SPOOKY RESEARCH TIPS

Even though the stories we Spooky MG Authors write fall into the fiction category, most of them will have factual elements sprinkled throughout. This helps ground the story. In my MONSTER OR DIEbooks, I used a familiar school setting and then twisted it in evil, slimy ways. I mainly used classical monsters most readers would know, then made them unique to fit my misfit monster world. Think back to the ultimate spooky story Mary Shelley wrote in 1818—FRANKENSTEIN. She based the creature on scientific experiments of the time which used electricity to create muscle movement in dead animals (galvanism). Ms. Shelley took a leap from the factual and used electricity in her story to bring Frankenstein’s monster to life.

When doing research for a story, it’s helpful to know how to go about it. For this article, I asked my friend and writing buddy, Stephanie Bearcefor advice. Stephanie loves to write about all things weird and creepy. If it bleeds, oozes green goo, or explodes, she’s ready to research it! Her 24thbook about the 2004 Tsunami will be released this fall. She is the author of the series TWISTED TRUE TALES FROM SCIENCEand winner of the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for TOP SECRET FILES OF HISTORY WWII.

Below she answers my questions, sharing suggestions and possible sources for yournext creepy research project. 

Where do you start?

I start with the thing that grabs my interest. For example, on my current WIP I was surprised to learn that Ouija boards and seances got their start in America in the mid- 1800s. I got curious and started googling Ouija boards. So usually my research STARTS with google, but it quickly heads to the library and to primary source material.

What are good sources? Are they mostly online?

Fortunately, most sources can be reached online. It is such a time saver. The Library of CongressThe SmithsonianGetty,RefdeskLibrary SpotBBC,and CIAare just a few of the sources that are accessible online. 

I published a long list of sources on Nonfiction Ninjas. Feel free to copy and keep the list handy.

Don’t forget to visit your public library. The librarian is the original search engine and they still know how to locate obscure information and manuscripts. I LOVE libraries!

What happens when you find conflicting sources?

Conflicting sources happen all the time. Especially when you read autobiographies and compare them to biographies! You need to be a judicious reader and understand that there will be slight variances in stories. Lawyers recognize this and witnesses that have the EXACT same story are suspected of collusion. So, if the bulk of the information verifies a fact, you can feel comfortable using that in your story. Again – just keep track of the sources and if you are questioned – you can defend your writing.

Where do you find interesting ideas to research?

Everywhere! I am a story collector. I have been since I was a child. I eavesdrop on people in cafes and listen to stories people tell about their lives and the history they have lived.  I am addicted to podcasts. I read everything under the sun from magazines and news articles to conspiracy theories and alien abduction blog sites. I even joined the spiritualists and mediums society so I could have access to their historical information. There are stories ready to be found in nursing homes, playgrounds, libraries, museums, and even in your own family. You just have to be willing to listen.

When do you know if you have enough information?

That’s a good question. I keep researching until the majority of my source information has similar answers. For example – I had a heck of a time finding the death date of a famous medium. Kind of made me wonder if she had actually died or not… Maybe she refused to crossover? I searched and searched getting different answers, but I finally got a hold of death records and cemetery records in the state where she lived. They assured me she had indeed left the mortal world and had the same dates.

I am determined to give the most accurate information that I can. Sometimes new information will be found AFTER one of my books is published. I can’t control that. But at the publication date – I want to be sure that I have exhausted all KNOWN sources and have the most accurate information available at that time.

How do you stay organized?

I keep a huge hanging file box for each of my projects. I keep hard copies of everything. That way when someone asks me to verify a fact or some information – I have a copy of it. I also keep track of everything with a footnote program (easybib). If you would look at my office – it would not seem organized – but I guarantee I know where everything is in my piles! 

Stephanie, thanks so much for your spooky words of wisdom!

If you’d like more information on Stephanie and her books, visit her website at www.stephaniebearce.com

Cynthia Reeg is the author of FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS, middle grade monster adventures. Halloween is her favorite holiday. Check out the spooky jokes on her website: www.cynthiareeg.com.

Keeping Stories Spooky Again… And Again

Two of the Spooky Middle Grade authors had new novels published earlier this month, and they’re both within book series. Angie Smibert continues her GHOSTS OF ORDINARY OBJECTS series with the second book LINGERING ECHOES, and Kat Shepherd began the new GEMINI MYSTERIES series with book one, THE NORTH STAR. Writing a series has its own set of unique challenges from writing a stand-alone book, so I asked these two spooky authors to give us some insight into their process.

