Meet Eleanor, Alice, & the Roosevelt Ghosts! #Giveaway

Come, step into a new world where ghosts are part of normal, everyday society. Yes, you heard that correctly.

This is the world author Dianne Salerni has created in her latest #spookymg release ELEANOR, ALICE, & THE ROOSEVELT GHOSTS.

The Book

It’s 1898 in New York City and ghosts exist among humans.

When an unusual spirit takes up residence at their aunt’s house, thirteen-year-old Eleanor Roosevelt and her cousin Alice are suspicious. The girls don’t get along, but they know something is not right. This ghost is more than a pesky nuisance. The authorities claim he’s safe to be around, even as his mischievous behavior grows stranger and more menacing. Could their aunt and her unborn child be in danger?

Meanwhile, Eleanor and Alice discover a vengeful ghost in the house where Alice was born and her mother died. Is someone else haunting the family? Introverted Eleanor and unruly Alice develop an unlikely friendship as they explore the family’s dark, complicated history.

A JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD GOLD STANDARD SELECTION

The Interview🎙️

Let’s give Dianne our spookiest welcome!

*Whoos & clanking of old bones fills the air*

It’s great to see you, again, Dianne. Congratulations on your new release ELEANOR, ALICE, AND THE ROOSEVELT GHOSTS! The story has loads of spookiness to it. Did you set out to write a spooky book?

Yes, the ghosts came before the historical fiction in this case. First I developed the premise of a world where ghosts were real and categorized into Friendlies, Unawares, and Vengefuls, and I knew I would be writing about a mis-categorized ghost. The decision to set the book in 1898 and center it on the Roosevelt family came later.

The world you created is definitely unique and sure to capture readers curiosity. Shifting gears a little, share with our readers a bit about your main characters, Eleanor and Alice, and how the challenges in the story worked these two together.

Eleanor and Alice both suffered from a real or perceived lack of parental affection. Eleanor was an orphan, living with an oppressive grandmother. When her mother was alive, she put Eleanor down for her plain appearance and introverted manner – criticisms that haunted Eleanor throughout her adolescence. Alice’s mother died shortly after her birth, and thereafter, Alice felt out of place in a family composed of an acerbic step-mother, five step-siblings, and a distant father. The girls dealt with the resulting insecurities in different ways. Eleanor tried to blend in with the wall paper. Alice blew up tree stumps. They didn’t have much in common – except for their love for their precious Aunt Bye.

What five words best describes Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts?

Famous family, secrets, and specters!

Spectors – YES, please.

Share one fun fact about this book.

Based on real family correspondence, Alice had a dim view of her cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her joke was that his initials, F.D,. stood for Feather Duster, because she considered him an intellectual lightweight.

*BAhhh!!!🤣

My original intention was to write the character of Franklin with this in mind, but Franklin refused to conform to Alice’s derision. In the end, I presented Franklin the way his character wanted to behave, and never mind the unkind Feather Duster comment!

Do you have a favorite scene in the book?

No spoilers, but my favorite scene is when a young Franklin Delano Roosevelt sets out to rescue his female cousins Eleanor and Alice, but the girls end up rescuing him.

Stories with ghostly elements are popular with young readers. What makes this ghost story unique?

In my book, ghosts are common and treated like a pest infestation. If a ghost erupts in your home, you summon a professional diagnostician to determine what type of haunting you have (Friendly, Unaware, or Vengeful) and whether you can live with it – or whether you have to flee for your life.

I really like this concept!

You’ve packed some wonderful historical elements into the story. How much research did you have to do and how did you sort through what to include and what to leave out?

I read Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography and books on the childhood of Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt. I found the perfect place to begin the story: the very real banishment of Alice from her Washington D.C. home for misbehavior, which resulted in her being sent to her aunt in NYC right before the beginning of the Spanish-American War. What did I leave out? Several Roosevelt cousins were cut from the story during edits because there were too many!

For Our Teaching Authors🏫🍎🎒

You write for both young adult and middle grade audiences. What is your favorite part about writing middle grade?

My favorite part of writing middle grade versus young adult is the lack of angst in my protagonists. It’s not that they don’t have problems. But somehow, middle grade protagonists expect life to get better, even after making mistakes, while YA protags tend to look at every mistake as the end of their lives (at least their social lives).

What can young readers gain by reading books with spooky elements?

I’ll paraphrase a Tweet by author Hannah Kates (@HannahKates1): Horror is important because it’s all about survival. MG horror reminds young readers that they CAN triumph over darkness.

That is a super important truth for them to learn. What books were most memorable to you as a child or middle schooler? Why do you believe they stuck with you?

I polished off all the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys by third grade, so I moved on to adult mysteries. My favorite authors were Agatha Christie, Virginia Coffman, Mary Stewart, and Mary Roberts Rinehart. Two books that really impacted me were We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart because they were my first encounters with unreliable narrators. My love for mystery and all things gothic started with these books.

As a former teacher and a parent, how would you encourage reluctant readers to pick up books to read?

In my experience, reluctant readers haven’t found the right thing to read. Maybe you’ve been suggesting fiction when they prefer non-fiction. Maybe they need an introduction to graphic novels or a genre they’ve never encountered before. My recommendation to parents and teachers is to reach outside your own comfort zone and offer things you don’t read yourself.

Some Spooky & The Future🔮

Seeing how you’re visiting our spooky crypt, I must ask: have you ever had a ghostly encounter?

Only one! As part of a “ghost hunting” class, I participated in a field trip to a supposedly haunted house with the goal capturing EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena). I’m a big skeptic, so it felt very silly, standing around a dark room with our recording devices piled in the center of the floor, asking questions of thin air. We heard nothing and saw nothing, just as I expected. However, when I went home and listened to my recording, I got a quite a shock. Nine minutes into the recording, our instructor asked, “Do you have any secrets to tell?” And a voice clearly whispers, “Boo!” When I went to class the next week, it was unsettling to learn that this voice did not appear on any other recording. Only mine, the one skeptic in the room!

