Spread love through books!

This year, my November was chock-full of book events. It was a reminder of how important it is for writers to step away from their computers and their writing to connect with the community on a personal level. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

First, there was the BOCES Artist & Presenter Vendor Fair on November 1. Educators and administrators came through to meet artists of all shapes and sizes. I met some colorful characters, including the guys from AudioBody who had recently performed at my son’s school. Looking to book a gig for your school? Check out the arts & enrichment BOCES vendor listing.

Next, the annual Chronicle Book Fair in my hometown. It’s one of my favorite events in the community. I enjoy meeting other authors and connecting with readers. “This is your fan base!” one of my biggest supporters told me that day. The best part? My extra special visitors!

On the 7th, I attended the Lake George Jr/Sr High Volleyball banquet, an event that was bittersweet. Despite an undefeated record, the varsity team was disqualified from playoffs because they played one more game than was allowed in their regular season. The community was up in arms about this unjust and irrevocable decision that came from the NY state school athletic association. This hit home for me as an alum. As a gesture of support, I presented each player and coach an inscribed copy of Forte — which features a young girl who magically becomes a volleyball superstar in her small upstate town. Rather than a typical teenager response, these girls were genuinely grateful and appreciative. Their strength and spirit in the face of huge disappointment is truly an inspiration.

  

The last week of November, I had the honor of meeting with a local Girl Scout troop as part of a special visitor series on professional writers. We talked about story creation and fictional story telling. “A story isn’t a list of things that happen. A story has a shape.” They totally got it, and told me about their “story mountains” they are working on in ELA. One girl in the group was especially excited to meet me after winning my book basket at a school fundraiser (Brayden’s Family Fun Night).

  

November is typically the national month for writing, a la NaNoWriMo, the annual national writing challenge to complete a 50K-word novel in the month of November. How about NaNoPROMO?

You may have read my post about why I don’t do NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t mean I don’t write or edit or revise or work on my latest book(s) most every day. I do. But, for me, this month was about the other side of being an author — getting out there and spreading love through books.

But these events aren’t just about book promotion. They are my creative fuel. Giving my readers faces and voices and smiles . . . inspires me to keep writing.

Thank you to everyone who helped make it all happen.

Rock the Vote

In 1993, I studied abroad in Russia.

In 1993, it had just become Russia. I had known the country all my life as the USSR. A real fear of The Cold War being the end of the world shaped my childhood — and still lingered even though the wall had come down. The Gorbachev era had just ended. The country was being redefined. They were embracing capitalism and democracy. It was the first time in over 50 years that citizens were able to vote.

What a better time to live there as an American, right?

Ha.

I understand some people in the US don’t vote. With the election imminent, this is strikingly clear seeing how many public figures are reaching out, urging people to get out there on Tuesday. Those ads have always left me a little miffed. But this basic, American privilege doesn’t resonate with everyone. I know this firsthand. Let me tell you about my stint in Russia.*

Living in a Russian home with a non-English-speaking host who had never lived out of her country, I fully embraced Russian culture. So much of it was wonderful. So much of it was about music and stories and sitting around a table overflowing with savory, homemade salads and casseroles and soups. There was laughter. Lots of full-out belly laughs. Do you know what they laughed about?

The government.

They laughed about how awful their lives were. How awful *the government* had made their lives. All their lives, they had lived in a communist system that had rationed food and jobs and apartments and, basically, every personal item they could point to except their children. And you know what? They *enjoyed* laughing about it. This was part of the culture. Families of five were crammed in two-bedroom apartments and by a stroke of luck the bread truck visited your neighborhood when your pantry became empty. But there was music and stories and friends and family and laughter. That’s what they knew.

Then. Suddenly, they were asked to vote.

Say whaaaaaat???

Yes. Out of the blue, they were asked to be accountable for their shit lives. They were asked to take some responsibility for the crappy hand they were dealt.

Surprise, surprise. They didn’t see this as an opportunity. They weren’t thinking “Oooo–this is time for change! We can make our lives better!” The idea of having a say was not in their repertoire. And, frankly, they didn’t want it.

They’d rather laugh and deal with the crappy hand.

