Author Assistant Services

Are you an author in need of help and looking for an assistant on a full-time, part-time, or as-needed basis? Well, then I'm your gal! Learn more about the services I provide HERE.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Deep Blue Blog Tour {Interview & Giveaway}


I'm so excited to have the Deep Blue Blog Tour stopping by today! Author Jennifer Donnelly is here for an Interview, plus you can win a copy of Deep Blue...

Deep Blue
(Waterfire Saga #1)
by Jennifer Donnelly
5/6/14
Disney Hyperion

The first in a series of four epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin's arrow poisons Sera's mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.





Grab a copy of Deep Blue and answer the following:
favorite chapter?
Chapter One. And Chapter Twenty-eight. Forty-two. And forty-seven! 

favorite page?
Page 2, because that’s where the story starts. It should be Page 1, but the epigraph is there.  

favorite setting/place?
The Duca’s underwater palazzo in Venice.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: (It’s a little longer than 2. Okay, a lot longer. What can I say? I’m a more is more kind of gal.)
Vraja cut her off. “A moment ago, I said that stories tell us who we are. There is something behind this door, and its story will tell you who you are. Before I open it, be sure you truly want to know.”
No one turned back. Vraja nodded, then swung the door open. As she did, the sound of chanting grew louder. A scream of rage echoed off the thick stone walls. The water was heavy with the scent of fear.
“Oh, gods,” Serafina whispered as she looked into the room. In front of her eyes, a nightmare came to life.
There are some memorable characters in Deep Blue...do you have an absolute favorite to write and explore? Did any of your characters end up surprising you with how they turned out?
I love them all. Every major and minor character. I love Serafina, the main character, and Lena, a crazy-lady mermaid who has a house made of garbage that humans have thrown into her river, and way too many catfish. I’m very curious to see exactly who the angry, enigmatic Astrid – a mermaid from the icy arctic realm -  will turn out to be.

What sets your merpeople and their world apart from traditional and popular mermaid lore and myth?
My mermaids aren’t sitting on rocks combing their hair all day, or luring sailors to their deaths. They’re not interested. They have lives. They’re typical teenagers – studying, working, worrying about school, arguing with their parents, experiencing first love, navigating tricky friendships, and wondering what they’re going to be when they grow up. They’re not terribly fascinated by humans and not one of them would wish to trade their tails for legs. They actually pretty wary of humans, whom they view as careless and brutal. And though they can be influenced by their human neighbors – some of them like to use human slang, for example -- they’re rooted firmly in their own aquatic culture. They adore their home – the seas and lakes, rivers and ponds – and when it’s threatened by the return of an ancient evil, they fight to the death to save it.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at Digging up cheapie finds at rummage sales. Just this weekend I found a vintage necklace for 50 cents, a silver starfish pin for 75 cents, and cookbooks from the 1930s and 1950s for 25 cents each.    

 I’m really embarrassed to admit that I don’t know how to spell amenome. Anenome.   Amemone.  Anemone.

The last great book I read was The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

If you were to bake and create a cupcake inspired by Deep Blue, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
I love this question! My cupcake would look like a nautilus shell, and it would have a shimmering, pearly pink frosting. It would have a small microchip imbedded deep inside, playing wave music, so that when you held it to your ear, you’d hear the ocean. Then you’d tip it over your plate, and all this blue custard with a meringue topping would come pouring out like a huge wave! And gummy sharks and dolphins would be frolicking in it. And sour patch starfish and lobsters would be floating in it. You’d have to be careful not to tip it while you were still listening or you’d get custard all over your head. You’d also have to be careful not to eat the microchip. It would taste of chocolate, even though it’s sea-themed, because who wants a shrimp-flavored cupcake? I would call it the Naughty-lis, because there would be a lot of sugar and butter and custard and candy involved. It would be a really fantastic cupcake, or a total disaster. All depends on the execution.   


