Texas Book Festival & NCTE

Hi all! I have a couple of big events coming up this November. I hope to see you at one or the other! But first, the winner of my Rafflecopter giveaway (drumroll, please……):
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If you plan to attend the Texas Book Festival (in Austin, Texas), here’s my schedule:

On Saturday, November 5, my panel is SUPERNATURAL STORYTELLERS. Location: Capitol Extension Room E1.026 from 12:30 PM – 1:15 PM

Robert Beatty
Janet Fox
D.J. MacHale

Moderator: Cynthia Leitich Smith

A magical library, a haunted castle, and a mysterious forest. Otherworldly forces are at work this hour. Don’t miss supernatural storytellers D.J. MacHale, Janet Fox and Robert Beatty as they take us on journeys beyond this realm!

Booksigning, immediately after the panel: Childrens Book Sales & Signing TentIMG_1267

And at NCTE, in Atlanta, Georgia, I’m on two panels.

First, from 2:30-3:45 on Friday, November 18, in Room A311:

Advocating for Your Student Writers: Bringing the Author/Editor Relationship to the Classroom

Attend this roundtable session to discover how an editor/author relationship can be used by teachers to advocate for student writers. You will hear from four of the author/editor pairs learning insights, methods, techniques, tips, and strategies to improve writing instruction and guide student writers in your classroom.

Co-Chairs: Jillian Heise, literacy consultant, Custom Education Solutions Jenny Seiler, Woodworth Middle School, Fond du Lac, WI

Author/Editor Pairs: Janet Fox and Kendra Levin, Penguin Young Readers
Sara Zarr and Jordan Brown, HarperCollins Children’s Books
Jordan Sonnenblick and David Levithan, Scholastic
Randi Pink and Liz Szabla, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Brian Conaghan and Cindy Loh, Bloomsbury
Sherri Winston and Allison Moore, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
SJ Kincaid and Justin Chanda, Simon & Schuster
Ronald L. Smith and Lynne Polvino, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

After that panel, I’ll be signing in the Penguin Booth (412) from 4:00-5:00 PMFullSizeRender (7)

Second, from 8:00-9:15 AM on Saturday, November 19, in Room B311:

We See Their Faces: How Historical Fiction Advocates for Empathy, Diversity, and Social Change

Empathy toward others and advocacy for diversity is more important than ever in schools. This teacher/author panel examines historical fiction characters as role models for today’s children and provides participants with ways to respond to injustice and obstacles through themed units, character studies, and social action projects.

Chair: Holly Mueller, Kings Local Schools, Kings Mills, OH
Presenters: Holly Mueller, Kings Local Schools, Kings Mills, OH
Margaret Simon, Iberia Parish Gifted Program, LA
Respondents: Kirby Larson, Scholastic
Janet Fox, author, Bozeman, MT (Penguin Young Readers)
Rita Williams-Garcia, HarperCollins
Augusta Scattergood, Scholastic
Linda Sue Park, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Please come and say hello if you will be at either of these events!

Things That Go Bump In The Night

” ‘Hainted, it is, with grindings and screeches…’ page 23, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE.

Ghost. Phantom, apparition, spook. Commonly thought to be the spirit of a dead person appearing in lifelike form.

The Scots, it turns out, are very into ghosts. The word wraith first appears in 18th century Scottish romantic literature; the word bogey first appears in Scottish poet John Mayne’s Hallowe’en (1780). Robert Burns read Mayne’s poem and wrote his own version; according to Burns, Halloween is “thought to be a night when witches, devils, and other mischief-making beings are all abroad on their baneful midnight errands”. Here’s just one stanza from Burns’ (very long) poem:


English churchyard

He wistl’d up Lord Lennox’ March
To keep his courage cherry;
Altho’ his hair began to arch,
He was sae fley’d an’ eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
An’ then a grane an’ gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
An’ tumbled wi’ a wintle
Out-owre that night.

And the modern English translation:

He whistled up Lord Lennox’ march
To keep his courage cheery;
Although his hair began to stand on end,
He was so scared and eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
And then a grown and grunting;
He over his shoulder gave a peek,
And tumbled with a stagger
Out over that night.


Window in Edinburgh

Halloween – more properly “Hallowe’en” or “All Hallows Eve” – is the night before All Saints’ Day, which was designated by Pope Gregory in the 8th century as the day to revere saints and martyrs. Halloween probably originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was a celebration of the end of summer and the beginning of the long dark days of winter, and associated with death. On Samhain, also celebrated on the first of November, the Celts believed that the line between life and death became blurred, and one could commune with the dead, which included fortune-telling by those spirits. As part of the communion – or perhaps to hide from wandering spirits – Samhain festival-goers would dress in costumes of animal skins and masks.


