Saturday, December 4, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 145: Author Emily Barth Isler

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Emily Barth Isler and I discuss her childhood as an actress featured on ONE LIFE TO LIVE and elsewhere as well as performing for the Clinton White House, and how she eventually transitioned to the family business of writing, the “safe career choice.” We also talk about her new novel, AFTERMATH, how to process trauma through writing, how to take action on school shootings, how to set goals for your fiction to become a more effective author, and so much more.






Emily Barth Isler
 lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and their two kids. A former child actress, she performed all over the world in theatre, film, and TV. In addition to books, Emily writes about sustainable, eco-friendly beauty and skincare, and has also written web sitcoms, parenting columns, and personal essays. She has a B.A. in Film Studies from Wesleyan University, and really, really loves television. Find her at www.emilybarthisler.com








"This book is a gift to the culture." ―Amy Schumer, writer, actor, and activist


After her brother's death from a congenital heart defect, twelve-year-old Lucy is not prepared to be the new kid at school―especially in a grade full of survivors of a shooting that happened four years ago. Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels isolated and unable to share her family's own loss, which is profoundly different from the trauma of her peers.

Lucy clings to her love of math, which provides the absolute answers she craves. But through budding friendships and an after-school mime class, Lucy discovers that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.





EmilyBarthIsler.com

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 144: Author Aura Lewis

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Aura Lewis and I discuss the process of writing and illustrating her newest book, SPECTACULAR SISTERS: AMAZING STORIES OF SISTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD. We talk about how she went from being a freelance artist to working in publishing, the role her MFA played in that transition, designing the credit sequence for the Hulu Show MRS. AMERICA, the importance of focusing on your passion, choosing to be an artist every day, who we might’ve been in past lives, and so much more.







Aura Lewis is an author-illustrator and designer with an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is inspired by fashion from around the world, playful color, vintage design and popular culture. Aura’s work is featured in
books for children and adults, on television, stationery, ad campaigns, murals and editorial publications.

Her publishers include Harper Collins, Hachette, Abrams, Sterling Publishing, Chronicle Books, Quarto, Scholastic and Simon and Schuster.

Her Illustration clients include Hallmark, Disney, The New York Times, Hawaii Business Magazine, Flow Magazine, yU+co.




Starring the special bond between sisters throughout history, with beautiful full-color illustrations, this fun and inspiring 208-page biography collection from author-illustrator Aura Lewis is perfect for fans of Rad American Women A-Z and the Women in Art/Science/Sports series.


Sisters are spectacular! They can be your biggest cheerleaders, your most trusted confidants, and your much-needed fashion advisors (as long as they’re not stealing your clothes!).


But sisterhood can also be complex: full of rivalry, jealousy, and not-so-friendly competition. From pop culture sensations like the Kardashians/Jenners to civil rights activists Coretta Scott King and Edythe Scott Bagley to tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, these sisters—and so many others throughout history—have not only impacted art, culture, and society, but also illustrate the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood.


At the end of the day, whether you’re mortal enemies or best friends, spectacular sisters will always have your back. Share this book at home or in the classroom. It's a great source for capsule biographies of a wide variety of powerful women.



Saturday, November 20, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 143: Author Alda P. Dobbs

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Alda P. Dobbs and I discuss writing about the Mexican Revolution as well as her own family’s history in her new novel, BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA, and then translating that story into a second language. We talk about how Alda gained confidence as a writer, the advice she received from Avi, how she applied for grants and became “hardheaded,” found her literary agent, sold a book and wrote another during a pandemic, and so much more. Oh, and I accuse her of back engineering flying saucers while she was in the air force:)






Alda P. Dobbs
is the author of the upcoming novel Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna. She was born in a small town in northern Mexico but moved to San Antonio, Texas as a child. Alda studied physics and worked as an engineer before pursuing her love of storytelling. She’s as passionate about connecting children to their past, their communities, different cultures and nature as she is about writing. Alda lives with her husband and two children outside Houston, Texas.







“No hay mal que dure cien años, ni cuerpo que lo aguante.”
- Dicho Mexicano

“There’s no curse that’ll last a hundred years, nor a body that can withstand it.”
- Mexican Proverb

In 1913, during the Mexican Revolution, twelve-year-old Petra Luna and her family flee their burning village. They cross desert plains and battlefields, desperate to escape the wrath of the Federales. Every night, when Petra closes her eyes, she hangs tight to her dreams. In one of them, she can read, and she reads everything – books, newspapers, EVERYTHING. But all of her dreams will have to wait as long as she stays true to her promise to Papa.

