Friday, January 31, 2014

Should You Traditionally Publish or Self-publish?

Once upon a time many writers didn't see this as a legitimate question. Authors would try as hard as they could to traditionally publish their work and only when they failed would they consider self-publishing. But that was then and this is now and the times they are a changing.

Today, not an insignificant number of authors choose self-publishing in one form or another as their preferred method of publishing. The rise of e-books and easy to use self publishing platforms like Amazon's KDP and Createspace (along with others like Smashwords) are allowing writers to put out a highly professional product without having to go through a traditional publishing company. Many authors love the ability to control their cover, the overall writing product itself, and their careers. With self-publishing, an author can release books whenever and however they want. Self-publishing writers are only constrained by their own ability to write well and write fast.

And write fast some of them do. Recently, two self publishing authors in particular have made news for their incredible productivity. Back in May of 2013, Novelist Elle Casey did a post about how she is able to write so many books (18) in just a short time (15 months). Russel Blake has recently been featured in a number of articles, including this one from the Wall Street Journal in which he also discusses how fast writing has helped his career.

A great way to learn more about self publishing is to follow popular blogs where self publishing writers gather. The largest single forum is probably the Kindle Boards Writers Cafe. Go there and look around at different posts and threads to learn more about what self publishers are up to. Or go check out self publishing super star authors JA Konrath or Hugh Howey.  Both Konrath and Howey are articulate champions of self publishing and following their posts and the discussion in the comments below the posts is a great way to learn more about the rise of self-publishing.

As someone who has been following the self-publishing story for a couple of years, there is one area in particular that's most interesting to me and probably to other followers of this blog. Is self-publishing a viable option for Middle Grade authors? We see writers of genre fiction, especially those writing Romance, Sci Fci, Fantasy, and Thrillers have great success in self publishing. But we rarely, if ever, hear of Chidlrens Fiction authors having great success self publishing.

The key seems to be that kids don't make the buying decisions in their home and the primary way self-publishers reach their audience is through the internet, not through bookstores and libraries. Even kids who read e-books on Kindles or e-readers usually aren't the ones making the buying decisions. While its easy for an adult power reader to buy books online, its not easy for kids to do this. Ultimately, kids continue to learn about new books from their friends, from their teachers, and from their librarians.

And so far, no self-published title in Childrens Fiction has broken through as a big hit. There is no self publishing superstar in the world of Children's Fiction.

For now, most writers of Middle Grade fiction are going to continue to pursue Traditional Publishing. The world hasn't yet changed so much that middle grade authors are making great incomes from self-publishing alone. But the world is also changing very fast. Who knows what will happen in the next year or two. All it takes is one incredibly popular title or incredibly popular author and the tide may shift for Middle Grade authors.

My goal? To do both. I will pursue traditional publishing for some of my books and when I have a project that just seems to be a better fit for self-publishing, I won't hesitate to do it. My ultimate goal isn't to be a traditionally published author or a self published author. My goal is to be an author - an author who makes a living from writing books. If having a foot in both worlds of publishing is ultimately the best and most efficient way for me to achieve this goal, then that's exactly what I will do.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Know your competition. (And what the heck is a "friendover"?)

Middle grade boys like to compete. Who's stronger? Who's faster? Who's smarter? They constantly gauge where they fit in among their "group", and I recently found that I do the same with myself among my fellow writers. And I have been found wanting.

But a while back, while researching agents for querying, I came across a piece of advice that has stuck with me. I can't remember the particular agent, or even the exact quote, but an agent had written something to the effect of "...eyes on your own paper." I believe she meant, "Don't compare yourself to the writers who surround you." And I've thought of that advice a lot lately.

But that's hard. And you know it!

Everywhere we look, there are writers with agents, writers with new book deals, writers throwing down 3,000 words (or more) a day and writers who we KNOW are succeeding with their goals and dreams.

But then there's me. If I get to write late at night a couple of days a week, I'm pumped! (I'm thinking of changing my twitter handle to "@MidnightWriter".)

