have to keep going,” Ed said. “We don’t have any other choice.”
They turned left and followed the dark passage. Then the tunnel split again. And again. And again. Eventually, the Oreos ran out, and the batteries in the flashlights died.
Ed and Tony were never heard from again.
The End

Posted in Uncategorized

Middle Grade Week – Marketing Indie Middle Grade

This week is all about Middle Grade: writing it, indie publishing it, and especially marketing it! As you may know, reaching those elusive middle grade readers is tough, doubly so when you’re indie published. Plus there are giveaways (see below)! 
Here’s the schedule:
MONDAY: 
Warrior Faeries and Math Magick: How Susan Kaye Quinn is using a Virtual Author Visit video and Teacher’s Guide to reach readers with her MG novel, Faery Swap.
TUESDAY: 
Faery, Fairy, Sweet and Scary: a discussion with MG author Kim Batchelor on writing about Faeries in kidlit.
WEDNESDAY: 
Sci Fi for the Middle Grade Set: a post with MG author Dale Pease about writing SF for kids.
THURSDAY: 
Writing Indie MG: a roundup of indie MG authors (Michelle Isenhoff, Elise Stokes, Lois Brown, Mikey Brooks, Ansha Kotyk) about why they write MG and how to reach readers, including their indie MG author Emblazoner’s group catalog.
FRIDAY: 
Marketing Indie Middle Grade – The Hardest Sell – about reaching MG readers as an MG author.

Marketing Indie Middle Grade – The Hardest Sell
by Susan Kaye Quinn

As we’ve been mentioning all week, reaching middle grade readers isn’t easy.
Let’s talk first about hurdles, then about ways to overcome them.
Middle Grade Hurdles: Paper Distribution, Reviews, Discovery

Paper Distribution is the first obvious hurdle. It’s very unlikely you will be on the bookshelves of the B&N, and that is where a lot of middle grade books are discovered. Plus, middle grade readers, even with the proliferation of cheaper-and-cheaper ereaders, still read paper books. A lot of paper books. Add in the price factor (Print On Demand books tend to be more expensive than trad-pub print runs), and it’s tough to get those paper books into kids hands.

Why this is changing: More people are buying print books online (vs. browsing in the bookstore). As bookshelf space continues to shrink, the bookshelf in the bookstore counts less and less as a discovery tool… even for children’s books.

Reviews are always difficult to get, but reviews for middle grade books have been even more important, because major review channels like the School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist  serve as social-proof to parents, teachers, and librarians, that middle grade books are good to pass onto their children. These review channels either exclude indie books (School Library Journal), are indie-unfriendly (Booklist wants paper books months in advance), or charge indie authors a hefty fee to be reviewed in a segregated section that librarians and teachers are much less likely to read (Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus). 

Why this is changing: Goodreads and other online media are reaching these gatekeepers (parents, teachers, librarians), so while the kids themselves are not online, the gatekeepers are. Review services like NetGalley are now open to indie books, providing an end-run around the review channels. I can personally attest that you can use Netgalley to reach teachers and librarians that are otherwise inaccessible. 

Discovery is the constant challenge for all authors everywhere. Adult and young adult authors have an advantage because their audience peruses the online bestseller lists, subscribe to Bookbub, and go on Goodreads to see what their friends are reading. For middle grade, once again, it’s the gatekeepers who are doing these activities, and usually not looking in those places for middle grade books.

Why this is changing: Libraries are more and more open to stocking indie books – much more so than bookstores, in general. The gatekeepers (parents, teachers, librarians) are becoming more aware and more open to indie books – each time they have a positive experience with indie books for themselves, they are more willing to take a chance on those with their students and children. Kids themselves are starting to use services like Goodreads in their schools, reviewing books and adding them to their TBR lists. They are slowly bypassing the gatekeepers to discover books on their own. 

This all points toward indie middle grade slowly finding its way into kids hands.

How to Market Indie Middle Grade

Reaching Teachers and Librarians
School visits put you in direct contact with your audience, but there’s a limit to how much of that you can do. More teachers, librarians and booksellers interested in MG can be found on NetGalley – they may not be interested in reviewing as much as finding good reads to recommend to their patrons or stock in their libraries and classrooms. You can entice these “gatekeepers” even more by creating online materials (teacher’s guides, games, book trailers) that help them bring your book into the classroom.

