Monday, December 15, 2014

Books for Lovers of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Paranormal

I’m part of the group blog Project Mayhem: The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers, and in honor of the holiday shopping season, I wanted to celebrate some of my cohorts’ books – order a copy for your favorite middle grade reader, or for yourself! Here's the fourth (and final) part of the holiday shopping guide – Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Paranormal! Earlier posts covered Books for Fantasy Lovers, Historical Fiction, and Adventure Novels. See also my post on Write Better Next Year, with books on the craft of writing and resources for people who critique.

The links are to the author’s website or blog; if you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book.

Eden Unger Bowditch’s The Young Inventors Guild series
The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black: In 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had. But all that changed the day the men in black arrived….

An amazing story about the wonders of science and the still greater wonders of friendship, The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Mysterious Men in Black, the first book of the Young Inventors Guild trilogy, is a truly original novel. Young readers will forever treasure Eden Unger Bowditch’s funny, inventive, poignant, and wonderfully fun fiction debut.

See also: Book 2, The Ravens of Solemano

James Mihaley’s You Can’t Have My Planet, But Take My Brother, Please: Thirteen-year-old Giles is the last person anyone would expect to save the planet. He’s not as charming as his little sister, and not as brainy as his goody-goody older brother. But when Giles witnesses an alien realtor showing Earth to possible new tenants, he knows he’d better do something. With the help of an alien “attorney” and the maddest scientist in middle-grade fiction, Giles just might save humans from eviction from Earth. Let’s hope so. The alternatives are . . . not so hospitable.

James Mihaley’s You Can’t Have My Planet is “Imaginative” (Publishers Weekly) and “Action-packed” (BCCB).

Kell Andrews’s Deadwood: Seventh-grader Martin Cruz hates his rotten new town, Lower Brynwood, but with his mom fighting a war in Afghanistan, he has no other choice but to live with his crazy aunt. Then he gets a message from a tree telling him it’s cursed—and so is he…. Now the Spirit Tree is dying, and the other trees in the park are toppling around it like dominoes. The town is plagued with unexplainable accidents and people begin to fade, drained of life. Martin must team up with a know-it-all soccer star, Hannah Vaughan, if he has any chance of breaking the curse. If they fail to save the Spirit Tree, it could mean the destruction of Lower Brynwood and a permanent case of bad luck.

Dianne K. Salerni’s The Eighth Day: When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he’s really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who’s been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day. And there’s a reason Evangeline’s hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it.

Chris Eboch’s Haunted Series
The Ghost on the Stairs: Jon doesn’t believe in ghosts. Not even if his mother does, and married a man who researches ghost sightings for his own TV show. Not even when they travel with the show, and visit “haunted” places. But his younger sister Tania claims she can see the ghosts. Deciding to believe her is just the first challenge. Softhearted Tania wants to help the ghosts. First the siblings have to find out what happened to keep each ghost trapped in this world. Then they have to help the ghosts move on—sometimes by letting them take over Tania’s body. All this while dealing with their overprotective mother, a stepfather who’d want to exploit Tania’s gift, and a changing assortment of human troublemakers.

Also in the series:
The Riverboat Phantom
The Knight in the Shadows
The Ghost Miner’s Treasure

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift; a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Shopping Guide: Books for Adventure Lovers

I’m part of the group blog Project Mayhem: The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers, and in honor of the holiday shopping season, I wanted to celebrate some of my cohorts’ books – order a copy for your favorite middle grade reader, or for yourself! Today I'm posting adventure novels. See my last two posts for Books for Fantasy Lovers and Books for Lovers of Historical Fiction.

The links are to the author’s website or blog; if you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book.


Dee Garretson’s Wildfire Run: The president’s retreat, Camp David, is one of the safest places in the United States. So why can’t the President’s son, Luke, and his friends Theo and Callie stay there without Secret Service agents constantly hovering over them, watching their every move? And yet, when an earthquake sets off a raging wildfire, causing a chain reaction that wreaks havoc at Camp David, they are suddenly on their own. Now Luke needs a plan:
  • To override the security systems
  • To save those who were supposed to save him
  • To get through an impassable gate
  • To escape Camp David
           
Dee Garretson’s Wolf Storm: This is Stefan’s big break. He’s on location in the mountains far from home for his first movie role, filming a blockbuster sci-fi adventure. The props, the spaceships, and the trained wolves on set should add up to a dream job, but acting turns out to be much tougher than he ever imagined, and he feels like his inner loser is all that’s showing through. And worst of all, no one will believe his claim that there are wild wolves haunting the forest around the set. When a blizzard strikes, isolating the young co-stars and bringing hungry feral wolves into the open, Stefan must take on his biggest role yet—working together with his co-stars to survive. With no second takes, they only have one chance to get it right.

