Monday, December 23, 2013

Have a great holiday week!

I hope you spend this week with a great book, good food, and the people you love...

Happy holidays, and I'll see you in 2014!


Friday, December 20, 2013

The Wardrobe (my 2013 Advent Ghosts story contribution)

A short introduction to this post: my friend Loren Eaton runs an annual micro-flash challenge called Advent Ghosts on his blog, where he invites writers to post a spooky story of exactly 100 words. Fun, right?

Here's my (sort of) kid-friendly play on the theme--a bit of a creepy nod to a children's classic. Hope you enjoy!

The Wardrobe

The previous homeowners had left the wardrobe behind. Mom wasn’t happy.

“That monstrosity takes up half Emma’s room!”

But Emma loved the wardrobe. The floral carvings in the wood. The metal key in the lock even worked. Emma opened the door. Crawled inside.

Smiled as she closed the wardrobe.

Giggled when she saw the secret door in the back.

Held her breath when she turned the knob. Behind the door was no magical world. Only blackness darker than nightmares. Then a big hand pulled her wrist.


Until Emma was the darkness. And the secret door blew shut. 


Monday, December 9, 2013

Marvelous MG Monday book review: Fallout by Todd Strasser

From the publisher:

In the summer of 1962, the possibility of nuclear war is all anyone talks about. But Scott’s dad is the only one in the neighborhood who actually prepares for the worst. As the neighbors scoff, he builds a bomb shelter to hold his family and stocks it with just enough supplies to keep the four of them alive for two critical weeks. In the middle of the night in late October, when the unthinkable happens, those same neighbors force their way into the shelter before Scott’s dad can shut the door. With not enough room, not enough food, and not enough air, life inside the shelter is filthy, physically draining, and emotionally fraught. But even worse is the question of what will -- and won’t -- remain when the door is opened again. Internationally best-selling author Todd Strasser has written his most impressive and personal novel to date, ruthlessly yet sensitively exploring the terrifying what-ifs of one of the most explosive moments in human history.

My thoughts:

Fallout is very different from Strasser's Thrillogy novels, which is what I'd read before from this author. I was impressed by how he was able to bring the 1960s time period to life in a way that made me forget this happened more than fifty years ago. The writing has that same thriller feel as his other work, and the characters ring very true. 

I recommend Fallout as a classroom read to jump start conversation about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and what might have been. 

How I found out about this book:

I can't even remember where (Publishers Weekly maybe?), but I read an online interview with the author that had me intrigued. I'm a fan of Todd Strasser's other YA novels, so this quickly made its way onto my book list.


Fallout is designated by the publisher for ages ten-and-up, so this is definitely an older MG read. I would argue it would fit best in the younger YA category.

For more MMGM reviews, visit Shannon Messenger's blog!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The power of the paperback: reports from the road (plus, a #giveaway)

I've been a bit quiet around here lately--apologies for that. After the release of Double Vision: Code Name 711, I spent a lot of time doing school visits, book signings, and telling everyone who would listen about the book, and how cool George Washington is.

It's been fun. I'm happy to say that the world has a few more Linc readers. And I learned lots of new things while on the road, like that should always bring extra books, a sweater (that airconditioning can be crankin', y'all), and a lot of bookmarks.

One surprise was how fast the paperback of the first book sold! And it makes sense: you want to start a series at the beginning, plus paperbacks are easy on the wallet. I had a lot of people buy Double Vision as a stockingstuffer (how cool, huh?).

Which made me think it might be fun to do one last giveaway for the year. I like to play Santa...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

U.S. only, please, because of postage.

Happy reading, all!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

YA/MG movie review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

From Fandango:

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) - a competition that could change Panem forever.

My thoughts:

It had been a while since I read the book, so some of the story came back to me as I watched the movie. There were only minor differences as far as I could tell... And I loved it! Great action, good archery stuff from Katniss--I forgot to be critical, to tell you the truth. I liked that Effie got a bit of depth in this one.

The ending was very much a to-be-continued. I wonder if the movie works for people who didn't see the first one, or have read the book(s). I'll be interested to hear what others think of it.

An aside:

This is one of those book series (and movie series, too) that works very well for both the YA and MG crowd. I can't put my finger on exactly why... Anyone have ideas?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Visit your independent bookstore, meet a local author (an #IndieThursday shout-out)

I'm not a big fan of all this holiday shopping talk before the turkey has been cooked. Not to sound like Scrooge, but how much shopping do we need to do anyway?

But I am a big fan of Small Business Saturday, especially with this new idea of authors, guest-selling books at various independent bookstores. How cool is that? You can find out if this is going on near you, and who's doing the selling at IndieBound.