Teacher’s Guides – With the help of a teacher-friend, I created my own activities, games, and Teacher’s Guide for Faery Swap. Another MG-author-friend hired Blue Slip media to create hers. Either way, it’s important to emphasize the educational component of your story (including linking to Common Core, as that is a requirement for many schools).


I also created a 9 minute Virtual Author Visit video to use in conjunction with the Teacher’s Guide, so that any teacher, anywhere on the planet, could share my message about Math Being Magickal with their students.

Book Trailers – teachers and librarians use them to entice kids to read, so having a book trailer is much more useful to MG authors than to most other authors. Book bloggers also like them, and they’re a good, quick way to introduce readers to your book. Just make sure they’re as exciting to watch as your book is to read (see here about how to make book trailers).



This Faery Swap trailer was made with iMovie, artwork from my book, music from Pond5.com, and an intro from a guy on fiverr who makes them. 
Bookmarks – Teachers and Librarians love to have swag to hand out to kids for prizes, so having high quality bookmarks can be a great way to get your book seen by kids.
Reaching Middle Grade Book Bloggers
They’re not as abundant as bloggers for other genres, but they exist.  Direct queries can work, especially if combined with a blog tour/giveaway. I don’t actually recommend using a blog tour service for MG, because most people who arrange blog tours are not MG-focused – you’re better off arranging your own MG blog tour. For example, the letter I’ve been sending out to book bloggers, querying them about reviewing, has included an offer to join the blog tour:

Faery Swap Blog Tour (March 3rd – 21st): review copies are available, as well as excerpts and a guest post “Warrior Faeries and Math Magick” about how Faery Swap can be used in the classroom to get kids excited about math and science. GIVEAWAY: paperback copies of Faery Swap, $25 Amazon Gift Card, and TWO Magickal Faery Wands. SIGN UP HERE

That link goes to a dedicate Blog Tour page that includes this (feel free to sign up!)
Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card
Signed Paperbacks of Faery Swap
Two Faery Wands

Advertising
Advertising MG works is trickier than other genres. Bookbub has a middle grade list that reaches 170,000+ readers. The ads are pricey, but most people (even MG) seem to make back the money in sales. (Note: Bookbub is difficult to get into and you’ll have to discount your book). Putting a book up for giveaway on Goodreads or LibraryThing is much like posting an ad (for the small price of the book giveaway).


Joining Forces With Other Authors
My indie MG author group, the Emblazoners, is a great resource: we share information on what works (and what doesn’t!), we join forces for things like NetGalley subscriptions and buying ads in MG specific sites like Middle Shelf, and we put together our own catalog of works, marketing jointly to build a list of teachers and librarians interested in MG works.

Get our catalog here.


Patience, Reasonable Expectations
The hard truth is that MG books are a small market. This graph pretty much sums it up:
Children’s books are simply a small wedge of the ebook pie. Most MG authors will tell you they sell as much (or more) in print as they do in ebook, but it’s hard to move large numbers of print copies if you’re not in bookstores (and with POD prices high relative to mass market print runs).
When I published Faery Swap, I hoped to break even on the book… eventually. If you publish indie MG books, I think you’re doing well if you break even. If you can turn it into a money making venture, you’re doing very well. Most other genres are easier to sell – if you want to make a living as a writer, I suggest writing in a genre that sells to pay the bills, then publishing your middle grade because you love it.

Do you have other marketing ideas for MG? Share your knowledge in the comments below and we can all benefit!

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction, and several adult fiction stories. Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says “Author and Rocket Scientist” and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she’s up to.

Faery Swap
Kindle | Nook | Print

Fourteen-year-old Finn is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut. Faery Swap is on tour March 3rd – March 21st with a $25 gift card and magick wand giveaways! Sign up here.