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Angie Smibert

Angie, tell us about your GHOSTS OF ORDINARY OBJECTS series…

Angie Smibert: The series is a blend of history, mystery, folklore, and magical realism. Set in 1942 in a small coal mining community in Southwest Virginia, GHOSTS centers around Bone Phillips (12) and her family and friends. In the first book, BONE’S GIFT, she discovers she’s coming into her Gift, as her Mamaw calls it. Almost everyone in the Reed/Phillips family has some sort of ability. Bone finds she can, with a touch, see the stories—or ghosts—in ordinary objects. People leave emotional imprints on objects. In the first book, Bone is faced with many changes besides her Gift. Her best friend goes to work in the mines. Her father gets drafted. And she has to go live with her dreaded Aunt Mattie, who does not hold with the Gifts. All the while, Bone needs to learn to use her Gift in order to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother.

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How does the story continue in this new book, LINGERING ECHOES?

Angie Smibert: In the new book, Bone is a bit more at ease with her Gift, or at least she’s getting there. This time Bone needs to use her Gift to solve the mystery behind a seemingly haunted or magical jelly jar. Her best friend Will—Silent Will Kincaid—inherited this jar along with his father’s dinner bucket from when he goes to work in the mines. One day, Will hears sounds coming out of the empty jar. In fact, it appears to capture sounds. Bone suspects solving the mystery of the jar might help her get to the bottom of why Will can’t talk. Oh, and this story happens at Halloween!

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Kat Shepherd

Oooh, extra spooky! Kat, can you tell us about THE GEMINI MYSTERIES 1: THE NORTH STAR?

Kat Shepherd: THE GEMINI MYSTERIES is an interactive mystery series that follows the adventures of four teenage sleuths. At the end of every chapter is a picture with a clue hidden in it. Each hidden clue leads the detectives onto the next stage of solving the mystery. In Book 1, THE NORTH STAR, twins Zach and Evie and their best friend, Vishal, are hanging out with the twins’ crime reporter mom when she gets a call that a priceless diamond necklace has been stolen just before a charity auction. The friends quickly find themselves right in the middle of a crime scene, and they discover there is no shortage of suspects of who want the necklace for themselves. With the help of new girl Sophia Boyd, the detectives are soon chasing down clues in a race against time to get the necklace back before it’s too late.

Wonderful! Kat, this is the first book in a series. What are the challenges and/or joys of writing a book that’s starting a series?

north starKat Shepherd: One of the things I love about starting a new series is getting to build a world for the reader. I love the opportunity to create an immersive experience, figuring out the rules of the world and the intricacies of my characters. And then figuring out how to introduce the reader, deciding what they need to know right now and what can wait. The fun of a series is it’s a slow burn, so you don’t have to tell everyone everything in the first book. Not every question has to be answered. Some things you get to keep for yourself to reveal later.

The challenge of a new series is the other side of the coin. You’re starting from scratch. Everything is new. There’s no shorthand the way there is with later books in a series. You can’t take anything for granted. And you have to build something strong enough in that first book that a whole series can stand on it; you have to create something that makes your readers want to come back for more.

Yes, interesting. Angie, what made you want to write ghost stories?

Angie Smibert: This isn’t precisely a ghost story. (The next book, though, does have a ghost dog in it.) The ghosts that Bone sees are more memories that have left their marks on these objects. Bone loves stories—everything from folktales to movies—as long as they aren’t true. So, of course, I gave her a Gift that she’d hate, seeing real stories in objects. Eventually, she’ll learn that her Gift is to give voice to unheard stories.

But, that being said, I do love ghost stories! I can still remember when my fourth grade teacher told us about the ghost that haunted her childhood home in Alabama. It was the ghost of a young slave girl who’d been killed by her owner for revealing to the Union troops where the household silver was buried. The girl could still be seen walking down the grand stairs and out into yard. She’d disappear precisely where the treasure was buried. So that’s probably when I got hooked on ghost stories.

Phantom HourWow! Cool story. Kat, we know you love spooky books, because your other series is BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES. How was it different writing this mystery series?

Kat Shepherd: There are lots of similarities between spooky books and mysteries. There are thrills, chills, and suspense in both. Suspense is what keeps the reader turning the pages. You want cliffhangers, you want surprises, you want peril, all that great stuff that keeps the story going. I think the biggest difference between them actually comes with the pre-writing. With spooky stories I have my concept and the basic plot mapped out. I know about where the setpieces will go and how the story will end, but a lot is left to be discovered as I write. I get to play a little, seeing how I can up the spookiness factor or what twists I can add to build suspense or atmosphere. But with mysteries I have to know everything in advance. This is especially true for the interactive mysteries, because every chapter has to lead to a hidden clue. That means I have to know in advance what every clue will be, and I have to know exactly how every scene will play out to lead the characters (and the readers) to the clue. For THE NORTH STAR, I had a 6,000 word outline and color-coded timeline for every major character before I wrote a single word of the story. Because of that, once I finally sat down to write the book, it went very quickly. I knew exactly what was going to happen, and my only job then was getting it down on paper and making it come to life on the page.

