Recently in So Many Good Books Category

Prisoner of Ice and Snow

PrisonerIceSnow.jpgPrisoner of Ice and Snow (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2017) by Ruth Lauren is a compelling fantasy that I found difficult to put down.

Thirteen-year-old Valor wants to go to prison. It's the only way she can save her twin sister, Sasha. So Valor does the only thing she can think of--shoots at the royal prince during a parade. She misses, but is sentenced to life in prison for threatening a royal's life. Once in prison, however, she can't find her sister. How can Valor and her sister escape if she can't even find Sasha?

The book is a Junior Library Guild selection.

This is Ruth Lauren's debut book. You can read about her on her website and see the UK cover, which I actually like better than the US cover. Her next book, Seeker of the Crown, comes out in 2018.

Marchini-Agent-Photo-cropped.jpeg
Tracy Marchini
is a Literary Agent, freelance editor and children's author. Prior to joining BookEnds Literary, she worked as a Communications Manager, an agents' assistant at Curtis Brown, a children's book reviewer, a newspaper correspondent, and a freelance copywriter for Scholastic Book Clubs.

As an author, her debut picture book, CHICKEN WANTS A NAP, is forthcoming from Creative Editions (Fall 2017). She is an Amazon bestseller that's been accepted for publication in Highlights Magazine and has won grants from the Highlights Foundation, the Puffin Foundation and La Muse Writer's Retreat in Southern France. She holds an M.F.A in Writing for Children from Simmons College and a B.A. in English, concentration in Rhetoric from Binghamton University.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

CHICKEN Wants a Nap smaller.jpgWhere were you when the idea for this book came to you?

I was actually working on my MFA in Writing for Children and the assignment was to write about a character's best or worst day. I was so tired that night but still had so much to do, that the idea of taking a nap became the end-all be-all. For Chicken, being able to take that nap kind of defines her best/worst day.

I was also inspired by Remy Charlip's Fortunately, which I'd been introduced to years before at a keynote speech by Brian Selznick when he was talking about The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This was probably a bit more of an unconscious thing when I was writing, but I've always loved the kind of humor that Fortunately uses.

What makes your book unique?

Well, I think it's a barnyard tale that's still relatable to parents and kids. Who doesn't feel better after a good nap? And I think there's a lot of humor in the page turns, as Chicken keeps getting her perfect nap interrupted. I especially love what Monique Felix did with the final page. It's my favorite beat in the book!

Your website says, "loves ducks." Did you ever think of making this character a duck instead of a chicken?

Honestly, it was always a chicken. I do have other stories about ducks in the works, but I guess I wasn't feeling in tip-top, ducky shape when I originally drafted the story!

And why do you love ducks? 

Honestly can't point to a particular reason. They're just one of those animals that always makes me smile when I see one. Domesticated ducks make great pets if you have the right space for them (alas, I don't), and will even act as "guard ducks" to protect their human family. Plus, they start as ducklings. Who doesn't love a fluffy duckling?

This is your first picture book. Have you written others that didn't sell? If so, can you share about your journey.

Sure. I've written other picture books that made it to editorial boards but weren't picked up, and some that never made it that far. The truth is that the majority of writers won't sell everything they write, and some projects can be shelved for years before the market conditions make the project viable again.

But ultimately, I think my journey is similar to a lot of writers, in that I wrote for years and in that time turned out a couple of real clunkers. But I kept reading, kept writing, kept submitting and eventually got to that place where I could write a marketable picture book.

Finally, I think it's good to remember that everything you write is a step towards publication - even if that particular manuscript will never find a home on the shelves. As long as you're taking the time to revise and learning how to improve your craft - be it through conferences, strong critique groups, or a more formal program - then that time or project isn't wasted.

What challenged or surprised you about writing this story?

Chicken Wants a Nap is written in a tighter, more rhythmic prose than I usually write. So when it was time to revise, there was an amazing amount of time spent finding just the right word that still fit into the structure. The book is 160 words or so, and yet the revisions took much longer than you would expect for a manuscript that fit on one page.

(That's the nature of picture books though, isn't it? They look so deceptively simple, but you can spend months to years perfecting those 400 - 500 words!)

Do you sell your own books or do you also have an agent?

I was previously represented, though this book I sold myself. I had worked with Tom Peterson, the Publisher, when I was working at my previous agency, and so when the manuscript was ready to go out I immediately thought of him and The Creative Company.