Author friend Sarah Frances Hardy (who wrote and illustrated Puzzled by Pink) will be at Square Books in Oxford, MS, in case you're local. She's the nicest person you'll ever meet.

Let's rock Small Business Saturday, all... It's on Nov. 30th this year.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday review: The Girl From Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson

From the publisher:

The last year has been rougher than sandpaper for Abbey Force and her dad. He’s in a coma after his accident a year back, wherein he was framed for a terrible crime he didn’t commit. And their home, Reward Plantation, an idyllic spot on the eastern coast of South Carolina, had to be sold to pay off his debt to society. Abbey is stuck living with her uncle Charlie, who, even in the few hours a day when he’s sober, ain’t exactly your ideal parental role model.

But it turns out the new family that moved into Abbey’s old house has a daughter named Bee. And she’s just as curious about all the No Trespassing signs and holes being dug out by Felony Bay, in the corner of what used to be Abbey’s home. It appears someone’s been poking around a mystery that dates all the way back to the Civil War—and it just might be the same someone who framed Abbey’s dad.

My thoughts:

This is the kind of book you have to sit back and allow to let you sweep away. Although I'm a bit of an impatient reader, the narrative sucked me in by the end of the first chapter. Abbey has such a unique voice, and I quickly felt like I was right there with her in South Carolina. The setting is really strong in such a good way. This book should be on every Southern (library) bookshelf, in my opinion: it shows the rich history, good and bad, and captures setting uniquely. Nice mystery, too.

Where I found out about this book:

Author J.E. Thompson have the same agent :-) It's a small world, y'all...

For more MMGM reviews, go to Shannon Messenger's blog....!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween! And remember: black cats are always good luck

It's the truth.

Here's our black kitty, napping before the busy evening. Have a great one, all...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CODE NAME 711 Blog Tour Update--with updated list of #giveaways

I hope you're all able to follow along with the blog tour--I've had lots of fun with these interviews...

And then there are still some giveaways open! I've listed the full tour below, with the end date to each of the giveaways. I owe a big thanks to Harper Children's for graciously donating a set of both books to the winners.

Double Vision: Code Name 711 Blog Tour Stops

Oct 7: Librarian extraordinaire Ms. Yingling reviews Double Vision: Code Name 711

Oct. 7: Criminal Element is giving away a Top-Secret Spy Kit for kids, including the first and second book in the Double Vision series. **giveaway closed**

Oct. 8Double Vision is MG Ninja’s book of the week. There’s an interview and a review!

Oct 8: Check out this great review of Code Name 711 at Our Thoughts Precisely...

Oct. 15Launch day! Look for an interview at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis plus another GIVEAWAY of books… Also, virtual cake and lemonade is on me. **giveaway closed**

Oct. 16, 17Buried in Books reviews Code Name 711, plus another GIVEAWAY **giveaway closed**

Oct. 18Unleashing Readers—a review of Code Name 711 and interview and GIVEAWAY**giveaway closed**

Oct. 21This Kid Reviews Books—cool kid Erik gives his verdict on Linc’s second adventure, and another GIVEAWAY **giveaway closed**

Oct. 23Word Spelunking—an interview and GIVEAWAY **ends Nov 1**

Oct. 25: The ever amazing in-the-know Pragmatic Mom reviews Code Name 711, plus another GIVEAWAY **ends Nov 9**

Oct. 28: An interview at Caroline Starr Rose’s blog feature,Curriculum Connections—find out how Code Name 711 can be used in the classroom! Plus, a GIVEAWAY**ends Oct. 31**

Oct 29: Another amazing librarian, YA Booknerd, reviews Code Name 711... Plus, a GIVEAWAY **ends Nov. 4**

Oct. 30: A review at Kids Mystery Book Reviews! And an interview on Nov. 4...

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This is one of those fun things that some blogs participate in, and I thought I'd share my reading adventures today.

For some reason, I got to thinking about The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, so I picked it up at my library to re-read. It's still good, I'm glad to say. Below is my kitten Chloe, ready for me to snuggle up with the book. I usually read a kids book at the same time; my MG read is Rick Riordan's House of Hades. Will let you know how that one stacks up.

Next up, I'll read the Criminal Element short story collection The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble. There are lots of good authors in there, so I'm looking forward to it. Also, I plan to read Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.

What are you reading???

P.S. If you know a teacher, pass on this link to Caroline Starr Rose's blog, where I talk about using Code Name 711 with Revolutionary War Curriculum. There's a double giveaway, too...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Gulf Coast friends: hope to see you in Gulfport this weekend!