Last day to enter!
Posted in Indie Life, Middle grade, Publicity Promo

Middle Grade Week – Writing Indie Middle Grade

This week is all about Middle Grade: writing it, indie publishing it, and especially marketing it! As you may know, reaching those elusive middle grade readers is tough, doubly so when you’re indie published. Plus there are giveaways (see below)! 
Here’s the schedule:
MONDAY: 
Warrior Faeries and Math Magick: How Susan Kaye Quinn is using a Virtual Author Visit video and Teacher’s Guide to reach readers with her MG novel, Faery Swap.
TUESDAY: 
Faery, Fairy, Sweet and Scary: a discussion with MG author Kim Batchelor on writing about Faeries in kidlit.
WEDNESDAY: 
Sci Fi for the Middle Grade Set: a discussion with MG author Dale Pease about writing SF for kids.
THURSDAY: 
Writing Indie MG: a roundup of indie MG authors (Michelle Isenhoff, Elise Stokes, Lois Brown, Mikey Brooks, Ansha Kotyk) about why they write MG and how to reach readers, including their indie MG author Emblazoner’s group catalog.
FRIDAY: 
Marketing Indie Middle Grade – The Hardest Sell – about reaching MG readers as an MG author.
Writing Indie Middle Grade
with Emblazon authors Michelle Isenhoff, Elise Stokes, Lois Brown, Mikey Brooks, Ansha Kotyk
intro by Susan Kaye Quinn


Introduction by Susan Kaye Quinn
Indie publishing is the new cool thing, but there’s still a genre where reaching readers with indie works is really tough: middle grade. But children’s authors are passionate about what they write, and passionate about reaching their young readers. This passion shows in the Emblazoner’s group of 20 indie MG authors (of which I’m a member). We recently went in on an ad in Middle Shelf magazine, an online mag that spotlights cool reads for kids. Here’s what the ad will look like:

A wise man once said, “Write your name on the heart of a child.” 
We hope to emblazon our stories there.
(I just love it.)
As a group, Emblazoners share information about marketing, help promote each other, and generally support each other as we write our books and try to get them in the hands of middle grade readers. One of the innovative things that the Emblazoners have already done is put their works in a catalog, available for download and sent to teachers and librarians twice a year.
Gorgeous, yes?
You can subscribe here.
Today we have a roundup of five Emblazoners (indie MG authors), talking a bit about why they write middle grade, how they reach readers, and a spotlight on one of their books (most of our authors have several).

When Michelle Isenhoff isn’t writing imaginary adventures, she’s probably off on one. She loves roller coasters, big waves, big dogs, high school football games, old graveyards, and wearing flip-flops all winter. You can find out more at her website.

Why Michelle writes MG: Michelle Isenhoff never outgrew middle grade fiction. She loved the innocence and beauty that characterize classic children’s lit so much that she went into elementary education then tried her hand at her own story. She’s now written eight!
How Michelle reaches her readers: Teachers, librarians, and homeschoolers are on the literary frontlines, getting good books into the hands of kids. That’s why Michelle offers free digital copies of her novels and free lesson plan materials to educators on her website.
The Candle Star (Divided Decade Trilogy, 1) – Free everywhere!
Kindle | Nook | Print 
Runaways hidden in the barn, slave catchers housed in the hotel, and Emily squeezed between two very different loyalties. 

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, and Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant are the first three books in the series. Book Four, Cassidy Jones and the Luminous, will be released in 2014. You can find more at her website.

Why Elise writes MG: A good adventure story absorbed me during those turbulent years (Come on, the angst, self-doubt, and desire to blend in are still very fresh for you, too. :)). I hope to provide the same escape for other young readers, and ignite their imagination while doing so.

How Elise reaches her readers: Carve out characters that are relatable, facing the emotional challenges they are and managing to triumph. A good sense of humor is a must; quirkiness is a plus, too.
Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula (Cassidy Jones Adventures, Book One)
Kindle | Nook | Print 
Discover how fourteen-year-old Cassidy Jones gains superpowers in her first action-packed adventure.


Lois Brown’s  love of all things fantastical began when her five older brothers made her watch television shows such as “Dr. Who” and “Lost in Space.” (Yes, the originals.) Now she likes to write her own stories that spark the imagination. Her first novel, CYCLES, was a top 5 finalist of The Kindle Book Review’s “Best YA Indie Books of 2012.” You can find more at her website.
Why Lois writes MG: Writing middle grade books is like reliving the best part of your childhood–along with some of the worst. It’s a time in life that falls between still being a child but realizing there is more to the world besides your bedroom and elementary school. 