How do you balance all your different hats--writer, freelance editor, agent?

Well, sometimes I am still looking for that nap! But I tend to split my day the way a lot of other writers do. Agenting is my full time job, so I spend the majority of my time getting work done for my clients. My other work is done on evenings and weekends. (I'm typing this on a Saturday afternoon!)

But I'm also just very careful about how much I say "yes" to, how I schedule my time and the barrier between the three. There have been pitch contests and critique giveaways that I've had to say no to because I was already booked to work on something else at the time. And when I go through my submission pile as an agent, I'm always reading with the knowledge that I'll probably read the book another three or four more times. So I have to really love what I take on, because I know that for me, as an editorial agent, there's got to be enough passion about the project to sustain the whole process.

I also feel like each hat works in a kind of synergy with each other. Sometimes when I'm editing for a client, I also realize that my manuscript has the same problem - e.g. maybe both need another look at their respective character development. Or maybe I'll be thinking about potential projects to write, and I'll have an idea that I realize I would love to read but don't feel ready to tackle myself. Well, that ends up on Twitter as a #mswl!

The other truth is that I love the three hats - so even when I'm working, it doesn't always feel like it!


THANKS SO MUCH for this interview and your insights, Tracy!

Reader, if the hashtag #mswl doesn't mean anything to you, read this explanation here.


Just a Normal Tuesday

JustaNormalTuesday.jpgJust a Normal Tuesday (KCP Loft, 2017) by Kim Turrisi is a powerful book with an inside look at grief.

It's just a normal Tuesday until sixteen-year-old Kai finds a suicide letter from her older sister Jen. She tries to save her sister, but it is too late and Kai's stuck letting their parents know. Jen meant everything to Kai. How could Jen do this? Kai saw nothing to warn her of Jen's unhappiness. To deal with the loss, Kai self-medicates with alcohol and the same drugs Jen used to kill herself, until she inevitably crashes. To save her, Kai's parents send her away to grief camp. There she can begin healing.

Warning: the book does have language that may be offensive

This is author Kim Turrisi's debut novel. Although not an autobiography, she's not a stranger to this kind of grief. She wishes grief camp had been something available to her. Read more about Kim on her website.



Defy the Stars

defythestars.jpgDefy the Stars (Little, Brown and Company, 2017) by Claudia Gray is a fascinating book. I want to say it's about artificial intelligence, but it is so much more.

Seventeen-year-old Noemi knows she'll die in three weeks. One of the teen and young adult soldiers ready to go on a suicide mission, her sacrifice will help give the planet Genesis time. And at least she can save her best friend/almost sister Esther. Their enemy has better ships and a robot army. The mechs aren't afraid to die. Noemi wonders, "How evil do you have to be to kill another world's people and risk none of your own?"

Abel is a mech (robot model) trapped in a marooned enemy ship on Genesis for almost thirty years. His one overriding desire is to get back to his creator, his father. But he's also tired of being alone.

These two enemies meet and end up having to work together.

I enjoyed all the twists and turns in the story. This book is the first in the Constellation series. I look forward to more.

Author Claudia Gray has written many more books including some Star Wars novels! Here's her website where you can see her other titles, find out that she chose her name, and more.


Given to the Sea

giventosea.jpgI've been on a YA novel binge lately.

Given to the Sea (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2017) by Mindy McGinnis is a disturbing story of how people will sacrifice others for their own safety. In that way it reminds me of the Newbery winner The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhilll. It's also told in multiple viewpoints.

Khosa will be given to the sea--after she has a child. It's her destiny and the only way to save the people of the Kingdom of Stille from the rising sea. In Khosa's words, "One day my body will betray me, dancing into the sea, my mind a passenger only. The water will close over my head and I will drown, my death bringing a reprieve for those who are not me." But there's a complication. Khosa can't bear the touch of another.

Seventeen-year-old Vincent is royal, but doesn't like being called Prince, since he's in line for the throne after his aging father, after his grandfather the present king.

Twins Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, and friends of Vincent. Both have magic.

Witt is the leader of the Pietra, enemies of Stille who plan to attack.

All of these people's lives collide in this story. Given to the Sea is the author's fourth book and will have a follow up book, which I'll be anxiously awaiting.

Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award-winning author and librarian. On her blog, Mindy has a section of books she recommends here plus much much more such as query critiques and author interviews. Check it out.


