Interview with Tania del Rio, Author of The Thirteen-Year Curse

Today I’m thrilled to chat with Tania del Rio, author of the Warren the 13th series! Her latest book, The Thirteen-Year Curse, releases today!!! You can also check out an interview with Tania on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/spookymiddlegrade/. Watch it live 3.24.2020 at 1 PDT or visit our page to view the recording.

Let’s dive right in. What should new readers know about the world of Warren the 13th?

The Warren the 13th series is about a hardworking boy who is the lone bellhop, fixer-upper, concierge, maid service, and manager of his family’s ancient hotel. He does it all, with no thanks to his lazy uncle and evil aunt, who may or may not be a witch. Warren starts off the series as a lonely boy who is trying to honor the memory of his dead father but through the course of his adventures he gains new friends—and enemies—and unlocks some surprising mysteries about his beloved hotel!

What should readers expect in this latest volume? Can you give us any scintillating details w/out spoilers?

It’s tough to say too much without spoiling anything, but I can say Warren’s adventures take him to uncharted territory upon the open seas. His beloved pet and best pal, Sketchy, is kidnapped and Warren must solve riddles and clues if he has any hope of rescuing his friend. Along the way he’ll contend with ornery pirates, sea witches, and circus clowns—not to mention an enormous beast known as The Great Eight!

What has been the best part of working on Warren the 13th?

I love the zany cast of characters and seeing where Warren’s adventures take him. Even though I work from a detailed outline, as I write new surprises often pop up and I find myself adding things in I’d never expect. Also, collaborating with Will Staehle, the designer and illustrator of the book, is a lot of fun.

Tell me more about the illustrator. You’re also known for your amazing illustrations, so how did that partnership work?

Will and I have known each other since we were freshmen in art school, many years ago! We’ve had a lot of creative collaborations over the years, including creating a small press comic company, and editing a tutorial book on manga style art. Will originally conceived of the character of Warren in art school and shared the concept with me. I actually wrote the earliest draft of Warren’s story back in 2004! So it’s been a very long process bringing it to shelves. Even though I am also an illustrator, Will’s incredible design sense and his unique style is the only way Warren could ever be brought to life. My own art style just wouldn’t work for this project.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a new middle grade adventure that is best described as Latinx Sailor Moon meets Coco. It’s about three friends who end up in a darkened world populated by alebrijes, colorful and folkloric animals. The girls must band together to restore the sun and find their way home, before all is lost.

How can readers get in touch?

I can be reached on Twitter, @taniadelrio and Instagram, @taniadelrioauthor. I absolutely love hearing from my readers, so please visit me online!

Tania Del Rio is a professional comic book writer and artist who has spent the past 10 years writing and illustrating, primarily for a young audience. Her clients include Archie Comics, Dark Horse, and Marvel; she is best known for her work writing and drawing the 42-issue run of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She is also the author of the WARREN THE 13TH series published by Quirk Books. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her online at http://taniadelrio.blogspot.com/.

First Look Interview: Whispering Pines by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski

Today, I’m thrilled to give readers a first look at the new middle grade novel by the writing team of Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski, Whispering Pines!!! Welcome Heidi and Kati! We’ll show off that beautiful cover soon, but first can you pitch your new book to us Twitter-style, in 280 characters or less?

X-Files meets Stranger Things in this contemporary horror MG about a UFO-obsessed girl determined to find her missing father, and a ghost hunting boy now being hunted by a ghost of his own—that of his older brother—who team up to save their town from supernatural forces.

Yes!!! I love everything from that pitch! Aliens, ghosts, mysterious supernatural forces. Why do I feel like this book was written specifically for me?

Next, I challenged Heidi and Kati to finish these sentences about the book:

The one thing Rae Carter wants is to…

KATI: Find her missing father.

HEIDI: Couldn’t have said it better myself. 😉 In the meantime, she also wants to learn how to fit into Whispering Pines.

Caden Price knows more than most about the mysterious town of Whispering Pines, including…

HEIDI: …the fact that there is a world hidden beneath their own, and his town serves as the gateway.

KATI: Unfortunately for Caden, he’s not the only one who knows this. Just as he’s not the only one who’s figured out that the Price family holds the key to unlocking that world.

My first thought when I saw the cover was…

HEIDI: Wow! So delightfully creepy!

