Saturday, May 21, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 166: Author Xiran Jay Zhao

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Xiran Jay Zhao and I discuss their new middle grade novel, ZACHARY YING AND THE DRAGON EMPEROR, and the phenomenon of their YouTube channel about Chinese history and media commentary which has more than 425,000 subscribers (as of this recording).We talk about their IRON WIDOW series and its movie possibilities, how they survived the midlist, how writing is suffering, the sometimes fickle nature of parental support, what to do when your agent leaves the industry, advanced AR videogames, graduating into the job market during the pandemic, and so much more.





Xiran Jay Zhao is the #1 
New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Widow series. A first-gen Hui Chinese immigrant from small-town China to Vancouver, Canada, they were raised by the internet and made the inexplicable decision to leave their biochem degree in the dust to write books and make educational content instead. You can find them @XiranJayZhao on Twitter for memes, Instagram for cosplays and fancy outfits, TikTok for fun short videos, and YouTube for long videos about Chinese history and culture. Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is their first middle grade novel.






Percy Jackson meets Tristan Strong in this hilarious, action-packed middle grade contemporary fantasy that follows a young boy as he journeys across China to seal the underworld shut and save the mortal realm.


Zachary Ying never had many opportunities to learn about his Chinese heritage. His single mom was busy enough making sure they got by, and his schools never taught anything except Western history and myths. So Zack is woefully unprepared when he discovers he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission: sealing the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open.

The mission takes an immediate wrong turn when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Now, with one of history’s most infamous tyrants yapping in his headset, Zack must journey across China to heist magical artifacts and defeat figures from history and myth, all while learning to wield the emperor’s incredible water dragon powers.

And if Zack can’t finish the mission in time, the spirits of the underworld will flood into the mortal realm, and he could lose his mom forever.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 165: Author Jenna Yoon

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Jenna Yoon and I discuss her journey to becoming an author and her debut middle grade novel, LIA PARK AND THE MISSING JEWEL. We talk about why representation matters, how the lack of it inspired her to create Lia Park for her daughters, a terrible experience with a teacher that stopped Jenna from writing a novel sooner, the importance of skin care, drafting a novel with a loose outline, writing while parenting during the pandemic, playing a trick on her sister that backfired, and so much more.







Jenna Yoon studied Art History at Wellesley College and received her master’s degree in Korean art history from Ewha Womans University. She’s lived about half her life in both Korea and the United States. When she’s not writing, Jenna loves to travel, find yummy eats, play board games, and take skin care very seriously. Currently, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two kids.








Perfect for fans of the Storm Runner and Aru Shah series, this thrilling middle grade fantasy follows a young girl who must venture to the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King in Korea to save her parents from an evil diviner spirit.


Twelve-year old Lia Park just wants to fit in. Her parents work with a mysterious organization that makes them ridiculously overprotective. Lia’s every move has been scrutinized since she was born, and she’d love to have the option of doing something exciting for once. So when she gets invited to the biggest birthday party of the year—and her parents say she can’t go—Lia sneaks out.

But her first act of rebellion not only breaks her parents’ rules, but also an ancient protection spell, allowing an evil diviner spirit to kidnap and ransom her parents for a powerful jewel that her family has guarded for years. With just the clothes on her back and some very rusty magical skills, Lia finds herself chasing mysterious clues that take her to her grandmother’s home in Korea.

From there, she has to make their way to the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King, the only person who knows where the powerful jewel might be. Along with her friend, Joon, Lia must dig deep and find courage to stand up for those who are weak—and become the hero her parents need.



Saturday, May 7, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 164: Author Maurice Broaddus

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My friend Maurice Broaddus and I discuss his newest novels UNFADEABLE and SWEEP OF STARS. We also chat about some of the older ones, Afrofuturism, using writing to procrastinate from writing, worldbuilding through short stories, grants for writers, writing for video games, Black Panther, British cozy mysteries, running your own writers conference, Arthurian urban fantasy, doing your job as an author for younger readers, vampire communes, and so much more.








An accidental teacher (at the Oaks Academy Middle School), an accidental librarian (the School Library Manager which part of the IndyPL Shared System), and a purposeful community organizer (resident Afrofuturist at the Kheprw Institute), his work has appeared in Magazine of SFandF, Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Asimov’s, and Uncanny Magazine, with some of his stories having been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. His novels include the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court, the steampunk novel, Pimp My Airship, and the middle grade detective novel series, The Usual Suspects. As an editor, he’s worked on Dark Faith, Fireside Magazine, and Apex Magazine. His gaming work includes writing for the Marvel Super-Heroes, Leverage, and Firefly role-playing games as well as working as a consultant on Watch Dogs 2. 




Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Kelly Yang, readers will love this heartfelt and genuine story about building community, finding family, and the power of Black girl magic. 

Bella “Unfadeable” Fades is determined to stay out of trouble. A wiser-than-her-years graffiti artist known for tagging walls and bridges in her Indianapolis neighborhood, the Land, Bella plans to spend her summer break laying low and steering clear of anyone who might tip off to social services that she’s living on her own.

But keeping a low profile is all but impossible when Bella discovers people in high places are trying to defund the Land. She has to find a way to fight back.

Getting involved will mean putting herself out there—making connections with unlikely friends and attracting potential enemies. But if Bella doesn’t put her trust in her neighbors and learn how to bring her community together, her home—and her future—will never be the same.






MauriceBroaddus.com

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 163: Literary Agent Mark Gottlieb

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Mark Gottlieb and I chat about how he was born into the business of books and how Maxwell Perkins’ love of editing convinced him to become an agent with TRIDENT MEDIA GROUP. We discuss his strategies for finding clients and submitting their work, his passion for making their dreams come true, why it’s important to demystify literary agencies, positioning a book for success, dealing with the frustrations of the publishing industry, hypotheticals involving Ralph Ellison, and so much more.











Mark Gottlieb is a highly ranked literary agent, both in overall deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his client list of authors. Mark Gottlieb is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group. Through his work at Trident Media Group, Mark Gottlieb continues to represent numerous 
New York Times bestselling authors, as well as major award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold books to film and TV production companies. He previously ran the agency’s audiobook department, in addition to working in foreign rights. In his free time, Mark Gottlieb tutors free English language classes to adults from low-income immigrant families, via the Literacy Volunteers program at Family Centers, a nonprofit organization offering education, health and human services. He is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres and looks forward to bringing new and established authors to the curious minds of their future readers.




Saturday, April 23, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 162: Author Jodi Lynn Anderson

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Jodi Lynn Anderson and I talk about her career as an editor for Harper Collins before becoming a bestselling author as well as her new middle grade series, THIRTEEN WITCHES. We discuss writing in a diary to help make sense of the world, gaining the confidence to write fiction through working in publishing, her lifelong fascination with ghosts, living with sequel possibilities and thinking of characters as old friends, the importance of being yourself, the importance of imagining a finished novel, hearing voices in your head, and so much more.







Jodi Lynn Anderson is the bestselling author of several critically acclaimed books for young people, including the
 May Bird trilogy and My Diary from the Edge of the World. She lives with her husband, son, and daughter in Asheville, North Carolina, and holds an MFA in writing and literature from Bennington College. 





Perfect for fans of Newbery winner 
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, the adventurous and utterly relatable second book in the haunting and magical Thirteen Witches series from New York Times bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson follows Rosie as she hunts the remaining witches.

After twelve-year-old Rosie Oaks’s triumph over a powerful evil witch, a whole new world opened up to her—one full of witches who control many of the experiences that make life worth living and use their dominion to torment people. As the latest in a line of powerful witch hunters, it’s up to Rosie to defeat them. With her loyal friend Germ by her side and her newly created witch-weapon at the ready, Rosie leaves home on a quest to find and vanquish the remaining of the original Thirteen Witches.

With the help of an enchanted time-traveling whale, Rosie travels through the depths of the sea and across vast distances as she seeks to fulfill her destiny. The lives of those she loves hang in the balance and her skills are put to the ultimate test as Rosie digs deep for the strength to complete her quest. But can one girl truly hope to eliminate forces that have been at work for centuries?


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 161: Author James Riley

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James Riley and I have an in-depth discussion about his writing and plotting process for his new middle grade series, ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME. We talk about writing in fairy tale worlds and the way pop culture knowledge permeates our collective creativity. We also chat about Batman, Star Wars, Alan Moore, working for Disney, the darker side of capitalism, a letter from Piers Anthony, and so much more.