How Lois reaches her readers: Lately, I’ve been reaching out to my middle grade audience during “enrichment times” at middle and junior high schools. In my area, schools have about 30 to 40 minutes per week when the students (who don’t have detentions) get to choose between several educational activities. I arrange my author visits through the school librarians. I sell some paperback books, give out bookmarks to my ebooks, enjoy talking with the teens, and consider my time spent as “undercover” research. 
Cycles (Cycles Series)
Kindle | Nook | Print 
When a pair of misfit teens uncover disturbing experiments conducted in the basement of their neighbor’s house, they become entangled in medical research that could destroy their lives and forever alter the human aging process.

Mikey Brooks is an author/illustrator, freelance cover designer, daddy of three girls, and a dreamer. He’s published several books including the bestselling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures as well as The Dream Keeper Chronicles. You can find more at his website.

Why Mikey writes MG: When I was twelve I fell in love with a middle-grade series and it changed my life. L. Frank Baum opened not only his world of Oz to me, but he planted a seed that later made me the man I am today. I learned from his stories to be brave, to believe in myself, and most importantly—that magic is real. I write middle-grade books because these are the stories I would have loved to read when I was a kid. They are stories that I hope inspire others.
How Mikey reaches his readers: First in order to “reach” middle-grade readers, you need a book that connects with them. The characters have to be real and relatable. Once you have a story that touches their hearts, it only takes time for others to see it.
The Dream Keeper (The Dream Keeper Chronicles, 1)
Kindle | Nook | Print | Audio
Dreams: Dorothy called it Oz, Alice called it Wonderland, but Nightmares call it HOME.

Ansha Kotyk writes upper middle grade and young adult novels that take a reader on a journey to remind them, not only of the importance of imagination, but of the bonds of friends and family. You can find more at her website.
Why Ansha writes MG: I love to write middle grade fiction because the age range for the characters is at a time in life when they are a child working to become an adult. There’s a great deal of tension built on that alone. Another reason is that middle grade readers are full of awesome.
How Ansha reaches her readers: I have found the best way to reach middle grade readers is through school visits.
Gangsterland (Ink Portal Adventure #1)
Kindle | Nook | Print 
Jonathan wishes he could hide from the middle school bully and suddenly finds himself inside his comic book. With a murder to solve and a girl to rescue, can he draw the way out before they both become the next victims?

More Middle Grade Coolness coming up this week! Enter the Giveaway below from all the participating authors!

Posted in For Writers, Middle grade, Writing Tagged with: , ,

Middle Grade Week – SF for the MG Set

This week is all about Middle Grade: writing it, indie publishing it, and especially marketing it! As you may know, reaching those elusive middle grade readers is tough, doubly so when you’re indie published. Plus there are giveaways (see below)! 
Here’s the schedule:
MONDAY: 
Warrior Faeries and Math Magick: How Susan Kaye Quinn is using a Virtual Author Visit video and Teacher’s Guide to reach readers with her MG novel, Faery Swap.
TUESDAY: 
Faery, Fairy, Sweet and Scary: a discussion with MG author Kim Batchelor on writing about Faeries in kidlit.
WEDNESDAY: 
Sci Fi for the Middle Grade Set: a discussion with MG author Dale Pease about writing SF for kids.
THURSDAY: 
Writing Indie MG: a roundup of indie MG authors (Michelle Isenhoff, Elise Stokes, Lois Brown, Mikey Brooks, Ansha Kotyk) about why they write MG and how to reach readers, including their indie MG author Emblazoner’s group catalog.
FRIDAY: 
Marketing Indie Middle Grade – The Hardest Sell – about reaching MG readers as an MG author.
Middle Grade Science Fiction
with Dale Pease and Susan Kaye Quinn
Sue: Dale, what inspired you to write science fiction for the middle grade set?
Dale: I can remember distinctly the transition from “children’s books” to “real” books when I was a kid. I read a lot of books like “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” and the “Hardy Boys.” But it wasn’t until the day I picked up “The Hobbit” for the first time that I truly fell in love with reading. As I look back, I truly believe this was the moment when I could have just as easily stopped being a reader altogether. Kids today, especially boys, are much more likely to quit reading after children’s books become too childish. That’s why I LOVE middle grade books. When done well, they can be a fantastic transition for kids, and a way of turning them into life-long readers.
I’m especially drawn to writing stories to keep boys in love with reading, and I think Science Fiction is a great way to do that. When books about talking animals, and school bullies become a little too simplistic, sci-fi can really grab a kid’s imagination. 
There is a downside, of course. Boys do, in fact, give up on reading around the tween years. So publishers, who are in it to make money like everyone else, don’t market many books to this demographic. And that is where the indie-author can step in. We can write books just as exciting and polished as the big publishers produce, but we don’t have the overhead, so we can fill in the gaps.
The Noah Zarc trilogy is one such series of books. Although girls (and adults) have loved it, I primarily wrote it to be a story boys would feel a connection with. It is meant to help create life-long readers, and maybe, just maybe, keep boys from turning away from reading. And one day, like me, a boy can say they’re so glad they never did.
Sue: Dale, your point about indie authors filling in the gaps is so important, I want to say it again: 