KATI: Same. I loved it immediately. Diana Novich is such a talented illustrator.

And, without further ado, let’s take a look at that gorgeous cover:

Whispering Pines

So beautiful and mysterious! I love the lighting, and did you catch that ghost hand?

Finally, I challenged Heidi and Kati to a little Lightning Round!

  • What was your favorite spooky story as a kid?

KATI: I actually didn’t like reading spooky stories as a kid – I got nightmares too easily. I used to wait for Heidi to read a book first so she could tell me if it was scary or not. Sometimes she lied about it. >: (

HEIDI: “Lied” is a little harsh. I was just trying to broaden your horizons. And it worked! Now you love reading horror. You’re welcome, by the way. ; p  I loved R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, especially “Let’s Get Invisible.” That ending has stayed with me for years.

  • Do you believe in the supernatural?

KATI: Definitely.

HEIDI: Me too. I think anything is possible.

  • What tips do you have for kids interested in writing spooky stories?

HEIDI: Read and watch spooky things. And play the “what if” game, trying to think of the scariest possible outcomes. And then invest in a good night light.

KATI: Also when you’re writing, try to create scenes that scare you. If you can scare yourself, you’ll scare your readers.

  • What’s the coolest costume you’ve ever worn for Halloween?

KATI: Actually, my coolest costume was simple black clothing that I wore when I worked at a haunted house – it helped me blend into the shadows so I could scare people.

HEIDI: One time I was a crayon. That was pretty wild.

KATI: I remember that costume! Pretty sure I was that same crayon the next year. I don’t think “cool” is how I’d describe it, though. ;D

Final question: Can readers expect more adventures set in Whispering Pines? 

KATI: We are currently working on an as-yet-unnamed sequel.

HEIDI: Yes, lots more planned for Whispering Pines!

Yay!!! Looking forward to it!

WHISPERING PINES releases September 1st, 2020 through Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

Kati and Heidi_author photo_Positive Vista Photography

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski are a writing team of two sisters. Heidi is afraid of all things that go bump in the night, but watches shows like the X-Files and Stranger Things anyhow. Kati enjoys reading about serial killers and the apocalypse, but secretly sleeps with a nightlight. They believe that the best way to conquer fear is to share it with as many people as possible, so between the two of them, they love creating stories full of all the things that scare them most. They are the co-authors of the Mystic Cooking Chronicles trilogy.

Find Heidi on twitter and instagram: @hidlang

Find Kati on twitter and instagram: @ktbartkowski

Or visit their website: www.HeidiandKatiBooks.com

 

Cover Reveal — THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS by Janet Fox

TheArtifactHunters_cover

KIM: Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Janet Fox to the spooky blog to reveal the cover of her new book, THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS, a companion novel to her critically-acclaimed middle grade fantasy, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, coming August 2020! Welcome!

JANET: Thank you, Kim!

9780147517135KIM: Before we reveal that gorgeous cover, tell us more about the fantasy world that you started in your award-winning book, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE.

JANET: CHARMED CHILDREN is set early in World War 2, during the London blitz of fall 1940. Kat Bateson and her younger brother and sister are sent out of London to a “school” in a Scottish castle, Rookskill. But as it turns out, the school is run by someone who is not what she seems, and the castle is a nightmarish place of strange noises, dark hallways, and ghostly children. German spies, enigma machines, and ancient spooky magic all play a part. Practical Kat must uncover what’s going on – and discover her own power – before it’s too late.

KIM: What should readers of CHARMED CHILDREN expect from your latest book?

JANET: THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS is told from a new character’s point of view, a Czech Jewish boy named Isaac Wolf, who is sent abruptly from Prague to Scotland by his parents. This story again takes place in Rookskill, but it’s now 1942, and things in the castle have changed. Kat is still there with a small handful of the children who are now members of the Special Alternative Intelligence Unit of MI 6, using their developing magical skills to help win the war. But Isaac is being chased for reasons he doesn’t understand, and he must enlist the help of his new friends and call on his internal strength to avoid a dreadful dark magical threat, while acquiring a skill and responsibility that will aid the SAIU.

KIM: Now it’s time for the big reveal…here it goes…drumroll please!

Wait for it.

Okay.

Here.

It.

Comes.

TheArtifactHunters_cover

KIM: What was your first response when you saw the cover created by the wonderful Jen Bricking? Can you give us any secrets about the illustration process?