PragmaticMom I'm continuing my blog tour today at Pragmatic Mom's blog: there's an interview where I give tips on pacing for writers, and I explain how the president in Double Vision: Code Name 711 got to be a woman. Stop by, and enter to win books and spy gadgets! Spy stuff is cool.

And I'm signing in Gulfport at the B&N this Saturday. Come say howdy if you're there... I'm bringing stickers, and love to meet new people.

Happy weekend, y'all!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday teen book review: Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider #10)

From the publisher: 

Alex Rider is actually the end of the story.
Yassen Gregorovich was the beginning.
Alex Rider’s life changed forever with one bullet and the pull of a trigger.

It was the cold-blooded contract killer Yassen Gregorovich who changed Alex Rider's life. Aged just fourteen, Alex was thrust into the chaos of international espionage—the world’s only teenage spy. The two have been mortal enemies since.

Yet, as a boy, Yassen was mentored by someone very much like Alex. What turned him into such a ruthless assassin? In some ways, Alex and Yassen are mirror images of each other. One chose to be a hero. The other chose evil.

This is Yassen’s story. A journey down a darkened path.

My thoughts:

This was an excellent book. Although Alex Rider wasn't much more than a footnote in this one, it was great (and unusual) to watch the birth of an assassin. I think I held my breath for the first third of the book, as Yassen tries to escape his doomed Russian village.

Things slowed a bit later in the book as he was held captive, but overall, the story held my interest, big time. I had a bit of an issue with a spider plot point in the end--I won't spoil the story for you, but if you catch what I'm talking about, let me know. Still, loved this, and think I'll re-read it at some point, it was that well-written. As an aside, I'm glad Horowitz took the risk to tell Yassen's story. It's a great stand-alone novel.

For parents, teachers, and librarians: there's some underage drinking, in case you're considering this for your middle-grade readers--though in context of Russian culture, it fit the story.

Where I found out about this book:

I'm an Anthony Horowitz fan, so when I heard this book was coming out, I pre-ordered it. Glad I did.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Some music to kick off your week: Imagine Dragons

This song came on the radio, and the whole family liked it (which is unusual). So I thought I'd share.

Oh, and don't forget to follow the Code Name 711 blog tour! There are lots of book giveaways; today, the amazing Erik at This Kid Reviews Books gives his review of Linc's second adventure...

 Hope you have an awesome week!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Birthday, birthday, birthday...

It's my birthday today! Also, it's my book birthday for Code Name 711, and Double Vision launches in paperback today. That's, like, a triple birthday.

This calls for cake...

I had my fun over the weekend at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Wik conference in Birmingham (there were other people providing food and cake, pretty awesome). I got inspired, learned more stuff about the seriousness of Alabama college football (dude...), and caught up with good friends. This picture was taken by Jo Kittinger (I forgot to take pics, once again...)

So this is a great week for me. And the fun doesn't end: the Code Name 711 Blog Tour is in full swing--check out the tour stops below! There will be virtual cake, interviews, reviews, and BOOK GIVEAWAYS (those must go in all-caps, of course).

Have a great day, YA Sleutheri. The cake is on me...

Double Vision: Code Name 711 Blog Tour Stops

Oct 7: Librarian extraordinaire Ms. Yingling reviews Double Vision: Code Name 711

Oct. 7: Criminal Element is giving away a Top-Secret Spy Kit for kids, including the first and second book in the Double Vision series.

Oct. 8Double Vision is MG Ninja’s book of the week. There’s an interview and a review!

Oct 8: Check out this great review of Code Name 711 at Our Thoughts Precisely...

Oct. 15Launch day! Look for an interview at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis plus another GIVEAWAY of books… Also, virtual cake and lemonade is on me.

Oct. 16, 17Buried in Books reviews Double Vision, plus another GIVEAWAY:

Oct. 18Unleashing Readers—a review of Code Name 711 and interview and GIVEAWAY

Oct. 21This Kid Reviews Books—cool kid Erik gives his verdict on Linc’s second adventure, and another GIVEAWAY

Oct. 23Word Spelunking—an interview and GIVEAWAY

Oct. 25: The ever amazing in-the-know Pragmatic Mom reviews Code Name 711, plus another GIVEAWAY:

Oct. 28: An interview at Caroline Starr Rose’s blog feature,Curriculum Connections—find out how Code Name 711 can be used in the classroom! Plus, a GIVEAWAY

Oct 29: Another amazing librarian, YA Booknerd, reviews Code Name 711.. Plus, a GIVEAWAY

Oct. 30: A review at Kids Mystery Book Reviews! And an interview on Nov. 4...