Dale: “Indie authors create books just as exciting and polished as the big publishers produce, but we don’t have the overhead, so we can fill in the gaps.”

I’m a firm believer that the way you hook kids into reading and keep them reading, is making sure that you’re always putting books in their hands that they will enjoy. This is a constant challenge for parents, because it’s not just a one-time job. And kids are all different, and their tastes change as they grow. So having a variety of books available is incredibly key to keeping kids engaged. My own middle grade science fiction – my first novel I wrote intending to publish it – was turned down by publishers precisely because it wasn’t broad enough to appeal to everyone. But it was never intended to do that. And it’s just the kind of book that will appeal to certain kinds of kids, including those reluctant boy readers. Someday, I hope to get around to revising and publishing that one as well, now that I’ve dipped into the MG pool with my fantasy-with-science-elements book Faery Swap.

Kids also love series, and Dale has a full trilogy out with his Noah Zarc series, with gorgeous interior illustrations, drawn by Dale himself – lots of SF for MG kids to love!

 

D. Robert Pease is the author of the Noah Zarc series, the upcoming fantasy, SHADOW SWARM, and the upcoming Joey Cola series. He lives in the grey-skied world of Northeast Ohio. You can find out more at his website
Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble (Noah Zarc Book 1) 
Kindle | iTunes | Nook | Print | Audio
In a future where Earth has been wiped clean of all life, and humanity has moved on to other worlds, twelve-year-old Noah Zarc and his family have embarked on a quest, in a time-traveling spaceship called the ARC, to retrieve two of every animal and repopulate a dead world.

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction, and several adult fiction stories. Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says “Author and Rocket Scientist” and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she’s up to.

Faery Swap
Kindle | Nook | Print

Fourteen-year-old Finn is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut. Faery Swap is on tour March 3rd – March 21st with a $25 gift card and magick wand giveaways! Sign up here.


More Middle Grade Coolness coming up this week! Enter the Giveaway below from all the participating authors!

