Saturday, September 12, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 87: Author Daniel Kraus

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Daniel Kraus and I discuss his newest book, THEY THREW US AWAY, a wonderfully dark middle grade novel written by an author of horror. We get along famously. We talk briefly about prequel possibilities for THE SHAPE OF WATER and at length about his collaboration with George Romero on THE LIVING DEAD. We also chat about plotting, the benefits of working on multiple projects at once, creating consistent rules for a fantasy world, the importance of writing without an audience, how to write dark children’s stories without being too dark, and so much more.

DANIEL KRAUS is a New York Times bestselling author. With Guillermo del Toro, he co-authored THE SHAPE OF WATER, based on the same idea the two created for the Oscar-winning film. Also with del Toro, Kraus co-authored TROLLHUNTERS, which was adapted into the Emmy-winning Netflix series. Kraus's THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH was named one of Entertainment Weekly's Top 10 Books of the Year, and he has won two Odyssey Awards (for both ROTTERS and SCOWLER) and has been a Library Guild selection, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Bram Stoker finalist, and more.

His newest books are THEY THREW US AWAY and THE LIVING DEAD, a posthumous collaboration with legendary filmmaker George A. Romero. Kraus's work has been translated into over 25 languages. He lives with his wife in Chicago. Visit him at

"A deliciously macabre fairy tale, full of snuggles.” ―Holly Black, award-winning author of Doll Bones and co-creator of The Spiderwick Chronicles

Welcome to The Teddies Saga, a gripping new middle grade trilogy from New York Times-bestselling author Daniel Kraus and illustrator Rovina Cai.

Buddy wakes up in the middle of a garbage dump, filled with a certain awareness: he’s a teddy bear; he spent time at a Store waiting for his future to begin; and he is meant for the loving arms of a child. Now he knows one more thing: Something has gone terribly wrong.

Soon he finds other discarded teddies―Horace, Sugar, Sunny, and Reginald. Though they aren’t sure how their luck soured, they all agree that they need to get back to the Store if they’re ever to fulfill their destinies. So, they embark on a perilous trek across the dump and into the outer world. With ravenous rats, screeching gulls, and a menacing world in front of them, the teddies will need to overcome insurmountable challenges to find their way home.

Equal parts Toy Story and Lord of the FliesThey Threw Us Away is the unforgettable start of a captivating series.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 86: Author Laura Stegman

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Laura Stegman and I talk about SUMMER OF LUCK, her debut novel that took over 20 years to publish, as well her plan to promote it, and she would know. She was raised by publicists and has been one herself for more than three decades. We also discuss her journey from an actress to an author, the time she visited the set of Mary Poppins, her early influences, learning to trust the process, putting together an effective press kit, effectively targeting media outlets, and so much more.

Laura Segal Stegman is a Los Angeles-based author and arts publicist whose middle grade debut novel, Summer of L.U.C.K., will be published in September 2020 by INtense Publications, followed by a sequel in 2021. Having grown up in Southern California with parents who valued reading, she remains spellbound by kidlit. Some of her favorite middle grade novels, then and now, are The Diamond in the Window, Ellen Tebbits, All of A Kind Family, Wonder, A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Miraculous. Laura’s non-fiction credits include collaboration on the travel book Only in New York, and her feature stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways Magazine and Christian Science Monitor, among others. A long-time publicity consultant, she owns Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations, LLC, which has represented a wide-ranging client list of businesses, arts organizations and non-profit events over the years. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Irvine with a B.A. in Drama. Laura and her husband live in Los Angeles and part-time in New York City. She loves reading, L.A. Dodgers baseball, classical music and theater.

Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin's been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They're greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices. As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher's carnival rides, they discover they're capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher's resistant son? If not, she'll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 85: Literary Agent Kiana Nguyen

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Kiana Nguyen and I have a blast discussing our mutual love for THE LAST OF US PART II. Eventually, we get around to her role as a literary agent for Donald Maass Literary Agency as well as a park ranger. We talk about “standard” coming out stories and “girl-saves-the-world” stories and why both are better avoided. We also chat about evaluating queries and manuscripts, agent/client communication styles, quarantine for Covid 19, the future of publishing, the emotional inner lives of characters, a for-real ghost story, and so much more.