Friday, October 11, 2013

A little plug for the Cybils

While I'm on the road to Birmingham, I thought I would make a little plug for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards--better known as the Cybils. For those of you who read MG and YA, you can nominate your favorite title (it's super-easy) right here.

This is no plug for my books, by the way :-) I just see a lot of great MG and YA titles go unnoticed, so this is the time to share your love for your favorite book! I know I'll be making some suggestions...

You have until Oct. 15, so hurry with those nominations...

And happy weekend, all!

Hope to see you in Birmingham!

I'm off to Alabama today for the Southern Breeze conference. It'll be great to see some old friends, and make a few new ones.

So if you see this little Honda Element with me rocking out in the driver's seat (probably to some Mumford&Sons or Aretha Franklin...), be sure to wave!

Have a great weekend, all...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Announcing the Code Name 711 blog tour (with lots of giveaways...)

I'm so excited that Double Vision: Code Name 711 is coming out next week...!

To share my excitement, I called on a bunch of blogger friends to help me get the word out about Linc's second adventure. And the kind people at Harper Children's have graciously donated a stack of copies of both Double Vision (Linc's first adventure), and the new Double Vision: Code Name 711 for a double-powered giveaway.

Cool, right?

So check out these blogs, and follow me as I make stops to talk about Linc, Culper spies, and how cool George Washington is (he really is, you know). And as always: thank you all, my faithful readers, for helping me make some noise. It's appreciated more than you know.

Double Vision: Code Name 711 Blog Tour Stops

Oct 7: Librarian extraordinaire Ms. Yingling reviews Double Vision: Code Name 711

Oct. 7: Criminal Element is giving away a Top-Secret Spy Kit for kids, including the first and second book in the Double Vision series.

Oct. 8: Double Vision is MG Ninja’s book of the week. There’s an interview and a review!

Oct 8: Check out this great review of Code Name 711 at Our Thoughts Precisely...

Oct. 15: Launch day! Look for an interview at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis plus another GIVEAWAY of books… Also, virtual cake and lemonade is on me.

Oct. 16, 17: Buried in Books reviews Code Name 711, plus another GIVEAWAY:

Oct. 18: Unleashing Readers—a review of Code Name 711 and interview and GIVEAWAY

Oct. 21: This Kid Reviews Books—cool kid Erik gives his verdict on Linc’s second adventure, and another GIVEAWAY

Oct. 23: Word Spelunking—an interview and GIVEAWAY

Oct. 25: The ever amazing in-the-know Pragmatic Mom reviews Code Name 711, plus another GIVEAWAY:

Oct. 28: An interview at Caroline Starr Rose’s blog feature,Curriculum Connections—find out how Code Name 711 can be used in the classroom! Plus, a GIVEAWAY

Oct 29: Another amazing librarian, YA Booknerd, reviews Code Name 711... Plus, a GIVEAWAY

Oct. 30: A review at Kids Mystery Book Reviews! And an interview on Nov. 4...

And in case you missed it, here's the book trailer:


Monday, October 7, 2013

What's home for you? (or: 93 Million Miles video)

It's just about that time of year where I get into my trusted little Honda Element (affectionately know as Kermit, as he's green and reliable) and hit the road for book launch related events. This stuff is fun and exciting. Around the South for this tour, there are new and old friends to meet, which is my favorite thing to do.

But it does make me think of home, and what that means. Because I won't be able to see a lot of friends--my cool pals in Colorado, for one, because there's a giant Texas to cross (it's big, y'all...). I'll miss seeing friends in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle--you get the idea. The cool part about the nomad life and the internetz is how quickly you make friends all over, but it's hard to catch up with people in person. And I haven't even considered my many pals and family (!) across the border and pond.

This video made me think of home, and how you carry it with you, sort of. If I can get all philosophical here on your Monday...

How about you? Is there a home you miss, and/or friends you wish didn't live so far away?


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where you can find me this Fall for the Code Name 711 book tour

I'm so excited about this month's release of Double Vision: Code Name 711...! Those fans who've been patiently waiting since they read the first book can finally read Linc's next adventure.

And I'm hitting the road to tell everyone all about how cool Linc is. For Fall, I'm mostly roaming around the South, but in April/May, I'll be in the Washington, D.C. area, where Code Name 711 is set. If you want me to come visit your school or venue, shoot me an email!

Here's where you can find me for Fall 2013:

OCT. 11: SCBWI Wik conference—signing Double Vision (Birmingham, AL) 

OCT. 17 : Mississippi Library Association annual conference—hosting presentation on reaching MG/YA reluctant readers (Biloxi, MS)

OCT. 26: Signing: B&N (Gulfport, MS) 

NOV. 2: Signing: Louisiana Book Festival (Baton Rouge, LA) See me at the SCBWI booth from 2-3 p.m.!

