NOTE: I don't post to this blog super-duper often anymore, because I'm busy writing, well, books. (Read more about that here.) For more up-to-date, day-to-day ramblings, visit my Facebook page.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fun Friday: The Fearsome Pterosaurs

Often when I visit schools or festivals and talk to kids about writing The Key & the Flame, I discuss giant flying dinosaurs. There's a reason. When creating the world of Anglielle, I wanted to include a giant flying beast, and I needed to know how a real-life flying beast would operate. This question prompted my discovery of some fantastic creatures, namely the Hatzegopteryx and Quetzlcoatlus dinosaurs. They were as tall as giraffes, had fearsome beaks, and could fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet and up to 80 mph.

While this video isn't as impressive, it gave me a good idea of how a Quetzalcoatlus takes off, and how much room it needed to do so.

What do you dream of creating? And how will you imagine it?

I talk about a lot of other things in my school presentations too. Click here to learn more.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fun Friday: Dan Radcliffe Chats with JKR

Okay, another newsflash: I'm a huge fan of Harry Potter, both on the page and on film. (I know. Shocker.) This is one of the best behind-the-scenes videos I've seen (and I've seen many), in which Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe talks to Potter author J.K. Rowling about the books, the films, and the wild ride they both embarked on. Spoiler Alert: They do discuss things you won't want to hear if you've not read all 7 books.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Indies First Storytime

Kate DiCamillo
I'm really excited to be taking part in yet another Indies First event! This one was spearheaded by author Kate DiCamillo, not only one of my favorite writers but also the current Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Kate's idea was to ask authors to support their local indie bookstore by popping in for Saturday storytime, so that's what I'll be doing this Saturday, May 17, at my local (and beloved) Shawnee Books & Toys. I'm only one of several authors reading that day, so if you're in the area, bring your little ones. Manager Michelle Ranney always has fun crafts and snacks for the kids as well, and even though The Key & the Flame is intended for older kids (ages 8+), we'll have some copies available for sale and signing.

So come on by! Here's the lineup:

10:30 am: me!
11:15 am: Brian Howell
12:00 pm: Ann Ingalls
12:45 pm: Anola Pickett

Want to find out which authors are participating in your area? Visit the IndieBound website for a nationwide schedule.

Where: Shawnee Books & Toys | 7311 Quivira Road, Shawnee KS | 913-962-1428
When: Saturday, May 17, 2014 | 10:30 am
What to Do: Show up for Storytime, snacks, and crafts! Suitable for all ages. No registration required.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fun Friday: Commas and Pants, Both Needed

In case you all haven't noticed, Debbie Ridpath Ohi is hilarious and wickedly talented. The illustrator of I'm Bored (written by Michael Ian Black; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012) and the cool new Judy Blume covers, Ohi also maintains a fantastic website here. Here, reprinted with her permission, is one of her classic strips, Will Write for Chocolate.

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at under the provisions outlined here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

May Giveaway

 In case you missed the newsflash, the first Monday of every month features a NEW GIVEAWAY on the blog! Take your pick of any of the books I've reviewed the previous month. This month's theme was Yippee! YA! Here are your haunting choices for this month. Click the links to read the reviews of each:

by Libba Bray
YA historical  / paranormal 
a ghostly murderer haunts Jazz Age Manhattan

17 & GONE
by Nova Ren Suma
YA contemporary / paranormal
a teenage girl is haunted by visions of missing girls

by Katherine Marsh
YA historical
a 16th-century boy appointed as a court dwarf is haunted by his own fate

by Jay Asher
YA contemporary
a teenage boy is haunted by the last words of the girl he loved 

1. U.S. entrants only, please.
2. Be sure to note the book you want to win AND WHY.
3. Giveaway prizes will be brand-new books delivered to you via They will be paperback editions unless the book is still available only in hardcover. 
4.  This giveaway ends 12:01 AM MAY 13.
5. There's a new giveaway every month! CLICK HERE to receive a brief email every time a new giveaway is posted on the blog. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 2, 2014


Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Pub info: Razorbill / Penguin, 2007; 304 pp
Genre: YA contemporary

I've heard so much about this book since its publication and yet I've put off reading it. Was I afraid of it? Yeah, maybe a little. Those of us who have been through the teen years and have struggled with depression don't relish going to that place again. But this is an important book, and ultimately, not a "downer" book. I'm so glad I took the plunge.

Goodreads summary:
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Status: finished 5/2/14

My impressions:
This is an important enough book that I shoehorned it in to my Yippee! YA! Month. Yeah, technically I finished it in May, but so what? I really want to give away a copy, and it's my blog, so there.

Why would I do that?

Because Thirteen Reasons Why is not only compelling, readable, and real, it's important. It's important for teens because it opens their eyes to the consequences their actions have. I love kids--I love teens--but I remember what it's like to be so absorbed in my own stuff that I didn't realize how many others out there were hurting. That's not your fault, teenagers--it's part of the biology. But that's why books like this one are so crucial. Jay Asher's expert capture of Hannah's voice puts you right in her head. You'll live her life along with her, and at the same time see what effect her life had on Clay Jensen, who only wishes he had reached out to her in time.

But if you're an adult, thinking, Thank God that part of my life is over, you should still read the book. As adults we get complacent, so happily sheltered in our bubble of grown-up-ish-ness that we also can ignore the people around us who are hurting, whether they're kids or other adults. Remember, fellow grownups: What you think "isn't that big a deal" in a kid's life isn't yours to judge. It's impossible to see ahead to those years when you can look back and think, What was I so worried about? It is a big deal. Read Hannah's story. You'll be very glad you did.

About Jay:

Jay Asher was born in Arcadia, California, and worked in libraries, bookstores, and a shoe store before becoming a full-time professional writer. Besides the award-winning Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay is the co-author of The Future of Us (Razorbill, 2011) with Carolyn Mackler and an independently published e-book novella for adults called Brighton Beach Murder (CreateSpace, 2012). Jay is a dynamic speaker and visits schools all over the country.

You can follow Jay's news on his website here, including updates on the film adaptation of Thirteen Reasons Why. The book has its own website here as well as its own Facebook page. Jay blogs regularly on his website and also connects with readers on his Twitter account and author's Facebook page.

Want to win a free copy of this book? The first Monday of each month features a giveaway of any of the titles I've reviewed the previous month. Pick your fave, enter, and win! Next giveaway: This Monday! May 5.


To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.

Fun Friday: Russell Brand as Pied Piper

Russell Brand is at times the funniest man on the planet. Other times he just makes you shake your head. Is he serious about writing children's books? They could be brilliant. Here's hoping.