We Have Been Busy

Spooky is as spooky does, and let me tell you . . . Spooky has been brimstone busy here in the Crypt!

Join me as I explore some of our spooky crew’s latest book releases! So arm yourself with some ghoulish gel, an illuminating lantern, and a protective shield (a couch throw pillow will do), and let’s begin . . .

ONLY IF YOU DARE is a collection of 13 short stories in which danger lurks around every doorway, but not always where you’d expect! Think of a mysterious microwave. A threatening board game. A snowman that refuses to melt. And more!

Author Josh Allen – Website | Twitter | Instagram

*A snowman that refuses to melt . . . ooh, how creepy?!!

GHOST GIRL is the story of Zee, her best friend Elijah and her bully turned buddy Nellie who have to team up to save their town. Zee always loved ghost stories, she just never expected to be living one.

Author Ally MalinenkoWebsite | Twitter | Instagram

*Living in a ghost story . . . how exciting!

A TOUCH OF RUCKUS – Tennie can detect memories in objects, keeping the peace in her chaotic family. But when her new friend Fox hands her an antique watch, Tennie’s touch releases an angry spirit. It knows secrets about her family, but Tennie must be brave enough to listen and speak up for herself.

Author Ash Van Otterloo – Website | Twitter | Instagram

*An angry spirit that knows secrets about your family . . . whoa . . .

CARRY ME HOME – Two kids alone and living in a car. Can 12-year-old Lulu take care of everything, while still trying to be a kid?

Author Janet FoxWebsite | Twitter | Facebook

*Exploring being homeless and a kid at the same time has all the feels.

LONG LOST is about secrets, sisters, strange small towns, and a book that might not exist. It’s also a ghost story, a mystery, and a love letter to libraries, all braided together.  

Author Jacqueline WestWebsite | Twitter | Instagram

*A book that might not exist. 🤯

THE COLLECTORS – The Ladies in White want you to join their family… FOREVER! The FRIGHT WATCH series continues with a whole new set of ghostly monsters.

Author Lorien Lawrence Website | Twitter | Instagram

*Could anything sound more creepy than The Ladies in White?

ARROW, a 12-year-old boy with a limb difference, is the only human living inside a magically hidden rainforest. When the forest is threatened by humans in the arid world outside, Arrow must learn who to trust so he can save his home.

Author Samantha M. Clark – Website | Twitter | Instagram

*Who doesn’t love a magical rainforest?!

CHARACTER BRAINS 🧠

Why will middle grade readers relate to your main character(s)?

Josh Allen Because my main characters are ordinary kids in ordinary situations who suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves having to deal with horror, maybe on the walk home from school or in a substitute teacher’s life science class or even in their own living room. What kid hasn’t had a day like that? ONLY IF YOU DARE

*Ordinary kiddos can experience situations of horror while in class. I’m sure they will relate!

Ally MalinenkoZee is courageous and loyal and brave. But she is also impulsive and that gets her in trouble sometimes. But most of all she’s not afraid to speak her mind. That’s my favorite thing about her. GHOST GIRL

*She sounds like a wonderful character.

Ash Van OtterlooIf you’ve ever felt invisible in your family or at school, or like you’ll never be brave enough to speak up for yourself, you and Tennie have so much in common! A TOUCH OF RUCKUS

*Oh, this is a great relatable characteristic.

Janet FoxLulu tries so hard to keep herself and her sister safe when their dad disappears – Lulu is a smart, determined kid – but it’s rough going when you live in a car. CARRY ME HOME

*Lulu’s situation will move young hearts . . . and older ones, too.

Jacqueline WestMy main character, eleven-year-old Fiona Crane, is planning to become an archeologist or historian someday – whichever turns out to be more interesting. She’s curious and clever and stubborn and shy, and she has just been forced to leave all her friends behind and move to the tiny town of Lost Lake, so that her big sister Arden can be closer to her figure skating coach in the Boston suburbs. Thanks to Arden’s skating and her parents’ demanding jobs, Fiona’s wishes often come last. Anyone who has ever moved to a new home, or who has felt overlooked or odd or out-of-place, will connect with her, I hope.  LONG LOST

*You had me at archeologist or historian. I’m sure you’ll have many young readers at that point, too.