Lastly, do you have any more projects in the works you’d like to share?

Yes! Jadie in Five Dimensions will launch from Holiday House in the fall of 2021. It’s a twisty, multi-dimensional sci-fi adventure in which our 3-dimensional universe exists inside a larger 4-dimensional universe, the way Russian dolls nest together.

Now, I already know about this because Dianne and I have chatted about this project before, but I’m still trembling with the same excitement. I can’t wait for this one!

Jadie Martin, an abandoned infant, was rescued from certain death by benevolent beings from the fourth dimension and placed with a loving adoptive family. At age 13, Jadie acts as an Agent for the four-dimensional Overseers, performing missions calculated to guide her world toward a brighter future.

But when Jadie switches assignments with another Agent, she discovers her origin story is a lie. Her birth family has suffered multiple tragedies engineered from 4-space, including the loss of their baby girl. Now doubting her benefactors, Jadie anonymously observes her long-lost family. Why are they important? What are the true intentions of the Overseers? And what will huge, all-powerful four-dimensional beings do to a small rebellious girl when they realize she’s interfering with their plans?

Thank you so much for sharing Eleanor and Alice’s adventure with us! Make sure to sign your name on our crypt walls, leaving your spookiness with us.

Psst . . . Readers, I’ve read this book. It’s so unique! I’d totally recommend it for middle grade readers, for teachers to use in class, and for all those who appreciate books with spooky elements.

The Author

DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of middle grade and YA novels, including Eleanor, Alice, & the Roosevelt Ghosts, The Eighth DaySeries, The Caged Graves, and We Hear the Dead. Her seventh book, Jadie in Five Dimensions, will release in the fall of 2021. Dianne was a public school teacher for 25 years before leaving the profession to spend more time hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

The Giveaway🎁

Enter for your chance to WIN a Signed copy of ELEANOR, ALICE, & THE ROOSEVELT GHOSTS by Dianne Salerni! Winner announced December 22nd via Twitter, Facebook, & Rafflecopter widget. The spookiest of luck to you all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy National Author’s Day!

Well, technically it’s tomorrow.

*spooky snort*

November 2nd is set apart on our National calendar to celebrate authors and all that encompasses. Think about it. We all have read something that has been published and written by someone else. Whether for school, work, or play, we’ve all read the written word. And yes, some of us have been fortunate enough to have our own words read by others.

*spooky cheer!*

So we thought it appropriate to honor some of our very own author inspirations, those who’ve helped us learn or reflect on ourselves, and escape the every day through the words they’ve written and the stories they’ve shared. Here’s a few of our spooky authors sharing some of their favorites.

I tend to look fondly on authors who gave me enjoyable female characters in fantasy when I was a kid…representation has improved so much that it can be hard to believe how sparse strong girl characters were in fantasy in the 70s and 80s! Works that pop out for me include the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, The Girl With the Silver Eyes, by Willo Davis Roberts…and I know people will quibble with Jane Drew from Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, but I loved her. I also devoured fairy and folktales of all sorts, because they’re so rich with symbolism, and because they can be both terrible and beautiful at the same time.

I’m going to “vote” for Kathi Appelt, partly because she was so generous to me early on in my career, and mainly because her Newbery Honor book The Underneath became my model for the kind of books I want to write.

Kim Ventrella

Recently, I’ve been inspired by Frances Hardinge, author of CUCKOO SONG, as well as many other beautiful books for young readers. Her books push the boundaries of imagination in ways that feel like a challenge. Every book contains a certain proportion of familiar and strange elements, usually tending toward the familiar. But Hardinge tackles truly strange concepts with both emotion and dexterity. Another recent inspiration is Akwaeke Emezi, author of PET. This novel manages to be utterly down-to-earth and soaringly surreal at the same time, while playing with language and exploring universal questions in ways that feel personal. The mixture of realism and magic reminds me of my favorite author in college, Sony Lab’ou Tansi.

There are lots of authors that I love for their books, but there are some true standouts because I love their books AND they’re amazing people who give to others selflessly. I was so inspired by the way Laurie Halse Anderson seemed to experiment with words in WINTER GIRLS and it made me realize that I could push boundaries too. Then I met Laurie and realized she’s as generous with her heart as she is with her craft. I felt the same way with Kathi Appelt, whose work and advice both directly impacted THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST. Read Bethany Hegedus’ words in GRANDFATHER GANDHI or RISE, to name just a couple of her books, and you see that she’s got a caring soul. But she’s also always been a cushion for me in my own writing career, lifting me up. And Cynthia Leitich Smith and Lesa Cline-Ransome are the same. Their works are brilliant, but outside of that, they go out of their way to be open, transparent and supportive to writers who are coming up behind them. These are only a handful of the authors who have inspired me and continue to inspire me every day. I hope to carry on their legacy and be the same kind of supportive author to other writers around me.

Growing up, I moved around a lot. As a result, I didn’t have lasting friendships, so books became my constant companions. I wanted to write a story that might help someone else get through a difficult time. So many authors gave that gift to me. I wanted to pay it forward.

I love, love, love The Chronicles of Narnia. To this day, I read the series at least once a year. It’s like getting a hug from an old friend. I’ve also read all of the Oz books, starting with, of course, The Wizard of Oz. I am a massive fan of Roald Dahl. Danny, The Champion of The World, was my favorite. But I think the book that resonated with me the most was The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. It was about the daughter of a migrant worker. I related to her hopes, fears, and dreams on so many levels.