James Riley is the New York Times bestselling author of the HALF UPON A TIME series, the STORY THIEVES series, the REVENGE OF MAGIC series, and the new ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME series. Contrary to what previous biographies have stated, he is a) real and b) not the character Nobody from his STORY THIEVES books. Where would people even get that idea? (Spoiler: From him. He totally made it sound like he really was Nobody. He thought it’d be funny. We’re sorry.) He was born in Connecticut, where he lived for only a short time before moving to … well, quite a few states. He currently lives in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., because that’s where his cats are. He has three of them. Other people think that’s a bit much.




Storybook characters collide in this first book in a new trilogy of twisted fairy tales from 
New York Times bestselling author James Riley, set in the world of his popular Half Upon a Time series—perfect for fans of Fablehaven and Chris Colfer’s A Tale of Magic series!

Five and a half feet might seem pretty tall for a twelve-year-old, but it’s not when your parents are giants. Lena has kept the fact that she’s a tiny giant secret, using magic to grow when out in the giant village. But hiding who she is has always felt wrong, even though she knows the other giants might not accept her. Fortunately, Lena has friends down in the Cursed City who understand that looking different doesn’t make her less of a giant.

Someone who knows not to judge by appearances is Jin, a young genie currently serving one thousand and thirty-eight years of genie training that requires him to fulfill the wish of whoever holds his magical ring. In Jin’s case, it’s the power-hungry Golden King. At least the king only has two wishes left, one of which is for Jin to go to the Cursed City and capture its protector, the Last Knight—one of Lena’s closest friends.

What Lena and Jin don’t know is how close the Golden King’s plans are to coming together, between his dark magic and his horrible Faceless knights. If Jin does find the Last Knight and bring him to the Golden King, why, that could doom the entire fairy-tale world.

…This sounds like it’ll end badly, doesn’t it?


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 160: Public Relations Expert Ellen Whitfield

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Ellen Whitfield and I discuss how she went from being a reader to a copyeditor to a book reviewer to a publicist with BOOKS FORWARD. We talk specifically about budget numbers for authors preparing to promote their newest launch, strategies for promoting backlists, entering awards contests, what every author should include in their email signature, working with a publisher’s in-house publicity team, and so much more.





 


Ellen balances her understanding of “the other side of the desk” when it comes to media pitching, with a true love of an avid bibliophile. She was part of the journalism community for more than seven years, working at respected print and online media outlets including The Dallas Morning News, The Advocate newspapers of Baton Rouge and New Orleans (where she coordinated book coverage), the Waco Tribune Herald and others.

Her experience on the editorial side of the travel, community and lifestyle sections of newspapers, along with her social and online media savviness as a popular Bookstagrammer, is to the benefit of authors across genres. She has an eye for design and a passion for detail.

Ellen provides daily mentorship to the Books Forward team and trains incoming publicists to provide expanded services to our growing and beloved Books Forward family.

A Louisiana State University graduate, Ellen lives in the Bayou State with her newspaper-executive husband, bright-and-spirited daughter (we know where she gets that from!) and an ever-growing collection of 550 books.


Saturday, April 2, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 159: Author Gregory Maguire

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Gregory Maguire and I chat about his career and why he continues to write for children when WICKED is now the fifth longest-running Broadway musical. We discuss writing about depression in animal fables such as in his newest middle grade novel, CRESS WATERCRESS, how a lack of television and a lot of writing set him up for early success, the mystery of inspiration, and so much more. And he gives a very brief sneak preview of his next book, THE WITCH OF MARACOOR.




Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children's Literature New England. He still serves as co-director of CLNE, although that organization has announced its intention to close after its 2006 institute. The bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. Wicked, now a beloved classic, is the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He has three adopted children and is married to painter Andy Newman. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.




A lavishly illustrated woodland tale with a classic sensibility and modern flair—from the fertile imagination behind Wicked


Gregory Maguire turns his trademark wit and wisdom to an animal adventure about growing up, moving on, and finding community. When Papa doesn't return from a nocturnal honey-gathering expedition, Cress holds out hope, but her mother assumes the worst. It’s a dangerous world for rabbits, after all. Mama moves what’s left of the Watercress family to the basement unit of the Broken Arms, a run-down apartment oak with a suspect owl landlord, a nosy mouse super, a rowdy family of squirrels, and a pair of songbirds who broadcast everyone’s business. Can a dead tree full of annoying neighbors, and no Papa, ever be home? In the timeless spirit of E. B. White and The Wind and the Willows—yet thoroughly of its time—this read-aloud and read-alone gem for animal lovers of all ages features an unforgettable cast that leaps off the page in glowing illustrations by David Litchfield. This tender meditation on coming-of-age invites us to flourish wherever we find ourselves.