Lorien LawrenceThe main character, Quinn, is curious and determined, and even though she’s smart, she makes a LOT of mistakes along the way. Hopefully MG readers can relate to some of her strengths AND flaws! FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS

*Sounds like a great balance that readers can see themselves in.

Samantha M. ClarkArrow might have grown up the only human in the rainforest, but he has a best friend (a monkey called Curly) and likes to play games, just like middle grade readers. But also, Arrow has to learn who to trust, and that can be hard for anyone. Sometimes people act like your friend but then they do something bad and it’s hurtful. When Arrow first meets the humans from the outside world, it’s like when a middle grade reader is starting a new school or just moved to a new neighborhood. Arrow wants to be friends with all the humans he meets, but some people have bad intentions. He has to learn who his true friends are. ARROW

*Arrow is a wonderful character. (Psst…I read the book!)

WRITER’S ALLEY 🖊️

What is the most intriguing and/or challenging part of your story or, for Josh, collection of stories?

Josh Allen The most challenging part, for me as a writer, was writing thirteen different stories that were distinct. Like, you can only write so many stories about monsters that want to kill you or eat you. At some point, you’ve got to mix it up.  ONLY IF YOU DARE

*Thirteen stories in one book that are all different. Sounds challenging to me.

Ally MalinenkoThe most intriguing part of writing Ghost Girl was getting a steady build of dread and fear in the narrative. I wanted things to slowly get worse until everything was then really bad. The most challenging was the emotional scene at the end between Elijah and Zee when she thinks she’s lost him. GHOST GIRL

Aw, getting to the character’s emotional innards is always tough.

Ash Van OtterlooI really like how both Tennie and Fox have fascinating secrets they’re afraid to share with anyone, and how trust builds between them while they’re chasing ghosts! They’re tender enough to challenge each other, and I love that vibe. A TOUCH OF RUCKUS

*Secrets!

Janet FoxIt wasn’t hard to keep the tension up in a story about living without proper clothing, shelter, food, money. The hard part was making the story positive and hopeful, and I think it is. CARRY ME HOME

*Oh, I’m sure that was difficult.

Jacqueline WestIn the strange old library in her new town, Fiona discovers a mystery novel called THE LOST ONE. The more she reads, the more she notices that the settings within the book seem to match specific places in her town…and soon she starts to wonder if the story within THE LOST ONE might be true. Writing that story-within-a-story, and interweaving it with Fiona’s own life, was one of the biggest challenges for me as a writer (and one of the most fun parts, too). LONG LOST

*This story-within-a-story is fascinating to me! I’m sure readers will love it.

Lorien LawrenceMost intriguing part? The Ladies in White of course! 😉 What ARE they? And what do they want stuff Lex? Readers will have to solve the mystery along with Quinn and Mike. FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS

*The Ladies in White sounds so creepy!

Samantha M. ClarkI had to do a lot of research for this book, about rainforests all over the world and soil, and trees, and plants, and the relationships between animals and trees as well as humans and trees, plus about what it’s like to live with a limb difference. It was challenging to know what to put into the story, but it was so much fun to learn. ARROW

*Learning about the relationship between animals and trees sounds so interesting!

SEEKING PREY 🐺

If (your book) was in a grocery store, what three items would top its list to buy?

Josh Allen Hmm. Definitely not oatmeal or ice cream or hot chocolate, and if you want to know why, you’ll have to read the book.  ONLY IF YOU DARE

*Ah . . . I see what you’re doing here. Sneaky . . .

Ally MalinenkoA flashlight for sure, snacks for when you’re lost in the woods, and a compass, if they have those in grocery stores! GHOST GIRL

Ash Van OtterlooPizza spices, marshmallows, and hot chocolate! A TOUCH OF RUCKUS

*That’s a very intriguing trio!

Janet FoxShampoo (Lulu can’t afford it, so she has to use hand soap), bread (because you can get by with it if you’ve got nothing else), a newspaper (because that’s how Lulu figures out what happened.) CARRY ME HOME

😢

Jacqueline WestIce cream, strawberries, and batteries for a nightlight. LONG LOST

🍓 *YUM!