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That pre-writing can really help. Angie, was it easier or harder to write this second book in the series and why?

Angie Smibert: In some ways, it’s easier because I’ve already established the setting and characters. I don’t need to really do additional world building. But then again, the second book is harder because I still have to introduce the world to new readers—without overdoing it for those who read the first book.

That’s a challenge! Kat, the third BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES is coming out in August, THE TWILIGHT CURSE, then another GEMINI MYSTERIES, THE CAT’S PAW, in December. How does your writing change when you’re working on the second and third books in a series?

Kat Shepherd: What’s challenging about follow-up books in a series is that essentially you have to follow that old Hollywood studio line: “Give me the same, but different.” Readers love series books because they’re familiar and comfortable; they follow certain patterns or have similar themes, and writing a series needs to give that to them but still make it feel fresh. So it’s always a challenge to decide what parts of the patterns to keep and what to change up. For example, in BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES, each book follows a different girl with a different spooky problem; that’s the different part. But other things need to stay consistent, like the rules of the world, the Big Bad in the background, and certain beats, like the girls meeting up for doughnuts and strategy sessions at Kawanna’s costume shop. I want to give readers those familiar beats so the series starts to feel like home to them. What’s really nice about writing second and third books in a series is that by this time you’ve really spent a lot of time with your characters, so you know them well and you know their world. You’ve seen them grow and develop and unfold, so writing the later books is like visiting old friends again. I hope they start to feel like old friends to readers, too!

Oh yes, good tips. Angie, will there be more books in the GHOSTS OF ORDINARY OBJECTS series? What can we look forward to from you?

Angie Smibert: Yes, there’s one more book in the series (so far), called THE TRUCE. I’m working on the revisions right now. Or I should be! Book 3 comes out next March. The story is set at Christmas and involves a body found in the mine, Uncle Ash, a German soldier, and a ghost dog.

Fantastic! Read more about Angie Smibert’s books here and Kat Shepherd’s books here and look out for more spooky and mysterious books in these series soon.

Samantha M Clark is the author of THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster). A former journalist and editor and constant wonderer, she’s convinced she’ll one-day find the wardrobe that took the Pevensie’s to Narnia. Until then, she’s writing about her own magical worlds. Find out more about Samantha and her books at SamanthaMClark.com.

My Spooky Influences

Hello, my fellow Spooky MG readers!

I’ve been waiting so patiently to have my turn come up again in the rotation. I was supposed to go a while ago, but Kim Ventrella told me that since I forgot to bring the hors d’oeuvres to our last Spooky MG party, that my punishment was to have my turn skipped. I don’t blame her, since everyone was looking forward to my famous Sweet Pea Pesto Crostini, and I let them down. FYI, they’re to die for.

Anyway, today I’m here to write about several of my spooky influences growing up. While there were several movie influences, today I’ll stick with the literary ones. Don’t worry, I’ll cover the cinematic ones a different day.

The power of a good story is that it stays with you. Inspires you. And many of my influences are old. One of them, a couple of hundred years. Did I build it up enough? Well, then let’s get right to it!

Perhaps more than any other story, the one that’s inspired me the most is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. When I was a kid, this terrified me. I’d have to rank the Headless Horseman as among the best characters ever created. I know the mythology came from before the book, but the book immortalized the character.

Just having a headless rider with a flaming pumpkin head was terrifying. Even that Disney cartoon was scary. I always pictured walking through the woods and having him lurking somewhere. When I visited Sleepy Hollow some years back, I could definitely picture Irving’s thoughts as he wrote it. This is definitely one of the top influences in my life.

Next, we have another author from a different time. The works of Edgar Allen Poe. Poe, himself, is such an intriguing, spooky figure. Even the circumstances surrounding his death are still so mysterious. But, with spooky stories such as The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Cask of Amontillado, Poe’s work is still relevant nearly one hundred-and-seventy years after his death.

To me, he’s one of the biggest influences of any horror writer and still a spooky figure to this day.

I know, I know. How can I have any list of spooky literary influences without including Stephen King? Well, the answer is, you can’t. And I was influenced by him as well. There were two in particular. I probably read and saw The Shining at much too young an age. And boy, did it stay with me. So creepy and scary. But, the one that got to me the most, was IT. I hate clowns. Just hate them. And this book was one of the reasons why. Admittedly, I didn’t have this fear as a very young child. I even had a papier mache one hanging in my room, and there were never any problems. It even did creepy things, like no matter how we turned it, it always turned back to face into the room. I tried everything, including turning it from the hook in a different way, but it turned back to face the room. So, I wasn’t bothered by clowns . . . until I saw Poltergeist. That clown was awful. Suddenly, the one in my room, was no longer cute or funny. It had to go. I got it out of my room. At least I thought my clown phobia would go into remission, but then came IT. That book brought back every clown fear, and it has stayed with me until this day. Did I mention that I hate clowns?