Kiana Nguyen joined Donald Maass Literary Agency in 2016, where she assisted several agents, and is now building her own client list. She is seeking YA fiction across genres, particularly those with POC and queer voices. She is also interested in Adult romance and domestic suspense thrillers.


Looking for:
– Dark, twisty narratives that explore human complexity
– YA Contemporary featuring lower socioeconomic backgrounds; poor kids who get in as much reckless mischief as their rich counterparts!
– YA featuring happy/hopeful queer romances
– Domestic suspense Thrillers!!!

Do not send:
– Non-fiction
– Crime or military fiction
– Picture books, chapter books, or MG
– Poetry, screenplays, or short stories
– Religious fiction

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 84: Author MarcyKate Connolly

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MarcyKate Connolly and I discuss her many bestselling “weird, creepy middle grade” novels, particularly her debut, MONSTROUS, and her transition to young adult with her newest release, TWIN DAGGERS. Despite my best efforts to turn the conversation to ghosts and flying saucers, we actually discuss quite refined topics such as Shakespeare and opera and an opera based on Shakespeare. We also chat about creating magical systems and rules in fantasy worlds, life during quarantine, turning 40, why Scrivener and Beat Sheets are a writer’s best tools, how rejection toughens a writer’s skin, and then we totally talk about flying saucers and ghosts.

MarcyKate Connolly is a New York Times Bestselling children's book author and nonprofit marketing professional living in New England with her family and a grumble of pugs. She can be lured out from her writing cave with the promise of caffeine and new books. Twin Daggers is her debut young adult novel, and she's also the author of several middle grade fantasy novels including Monstrous and Ravenous, and the Shadow Weaver series. You can visit her online at

Aissa’s life is a web of carefully constructed lies. She and her twin sister, Zandria, are Magi spies, a magical people most believe to be extinct. And they’re on a mission for revenge. 
This action and adventure spy thriller - a fantasy spin on “Romeo and Juliet” from New York Times best-selling author MarcyKate Connolly - is perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Elly Blake and is about to become your new obsession! 
By day, Aissa and Zandra play the role of normal young Technocrats eager to fulfill the duties of their new apprenticeships. By night, they plot their revenge to retake their city from the Technocrats. But then Aissa is given a new mission: find and kidnap the heir to the Technocrat throne, who is rumored to be one of the Heartless - a person born without a working heart who survives via a mechanical replacement - and has been hidden since birth. 
Aissa is more likely to be caught than to be successful, but she's never been one to turn down an assignment, even if the hunt is complicated by a kind Technocrat researcher who is determined to find a cure for the Heartless. But when Zandria is captured by the Technocrats, Aissa will do anything to get her sister back. Even if it means abandoning all other loyalties and missions...and risking everything by trusting her sworn enemies.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 83: Author Annie Sullivan Returns

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Annie Sullivan and I pick up right where we left off after her previous appearance in episode 40. We talk about her soon-to-be-released YA novel CURSE OF GOLD, sequel to TOUCH OF GOLD, as well as SHARKTOPUS VS WHALEWOLF. Since I know Annie has long been an “aspiring recluse,” I’m eager to learn how she’s been enjoying quarantine for Covid-19 and how she’s promoting her new book without leaving home. We also chat about being a TIGER QUEEN in the age of Tiger King, Greek mythology, leaving Easter Eggs for readers, the time I got robbed, the Loch Ness monster, comma warfare, and so much more.

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).

Curses and queens. Pirates and kings. Gods and magic. The final saga of a princess cursed by Midas’s touch, a vengeful Greek god, and a dazzling kingdom in the balance.

After barely surviving thieving, bloodthirsty pirates and a harrowing quest at sea to retrieve her stolen treasure, Kora finds readjusting to palace life just as deadly. Her people openly turn against her, threatening to overthrow her as heir to the throne due to fear of her magical powers. When Dionysus puts out a challenge to kill the girl with the golden touch and burn down her kingdom, it’s not just her future on the throne in danger. Kora’s life and entire kingdom are now on contract.