JANET: I had very little to do with the process, but I’m delighted with the cover. It’s very different from the CHARMED CHILDREN cover, which is much more mysterious and sophisticated, but the ARTIFACT HUNTERS cover does create that magical aura, with four of the children and a number of mysterious artifacts, and an image of the antagonist – who is really creepy. I love how appealing it is – the brilliant colors, the spooky aspects, because it raises so many questions that I hope will spur readers to seek answers. I especially love how the kids look so much like I thought. I think it will attract a new group of readers to the series.

KIM: We meet several dastardly villains in THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS. What is your process for creating such deliciously evil souls?

JANET: Oh, thanks for that! I think the most important thing to know about a villain is that he or she truly believes they are the hero of the story. What they do is, by their account, right. It might be “right” because it satisfies a personal need, or it might be “right” because it speaks to a larger need, but the villain never would admit that they are doing what is “wrong”. I think this kind of nuance helps readers assess their own actions and the actions of others, and that adds a layer of complexity.

Plus, I really love writing creepy villains who send shivers up the spine.

KIM: What are three fun tidbits from THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS that readers may not be expecting?

JANET: They should look for the dragon, shapeshifting, and I’d love it if readers would discover all the magical artifacts that I reference – and send me their own ideas for magical artifacts. Their ideas might find a place in another book!

KIM: Thanks so much for stopping by Janet!

JANET: Thank you so much, Kim.

IMG_0093acJanet Fox is an author, mom, outdoor enthusiast, and former teacher. She’s been to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible, and had a brief fling with rock stardom. Her novels are written for children and young adults but have won her fans of all ages. Her most recent novel, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, is a gothic middle grade fairy tale set in Scotland and has received a whole bunch of stars, and the lovely Crystal Kite Award. At the moment she’s sporting blue and pink stripes in her hair. She lives in Bozeman, Montana. Find out more at www.janetsfox.com

 

Interview with Sarah Jean Horwitz — Author of THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE

Today, I’m super excited to welcome Sarah Jean Horwitz to the blog! Sarah is the author of the new MG novel, THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE, out this month with Algonquin Young Readers.

Can’t wait to hear more about this book! The cover…AMAZING! The premise…SO TOTALLY COOL! Let’s dive right in.

First up, time for a few sentence starters.

My main character Clementine is…a somewhat reluctant future Evil Overlord and heir to the Dark Lordship of the Seven Sisters mountains. Clementine is lonely, brave, and compassionate, and has a lot to learn about her potential for goodness and the world around her.  

The Dark Lord Elithor is…Clementine’s father and the current Dark Lord. He’s been cursed by a rival named the Whittle Witch and his magic is fading. He loves Clementine, but can be cruel and uncaring and…well, Dark Lord-Like!

I had the most fun writing…the earlier scenes in the book, where Clementine spends a bit of time wandering around the castle and her father’s estate trying to think of a cure for him. I loved introducing fun details about the story world and Clementine to the reader.

I hope that readers will…love spending time with Clementine (and Darka the unicorn huntress, and Sebastien the aspiring knight, and David the black sheep, and…all the characters!) as much as I did while writing them.

When it comes to good vs. evil…When the oppression and pain of others is built into a system that benefits us, it can be easy to turn a blind eye. But just as Clementine learns that her way of life is not normal, and rejects the notion that cruelty is part of the necessary order of the world, so must we.

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Now for a quick speed round:

Favorite literary villain: Surprisingly (or perhaps not?) I’m not a big villain fan! I find it more interesting when characters are facing off against bigger societal forces or institutions, or even against themselves.

Hogwarts house: Gryffindor! At least, according to my first Pottermore sorting. I’m sticking with it.

Dragons or unicorns: I’d hate to betray my own book here, since it’s rife with unicorns, but I have to say…dragons.

Desert island book: Some sort of survival manual, of course! I’m terrible at camping.

Biggest fear: It’s a tie between dying a painful/violent death and losing my mental faculties from dementia. Cheery stuff!

Dream superpower: Super healing, or some sort of selective immortality. In case you couldn’t tell from the previous answer, I’d like to be in charge of when I kick the bucket.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sarah!