My first thought whenever asked about authors that have inspired me is always Jane Austen. To think of the ‘age’ in which she wrote, where women were thought less in society, astounds me and has given courage to pursue my own stories. More modern inspirational authors for me would be Kate Dicamillo, author of THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, Alice Hoffman, author of NIGHTBIRD, and Katherine Applegate, author of WISHTREE. These woman are strong and resourceful, creating characters that tug at the heartstrings and stay with readers for years to come. Whether magic of the heart or tangible magic, they write carefully crafted worlds, journeying readers to places within themselves they didn’t know existed.

Authors have been inspiring hearts and minds for centuries. Whether through fiction or nonfiction, their ability to challenge our thinking often has caused humanity to step out of its comfort zone, to reflect on more than what can be seen. They make us seek the truth hidden beneath the psyche and root out evil in its place. Their words give us the courage to self-reflect, to grow, and to change, making the world a better place than when we first arrived here. But, through their devotion to storytelling, they also share the most intimate places of themselves with us. Finding strength, courage, and drive in their journeys is an exercise we can use in every aspect of our lives.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ~ William Wordsworth

Our entire spookymg author crew wishes the spookiest of Thank yous to all those explorers of the written word and to all those yet to come.

A New #SpookyMG Read ~ Midnight at the Barclay Hotel! #Giveaway

This title had me at Midnight and Hotel. Only the most spookiest activities and, dare I say, accidents (s said with a bit of slither) happen in the middle of the night at a hotel.

I’m so excited to share our next middle grade author with you! Fleur Bradley is super talented, has a fond affection for all things Agatha Christie, and has visited the stately Stanley Hotel of the horror film The Shining. #Boo To top all that off, she’s offering up one signed copy of her book! So make sure to scroll to the end to enter the giveaway for your chance to win!

The Book: MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL!

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley
PRE-ORDER

Hunting ghosts and solving the case before checkout? All in a weekend’s work.

When JJ Jacobson convinced his mom to accept a surprise invitation to an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway at the illustrious Barclay Hotel, he never imagined that he’d find himself in the midst of a murder mystery. He thought he was in for a run-of-the-mill weekend ghost hunting at the most haunted spot in town, but when he arrives at the Barclay Hotel and his mother is blamed for the hotel owner’s death, he realizes his weekend is going to be anything but ordinary.

Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name, and maybe even meet a ghost or two along the way.

Don’t you just love this cover art with the windows shaped like coffins, the moon illuminating the trio’s shadows, and even a black cat in the background!

Author Interview!

Hello Fleur! So happy to welcome you to our crypt. I know readers are excited to meet you. Let’s give them a peek into your middle grade work. What is your favorite part about writing middle grade literature?

I love the honesty of middle-grade: kids who are around twelve years old really see the world clearly, including the (flawed) adults in it. Writing MG is some of the hardest writing I’ve ever done, because your words have to be as honest too—and to the point. The bar is high, as it should be. You better bring you’re A-game in MG!

We know that Agatha Christie is one of your inspirations for writing a murder mystery for MG readers. How is this story like an AC mystery and how is it different?

I grew up reading Agatha Christie books, and wanted to give kids an introduction to that classic murder mystery story. There are colorful characters, a remote mansion, and several guests/suspects who could’ve committed the murder—all ingredients to a Christie novel.

Where I think it’s different is that my kid characters are also doing some ghost hunting. The spooky element gives the book an extra fun element, I think. It certainly was a lot of fun to write.

Give us three words that best describe Midnight at the Barclay Hotel.

Spooky. Murder. Mystery. 😍😍😍

The idea of ghost hunting is popular with lots of young readers. What makes this ghost hunt unique?

The element of the murder mystery adds extra pressure to the ghost hunting—and it sometimes forces the kids to leave the ghost hunting for later. In this case, I would say ghost hunting is a subplot that becomes more important later in the story, as the kids solve the murder mystery.

Share with readers the friendship that develops between your main cast – JJ, Penny and Emma.

At the beginning of the story, JJ really just wants to be left alone to do his ghost hunting. He doesn’t appreciate Emma’s intrusiveness or Penny’s skepticism. As the story goes on and the murder mystery takes center stage, all three kids realize that they have their best ideas when working together. Even if each has a secret they’re trying to keep…

Ooh . . . sneaky secrets!

Do you have a favorite scene in the book?

Oh, there are so many… My favorite is probably where JJ’s secret is finally out, and he has to talk to his mom. It’s a sweet moment—I really wanted to show how they are close, and how a secret can get so big that it takes on a life of its own.

JJ’s mom helps JJ overcome his reading difficulty when he’s young—I had to do the same with my youngest daughter, so this story element is close to my heart.

💚💚💚

Is there a message or feeling you hope stays with readers once they’ve read the story?

I hope the book shows that people can change for the better. And especially for kids, I hope it shows that even if it’s hard to tell the truth sometimes, it’s really for the best. JJ ends up carrying a secret around (literally: it’s in his backpack) that wouldn’t have felt so heavy if he’d just told his mom the truth in the beginning.

Such a great life lesson, and so very true.

With the current education challenges facing teachers and parents, how can they encourage middle schoolers to engage in more independent reading and writing?

Anytime—whether it’s during a pandemic or not—I believe choice should be part of reading. If kids can choose what they read, they’ll associate reading with something they have control over and choose to do. It really doesn’t matter what kids are reading, as long as they’re reading.

And parents: try reading yourself if you aren’t! You’re the best example to your kid.

Great advice! Thank you.

A little bit of fun before we end. Inquiring minds want to know:From your personal experience, what middle grade book is a must read?

In mystery, I’d say Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn—it’s such a great book for younger MG readers. And I’m going to cheat and pick two: I really loved The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson recently—such a strong story.

What can your readers expect from you next?