Saturday, March 26, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 158: Author Elly Swartz

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Elly Swartz and I discuss her career as an author and her newest novel, DEAR STUDENT. We talk about being an author during the pandemic, her average workday, the advantages of writing yourself letters from your characters, researching psychological issues for character creation, creating curriculum guides, learning from your rejections, a ghost story, the importance of being yourself, and so much more. If you’re watching the video version, look forward to seeing a lot of my cohost, Mabel the cat.





Elly Swartz grew up in Yardley, Pennsylvania, where she lived a happy childhood filled with laughs, family dinners, and crooked birthday cakes. She studied psychology at Boston University and received a law degree from Georgetown University School of Law. The mother of two grown sons, Elly now lives in Massachusetts with her husband. Finding Perfect was her debut novel.








When Autumn becomes the secret voice of the advice column in her middle school newspaper she is faced with a dilemma--can she give fair advice to everyone, including her friends, while keeping her identity a secret?


Starting Middle School is rough for Autumn after her one and only BFF moves to California. Uncertain and anxious, she struggles to connect with her new classmates. The two potential friends she meets could not be more different: bold Logan who has big ideas and quiet Cooper who's a bit mysterious. But Autumn has a dilemma: what do you do when the new friends you make don't like each other?

When Autumn is picked to be the secret voice of the Dear Student letters in the Hillview newspaper, she finds herself smack in the middle of a problem with Logan and Cooper on opposite sides. But before Autumn can figure out what to do, the unthinkable happens. Her secret identity as Dear Student is threatened. Now, it's time for Autumn to find her voice, her courage, and follow her heart, even when it's divided.



Saturday, March 19, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 157: Authors Don Handfield and Joshua Malkin

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Don Handfield, Joshua Malkin, and I talk about the differences between writing screenplays and collaborating to write a graphic novel, such as their newest, UNIKORN. We talk about acting with Robert Duvall, getting around lawsuits from McDonalds for THE FOUNDER, persevering to make KNIGHTFALL, being a videogame architect, guest staring on SAVED BY THE BELL: THE NEW CLASS, a potential rift in time/between universes, ghost hunting, and so much more.





Don is the co-creator of History Channel's drama series Knightfall and produced The Founder, starring Michael Keaton, and Kill The Messenger, starring two-time Academy-Award nominated actor Jeremy Renner. Don also wrote and directed the Saturn Award-winning film Touchback starring Kurt Russell and Christine Lahti. His first comic series The Rift was produced by Steven Spielberg/Amblin Entertainment as an episode for the upcoming Apple reboot of Amazing Stories. His second series, The Mall, was optioned by Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) for development into a TV show. Don was named one of the top new faces of independent film by Filmmaker Magazine and has written screenplays or produced films for all the major studios.




Joshua has written feature projects for Sony, Warner Brothers, Cross Creek Entertainment, Universal Pictures as well as for more than a dozen production companies, both big and small. These include: an adaptation of the 80's cult franchise Beastmaster, a supernatural thriller for Australian company See Films and a “re-boot” of the franchise Buck Rogers In the 25th Century. He also wrote and produced three documentaries: two about the art of puppetry, and the other about underground comics. In 2008, his screenplay Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever completed production for Lionsgate. He is currently developing an animated family film for Intrigue Entertainment, a horror movie for Traveling Picture Show, and a TV series for showrunner Jonathan Glassner (Outer Limits, Stargate SG-1.) Joshua is a professor of screenwriting at the University of California Riverside, a story architect for the video game industry, and the proud father of twins.



A middle schooler inherits an old horse from her long lost mother she believes is a unicorn with a broken horn in this heartfelt coming-of-age story of hope, faith and magic. 

 

Young Mae lost her mother in a tragic accident a few years back, although mother's body was never recovered from the raging river into which their car crashed. Mae is devastated because her father, now that enough time has elapsed for proof of death, must sell off his wife's farm, along with her wild stallion Percy, who seems dangerous to anyone who comes near him. However, when Mae realizes that Percy is really a unicorn with amazing powers, she teams with a group of her young friends to save the creature from an age old billionaire who sustains his life through unicorn blood -- and who is now determined to get Percy in his clutches. But unless Mae can find Percy's missing unicorn horn, and restore the full extent of his magical powers, it appears that he is doomed -- unless Mae can pull off a last-minute miracle to save Percy from a terrible fate...