With no other choice, Kora sets out to find Dionysus, journeying to the mysterious disappearing island of Jipper. If she wants to save her kingdom and have any chance at reversing her father’s curse, she will have to enter into a deadly game with Dionysus, the greatest trickster the world, or the underworld, has ever seen.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 82: Author Preeti Chhibber

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Preeti Chhibber, host of the Desi Geek Girls podcast, and I geek out over the things we love while discussing her wonderfully geeky new books AVENGERS ASSEMBLY: ORIENTATION, STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS: STORIES OF LIGHT AND DARK, and A JEDI, YOU WILL BE. She shares how working her side hustle talking about stuff she loved online while working a day job in children’s publishing led to her writing PETER AND NED’S ULTIMATE TRAVEL JOURNAL, interviewing the cast of SPIDERMAN: FAR FROM HOME, and a rewarding career. But mostly we talk nerdy about what characters from different fandoms would make for great stories and what superpower would be best to have.

Called “Spider-Man super fan and author” by Publishers Weekly, Preeti Chhibber is a YA author, speaker, and freelance writer. She works as a publishing professional. She has written for SYFY, BookRiot, BookRiot Comics, The Nerds of Color, and The Mary Sue, among others. Her short story, "Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers" was published in the anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (HarperCollins, 2018). Her first book, Spider-Man: Far From Home: Peter and Ned’s Ultimate Travel Journal was released in June 2019. You can find her co-hosting the podcasts Desi Geek Girls and Strong Female Characters (SYFYWire). She’s appeared on several panels at New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con, and on screen on the SYFY Network. Honestly, you probably recognize her from one of several BuzzFeed “look at these tweets” twitter lists. She usually spends her time reading a ridiculous amount of Young Adult but is also ready to jump into most fandoms at a moment’s notice. 

After Kamala Khan AKA Ms. Marvel is caught by news cameras taking on a super villain--and accidentally destroying a building along the way--she gets a letter from Captain Marvel herself! It's great that she's fighting crime and sticking up for people, but maybe a regular school isn't the best place to learn how to do that. If she wants to continue as Ms. Marvel, she's going to need to take on some new extra-curricular activities-mainly, training with other young super heroes alongside the Avengers!

Now Kamala is the new kid at the Avengers Institute. Her classmates are all kids like her, they have special powers, but most of them have gotten into some trouble or drawn attention to themselves. The big news at the Avengers Institute this year? An academic decathlon in which students will group up into teams and compete against each other in super heroics. Kamala and her friends Miles and Doreen will have to go up against a team led by some kids who fight less than fair-and have some trouble with the concept of "fighting for good"-in this funny, action-packed look at some ordinary middle school kids who just happen to have some extraordinary powers.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 81: Author Paula Chase

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Paula Chase and I chat about her novels SO DONE and DOUGH BOYS and what makes them upper middle grade instead of young adult. She discusses founding The Brown Bookshelf with Varian Johnson, the importance of representation in literature, and how we should focus less on Black pain and more on Black joy. We also talk about her writing practices as a committed pantser, how she fell backward into being an author, writing in the voice of teenagers, refusing to “just shut up” on social media, meeting Flavor Flav at a Waffle House, an actual ghost story, and so much more.

They say if you want something done, ask the busiest person in the room. They'll grab your task, throw it on the fire of their To-Do list and keep on burning. Paula Chase did that with teen lit and her debut novel, So Not The Drama. Concerned that YA was no more diverse than it had been in her teen years, Chase began writing contemporary fiction revolved around characters of color. Proclaiming her work, hip lit, a nod to the impact hip hop has had on mainstream culture, Chase's five-book series helped Kensington Books launch its YA line. Her critically acclaimed Middle Grade debut, So Done is among the growing number of books for readers "lost in the middle" of MG and YA. The married mother of two is also a co-founder of the award-winning blog, The Brown Bookshelf, a site designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers.