I’m working on a (top secret! Well, at least for now) new middle-grade mystery. This one is spooky and has a great setting, just like Midnight at the Barclay Hotel. So far, it’s a blast to write!

Sounds amazing! Can’t wait to find out more . . . I mean, when you can spill the spooky secret.👻

Here’s what people are saying about the book:

Chris Grabenstein, multi-award winning author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, on Midnight at the Barclay Hotel.

“A madcap mystery that I couldn’t put down!” –Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Scavenger series on Midnight at the Barclay Hotel.

“Agatha Christie references abound, and the hotel setting shines. A quirky, kid-friendly introduction to the murder mystery.” –Kirkus Reviews on Midnight at the Barclay Hotel.

About the Author_greenskulls

Fleur (F.T.) Bradley author photoFleur is passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read, and she regularly speaks at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters, and entirely too many cats.
For more information on Fleur and her books, visit http://www.ftbradley.com, and on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.

Check out Fleur’s other story contributions HERE.

It’s been such a pleasure speaking with you, Fleur. Thank you for sharing yourself and your latest book with us.

Readers, here’s the Midnight at the Barclay Hotel blog tour schedule if you’d like to follow Fleur along the way:

Facebook Live Book Launch on Aug. 25th!

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Map Your Way Through SCRITCH SCRATCH by Lindsay Currie & Win A Classroom Giveaway!

I’m always excited to take on the blank page when writing a post for Spooky Middle Grade. Let’s me stretch my creepiness a bit. Even more so when I get to share spooky goodness from one of our own crew. AND when I get to offer a bookish giveaway!

*Spooky Alert*
Check us out on Twitter for a SCRITCH SCRATCH giveaway!

But first, here’s the cover to Lindsay’s upcoming release.

unnamed

Releasing September 1, 2020 from Sourcebooks Young Readers!

For fans of Small Spaces comes a chilling ghost story about a malevolent spirit, an unlucky girl, and a haunting mystery that will tie the two together.

Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.

Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something…and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late.

Page Break Skull

Yup, I am all EEK! over this cover. I love the taillights! So, let’s learn a little more about Lindsay’s book.

Hi Lindsay! *waves* I’m excited to share with our middle grade audience a few sneaky secrets about SCRITCH SCRATCH. Let’s begin with how you got the ideas for the world you created here.

Chicago has a lot of really ghostly history, so I love to set books here whenever possible. The idea for this specific book, though, came in pieces. I actually thought of the ghost first, then built the story around that! Seems a little backward, but it worked well in the end.

Did you learn any cool (or really spooky) information while researching to write this story?

I’m such a sucker for old Chicago history that yes, I find I discover something new with the research for every book! During my research phase for this book, I actually went on a ghost tour bus with my husband!

Okay, super cool. 👻

It was in October, and we had a fabulous time experiencing the charged atmosphere of every spine-tingling stop! I have to admit, even though I’m done researching, I’d totally do one again. They’re a fun blend of history, mystery, and ghosts!

What would you say is your favorite part of the story?

Oooh, tough question. I’d have to say that my favorite part of SCRITCH SCRATCH isn’t a physical scene, but the personal journey my main character, Claire, is on throughout the book. Claire is like many of us – filled with ideas about the world we live in, but occasionally hesitant to explore notions that are unfamiliar or different. She’s really into science and that doesn’t offer a lot of gray areas when it comes to things like the paranormal. If she can’t see it, or prove that it exists, Claire doesn’t believe in it. But her father’s ghost tour and the ensuing trouble it causes her forces Claire to take a second look at her beliefs and consider that maybe, just maybe that gray area exists after all.

That said, I’d by lying if I didn’t say that the scary scenes are super fun, too. I worked hard with my editor, Annie Berger, to make sure we were really amping the fear factor up for those readers who love a good fright!

This definitely sounds frightful!

Can you share with us why you feel MG readers will relate to Claire’s journey?

Claire faces so many familiar challenges that I believe many readers will identify with her. For one, her best friend, Casley, seems to be moving on.

Aw, that’s a tough one.

She’s hanging out with someone else more, someone who wears makeup and is more mature than Claire thinks she is. I think we’ve all experienced that in life and it’s painful, not to mention confidence-shaking.

I can see that. Thank you for sharing some of SCRITCH SCRATCH with us. Can’t wait for its release!

READERS: I know a sneaky secret that Lindsay will reveal sometime during this week, so make sure to stay tuned to her Twitter feed and to ours! HINT: it’s handy-dandy & ghostly!

To learn more about SCRITCH SCRATCH and Lindsay, visit her WEBSITE. Want to make sure you get a copy of the book? Hop on over to Lindsay’s favorite Indie bookstore THE BOOK CELLAR and pre-order it so she can personalize it for you before they ship!

#SCRITCH SCRATCH Classroom Giveaway!

Lindsay bookmarks

 

#Teachers, #Librarians, #Educators – hop on over to Twitter to enter for your chance to WIN a Classroom Bundle of signed bookmarks & book plates from Lindsay to celebrate SCRITCH SCRATCH’s upcoming release!

Wishing you the spookiest of luck!

The Wicked Tree by Kristin Thorsness & a Giveaway!

Have I got a spooky treat for you, today! Kristin Thorsness is here to share her debut middle grade novel THE WICKED TREE, her characters, and a teeny excerpt. Make sure to scroll to the bottom to enter her giveaway. But first, let’s see that book baby.

The Wicked Tree-Final Cover
AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS

Deep in the woods, a gnarled tree grows. Its thick, black trunk twists angrily up into the night sky. Held in place by the magic of a long-ago patriarch, it has waited centuries to lure a descendant into its trap.

Eleven-year-old Tavorian Kreet hates it when money troubles force his mom to move them in with his great-grandmother – though the historic house and grounds are pretty awesome. Tav is told to stay out of the estate’s woods, but he can’t resist the chance to explore.