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna was inspired by the experiences the author’s great-grandmother endured during the Mexican Revolution.





AldaPDobbs.com

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 142: Authors Michelle Jabès Corpora and Samantha M. Clark

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Michelle Jabès Corpora, Samantha M. Clark, and I discuss their new series AMERICAN HORSE TALES. We talk about Michelle's experience as an editor for Harper Collins, a concept developer, and a ghostwriter, as well as Samantha's experience as a journalist, a managing editor, and the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. We also discuss comparisons between the Dust Bowl and the 2020 pandemic, working in Hollywood, gaining the confidence to be an author, treating writing like a job, two ghost stories, our ideal superpowers, and so much more.






Michelle Jabès Corpora is a writer, editor, community organizer, and martial artist. In addition to working in the publishing industry for more than a dozen years as an editor and concept developer, she has ghostwritten five novels in a long-running middle grade mystery series. American Horse Tales: The Dust Bowl is Michelle’s first novel under her own name. Her second novel, The Fog of War: Martha Gellhorn at the D-Day Landings (Pushkin Press), also publishes in 2021.






Samantha M. Clark loves stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances because if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? Until she finds her own real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. She grew up in different countries around the world and now lives with her husband and two funny dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and she explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Her debut novel, The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast, was lauded as “an unforgettable, life-affirming tale” by Booklist.



Set in the 1930s Oklahoma, this American Horse Tale is the story of a young girl who makes the difficult decision to leave her family and move to California so she can stay with her horse.


A young girl named Ginny and her family are dealing with the hardships of the Great Depression, and in order to survive, her dad decides they must sell their horse, and Ginny's best friend, Thimble. But Ginny will do anything in order to find a way for them to stay together, and chooses to leave her family in Oklahoma and travel west to California. The Dust Bowl is part of a series of books written by several authors highlighting the unique relationships between young girls and their horses.












Set in modern-day California, this American Horse Tale is the story of a young girl who, along with her family's horse, is destined for the big screen.


Juniper is a young girl who dreams of making it big in the movies along with her horse, Able. In particular, Juniper is obsessed with getting Able onto her favorite television show, Castle MacAvoy, and will do anything, even slay dragons, to make that happen. Hollywood is part of a series of books written by several authors highlighting the unique relationships between young girls and their horses.














Saturday, November 6, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 141: Author David Neilsen

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David Neilsen and I discuss the advantages of traditional publishing and independent publishing and why he transitioned to a hybrid author with his newest release, LILLIAN LOVECRAFT AND THE HARMLESS HORRORS. We also talk about his time as a screenwriter, how he narrated his own audiobooks, book marketing, hosting murder mystery parties, leading ghost tours, and so much more.

Read his guest posts:


David Neilsen is the author of odd, weird, supernatural, and occasionally slightly disturbing stories. He is the author of Doctor Fell and the Playground of Doom, Beyond the Doors, and Lillian Lovecraft and the Harmless Horrors. David is based next door to Sleepy Hollow, NY and also works as a professional storyteller up and down the Hudson River Valley. His one-man performances based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft have sent many screaming into the hills in search of their sanity while his education school presentations have inspired hundreds of Middle Grade-aged children.




Lillian Lovecraft has a problem. An demonic horror from another realm has latched on to her, following her around everywhere and continually asking her for mustard. No one else can see or hear the gelatinous horror (named Frank), so only Lillian can tell when it's trying to fit kids' heads into one of its three mouths or flopping on top of her teacher's head.

The annoying and obnoxious tag-along is only the tip of the iceberg. A demented genius is trying to open up a portal to Frank's realm, catching the attention of a monstrously-evil being who can only glare out at us with his double-decker bus-sized eyeball until the portal is enlarged. As the demented genius works to rip a bigger and bigger hole in the fabric of reality, more and more horrors slip into our world--many of them not nearly as harmless as Frank.

It is up to Lillian, Frank, and her friends to somehow corral and capture these horrors and stop the demented genius before he the portal is large enough to allow the being of ultimate evil to enter our world and devour all of humanity.