But we don’t have to do that. We don’t have a crappy hand. We have it all. We live in the best country. We don’t want for anything. We have fresh food in our supermarkets. We have coffee whenever we want to drink it. We can travel without fear and speak freely. We have opportunities in education and careers and a measure of safety and freedom that is *unthinkable* in more than half the world. Our children have that safety and freedom. It’s such a normalcy we take it for granted.

But, think about it…

WHY WOULD WE WANT TO PUT THAT AT RISK?

That’s what would happen if we give up our right to vote. If we assume it doesn’t count or it doesn’t matter or lose faith in the system. This is a time when we need faith. Find it. Find a reason to care enough. Make it a priority to exercise that privilege and please don’t take it for granted.

Please, vote.

* This is my personal memory and does not necessarily reflect the attitude of my Russian host or host-sister, whom I hold in the warmest regard and will for the rest of my days.

In 1990, MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign registered 5 million young voters.

The Sex Talk

My 5th grader came home the other day asking what “sexual assault” was. He’d heard about the Kavanaugh thing on a kid-friendly news station at school. It was sadly reminiscent of when his older brother came home asking a similar question back when he was in fifth grade. But then it was Trump’s “grab her pussy” comment that prompted the question.

What did we do? We sat them down and had the sex talk. It wasn’t the talk we’d imagined having. We had to address their questions, front and center. We had to address the ugliness in the world. We had to talk about why they’re hearing phrases like “sexual assault” and “grab her pussy” in the news. We had to back in to the topic from the most uncomfortable angle.

There’s something heartbreaking about telling your innocent, prepubescent boys that sex could be anything but a beautiful thing between two people who love each other. I know how that sounds. I’m not naive. I know these are things we need to talk about. But we’d barely broached the topic of puberty, no less sex, before we had to apologize for the reality of sexual assault.

And then Trump made that ironic comment: “It’s a scary time for young men.” And Lynzy Lab‘s catchy and clever response keeps replaying in my mind.

And it hit me. Maybe it’s a sign of our times. Maybe the sex talk is supposed to come from that uncomfortable angle.

In my latest book I’m working on in the Forte series, there is sexual assault.

The book is clean — geared for pre-teens. It’s not graphic. There’s no gratuitous violence. The scene doesn’t get to the point where the young girl is raped or beaten or even undressed. But she is clearly violated. There are harsh words. She is pushed and pinned down. The aggressor is someone she knows well — her boyfriend.

A girl doesn’t have to be naked to be assaulted. It doesn’t have to escalate to rape, either. There can be no trace of evidence on her body and it can still be a terrifying, transformative experience. It is still assault.

The scene is sadly realistic, and all too common. And it leads to another harsh truth: the ugly aftermath, with no clear path for girls to make things right.

I try to make it right for my young female character. In a fictional world where magic exists, she is empowered to miraculously reclaim her life. But it’s impossible to erase all the scars, even in a magical world.

It hurts to write about this stuff. I cry when I read scenes of my own creation. Because it’s so hard to write about a young girl battling against sexual assault, I know it’s meaningful. I was so riled up after my writing session recently, I had to write THIS!

My husband and I have a responsibility to raise our three boys well. These three boys will become young men. They will be physically stronger than their female peers. They will have subtle (and not so subtle) advantages over them, too.

Our boys’ understanding of sex has to be more than what’s covered in a science class. Beyond love or reproduction. Forget the birds and the bees. They need to hear from the female perspective. Not only hear it, they need to have the female perspective ingrained so it is top of mind when they become intimate with a girl. It should be the first thing they think about.

As they change and grow into young men, we need to keep talking. The #metoo conversation is far from over in the news and in the world. Who knows what they’ll hear next? And this is a good thing. It’s opening a doorway for communication, which is so important — even if it’s at an uncomfortable angle.

New Book Deal Alert!

Five years ago, I got a story idea that stubbornly clung to my psyche until I unleashed it onto the page. It became a true labor of love, as it was inspired by my then-6 y/o. When my husband read the first draft he said, “This book will change your life.” It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Today, I’m signing a publishing contract with Immortal Works that will help get this very story — BOY ON HOLD — out into the world.

Pop the bubbly! Cue the fireworks! Woo-hoo!

Yes, this is a new publisher. Lots of people ask me about the publishing process. How I found this publisher is, in itself, an interesting story.