In the companion to her acclaimed So Done, Paula Chase follows best friends Simp and Rollie as their friendship is threatened by the pressures of basketball, upcoming auditions, middle school, and their growing involvement in the local drug ring.

Dough Boys is a memorably vivid story about the complex friendship between two African American boys whose lives are heading down very different paths. For fans of Jason Reynolds’s Ghost and Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger.

Deontae “Simp” Wright has big plans for his future. Plans that involve basketball, his best friend, Rollie, and making enough money to get his mom and four younger brothers out of the Cove, their low-income housing project.

Long term, this means the NBA. Short term, it means being a dough boy—getting paid to play lookout and eventually moving up the rungs of the neighborhood drug operation with Rollie as his partner.

Roland “Rollie” Matthews used to love playing basketball. He loved the rhythm of the game, how he came up with his best drumbeats after running up and down the court. But playing with the elite team comes with extra, illegal responsibilities, and Rollie isn't sure he's down for that life. The new talented-and-gifted program, where Rollie has a chance to audition for a real-life go-go band, seems like the perfect excuse to stop being a dough boy. But how can he abandon his best friend?

Paula Chase explores universal themes of friendship and budding romance, while also exploring complex issues that affect many young teens. Full of basketball, friendship, and daily life in a housing project, this universal story is perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds’s Track series, Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Ghost Boys, and Chris Crutcher.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

GUEST POST: "Writing Underwater, Light-up Pens, and Other Tricks, Tools and Strategies for Busy Writers" by Ann Searle Horowitz

There’s something about swimming laps that gets my creative juices flowing. When I first start the warm-up, my mind is the proverbial blank slate. Then a solution to something I’ve been working on suddenly pops in my head: a title, scene, chapter cliffhanger, character name, or plot twist for my WIP. And for the rest of my swim, I employ every strategy I know (including mnemonics and you name it) NOT to forget my (possibly) brilliant insight.

So while I most certainly do write underwater in my head, I don’t actually write underwater.

I know my day for underwater writing is coming. A friend who also swims has a device that allows him to listen to podcasts and audiobooks underwater. I'm getting close, but I'm not there yet.

Instead, after I swim the first place I go is . . . the front pocket of my swim bag. This is where I keep paper and pen so I can capture any productive thoughts. Like the following logline for my debut fantasy-adventure, Trident, finalized (in my head) in the pool back in 2018:

After Richard Tomlin’s new swim goggles transport him to Atlantis, the 12-year-old is thrust into a war to save the Lost City and the planet.

Not a bad yield for a 50-minute workout.

When not swimming, I’m busy with a hundred other things, like every overscheduled person on the planet these days. I had to be creative and smart about finding time to write my book. Here’s how I got to the finish line with Trident, without getting divorced, losing my day job, or being reported for child neglect (proud mom of three kids, one with special needs).

1. Make daily writing a #1 priority – The only way to tap into your story’s flow, and stay there, is to write every day. It’s okay if you don’t write much, but do make it a habit. Even busy people can find 15 minutes every day to write.

2. Read, read, read some more – Beg, buy or borrow every bestseller, locally popular, and well-reviewed book in your genre you can get your hands on. This is especially important for first-time authors. You’ll learn from and be motivated by the quality of writing. Busy folks can make time to read during breakfast or before bed, or listen to an audiobook on the treadmill.

3. Set deadlines/writing goals – Especially when you’re swamped, it’s easy to push off daily “To Do’s” deemed unnecessary for basic survival, like writing. To hold yourself accountable, set your top writing goal for the coming year and make it challenging (e.g., self-publish novel by December 1st). Now back up and break this big, hairy writing and publishing goal into manageable phases, giving each phase a deadline (e.g., finish chapter 20 by end of July). Be sure to WRITE DOWN your big goal and interim deadlines. And honestly assess your progress every 3 months. In the end, organizing this way compels busy you to focus and work more efficiently.

4. Join a writers group – These groups meet regularly, often monthly. You are expected to bring your WIP to every meeting, forcing steady writing. But it’s not a huge time commitment, plus the encouragement and feedback is invaluable.