If I wrote every day for a week, for even three hours each day, I'd be making great progress on the books which burn inside me!  But my house would look (and smell) like the city landfill and my wife and kids would disown me. (No, that's not true. Only my wife would disown me. My kids wouldn't notice the mess.)

So, thanks to that agent's bit of advice, I've given myself permission to be husband and dad first, and writer second. With that attitude, it's easer for me to be happy for another's success and not get down on myself. My writing life has more balance that way, and I'm more relaxed because of it.

It's not easy to not write when I want to so badly, but I have to face my reality.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be able to spend my day skipping from my computer (where the masterpiece unfolds) to the tea kettle or the back deck lounge chair with the furry feline companion purring contentedly on my lap while I contemplate a current plot twist, a clever play on words, or something equally literarily fulfilling. (Literarily is such a lyrical word. If it doesn't exist, it should.)

Instead, I juggle a baby, or a toddler, or a baby and a toddler and hop about picking up dirty dishes, spilled cereal, wet towels and filthy clothing while I pray that the baby and the toddler will have an overlapping nap. With that 30 minutes, I could slam down some serious wordage on the current ms!

And then I remember what is most important in my life. (And it's not a clean house.) Thanks to that agent's words, I allow myself to write in the fashion which works for me. A few minutes here and there. Maybe for an hour at the library or coffee shop - if I can get a babysitter for the little two.

But overall, I give thanks that I have a large, wild and untidy family with near constant sibling squabbles and tenacious teasing. When I lighten up and accept who I am as a writer, with the limitations imposed by choosing to have a large family, I begin to notice some pretty good material.

Not only do the middle graders in my family say and do some interesting stuff, but so do the "youngers." I observe how they interact, what they say and when they say it, their tantrums, jokes and tears. And when their friends come for play dates - I mean - "friendovers" (I was informed that "play dates" is a term used for the "little kids" in the family), I get more dynamics with interesting behaviors all around.

And if I stay up until 2:00 a.m. (or until one of the babies wakes up) punching down letters to a blog post or my latest WIP, then so be it. It's what I can do right now at this time in my life, and it will have to be good enough. So I'll be satisfied with enough.

After all, I'm only trying to make myself better, not beat you at the writing game. And while you're struggling with your own babies and spilled cereal, try to remember your reality, and let yourself write within it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

In it for the long haul....

Let me just say this. Being a writer is hard. In fact, it's down right torture sometimes.

Truth. It IS inconceivable that people actually choose this path. But we select few are a special breed.

A few days ago my wife sent me a link to this post on Chuck Wendig's incredible blog "Terribleminds" (now if you haven't been on this blog before, go do so now.) It was a guest post by author Kameron Hurley who talks about the struggles of becoming a writer, and actually just maintaining that career path. It's far from the fun and games some people might think it is.

Here's the link, so do yourself a favor and read this before reading mine and you'll understand why I had to write this post.

LINK --> On Persistence, And The Long Con Of Being A Successful Writer

As you guessed, this is going to be a little bit of a serious blog post. SHOCKING! I know, right? Coming from me, there really isn't much seriousness. I'm one of the biggest goof balls I know ( I think Brooks and I are tied actually..because we're that CRAAAAAAZYYYY).

Occasionally, it seems when I talk to my fellow writers I encounter moments of "Maybe I should just give up.", or "Is this right for me?" Trust me, folks. I think like this sometimes too. We all do. Even those who don't ADMIT that they've had these thoughts, have them. It's just the way things are in this crazy writing world of ours.

So I wanted to take this cold, blustery, Friday morning in the end of January to try to boost everyone's morale and let you know that if you're in the long haul with me, then by God we are going to take this writing world by storm.

Thanks, Westley. I couldn't have said it better myself, especially since it's true. Especially in the writing world you need to expect, and in fact anticipate a lot of downfalls.

From manuscripts being locked away in a drawer for all eternity, to the seemingly endless rejection e-mails during our dreaded query process, and the all so common stress of writers block and wanting to tear up your MS. These events will happen. And they will bring us down.