Saturday, March 12, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 156: Author Libby McNamee

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Libby McNamee and I chat about historical fiction and her novels SUZANNA’S MIDNIGHT RIDE: THE GIRL WHO WON THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR, DOLLY MADISON AND THE WAR OF 1812: AMERICA’S FIRST LADY, and her upcoming book about Elizabeth Van Lew. We discuss writing about the past with empathy, distilling history into a fictional narrative, history as a context for the present, and so much more.



Libby McNamee is an author and lawyer. She loves exploring America’s many historical sites. When a descendant told her the TRUE story of Susanna Bolling from Virginia and her heroism during the Revolutionary War, Libby was determined to share it with the world. “Susanna’s Midnight Ride” is her first published novel. She is currently writing “Dolley Madison and the War of 1812: America’s First Lady.” In addition, she is a member of the American Friends of Lafayette, the American Revolution Roundtable, the Historical Novel Society, and James River Writers

Libby served as a US Army JAG Officer in Korea, Bosnia, Germany, and Washington State.  A native of Boston, Libby graduated with a BA in Government/International Relations and French from Georgetown University cum laude in 1988, a JD from Catholic University Law School in 1993, a Certificate in English Law from the London School of Economics in 1999. She has lived in the Richmond, VA, since 2002.



DOLLEY MADISON UNITES YOUNG AMERICA!

Amidst the nonstop turmoil of the War of 1812, the decisive First Lady takes action and inspires an anxious nation.

Dolley Madison faces a bitterly divided Washington City when her husband, James Madison, becomes our fourth president. The prospect of war against Great Britain threatens to tear our fragile republic apart. The "Presidentess" hosts open parties in the new President's House to unite political foes and cultivate an American identity.

When President Madison declares war with disastrous results, Dolley carries on, ignoring the threats against her. However, as British soldiers march toward Washington City, she becomes their target. Now America's Second War of Independence hinges on her. What must she do to save the United States while also saving herself?

The true story of a woman with humble Quaker roots who rallies America during the War of 1812!






Saturday, March 5, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 155: Author Erika Lewis

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Erika Lewis and I discuss Irish mythology, world building in fantasy, and planning a series such as the one kicked off by her new middle grade book, KELCIE MURPHY AND THE ACADEMY FOR THE UNBREAKABLE ARTS. We talk about her collaboration with R.A. Salvatore, her approach to different types of projects from comics to novels to screenplays, the pirate Grace O’Malley, multiple ghost stories, flying saucers, and more.




Erika Lewis grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, spent summers with her grandparents in Worcester, Massachusetts, and currently lives in Los Angeles, California. With a passion for storytelling set in magical places, she spends as much time as she can traveling. When she’s not writing, she can generally be found scribbling notes in a blank book while wandering through abandoned buildings, all kinds of museums, and graveyards.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University, her list of credits straddles the comics and novel space, including Game of Shadows from Macmillan’s Tor Books, Firebrand and Acursian from Legendary Comics, #Guardian from Awesome Media & Entertainment, and The 49th Key from Heavy Metal Publishing. The Color of Dragons is her debut YA, coming from HarperTeen October 19th, 2021, and Kelcie Murphy and The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts is her middle grade debut coming from Starscape/Macmillan March 1st, 2022.



Brimming with Celtic mythology, action, and danger, Erika Lewis's Kelcie Murphy and The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts introduces readers to a new kind of magical school and a warrior who must choose with which side of an epic battle her destiny will lie.

The Otherworld is at war. The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts trains warriors. And Kelcie Murphy―a foster child raised in the human world―is dying to attend.

A place at AUA means meeting Scáthach, the legendary trainer of Celtic heroes. It means learning to fight with a sword. It means harnessing her hidden powers and―most importantly―finding out who her parents are, and why they abandoned her in Boston Harbor eight years ago.

When Kelcie tests into the school, she learns that she’s a Saiga, one of the most ancient beings in the Otherworld. Secretive, shunned, and possessed of imposing elemental powers, the Saiga are also kin to the Otherworld's most infamous traitor.

But Kelcie is a survivor, and she’ll do whatever it takes to find her parents and her place in their world. Even if that means making a few enemies.