5. Listen to conversations – When you’re waiting for your coffee order, spy on the pod of tweens in line in front of you—not in a creepy way, but to eavesdrop the language they use, learn what topics are vital to them, and observe how they interact. It’s research while you wait.

6. Carry a notepad – Keep one in your car, one in your swimming/workout bag, one downstairs in your house and one upstairs, one in your briefcase, one in your lunchbox, one next to your shower, one adjacent to any other place you might sit while in the bathroom, one in your, well, you get the idea. Write your ideas as soon as you have them or they will be lost in the ensuing chaos—an extraordinarily frustrating experience.

(Full notepad-carrying disclosure: I acknowledge my reliance on old-school paper and pen is probably atypical. But I can’t use my phone to take notes after I swim; it would get wet. And phones are not allowed on deck when I work as a swim coach.)

7. Invest in a light-up pen – A genius invention for writers who brainstorm while sleeping, and need to capture ideas ASAP when they jolt awake before sunrise or in the middle of the night. One click activates a mini flashlight that writes, sparing the person sleeping next to you (see divorce reference above) the bright light (bulb) of inspiration. It also circumvents taking nighttime notes via phone which can, in turn, lead to peeking at stressful, non-sleepy work emails.

8. Take a break – When writing feels like a slog, and you’re truly stuck, body movement is proven to enhance creativity. Get up and stretch, take a short walk, grab a shower. It’s worth the extra few minutes. Then sit your butt back down in the chair and write for 15.

This week I had my first pool workout since the COVID-19 quarantine. So let’s circle back to swimming. Better still, think of what makes you feel good—singing, baking, running, meditation, yoga—and build it into your weekly schedule. It may turn out to be your most productive writing time.

Ann Searle Horowitz was a high school All American swimmer, and is a mother of multiples. She admits to knowing far too much about goggles and the twin bond, both of which provided inspiration for Trident. When not working on its sequel, she coaches YMCA swimming, plays team tennis, and hangs out with her husband and three kids at their home just outside of New York City.

As a young reader Ann could often be found in her basement fort, bingeing on Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. Now she can be found online at

Ann is also on FB ( and LinkedIn (

Twelve-year-old Richard Tomlin has almost given up on finding his dad. Instead, he focuses all of his energy on being the youngest swimmer ever on his team to qualify for Junior Olympics.

But everything changes when his new goggles transport him to the Lost City of Atlantis!

Confronting shapeshifters and dark magical forces, Richard channels his inner science geek and the power of positive thinking to stay alive. As he struggles to tame the magic of his goggles, his strong-willed twin, Lucy, finds a way to join him under the sea, and the siblings are thrust into the War of Generations.

To win the war—and save the planet—Richard must embrace his role in an ancient prophecy. Problem is, the prophecy appears to predict his own death. So what’s a warrior to do?

Trident, written for readers age 8-12, and building an unanticipated but welcome adult following, is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook on Amazon at

Barnes & Noble at

And on the shelves at Arcade Booksellers in Rye, NY.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 80: Public Relations Expert Sarah Miniaci

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Sarah Miniaci and I discuss her career in publicity from running a literary magazine to her work with many notable authors at Smith Publicity. She explains giving in order to get, get lists, top gets, longest lead gets, and never forgets. We chat about raising your author profile, establishing publicity goals, measuring your success, reader targeting, tearing down discoverability myths, and a chalk-changing, vacuum-knocking ghost.

Having worked in a variety of roles in fields that include education, entertainment, fine arts and publishing throughout the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, since 2011 Sarah Miniaci has brought a broad range of knowledge and experience to her work at Smith Publicity, where she serves as Director, Literary Strategy. An avid and genre-spanning reader, Sarah also serves on the board of Diaspora Dialogues, a charitable organization working to change the face of Canadian literature which supports diverse emerging writers in turning their craft into a career through mentorship, professional development, and opportunities to present and publish their work. She continues to be energized by designing and executing publicity campaigns for debut and veteran authors alike.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 79: Speed City Sisters in Crime

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Mystery writers Lillie Evans, Tony Perona, C.L. Shore, and Janet E. Williams are all prominent members of the Speed City Sisters in Crime, which has just released its newest anthology, MURDER 20/20. We chat about how the stories in the anthology were selected, the benefits of belonging to an organization for writers, such as the Sisters in Crime, the ins and outs of writing short and long mysteries, and much, much more. We also have an extended chat about flying saucers and ghosts you won’t want to miss.