Back in March, I took part in a Twitter pitch contest called #PitMad. Basically, you pitch your story using hashtags to indicate genre and theme. If an agent “likes” your Tweet, it’s a request to see more. It’s a fun way to query a bunch of agents at once — and practice the art of a the modern-day elevator pitch. (Note to writers: the next #PitMad is September 6, 2018! Get your pitches ready!)

Here was my pitch.

Some pitches got lots of likes. The most I saw on one pitch was 17 likes.

Me? My pitch for Boy on Hold got one like. ONE.

Blugh. My first thought: “Well, that was a waste of time. I’m never doing that pitch contest again.”

That one like was from Immortal Works. Not an agent but a publisher. They requested the first page.

Blugh. My next thought: “Only one page? This was seriously a waste of time.”

So I sent the first page and didn’t give it much thought.

Almost 3 months later — (yes, 3 whole months) — Immortal Works got back to me, complimenting the quality of my writing . . . and asked to read the entire manuscript.

That made me sit up a little straighter. My next thought: “Oh! Okay, let’s see where this goes.”

As I sent them the MS, I also sent it to my Kindle since it had been a year (or two) since I read it through myself. While on vacation with my family, I read it on my iPhone, highlighting all the parts that I thought needed work. I couldn’t help but get excited about the story all over again. When I got home, I got to revising right away with renewed energy.

Then, a surprise. An email from an assistant editor at Immortal Works saying she “loved it.” That she “totally cried” at the ending. She said it reminded her of To Kill a Mockingbird but with schizophrenia instead of racism (Whoa — !!). And she wanted to recommend it for publication.

My thought at this time? Let’s just say, I was jumping-out-of-my-chair psyched. I had to hold back not to tell everyone — even strangers in the grocery line. Instead, I settled for a celebratory happy dance with my husband and kids.

About a month later, they officially requested to publish my book. The contract was in my inbox the very next day. Today, I signed!

Now, I’m beyond stoked. I’m FLOORED. I can’t tell you how gratifying this is. To have a publisher as excited as I am about my story. That’s when you know you’ve found the right match. They LOVE the book. And “totally cried” at the ending. Her last email to me said that she got “chills” thinking about it as she ran errands. Squeeeeeeeeee!

Writer friends who are slogging through the noise to get your work noticed, keep up the good fight! Keep querying! Keep pitching! Remember this: it only takes one like.

 

Seeking The Kithseeker

Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Xchyler author M.K. Wiseman on her new release, Kithseeker, Book 2 of The Bookminder series. (Book 1 is now on sale for only $.99!)

M.K. and I became friends in the usual fashion: online! She was an early reader of my latest book, posting a lovely review. I reached out to thank her and we instantly found a common bond in our writing . . . and the rest is history. If you studied our chat history, you’d find a healthy combo of brainstorming, griping, motivating, and celebrating. Although we’ve never met in person — she’s a Midwesterner and I live in the Northeast — we have plans to join forces at a book fair someday soon. That’s when the real magick will happen! 😉

Without further ado, here’s our latest chat. Take a read. I’m sure you all will adore her as much as I do.

What inspired you to write The Kithseeker

It’s fun to look back on the origins of a story once it reaches completion, publication, and release. Where Kithseeker ended up is so so far from – and yet simultaneously quite close to – where it started in my head. I always knew that, if given the chance, I could continue the story of my wizards through [redacted: spoilers!]. But here’s the weird thing about a sophomore story like this one: book 1 inspired book 3 inspired book 2… Bound by real history, as I prefer to work, date and place was largely set for me by the two on either side of Kithseeker. And there, as with the rest, real history cued the events of this book. Louis XIV had a real ‘teller of tales’ under his employ, a woman charged with telling him fairy stories for entertainment. Yes, fairytales briefly were a bit in vogue. Too fun! From there it all just clicked into place.

The Kithseeker by M.K. Wiseman

How is it different from the first book in the series, The Bookminder

It’s far bigger, for one thing. I mean, honestly, book 1 is an interpersonal drama between two very isolated people. It’s close to my dream idea of a book occurring within a small space with small cast, having it out in close quarters over the course of 400 pages.
But Kithseeker just blows that up, dragging these mages out of their comfort zone, forcing them to change and grow and it’s just a bit of fun for me, really. To play like that. Plotted out, it might be, but it’s been fun to really paint with wild, broad strokes for a bit. It’s like I opened up a whole new palette of colors. The two books really are quite different from one another at their heart— a happy surprise for me. (To that end, I fear book 3 for similar reasons. Tonally, it shifts. And that’s all I will say about that here.)