Posted in Middle grade Tagged with: ,

Middle Grade Week – Faery Fairy Sweet and Scary

This week is all about Middle Grade: writing it, indie publishing it, and especially marketing it! As you may know, reaching those elusive middle grade readers is tough, doubly so when you’re indie published. Plus there are giveaways (see below)! 
Here’s the schedule:
MONDAY: 
Warrior Faeries and Math Magick: How Susan Kaye Quinn is using a Virtual Author Visit video and Teacher’s Guide to reach readers with her MG novel, Faery Swap.
TUESDAY: 
Faery, Fairy, Sweet and Scary: a discussion with MG author Kim Batchelor on writing about Faeries in kidlit.
WEDNESDAY: 
Sci Fi for the Middle Grade Set: a discussion with MG author Dale Pease about writing SF for kids.
THURSDAY: 
Writing Indie MG: a roundup of indie MG authors (Michelle Isenhoff, Elise Stokes, Lois Brown, Mikey Brooks, Ansha Kotyk) about why they write MG and how to reach readers, including their indie MG author Emblazoner’s group catalog.
FRIDAY: 
Marketing Indie Middle Grade – The Hardest Sell – about reaching MG readers as an MG author.
Faery, Fairy, Sweet and Scary
with Susan Kaye Quinn and Kim Batchelor
Most of us are introduced to Tinker Bell and fairies as cute but contentious little creatures that, if we are lucky, we might find in the bushes outside our window. But in the Irish and Scottish myths that gave birth to these creatures, they were not always sweet or cute. The original faerie (or fairie, if you will) stories came from myths about the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of people in Irish Mythology gifted with supernatural powers. Fairies were known as aos sí, aes sídhe, or simply the sidhe, and some—like the banshee or bean sí—were in mythical reality faeries who wail near those close to death. (And hence the term “screaming like a banshee”.) Yikes! Imagining (and reimagining) those faeries has been happening in literature ever since. Today, Susan Kaye Quinn and Kim Batchelor chat about the kind of faeries they have in their middle grade fantasies, and where the inspiration for those stories came from.
Sue: Kim, you have the classic Tinkerbell fairy in your Peter Pan re-imagining, The Island of Lost Children. But first, tell me a bit about your (not yet released) book, The Mists of Na Crainn, and how you imagined the fairies in that story.
Kim: Several years ago, while driving home after an evening of teaching, I learned a few things about fairies that I never knew. Throughout the journey on a long stretch of highway, a Celtic music station played a series of eerie songs in recognition of the night before Halloween. Faeries kidnap mothers and their babies and take them to caves where they are held captive. Listen. When it’s completely quiet, you can hear their songs calling out to you to rescue them. “You’re part fairy, aren’t you?” Somewhere on the drive, that line came into my mind and gave birth to the story that would later become my book, The Mists of Na Crainn (not yet in print but hopefully soon). Imagine learning that you were part of a race of people prone to stealing women and babies, among other bad practices, and you never knew it. That became Lyric Doherty’s story, and in the book I introduced her to her classmate, Andrew, whose mother, along with his brother, also went missing, never to be found. I loved writing about a mythical place coexisting alongside of the world as we know it.
Sue, your book, Faery Swap, takes those fairy myths to a completely different level. In your story, this mythology is clearly situated in our world, with tension, conflict, and adventure suitable for the middle grade reader. The two boys at the center of the story and conflict each find themselves located on an unfamiliar side of the rift between the Otherworld and our world. Where did the inspiration for your story come from?

Sue: I was also driving in the car, oddly enough! (That’s where I seem to find many of my ideas!) I wanted to write a middle grade fantasy, but with science elements. With my background in science and engineering, I always like to bring some of that into my stories – and I love the intersection of the mystical and the scientific because, to me, science is magical! Not only because today’s mysteries are tomorrow’s science, but because the idea that we can understand how the universe works by applying our minds to it is wondrous to me!

Kim: I love how you combine science and magik. I work in clinical research, so science is important to me, too. In The Mists of Na Crainn , “pixies” have taken over all the leadership positions in the Village Na Crainn and banned the teaching of all but the most rote and boring information. In pursuit of what they’re not being taught, Andrew introduces Lyric and her friend Saoirse to the Arbor Fair, where forbidden knowledge on science and math combine with the fantastical.

Sue: I love the forbidden science! Nice.

Kim: How do your characters combine the two?