Jennifer Donnelly is the author of five novels - RevolutionA Northern LightThe Tea Rose,The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose - and Humble Pie, a picture book for children. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History. 
Jennifer’s first novel, The Tea Rose, an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century, was called “exquisite” by Booklist, “so much fun” by the Washington Post, a “guilty pleasure” by People and was named a Top Pick by the Romantic Times. 
Her second novel, A Northern Light, set in the Adirondacks of 1906, against the backdrop of an infamous murder, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book. Described as “rich and true” by The New York Times, the book was named to the Best Book lists of The Times (London), The Irish Times, The Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and the School Library Journal. 
Revolution was named a Best Book by Amazon, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the Chicago Public Library, and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. The audio edition was awarded an Odyssey Honor for Excellence.
Jennifer lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband, daughter, and three rescue dogs. 

Win 1 of 2 copies of Deep Blue!
The awesome peeps at Disney Hyperion have offered up two copies for two winners.
DETAILS
-US/CAN only
-ends 5/10
-there will be two winners who will each win one book
-must be 13+, one free entry per person
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Dyerville Tales Blog Tour {Guest Post & Giveaway}


I'm so thrilled to have The Dyerville Tales Blog Tour stopping by today! Last month I had the pleasure of reviewing this fantastical story and interviewing author M.P. Kozlowsky. Below you can check out a Guest Post from the author and enter the awesome Giveaway...

The Dyerville Tales
by M.P. Kozlowsky
4/22/14
Walden Pond Press

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline meets Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs in M. P. Kozlowsky’s The Dyerville Tales, a powerfully imaginative middle-grade novel that blurs the line between fantasy and reality, from the author of Juniper Berry.
Vince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and father in a fire when he was young. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was interned in a group home, dreaming that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. When a letter arrives telling Vince his grandfather has passed away, he is convinced that if his father is still alive, he’ll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for the small town of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather’s journal. The journal tells a fantastical story of witches and giants and magic, one that can’t be true. But as Vince reads on, he finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather’s than he ever could have known.
Its unique voice and ability to combine creepiness with great story and character development make The Dyerville Tales a real standout middle-grade novel.


In Search of Time to Write
Writers, in my experience, are a rather finicky bunch, constantly searching for the Goldilocks of situations in which to regularly expunge their brains of exposition and exciting plot twists for their future readership.  I know because I’ve been there.  
Years ago I needed complete silence to write.  I needed zero distractions.  I needed a long block of time without the slightest of interruptions.  If anything disturbed my writing, however slight, it threw everything off.  There were days when the super had to stop by to do some work and I was forced to throw up my hands and declare my writing dead for the day – I couldn’t begin knowing he might show up any minute and I couldn’t continue when he left, my mind and flow irreparably broken.  Phone calls were like an ax to the screen and it got so bad that if I ran out of bread to eat for lunch, my routine was so thrown off that any writing would have to wait until the next day after a trip to the supermarket so that I could have my peanut butter with toast just like every day before, as if this was in some way tied into the work I produced.
This, of course, may be an extreme, but I know of many writers who need things to be just so in order to get some pages done.  There are great writers – absolute masters – who will never be published because of these idiosyncrasies and irrational demands.  But are these really just elaborate excuses?  A fear of failure?  Perhaps.  Some people state they can’t find the time, some say they’re too busy or too tired or they have children or a job or countless other responsibilities, and I understand that; I truly do.  As evidenced above, I needed things to be just so.
But things change.  I got married, I had two children.  There was no more silence, no more uninterrupted stretch of hours to write.  I was faced with a drastic choice, adapt or kill the dream.  I chose to adapt.  I now write during my youngest’s naps and while my eldest plays with her toys or watches TV.  I have to write through noise, through questions, through severe guilt and inconvenience and a million other things that come with parenting.  I have to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I have to do laundry and food shopping and care for a 15 year old dog.  If inspiration is not there, I cannot wait for it to rear its head.  I have to plunge my hands into the darkness of my mind and pull it free whether it’s ready or not.  I get an hour and a half at a time.  Twice a day.  If I’m lucky.  I don’t write at night because that time is for me to share with my wife.  I don’t write on the weekends because that time is for me to share with my family.  I have to make this work.
Many people, I know, would throw up their hands and complete their novel in the serenity of retirement.  I’ve been there.  But when you are a writer, the need to write has to burn through you, your fingertips have to sizzle with a desperate necessity to hit the keys.  You have to make time.  And all you need is 500 words.  That’s it.  Two pages.  This essay.  500 words a day is one book a year.  And if you can hit 1,000, that’s two books.  
Not everyone can have a life completely devoted to writing.  Not everyone can have a spouse like Nabokov’s, taking care of every little thing so that your genius can flourish.  True, we all need someone in our corner – my career would never have even began without the support of my wife – but it is up to us to prove we really want it.  Our situations cannot control us.  We have to take control of our situations.  We have to bend time, manipulating it to better serve us.  That is the true strength of a writer.  And the ability to thrive is in all of us.  Seize it.
  • M.P. Kozlowsky, New York City, April 2014

M.P. Kozlowsky was a high school English teacher before becoming a writer. Juniper Berry is his first book. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.