Lorien LawrenceIf The Collectors was in the grocery store, it would buy the biggest bag of gummy bears, a flashlight, extra batteries, and shoelaces. FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS

*YES! Gummy bears.🧸

Samantha M. ClarkOrganic soil, dye-free mulch and any old, rotting vegetables they might be planning to throw out (they make good compost to feed trees and plants). ARROW

*This is a great survival fact!

BOOK GUTS 🕮

Why do you enjoy writing stories with spooky elements?

Josh Allen Spooky stories are good for us! They teach us to be brave and to navigate our fears in healthy ways so that when we encounter scary things in real life, we’re ready to deal with them. Spooky stories are like “Bravery Practice.” Also, spooky stories are fun! ONLY IF YOU DARE

*Teaching us to be brave . . . Yes!

Ally MalinenkoThey were my favorite stories growing up. Also, kids need scary books. They already know the world is scary. These books help them navigate their fears in a safe way. We need to trust kids more. GHOST GIRL

*Finding help to navigate scary stuff of the real world in spooky books is a comforting thought.

Ash Van OtterlooFear is something everyone relates to, and it can be a really powerful motivator! People who love their comfort zone are suddenly ready to try new things when they’re chased by zombies or werewolves.  A TOUCH OF RUCKUS

*Fear as a motivator definitely can work, especially while being chased by zombies.

Janet FoxAs a kid, I was terrified of the dark and of monsters. I want to conquer that fear, and writing about what scares you is a great way of lifting the curtain and letting in the light. CARRY ME HOME

*Yes! Letting the light in is the way to strike out the darkness and see it with clarity.

Jacqueline West – Two reasons: Because I’ve always been drawn to dark, mysterious, and creepy things (I think they’re fascinating), and because I’m a total chicken. Writing scary stories lets me play with all of my many fears. LONG LOST

*Writing spooky stories to explore your own fears is pretty cool. And brave!

Lorien LawrenceSpooky stories have the BEST energy – they’re electric! They can teach us to be brave in the face of monsters. What’s cooler than that?? FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS

*Not much, in my opinion.😊

Samantha M. ClarkI love writing scenes with lots of tension, and spooky stories have LOTS of tension. My first novel for middle-grade readers, THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, has more spooky elements than ARROW does, but ARROW has lots of tension, and those scenes were great fun to write. ARROW

*The more spooky tension the better.

FEAR 😨

Young, inquiring student minds want to know – What are you afraid of?

Josh Allen Honestly, I’m afraid that something bad will happen to people I love and I won’t be able to stop it.

*Aw . . . 💘

That’s pretty heavy, I know, so on a lighter note, I’ll say this: I’m not too fond of snakes. ONLY IF YOU DARE

Ally MalinenkoLoads of things. But my top two are someone breaking into my home and the ocean. It’s full of monsters and their poop. No thank you. GHOST GIRL

*Poop!!! 🤣💩😆

Ash Van OtterlooClowns, especially very cheerful ones! Also heights. Even steep hills without trees are enough to make my knees wobble!  A TOUCH OF RUCKUS

*So there with you! 🤡

Janet FoxHeights. I have absolutely awful acrophobia. I go completely numb, which is not good when driving over a mountain pass and you lose all sensation in your arms and legs. (Maybe I should write about it…) CARRY ME HOME

*Good one. So don’t do heights. We don’t want you going completely numb. That would be bad.🚫

Jacqueline West SO MANY THINGS. The dark. Deep water. Being alone in the woods at night. Windowless basements. Having to talk on the phone. Driving in strange cities. Any fish larger than a hotdog bun. I could go on. LONG LOST

*Windowless basements . . . Ooh, this is a good one. All sorts of creepy possibilities. 🪟

Lorien LawrenceAfter years of teasing my brother about his fear of alligators, I realized that he’s right: alligators are TERRIFYING!! I mean, they are huge, yet they can go really fast and hide really well. That’s the scariest type of villain! FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS

*Ooh . . . gators. #Chomp 🐊

Samantha M. ClarkI’m actually afraid of lots of things, and sometimes I put them in my books so I can pretend I’m not afraid of them. I’m afraid of spiders (although I’m getting less afraid of the little teeny tiny ones), frogs jumping on me, heights, cramped spaces, drowning. I try to stay on the ground, in the shallows and away from jumping insects. ARROW

*‘K, creepy thingys with eight legs . . . I’m racing you to the door!🚪

🪦💀🪦💀🪦💀🪦💀🪦💀🪦

Well, there you have it, folks! A few new #spookymg releases to add to your book list. Thank you for joining us, and please leave a comment below. Ask questions about the author’s answers, share with us spooky books you’ve read that have helped you, or simply share you thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!