Robert Lettrick’s Frenzy: 14-year-old Heath Lambert is spending his summer at Camp Harmony in the picturesque Cascade Mountain Valley…. But something’s wrong with the animals in the surrounding forest. A darkness is spreading, driving them mad with rage. Wolves, bears, mountain lions—even the chipmunks are infected, spurred on in droves by one horrific goal: hunt and kill every human they find. Heath and a ragtag band of campers are faced with a choice: follow Will’s lead and possibly survive, or follow the camp staff and die. But how do you trust a leader when you suspect he’s more dangerous than the animals you’re running from? Heath came to Camp Harmony to be surrounded by nature. He’s about to get his wish.

The Adventure Collection: Six Spellbinding Novels for Middle Grades, by Chris Eboch, Sybil Nelson, D.D. Roy, Sam Bond, Jennifer Bohnhoff, Courtney Vail, and Sandra J Howell. The Adventure Collection e-book set includes 6 fun books for middle grade readers. These novels include a search for ancient gold and a missing grandmother in the Peruvian jungle, a girl in Normandy during World War II trying to understand mysterious codes, genetically-enhanced assassins, travel across the terrain of the Arabian nights, wishes gone wrong, and rescue horses. Every book features a female heroine, or more than one.


Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift; a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Shopping Guide: Books for Lovers of Historical Fiction

I’m part of the group blog Project Mayhem: The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers, and in honor of the holiday shopping season, I wanted to celebrate some of my cohorts’ books – order a copy for your favorite middle grade reader, or for yourself! Today I'm looking at historical novels. You can visit Project Mayhem for PM’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Books for Fantasy Lovers and PM’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Books for Adventure Lovers.

The links are to the author’s website or blog; if you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book. 

Caroline Starr Rose’s May B.: May is helping out on a neighbor’s homestead—just until Christmas, her pa promises. But when a terrible turn of events leaves her all alone, she must try to find food and fuel—and courage—to make it through the approaching winter.

This gorgeous novel in verse by Caroline Starr Rose will transport you to the Kansas prairie—to the endless grassland, and to the suffocating closeness of the sod house where May is stranded. May’s eloquent yet straightforward voice, and her bravery, determination, and willingness to risk it all will capture your heart.

Caroline’s book Blue Birds, set in 1587 in the colony of Roanoke, Virginia, is coming in March.

Dianne K. Salerni’s The Caged Graves (young adult): In Catawissa, the dead don’t always stay where you put them… 17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania in 1867, pledged to marry a young man she’s never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. And a truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she thought she could trust.

Dianne K. Salerni’s We Hear the Dead (young adult): Spirits knock and tables tip for Maggie and Kate Fox, two teenage sisters who convince people they can talk to the dead with their mysterious rapping noises. What begins as a clever prank traps the girls in their lie as neighbors beg for the chance to receive messages from dead relatives. When their older sister Leah realizes the money-making potential of the scam, she takes them on the road to bamboozle newspaper editors, politicians, and the public at large. As their fame grows, each sister pursues a different goal. Maggie loves the attention. Leah seeks wealth and influence. Kate comes to believe in her own powers. Then Maggie meets Elisha Kane, a dashing and romantic Arctic explorer who offers her a chance to better herself — but only if she will turn on her sisters and give up spirit rapping forever. Caught between two worlds, Maggie must decide where her loyalties lie.

Chris Eboch’s The Eyes of Pharaoh: When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt? Then Reya disappears. To save their friend, Seshta and Horus spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police. Will Seshta and Horus escape the traps set for them, rescue Reya, and stop the plot against Egypt in time?

The Eyes of Pharaoh, set in Egypt in 1177 BC, brings an ancient world to life

Chris Eboch’s The Well of Sacrifice: Eveningstar Macaw lives in a glorious Mayan city in the ninth century. When the king falls ill and dies, the city begins to crumble. An evil high priest, Great Skull Zero, orders the sacrifice of those who might become king, including Eveningstar’s beloved brother. Suspicious of the High Priest’s motives, Eveningstar attempts to save her brother, thus becoming the High Priest’s enemy. Condemned to be thrown into the Well of Sacrifice, Eveningstar must find a way not only to save her own life but to rescue her family and her city from the tyrannical grasp of Great Skull Zero.

“[An] engrossing first novel….Eboch crafts an exciting narrative with a richly textured depiction of ancient Mayan society….The novel shines not only for a faithful recreation of an unfamiliar, ancient world, but also for the introduction of a brave, likable and determined heroine.” - Kirkus Reviews


Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift; a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Shopping Guide: Books for Fantasy Lovers

I’m part of the group blog Project Mayhem: The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers, and in honor of the holiday shopping season, I wanted to celebrate some of my cohorts’ books – order a copy for your favorite middle grade reader, or for yourself! The links are to the author’s website or blog; if you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book.