Walden Pond Press

Win a signed hardcover copy of 
The Dyerville Tales!
The awesome peeps at Walden Pond Press have generoulsy offered one signed hardcover edition for one winner.
DETAILS
-US only
-ends 5/9
-must be 13+, one free entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DON'T MISS ANY OF THE BLOG TOUR STOPS
4/29 - KidLit Frenzy
4/30 - Mundie Kids
5/3 - The Book Rat
5/5 - Mundie Kids
5/7 - Small Review
5/8 - Novel Novice
5/14 - The Hiding Spot 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Michele Weber Hurwitz, author of The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days {Interview and Giveaway}


I'm thrilled to have author Michele Weber Hurwitz stopping by today to chat about her new middle-grade book, The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days! You can check out our Interview and enter the Giveaway below....

The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days
by Michele Weber Hurwitz
4/8/14
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House

It's summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother's busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn't know what "her thing" is yet, it's definitely not shopping and makeup. And it's not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?
   This summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan. There are sixty-five days of summer. Every day, she'll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference? Along the way, she discovers that her neighborhood, and her family, are full of surprises and secrets.
   In this bighearted, sweetly romantic novel, things may not turn out exactly as Nina expects. They might be better.





What three words best describe The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days?

Inspiring, surprising, hopeful.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers to give The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days a try?

If you're looking for a change of pace from the recent trend of dystopian-apocalyptic novels and want something that leaves you with a happy heart and a sense that there's more good in the world than bad, then this novel is for you!

Grab a copy of The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days and answer the following:

favorite chapter? Actually, the first, because the last sentence is: "And that is the beginning of everything." It's when Nina, the main character, gets the glimmer of the idea for her summer of good things.

hardest chapter to write? There wasn't any one specific chapter that was hardest to write, but I did struggle a bit with a few scenes -- mostly the more emotional ones -- working through several drafts to get them just right. And, Nina's brother Matt wasn't fully defined in the earlier versions. I had to work on developing his character more than the others.

favorite page? So many! Hard to choose...but maybe, the very last one :)

hardest page to write? Always, the first.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: "Eli picks up the crab apple, throws it sky-high, and then catches it. 'See you later, Mystery Girl.' "

What inspired The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days? How did the story come to be?

My inspiration came from several thoughts. We hear so much about paying it forward and random acts of kindness, but sometimes the amount of problems in our world overwhelms me, and I wondered -- does doing good really do any good? Is it making a difference? I was curious, too, if people always react positively when random good comes their way. Also, I worry about how technology has altered family life and neighborhoods, and how we live in this era of a sort of "disconnected connection." Lastly, I read about a class at the University of Iowa where the professor had students write down each day three positive events or experiences -- no matter how big or small
-- and how this changed their perspectives. I started doing that too. We tend to focus on the negative, or what goes wrong, instead of recognizing small, good things that go right every day.

So out of these thoughts, my novel started to materialize. I wanted to write something uplifting and positive and hopeful, but also examine my question if doing good has an impact.

Do you have an absolute favorite character in The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days? What do you love about him/her? Did any of your characters surprise you?

Of course I adore Nina, the main character, who is inquisitive, positive, and honest. Mrs. Millman, a suspicious neighbor, is quirky and hilarious, panicky at times, but also very true-to-life. She was so much fun to write and develop. I also have a soft spot for Thomas, a 5-year old boy in the neighborhood. He's full of tender, sweet surprises! When I was writing him, sometimes his funny dialogue came out of nowhere and cracked me up.

Your character Nina decides to do some random acts of kindness; can you tell us one of your favorite acts that she does? Have you ever done a random act of kindness or been the recipient of one?

