Check This Out—The Debut of Saint Ivy: Kind at All Costs

Awhile back I featured the cover for Saint Ivy by the awesome Laurie Morrison. But Saint Ivy, published by Abrams, has now debuted, so here is Laurie back on the blog. Wooooooot! Though I have already given away a copy of this book, one of you will be given another copy. But first, let’s talk to Laurie. Oh, before I forget, Laurie is represented by Sara Crowe.

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El Space: This book started as a proposal. What was that process like? How much of the book did you submit with your proposal? How long did writing the rest of the book then take?
Laurie: My agent and I submitted about 50 pages plus a very detailed synopsis for the proposal. I had almost a year to finish the initial draft after it sold, and that felt like a lot of lead time. . . but I ended up needing every bit of it! Despite my detailed synopsis, I got pretty stuck on the second half of the book. It was stressful to know the book was under contract when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever achieve my vision for it, but now I’m grateful that my deadline forced me to keep going because I’m glad this book exists!

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El Space: How is Ivy like you? Different than you?
Laurie: Ivy is a whole lot like me. Her family situation is different than mine was and I was a little sportier and more focused on academics at her age than she is, but I’ve gone through some similar “what makes me special” soul-searching at different points, and I really, really relate to all the ways she struggles to be as kind to herself as she is to other people.

El Space: You taught middle grade for years. What do you think some of your former students would say about Ivy and her friends?
Laurie: That’s a great question. As a teacher, I was struck by the pressure many of my students felt to have a “thing”—one main talent or interest that made them stand out. And I saw that sometimes they felt like middle school was “too late” to pursue a new sport or hobby since there were other people who had already been doing it for so long, or there was this expectation that you “should” pursue the things that you excel at or have been doing forever, regardless of how much you enjoy them. I also noticed the pressure many girls felt to be nice and good all the time. Those pressures are a LOT for kids to manage, and I explored all of them in some way in this book. So I hope my former students would relate to what Ivy and her friends go through and would say that Ivy’s experiences helped them reflect on some of their own.

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El Space: How do you think your book can help kids who are still processing the pandemic and its life-altering effects?
Laurie: At its core, Saint Ivy is a book about self-compassion. During the pandemic, kids have had to manage incredibly difficult stuff. There are a lot of “good,” cooperative, considerate kids who are struggling right now but don’t think they deserve to dwell on their tough feelings because other people have things worse. This is a story about embracing the complicated, messy emotions we sometimes push away or think we’re not “entitled to.” I hope Ivy’s journey toward being kinder to herself helps kids figure out how they can be kinder to themselves, and I hope it encourages kids to open up and ask for help when they need it.

El Space: As I mentioned to another of our classmates, not counting VCFA authors since there are too many great ones, which author or authors inspire(s) you? Why?
Laurie: There are still so many! I’ll start with two who directly impacted Saint Ivy. Brigit Young writes nuanced, character-driven page turners, and her debut, Worth a Thousand Words, gave me the idea to turn Ivy’s story into a mystery. Melissa Sarno writes beautiful, lyrical, “lean” (a.k.a. short) middle grade novels, and I’ve come to rely on her as a reader because she’s so good at identifying the places in my work where I’ve overwritten and need to pare back. But I could go on and on! Erin Entrada Kelly, Lisa Graff, Tae Keller, Paula Chase, Barbara Dee—there are so many incredible, inspiring authors writing middle grade right now.

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El Space: What will you work on next?
Laurie: I’m about to start line edits for my next upper middle grade novel Coming Up Short, which is coming out next spring. It’s the story of a thirteen-year-old softball star named Bea who self-destructs on the field during the biggest game of her life after a very public scandal involving her dad. She goes away to Gray Island (the setting from my last book Up for Air!) to visit her estranged aunt and attend a softball camp where she’s determined to fix her throw to first base and, hopefully, her family. I’m excited to share more about that one soon!

Thank you, Laurie, for being my guest!

Looking for Laurie? Check out her website, Instagram, and Twitter.

Looking for Saint Ivy? Check out Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, Indiebound, and Children’s Book World, Amazon, and your local bookstore, where you can also find these amazing books by Laurie:

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You can also return here next week to see who has been chosen to be receive a free copy of Saint Ivy! Comment below to be entered in the drawing.

Author photo and Ivy cover courtesy of the author. Other book covers from Goodreads. Book proposal image from somewhere online. Pressure image from JoyReactor.com.

Check This Out—War of Nytefall: Savagery

It’s Monster vs Monster and Only One will Keep His Head!

savageryFor the first time in over a century, Clyde will know what it means to feel powerless and weak.