Prisoner of Ice and Snow

Just a Normal Tuesday

Defy the Stars

Given to the Sea

Monster, Human, Other

Carrying Mason

Holding Up the Universe

The Passion of Dolssa

Bob and Joss Get Lost!

Night Animals

The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan

The Diabolic

Jelly Bean Summer

Leave Me Alone!

Wolfie the Bunny

The Only Road

The Wolf's Boy

The Water Princess

Who Wants a Tortoise?

The Secret of a Heart Note

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3

Pug Meets Pig

Normal Norman

Mother Bruce

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

Handbook for Dragon Slayers

Enchantress Sacrifice

Shadows

One for the Murphys

A Time to Dance

Dying to Meet You

Iron Hearted Violet

Let Me Finish!

Scythe

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Scourge

Written in the Stars

Dead Boy

Poppy

Ms. Bixby's Last Day

Towers Falling

Echo

The Seventh Wish

All Four Stars

the impossible knife of memory

Just My Luck

The Thief of Mirrors

Snoring Beauty

The Inn Between

Bottled

Booked

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

Counting Thyme

In the time of the Dragon Moon

The Chance You Won't Return

The Fire Sermon

The Crossover

A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

Sweet Home Alaska

Mouseheart

How to Capture an Invisible Cat

The Year We Sailed the Sun

The Wrinkled Crown

Ship Breaker

Uprooted

Circus Mirandus

Dragon Slippers

Mr. Pusskins: a Love Story

Prisoner 88

Tuesdays at the Castle

Not in the Script

All the Bright Places

Fuzzy Mud

Rhyme Schemer

Switch

El Deafo

Nightsong

On My Way to Buy Eggs

The Last Child of Hamelin

The Cabinet of Earths

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Castle Hangnail

Moonpenny Island

Waiting for Unicorns

This Girl Is Different

An Ember in the Ashes

Tunnel Vision

How It Went Down

Loved It! - Fish in a Tree

Not Easy - The Truth about Twinkie Pie

Argh, Mateys - Hook's Revenge

Thrills and Chills - The Third Twin

Payback - Nickel Bay Nick

Eerie - Sorrow's Knot

Quick and Cute - Number One Sam

Saved by the Milk - Fortunately, The Milk

Dory Fantasmagory

Born to Succeed - Every Day After

Captured by the Title - Also Known as Elvis

MG Adventure in Verse - May B.

Absolutely Almost

Out-of-this-World Adventure - Space Case

Discoveries and Escapes - Rooftoppers

A Wow Adventure

Dangerous Adventure - Badger Knight

Draw or Die - The Rithmatist

An Eggstraordinary Story - Under the Egg

Looking for Magic? - A Snicker of Magic

MG Mystery - Three Times Lucky

Not just a Mystery Weekend - Suspect

Dangerous Impersonation - The False Prince

A Boy and an Elephant - Chained

Charming, Literally - Rose

Girl in Trouble - The Rules for Disappearing

Shaping Her Own Fate - Passion Blue

Fated to be Useless? - Firstborn

Secrets! - The Pledge

Ultimate Fractured Fairytale - Enchanted

Deliciously Funny - Monsters Eat Whiny Children

Hilariously Creepy - Creepy Carrots

Moving Story - The Stamp Collector

Cute Grandma Story - Silly Frilly Grandma Tilly

A Cat Lover's Novel - Cat Girl's Day Off

Secret Agents - Junior Style - Double Vision

A Dark Story - Wooden Bones

Contemporary Fantasy or Magical Realism - Drizzle

Heartbreaker - The One and Only Ivan

Fantasy AND Humor - The Last Dragon Slayer

The amazing Laini Taylor - Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Eye-opening Historical - Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

Amazing Story - Wonder

Unexpected - The Hop

Anything But Typical

Words in the Dust, an amazing story

Historical MG in Verse - Inside Out and Back Again

Hysterically Funny - Fetching

Light-hearted Story - The Grand Plan to Fix Everything

Not Your Average Greek Myth - King of Ithaca

Amazing Historical - The Year We Were Famous

Fascinating Premise - Wake

Good and Creepy - The Cabinet of Wonders

Fascinating problem - Flip

Whose life? - How to save a life

Historical YA Giveaway - Second Fiddle

Another time and now - Blessing's Bead

Another place - Island's End

Just love this kid! - Okay for Now

Powerful Story - After

Memorable Story - Tell Me A Secret

Twist after twist - White Cat

A book with heart - Heart of a Shepherd

Really good story - Grounded

Family Story with Photographs - Finding Family

Halley's Comet and Hope - Selling Hope

One Strong Girl! - One Crazy Summer

Distinct voices - Blink & Caution

Great first line - Split

Phew - almost missed this goodie - Schooled

Very Very Good! - Crunch

Very Interesting - The Everafter

Real or not real? - The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Sympathetic Character - Windblowne