After Tav’s first trip into the woods, he begins to have strange dreams about a supernatural tree. The dreams start out pleasant, but soon grow dark and menacing. On a dare, Tav ventures further into the woods with his new friend Harper, and they meet a mysterious, mute boy named Edward who lives in a decrepit cabin there. Though he’s unable to communicate where he came from or why he lives alone, in clear distress he scrawls two words: Bad Tree.

Tav knows what it’s like to be afraid. If he’d been brave enough to act four years ago, he could have saved his dad from the fire that took their home. But he wasn’t, and he’s been trying to redeem himself since. Now Tav is determined to help Edward. He enlists Harper, and together they search the estate for clues to Edward’s identity and how to help him.

While searching, Tav and Harper find antique photo albums, ancient diaries, and a secret laboratory. They piece together the Kreet family history, and discover a curse that’s been waiting generations for an heir. Tav’s dreams grow more ominous, and he realizes time is running short. To save himself and his friends, Tav must go to the heart of the woods, find the Bad Tree, and confront an evil magic before it consumes him completely.

Ooh, this sounds so eerie . . . and that cover!

Hi Kristin! It’s spook-o-liciously awesome that you and your wicked book baby are visiting our humble crypt. Welcome. Let me dust off a seat for you. Oh, and excuse the cobwebs, please.🕸️🕸️🕸️

So now that our readers have seen all the wickedness that is your baby’s cover, how about you give us a description of The Wicked Tree using three adjectives and three setting comparisons.

Let’s see, three adjectives that describe The Wicked Tree … I’ll have to go with: atmospheric, creepy, and ultimately hopeful.

As for setting comparisons, The Wicked Tree will appeal to fans of the historic house and grounds of Robert Beatty’s Serafina and the Black Cloak, fans of the creepy atmosphere in Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener, and fans of the nighttime exploration in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

Oh my . . . great description comparisons! Next, care to share your main character Tavorian with us and then a bit about what makes his new friendship with Harper special?

Tavorian Kreet (Tav) is smart and introverted. He wants to be brave, but he’s a worrier. He’s been through a lot at the beginning of the story, and will have been through even more by its end, but he never lets his circumstances dampen his desire to do the right thing—even if it’s not always clear what the right thing actually is. He sees the best in others, wants to find a friend, and loves his eighteen-year-old cat, Mosley.

At the beginning of the book, Tav desperately wants a friend. He sets his sights on Harper—who’s a year older—but unfortunately for him, she’s not really interested. Tav wins her over eventually and they become an unlikely pair. In many ways, Harper is Tav’s opposite. She’s sure of herself, knows what she wants, and goes after it. The combination of their two personalities (his overthinking and planning with her bravery; her stubbornness with his willingness to bend) is what allows them to be successful in the end.

The house and grounds in the story have historical elements attached to them. (Love this, btw!) What can you tell readers about this? Maybe even a fact that was left out of the story.

When I was young, I spent summers at my grandparents’ Gothic Revival house (built in 1844). Their whole town (Marshall, MI) was full of gorgeous one-of-a-kind houses complete with historical markers detailing things that had happened in the 1800s; and walking the streets gawking was always one of my favorite activities. I absolutely fell in love with historical houses, history, and architecture and consequently, every story I’ve ever written has been set in a cool old house.

I’m currently working on a sequel to The Wicked Tree and in it, Tav and Harper (spoiler, they both make it out of the first book!) learn a lot more about the history of the Kreet estate and the happenings back when Solomon and Hester first lived there. One thing I can share that’s not a spoiler is that in the late 1800s, some people adopted orphans, not as a way of expanding their family, but to get free labor until the orphans reached adulthood (eighteen for girls, twenty-one for boys).

Mystery oozes from one page to the next as Tavorian and Harper forge on their journey. Would you classify the story only as a mystery or something else, too?

My very favorite stories (books, movies, tv series …) are ones where there is a lingering sense of “something creepy is going on, but I’m not quite sure what it is,” and this is the vibe I tried to bring to Tav and Harper’s story. It’s a mystery, yes, but with the level of spooky/supernatural happenings, I wouldn’t call it straight-up mystery. When pressed to classify it, I’ve often described The Wicked Tree as “horror with heart.”

I. Love. That. “Horror with heart.”🖤

What would you say is the spookiest part, element, or scene of the story?

Writing spooky scenes is my favorite, so I’ve quite a few to pick from! I think my favorite creepy scene is probably when Tav and Harper are exploring the house when they’re supposed to be in bed. Here’s an excerpt from it:

The portrait hall was nothing short of terrifying at night. It was so long and dark, it was like looking into an endless cave … Every step Tav and Harper took sent ear-splitting creaks echoing down the hall. They paused every few steps to listen and make sure they hadn’t woken anyone. They both had their phone flashlights on, and the beams bounced around the walls, floor, and gilded frames, creating weird, angular shadows. Tav could feel the eyes of the somber Kreet women boring into him as he passed each portrait.
Pg. 89

Ooh, totally creepy! And spooky, of course. There’s lots of heart weaved throughout The Wicked Tree. What do you hope stays with readers long after they’ve finished reading it?

That there’s always hope. No matter how dire things get, if you can muster the courage to face your fears and do what you know is right, you can find the strength to make it through anything. Also, that offering grace and forgiveness to others is important, but it’s equally important to learn to forgive yourself.

Such an important emotional lesson to show young readers. Thank you for joining us and all the best with The Wicked Tree and your future books! Oh, be careful on your way out. Bulbous our bullfrog tends to be a little protective. He tongue-lashes, but doesn’t bite.  😉

About the Author_greenskulls

Thorsness author photo

Kristin Thorsness is a former 5th and 6th grade teacher who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their son and daughter, and two spoiled dogs. She likes dark chocolate, strong coffee, and creepy stories that keep her up reading late into the night. For more info, or to get in touch, visit her online at http://www.kristinthorsness.com.