Sarah Jean Horwitz_8x10_Emma YoungSarah Jean Horwitz was raised in suburban New Jersey, where she lived next door to a cemetery and down the street from an abandoned fairy tale theme park. Her love of storytelling grew from listening to her mother’s original “fractured” fairy tales, a childhood spent in community theater, and far too many rereads of Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables. 

She is the author of the Carmer and Grit series. THE WINGSNATCHERS, the first book in that series, was a Kids Indie Next List pick and a Junior Library Guild Selection. The second book in the series, THE CROOKED CASTLE, was released in April 2018. Find her online at www.sarahjeanhorwitz.comor follow her on Twitter @sunshineJHwitz.

Introducing: The Creeping Hour Podcast

Creeps

This week, I am thrilled to welcome the amazing Elie Lichtschein to the blog, who co-created The Creeping Hour podcast along with public media broadcaster WGBH!

Thanks so much for having me! 

Quiz time! Sudden, I know, but that’s how we roll around here. Tell our readers everything they need to know about The Creeping Hour podcast, pretty please…in 280 characters or less.

Haha, my pleasure! (That doesn’t count, does it?) The Creeping Hour is a podcast of scary stories hosted by three horror obsessed friends who listened to too many spooky stories and turned into monsters. The stories themselves are about creepy music that you can never unhear, diabolical orthodontists, flying beach monsters, haunted houses, and more…

Now it’s time for some spine-tingling sentence starters.

The Creeps are… the hosts of the show. They narrate each story and caution the listener that if you’re not careful — and listen and read too many spooky stories — the same nightmarish transformation that happened to them can happen to you!

Axe, Toro and Weta are just regular kids who… turned into monstrous versions of themselves. Before they became Creeps, they would gather in Weta’s basement and share the most awful, skin-curdling tales their fear-obsessed imaginations could conjure. Axe used to love rock music, but now her favorite genre is Creep Rock, Toro is a vegan who eats meat-free monster food, and Weta’s obsession with insects is now evident in the mandibles swinging off her face. 

Listeners should be prepared to… sleep with a nightlight on! 

Scary stories are… the best kind of stories obviously. And October is easily the greatest month of the year.

The podcast really came to life when… we assembled the amazing cast in the recording studio and heard them animate and become the characters with blood-curling energy.

Now that our readers have learned a bit more about The Creeping Hour, it’s time for a terrifying Lightning Round of deep, personal questions:

  • Favorite scary story: “Graveyard Shift” by Stephen King (first read it as a teenager and it still haunts me as an adult)
  • Favorite scary movie: It Follows (or The Shining! Or Rosemary’s Baby! Okay this is harder than I thought..)
  • Biggest fear: Sharks (But it’s a double-edged sword because they’re also my greatest love..)
  • Funniest Halloween moment: When I was three years old I dressed as Lisa Simpson and my five year old brother was Bart. He had a little too much fun making fun of my red dress and all the photos from that night are of me crying. I think he leaned into his character a little too much..
  • Cuddliest monster: The yeti! He’s a big roving ball of fluff that would keep you warm on the coldest winter night!

Final words: how can listeners tune into The Creeping Hour? On Spotify, the podcast app, or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also tune in on the website: thecreepinghour.org

Thanks so much for stopping by, Elie! Who’s ready to be scared? Me, me!

Elie Lichtschein is a writer based in New York City. His fiction can be found in the YA anthology IT’S A WHOLE SPIEL (Knopf, September 2019) and he’s the author of THE BOOK ROOM AT THE END OF THE THIRD FLOOR, a Middle Grade mystical adventure novel contracted through PJ Library. Visit him at elielicht.com or on Instagram and Twitter @elielicht 

Interview with S.A. Larsen Author of MOTLEY EDUCATION

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome our very own S.A. Larsen to the blog! She is celebrating the release of a brand-new edition of her spooky middle grade novel, MOTLEY EDUCATION! Without further ado, let’s see that beautiful cover:

Motley Education - ebook cover

LOVE the purple streak in her hair! Okay, now it’s quiz time. I know, so soon. Can you pitch MOTLEY EDUCATION to me Twitter-style (i.e. in 280 characters or less)?

A misfit spirit tracker & her skittish BFF must elude one ornery school headmistress & brave beasts of Norse mythology to retrieve a relic vital to saving the spirit world, only to discover the true meaning of her quest has been inside her all along. #motleyeducation #mglit

What an awesome Twitter pitch! Now let’s learn a little more about the world of MOTLEY EDUCATION. Sheri, can you finish these sentence starters for me, pretty please?