Next on my list is R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. Even though I wasn’t a kid anymore when this came out, I loved them. I bought one book after another, and loved the combination of humor and horror in all of them. That series influenced me, perhaps more than anything else. As you know, I love injecting humor into horror. The two genres work soooo well together. It’s fun to poke fun at the horror tropes with some self-referential jokes. Humor is also a release from what’s going on in the story. Goosebumps really got me to think about combining the two genres.

Anyway, my Spooky friends, that’s my list of influences for now. There are many more, but these are the ones that came to me.

So, until next time, let me hear who’s influenced you?

Jonathan

Spooky Collaborative Stories in the Classroom

Mystery at the Mansion. The Serial House. Circus Gone Wrong. The Photo. Sewer Circus. Did we Spookies write these fine scary tales? No! A class of Junior Spookies (Spooky Irregulars, maybe?) at Northside Middle School did. Mrs. Forney’s class of amazing 7th graders even published them in an anthology called, aptly enough, A Collection of Short Stories from an Amazing Group of Seventh Graders. I had the distinct honor to hear them read their collaborative stories on Feb 15th in the NMS library.

Mrs. Forney’s class of amazing 7th graders (and me) posing with their amazing anthology.

Work on their stories, though, started about a month before that. Librarian Lauren Sprouse contacted Spooky MG to set up a free 30-minute Skype Q&A session for Mrs. Forney’s English class. She let the students listen to the collaborative story we did for the Reading to Your Kids podcast. This inspired the class to write their own collaborative stories! When they Skyped with us in January, the students were armed with questions not only for us about our own books and writing but also about the whole collaborative story writing process. The class left the Skype session pumped to work on their own group stories. Since I live in the same city, I happily agreed to go hear the tales once they were done!

How did they do it? First, Mrs. Forney took notes on our answers to the students’ questions and gave each a copy to help them write their stories. She adapted how we wrote our collaborative story to suit her class. We had worked from a writing prompt given to us by the podcast host, and then each of us wrote a segment of the story without really planning what came next. Luckily, it worked out pretty well. Mrs. Forney provided each of her groups with a prompt.  However, she let each group brainstorm, write, and revise its story together. She’s extremely proud of both their stories and how hard they worked! And I was impressed with the stories, too!

On the morning of February 15th, after all the groups read their awesome stories, I turned the tables on them—and asked them questions about their process. They shared that the hardest parts were coming up with the ideas and then editing/revising the stories. Some groups eagerly talked about how they came up with great names for the characters, often based on people they knew or even family members. We talked a bit more about writing in general–until it was time for photos. (See above!)

You can do this, too!Are you a librarian or teacher who’d like to do something similar with your class? Here’s a super quick lesson plan/checklist for teaching Spooky collaborative stories in your classroom:

  • Schedule a free 30-minute Skype Q&A with us!
  • Listen to our collaborative story podcast.
  • Have students prep questions for Skype Q&A.
  • Grill us with questions!
  • Break students into groups of 3-5 students.
  • Assign each group a writing prompt.
  • Set aside class or library time for each group to brainstorm ideas, write drafts, revise, and practice reading. (NMS students took about a month to do this, along with other class work.)
  • Publish stories in a booklet, complete with student signatures and a cool cover!

Try this variation: Instead collaborating, your students could write their individual own spooky stories based on a theme or prompt.

If your school is in the Roanoke, Virginia area, I’m happy to listen to more stories! I won’t speak for the other Spookies, but you might be able to persuade one that lives near your school to make a visit. OR you could schedule a follow-up Skype for us to listen to stories!

Of course, you don’t have to write collaborative stories to Skype with us!

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!

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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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Spooky Author Pets

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

Kim Ventrella & Hera

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

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

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

Tania del Rio & Boba & Max

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Rosen & Parker

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

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

Patrick Moody & Wicket, Nym & Zelda

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan Eldredge & Mr. Bingley

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

Jan Eldredge is the author of Evangeline of the Bayou.

Janet Fox & Kailash

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

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

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

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

Cynthia Reeg & Holly

SkeletonDog Holly

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

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

Angie Smibert & Stella, Maggie, Brick & Hubble

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

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

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

Happy Book Birthday: The Phantom Hour by Kat Shepherd

I am super excited to welcome our very own Kat Shepherd to the blog!!! Her new book, THE PHANTOM HOUR, releases today!! I recently had a chance to chat with Kat about her new book, a brand new mystery series and much more.