There's a pivotal moment in the story when Nina does something in memory of her grandma, who died a year earlier, and the poignancy and importance of that scene gets me every time! It's also a moment where she attempts to figure out exactly why she's doing the good things. As for me, I try to be a little kinder than necessary, as the saying goes. Just last week, I was at the airport waiting for my flight and helped a woman who didn't speak English make a call on a pay phone. She was so bewildered and lost. All I did was dial the number for her and put the coins in, but she hugged me like I saved her life. Those kinds of experiences make me just stop in my tracks and realize the impact of little kindnesses.

What do you hope readers will learn or take away from The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days?

That small things matter, and they're much bigger than they seem. Also, that doing good doesn't have to be about raising tons of money or spending a Saturday cleaning up a park (although those efforts are certainly wonderful). But more just about being a good person, being nice to your fellow humans! At the end of your day, ask yourself what stuck with you. I'm willing to bet it was something little yet powerful.

As a middle-grade author, why do you think MG is so important? What do you love about writing and reading MG?

I love that middle-graders are in the middle! They have a combination of childhood innocence and burgeoning maturity, and they have so many questions. Good, deep, thoughtful questions about everything! Books can help them discover who they are and the kind of person they want to become. I feel honored to write for this audience and I hope my stories resonate. One of my most treasured emails from a reader came from Lucy, who wrote that the main character in my first middle grade novel, Calli Be Gold, "inspires me to be open and kind to everyone. She makes me want to be myself." Honestly, for a writer, it doesn't get any better than that.


Fill in the blanks:

I’m really awesome at _Organizing things. Shelves, closets, desks, you name it and I can organize it in twenty minutes flat! I often make my family crazy :)

I’m really embarrassed to admit __I can't swim.

The last great book I read was _Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Summer I Saved The World...in 65 Days, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

https://mail.google.com/mail/images/cleardot.gif
This is the most creative question I've ever gotten! Hmm. Nina's brother Matt calls her "Nina-green-a," because she has green eyes, so I think that would be a great name for a cupcake inspired by this book! It would have amazingly delicious creamy green frosting, but the cake part would be devil's food, because this book is full of the unexpected.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Michele! That cupcake sounds super yummy!!


Michele Weber Hurwitz lives near Chicago with her husband and three children. When she's not writing or organizing things, she loves to walk and eat chocolate. Visit her at micheleweberhurwitz.com and follow her on Twitter @MicheleWHurwitz.

Win a signed hardcover copy of
The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days!
Michele has generously offered one signed hardcover copy for one winner.
DETAILS
-US only
-ends 4/30
-must be 13+
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-I am not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Ninja Librarians Blog Tour {Review & Interview}


After some technical difficulties and delays, I'm thrilled to have The Ninja Librarians Blog Tour stopping by today with my Review and Author Interview...


The Ninja Librarians: the accidental keyhand
by Jen Swann Downey
4/15/14
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Just a little story about your average sword-swinging, karate-chopping, crime-fighting ninja librarians
Dorrie Barnes had no idea an overdue library book would change her life. When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase her pet mongoose into the janitor's closet of their local library, they accidentally fall through a passage into Petrarch's Library -the headquarters of a secret society of ninja librarians who have an important mission: protect those whose words have gotten them into trouble. Anywhere in the world and at any time in history.
Dorrie would love nothing more than to join the society. But when a traitor surfaces, she and her friends are the prime suspects. Can they clear their names before the only passage back to the twenty-first century closes forever?


Jennifer Swann Downey’s The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand is an action-packed, super creative, and captivating middle-grade read that combines all my favorite things: books, libraries, adventure, and swords!

Dorrie Barnes, swords-woman; adventure seeker; overdue library book offender, and her brother Marcus stumble upon an ancient secret and the thrill of a lifetime when they chase a pet mongoose into their local library. They fall through a passage into Petrarch’s Library, home of a thousand libraries and a society of sword-wielding, ninja librarians. These ninja librarians protect writers and their words, and their secrets must be protected at all cost. Dorrie wants nothing more than to join this society, and when a traitor turns ups, she gets her chance to prove her worth.