Speed City Sisters in Crime is the Indiana chapter of the world-wide mystery/crime writers' association Sisters in Crime. The Speed City chapter was founded in 2005.

Members of the organization are published mystery and crime authors, writers working on mysteries and thrillers, and readers and fans of the literary genre. There are currently 40+ members who live in Indiana or the Midwest.

Speed City Sisters in Crime hosts monthly meetings with speakers on topics of interest to mystery and crime writing. Past speakers have included police officers, prosecutors, investigative reporters, forensic specialists, weapons experts, researchers, and publishing and media professionals.

Chapter members have published 6 short story anthologies over the years with the themes that are related to Indiana or the midwest. Members of the organization have also written and produced a play, Deadbeat, which was performed at a local fringe festival and will soon be available to for others to produce.

The chapter also hosts writing and other educational workshops for its membership with well-known authors and publishing professionals.

Lillie Evans is an author, playwright, and storyteller. Under her pen name, L. Barnett Evans, she is co-author (with Crystal Rhodes) of the cozy mystery book series, Grandmothers, Incorporated. In addition to the novels, she is co-writer of the plays Stake Out and Grandmothers, Incorporated, based on the characters from the book series. The play Grandmothers, Incorporated enjoyed a very successful Off-Broadway run. Lillie is the writer and producer of the play, Take My Hand, which was chosen for a reading at the prestigious National Black Theater Festival and was performed at the 2018 OnyxFest at the Indy Fringe Theatre Festival. Lillie has appeared as a crime commentator on TV One’s “Unsung” and is a member of Sisters in Crime. See more at: and

Tony Perona is the author of the Nick Bertetto mystery series (SECOND ADVENT, ANGELS WHISPER, and SAINTLY REMAINS), the standalone thriller THE FINAL MAYAN PROPHECY, and co-editor and contributor to the anthologies RACING CAN BE MURDER and HOOSIER HOOPS AND HIJINKS. 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.

C.L. Shore began reading mysteries in the second grade and has been a fan of the genre ever since. Maiden Murders (2018), a prequel to A Murder in May (2017), is her most recent release. Her short stories have appeared in several Sisters in Crime anthologies, Kings River Life Magazine, and Mysterical-E. Shore has been a member of Sisters in Crime for more than a decade, serving as a board member of the Speed City chapter for several years. A nurse practitioner and researcher, she’s published numerous articles on family coping with epilepsy as Cheryl P. Shore. Cheryl enjoys travel and entertains a fantasy of living in Ireland for a year. She’s currently working on Cherry Blossom Temple, a women’s fiction novel. See more at:

Janet E. Williams has been writing since she could hold a pencil. Her first work of fiction was a collection of stories she wrote and illustrated by hand to entertain her mom and dad. In college, she majored in English and became an award-winning journalist, covering politics and crime in Pittsburgh. When the newspaper folded, she landed in Indianapolis where she worked as both a reporter and editor at The Indianapolis Star. Today, Janet teaches young journalists as part of a college immersion program while continuing to work on her writing. She has had short stories published in four anthologies. She lives in Indianapolis and remains a faithful companion to her dog, Roxy.

The 7th anthology by the Speed City Sisters In Crime presents fresh thrills and kills in this collection of short stories that span over a decade, to the far past and the not so far off future. Another great collection by a fine group of Indiana authors. Introduction by Susan Furlong; Edited by MB Dabney, Lillie Evans, and Shari Held; Authors Andrea Smith, Janet E. Williams, J. Paul Burroughs, Ross Carley, Elizabeth Perona, D.B. Reddick, Stephen Terrell, Shari Held, T.C. Winters, Mary Ann Koontz, C.L. Shore, Hawthorn Mineart, B.K. Hart, Elizabeth San Miguel, S. Ashley Couts, Ramona G. Henderson and Diana Catt.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 78: Editor Sara-Jayne Slack and Author Dorothy A. Winsor