Headless bodies appearing across Windemere is only the beginning as Clyde faces the terrifying vampire hunter, Alastyre.  Able to match the Dawn Fang leader in power and ferocity, this new menace shows no signs of weakness or mercy.  With both friends and enemies getting dragged into the battle, Clyde will have to find a way to become stronger.  For that, he will have to accept an ancient challenge and pray that those he cares about and trusts can hold Alastyre at bay.

Which monster of Windemere will claim the top of the food chain?

Want to hear more?  Enjoy this Teaser!

Alastyre disappears for a moment before reappearing in front of Clyde and grinning at how the Dawn Fang does not react. “I have waited many years for this day. You probably don’t remember me since it has been so long. The temptation to tell Mab the truth when she was my captive was so strong that I knew I needed more time to mature. I should only feel happy and excited when we are about to clash. By the way, your enemies put up an entertaining fight. It lasted no more than a couple of minutes, but I enjoyed it. My hope is that your reputation is true and I will get to use my full power for once. The thought of ripping your head off and adding it to my collection is one of the few dreams that gives my life meaning. Is this where we’re going to fight? I see that there is a lot of sand and giant boulders scattered about. Do you use this courtyard as a large rock garden in order to relax? You are a more amusing monster than I expected.”

“I don’t like you,” Mab growls before she is grabbed by the face.

“A drug-addicted worm should watch-”

“Put . . . my . . . partner . . . down,” Clyde growls from behind the hunter. The illusionary vampire fades away as the real one materializes, his gauntlet sword already pressed against the man’s meaty neck. “You say we’ve met before and you’ve been training to fight me. Looks more like you’ve altered yourself to become a freak. The smell of your blood reeks of corruptive magic and demon influence. There’s a hint of Dawn Fang and dragon in there too. You’re nothing more than a glorified golem. Bunch of parts and auras cobbled together to turn a weak mortal into a monster. I’m not impressed, Alan Stryker. Still trying to strike fear into the rotting hearts of my kind? At least your name isn’t as stupid as it was before.”

“Wait, do you mean that guy who attacked you outside of Lord Shallis’s castle?” Titus asks with a chuckle. He grunts when his sister is thrown into him, the force sending the siblings crashing against the patio’s railing. “I told you that keeping him alive was a mistake, but I didn’t think it would turn into this. You must be angry that nobody believed your story about vampires that are immune to the sun. Is that what this is about?”

With a casual flick of his finger, Alastyre sends Clyde’s sword and arm flying across the courtyard. “No because it was another hunter who survived and told that tale. Your leader was so distracted with Mab biting him that he failed to notice a second mortal that he failed to kill. I focused on recovery and getting stronger because I refused to follow such a ridiculous plan. The fewer people who knew about the Dawn Fangs, the better my chances were at being the one to succeed. Please know that I only want to destroy your leadership. Originally, I wished to wipe all of you out of existence, but that could prove to be impossible. You monsters are more talented at hiding than anything else I have hunted, so I could never be sure of your extinction. The next best thing is to take over Nyetfall and use it as a jail for your kind. All Dawn Fangs will be contained on this island once they no longer have their precious rulers. Don’t you agree that this is much better than extermination, Clyde?”

“I have no opinion because it’s never going to happen.”

“Do you accept my challenge?”

“You never officially made one.”

“I demand that you fight me to the death.”

“Thank you for being straightforward and not making me hunt you down.”

“We fight in an hour then.”

“Why not now?”

Alastyre points while mentioning, “You are still missing an arm. I want to face you at full strength.”

“Don’t say I didn’t give you a chance,” the Dawn Fang says as he continues healing the injury.

Get a copy of this vampire action adventure for
99 cents on Amazon!

Help spread the word by adding it on Goodreads!

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Want to catch up on War of Nytefall?Grab the volumes 1-5 for 99 cents each ($5 total)!

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Cover Art by Alison Hunt

Interested in more Windemere?  Then don’t forget to check out Charles E. Yallowitz’s first series: Legends of Windemere

All Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

About the Author:

New Charles Author PhotoCharles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After spending many years fiddling with his thoughts and notebooks, he decided that it was time to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house with only pizza and seltzer to sustain him, Charles brings you tales from the world of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you and drawing you into a world of magic.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyallowitz/

Enjoy the fang-filled adventure by clicking here!

L. Marie here. Comment below to be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of War of Nytefall: Savagery. Winner to be announced next week!

Check This Out—The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe

Welcome to the blog! Returning to the blog today is the awesome Sandra Nickel, who is here to talk about her latest picture book biography, The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe. It was published by Abrams in March of this year and was illustrated by the amazing Aimée Sicuro.