Edinburgh tombstone

All Saints’ Day could be translated from “All-hallowmas” or the Middle English “Alholowmesse”. The night before, “All-hallows Eve” became “Hallows-even” or “Hallowe’en.” Our practice of trick-or-treating probably comes from the English tradition of giving “soul cakes” to poor beggars who in turn would promise to pray for the souls of the donors. “Going a-souling” was eventually the province of children who would go door-to-door for food and money. The tradition may also have its roots in the practice of leaving food out for spirits, to encourage their benevolence.

Regardless of your feelings about spooks, spirits, or ghosts, you might want to give your modern-day trick-or-treaters a truly soul-feeding gift. In addition to candy, our “Trick-or-Reaters” website offers spooky fun book-related gifts. Just stuff one of these print-outs in their goody bags and trick-or-treaters can visit the website and peruse free offerings from the frightful to delightful.

tor_2flyer_daelynebellHappy Halloween, and remember – we ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

There’s a reference to All Hallow’s Eve in THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE. Can you find it?

And don’t forget – this giveaway ends at midnight on Halloween night! Just in time for ghosts to return to their place of rest.


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Creepy Cryptids!

This week I have a special treat for all you tricksters – and a special guest. Christine Hayes, author of MOTHMAN’S CURSE, has written us a tantalizing guest post – and she’s attached a great giveaway of her own! Here’s Christine:

There’s something irresistible about a mystery, and cryptids may be one of the most tantalizing mysteries of all. Cryptozoology is the study of creatures that haven’t been proven to exist. The most famous of these include Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. People have tried for decades to secure proof of these fascinating figures, but most of the photos that surface turn out to be fakes.christinehayesauthorpic

So are they real? Some believe that cryptids are afraid of humans—just as we’re afraid of monsters. Or perhaps they’ve learned to stay in hiding in order to survive. But fifty years ago, one creature broke with tradition and started appearing all over town in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

It began in November of 1966. Two couples were driving down a dark country road when something began chasing them. They described the being as shaped like a man, with wings and glowing red eyes. The story made the papers the next day. The creature came to be known as Mothman.

Enthusiasts flocked to Point Pleasant, hoping for a glimpse of Mothman. More than a hundred sightings were reported over the next 13 months. And then, disaster struck.mothmans-curse-final-cover cryptid

The Silver Bridge, which connected Kanauga, Ohio and Point Pleasant, collapsed during rush hour traffic. Forty-six people were killed. In the years to come, legend grew that the tragedy and the Mothman sightings were connected. Did Mothman cause the collapse? Was he trying to warn the town? Either way, his reputation as an omen of disaster has endured.

Many cryptids are not well-known outside their regional haunts, and Mothman is no exception. So when I began writing MOTHMAN’S CURSE, I had a lot of room to play—creating a backstory and widening his sphere of influence. I wanted to explore what would happen if Mothman appeared in other towns, where other disasters loomed. And I loved the idea of two brave kids facing down this huge, frightening creature and saving their town in the process.

October is the perfect month to explore spooky folklore and urban legends. Dusk creeps in a little earlier each day; bare branches scrape at the sky like grasping fingers. And Halloween beckons, a promise of imagination untamed. I recommend curling up with a good book, a warm pair of socks, and an apple cider donut or two.

But should you decide to go cryptid hunting, be sure to take your camera.

Now, here’s the grand giveaway, courtesy of Christine!

31 DAYS OF SCARES AND SHARES: A giveaway to celebrate the release of MOTHMAN’S CURSE in paperback!

Weekdays from Sept. 19 to October 31, I’ll post a link to a spooky article, book, or item of interest. If you retweet on Twitter or share a Facebook or Instagram post, you earn an entry into the final drawing (up to three entries per day, one for each share)! Use hashtag #31scaresandshares.


(5) Signed paperback with mini Mothman plushie
(1) Signed hardback PLUS $100 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

Winners will be announced Tuesday, November 1.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinehayesbooks/

Twitter: @christinenhayes

Instagram: @mothmanscurse

Enter Christine’s giveaway if you dare!!

And don’t forget……………..the Rafflecopter giveaway of THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE is still on. Find out more about that giveaway here.


Haunted Castles of Scotland

What is it about castles, especially the ancient castles of the British Isles? I love them, and so, it seems, do many of you. Here’s my guess as to why they are fascinating: they’re big and elaborate; they’re old and so have plenty of interesting history; and many of them are apparently haunted.