Saturday, October 30, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 140: Speed City Sisters in Crime

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The Speed City Sisters in Crime return to the scene of the… podcast? Returning for their first appearance since episode 79, they’ve just released a new anthology, TRICK OR TREATS: TALES OF ALL HALLOWS EVE. I sit down with authors Ross Carley, Diana Catt, Mary Ann Koontz, Elizabeth Perona, Tony Perona, Karen Phillips, and Elizabeth A. San Miguel, to discuss writing and reading mysteries, publishing tips, flying saucers, and so much more.




 



Ross Carley 
- Murder and mayhem by malware . . . Bits and bytes that steal and kill . . . 

Ross Carley’s first four novels feature PI and computer hacker Wolf Ruger, an Iraq vet with PTSD. Dead Drive (2016) and Formula Murder, set in the formula racing industry (2017) are murder myster‐ ies. Cyberthrillers Cyberkill (2018) and Cryptokill (2020), are books one and two of the Cybercode Chronicles. His fifth novel, The Three-Legged Assassin, featuring assassin Lance Garrett, will be released in late 2021. Ross is a computational intelligence and cybersecurity consultant. He and Francie split their time between Indiana and Florida. 

Website: www.RossCarleyBooks.com,
Instagram: @rosscarleyauthor
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/RossCarleyBooks 

Karen Phillips lives in Granite Bay, California, where she enjoys writing mysteries, MG/YA fantasy, and poetry. She has several short stories published in various anthologies and is working on a full- length novel. She is also a published author of non-fiction articles such as “Vetting the Tevis – A brief history of the use of veterinarians for the Western States Trail Ride.” She is a member of both Speed City and Capitol Crimes chapters of Sisters In Crime. 


Mary Ann Koontz - This is the second short story that Mary Ann Koontz has had published in a Speed City Sisters in Crime anthology. Her first was “The 20/20 Club” published in Murder 20/20, A Speed City Crime Writers Anthology. She has also had short stories and articles appear in both newspapers and magazines. Under the name M. A. Koontz, she has authored books including Shards of Trust and its stand-alone sequel, The Cry Beyond the Door. Koontz has also co- authored Maybe, Just Maybe, a children’s chapter book, with her granddaughter, Hailey Landreth. Koontz resides in Indiana. 

Website: www.makoontz.com 

Facebook: @makoontz27/ 

Twitter: @makoontzFW 

Elizabeth A. San Miguel is a new, if not young, writer who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated a long time ago from Indiana University, Bloomington with degrees in Journalism, History, and Fine Arts and a minor in Art History. She also received a Certificate of Applied Computer Science from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). Her father is a native Spanish speaker but Elizabeth grew up in Indianapolis with a British mother. In Spanish she excels at inquiries on library location. (Not that she could understand the answer.) Otherwise, she spends her days coding in the statistical database language SAS and her evenings and week‐ ends amusing herself by thinking up fun ways to kill people, literarily and not literally. 


Diana Catt (www.dianacatt.comis an author, editor, and daytime scientist. She has 20 short stories appearing in anthologies published by Blue River Press, Red Coyote Press, Pill Hill Press, Wolfmont Press, The Four Horseman Press, Speed City Press and Level Best Books. Her collection, Below the Line, is available on Amazon. She is co-editor of The Fine Art of Murder (2016, Blue River Press) and Homi‐ cide for the Holidays (2018, Blue River Press) and Trick or Treats: Tales of All Hallows’ Eve (Speed City Press). She is married with three kids, three grandkids, and three pets. She thinks good things come in three. 


Tony Perona is the father half of the father/daughter Elizabeth Perona writing team that produces the Bucket List Mystery Series. Separately, Tony is the author of the Nick Bertetto myystery series, the standalone thriller The Final Mayan Prophecy (with Paul Skorich), and coe-editor and contributor to the anthologies Racing Can Be MurderHoosier Hoops and Hijinks, and Trick or Treats: Tales of All Hallows' Eve. Tony is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served the organization as a member of the Board of Directors and as Treasurer. He is also a member of Sisters in Crime. His last day job before retirement was Deputy Town Manager of the Town of Plainfield. 

Elizabeth Perona is the father/daughter writing team of Tony Perona and Liz Dombrosky. Tony is the author of the Nick Bertetto mystery series, the standalone thriller The Final Mayan Prophecy (with Paul Skorich), and co-editor and contributor to the anthologies Racing Can Be Murder, Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks, and Trick or Treats: Tales of All Hallows’ Eve. Tony is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served the organization as a member of the Board of Directors and as Treasurer. He is also a member of Sisters in Crime. Liz Dombrosky graduated from Ball State University in the Honors College with a degree in teaching. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and serves as an administrator for her church. Like her father, she is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.