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Chat with Lisa Schmid, author of the new #mglit release Ollie Oxley and The Ghost: The Search For Lost Gold!

You know when you wait for something and it seems it will never get here? That’s what it’s been like for me to keep this interview under raps!

I met Lisa – in the cyber way – back before Christmas and knew Spooky Middle Grade blog readers would love her and her brand new book baby!

9781631632891
PURCHASE

OLLIE OXLEY AND THE GHOST: The Search For Lost Gold by Lisa Schmid

Release Date: June 18, 2019                                         Publisher: North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press

Twelve-year-old Ollie Oxley is moving — again. His mom is starting another new job, this time at the Bingham Theater in Granite City, California. Moving all the time means Ollie has struggled in the making friends department, but he quickly connects with a boy named Teddy. To Ollie’s surprise, though, his first friend in town is a little more… unique than those he’s made in the past. Teddy is a ghost.

Befriending someone who lived during the famous California Gold Rush sure does make things interesting for Ollie. But when the school bully, Aubrey, targets Ollie, and it looks like the Bingham Theater might close, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Can Teddy and Ollie work together to take down Aubrey, save his mom’s job, and solve a mystery years in the making?

Hi Lisa! Welcome to our spooky abode. Let’s start with one of my favorite parts of writing – character names. Was there a specific reason or influence that moved you to name your main character Ollie Oxley and his new friend Teddy?

My son’s name is Oliver, so I thought it would be fun to name my main character after him. It turned out to be a great decision in that the name Ollie proved to be highly useful in one of my plot points.

Teddy started as a Toby, but for whatever reason, it just never felt right. I wanted something more playful and loving. After all, what’s more loveable than a Teddy Bear?

What was the hardest part of moving for Ollie this time? What made it different from any of the other times his mom had moved them around?

Moving all the time has always been difficult for Ollie. His mother and sister share a love of the theater which gives them a special bond. Unfortunately, this adds to his feelings of isolation. And now that he’s in middle school the stakes are higher, and the angst is real.

What is your favorite thing about Ollie? About Teddy? About the world you created?

Ollie is sarcastic, but he is also brave and kind. Even though he gets bullied, he never sinks to their level.

Teddy is loyal. He may be a ghost, but he’s got Ollie’s back. He’s not going to let anybody mess with his new best friend. He’s also very mischievous and quite funny. Sometimes I would laugh out loud when writing his dialogue.

I love the tension between the two boys. Over the years, Ollie has built up walls. Teddy is determined to tear them down. It takes a while, but he can be quite persuasive.

I LOVE that you used history—the California Gold Rush—within this story! How hard/easy was it for you to thread information about the gold rush throughout Ollie and Teddy’s journey and, for our young writers reading this, how did you go about doing that?

I live in Folsom, California which is central to the Gold Rush of 1849. When I first started writing Ollie Oxley, I lived in the Historic District. At the time, my son was a baby, so I spent a lot of time on walks. History would present itself in ways that would lend to my story. For example, one day I met a man standing in front of his house. We started talking, and it turns out his home served as the town courthouse in the 1800s. Prisoners were tried on the first floor and if convicted taken to the basement to be hanged. This story, of course, made it into my book!

What about research? How much did you do on the California Gold Rush and ghosts before you began to write this story?

I visited the Folsom History Museum on several occasions. It’s jam-packed with useful information. And of course, what would a writer do without the internet? My browse history is filled with ghost and graveyard searches.

Ollie finds himself in a bullying situation, which some readers will relate. Without giving too much away, how does Ollie handle this at first? From Ollie’s perspective, how can kids his age deal with being bullied?

As the perpetual new kid, Ollie is used to getting bullied. Even though he’s not in show biz, he can put on a good act. He uses sarcasm to deflect bullies and shield himself from their taunts. Also, he is smart enough to understand that when someone is unkind, it’s never about him, it’s more about how they view themselves. Because really, how could someone he just met have it out for him?

What message do you hope young readers will gain from reading Ollie’s story? There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep moving forward. And above all, be kind.

Such a wise and important message for readers to take with them. Thank you for sharing yourself, Ollie, and Teddy with us! I can’t wait to see where they’ll go next.

And here’s a little something special for you:

lisa post!

About the Author_greenskulls

lisa head_edited_edited

Lisa Schmid is an author, a stay-at-home mom, and a pug wrangler. When she is not scaring up ghostly adventures, she is most likely scaring up fun with her husband and son. She lives in Folsom, California, home of the 1849 Gold Rush.

Find Lisa: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Readers, to you have a favorite ghostly adventure? Did it happen to you? By all means, please share!

SpookyMG_Signature

Happy Book Birthday to BONE HOLLOW & a HUGE Giveaway!

Today is an exciting day here on Spooky Middle Grade.

#SpookyMG author Kim Ventrella is celebrating the release of her middle grade novel BONE HOLLOW, and you’re invited to the party! We’re going to show off her super eerie cover, share details about the book, and chat with Kim about her creation. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to see the HUGE GIVEAWAY Kim’s offering up. So read on!

BoneHollow_cvr

DEATH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING…

In retrospect, it was foolish to save that chicken. On the roof. In the middle of a thunder storm. But what choice did Gabe have? If he hadn’t tried to rescue Ms. Cleo’s precious pet, she would’ve kicked him out. And while Ms. Cleo isn’t a perfect guardian, her house is the only home Gabe knows.

After falling off the roof, Gabe wakes up in a room full of tearful neighbors. To his confusion, none of them seem to hear Gabe speak. It’s almost as if they think he’s dead. But Gabe’s not dead. He feels fine! So why do they insist on holding a funeral? And why does everyone scream in terror when Gabe shows up for his own candlelight vigil?