As I researched haunted Scottish castles I discovered a couple of interesting things. First, many (many) are haunted by someone described as a “Green Lady” (“Gray Ladies” are also a presence, but many more green – maybe for reasons I’ll come to.) Second, many are also associated with children. Naturally, both of these bear on THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE.



At Ethie Castle, near Arbroath, guests have heard the cries of a child at night, accompanied by the sound of a wheeled toy being pulled across the floor. The Green Lady of Dunstaffnage teases and plays with the living children of the castle. After a female skeleton was unearthed behind a wall in Fyvie, a Green Lady began to haunt the castle; she might be the late Dame Lillian Drummond, who was starved to death in 1601 by her husband (nice guy.) At Crathes Castle near Aberdeen, a Green Lady often appears near one of the fireplaces. She picks up an infant, and then they vanish together.Edinburgh Castle

Sometimes Green Ladies are thought to be Gruagach, who are common household spirits often associated with children, and not associated with anything evil. The typical Gruagach is a brownie, the household helper said to inhabit every home (read more about them here.)

Green Lady ghosts are only seen in parts of the United Kingdom, and nowhere else. They are described as slender young women in flowing green gowns with long golden hair. In some cases, they appear as protectors by local farmers, who cite stories of Green Ladies herding their animals to safety during storms or border raids. Many times they are associated with water. Legend has it that a Green Lady will arrive at a croft dripping wet during a storm and ask to be admitted, and when they are admitted they become the protector of that croft. The Dunstaffnage Green Lady and the Green Lady of Fyvie have also been thought to be Glaistig – a being that could be benign or a vengeful ghost. Glaistigs also have a water association.Dundas Castle

The water association of these spirits is not surprising given Scotland’s many lochs, rivers, burns, and rills, the frequent rains, and the ocean on all sides. I wonder whether the green in Green Lady is a reference to water, and maybe also to the watery aspect of a ghost.

I’ve experienced a couple of haunted moments myself – one when many years ago I visited southern England and stayed in a hotel that was once a small castle in Devonshire, and was associated with my mother’s family. My mother and I shared a room and were convinced we were visited during the night. Perhaps it was a Green Lady, for she was very benign, and was visiting a mother and her child – maybe even her distant relatives!

Have you ever had any ghostly experiences, or visited any haunted castles?

Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, below!castles

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Spooktacular October Giveaway!

October is one of my favorite months. I love the fall colors, the crisp air, the anticipation of holidays. And I’ve always been a fan of the “spooktacular” aspects of Halloween.

spooktacular giveaway items

Giveaway items: book; necklace; “keep calm” pin; charm stickers; temporary tattoo; bookmarks.

So, this October, as I’m celebrating a little more than 6 months of THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, I’m running a spooktacular and creeptastic giveaway – just in time for Halloween! You’ll find the entry form below.

Each week I’ll also be highlighting some of the fun, but also spooky details about THE CHARMED CHILDREN. We’ll visit creepy castles, find out more about ghosts and hauntings, and check out Scottish lore and legends. I had a lot of fun researching these details as I wrote the novel. And I’m working on a sequel with even more spooky elements, so you’ll hear a bit about that, too.

I hope you’ll follow along and enter the contest!

Here’s the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Christina Diaz Gonzalez & RETURN FIRE

I met Christina Diaz Gonzalez the year that both of our debuts launched, 2010. Hers, THE RED UMBRELLA, is a stunning historical novel that I adored. Now she’s working in new territory, with books that blend fantasy with elements of mysteries and thrillers. Her latest, RETURN FIRE, is out now!

Please give readers a brief synopsis of your sequel to MOVING TARGET (which I’m just finishing now – it’s a can’t-put-down thrill ride set in Italy), the newly released RETURN FIRE .return-fire

Cassie Arroyo must set out to once again find the spear of destiny, but this time it’s not enough just to find it: Cassie realizes that when she used the spear in MOVING TARGET, she set the world down a path that could eventually lead to serious trouble. Now she and Asher must stop the terrible chain of events that she accidentally set into motion. Their search for the spear takes them on a breathless adventure across Italy, leading her to a forest outside Rome, a Caravaggio painting full of clues, and a villa by the sea. There, in the ultimate showdown, Cassie has to decide who she can truly trust. And when the chance to use the spear presents itself again, she has to figure out if she can even trust herself.

You are a master craftsman of historical fiction for young readers (I loved THE RED UMBRELLA!) What draws you to the genre?

I love reading about the existence of little-known, historical events (or legendary artifacts such as the spear of destiny) when they are woven into exciting adventures. History seems to come to life! So it makes sense that I write what I, as a reader, enjoy.author_highres

What’s next on your novel-writing plate?