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In a Middle Grade Ninja first, editor Sara-Jayne Slack AND author Dorothy A. Winsor discuss Inspired Quill’s latest release, THE WYSMAN, how they came to work together, and the ins and outs of their professional author/editor collaboration. We also chat about publishing contracts, book marketing, working with authors rather than above them, self publishing vs publishing with a small press, Armageddon, spilling tea, and so much more. And here's the link to that online course Sara-Jayne mentioned: Esteemed Listeners can use this coupon code so they can get it for $47 (rather than $147) - IQSCHOLAR
Don't miss Dorothy A. Winsor's fantastic guest post Chronology V. Plot: Dawn of New Years (yes, I was the one who titled it, why do you ask).

Sara-Jayne is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, SEO nerd and lover of all things stationery-related. She works as an SEO Project Manager by day, and manages the not-for-profit publishing house Inspired Quill by night. Sara can regularly be found discussing inbound marketing, skills development, and non-tokenistic diversity in publishing, but strives to listen at least as much as she talks. She’s also scarily comfortable talking about herself in third person, and believes that ‘To Do’ lists breed when you’re not looking.

Dorothy A. Winsor writes young adult and middle grade fantasy. Her novels include Finders Keepers (Zharmae, 2015), Deep as a Tomb (Loose Leave Publishing, 2016), The Wind Reader (Inspired Quill, 2018), and The Wysman (June, 2020). At one time, Winsor taught technical writing at Iowa State University and GMI Engineering and Management Institute (now Kettering). She then discovered that writing fiction is much more fun and has never looked back. She lives in Chicagoland.

"The Grabber is just a fright tale."

Former street kid Jarka was born with a crooked foot and uses a crutch, but that no longer matters now that he’s an apprentice Wysman, training to advise the king. When poor kids start to go missing from the city’s streets, though, Jarka suspects that whatever’s causing the disappearances comes from the castle.

Now he needs to watch his step or risk losing the position he fought so hard to win… but when someone close to him becomes the latest victim, Jarka knows he’s running out of time.

His search takes him from diving into ancient history to standing up to those who want to beat or bleed the magic out of him.

Will Jarka succeed in uncovering an evil long-hidden, or will he see friends and family vanish into the darkness? And whose side is the King on, in his determination to bind his nobles to him no matter what black arts they’ve dabbled in? If Jarka fails in his search, his own future won’t be the worst thing lost.

The Wysman follows Jarka after the events in The Wind Reader, but this YA Fantasy can be read independently.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 77: Author Tracy Wolff

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Middle Grade Ninja is available on SoundcloudStitcheritunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.

Tracy Wolff and I discuss her new young adult paranormal romance novel CRAVE, which has already been optioned as a film and a video game. We admit to being book hoarders and Tracy explains her highly unusual (and also highly successful) process for writing a novel. We also talk about how she was able to become a full-time author, saving stories from life for fiction, various magical creatures, defending Texas against wild coyotes, Nora Roberts, writing fast, the terror of being attacked and violently murdered on an open Alaskan tundra, how she chose her literary agent, and so much more.

Tracy Wolff is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sixty-four novels that run the gamut from young adult action adventures to new adult romance and from women’s fiction to erotica.  A long-time lover of vampires, dragons and all things that go bump in the night, Tracy loves nothing more than combining her affection for paranormal creatures with her love of writing tortured heroes and kick-butt heroines.

When she’s not writing (which is a rare occurrence), she can be found trying out new recipes, offering make-up tips online, wandering comic book/gaming stores with her sons, and watching movies or plotting stories with her besties. A one time English professor, she now writes full-time from her home in Austin, Texas, which she shares with her family.

“Crave is about to become fandom’s new favorite vampire romance obsession. If you need any further evidence of how much you’ll enjoy this book, Universal Studios picked up the film rights… I will absolutely be first in line.” -Hypable

My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.

Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.
Which could spell death for us all.

Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally―as the bait.