The sad part about it, is that our friends and family typically don't understand why we are down and out all the time. They don't understand the process and it's grueling nature. They think, "oh, you just wrote a book? So just get a publisher or something. Or publish it yourself." If ONLY it were that easy.

It took me ages to explain to my wife and my family the process I've been going through. They originally thought it's 1...2...3....BOOM I'm an AUTHOR! No, sorry. I wish it was that easy but I have years ahead of me still.

Being an author is a love / hate relationship. There are days when we absolutely love the words we've put on the page and think to ourselves, this is it. I HAVE A WINNER. Then there are days where we don't even want to THINK about touching our manuscript, since it's absolute garbage.

But I also think it's these feelings that make writing more rewarding than most other "hobbies." For me anyway, that's what I think it is. Just like my artwork. It's a means of expressing and entertaining myself, and if I'm lucky enough, I get to entertain other people with my work. It's a hobby for me. I love doing it, and not because I want to make millions off it (wouldn't hurt? LoL).

So, I'll say this too. If you're writing for the money, you need to change your mindset. You need to write because you love it. Because it's your passion. And if you're thinking of giving up just because it's too hard to get into the industry, or because you're not making the big bucks, then maybe it's not for you. You need to be able to sit down, and write for hours on end without even the thought of being the next J.K. Rowling popping into your head.

You need to write because you want people to hear your story. You want to share your thoughts and ideas with the world. And you don't care if you make a dime from it. You need to love all of it. Even the bad.

Well, that was rude. Anyway, I want to end this little rant with a little story. The reason why I love to write, and this just happened to me recently. I had just sent off my newest MG MS called "Lucas Peregrinus and the Escape from Manuki Island" to a couple of my most esteemed beta readers. I wasn't expecting much, especially since I know the MS is still in it's early stages. But I love the book, and I love the idea, and I was really hoping they would feel the same.

Less than a week later, I receive an e-mail back from one of my betas. She had given the manuscript to her 13 y/o son who apparently devoured the book in no time flat. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, "I can't wait for the next one!"

She had told me that he wasn't too patient when it came to reading books, and easily shoots most of them down. But with my MS he actually had to stop reading since it gotten so late and his dad forced him to turn off the lights. I asked for his feedback, and the amount of things he had to say about my MS that were positive made my week. In fact, it made my year. I'm not going to lie when I say this, but someone must have been cutting onions nearby.

It's moments like that, that make me so glad to be a writer. Someone, in my target audience, loved my work. A work, that I KNOW isn't even close to being perfect. But there I had it. Proof that I was doing something write. Proof that writing was the way to go for me.

So, I tell you this fellow writers. If you love writing...if you REALLY love writing, you will not let the little things such as rejections, or harsh critiques get to you. Because you'll know, deep down, that this is what you want to do. And you want the world to see what you're made of, one word at a time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Danielle Smith of Foreword Literary gets Middle Grade Minded!

You've all heard of the her, folks.

She's part of the mega-awesome agency known as Foreword Literary. You can find her on Twitter, firing off tweets with the speed of a spur-wearing gunslinger. She's got a web presence that even John Green envies.

That's right--I'm talking about the book-loving, deal-making super-agent...

Danielle Smith!

Danielle was gracious enough to spend some time answering the most pressing MG questions we could fire at her. And she pretty much nailed it. Check out her amazing insights to the MG writing, agenting, and publishing world!

What do you look for in a MG Submission?

Emotions. That may seem like a very broad statement, but think back to your own middle grade years and I imagine you'll remember it was nothing if not an emotional roller coaster.

Initially, before I even read the manuscript I want the query to show some personality. This may be something specific to my own experience, but I've found that middle grade writers tend to exude a certain personality (that I love) that is very different from almost any genre. Either they're more considerate by personalizing the query carefully to me or it's simply a matter of having me in stitches before I'm finished with the query.

Within the manuscript I want to cry, laugh and feel so connected to the main character that I'd hug or high five them if I saw them in real life (of course not in front of all their friends though, perish the thought).
All of that said, I'm not asking for trained circus monkeys as clients and if the writing is good it will speak for itself.