The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand is bursting with excitement, mystery, thrills, and imagination! Fresh and fun, clever and charming, this story delighted and entertained me from beginning to end. Let’s be honest, it just doesn’t get any cooler than fierce, sword-wielding,ninja librarians who can visit libraries all over the world and throughout time. Downey has taken this spectacular premise and, using her wonderful way with words, has created pure book magic!

With a library full of sparkle and shine, Downey’s storytelling is pitch-perfect for the middle-grade crowd. Readers will love falling down that hole with Dorrie and Marcus and exploring the massive world it leads to. Petrarch’s Library, with its connections to other times and places around the world, makes for an inspiring and endless setting. Part Hogwarts, Camp Half-Blood, and Narnia, this world is brimming with wonders, amazing things to be learned, and fantastic discoveries to be made. Dorrie and Marcus’ adventures in this world take them from sword lessons with Cyrano de Bergerac to Ancient Greece to putting on a play with the Casanova...and, of course, there’s danger. Wonderful, spine-tingly, exhilarating danger!

But, luckily, our young heroine and hero are more than capable of dealing with such danger! Dorrie, Marcus, and their new friends at Petrarch’s Library, make for an exciting, eccentric cast of characters. I just love Dorrie’s feisty, courageous spunk and Marcus’s goofy, amusing humor. Young readers will easily be able to connect with these two and root for them.

Crazy twists and turns, unexpected friends and foes, and some surprising revelations all lead to a pretty epic showdown and ending...an ending that left me wanting more and so excited for further books!

My Final Thoughts: In The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand, Jennifer Downey brings history to life and celebrates literature through page-turning adventure and addicting storytelling. A wildly fun must read!
MY RATING



What three words best describe The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand?
Snickerful,. Fantastical, Ox-hearted.
Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand a try?
Ingredients: Girl with sword, mad warrior lybrarians, a magical library with wings sticking out into the past, ornery mongoose, funny brother, seriously important mission.
Grab a copy of The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand and answer the following:
favorite chapter?
Oh, the agony. But I’ll say Chapter 10: A Little Night Music. For the mix of cozy and madcap
favorite page?
Page 172 . For the mix of fact and fiction
favorite character?
Besides my mix of a dauntful, dauntless heroine? Cyrano de Bergerac
flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser:
-- In the morning brightness, Dorrie noticed that over the mantel hung an enormous black chalkboard painted with a grid of white lines. Chalked in words crowded in between the lines. At the top, large letters shifted and swam like eels before Dorrie’s eyes, finally spelling out the words: “Mission Docket.”
“Why do the words in this place DO that?” asked Dorrie. --
Where did the crazy awesome idea for The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand come from? How did the story come to be?
The story revolves around a kid, Dorrie, stumbling upon the secret headquarters of a group of warrior lybrarians whose mission is to protect those whose words get them into trouble. It’s an uncomfortable time in Dorrie’s life when she’s losing her faith in her old vision about how she’s going to fight the world’s villains, and hasn’t yet conjured a new vision. I believe her conundrum came from my own memories of being a kid who imagined responses to threatening social realities like war, violence,  racism, totalitarianism,, etc in games of “pretend”, and had to face bumping up against the limits of that strategy, as I got older.
As for the idea for the world in which her story takes place…
With all my soul, I have loved libraries since I remember loving anything. Always, they seemed too be condensed multiverses, with every book a doorway into another reality. Similarly, librarians have always struck me as powerful, heroic, and mysterious guardians of this multiverse. Imagining them as literal warriors took so very little effort.
Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at blundering foolishly forward. This, of course, is also the least awesome thing about me.
I’m really embarrassed to admit that I am a terribly irresponsible library book borrower.
The last great book I read was I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.
If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Mm. I really shouldn’t answer such question on an empty stomach.
About that bottom cakey part…chocolate shot through with swirls of raspberry, vanilla, and secret messages written on tiny marzipan scrolls. On top, a great steep dollop of white icing worked into the architectural tangle that is Petrarch’s Library.  Embedded in both parts? An abundance of spun sugar windows that you can only see with a magnifying glass.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Jen! That cupcake sounds superb!!

Jen Swann Downey's non-fiction pieces have appeared in New York Magazine, the Washington Post, Women's Day, and other publications. Her first middle-grade novel, THE NINJA LIBRARIANS, will be published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, April 1, 2014. Jen divides her time between libraries and other places, and will never stop looking for lickable wallpaper.