NOV. 9: Signing: Bay Books (Bay St. Louis, MS) 5-7 p.m. 

NOV. 15/16: Signing: Christmas Jubilee sponsored by B&N (Mobile, AL) 

Hope to see you there! 

For those of you not in my neck of the woods, stick around for the Code Name 711 blog tour! There will be interviews, reviews, and giveaways.

Stay tuned, more news on that in the next few days...

Monday, September 30, 2013

MMGM review: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

From the publisher:

Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

My thoughts:

I was a bit worried this was one of those children's books written to please the librarians, but I was oh-so wrong. This book was fun, appealing to both boys and girls, which isn't easy to pull off. It manages to weave a fast-paced story with little book and library references--fun for adults as well as kids. 

I wanted to be part of this library lock-in so much, and I think kids and adults alike will feel the same way. Chris Grabenstein hit it out of the park with Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Where I found out about this book: 

I'm a huge Chris Grabenstein fan, so there was no way I would've missed this one.

For more MMGM reviews, go to Shannon Messenger's blog....!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Mississippi Man's Tastes Get Him Into Trouble

I haven't written flash fiction in a long time--and it used to be all I did! Weird to get back to it... But Patti Abbott posted this challenge, and I had to join:
This time the prompt comes from a headline from 1913 in a Detroit paper: MICHIGAN MAN'S TASTES GET HIM INTO TROUBLE. I have no idea what the story was about because the print is so tiny. And I don't want to know, nor should you. Make it your own story. Feel free to change Michigan to whatever state or place you want. In fact, I suggest it. Maybe the places will factor in heavily. So the title of every story will be the same except for the place.The locales can make it zing.
My story plays in Mississippi--I have to set a story here at least once. Even though the place is still very much a mystery to me, I get what locals love: the coast, the mild-ish winter, nature, the boating. Oh, and I got to swim with the bat rays at Horn Island once, which is pretty amazing. So I had to work that in there.

Anyway, here's my (kid-friendly) story...


It wasn’t a good day for fishing. Junior knew this before he even made it to the pier, so he took a detour. He walked the adjacent boating docks, like he always did with Daddy. Well, until last April’s bad Sunday anyway. Daddy didn’t like to go fishing much anymore. Not even on Sunday mornings, when Momma was busy with church.

The water was too flat, the sun too harsh, the air too thick with Mississippi humidity. Had to get out in the Gulf a few miles for good fishing, past the barrier islands, where the water was fresh and clear. If you lived on the Mississippi coast, you needed to have a boat. Everyone knew that to be true. Especially Daddy.
Junior walked the docks, past the boats that bobbed gently in the water. It was busy for a Sunday, lots of folk buzzing about, getting ready for next week’s boat show. There were sales people in suits, tanned men with slicked back hair and too-white teeth, and boaters minding their vessels. Junior clutched his small cooler, the one with his name in washed-out Sharpie letters on the bottom. He was sorry now that he spent his last few dollars on bait. Nothing was going to bite on a day like today.
Daddy would’ve known it too. Junior always hoped he’d run into Daddy on the docks during these Sunday morning trips.
Glad I caught ya’ll here, son. Gonna be a tough day for angling, but we’ll get ‘em.
And then they’d walk to the adjoining pier. Catch ten fish, like the one time last year, or nothing—Junior really didn’t care. He just liked listening to Daddy talk about the water, the fish, the boat he would buy. They’d take it out to Horn Island where the beaches were white and the water was clear. You could swim with the bat rays, Daddy said. Here in Gulfport, the water was so murky, you couldn’t see your line past an inch once it got into the water. Hard to know what you were catching. And nobody in their right mind went swimming here.
No more dreaming of a boat or Horn Island trips now. Not after it had turned so sour.
Junior just about reached the end of the dock, but saw a cluster of adults blocking his way. He was about to turn around and head to the pier, when he smelled it. The cigar smoke—sweet, acrid. Only a whiff, but Junior knew it was him.
Tucker Williams. Or whatever the guy’s name really was.
“Got the cash, baby.” That was his voice—Tucker for sure.
Junior clutched his cooler and fishing pole. Felt the sweat drip down the side of his face as he turned. And he quickly walked back the way he came, trying to forget that voice and the cigar smoke. But the smell got stuck up his nose.
Junior stopped. Could practically feel the soles of his worn flip-flops melt on the hot wood planks of the dock.
All our savings! Junior could hear Momma yell at Daddy like it was yesterday. You done got yourself swindled. That boat wasn’t even his! Didn’t you think to check the papers?
Tucker Williams.