What things do you think define Middle Grade and set it apart from the other age groups?

So much. More than any other time of life, that period from about 8 to 13 years old is a time when so many things change for the very first time in a child's life. Not to mention how often a huge wrench gets thrown into the mix, things like sickness, divorce of parents, friends moving or changing, etc. It's truly one of the very first times in a persons life when they actively recognize and move toward defining themselves.

All of this is why middle grade stands apart from other genres and age groups. Of course some of these things happen later or earlier in life, but this is truly a pivotal time in a persons experience and a time I love to relive through each character I encounter.

We frequently hear that MG voice is difficult to get right. Why do you think it's so tough? And what can a writer do to help nail down their MG voice?

An MG voice has to feel authentic. There is no faking the feeling of emptiness and despair that comes with having a parent pack up and move out in the middle the school year, especially when your best friend has abandoned you for the "cool kids" for the first time. It has to feel honest and true. This, more than any other genre in my opinion, cannot be faked.

My biggest and best suggestion beyond telling you to keep writing is to keep reading. Go to your local bookstore, pull off a dozen of the best middle grade books out there right now (think of authors like Anne Ursu, Adam Gidwitz, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Christopher Healy, etc.) and then read the first one to two pages of each. Hear the varying voices as you read. If you can, read them outloud or listen to someone read them to you. I promise, you will see very clearly how distinct those voices are and how it may help you with your own writing. I've always believed that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to read.

What are the most common mistakes you see in a MG submission?

I'd say there are a few basic things that any good researcher would likely already know. Things like excessive word counts stated in the query (ie. 120k for an MG is WAY too long), not addressing your query to the appropriate agent or simply not researching what it is I like. I get a number of queries also that are too long and detailed. I'm a fan of succinct queries, two or three paragraphs to get me hooked and tell me a little about you & your book is all I need.

In terms of the manuscripts I see in MG, my biggest concerns are with voice and point of view. These can often go hand in hand. Explore varying POVs if you think it might improve your voice. Also, a lacking supporting cast is another common problem I run into. Don't only focus on your main character, but be sure the friends and family in the background are also well developed. Great examples of this are books like THE FOURTH STALL by Chris Rhylander and PICKLE by Kim Baker, which are both favorites of mine.

What are you dying to see in your inbox?

At the very top of my list is a manuscript with magical realism. I am a big fan of the adult fiction author Sarah Addison Allen and the middle grade author, Laurel Snyder. I would love to see something in middle grade along those lines.

I'd really love a middle grade novel with a hilarious heroine that's not making fun of herself or others, often it's the boys that are the funny ones and I know that's not always the case in real life.

I'm also on the hunt for more great chapter books like IVY & BEAN by Annie Barrows and THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER by Kevin Henkes. Basically anything that makes me feel all the emotions, I want to feel connected to the characters and disconnected from the world around me. Send me a book that I get completely lost in and I'll be over the moon.

Danielle Smith represents picture books and middle grade authors and illustrators. To check out her current wish list and submission requirements, visit the Foreword Literary website.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Reality Can Be Better Than Fiction

Sounds odd coming from a fiction writer, on a blog for fiction MG writers, right? But let me explain. I love fictions stories. But sometimes, the real world is even cooler than the things we can make up in our own heads. So why not use them?

We’re writing for 9-13 year olds and if there is one thing I know about that age is that they love to learn. Well, less that they like to learn, but more that they like to know things. Teachers and school? Bahaha. No. But being able to tell someone about the ice caves in Alaska? or the cliff mountains in China? Or the pink lake in Australia? Yes! 

So use the information around you (I’m a big google fan) to your advantage and pull in your readers in a way you never have before. Teach them something. Entertain them but show them how amazing the real world can really be. 

Topic One: settings. 

This is one of my favorite ways to take an average story and make it extraordinary. Because you can place nearly any story into a new setting to take it up a notch, or ten. 