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Check out the fab book trailer.

If you’ve been around the blog over the years, you know the drill. Once I talk to Sandra, I’ll tell you how you can get this book for free in a drawing that I am hosting.

El Space: Since your picture book is all about astronomy: If you could name a star, what would you name it?
Sandra:
Does it have to be one star? Or can it be a star cluster like the Pleiades? I always loved the idea of the Seven Sisters, up in the sky, named after their mother. My mother gave birth to three of us. Maybe we could be the Eleanores.

El Space: How did you come to this project? Sadly, I didn’t know anything about Vera Rubin until I read your book. I certainly didn’t know her connection to the study of dark matter.
Sandra:
I also didn’t know about Vera Rubin, not until Kate Hosford (below), a wonderful picture book author, texted me and told me about a tribute to her in The New York Times. I read the article and was captivated. I started researching that very day.

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El Space: Tell us about the research. How did your findings help you decide on the story angle? At what point did you decide you’d done enough research to make a start or to conclude the writing?
Sandra:
When I read The New York Times article, Vera had died two days before and papers were flooded with homages to her. After reading these, I found articles and a book Vera had written. The greatest discoveries, however, were interviews with Vera. They gave such a clear vision of her personality, childhood, home life, and struggles.

For the most part, editors no longer require picture book biographies to tell a person’s story from cradle to grave. They are looking for a story that fits into the classic story structure. Introduction. Rising Action. Climax. Resolution. I had the introduction early on, because Vera said she fell in love with stars when she was eleven. The climax had to be her discovery. That left me searching for rising action. Vera had so many challenges thrown in her path—far more than made it into the book. Once I was confident that I had found the most important ones, I knew I had enough to start putting the rising action together. The trick was to select experiences that resonate with children. I chose the experience illustrated below because everyone can understand how awful it is to be the only one against a crowd.

Vera Facing the Senior Astronomers

El Space: Your book is so beautifully written. How challenging was it to explain scientific concepts in picture book form?
Sandra:
From the beginning, I knew I needed to come up with imagery that would help children understand. I searched and searched for different ways to describe gravity, galaxies, and dark matter. Once I had all of these in my head, it became very clear that these same descriptions could be used to portray Vera Rubin’s life itself. It was challenging from the point of view of filling my mind with new ideas. Minds don’t always want to accept new things. But once that was done, it wasn’t challenging at all. The metaphors appeared as if they had always been there.

El Space: How long was the process from writing to publication? Did you have much contact with the illustrator, Aimée Sicuro? Why or why not?
Sandra:
It took over four years from the afternoon I read The New York Times article to the day The Stuff Between the Stars came out. With some nonfiction picture books, the writer and illustrator need to exchange information because the writer discovers photographs and descriptions through private sources not available to the general public. My book Nacho’s Nachos was that way. The Stuff Between the Stars was completely different. There are a number of photographs of Vera Rubin online, and Aimée Sicuro discovered each one of them. She asked for only one thing from me: one of Vera’s equations. She incorporated it into the gorgeous illustration below where Vera stays up working at night as her family sleeps.

Vera Working at Night as Her Family Sleeps

El Space: What did you learn about Vera’s life that inspired you in your own life?
Sandra:
The greatest Vera Rubin lesson is: Choose your own way. I know that seems cliché. But it’s harder than it sounds. It’s easy to fall into thinking that life is just hard, that suffering is part of the journey. I love that Vera said, I don’t like being treated harshly, I don’t like all the negativity. I love that she found a way far from all that and then discovered something bigger than everyone else. I’ll never discover something as immense as dark matter, but by doing things my way, my writing will hopefully be infused with joy. Because it makes me happy. And that is marvelous already.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Sandra:
There’s a book I’m working on right now with an editor that I hope will bring readers the kind of joy I’m talking about. It involves a very big bear and a very little fish who see the world in very different ways.

Thank you, Sandra for being my guest!

If you want to learn more about The Stuff Between the Stars, check out this video produced by the Smithsonian. In it, Sandra reads the book and interviews Aimée Sicuro. You’ll also see a fun demonstration by Aimée on painting a galaxy.

Looking for Sandra? Check out her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Looking for The Stuff Between the Stars? Look for it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop, or your favorite local bookstore.

But one of you will look in your mailbox or tablet and go, “Oh my goodness! A free book!” Comment below to be entered in a drawing to receive a copy of The Stuff Between the Stars. Winner to be announced sometime next week.

Author photo, book spreads, and book cover courtesy of the author. Illustrations by Aimée Sicuro. Author photo credit: Emo-Photo.