Did you always intend to write a series?

Yes and no. I didn’t ‘intend’ anything with even book 1. Falling into publishing as I did, it all came as a bit of a surprise to me and I sort of just rode along for the fun of it. I knew just enough (and have watched enough television—we’re all thinking it so I’ll say it: Firefly) to realize that, even if I fully arced out a multi-book saga, the story might have to stay small, stay one neat and tidy little book.

Aware of this, I actually made certain that Bookminder’s last word stayed constant through the edits. It was my final ending should it be determined that my pre-arced story not be of interest to readers. I am so grateful that folks proved to want more. As much as I’d like to think I’ve paced out a nice story-within-a-story and can stop at one book, there are hooks built in, threads that would remain unrealized. Book 1, in the end, will be enriched by the books that come after.

What author/book is your main source of inspiration? 

Oh gosh, this is the hardest question of all time, I swear. One? I have to stop at one?? You do know I was a librarian before I became an author, right? I can’t pick one!
Brian Jacques. And here’s why. I adored him when I was younger. Mariel of Redwall is the first book I can clearly remember geeking hard over. I can actually remember the exact afternoon in my grade school library, what shelf the book was on, who I was talking to . . . and this before I had read anything of his. The book just called to me. It was a life changing moment in reading for me. And in those days, he kept coming to speak at our local book shop and so I managed to meet him several times and get everything signed and he was so lovely. What a lovely man with such lovely stories. Something about that encounter with a book . . . I want to be a part of that. So, I take that with me in my heart whenever I put pen to paper.

What’s the most important aspect of your writing routine? 

Control of my environment.
I have realized I’m a bit ‘moody’ with how I work. I don’t have a strict routine—no special pen, or snack, or time, or anything. What I find useful one day, is absolutely distracting the next. I often love coffee shop chaos in the background but my husband knows that one word from him while I am ‘in the zone’ will result in limbs torn asunder. I do dislike music when I write—my brain latches on to lyrics and melodies far too easily. So, what works for me is identifying what mood I am in and then creating that specific environment for those few hours.

There’s a lot of magic in your books. If you could choose one of them for yourself, what magical power would you have?

I think I would most enjoy the ability to travel from one place to another instantaneously. I really abhor airplane travel (but I love a good road trip) and I think it would allow me to sample other places, other cultures, without so much hassle— heck, with such powers I could visit the other end of the earth and then go home and sleep in my own bed that night, right? Bliss.

What’s next? Is there anything you’re working on now we can look forward to?

Book 3 is, of course, in the works. Pounding away at the keyboard for that one for weeks now.

But outside Bookminder, I’ve a few things. Am shopping around a book/maybe series about wizard spies that I am super happy with. I’ve a number of things on my hard drive that I dive into here and again for a break. One is a pure sci-fi space adventure with a hard-boiled trucker of a space ship captain and a bunch of societal misfits. A couple high fantasies. And another historical fantasy that leans steampunk and is my own personal love letter to New Mexico, where I lived as a kid. Oh, and a new twist on Hamlet which I keep picking up and putting down. Gosh, my brain spins when I think ‘what’s next.’ Thanks for that. haha

About M.K. Wiseman

M. K. Wiseman was a reader long before she entertained the idea of turning the stories in her head into words for others to enjoy. But then she got a taste for writing and the rest simply fell into place. Dabbler became scribbler became author. A lover of classic literature, her lifelong goal is to be one of the prose. (And, yes, she really does like terrible puns. #ISeeWhatYouDidThere)


When she isn’t mucking about with books, M. K. goes on medium-long runs to unwind and plays brač. Unicycling, juggling, sailing, and doing massive jigsaw puzzles round out some of her favorite hobbies.

My beautiful mother.

My whole life, I’ve felt I was special. But I wasn’t special. Not really.

I was a typical kid with quirks and faults that morphed into pitfalls of destructive social mores . . . even still, through it all, I felt I was special. Worth something. Smart. Beautiful. Extraordinary.