My main character Ebony is…sweet at heart, feisty when cornered, and more courageous than she knows. Her favorite place is the Boneyard, the cemetery between her family’s house and Motley Junior High. It’s where she can be herself. She hangs out there with Fleishman and the only three ghosts she can see – Mayhem, Mischief, and Meandering. She loves them, but they are a constant reminder of how her spirit tracking skills don’t work as they should; her fellow students don’t let her forget it, either. She doesn’t walk around looking injured, though. Instead, she wears a tough exterior – fingerless gloves, miniskirt, tights with skulls on them, and blue and pink strips in her hair. One thing she can’t hide is the guilt she feels for constantly disappointing her mother. See, her mom is gifted. So is her father, younger brother, and weird twin aunts. It’s not fun being different. At least, this is what she thinks at the start of her story. 😉

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Ebony’s best friend Fleishman is…the best friend everyone wants. He’s honest, loyal, kind, and ridiculously smart, which is convenient during homework study. When Ebony gets a bit too feisty, pushing boundaries, Fleishman is there to reign her in. But he’s not without his own issues. He’s too uptight, needs facts to believe anything, and fears pretty much everything . . . with one exception – his legless lizard Nigel that he carries with him everywhere. Oh, and he rarely laughs at Ebony’s jokes. But she figures he’s missing a funny bone, so she lets it go most of the time.

Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted is…a centuries-old school, where kids with special skills related to Norse mythology can develop, grow, and learn in the proper environment. Once a student is accepted and signs the Terms of Enrollment agreement – which is vital because there are instructions on how to avoid a fire giant attack – he or she is assigned to one of the two school groups. The Sensory group explores the realm of psychic abilities, while the Luminary group charts astrology, the stages of the moon, and creates potions, spells…even a hex or two. *Mankind has drifted so far away from its origins that it has completely forgotten about the World Tree – Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, MJH has lots of educating to do.

Motley Education - Full Cover with Text

The spookiest part of MOTLEY EDUCATION is probably when…Ebony and Fleishman meet at the Boneyard and random doors begin appearing out of thin air. Mist and green vapor wafts from all sides of the doors, thickening and creeping. A dim light flickers near one of the Boneyard crypts. It brightens until blue and white mist puff out between the seams of the crypt doors and . . . I’d love to keep going, but I’d be giving a spoiler away.

MOTLEY EDUCATION was inspired by…my youngest son’s love for Norse mythology and his drive to overcome his diagnosis of Apraxia of Speech. For those who are unfamiliar, Apraxia of Speech is a neurological disorder, where there are no pathways from the brain to the mouth muscles. Through intensive therapy, new pathways are built, and the child will begin to speak. It’s all pretty amazing.

I hope that readers will…gain the courage to follow in Ebony’s steps by accepting themselves, flaws and all, and embracing who they are – right here and right now. Ebony wanted so badly to be an amazing spirit tracker now, but she learned that it takes experiences to grow and mature into who she wants to be.

Don’t miss S.A. Larsen’s awesome giveaway happening now on Twitter (ends 10/2/2019):

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S.A. Larsen is an award-winning author, childhood apraxia of speech advocate, and major ice hockey fan, who has watched more hockey games than she could ever count. Her favorite stories open secret passageways and hidden worlds to inspire and challenge the heart. She’s also the author of the award-winning young adult fantasy romance Marked Beauty (Ellysian Press 2017). She lives in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children, where she’s writing Ebony and Fleishman’s next adventure. Visit her cyber home at salarsenbooks.com.

Website: www.salarsenbooks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SA_Larsen

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sa.larsen/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SALarsen.Author/

Get your copy of MOTLEY EDUCATION today at: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords | IndieBound

Add MOTLEY on Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48088441-motley-education

Spooky Summer Writing Contest Winner

This week on the blog, I want to give a huge shout-out to Josie Portell, the winner of our Spooky Summer Writing Contest for Kids. Congratulations, Josie!!! Your story was truly and utterly terrifying! As the winner, you have officially and forever been declared a ‘Scare Master.’ Keep up the good work, and we hope to see many more stories from you in the future.

The story prompt for our contest was:

Spending the summer in a haunted school bus in the middle of the woods was bad enough. Did there have to be killer pineapples?