Of course Daddy reported the theft to the police—after he got arrested on the boat not an hour later. All their life savings for a vessel that belonged to a couple in Florida with no interest in selling. The papers that this Tucker fellow had given Daddy were fake. And Daddy had handed him all their money, in a small cooler like Junior carried today. Tucker had told Daddy to bring it like that. Safer that way.

The swindler was gone. Happened all the time, police said once Daddy explained what happened. Not much to do, not with a cash deal on the docks. Murky business. That’s what the policeman called it.

Junior turned back around. Felt the fire lit under him, like a hot Mississippi July day. He made his way past the crowd, to the far end of the dock. There was that smell again. Stronger this time, lingering in the humid air.

The low morning sun’s glare made it hard to see, but it was Tucker Williams alright. He sat on a bench, away from all the boats. Talking on the phone, smoking one of those thin cigars. Tucker shot him a glance, but looked away. To him, Junior was just another kid with a fishing pole.

He doesn’t even remember me. Junior bit his cheek.

“I’m done here now, sweetie. Comin’ your way right quick—we can have a late breakfast at that place you like.” There was a cooler, sitting on the bench next to Tucker.

Junior forced himself to walk over. He sat down next to the guy, pretending to get his line ready for fishing.

Tucker turned away a bit, lowered his voice. “Or lunch. Whatever you want, hon.” He reached behind him, touching the cooler with his fingertips. “It’s on me.” Then Tucker dropped his arm back to his side.

Junior took his chance. He switched the coolers quickly.

Got up. Disappeared into the crowd.

Junior’s feet flip-flopped fast as he hurried away. He found his favorite secluded fishing spot on the adjoining pier before opening the cooler. Wads of hundreds, rolled neatly. Junior couldn’t tell how much was there, but it had to be a lot. At least as much as Daddy lost. Maybe more.

He smiled, and imagined Tucker Williams finding that stinky bait inside the cooler. Turning it over, reading the faded black letters on the bottom, knowing he’d been double-crossed. By a kid.

Junior stayed in his hiding spot, even threw out a line without the bait. There was a breeze now. The air was lighter.

Turned out it was a good day for fishing after all.     

    ***You can find links to more stories here at Patti's blog.***

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The last ARC giveaway--version 2.0

**This giveaway has ended... I drew the winner from my hat: Akossiwa Ketoglo! Congrats. For those of you who didn't win, check in next month for lots of Double Vision: Code Name 711 giveaways in conjunction with my blog tour. Stay tuned...**

Okay, so the Rafflecopter doohickey doesn't work so well... My dinosaur status must be rubbing off on the blog. So I'm rebooting the giveaway of the last ARC of Double Vision: Code Name 711, Linc's second adventure, out in October.

We're going old-school. I'll take all your entries that the Rafflecopter did record, plus your comments are entries. Then I write your names on a piece of paper, and put them in a hat. No glitches possible there.

U.S. only (sorry, international friends), because postage beyond out borders is wicked expensive.

I'll run the giveaway until Sunday. If you want to enter, just say howdy below! Or tell me what your favorite snack is; I'm always looking to expand my food repertoire...

I'll draw and announce the winner Sunday evening...

Monday, September 23, 2013

MMGM review: Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

It was Talk Like a Pirate Day last Thursday, so I just had to read Treasure Hunters. Don't worry, I'm not going to talk like a pirate (it's harder than it seems...).

From the publisher:

The Kidd siblings have grown up diving down to shipwrecks and traveling the world, helping their famous parents recover everything from swords to gold doubloons from the bottom of the ocean. But after their parents disappear n the job, the kids are suddenly thrust into the biggest treasure hunt of their lives. They'll have to work together to defeat dangerous pirates and dodge the hot pursuit of an evil treasure hunting rival, all while following cryptic clues to unravel the mystery of what really happened to their parents--and find out if they're still alive. 

My thoughts:

Treasure Hunters is a book written for kids, not adults--and that is something James Patterson is known for. The premise is a bit of a stretch, but only for us adults. I can see kids, especially those into all things pirate and treasure hunting, loving this book. The pacing is brisk, the writing tight, and there's plenty of character voice to make the story come to life. 

A great book for your very reluctant middle-grade readers: it's fun, has illustrations, lots of dialogue--the pages turn quickly. 

How I found out about this book:

There's been a good amount of marketing for Treasure Hunters, so it was hard to miss. 

For more MMGM reviews, go to Shannon Messenger's blog....