Q: You have a passion for animals, traveling and the outdoors, among many other interests. How have those passions found their way into your writing?
 
A: Like any author, I pull a lot from my own life to put into the stories I write. Lots of my characters are based on former students of mine or other people I know, but there’s always a little bit of me in there, too. In the newest Babysitting Nightmares book, THE PHANTOM HOUR, Clio shares my passions for travel and history and glimpses into the past. And in Book 2 we’ll meet Ethan, who has a really strong connection with animals. I train and foster dogs, so I really wanted to put a character in the series that reflects my own bond with animals.
 
Because I write suspense, I rarely put pets in my scary books, and there’s a really good reason for this. Anytime I see a pet in a scary movie or book, it immediately distracts me, because I get so worried that something is going to happen to it. (I blame Stephen King for this. Animals rarely fared well in his books!) So I intentionally avoid putting pets in, because I don’t want my readers worrying about them like I always did. But in PHANTOM HOUR I couldn’t resist bringing back my favorite dog, Wesley. He passed away in 2013, and I miss him every single day, so it was wonderful to get to write about him and see him come alive on the page. It was a little like getting to spend time with him again.
 
Q: Tell me more about microphilanthropy. Does it ever crop up in your books? How can readers get involved?
 
A: It’s important to me that my protagonists be kind and show compassion and generosity. Not because I’m trying to teach some big lesson to kids or anything, but because I have to spend a lot of time with my characters, and I don’t really like to be around people that aren’t kind or compassionate. Generosity and compassion are driving forces in my life; they absolutely give my life direction and purpose. That’s not to say that I am this supremely generous and compassionate person, but those are the qualities I am continuously striving toward. Failing to get there a lot, but always trying.
 
One of the biggest challenges of my life was that I have always wanted to be this great philanthropist, but I don’t really have any money. So in trying to figure out how to give meaningfully when the size of your wallet doesn’t match the size of your heart, I started pursuing a concept I call microphilanthropy. It’s based on the idea that you don’t need a lot of money to make positive, measurable change in your community. You just need people.
 
Basically, it’s crowdfunding, but rooted in the community. I find local organizations that need small, concrete projects funded: a science club at the library, blankets for the zoo’s chimpanzees, emergency rental assistance to keep a family from becoming homeless. Each project costs anywhere from $100 to $1200. Then I throw a party and invite the organizations to come a pitch their projects to my party guests. Then everyone at the party puts whatever money they can spare into jars we set up for each project. At the end of the night we count up and distribute the money, and the organizations go on to fund their projects. The average donation about $10 or $20 per person, but when you pool that money together, it makes these incredible things happen.It creates a really strong connection between people and their communities, and it feels really powerful to see that you made something amazing happen. The best part is seeing the excitement on my guests’ faces when they realize that they are the reason the library has a science club now, or a family didn’t lose their home. It wasn’t some rich person who did that. It was us.
 
I actually just wrote up a little how-to guide for folks who want to throw their own microphilanthropy party. They can email me at my website katshepherd.com, and I’m happy to send it over or help them strategize.
 
Q: What should readers expect from Book 2?
 
A: While Book 1 of Babysitting Nightmares took the girls into the Nightmare Realm, Book 2, THE PHANTOM HOUR, feels a little more grounded in this world. Clio gets a job babysitting for the Lee family, a new family who has moved into an abandoned old mansion at the edge of town. The Lees are lovely, and Clio is thrilled to get the chance to explore the old mansion… until she starts to realize it may be haunted. Luckily Clio has help from her friends and Aunt Kawanna, and she also gets some unexpected help from her new friend, Ethan, who has a few secrets of his own. Readers should expect a spooky ride of suspense, thrills and chills as Clio works to unlock the mansion’s mysteries before it’s too late.
 
Q: Are any of the thrills and chills from BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES based on real-life experiences?
 
A: Several generations of women in my family have had regular contact with ghosts. Ethan’s Great-Grandma Moina is based on family stories, but I made her backstory a lot more exciting than my own family’s. For my own great-grandmother ghosts very matter-of-fact and not at all mysterious; they were just around all the time. It was much more fun to make Moina a glamorous, professional medium who performed big, showy seances! To figure out how to do that I did a lot of research on the Spiritualist movement and the history of psychic mediums in the US. I even went to a seance in an old Victorian mansion! What I learned was that there were lots and lots of seances back then, but not a whole lot of ghosts. The magician Harry Houdini helped prove that most of the so-called mediums were faking it and using tricks and illusions to fool people into thinking that they were seeing and talking to ghosts. I’m not sure if I was disappointed or relieved to learn that!
 