Making a story stand out can sometimes be more difficult than we’d like. The story pulling at your heart strings might be a story that’s been done too many times. A story that you’re afraid won’t stand out enough in the slush pile or even on the shelves. Do you put it down and try something else? Maybe. But I’m a fan of following my heart. I think you should to.

So here’s plan B. Open up your browser, or walk into the book store, and start a little research. Maybe that quest your character must go on will take him to the pink lake in Africa (there’s also one in Australia) instead of a forest on the outskirts of town.  

Or maybe instead of growing up in a small town in the united states she grew up in the city in Bonn  germany where the tree’s form a roof over the town in the spring time.

Or instead of getting lost in the mountains, your character gets lost inside the selenite crystals of the Naici mines in Mexico.

Kids don’t want to feel like they’re being taught something, they want to experience something. Reading is the perfect way to do that. Give them the kind of adventure they won’t ever forget. The kind that could inspire curiosity for the world’s great places.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year, New Goals

Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars. - Les Brown
It’s a new year and for many that means setting new goals—both in life and in writing. While we are often excited about those goals at the start of the year, as the months go on, they sometimes go by the wayside. So how do we set goals that we will keep up with? How do we stay on top of them?

Set Goals
First you have to set your goals. Think about the things you want to accomplish. No matter how big or small put them on the list. When setting goals, don’t focus on how hard they might be just focus on what you want for yourself and your writing. Once you have a list you can narrow it down to a few you really want to work on and achieve.

Set Mini Goals
Now that you have goals, take a look at them. Break the larger more daunting tasks into smaller more obtainable ones. You’re more likely to work on your goals and achieve them if they tasks feel smaller.

Example Goal: Write a book
Mini Goal: Write an outline
Mini Goal: Write character bios
Mini Goal: Write setting descriptions
Mini Goals: Write 250 words every day

Keep Yourself Accountable
Periodically pull out your goals and see how things are going. See if you are on track. If not maybe add in incentives to help you achieve those goals you are struggling with. Don’t let yourself off the hook. If you have to, schedule reminders or time aside to complete aspects of your goals so that you can keep working on them.

If things aren’t working out take a step back and ask yourself why. Is this really what you want? Have your priorities changed? Maybe you underestimated or overestimated the goal. It’s ok to change your goals midstream if you need to. There is no shame in putting a goal aside if it isn’t right for you or it isn’t the right time. Just make sure you are stepping back because it’s what you want/need not because you got lazy.

Get a Buddy
If you are really struggling (or even if you aren’t) get a goal buddy. They don’t have to have the same goals as you, but they do have to help keep you accountable for your work. If you have a buddy cheering you on and working by your side on their goals, it’s extra motivation to keep going. Not to mention you aren’t just letting yourself down if you start to slack. IT gives you more accountability. And if you are a competitive person like me, it can be a mini competition to see who gets their goals done first.

So all this talk about goals I thought I’d share some of my writing goals for 2014. For reference the numbers are my big goals, the letters are my mini goals.
1.)    Get an agent (and not just any agent, the right agent for me!)
a.       Polish my query/synopsis
b.      Make sure my manuscript is the best it can be
c.       Send queries
d.      Re-evaluate query package if necessary
2.)    Get my YA Sci Fi Thriller query ready.
a.      Work with beta readers to obtain feedback
b.      Edit the manuscript
c.       Get additional feedback
d.      Edit some more
e.       Rinse and repeat until it shines!
3.)    Write something new
a.       Brainstorm
b.      Outline
c.       Spend at least two days a week writing (as much as I love editing, I need to focus on writing something new this year)
4.)    Improve my craft
a.       Attend at least one writing conference
b.      Attend writing seminars/workshops
c.       Read writing blogs
5.)    Keep Going
a.       Whatever I do, rejections and discouraging news aside, I will keep writing, keep editing, and keep improving.
b.      I refuse to quit!

What kind of writing goals do you set and how do you keep up with them?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Want to Rule Social Media?