Next up for me is…. the seventh book in the series Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts! I am so very excited to be a part of this New York Times best-selling series and can’t wait to wreak havoc on some of the characters.

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think writers sometimes approach the art of writing with too much concern about what a book is supposed to be. I believe you should write from your heart and not your head. Chances are that if you love your story, then others will too.

If you had a super power, it would be……………………

to be able to understand/speak every language, that way I could travel the world and feel like a local wherever I go.


Social Media For Kidlit Writers

Every so often, I like to revisit the topic of what social media we all “should” be using. (Here’s my caveat: there are no hard and fast rules; things change quickly in this realm; do what feels right for you.) Social media serves several functions:

  1. you connect there with friends and colleagues
  2. you connect there with readers
  3. you learn about what’s happening in the industry
  4. you can do some promotion (but be warned – only 10-20% of your social media time should be spent on promotion.)fb-logo-lg

I interact with enough publishing industry types to know that publishers do want authors to be involved in some form of social media. Here’s a short list of my current recommendations, including the first two that aren’t strictly “social”.

  • Email. Essential. I still have a few friends who use email accounts that they share with spouses. Really? If you are a serious author, you must have your own account. Must. And the closer it is to your real name, the better. “Pookywoo@gmail” just isn’t professional.
  • Website. Essential. A clean, easy to read, mobile-friendly (*essential element*) website is crucial. It’s your home, your landing page, and where everyone in the world looks first for information about you and your books. I recommend WordPress.org (not WordPress.com), as it’s easy to manage once it’s been set up, although you may want professional help in the setup. I’ve used Websy Daisy to build my newest website and highly recommend them.
  • Blog. Optional. WordPress has built-in blogging capabilities. I used to use Blogger, a dedicated blogging platform. I like blogging as another form of writing, but it’s not necessary to do so.
  • Facebook. Essential. While young readers are not on Facebook as much as they are on other platforms, Facebook is a huge presence in the social media world with millions of daily hits. You should at least have a personal page, where you can interact with colleagues and follow pages or groups of interest. A separate author page is optional, but can be another way you reach readers who are not necessarily your friends.
  • Twitter. Necessary, maybe even essential. So much information is conveyed so quickly on Twitter that I recommend it. Unlike Facebook, tweets disappear very fast, so I use the two in different ways. (Example: if you have a book signing coming up, broadcast on Facebook days before and on Twitter hours before or even moments before.)
  • Pinterest. Optional. I like Pinterest because I use it to “park” visuals that are relevant to my books. This has been especially useful to me for my historical novels, because I can post, for example, maps that only I have access to, and direct readers to that information.
  • Litsy. Optional. A new reader/book lover platform that is an app. I haven’t used it much but I like what I see, as a way to share book love in a growing community.
  • Goodreads. Optional. The granddaddy of book lover platforms. I use it, but not much, as a way to connect with readers. They have decent author support and information. But be warned: snarky reviews are common. I rarely, if ever, read my Goodreads reviews.
  • Linkdin. Optional, maybe even unnecessary. I have yet to see why this platform is useful to self-employed writers – unless you are searching for a job.
  • Tumblr. Optional. This is a micro-blogging platform, and unless you are really into that, it’s fun but not necessary. However, younger people love it, which might mean it’s a great place to connect, especially with YA readers.
  • Instagram. Optional but may be becoming necessary fast. Instagram allows you to post photos with short captions. It’s fun and easy to use, but more importantly, younger readers like it.
  • Snapchat. Optional. Confession: I have yet to use Snapchat. However, it is the fastest-growing social media app in the world, with millions of users. More like a messaging service, content disappears fast. Plus it’s hard to use if you’re older than, say, 20 (this according to Slate.) So, yeah.

That’s what I have for now. For today. For, um, 9AM this morning. Don’t feel bad if social media seems like a stream of consciousness, because that’s exactly what it is.

Gaming The Library

A library to the uninitiated (i.e., young students everywhere) can be a bit confusing. Fortunately, we’ve got a game for that!library game

For librarians, teachers, parents, readers, book groups……the clever Kirsten Cappy of Curious City has created an Event Kit with a fun and interactive game that encourages students to find puzzle pieces hidden in different books (books that should be familiar to students ages 10 to 14) throughout the library, and then come together with their pieces to solve an overarching mystery in a final collaborative exercise.hidden in the library

I’m delighted, because the source of the puzzle and mystery is THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE – although you don’t have to have read the book in order to play the game.