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Last ARC giveaway...

*** This giveaway has ended... I drew the winner from my hat: Akossiwa Ketoglo! Congrats :-) For those of you who didn't win, check in next month for lots of Double Vision giveaways in conjunction with my blog tour. Stay tuned...***

That sounds like I have an ark or something, but really, it's an advanced reader copy of Double Vision: Code Name 711. And since it needs a good home, I'm giving it away...

You can enter at the Rafflecopter thingy below--U.S. only, unfortunately, since I don't have any clout with the USPS...

And if you're feeling extra lucky, you can also enter the Goodreads giveaway that the kind people at Harper are hosting.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sometimes, all you need is cats

This is Xena (big girl) and little Chloe, keeping an eye on the house from their favorite spot by the window. You can't tell from the picture, but Xena barely tolerates her kitten sidekick. And Chloe thinks Xena walks on water...

Great character study, watching my cats :-)

Happy weekend, all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Teen book review: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

From the publisher:

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

My thoughts:

This was very much a girl teen book, something I don't normally go for, but it had me hooked. The girl character Willa is quirky and fun, and deals with your typical teen peer pressure stuff to do with status/money--and I could imagine myself making some of the same mistakes at that age. Great voice, strong setting, fast-paced narrative... I read this book in just two sittings, I was so into it.

The second in the series comes out early 2014, looking forward.

Extra points: 

My teen girl loved it, and she's a critical reader.

How I found out about this book:

The author, Elisa Ludwig, is a blog mate of mine over at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis. Shame on me for taking this long to discover this series.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Do you ever miss the characters of your favorite TV show or book?

My love has been off putting miles on his combat boots at the other side of the world. Me, I take that as an opportunity to get caught up on my British crime shows. They're my favorite, and he doesn't like them so much...

And with the joys of streaming, I can catch whole seasons at a time (well, at least over the course of a few weeks). I watched Wallander, Inpector Lewis, Sherlock (it's a long deployment, don't judge me).

I got into this crime show called Vera, too. The downside to this binge-watching of TV? Sometimes, you get tired of a show, but other times, it becomes a tad addictive. I was all into Vera, but then there were only two seasons. And I missed her, even though she's the most unlikable of characters. Weird, huh?

I have the same problem with some book characters, like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch. I just don't want these people (who totally aren't real, I do know this) to disappear. But it wasn't until I missed my Vera that I understood why my kid readers get so frustrated when they hear they have to wait for the next book. I get it now. You miss this imaginary person, and the imaginary world they live in.

How about you? Do you have TV show or book characters you're that invested in?

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's a Mississippi Monday, so let's listen to some BB King

It's hotter than a Thanksgiving oven here in Mississippi right now, so hot that I don't cook much, and say 'Have mercy' every time I go outside. Watching the floods in Colorado, I know I shouldn't complain, but...

Have mercy.

This kind of weather makes me hum BB King tunes, so here he is. Be cool, all. And keep your socks dry, Colorado...

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's Roald Dahl Day! This calls for a party...

I've been so busy with final edits on Linc's third adventure that I was only half paying attention to the news this week... Apologies.

But I did catch that it's Roald Dahl Day today! How cool is that... I'm such a fan of his books. I found out that there's even a Roald Dahl museum. Alas, it's in the U.K., so we'll keep that visit on the ol' bucket list.

Happy weekend, y'all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review: The Code Busters Club #1 by Penny Warner

From the Publisher:

Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. may be really different, but they all share one thing in common: they love playing around with codes. In fact, they love codes so much, they have their own private club, with a super-secret hideout and passwords that change every single day.

When Cody and Quinn notice what could be a code on the window of a nearby house, the one owned by their strange neighbor, the guy they call Skeleton Man, the club gets to work. And it is a cry for help!

Now the Code Busters are on the case—and nothing will stop them from solving the mystery and finding the secret treasure that seems to be the cause of it all!

My thoughts:

Oh, this book was such fun! Perfect for your younger middle-grade reader, ages 7-11, I would say, and equally appealing for boys and girls. The writing is tight, the characters fun, the mystery solid. I'll be checking out the rest of the series. I saw that the second book won the Agatha this year--no surprise there.

Where I found out about this book:

One of my favorite blogs, YA Book Nerd, reviewed it not too long ago. Since there are codes in the book, I thought I should check it out. Glad I did.

For more MMGM reviews, go to Shannon Messenger's blog....