Now, without further ado, please enjoy Josie’s story entitled:

old-bus-3928535_960_720THE CREEPY, MYSTERIOUS, DREADFUL SUMMER

Spending the summer in a haunted school bus in the middle of the woods was bad enough. Did there have to be killer pineapples? But I’ll get to that later. It was the last day of school. But instead of kids doing fun activities, they were loading their bags on to a bus. They thought they were going on a fun, one night, end of school year field trip. Little did the fifth graders of Cardinal Elementary know that their whole summer was about to be turned upside down.

“Alright kids settle down, put your phones in this bucket,” said grumpy old Ms. Granfield. She was the grumpiest teacher you had ever met. Did she really have to be going on this trip? The kids did as they were told. After what felt like forever, the kids were on the bus heading to their surprise location. Soon enough, the bus stopped in the middle of the woods.

“Everybody get off before this bus explodes,” demanded Ms.Granfield to the students.

“Where are we?” One brave student dared to ask.

“Doesn’t matter Jerry, now get off,” Mrs. Granfield replied angrily.

“There has been a little situation with the bus, and this is where we will have to spend the night,” explained Mrs. Zenoff, another teacher.

“Ugh, whatever,” said Jenna, a popular cheerleader who was forced by her parents on this trip.

forest-2044261_960_720The kids all found this part of the woods a little eerie. They also wondered where that strange noise was coming from. But there was no time to worry when sunset was in an hour! The students hurried to get camp set up while the teachers cooked dinner. “Alright no complaining about dinner, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit,” Ms.Granfield informed the students.

Dinner was canned meat, canned vegetables and canned fruits. Everyone held their noses as they forced the disgusting food down their throats. Suddenly, the kids and teachers heard a big bump. Everyone ran into the bus, where they were told to sleep. Everything was left still. Then, thunder and lightning roared in and rain poured down.

“Settle in for the night,”called the teachers. “We’ll wake you up in the morning.”

Very few kids went to sleep that night. How could they with all the noise? They were crammed in an eerie bus with suitcases as their bedding. Not the best conditions for sleeping on a rainy night like this.

The strange noises became louder and were joined by a lingering ooh noise.

The next morning, the kids were awoken by their teachers.

“Kids, we contacted all of your parents last night to let them know that we will be spending our entire summer out here. We have the school bus to stay in but that is it,” said Ms. Granfield. All the kids complained in unison.

The oohing noise has stopped, and the kids stayed in the school bus. Something didn’t feel right, and the oohing noise continued.

“Something about this bus is haunted,”said Jenna.

“Yeah,” her best friend Emily agreed with her.

None of the students wanted to spend their whole summer in this creep of a bus, but this was the only option.

The day longed by, and it was time for the kids to go to bed. But one kid, Brandon, could not sleep. He was later awakened by a whispering noise.

“Brandon, Brandon get up, it is me, your grandpa,” said a noise.

“My grandpa died years ago!” exclaimed Brandon.

“I know I did, but come with me,” said the noise frustratedly.

fruit-1850978_960_720Brandon followed the noise deeper and deeper into the woods. They came upon an old cabin that looked even more haunted than the bus. They opened the door. It looked like any old log cabin in the woods. But something felt off. And what were those pineapples doing in the corner of the living room?

“Sit down son, let me tell you a story,” said Brandon’s grandfather.

“All your ancestors and your best friend, Eric’s, ancestors have been living here as spirit. Once a month or whenever someone comes into that abandoned bus, we send certain spirits out dressed as pineapples to kill whoever is in it,” told Brandon’s grandfather.

“But why?, and will you kill me and Eric?” questioned Brandon worryingly.

“No son, not you, but everyone else. Mwah ha ha ha!!” cheered his grandfather. Just as quickly as he had appeared, he was gone.

The next morning when Brandon woke up, everyone except him and Eric had been killed, just like his grandfather had said. The boys started heading home and told their parents the whole story. The story of how this summer had turned out to be way more than they had bargained for.

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Great job, Josie!!! So dark and creepy! And to all you young writers out there, fall is the perfect time to get out that pen and paper and start writing. What creepy stories can you create this Halloween season?