Scared and bewildered, Gabe flees with his dog, Ollie, the only creature who doesn’t tremble at the sight of him. When a mysterious girl named Wynne offers to let Gabe stay at her cozy house in a misty clearing, he gratefully accepts. Yet Wynne disappears from Bone Hollow for long stretches of time, and when a suspicious Gabe follows her, he makes a mind-blowing discovery. Wynne is Death and has been for over a century. Even more shocking . . . she’s convinced that Gabe is destined to replace her.

Hi Kim! I’ve got to say, when I read your blurb, I chuckled at saving a chicken. 🐔 And the rest of the description totally reeled me in, which will surely do the same for young readers. So let’s dive right in.

Spooky minds want to know what fascinates you about writing spooky books?

For me, spooky stories are all about possibility. About discovering a magical world beyond the mundane. I’ve always said that my life motto is, “I want to believe.” It’s from The X-Files, ha!, but it’s so true!

*fist pumps The X-Files*

I am a terrible cynic in real life. I don’t believe in anything fun, like ghosts, magical skeletons or an afterlife, but in fiction I can explore all of those things and create a world in which unlikely possibilities really do happen.

Care to share some of your favorite spooky books from your childhood?

I love, love scary stories! As a kid, I was hugely into the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collections, with the terrifyingly beautiful black-and-white artwork. I was also a huge fan of Roald Dahl, especially his short stories. The Landlady was my favorite! I performed it as a reader’s theatre and wrote my own short story based on the same premise back in second grade.

Oh, and speaking of Scary Stories… Jonathan Maberry is editing a reboot of the Scary Stories franchise, called New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and I am super excited to have a story featured in that collection called ‘Jingle Jangle.’ It’s set to release in 2020, so get prepared to be scared! Whoa, that rhymed 😛

That is spooktastic! Congratulations! 🎉 Can’t wait to read this collection.

Let’s turn to BONE HOLLOW. How would you sum up this book?

At its heart, Bone Hollow is the story of a boy and his dog, but it’s so much more! It also features one ornery chicken, a candlelit cottage in the woods, friendship, mystery and big doses of heart and hope.

🖤🖤🖤

Were you ever afraid or hesitant to write Gabe’s death? Did you think it might be too much for young readers or why do you think it’s okay to explore?

I write books in the hope that readers will come away with a new perspective on life or, in this case, death.

That’s a wonderful goal.

Like with Skeleton Tree, I’ve tried to create an engaging fantasy world filled with humor, whimsy and many light touches, but I’m also wanting to explore darker topics to show that there can be light and beauty there as well. Loss is one of those things that even very young children encounter, often with the loss of a pet or grandparent, and one of my goals is to help young readers develop a framework for processing their feelings surrounding death that acknowledges the sadness, but also opens the door to hope.

What’s your favorite thing about Gabe? About the world you created in Bone Hollow?

Gabe has had a rough life, but he hasn’t let it harden his heart. He displays this persistent optimism in the face of overwhelming difficulties that I so totally admire. In Bone Hollow, readers will enter a misty woodland valley lit by flickering candles and night-blooming flowers. Nearby, they’ll find a maze with strange plants and dreamlike specters around every corner. I would love, love to visit Bone Hollow in real life one day!

Oh, and I forgot about Gabe’s humor! It was so much fun coming up with some of his syrupy southern sayings, like “Ollie’s bottom was itchier than a flea on a hot plate.” Love it! I wish I really talked like that.

Care to share the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

So many options!!! I think the piece of advice that continues to inform my writing the most is to focus on impact. Every word you write should be deliberately chosen to achieve a certain impact on the reader. And I mean that mostly in the broader, story-wide sense, although it also applies to the sentence level. Ask yourself, ‘What emotional journey do I want my reader to take?’ If you can identify those emotional beats that you want the reader to experience, then you can use that as a skeleton for your novel. It was a mindset shift for me from just writing ‘cool stuff,’ to writing action designed to have a specific impact on the reader. And did you see how I worked skeletons in there? Haha!

Being quite fond of skeletons 💀, why yes I did notice. Nicely done!

Please tell your readers what they can expect next from you.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m very excited for New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, set to release in 2020! I also have a few other projects coming down the pipeline, so check my website for more updates on those soon.

Exciting times are coming your way, Kim. We can’t wait to see where they take you! Thank you for sharing yourself and BONE HOLLOW with the world and your spooky crew here on Spooky Middle Grade. And . . .

Kim_Bone_Hollow
About the Author
IMG_4560
IMG_6535

KIM VENTRELLA is the author of the middle grade novels Skeleton Tree (2017) and Bone Hollow (2019, Scholastic Press), and she is a contributor to the upcoming New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark anthology (2020, HarperCollins). Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer, French instructor and overnight staff at a women’s shelter, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera. Find out more at https://kimventrella.com/ or follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram: @KimVentrella.

Giveaway
LaunchGiveaway

To celebrate my #bookbirthday, Kim is having a BIG #giveaway!!! #Teachers, #librarians, #educators, RT Kim’s PINNED Post + F to win a classroom set of #SkeletonTree & 5 copies of #BoneHollow. Ends 3/4.

Thank you, Readers, for joining in to wish Kim a Happy Book Birthday! If you have any questions for her, feel free to leave them in the comments. Good luck in her giveaway!🍀

SpookyMG_Signature

Women of Middle Grade Horror

February is most notably known as the month of romance and chocolates. But there’s a lesser realized secret about the love month, one that slithers between the days, between each week. It steals a nibble here, and one there, creeping against the darkness, invading the shadows. Suspense blooms. Tensions bloat. You might even feel the need to hide beneath a pillow. Maybe mask your face behind your favorite book.