This has everything to do with how I was raised. My parents saw me as extraordinary. They set the bar super high, and by holy hell water I was not going to let them down. Not because there would be hell to pay but because there would be a level of unspoken disappointment that would prove unbearable. Somehow, I knew this instinctively early on. There was no option but for me to be something special. Simply because I was something special.

Not only that. I was pretty.

Yes. I was told I was pretty from an early age. And, honestly, beyond all the smart and special and other kinds of praise that was showered on me, this was the most important. To me. A young girl. Shamefully true, but true nonetheless.

And try as I might to become a success in life . . . no matter how many honors I achieve, how many awards I win, how much praise I receive for my performance, I yearn for that reinforcement–from my parents, my friends, my husband . . . that I’m pretty. And I’ve been lucky. I’ve always felt confident and strong and happy with how I look–on a somewhat sliding scale (I mean, hey, I did live through the 80s by gosh . . .)

Fate has me living in my hometown after over twenty years of living away while believing I was that special, that kind of over-the-top talent, that kind of head-turning beauty. Since being home, I’ve been to several fundraisers and honorariums for different community groups that have been in existence long before my existence . . . and I’ve seen pictures of my mother in her prime. Gosh, that breath-taking beauty. I’ve proudly posted her photo on social media, praised her, raised her up, bragging to anyone who would listen–look, that’s my mother. Look how beautiful. And talented. And special. And extraordinary.

My beautiful mother.

I don’t know when it’s supposed to happen that you see yourself for who you really are. Maybe it’s supposed to happen this way. Tonight, I looked across the room at my 70+ y/o momma and was simply breath taken by her light and energy and beauty. Yes, not only her appearance, but her spirit. It was inspiringly captivating.

On her and my father’s anniversary, several pictures were taken–some of which captured me in my truth. And it woke me up a little.

My parents so empowered me throughout my childhood, I sometimes felt I knew better than they did. Maybe all grown children do this with their parents . . . and it’s an ugly truth . . . but I have often wanted to correct them, or rolled my eyes at their habits, or outright scolded them–silently or aloud–for something insignificant but somehow intrusive to my life. And, gosh, my mother has always shown such overt deference to me, I’ve often mistaken it for authority. She so often showers me with praise and love and affection, I too often take it for granted. I believe it too easily.

The truth is, I’m no better than my parents. It seems so obvious to write the words, but I have to admit I haven’t always felt that way. And that thing that I always felt so confident about–my looks? Well, guess what. I’m no extraordinary beauty. I’m not complaining. I’m fine with my appearance. But compared to my mother? There’s simply no contest! It’s so ridiculously clear. She was the true beauty. She was the standout, head-turning, throat-catching, student-crush-worthy stunner that you only see on the movie screen. She was that kind of beauty.

And still is.

Why am I only seeing this now?

As a mom, I try to balance praise with tough love. Encouragement with constructive criticism. Sternness with unconditional–not only love, but acceptance. As a daughter, I need to do the same with my parents. As we grow older–God willing–together, I want to lift them up the same way they lifted me. They gave me the best gift. They gave me a storybook childhood and a life most people could only dream of. They trusted me before I earned their trust. They respected me before I did anything worthwhile. Maybe it’s time to put them first for a change. Don’t they deserve it?

My mom certainly does.

Me and my beautiful mother.

Why I went to Scotland

Writing retreat + Scotland = two concepts that don’t necessarily go together. For me and about 25 other author/illustrators, this was a fantasy-turned-reality c/o Kindling Words West this past March. Weeks before the trip, I could barely speak the words “I’m going to Scotland for a writing retreat” without my breath catching. But the venue was just part of the reason . . .

Kindling Words is an exclusive community that hosts two retreats a year for authors and illustrators of children’s literature — run by a true fire-starter of a creative force, Alison James. A renowned program twenty years running, eligible participants must undergo an application process. For most retreats there is a lottery and/or waiting list. To be included this year was an absolute honor.

   

It helps to have a famous friend. One of my most cherished childhood friends, Anika Denise, also happens to be an accomplished picture book author, and may have pulled some strings along the lines of “I need a roomie!” to secure my slot.