Then start by being human. And more to the point, learn to Jab before you throw a right hook. Confused? Don't worry. In his newest book, wine businessman, motivational speaker, investor, agency owner and all around hustler Gary Vaynerchuk talks about what you need to do in order to use Social Media to improve your business, whether that business be selling beverage widgets or selling book widgets.

Read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How To Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World and you will get a lot smarter. Use what you learn from JJJRH and you will get a ton more value from your author platform.

Gary's simple thesis is the following: in order to gain great value from Social Media (and he is very up front that he is using Social Media to get help his business) you have to be human. And what's more, you have to bring value to other people. You DO NOT bring value to other people by constantly telling them about your books. In Gary's parlance, asking people for a sale is a right hook. And in boxing, if all you ever did was throw right hooks for the knockout punch, then you'd be dead before you started. Instead, in boxing, you have to set people up for the right hook by throwing plenty of jabs first.

A Jab in Gary's lexicon is a way to be human that brings somebody value. And that, of course, is the tricky thing. The thing that each individual needs to figure out. How to really be human on, for instance, Twitter, in such a way that other people find useful.

Maybe you are this really funny person. Then be funny on twitter. Trust me, I find laughing incredibly useful. It makes me want to know more about you.

Or maybe you are really good at discovering information that can help people. As a writer, I am always a sucker for things that can help me improve my craft. Use Twitter to help me find those articles and links and people that will help me become a better writer.

Or maybe, you are just a really unique combination of quirks and interests and your total package, when you really put it on display, is just a really interesting person. Then be that.

Be interesting on social media and let people find out who you are. Then they will find their way to your website, learn more about you and the books you write and start investigating further.

There really is no good shortcut. There really isn't. There isn't a situation where spamming your Twitter followers day and night about your book is ever a good idea. It's not. It's inhuman. Instead, be interesting, be useful, be entertaining and every once is while, throw a right hook. Tell us about the book that is coming out. Tell us about the event you are going to.

If we like you enough, we will spread the word.

If you are new to social media or feel like you need a boost, go buy Gary's book right now. Or if you don't want to buy it, enter the give away because I have one copy of this awesome book that I'm giving to somebody now!

BOOK GIVEAWAY: No fancy rafflecopter today. In order to enter the giveaway for a copy of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk, all you have to do is leave a comment below. Answer the question: who is one of your favorite people to follow on Twitter is...and why? I will let people enter until Monday at Noon Central and then at that time I will pick one of the commenters at random and then I will get your details from you so I can ship you your shiny new book. Go comment now!

Monday, January 6, 2014

A new MG title's Cover Reveal!

I am thrilled to announce a debut middle grade novel, How To Outrun A Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied,from our guest poster this week, Jess Keating!

*and the crowd goes wild*

Ana didn't ask to be named after an anaconda. She didn't ask for zoologist parents who look like safari guides. And she definitely didn't ask for a twin brother whose life goal seems to be terrorizing her with his pet reptiles. Now, to make matters worse, her parents have decided to move the whole family INTO the zoo! All of which gives the Sneerers (the clan of carnivorous female predators in her class) more ammunition to make her life miserable-and squash any hope of class tennis stud, Zack, falling in love with her. Ana tries to channel her inner chameleon and fade into the background, but things are changing too quickly for her to keep up.

A bit about Jess:

As a middle grade author and zoologist, Jess Keating has been sprayed by skunks, bitten by crocodiles, and been a victim to the dreaded paper cut. Her debut How To Outrun A Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied is coming in Summer 2014 from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, with a sequel to follow. She has a Masters degree in Animal Science and a growing collection of books that are threatening to take over her house. She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves hiking, playing ukulele, and writing books for adventurous and funny kids.

We at Middle Grade Minded wish you patience as you move toward your publication date, Jess, and may you enjoy huge success upon its release!

Jess is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literay Agency and I have it on no authority that Jess sent a live crocodile along with her query letter in order to snag representation. It was either sign her, or lose a toe. (Good choice Kathleen!)