 

Spooky Summer Writing Contest

Greetings fellow ghouls! Welcome to our first-ever Spooky Middle Grade Summer Writing Contest. Do you have what it takes to scare the pants off our spooky authors? Here are some quick rules:

  • Must be ages 8-12 to enter.
  • Submit your story to spookymiddlegrade@gmail.com by midnight CST on July 31, 2019.
  • Stories must be submitted as Word documents, 12pt font, double-spaced.
  • Stories should not exceed 1000 words.
  • Stories must start with the prompt (see below).
  • Include your full name and preferred contact email.
  • Ask for your parent or guardian’s permission before entering.

Three lucky winners will have their stories posted on spookymiddlegrade.com. They will also receive some cool, spooky swag and be forever known as “Official Scare Masters.”

STORY PROMPT:

Spending the summer in a haunted school bus in the middle of the woods was bad enough. Did there have to be killer pineapples?

SPOOKY SUMMER WRITING CONTEST

Spooky Writing Tips for Kids

This week, I asked three spooky middle grade authors to share their favorite writing tips for kids. Hopefully these quick tips will help add that extra dash of creepy to your next terrifying tale.

S.A. LARSEN

Use all five senses when writing your scenes. But don’t stress about it. Just close your eyes and imagine what your character smells, feels or comes in contact with through touch. Reach your character’s arms out to let an imaginary breeze sweep along their skin. Have your character take a deep breath and almost taste the dying moss clinging to the trees. Playing with the senses from a creepy point-of-view is so fun in spooky stories!

SAMANTHA CLARK

Keep up the intrigue by dripping details into a scene, each one getting scarier than the last. And don’t forget to use all the senses. Maybe first they hear a howl in the distance. Then smell something dark and musty. Then feel drool drip down their neck…

CYNTHIA REEG

To help me get in the spooky mood for writing my monster stories, I brainstorm creepy vocabulary words before I start writing. Divide a paper into categories for the 5 senses–Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, Touch. See how many words you can think of for each sense. Even if you don’t use each of these words in your story, it will help set the tone for your writing. Scary on!

Thanks Spookies!!! I hope these tips help you add a little bite to your spooky story repertoire.

 

Spooky Author Pets

Here at spookymiddlegrade.com, our pets play a big role in our writing. I asked a few #SpookyMG authors to share stories about how their pets impact their writing.

Kim Ventrella & Hera

Yes, I had to put my dog first 😛 because she’s just too darn cute and she’s been a huge influence on my writing!!! True story, I wrote Skeleton Tree while sitting in a dog bed, while Hera sat on the couch behind me looking over my shoulder. She was basically my first editor, and she gave up her bed so I could have a comfy seat.

She also inspired me to write a story with a dog best friend, i.e. Bone Hollow, and that book is actually dedicated to her 🙂 She’s totally different from Ollie, though, Gabe’s best friend in Bone Hollow. Ollie has a wiggly, carefree spirit, but Hera is a total ball of nerves. She has a major phobia of people and other dogs. Example: when I first brought her home, I had to carry her outside, and if she saw someone walk past the window of their condo (inside) from 200 yards away, she would race back to our house shaking. It would take her 20-30 tries before she could get up the courage to pee. Now, she’s way braver and more comfortable in her environment, but she’s definitely a one-person dog.

Kim Ventrella is the author of Skeleton Tree (2017) and Bone Hollow (2019), both with Scholastic Press. She’s also a contributor to the New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark anthology coming in 2020 from Harper Collins.

Tania del Rio & Boba & Max

I have two dogs named Boba and Max. Max is a Chihuahua mix about 10 years old, and Boba is a 9 month old corgi puppy.

Max is usually content to lay at my side while I write and it’s nice to have her act as my little personal space heater on cold or rainy days. She’s got really soft ears that I like to pet whenever I’m stuck on a scene and need a moment to think. She’s the “pawfect” writing buddy!

Boba, on the other hand, has a lot of energy and gets jealous of my computer. If I’m not paying attention to him, he lets me know it by crawling onto my lap and getting in the way! He also likes to bark in my face- rude! It can be a bit challenging to get anything done with him around, so I try to take him on a long walk or visit the dog park so that he’ll sleep for a few hours while I work.

Even with the distractions, it’s nice to have pets to keep me company while I write and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Tania del Rio is the author of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye and Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods.