SpeedCitySistersInCrime.org

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 139: Author Diana Rodriguez Wallach

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Diana Rodriguez Wallach and I discuss cults, demonic possession, and writing YA horror in her new novel, SMALL TOWN MONSTERS. It’s a Halloween-themed episode, so we talk about Ed and Lorraine Warren, Stephen King, and that time Diana lived in a haunted house. Writing occasionally comes up as well, so we also discuss her journey through multiple literary agents, how she plots her fiction, her writing and reading habits, the importance of Latinx representation, a revelation about writing from a psychic, and so much more.

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is a multi-published author of young adult novels. Her most recent, SMALL TOWN MONSTERS, is a YA Latinx horror novel that will publish in Fall 2021 through Random House’s Underlined imprint. Additionally, Diana is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix Series (Entangled Publishing), a trilogy of young adult spy thrillers. The first book in the series, Proof of Lies, has been optioned for film and was chosen as a finalist for the 2018 International Thriller Awards for Best Young Adult Novel. Additionally, Bustle listed her as one of the “Top Nine Latinx Authors to Read for Women’s History Month 2017,” and Paste named Proof of Lies one of the “Top 10 Best Young Adult Books for March 2017.”

Diana is also the author of three Latina young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books). Amor and Summer Secrets placed second at the 2009 International Latino Book Awards for Best Young Adult Novel. Diana also penned a YA Greek-myth inspired short-story collection entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books).

In 2011, Diana published an essay in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins), which was the only essay from the anthology selected by Scholastic to be used in its classroom materials. Diana is also featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses (Twilight Times Books, 2015).

Diana has taught as a Creative Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth since 2015, and she has led Creative Writing Workshops in inner-city schools throughout the Philadelphia region for over ten years. She previously wrote as a blogger for Quirk Books, and she currently volunteers with the nonprofit organization Mighty Writers, which promotes writing in urban communities. Diana holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two children.


The Conjuring meets The Vow! This is the terrifying story of a girl, a dark angel, and the cult hellbent on taking over her small, coastal town. Vera Martinez wants nothing more than to escape Roaring Creek and her parents' reputation as demonologists. Not to mention she's the family outcast, lacking her parents' innate abilities, and is terrified of the occult things lurking in their basement. Maxwell Oliver is supposed to be enjoying the summer before his senior year, spending his days thinking about parties and friends. Instead he's taking care of his little sister while his mom slowly becomes someone he doesn't recognize. Soon he suspects that what he thought was grief over his father's death might be something more...sinister. When Maxwell and Vera join forces, they come face to face with deeply disturbing true stories of cults, death worship, and the very nature that drives people to evil.




Saturday, October 16, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 138: Author Sarah J. Schmitt

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My friend, Sarah J. Schmitt, and I discuss her path to publishing IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH her newest novel, WHERE THERE’S A WHISK, and why you should never give anyone else power over your art. She shares how she found her editor on Twitter, how she secured her literary agent, and how she survived the collapse of her publisher. We also chat about author income fluctuations due to the pandemic, discussing hybrid publishing with your literary agent, writing fast first drafts, being active in the local writing community, telling a story from outside your own perspective, WATERSHIP DOWN, visions of the afterlife, and so much more.

Click here to read Sarah's original 7 Question interview.






Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library who, in addition to planning a variety of events, enjoys opening up the world of books to reluctant readers. She runs a teen writing program that combines Skype visits from well-known authors and screenwriters and critique group style feedback.

Prior to immersing herself in the world of the written word, Sarah earned her Masters of Science in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from Indiana University where she worked with first year college students as they acclimated to college life. Sarah lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. She is an active member of SCBWI, ALA and the Indiana Library Federation and is a regular participant at the Midwest Writer's Workshop.




Peyton Sinclaire wants nothing more than to escape her life as a diner waitress in her small, North Florida town and attend culinary school. Top Teen Chef, Food TV's new show that pairs reality TV drama with a fast-paced culinary competition, is her ticket out of her boring future. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make her dreams come true and Peyton is determined to prove to herself, and the world, that where you're born does not determine where you can go. However, once on the show, Peyton quickly discovers that there is more to the competition than just a well-seasoned dish. 