So you wait . . .                                                                                                                                                  and wait . . .                                                                                                                                                   until the pages tatter and thin, gripped in your clenching fingers,                                                                                                                   & you’re sure you can’t take anymore . . .          Then . . . You guessed it.

February is also the month of horror!
Yup, and more precisely Women of Horror. It even has its own hashtag #WomenOfHorror. Very cool, I know.

In honor of Women of Horror month, I thought it would be fun to explore middle grade women horror writers.

Mary_Downing_Hahn_ImageLet’s begin with the chilling shivers of award-winning author Mary Downing Hahn. Mary is a former children’s librarian (Woot! #bookhero), who changed her course to write full-time and travel around the country sharing her love of books. She writes the gamete of genres from realistic fiction to contemporary fantasy and is known for her intriguing plot lines and magical way of gifting her characters their individual voices. Two of her books instantly come to my mind – Wait Till Helen Comes, and Deep and Dark and Dangerous.

doll-bones

Holly Black is also an icon for the creepy and the macabre with her eerie tale Doll Bones and her collaboration with Tony DiTerlizzi in The Spiderwick Chronicles. Holly loved writing from an early age, and that’s a good thing for us. She’s been nominated for and has won numerous writing awards as well as staking her claim on the New York Times Best Sellers list early on in her career. Basically, she’s utterly (creeptastically) brilliant.

The_Dolls_Eye

Another fabulous woman of horror is Marina Cohen. She grew up in Canada and is a true lover of a good ghost story. Especially the real ones. To this day, she’s drawn to the fantastical and all things creepy. (A girl after my own 🖤!) For me, her middle grade novels The Inn Between and The Doll’s Eye are fabulously uncanny and spine-chilling.

These women horror authors, like many others, stir the soul and curiosity of the mind with supernatural tales that lure the reader in with the promise of intrigue, challenge, adventure, and some serious spook!

Here’s a list of a few other women horror writers. There are many, many more. Feel free to share the horror and add more middle grade woman horror writers in the comments! I’d love to expand this list.🖤

Patricia McKissack, Rebecca Promitzer, Charolette Salter, Katy Towell, Rose Cooper, Jasmine Richards, Christine Hayes, Jessica Miller, Kate Milford, Marika McCoola, Kelly Barnhill, Andrea Portes, Annette Cascone & Gina Cascone

And yes, I ended with number thirteen . . . #Mwhaaaaaaa ☠️

 

Overcoming Spooky Fears with Cynthia Reeg, Author of From the Grave

Morning Spookies! I’m super psyched to share this next spooky author with you. She’s a former librarian (tosses confetti) who loved riding bikes and playing baseball as a kid; and reading, of course. She also has an adorable Schnoodle pup named Holly. ***Here on Spooky Middle Grade we love our furry friends! And if you’ve skyped with us, you’ve probably met a few. Let’s peek at her books first. Isn’t Frank the cutest?!!!

Welcome Cynthia! We’re so glad you’ve stopped by Spooky Middle Grade! Let’s start with a bit about your spooky books and something readers don’t know about your main character Frank.
Not only are they spooky, but they’re also a little kooky, and super exciting fantasy stories–I think. 🙂

Frank’s full name is FRANKENSTEIN FRIGHTFACE GORDON—He’s too blue, too neat, and too tame to be considered a real monster.

I love his middle name! #Spooky Woot!

So he and the other misfits are put into the Odd Monsters Out class at their school, Fiendful Fiends Academy, to change their wayward ways. But Frank is more interested in showing they are monster enough–just the way they are!

Smart monster.

Why do you like writing spooky books?

I was a scaredy cat as a child who could never watch the monster movies with my brothers. Perhaps this is my chance to control the monsters now–although my monsters do still surprise me at times. And as a former librarian, I know how much students LOVE to read spooky books.

Yay for spooky books! 

What do you think young readers can gain by reading spooky books year round?

We all enjoy a good fright from time to time. Something dark. Something unexpected. Something creepy–and most likely slimy. Reading spooky books can help us face real fears and challenges in our own lives. Facing a classroom bully might seem easier when a reader sees how Frank stands up to Malcolm McNastee or evil Principal Snaggle!


What’s your favorite thing about being a published author?

I love seeing students excited and entertained by my monsters. How cool is that to know that these funny, crazy, endearing characters who stepped out from inside my head are here now to hang out with young readers who are eager to be part of the Uggarland adventure. I truly love helping kids get excited about reading and writing through my stories and classroom visits.

Care to share your one piece of writing advice to newer writers?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Study the craft. And hang out with kids!

Please let our readers know what your working on now or what’s up next for you.

I have a number of projects I’m working on now from a couple of nonfiction manuscripts–one told in haikus about an endangered Japanese wildcat and the other exploring winds around the world. Plus, I’m polishing a contemporary MG novel with a bit of a mystery and submitting a fantasy baseball story filled with topsy-turvy characters. And finally, I’m in the researching and outlining phase of an alien-focused MG novel which I’m hoping will be truly out-of-this-world!

You are so busy! Make sure to come back and let us know where these projects lead. Can’t wait! Thank you for sharing yourself and your spooky books with us.

About the Author

Cynthia Cynthia Reeg 8/19/2016 www.timparkerphoto.comis a curious librarian who ventured from behind the stacks to become a children’s author. Now she contends with monsters, mayhem, and odd assortments of characters–both real and imagined–on a daily basis. As an advocate for children’s literacy and supreme defender of reluctant readers everywhere, she manipulates words into wondrous kid-friendly creations to be enjoyed over and over again. As one of her poems attests, Cynthia is always reaching for the stars. For more, you can find her: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Readers, did you read any kidlit stories about Frankenstein as a child? As an adult?

Spook On!

SpookyMG_Signature