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Nerdicus Top 5 MG of 2013

Ah, 2014. It feels like only a few days ago it was 2013. I don't know about you, but 2013 for me was spent doing a lot of writing, and a heck of a lot more reading. So I figured I'd use this opportunity at the start of the new year, to take a look back and give to you my top five MG hits of 2013.


Author : M.M. Vaughan

How can a kid's life get much worse? His father is dead, his mother is the epitome of depression, and he was just expelled from his old school. But getting accepted into a British school that focuses on a person's ability to control minds changes everything for young Christopher Lane. The only problem is, someone is using powers against students and faculty at the school. It's up to Chris and his group of five friends to find out who is abusing the telekinetic abilities and threatening to destroy the school.

It may seem like just another kid's brought to a school with special abilities, but it's definitely got enough twists and turns in it to make it a fast paced thrill ride. Chris is also an incredibly likable character who you're rooting for since page one. And I can tell you this much, this book has one of the best twists I've seen in awhile.


Title : And In Their Passing, A Darkness: The Salt Machine
Author : Jeff Smieding

My agency sibling gets the nod with his incredibly dark and creepy MG serial. The second part just came out, and it's just as good as the first (but I can't include it because it came out in 2014!!!). But if you want the full low down of all the epic-ness that THE SALT MACHINE has to offer, check out the review I did --->


Title : Sky Jumpers
Author : Peggy Eddleman

Post-apocalyptic world? Check. A cloud of toxic air that could kill with one breath? Check. The fate of humanity falling on the hopes of a 12-year old girl? Check. I thought I would be done with dystopian themed novels, but Sky Jumpers proved me wrong. The premise is original, and the tense feeling throughout the book is downright addicting. I breezed through this novel in matter of hours (not joking), and I have been craving more since I closed the book.

You've got bandits threatening the lives of a town, while stealing a serum that could cure a post-apocalyptic disease. Throw in an injured father, and the fact the town may not last through the year if aid doesn't arrive, and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster. But in comes, Hope and her ability to leap through the "bomb's breath" (I can't tell you how much I love that term). She may think her skills are useless, but that'll soon be proved otherwise.

Utter epic awesomesauce, that's all I can say.


Title : Seven Wonders Book 1 : The Colossus Rises
Author : Peter Lerangis

Since I was a teen, I always had a keen interest in the Seven Wonders of the world. It was just the very idea that these incredible structures were created in ages where we could barely fathom how it was possible. In comes The Colossus Rises, the first book of the Seven Wonders series. It's a story of Jake McKinely who just discovered that he will die unless he obtains seven "loculi" hidden within each of the Seven Wonders of the World.

This MG novel also has a "school" of sorts where Jake and his friends must master abilities that have been passed on through the ages. Only through mastering their abilities can they overcome the challenges that wait them in each of the seven wonders.

It's Percy Jackson meets Harry Potter in the sunken city of Atlantis. So if you're a fan of those series, which I am sure you are, this one is a sure fire winner. My only qualm, is that I have to wait seven books to find out what happens. AGH!!!


Title : Cragbridge Hall : The Inventor's Secret
Author : Chad Morris

After writing Copernicus Nerdicus, my obsession with bizarre inventions grew exponentially. And this book fulfilled every need I had this year. It follows Abby and Derrick who recently become accepted into a prestigious school called Cragbridge Hall, where their inventor Grandfather has supplied incredible inventions. However, shortly after attending, their parents and grandfather go missing and it's up to them to find out where they have disappeared to. As it turns out, someone is attempting to use Oscar Cragbridge's inventions of historic time travel for malicious purposes.

This was easily one of my favorite MG books of the year, and it fulfilled every need I had for a MG adventure. It's a true puzzle solving mystery as we follow Abby and Derrick discovering clues left by their grandfather. Not to mention some of the crazy inventions they describe. If you're looking for a page turner, look no further.

Well, that's my list. Be sure to check some of these out if you're looking for some fast paced adventure, mystery, or a dark and creepy children's tale. You won't be disappointed.

So, what were your favorites of 2013?