As things start to heat up on and off the set, Peyton will have to prove to the judges that she deserves to win while trying to untangle what is real and what is scripted drama, and decide what she is willing to risk to win before her dreams end up on the chopping block.










SarahJSchmitt.com

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 137: Author Gayle Forman

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Gayle Forman and I discuss her career from a journalist for SEVENTEEN to a celebrated YA novelist and the launch of her first MG book, FRANKIE AND BUG. She describes the experience of having IF I STAY adapted into a film and tells an excellent ghost story. We chat about WE ARE INEVITABLE, writing to get out of poverty, how there is no promised land for writers, playlists created for her novels, her writing process, life during the pandemic, dealing with anxiety, and more. Oh, and she mentions living within a five-block radius of authors Libba Bray, R.J. Palacio, E. Lockhart, and Jacqueline Woodson.





Award-winning author and journalist Gayle Forman has written several bestselling novels for young adults, including the
Just One Series, I Was HereWhere She Went and the #1 New York Times bestseller If I Stay, which has been translated into more than 40 languages and in 2014 was adapted into a major motion picture. Gayle published Leave Me, her first novel starring adults, in 2016 and her latest novel I Have Lost My Way was released in March of 2018. Gayle’s essays and nonfiction work has appeared in publications like The New York TimesElleThe Nation and Time. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughters.



Gayle Forman’s middle-grade debut!

It’s summer, and all ten-year-old Bug wants to do is go to the beach with her older brother and hang out with the locals—just like they have for the last two years. But now Danny wants his space, and Bug is stuck hanging out with their neighbor Phillip’s nephew Frankie, who has come for a visit. After a bumpy start, Frankie and Bug join forces to find the Midnight Marauder—a criminal on the loose in the L.A. area. It makes for a fun summer until but violence strikes close to home after Uncle Phillip is attacked. As Frankie and Bug turn their attention to solving this mystery, what they learn about themselves is far more important—family can be whatever you make it, love is stronger than blood, and it’s up to all of us to hurry toward justice.



GayleForman.com

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 136: Author Katherine Paterson

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Two-time Newberry Award winner and one of my childhood heroes, Katherine Patterson, and I discuss how she transformed from a “mediocre writer” to a Living Legend (so designated by the Library of Congress in 2000). We chat about her newest novel, BIRDIE’S BARGAIN, how Hollywood demanded a sequel to BRIDGE TO TERABETHIA, the time she kissed Robert Patrick, the importance of maintaining the feeling of childhood injustice, writing sparse descriptions, the mysteries of inspiration, the influence of THE YEARLING, the nature of God, and so, so much more, and we have a whole lot of fun doing it.


Katherine Paterson is the author of more than 30 books, including 17 novels for children and young people. She has won the Newbery Medal twice, for 
Bridge to Terabithia in 1978 and Jacob Have I Loved in 1981. Her book The Master Puppeteer won the National Book Award in 1977; The Great Gilly Hopkins won the National Book Award in 1979 and was also a Newbery Honor Book. For the body of her work she received the Hans Christian Anderson Medal in 1998, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2006, the NSK Neustadt Award in 2007, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (Children's Literature Legacy Award) in 2013, and the E. B. White Award in 2019. In 2000 she was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. Paterson is a vice-president of the National Children's Book and Literary Alliance and is a member of the board of trustees for Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Montpelier, Vermont with her dog, Pixie.


In a poignant and unflinching new realistic novel from the Newbery Medal–winning author of Bridge to Terabithia, a ten-year-old girl makes a deal with God for her father's safe return from the Iraq War.


Birdie has questions for God. For starters, why couldn’t God roll history back to September 10, 2001, and fix things—so the next day was an ordinary sunny day and not the devastating lead-in to two wars? Daddy has already been to Iraq twice. Now he’s going again, and Birdie is sure he’ll die. At the very least, she won’t see him again for a year, and everything will not be OK. (Why do grown-ups lie?) To save money, she, Mom, and baby Billy have moved to Gran’s, where shy Birdie must attend a new school, and no one but bossy Alicia Marie Suggs welcomes her. Doesn’t God remember how hard it was for Birdie to make friends at Bible Camp? Counselor Ron taught about Judgment there—and the right way to believe. Has Birdie been praying wrong? Why else would God break their bargain? Readers of all faiths and backgrounds, especially children of military families, will identify with and root for the unforgettable Birdie, given inimitable voice by a master storyteller.