JD Spero and Anika Denise

Me and Anika Denise

Yesterday morning my husband asked me what was the one thing that stood out as the most important part of the experience. I showed him a pano-pic my new friend (the very talented Hazel Mitchell of Toby fame) had taken and tagged me in. It shows 7 of us writers/illustrators quietly at work in the same room.

Tears came to my eyes as I explained why this retreat was so important to me. My husband knows all too well how many hours I spend *alone* in my house or a coffee shop writing away. Writing can be a very lonely occupation.

This retreat was all about community. I was surrounded by other writers — stars of the children’s literary world — whose clicking of the computer keys triggered my own creativity. To sit among these successful and talented people who share my passion was validation for me as a writer. Competition did not exist within this group; I was warmly welcomed. I was embraced into their circle without question. For that, I will always be grateful.

When I told friends from home about my upcoming trip, the same question kept coming up: Will you get any writing done . . . in a castle . . . in Scotland?

For me, it was never a question. That’s what I was there for, and since I’m in the middle of a project (the 3rd book of the Forte series for Xchyler Publishing), I had a lot of work to do.

The week’s schedule was set up to help us focus, too. After morning yoga and breakfast, there were workshops where each of us hosted a creativity exercise to help get the juices flowing. My story starter was entitled “Wolves of Scotland” and the results varied from a silver-haired female ghost wolf, to a puppy wolf cub, to a distinguished wolf in a 3-piece-suit. After workshop, we had a silent retreat from 10 to 5. Which seems like a long time but the hours flew by . . . especially when you had to squeeze in spa time. (Oh, did I forget to mention the castle had a spa?)

Let me tell you about the castle

Built in the 1300s, to say the Dalhousie Castle is rich in history might be a tiny understatement. But it was no biggie for the Scottish people. They have lots of these castles hanging around. They weren’t even phased when their resident ghost blasted the surround sound, interrupting our host during the opening ceremony dinner. Even the gloomy castle dungeon had been transformed into a swanky restaurant, where we dined one night while serenaded by a bagpiper.

Castle Dalhousie

dinner in the dungeon, Dalhousie Castle

Our very sophisticated dinner in the dungeon.

Dalhousie offered falconry

Yes, that meant we were able to fly exotic birds that were nearly bigger than me.

This is a Siberian Eagle Owl named Jude (or Juke) who has lived at the castle since he was ten days old. They told me he was used to humans. Still, his eyes were the size of clementines. Of course, I had to be shown up by a 7 y/o girl who flew him first and didn’t flinch at all. Not me. I may look cool and composed in this pic, but inside I was flinching for days.

Siberian Eagle Owl with Dalhousie Castle in the background

Me w Jude, Dalhousie in background

Where in Scotland is this, exactly?  

The castle is only 8 miles from Edinburgh. Although we could’ve spent the entire week exploring this ultra-cool city, we took one day off to check it out. Now’s a good time to mention how nice everyone is in Scotland. We were often complimented on our “exotic accent” and asked to say “burger” and other R-dominant words like “lord” and “pork” and “ruh-roh”.

Victoria Street - JK Rowling's inspiration for Diagon Alley

Victoria Street – JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley

Edinburgh Castle

Anika and I inside Edinburgh Castle

So, yeah. This was an amazing experience on so many levels. It was a huge gift to myself that at first felt too luxurious. It was hard to break away from my husband and three young children for an entire week overseas that was solely for me and my writing.

But I got over that.

This mirror is actually a portal. We’re on the other side. LOL

 

Apple falls up

A talented writer in his own right, my oldest son AJ has been named Student of the Quarter twice in a row for WRITING. Last year in fifth grade, he wrote a short fantasy story for school that blew me away. The title is “Eugallado” and, after begging him to allow me to share it, I’m thrilled to post a sneak peek at the opening:

Eugallado. Chapter 1. The Cave.

It was a day like any other when the secret world was discovered by two ordinary boys.
The trees and the ground were covered in prestigious, sparkling white snow, and the sun made everything shine so bright it was almost hard to look at it. We gazed at the beautiful trees, sprinkled with glistening sugar-white powder, longing to explore the woods. My mom said we could never go in, but she wouldn’t tell us why. Of course we wanted to find out.
“Let’s go,” my best friend Ryan said excitedly . . .