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday around the web: Crime and Science radio, how to start a book club for kids, and kitten food crisis

It's September! I thought this month would never get here... Here in southern Mississippi, each fall month gets us closer to humanly tolerable temps. Currently we're battling the nineties with umptienthousand percent humidity, but we're getting closer to November, when we can go outside and breathe again... :-)

But enough about the weather already. This week on the Twitterz, it was a short week with a hodge-podge of news, like that there will be a new Agatha Christie novel (not sure I'm cool with that, but I'll keep an open mind). For my fellow crime writers: Crime and Science Radio will be hosting webcasts on various crimey topics, starting Saturday with Hollywood Storytelling: Science Fact or Make Believe? This looks like a promising resource...

If you're interested in starting a book club for kids, read my author pal Caroline Starr Rose's blog for a step-by-step guide. Great advice there.

And for some Friday fun, here's a picture of kitten ChuChu, trying to get my attention when I'm editing, but the food bowl is also empty:

Happy weekend, all. Stay frosty...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goodreads giveaway of Code Name 711 ARCs!

It's just six weeks until Linc's second adventure, Double Vision: Code Name 711, comes out! Which is why I've been a bit quiet here on the blog for the past week: I've been planning launch events and other promotional stuff.

Stay tuned for more cool news on that over the next few weeks...

But for those of you who like to read a book before it hits the shelves: the awesome people at Harper Children's are running a Goodreads giveaway of advanced copies of Double Vision: Code Name 711. So enter if you feel lucky...

Thanks for the support, as always, YA Sleutheri. It's nice to have good friends in my corner.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SCBWI Wik blog tour interview: Lou Anders, Editorial Director at Pyr Books

If you've stopped by this blog before, you probably know that I'm a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, a cool organization that always has something going on.

The Southern Breeze chapter will have their annual Wik conference in October, and asked me to be part of a blog tour, highlighting the great workshops you can attend. I was in Birmingham last year, and can attest that it's a ton of fun, and inspiring too. Take it from me: you want to be there.

In case you needed more incentive, I'm honored to give you a quick interview with Lou Anders, Editorial Director at Pyr Books. He'll be teaching a workshop, and has a resume that makes your jaw drop.

About Lou Anders:

Lou Anders is the Hugo Award winning editorial director of the SF&F imprint Pyr books, a Chesley Award winning Art Director, and the editor of nine anthologies. He has also been nominated for six additional Hugo Awards, four additional Chesley Awards, as well as the PKD, Locus, Shirley Jackson, and three World Fantasy Awards. 

His first novel, Frostborn, book one in a three-book middle grade fantasy adventure series called Thrones and Bones, will be published in August 2014 by Random House's Crown Books for Young Readers. Visit him online at and on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @LouAnders. 

Q: Your workshop is called Scrip Tips--could you tell us a bit more about it?

Everyone who has tried their hand at writing has a folder full of openings that go nowhere. Many promising ideas bog down in their second half. I'll discuss how a unique approach to structuring story in Hollywood screenplays can be repurposed to help writers struggling with outlining their novel. 

Using examples from film, I'll demonstrate how character and structure work together to provide pace and reveal theme. Learn simple techniques that have been demonstrated to help authors bring out the most in their story and maximize their emotional connection with their readers. Whether an author is a plotter or a panser, an understanding of these simple underlying principals in screenwriting can offer valuable insights for all novelists.

Q: You've just sold your middle-grade book series to Crown--congrats! What's it about?

The series is called Thrones and Bones, inspired by Norse myth and folklore. Frostborn, the first book, introduces Karn, who would rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones, and Thianna, half-frost giant, half-human, who team up when they are chased by wyverns, a dead Viking sea captain, and a 1200-year-old dragon.
Publication is slated for 2014.

Thanks to Lou Anders for his time! 

He's just one member of the impressive faculty for the 2013 Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference, taking place October 12 in Birmingham, AL. 

WIK is a great place to get inspired, get tips on your craft, and learn about the business of children’s publishing. It’s also an opportunity to meet editors, agents, and an incredibly supportive network of working writers and artists. 

To find out more or to register, visit

You can meet other members of the conference faculty by following the WIK blog tour:

Aug. 28            
Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s YA Sleuth
Aug. 29            
Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Once Upon a Science Book
Author Robyn Hood Black at Donny Seagraves’ blog
Aug. 30            
MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s G.A.S.
Aug. 31            
Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s Media Mint Publishing blog
Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s Just Write
Sept. 3             
Author Nancy Raines Day at Laurel Snyder’s blog
Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s Random Thoughts from the Creative Path
Sept. 4             
Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s The Painted Possum
Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s A Writer’s Blog
Sept. 5             
Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s Writing with Cheryl
Sept. 6  
Agent Jennifer Rofe at Cathy Hall’s blog          
Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at Cyrus Webb Presents