Like the house in PHANTOM HOUR, my own house was vacant before we moved into it. We are only the third owners, and the last person who lived there was a woman who had lived there for 40 years. After she died her daughter held onto the house for another decade because she couldn’t bear to give up something her mother had loved so much. So we felt a little worried when we moved in that might find her ghost hanging around.
 
A few months after we moved in I went to bed early and my husband was still awake. For some reason he always keeps his dress shoes on after work, and it can be annoyingly loud when he walks around the house. I was awakened by his footsteps in the middle of the night, and I was super irritated that he hadn’t taken off his shoes. But then I rolled over and my husband was asleep next to me! I woke him up, and we both heard a man’s footsteps walking through the house. Our burglar alarm had been set and our dogs were sleeping peacefully, so we knew it couldn’t be an actual person. For some reason nothing about it felt scary at all, and we just went back to sleep. Our house was built by a judge, and we wonder if it was his otherworldly footsteps we heard. So we did end up having a ghostly encounter, just not with the ghost that we expected!
 
Q: What advice do you have for young fans who may be interested in writing their own stories?
 
A: I think one of the best things writers can do is to read a lot. Reading helps give you an instinct for story and language; you learn by seeing how other people do it. I also think it helps to read critically, with the eye of a writer. Read for enjoyment, but then take a minute to think about why you loved the story and what made it so good. Then think about those moments that weren’t so good. Did the story drag? Were there parts you got bored, or the action moved too fast? Reading like a writer is a big part of how I developed my own storytelling style and voice.
 
The other big part of writing your own stories is to WRITE THEM! Put them in a notebook, get a cool journal, or learn to type and store them electronically. If you’re excited to write but feel stuck for ideas, sometimes fanfic is a really fun place to start. Think of your favorite book and write a sequel, or choose a character from a book you love and put them on a new adventure. Create a mashup of your two favorite series. What would happen if the characters met? Spooky stories are also a great way to get started, because it automatically puts your writer’s imagination into overdrive! I teach a spooky story writing workshop, and I’m always happy to email aspiring writers the ideas and exercises I use to get started.
 
Once you get your stories down on paper, make sure you share them! Writers need readers. Ask your friends and families to read your work and share any moments where they got confused or needed more description, as well as those parts that made them laugh or jump out of their seats. Take that feedback and use it to make your story really sing. Writing a first draft is important, but revising is where the magic really happens. Most writers I know absolutely love to revise, because it lets us forget all the nitty-gritty and just focus on making the story the best that it can be.
 
north starQ: What can readers expect next from Kat Shepherd? I hear you may have a new mystery series coming later this year?
 

A: I have a new mystery series The Gemini Mysteries, that debuts on March 5 with THE NORTH STAR. I have been a huge mystery fan for as long as I can remember; so much so, in fact, that I have a mystery-themed tattoo sleeve that continues to evolve as I add more favorites to it. One of the things I loved most about mysteries is the interactive experience of reading one. You’re constantly taking in information, evaluating, predicting, and then re-evaluating based on a changing landscape of clues. So exciting as a reader, and such a great tool as a teacher! This series is especially fun because there is a picture at the end of every chapter with a clue hidden in it, and the reader gets to work alongside the detectives to find the clues that lead to the next step in the mystery.

 
It’s been fun for me, because Babysitting Nightmares and Gemini Mysteries are so different, but there is a lot of crossover between mystery and horror. I like to write fast-paced adventures with a little bit of humor and lots of suspense, and I think both series allow me to do that. I hope my readers will have as much fun reading them as I have writing them!

An Interview with Claribel Ortega, author of GHOST SQUAD

Hi everyone! Tania here. I’m happy for the opportunity to interview author Claribel Ortega whose debut middle grade novel, GHOST SQUAD, comes out this fall. We may have to wait a little while to get out hands on it, but check out this description in the meantime:

The hurricane-swept town of St. Augustine is the only home Lucely Luna has ever known. It’s the same home her father grew up in, and his parents before him. In fact, all of the deceased relatives in the Luna family now live as firefly spirits in the weeping willow tree in their backyard.

Shortly before Halloween, a mysterious storm appears on the radar heading towards St. Augustine, causing Lucely’s firefly spirits to lose their connection to this world. In an effort to save them, Lucely finds a spell to bring them back to life, but accidentally brings more spirits to the town than she’d planned. Ghosts start showing up all around town, some more dangerous than others, wreaking havoc.

Lucely will have to band together with her best friend and occult buff, Syd, along with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head on, save the town, and save her firefly spirits all before the full moon culminates on Halloween. 

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I can hardly wait! Now, let’s get on with the Q+A.