I’m starting with some fantasy novels that involve alternate worlds. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be listing books in the categories of Historical Fiction, Adventure Novels, and Fantasy (our world), Sci-Fi and Paranormal.


Hilary Wagner’s Nightshade Chronicles
Nightshade City: Book One: Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, a kingdom of remarkable rats of superior intellect, ruled by decadent High Minister Killdeer and his vicious henchman Billycan, a former lab rat with a fondness for butchery. Three young orphan rats—brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover—join forces with Billycan’s archenemy, Juniper, and his maverick band of rebel rats as they plot to overthrow their oppressors and create a new city—Nightshade City.

“Fast paced and full of intrigue. One fantasy lovers won’t want to miss.” – Kirkus Reviews

Also in the series:
The White Assassin
Lords of Trillium
Catacomb City

Marissa Burt’s Storybound: In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story. But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself….

Storybound has been praised by Kirkus Reviews for its “richly imagined world” and by Publishers Weekly as “an appealing fantasy with strong writing and interesting characters.” 

See also: Story’s End

Dawn Lairamore’s Ivy’s Ever After: The kingdom of Ardendale has always locked its princesses in a white tower guarded by a dragon. It’s the only way to lure gallant young princes to the tiny, out-of-the-way kingdom to marry them. But Ivy is a princess who doesn’t care to be rescued, and Elridge a dragon afraid of being slain. Never mind that humans and dragons have loathed each other for centuries, it isn’t long before this feisty princess and rather undragonly dragon have fled the tower and set off on a perilous journey….

A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, 2011

* “This is a fun and entertaining fairy-tale based fantasy with a nice balance of character development and action.” –School Library Journal (starred review)

See also: Ivy and the Meanstalk

Chris Eboch’s The Genie’s Gift: Shy and timid Anise determines to find the Genie Shakayak and claim the Gift of Sweet Speech. But the way is barred by a series of challenges, both ordinary and magical. How will Anise get past a vicious she-ghoul, a sorceress who turns people to stone, and mysterious sea monsters, when she can’t even speak in front of strangers?

The Genie’s Gift is a lighthearted action novel set in the fifteenth-century Middle East, drawing on the mythology of The Arabian Nights

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift; a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Write Better Next Year

The holiday season can be a crazy time, when it’s hard to get any writing done. But it’s not too early to think about your writing goals next year. Maybe you have a NaNoWriMo manuscript to edit and polish. Or perhaps you have other projects that could use a boost before you send them out. Consider giving yourself the gift of improved writing knowledge, so you can reach your goals for the new year!

If you need help shaping your novel, or identifying problems, consider getting a professional critique. You can find my rates and recommendations here (short version: developmental/content editing at $2 per page for a novel, $40 for a picture book).

Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director of Tu Books, provided this list of professional editors who work directly with authors. Karen Sanderson, The Word Shark, is an editor and proofreader who also has an Editor Spotlight series on her blog.

Writing books on writing is its own industry, providing many books that can give you advice on every aspect of writing.

Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer: you’ve finished a few manuscripts, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.

This book can help.

The Plot Outline Exercise is designed to help a writer work with a completed manuscript to identify and fix plot weaknesses. It can also be used to help flesh out an outline. Additional articles address specific plot challenges, such as getting off to a fast start, propping up a sagging middle, building to a climax, and improving your pacing. A dozen guest authors share advice from their own years of experience.

Read the book straight through, study the index to find help with your current problem, or dip in and out randomly — however you use this book, you’ll find fascinating insights and detailed tips to help you build a stronger plot and become a better writer.

"This really is helping me a lot. It’s written beautifully and to-the-point. The essays really help you zero in on your own problems in your manuscript. The Plot Outline Exercise is a great tool!"

Here are some other writing craft books I like. The links are to the authors’ websites or blogs. If you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book.

My brother, scriptwriter Douglas Eboch, is co-author of The Hollywood Pitching Bible. While it’s targeted at scriptwriters wanting to sell screenplays, a lot of the material is helpful and interesting to novelists as well, especially if you are trying to find your book’s “hook” or write a query/synopsis.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King is one of my favorite writing craft books. Each chapter covers a specific tip for improving your style, and exercises at the end (with answers in the back) help you see if you are really “getting it.”

There’s a good book by Nancy Sanders called Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career, which points out that we typically write for three reasons – the emotional satisfaction of getting published, to make money, and for the love of writing. She suggests separating those three goals, so you don’t put pressure on yourself to sell what you are writing for love, and you find more practical ways of approaching the other two goals. She then addresses how to target each goal.


The Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishing, by Harold Underdown, is an excellent overview of the business. It explains the different genres, the difference between a magazine story and a picture book manuscript, how to find a publisher, etc.

Scene and Structure, by Jack Bickham, has a lot of good advice on pacing. Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell, may also be of interest. Both of these are published by Writers Digest.

I found some interesting tidbits in Manuscript Makeover, by Elizabeth Lyon.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman, is getting good reviews.

I’ve heard several authors talk about Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One, by Les Edgerton and The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, by Noah Lukeman.

I’m a big fan of using close/deep point of view. Jill Elizabeth Nelson has a book called Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV.

And if you need help with grammar (or know someone who does), these have been recommended by writing teachers I know:

Things That Make Us (Sic), by Martha Brockenbrough
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
Painless Grammar, by Rebecca Elliott
Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman


Please share your other favorite books in the comments. I hope you’ll be able to give yourself some writing gifts this year – and perhaps share the knowledge with other aspiring writers you know!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Does Being a Good Writer Make You More Successful?

Those of us who have struggled for years to sell our manuscripts might, on occasion, wonder why we do this at all. And we could be forgiven for wondering if the world simply doesn’t care about good writing.

Grammarly, a company that makes a grammar checking program, suggests otherwise. The company “conducted a study with over 400 freelancers to determine what impact writing skills have on your career opportunities.” Here’s what they found:

This is a small study, looking at a few hundred freelancers working through one online company. Still, it provides some food for thought (and maybe a little hope for those of us who care about good writing). Here’s some more detail on the study:

“We proofread 400+ freelancer profiles from all eight categories of the Elance platform for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. To adjust for quality of work, we only selected freelancers with an average rating of four stars or above. We then looked at correlation between earnings and number of mistakes. We hope the direction the data is pointing in spurs some thought and conversation about the importance of good writing. Our goal is to raise awareness for the importance of good writing. Good writing is not only foundational to good communication, but it can also unlock knowledge, job opportunities, and access to education.” 

Writing is competitive, especially when it comes to fiction or trade nonfiction. No matter how good your spelling and grammar, you’ll have a hard time making a sale if you don’t also have great content. But this is a reminder that being a skilled writer in the technical sense, and carefully proofreading, is important, too!


Full disclosure: Grammarly provided a donation to Reading Is Fundamental, a charity that promotes literacy, in exchange for publicizing this graphic. Grammarly offers a proofreading program designed to catch more spelling and grammar mistakes than a word processing program does.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Romantic Suspense on Sale


Right now, two of my romantic suspense novels are on sale for $.99 at various e-book retailers: 

Rattled, a romantic adventure by Kris Bock, is on sale for $.99:

The lost Victorio Peak treasure is the stuff of legends—a heretic Spanish priest’s gold mine, made richer by the spoils of bandits and an Apache raider.

When Erin, a quiet history professor, uncovers a clue that may pinpoint the lost treasure cave, she prepares for adventure. But when a hit and run driver nearly kills her, she realizes she’s not the only one after the treasure. And is Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy?

How far will Erin go to find the treasure and discover what she’s really made of?

Rattled is a treasure hunting adventure in New Mexico that will appeal to fans of Terry Odell, Mary Stewart, Lillian Stewart Carl, and Barbara Michaels.

Amazon

Counterfeits by Kris Bock is on sale for $.99:

Painter Jenny Kinley has spent the last decade struggling in the New York art world. Her grandmother’s sudden death brings her home to New Mexico, but inheriting the children’s art camp her grandmother ran is more of a burden than a gift. How can she give up her lifelong dreams of showing her work in galleries and museums?

Rob Caruso, the camp cook and all-around handyman, would be happy to run the camp with Jenny. Dare he even dream of that, when his past holds dark secrets that he can never share? When Jenny’s father reappears after a decade-long absence, only Rob knows where he’s been and what danger he’s brought with him.

Jenny and Rob face midnight break-ins and make desperate escapes, but the biggest danger may come from the secrets that don’t want to stay buried. In the end, they must decide whether their dreams will bring them together or force them apart.

Counterfeits is romantic suspense in the Southwest perfect for fans of Terry Odell, Mary Stewart, Lillian Stewart Carl, and Barbara Michaels.

‘Counterfeits’ is the kind of romantic suspense novel I have enjoyed since I first read Mary Stewart’s ‘Moonspinners’, and Kris Bock used all the things I love about this genre.  Appealing lead characters, careful development of the mysterious danger facing one or both of those characters, a great location that is virtually a character on its own, interesting secondary characters who might or might not be involved or threatened, and many surprises building up to the climax. 5 Stars – Roberta at Sensuous Reviews blog