Sue: In Faery Swap, my warrior faeries use knowledge (specifically mathematics and science) to enhance their faery powers – they command the elements but also a dimensional magick just by virtue of their birth as faeries. But their powers are increased when they acquire new knowledge about how the universe functions. In the story, the faeries travel from their Otherworld to Earth, swapping places with humans to steal their knowledge and bring it back to the Otherworld. Our knowledge is literally their power… and I love the message that sends to kids. (Along with a rollicking good fish-out-of-water adventure for both my faery and human protagonists!) Kim, what kind of powers do your faeries have, and how does that affect their interactions with humans?
Kim: Our knowledge is their power. That’s literally fantastic. In The Mists of Na Crainn, Fairy have the ability to “soar” in the wind, melt into and move through the mists, use potions, and through a strong connection with nature have the ability to manipulate it, for ill or good.  The anti-science “blunt thinkers” not only affect village life, they have a connection to the evil forces in the Otherworld, where Lyric searches for her mother.
In Island of the Lost Children, Belatresse the Fairy can fly, shrink down in size (she’s slightly smaller than most children) to fit into a pocket uncomfortably, and, of course, influences child archers to shoot unsuspecting 12-year-old girls out of the sky. Human children know it’s best to stay out of her way, or can easily divert her attention with a couple of packets of granulated sugar.
Sue: Ok, all those powers sound like tremendous fun! And I love that the anti-science people are “blunt thinkers!” Thanks for chatting faery (and fairy) lore with me today!



Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction, and several adult fiction stories. Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says “Author and Rocket Scientist” and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she’s up to.

Faery Swap
Kindle | Nook | Print

Fourteen-year-old Finn is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut. Faery Swap is on tour March 3rd – March 21st with a $25 gift card and magick wand giveaways! Sign up here.

Kim Batchelor writes for children and adulst. She writes fiction short and long, real and fantastical, foreign and domestic. Her first published book is The Island Of Lost Children, a re-imagining of Peter and Wendy. You can find Kim online at her website.


The Island of Lost Children

Kindle | Print

The Island of Lost Children: The story of Peter and Wendy set in modern times.

More Middle Grade Coolness coming up this week! Enter the Giveaway below from all the participating authors!

Posted in Middle grade Tagged with: , ,

Middle Grade Week- Warrior Faeries and Math Magick

This week is all about Middle Grade: writing it, indie publishing it, and especially marketing it! As you may know, reaching those elusive middle grade readers is tough, doubly so when you’re indie published. Plus there are giveaways (see below)! 
Here’s the schedule:
MONDAY: 
Warrior Faeries and Math Magick: How Susan Kaye Quinn is using a Virtual Author Visit video and Teacher’s Guide to reach readers with her MG novel, Faery Swap.
TUESDAY: 
Faery, Fairy, Sweet and Scary: a discussion with MG author Kim Batchelor on writing about Faeries in kidlit.
WEDNESDAY: 
Sci Fi for the Middle Grade Set: a post with MG author Dale Pease about writing SF for kids.
THURSDAY: 
Writing Indie MG: a roundup of indie MG authors (Michelle Isenhoff, Elise Stokes, Lois Brown, Mikey Brooks, Ansha Kotyk) about why they write MG and how to reach readers, including their indie MG author Emblazoner’s group catalog.
FRIDAY: 
Marketing Indie Middle Grade – The Hardest Sell – about reaching MG readers as an MG author.

Warrior Faeries and Math Magick
by Susan Kaye Quinn
Middle Grade Is Tough
Publishing middle grade novels isn’t easy. It’s hard along the traditionally published route unless you happen to be writing what publishers are looking for. I know this first-hand from querying my first middle grade novel (a space opera) only to be told it was great, but could I please rewrite it to be more like A Wrinkle in Time? (note: my book was nothing like A Wrinkle in Time) I naively thought there weren’t MG SF novels like mine on the shelf because no one had written them! Unfortunately, things aren’t any easier on the self-publishing side: kids themselves don’t generally discover their own books on Amazon, and reaching the teachers, librarians, and parents who recommend books to kids can be difficult when mainstream children’s reviewers still close their doors to indie published authors.
Taking the Leap
But times are changing. More kids have ereaders and are discovering they can shop from their devices. More teachers, librarians and parents are discovering indie works that they themselves enjoy and aren’t as dependent on the mainstream children’s reviewers to find quality works. And indie MG authors are getting savvy about how to reach their readers. So I finally took a deep breath and launched my first middle grade title, Faery Swap.
Middle Grade Fantasy
Warrior faeries can be very stubborn.
Especially when they possess your body.
Fourteen-year-old Finn is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut.