Humorous sheep and more - The Quest of the Warrior Sheep

Funny pet story - Guinea Dog

Hard to put down! - Divergent

Murder in Space? - Across the Universe

What Happened?! - No Passengers Beyond This Point

More History - The Fences Between Us

Historical for Boys - The Walls of Cartagena

Grown-upness is truly wasted on grown-ups - Cosmic

Something a bit different - Ashes

Fearful stuff - Countdown

Humor and Heart - How to Survive Middle School

Love the opening - Ratfink

More Humor Mixed with Mystery - Belly Up

What a sweet winner! - Moon Over Manifest

All that jazz - The Little Piano Girl

Sweet Sibling Rivalry - Flora's Very Windy Day

Another great heroine - Girl, Stolen

Incredible Story - out of my mind

Funny! - Fiona Finkelstein Meets Her Match

Another Very Good Book - Absolutely Maybe

Bedtime Bible and more - Read and Share Bible

Unputdownable Fantasy - The Demon King

Humorous SciFi - The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

Shortlisted? - Mockingbird

Historical Fantasy - Plain Kate

Facts just slip into your mind - The Red Umbrella

How could you not care?

Novel in Verse . . . for boys - Hate That Cat

Must Read Book - Escaping the Tiger

7th Grade - no laughing matter - Mackenzie Blue

Focus, shoot! - Flash Burnout & hold still

Book just came out - God's promises...for boys...

Aren't they cute? - Poodle and Hound

Book Felt SO Real - memoirs of a teenage amnesiac

Great First Line - How to Steal a Dog

Book Plus - Invisible i - The Amanda Project

Fantasy Sequel - yea! - The Timekeeper's Moon

Book 1 - glad more is coming - Shiver

Steampunk and Darwin - Leviathan

Newbery honor book - The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Emotional Book - Rubber Houses

Modern Fantasy - The Demon's Lexicon

Coming Out This Month! - Boys without Names

Great opening scene - The Middle of Somewhere

You thought you had it tough? - Sweetgrass Basket

Powerful Book - Hate List

Please let me slap the father! - Candor

Unforgettable - Unwind

Parental Discretion Advised - Jumping Off Swings

Companion Book - Eternal

Character Growth - Red Glass & Mexican WhiteBoy

Modern-day Retelling - Beastly

Powerful story - Right Behind You

Must read - The Hunger Games

More Author Interviews

Got voice? - Penny from Heaven & Elijah of Buxton

Sympathetic character - Ethan, Suspended

2009 Newbery Winner - The Graveyard Book

Fantasy to Love - Graceling

"we become what we have to be" - Nation

Calling Baseball Fans and others! - Keeping Score

Memorable story - Ways to Live Forever

Mystery to Solve - The Postcard

Wow! Really moving story! - The Mailbox

A 2009 Newbery honor book - Savvy

Don't miss this award winner! - Home of the Brave

Catching Up on Reading - Book of a Thousand Days

Makes me smile - A Crooked Kind of Perfect

Puns galore - Punished!

Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time by Lisa Yee

Love this character! - Beka Cooper, Terrier

Murder Mystery, yet so much more - Perfect Shot

Couldn't Stop Reading - Elsewhere

Prepare for fun - Once Upon a Marigold

Make me laugh! Thor's Wedding Day & Queen Sophie Hartley

Arriving in March - Reaching for the Sun

Science Fantasy - Enchantress from the Stars

Twist, twist, twist - Carmine, A Little More Red

Graphic Novel - Here Be Monsters

Novels in Verse - Seeing Emily

prepare to be amused - The Wee Free Men

Limits not reached - Downsiders

Hooked by Voice - Stuck in Neutral

Delightful book - Sylvia Jean, Drama Queen

The Sea of Trolls

The Schwa Was Here

LOL - Ruby Holler