Until next time . . . Spooky On!

Spooky Poetry in Middle Grade Books

Well hello, all you spooky readers! It feels like forever since I’ve chatted with you here in our #SpookyMG Crypt. And, yes. I have missed you.

*taps jagged fingernails*

So today, I’m bringing you a special treat! 🍬 In celebration of World Poetry Day (March 21st), I thought it would be fun to spotlight middle grade books, authors, or segments within MG stories that utilize poetry. I even have some examples from our very own authors.

Adding poetry in the form of a structured poem, song lyrics, scattered thoughts of a character, or even a spell from a favored wizard (Harry Potter) to a novel can do a many things.

Take Shel Silverstein use of poetry. He created quite the visual with this one. (Not to mention, I’ll be looking behind my back all day, now.)

When singing songs of scariness. 
Of bloodiness and hairyness, 
I feel obligated at this moment to remind you 
Of the most ferocious beast of all: 
Three thousand pounds and nine feet tall —
The Glurpy Slurpy Skakagall — 
Who’s standing right behind you. 

THE WORST – NIGHT, NIGHT KIDS

And then there’s THE GIVING TREE, which has been widely debated as an example of the sacrifice of parenthood or the way NOT to parent a child. Nonetheless, the use of structure throughout the story is brilliant. The staggering of sentences and thoughts, reactions from either the boy or the tree draw readers attention. It’s almost as if Shel was clapping his hands or pointing with his finger to say ‘Here, pay attention to this.’ The prose stops abruptly at places, yet subtly at others. The flow and placement of the poetry lends strength to the mood and tone as well. Here’s just a brief excerpt:

Can you give me a house ?’
‘ I have no house,’ said the tree.
‘The forest is my house,
but you may cut off my branches and build a house.
Then you will be happy.’

And so the boy cut off her branches,
and carried them away to build his house.
And the tree was happy.

I chose this segment for the limited about of words used and for the emotions it conjures. The break used between the lines is a perfect pause for the reader to ponder the word ‘happy’ and then be stunned by the word ‘cut’ in the next line – one word that causes pleasure, one word that causes pain.

Of course, I also must mention Edgar Allan Poe and his use of subtle yet eerie language. Here’s an example from the end of his poem ALONE.

From every depth of good and ill

  The mystery which binds me still:

  From the torrent, or the fountain,

  From the red cliff of the mountain,

  From the sun that round me rolled

  In its autumn tint of gold,

  From the lightning in the sky

  As it passed me flying by,

  From the thunder and the storm,

  And the cloud that took the form

  (When the rest of Heaven was blue)

  Of a demon in my view.

ALONE

Even without the first parts of this poem, you can see how he uses each line to draw the reader deeper into the imagery and mood he’s creating. And then WHAM! he hits you with the last line.

Poetry can . . .

  • bring a sudden or a subtle change to the flow of the story
  • introduce internal thoughts of a character in an unusual way
  • capture imagery in ways that urge readers to use their own imagination
  • be used with illustrations or graphics (IMHO, I love it when a book does this!)
  • be a great way to sprinkle clues or foreshadowing (I also love this one.)
  • shed light on specific details the author wants the reader to pay close attention to
  • create a diversion for the reader – opposite of the above point.
  • move the plot along more quickly or slow it down
  • set, increase, or change the mood and tone of a scene or plot point
  • deliver details of the world or setting in a fun way

And we could go on and on . . .

Or maybe just show a few examples of these using our very own authors!

If you have or have found additional ways adding poetry to spooky MG books can strengthen the story, leave it in the comments below! We’d love to hear.

Thank you for reading and chatting up spooky middle grade books with me!

Sheri☠️

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

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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.

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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

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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 . . .

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About the Author
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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
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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!🍀

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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.

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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.

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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 ☠️