Jonathan Rosen & Parker

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My dog, Parker, is a three-year-old rescue, who we find to be the sweetest dog ever. He’ll usually curl up on the couch next to me when I’m writing. I’ll run ideas by him, and he points out whether or not there are any plot holes. He’s good like that. But mostly, he helps me because whenever I want a break, or am stuck on something, I turn around, pet him, and he basically lets me know that I’m doing okay.

Jonathan Rosen is the author of Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies and From Sunset till Sunrise.

Patrick Moody & Wicket, Nym & Zelda

I decided to do a critter photo shoot. As you can see, Wicket the hedgehog is a little shy. He’s often rolled up into a little defensive ball of spikes. And even after two years, our cats still don’t know what to make of him. Nym, our black cat, is a serious cuddle bug (and deceptively hefty). She’s usually stalked around the house by our youngest, Zelda, whose quite the handful. I have a theory she’s part squirrel! She loves her big sister, as you can see by the kiss! These three keep me company when I work from home, never far from my keyboard.

Patrick Moody is the author of The Gravedigger’s Son.

S.A. Larsen & Sadie, Molly, Chloe & friends

This is Sadie, my newest writing pup (on the right)! With her being so active I’ve had to move to the kitchen area to keep an eye on her while I write. Makes for an interesting word count . . . and sometimes not much! 😁

The photo collage is of our fur babies that have been with us a while. Molly the cat is my true writing feline, though. She insists on sitting in my lap while I write when I’m in my office. And Chloe is the jokester of the group. I have a video of her literally dancing on my desk and laptop while I was listening to music and writing. Super cute! 🐾

S.A. Larsen is the author of Motley Education and Marked Beauty.

Jan Eldredge & Mr. Bingley

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This is Mr. Bingley. We’re in constant competition over who gets to claim the desk chair or the top of the desk. Mr. Bingley usually wins. He has also laid claim to my spooky fairytale wallpaper, and he loves to rub against it. This would not be a problem, except it’s a flocked wallpaper, and his yellow fur clings to it like magnets to steel. As a result, a small portion of my daily writing time has to be spent vacuuming my wall.

Jan Eldredge is the author of Evangeline of the Bayou.

Janet Fox & Kailash

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This is Kailash. He’s about 5 years old now, and super friendly and like all Labs he still has a lot of puppy in him. In fact, getting him to sit still for this photo took a bit of wrangling.

He’s too big to get up on my desk (thank heavens) but he’ll occasionally try to crawl into my lap as I’m working. Mostly he is a walking companion, and I walk to get ideas so he’s a great help there.

We’ve never not had a dog for more than a couple of months. And at times a guinea pig or two, a rat or two, and a horse. We’d have a cat but our son is very allergic. But we love Kai. He’s got a big heart and loves everyone.

Janet Fox is the author of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.

Cynthia Reeg & Holly

SkeletonDog Holly

Sadly my dog Holly recently journeyed to dog heaven. She was a constant companion, always ready with ideas and the ability to find perfect napping spots in my office. I can still hear her barks of encouragement, and I know there will be a very special dog in my next spooky story.

Cynthia Reeg is the author of From the Grave (Monster or Die) and Into the Shadowlands.

Angie Smibert & Stella, Maggie, Brick & Hubble

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Here’s a graphic of my editorial “staff” – Hubble, Maggie, Brick, and Stella.  All of them are rescues. I have a two-year-old Lab mix named Hubble (yes, as in the telescope. I am also a space nerd.). He’s a foster fail, btw. I fostered him for the SPCA two summers ago, fully intending to keep him. Maggie (tortie) and Brick (gray) are about 8 1/2, and I got them together when they were just 8 weeks old–also from the SPCA. I picked Maggie out, and then Brick grabbed me from the next cage. They bicker just like the Tennessee William’s characters they’re named for. Stella is the most recent addition. About a year old, give or take, she was living under the porch of the empty house next door. I, of course, was feeding her on my porch–and when the weather turned really, really cold, she got very friendly, and dammit, I took her in. She is a petite sweetie who’s quite happy she adopted me.

More often than not, my guys distract me from writing since I work at home. My previous dog, Bridget, did inspire the dog in Memento Nora! As an animal lover, I tend to give my characters pets. Uncle Ash–in the Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series–has three dogs, all named after beaches in the Carolinas, who follow him everywhere. Plus the third book of the series will feature a ghost dog.

Angie Smibert is the author of Bone’s Gift, Lingering Echoes and other books for young readers.