Knowledge is Power when Math is Magickal
In Faery Swapwarrior faeries steal mathematical knowledge from humans to enhance their magickal faery powers. This message embedded in the book – that knowledge is power and math is magick – is one I’m passionate about and hope will reach middle grade readers. I knew I could do that with author visits to the classroom, but there’s only so much time in the day. So I created a Virtual Author Visit, so any teacher, anywhere on the planet, could share this message with their students.
This dynamic video brings Author and Rocket Scientist Susan Kaye Quinn (Ph.D. Engineering) into your classroom, sharing her background in science and engineering and talking about her book, Faery Swap, where warrior faeries steal mathematical knowledge from humans to enhance their magickal faery powers. Then she shows how humans use math in the real world to do amazing things… even without magick to help them.

With the help of teacher-friend Risa Cohen, I designed a Teacher’s Guide to go with the video. These grade-level-specific activities follow Common Core Math standards and are designed to follow-up what students learn in the video, using the Faery Swap story to reveal the power of math and science in everyday modern life.
PART 1 – TEACHER’S GUIDE
Discussion Questions
Cause and Effect
Character Analysis

PART 2 – KNOWLEDGE SEEKERS GAME

A card-based game where students break into groups representing different Faery Houses and compete to gain points by convincing a Human (teacher) to give them Knowledge Cards. The 17 equations used to create the easy-to-print Knowledge Cards are based on the 17 Equations That Changed The World and give information about what each equation does, who invented it, and how it is used in modern everyday life.
Making it Simple
All of that provides teachers with what they need to bring the message (knowledge is power) into the classroom. But how to entice teachers to consider taking a peek at these materials? And how to tempt students to read the book? I met with the principal of my kids’ school to ask for help. He was enthused, but wanted simpler materials to get things started. (a one page handout for teachers, a two-minute trailer for kids).
So, naturally, I hopped right on it!
2 minute trailer

One Page Summary for Teachers

What Teachers Can Do
If you’re a teacher (or you know one), I hope you’ll consider using the author visit video and Teacher’s Guide to bring the magick of math into your classroom. You can play the trailer to get kids excited about the book (for example, my kids’ school is putting it on the morning announcements). I’m happy to send you FREE bookmarks for your class. You can share the one page summary with your colleagues to see if they’re interested in doing a unit with the book. The videos and range of activities means you can spend as little as two minutes in the classroom (book trailer) or design a whole Common-Core based unit around it. The book comes in print and ebook – if your classroom has access to ereaders, I would be happy to give you ecopies for FREE. Or I can get you classroom discounts on the books.  Please email me to make arrangements: susankayequinn (at) comcast (dot) net

What Librarians Can Do
If you’re a school (or public) librarian, the trailer can be used as an introduction to the book, should you choose to stock it in your library. I would also be happy to send you FREE bookmarks to pass out as prizes to your students. 

What Parents Can Do
Recommend the author visit and activities to your favorite teacher! Or you could just show your kids the trailer and see if they’re interested. If you tell them there’s a Knowledge Seekers card game to go with it, that might intrigue the gamers among them. All the activities (and even the author visit video) are designed to work both inside and outside the classroom, for homeschoolers or for parents looking for supplemental educational activities for a cold Saturday afternoon or long summer day. 

Reaching Middle Grade Readers
This is just one prong of a multi-approach marketing plan for reaching middle grade readers. I’ll be talking more about the other aspects of middle grade marketing at the end of the week, with Marketing Indie Middle Grade – The Hardest Sell.

This tagline for Faery Swap works for indie authors as well as kids…
Always keep learning… just in case!


Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction, and several adult fiction stories. Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says “Author and Rocket Scientist” and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she’s up to.

Faery Swap
Kindle | Nook | Print

Faery Swap is on tour March 3rd – March 21st with a $25 gift card and magick wand giveaways! Sign up here.

Posted in Middle grade, New Release Tagged with: ,

Available Now

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! Gangsterland 1920's mystery GANGSTERLAND When Jonathan Brooks moves in with his dad, he's sure his life has hit bottom. Until the local bully causes him to discover an unusual skill: Jonathan can disappear into a book. The book requires him to solve a crime, rescue the girl and save himself...all before the final page.      

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Apocalypse Junction- Ink Portal Adventure #2 Can Molly and her friends win the geocache competition to rescue her sister before the last page of Apocalypse Junction?

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