Librarians, booksellers, and book clubs can use the Event Kit not only to engage readers with the mysterious literary and historical elements of THE CHARMED CHILDREN, but also to engage readers in using the library or bookstore as a resource. School librarians may find the kit to be a great way to introduce readers to the layout and search tools of the library at the beginning of the term.2016-07-07 16.47.16

On this page, under “Resources”, on the website www.rookskillcastle.com, you’ll find free downloadable instructions and reproducible images for use in the game.

We’d love to have feedback if you do play the game. And coming in October…a creeptastic and spooktacular giveaway of cool library-fun swag!

Here’s to libraries!

Louisiana Libraries Need Us

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Page Through The Parks event that Liz Garton Scanlon, Barb Rosenstock, and I ran this month. Congratulations to all the winners of our books and especially to Mandi, the winner of our teacher/librarian giveaway. We love kids, books, the great outdoors, and our National Parks, so this was truly a fun thing for us. And also huge thanks to Nerdy Book Club, Jennifer Reinhardt of Picture Book Builders, and Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy. Here’s to our beautiful parks, and to getting kids outside and reading!!

But now on to something really important. Nature isn’t always kind.

Many, many schools and libraries in Louisiana lost all their books in the recent flooding. As a book person, this breaks my heart, because rebuilding those libraries will tLouisianaake years of dedicated work and tons of money. And without that dedication some kids who need books the most will not have access to them.

The amazing Kate Messner has put together a blog post that she is keeping current with information if you want to help. You can donate money or books, but please be aware of age restrictions and other needs. Don’t send books that a school can’t use, like YA novels to an elementary. And don’t send used books, especially paperbacks. Louisiana

But let’s all try to help. I’m sending copies of CHARMED CHILDREN and other books this week, to schools that can use them.

Cheers, and here’s to Kate!IMG_1856

Page Through The Parks: Tour’s End!

In this last Page Through The Parks post, a reminder that we have some giveaways. I’m giving away 3 copies of my YA novel FAITHFUL here.faithful cover

Liz Garton Scanlon is giving away 3 copies of her picture book IN THE CANYON here,INTHECANYONcover

and Barb Rosenstock is giving away 3 copies of her picture book THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA here.cttsamica

And we have an awesome Rafflecopter giveaway, that you can see at the bottom of the post.

But we also want to encourage kids to read about, if not experience, our National Parks, so here are some of our favorite reads, which are also included in this book list. Please add your own favorites in the comments!

Picture Books:

REDWOODS, Jason Chin, Square Fish, 2015. An ordinary subway trip is transformed when a young boy happens upon a book about redwood forests.51r-B--hefL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_

ALL ABOARD! NATIONAL PARKS: A WILDLIFE PRIMER, Haily Meyers & Kevin Meyers, Gibbs Smith, 2016. A train journey through some of America’s National Parks.51COAY9LfWL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_

Middle Grade:

A WEIRD AND WILD BEAUTY: THE STORY OF YELLOWSTONE, THE WORLD’S FIRST NATIONAL PARK, Erin Peabody, Sky Pony Press 2016. Peabody tells the story of one of the first scientific expeditions into the vast Western wilderness surrounding the Yellowstone River.517b8k20MCL._SX366_BO1,204,203,200_

MY YOSEMITE: A GUIDE FOR YOUNG ADVENTURERS, Mike Graf & Annette Filice (illus.), Yosemite Conservancy, 2012. In eight chapters covering everything from “Yosemite’s Rich Past” to “Endless Things to See and Do,” Mike Graf calls on the park’s most knowledgeable insiders — biologists, rangers, even the park’s resident entertainer — to share their most exciting stories and best advice.61TLqAJ9g9L._SX388_BO1,204,203,200_

Young Adult:

WOLVES, BOYS, AND OTHER THINGS THAT MIGHT KILL ME, Kristen Chandler, Speak, 2011. Chandler’s debut novel is a classic coming-of-age tale set in Montana shortly after wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park.51iizgMibRL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

Here’s our teacher and librarian giveaway. And we hope you’ve enjoyed our salute to our National Parks and the books written about them!

The items in our giveaway: a copy of IN THE CANYON, signed by both author and illustrator; a piece of Canyon-inspired art by Ashley Wolff; a beautiful chain-stitch embroidered Sequoia patch; a hardcover copy of THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA signed by Barb; a grow your own Sequoia kit from “Tree in a Box”; a framed 13 x 19 poster of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt camping in Yosemite; a 500-piece Yosemite jigsaw puzzle; a signed copy of FAITHFUL; a Yellowstone Old Faithful magnet; a Yellowstone coffee mug; and to hold all that stuff, a Yellowstone tote bag. Enter now!
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