TANIA: I’m very excited to read GHOST SQUAD which sounds very spooky, indeed! But, reading the description, I’m also intrigued by its family themes and elements of magical realism. Can you talk a little bit about how your own background has influenced your story?

CLARIBEL: I’m excited you’re excited about Ghost Squad! The story is very close to my heart and directly influenced by both my childhood and my experience with loss. As a kid, I used to catch fireflies in glass jars with my late, older brother. My family is from The Dominican Republic and we have mythology that says fireflies are the souls of our loved ones who have passed on, and that those fireflies are watching over us. I loved the idea of still having my brother around, looking out for me and that led to Lucely Luna’s story!

TANIA: As an author, why do you think spooky stories are important for young readers? Do you think it’s possible to get too dark or scary when it comes to writing Middle Grade fiction?

CLARIBEL: I think it is definitely possible to get too dark (in fact there was one scene I had to cut from Ghost Squad because it was too scary!) but it also varies on the reader. I was reading Stephen King at a pretty young age, he was my transition into adult books after Ghost Bumps. Did I have nightmares? Yes. Do I recommend it? Also yes.

TANIA: What are some of your favorite spooky books or movies and why?

CLARIBEL: So, I am a giant chicken with spooky movies and will read the Wikipedia plot before I watch to make sure I can handle it lol. I prefer scary movies that don’t rely on jump scares and have a frightening twist at the end (Like THE SKELETON KEY or THE SIXTH SENSE) but normally I lean into the not actually scary but sort of campy/fun spooky movies like CLUE or GHOSTBUSTERS. I can handle a lot more when it comes to books, and as I said I love Stephen King and anything true crime or serial killer related because it’s fascinating!

TANIA: Have you personally ever seen a ghost or experienced the supernatural?

CLARIBEL: I have. Once at my old house, I was constantly seeing a little girl running through the hall out of the corner of my eye. I never said anything until one day I was standing by the stairs next to my older sister and saw her. We both flinched at the same time then looked at one another, eyes wide like “You saw her too?” It was creepy, but I wasn’t necessarily scared. I don’t think she meant us any harm.

TANIA: What advice would you give a young, aspiring writer? Is there something you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

CLARIBEL: Your career might not unfold how you expect it to but that doesn’t make it any less worth celebrating. Things take a long time in publishing, and it’s okay if things don’t pan out the way you planned, the goal is longevity not instant success. Focus on the things you can control, like your writing, be willing to fight for yourself when you need to, and remember to celebrate the good not just focus on the bad.

***

And there you have it! We’ll be keeping an eye out for Claribel’s book and cover reveal. In the meantime, you can follow her on Twitter or Instragram. Also visit her website to sign up for her newsletter.

The Graveyard Hook

When this group of “spooky authors” first began chatting it emerged that many of us had graveyard experiences as kids.

What???

Now, I don’t think that having such a might-be-creepy background is a requirement for writing spooky books, but it is interesting. Right?

I have my own graveyard experience. My dad was an Episcopal priest, so we lived next door to the church, which meant next door to the graveyard. This was a very old New England church. And a very old graveyard. But that didn’t bother me. I found my own secret spot inside the graveyard, where I would take my reading, and my homework, and my daydreams. It was a little nook with a big headstone on one side and overgrown shrubs on two other sides, so I could sit there completely hidden for hours. I never thought of it as scary…then. Of course, there was also an underground mausoleum with a broken door, and I looked inside that tiny dark place more than once – on a dare, but also because I was curious.IMG_0259

Did I see ghosts in that graveyard? You can ask…

I’ve asked some of my fellow spooky authors to tell us about their graveyard “hooks”:

Jonathan Rosen: I grew up in a section called of Brooklyn called Gravesend, which was settled in around the 1640’s. Such a creepy name, and as a matter of fact, that’s why I named the town in my book, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, Gravesend. I figured, why make anything else up? The reality is creepier than what I could come up with. I lived right next to Gravesend Neck Road, and if you followed it all the way, it led to a really old cemetery, which we used to go exploring. It was right in the middle of a neighborhood, near homes. So creepy that everyone was living around it, with tombstones dating back hundreds of years. I was fascinated by that and it always spurred the imagination of what it was like to live right next to this old cemetery.