People like to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and all that jazz, but I think it’s the opposite. In our case, the apple falls up! And writing is just one of his many talents. I’m so proud of this kid. He inspires me. He’s an inspiration to our whole family.

QMS Student of the Quarter

Excellence Award in Writing

On my school visits, I always tell students that the best way to improve your writing is to READ. Read everything. Always be reading. AJ is proof of that. He’s participated in the Battle of the Books program at school since third grade. He’s usually got at least 2 or 3 books going at one time. He reads books he likes, and books he dislikes. And maybe it’s his youth, but he seems to remember EVERYTHING!

I’m honored AJ is such a fan of my books! He read Forte twice — and after reading the first draft of its sequel, he gave me feedback that will be cherished forever: “I loved your book so much! I loved the description, and I felt like I could really feel the characters. I loved the combonation of music, magic, and mythology. Definetly one of the best books I’ve ever read! – AJ <3”

YA magical realism Concerto

AJ almost done with Concerto

When Concerto was published several months after he read the first draft, he was eager to read it again (gotta love this kid). Now 12 and dealing with middle school antics and LOTS of sixth grade homework, he found the time to read my book. It was my gift to see him peek out with a smile from behind my book as I tucked him into bed. As soon as he finished, he wrote a review on Google docs and shared it with me.

*Warning: contains spoilers!* (But too precious not to share!)

Concerto Review By AJ Spero

Mom, I thought your book Concerto was absolutely amazing! And I’m not saying that just because you’re my mom. If I went to Barnes & Noble and bought your book and read it, I’d say, “WOW! This book is so cool!!” First thing: I thought the characters were awesome! They were so real, I felt like I could really feel and connect with the characters. I also really liked how there was some suspense that made you ask questions that really kept you turning the pages! I always wanted to see what happened next. And the drama between the characters was really good! I felt like it was emotional but not over-the-top, you know? For instance, When Sami started to date Miles, I was like, “No! What about Jason?” Then when she went to visit Jason, I could really feel the awkwardness. I was cringing myself! Then when Jason gave Sami a pat on the back, oh man. Total cringe fest. Then at the end, I loved how they finally started to get back together again. I didn’t really like how they broke up in the first draft, though, it was even painful for me! I know I have a big, long, rambling list of all the things I loved about your book, so I’ll wrap it up with one more thing. I loved the sneak peak chapter of “Cadence”! I want to read it so bad now! I love how you see the other side of that conversation Lauren and Sami had. Sami seemed so oblivious! I also like Lauren’s fun personality, and I can’t wait to find out more about Lauren. I felt like, in “Forte,” I couldn’t really connect with Lauren as a person, but I like how I’ll find out her side of things. Overall, I thought your book was SO GOOD and I can’t wait ‘till “Cadence” comes out! 

 

Rave review(s)

As an indie author, it’s important to get online reviews. Actually, it’s CRUCIAL to get online reviews. Why? Amazon uses an algorithm to determine which products to push–and books with lots of 5-star reviews (over 50) have a better chance of appearing in search results, etc. Needless to say, I’m super eager to get reviews. (hint, hint!)

The review that came in yesterday, though, wasn’t on Amazon or Goodreads. It wasn’t on Facebook or any social media. It was written (& drawn) with markers on a blank sheet of paper. And it will be cherished forever.

CONCERTO REVIEW

I love your book, the combination of magic and mythology was astounding. The battle at the end had lots o’ action and I love love love action. I’m just gonna sum it up with just a few words … , … YOUR BOOK WAS AWESOME!!!

Love, Adam Spero (age 10)

Adam loved Concerto!

Adam finishing Mom’s book yesterday, snuggling with Mom on the couch.

Looking back at my posts, I see that my oldest AJ finished Forte when he was 10 and gave me the most valuable review. 

Adam finished Forte last summer and was like “Oh no, she drank the blue stuff! This is baaaaaaad!”

Adam loved Forte

Adam finished Forte last summer. Loved it!

I sat with Adam as he finished the final pages of Concerto. It was a special moment. I loved seeing his reading habits. Unlike me, he wasn’t racing to finish. He took his time. Stopped to admire the cover, read the back copy blurb. He even took a break to read the teaser chapter for book #3, for the second time.

Oh, those little hands holding my book, *my heart*.