S.A. Larsen: As an elementary-age child, I used to visit our town cemetery often with my grandparents. By the time I was middle school and high school age, both my grandparents had passed away, and I found myself drawn to that same cemetery – which I preferred to call the boneyard much like my main character, Ebony Charmed in Motley Education. I’d stroll what felt like endless rows of graves after graves, lifetimes after lifetimes. I could create unseen worlds and playgrounds for the dead. (I think that’s why I fell in love with Lydia the first time I watched Betelgeuse; she got me.) Sometimes, when I’d find an interesting name etched on an old tombstone, I’d sit and stay a while. And crypts? They were way cool! Who was in there? Were they really in there? OMGosh, I needed to know! Weird? Maybe, but I was completely fascinated by who these people were, what kind of life they led, and what they left behind. I was never frightened there; not really. Of course, there were times my mind would play tricks on me, fooling me into thinking I saw something I didn’t. And then there were the times during middle school when a group of use would wait until dark, sneak into the cemetery (no telling!), and scare the screams out of each other. I just loved that!

Sam Clark: I didn’t live next to a graveyard, but when I was doing my A-levels in England, I used to walk home from school and there was a graveyard smack bang in the middle of a short cut. And, given that it was an old English town, the graves were ancient. Many had slabs of concrete over the actual grave, as well as headstones, and a lot of the slabs were broken. It was easy to imagine bony fingers inching around the broken pieces and pushing up! In the summer, it wasn’t too much of an issue. I’d walk through there, but I’d walk quickly with eyes darting around to make sure no zombies were rising. In the winter, though, when it got dark around 4pm, I only took the short cut once. I accidentally got locked in the graveyard and had to climb the gate on the other side to get out. I scrambled up that gate so fast! I walked the long way home after that.

Jan Eldredge: A few times a year, my parents would take us to some of the cemeteries along the Mississippi Gulf Coast so we could tend to our family gravesites there. At one particular cemetery, there was a statue of a little boy angel standing a few rows over from my great-grandmother’s grave. From the time I could walk, until I grew too old for such things, I would always wander over and talk to him. Many years later, I went back to that cemetery, hoping to see my little angel friend again, but he was gone. I don’t know what happened to him. My guess is that he’d been damaged in a hurricane and the caretaker had hauled away his remains.lil-jan

It’s funny how I never really thought about it, but graveyards appear in many of the stories I’ve written. I actually find them to be beautiful and peaceful places . . . as long as I visit them in the daylight.

Patrick Moody: I grew up in a very close knit neighborhood in Trumbull, CT. A small public library sat at the bottom of the street, and up the hill, rounding a corner, where my house stood, a long rock wall separated Hilltop Circle from the Nothenagle Cemetery (that’s quite a name, isn’t it?). The cemetery was a mix of old and new. The first people to be laid to rest were the Nichols family, who’d founded the area in the late 1600’s. Their plots were set with stone monuments towering seven or eight feet tall, entire lines of the family collected together behind wrought iron fences. The Nichols were in a corner, where the forest had begun to creep in over the grass, like it was coming to swallow up the graves. That part of the cemetery was perpetually covered in shadow, and if there was ever a truly spooky spot, that was it.

Myself and the other neighborhood kids loved exploring the cemetery. It was our playground. Our sanctuary. Being an old boneyard, it didn’t get many visitors. For us, it was a place where we could be free, out from under the watchful gaze of those ever curious “grown ups”. None of us found the place scary, at least not in the daytime. We’d walk through the rows, reading the names inscribed in granite and marble, and would talk about the lives of the people laying sleeping beneath our feet. I think that’s where my knack for storytelling really began. I was endlessly curious about the residents of the yard. What they were like in life. Who their families were. What they did for a living. How they saw the world through the eyes of their time.

We would take grave rubbings from the more artistic markers, and I was endlessly fascinated by the images of angels, and in some cases, figures from other cultures’ mythologies. Norse and Celtic runes were there in good numbers.

At night, on those summertime Saturdays when we didn’t have a care in the world, the cemetery became a magical place. As fireflies danced between the rows, we’d play hide and go seek, using the graves, bushes, and trees as our hiding spots. Sometimes we’d play capture the flag, or flashlight tag. When we didn’t really feel like chasing each other in the dark, risking tripping over a gravestone (or breaking it…that wouldn’t have been good), we would post up in a comfy area, usually inside the Nichols family plot behind those fences, and try to best each other with our scariest ghost stories.

We walked a fine line between embracing the inherent “scariness” of the graveyard, and looking at it as a place of practicality: literally, seeing it as a place for the dead to be lain to rest. You can either be scared, or at least mildly creeped out, or you can be interested in the cultural aspects of it. I found myself clinging to both: the ghostly aspects, and the way that we as Americans (or in a broader sense, the Western world), view and experience death.

Needless to say, the cemetery shaped me. Probably in some ways I haven’t even recognized. But I do know that I wouldn’t be a writer today, or an artist of any kind, had I not spent my youth dodging between those tombstones alongside my friends, exploring our moonlit kingdom of granite slabs and towering statues.

Fun stuff here, right? Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @spookymgbooks

 

 

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!

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