Thursday, January 31, 2013

Posted with The Kindness Project

On Monday I posted with The Kindness Project. I didn't link to it here on Monday because I wanted my middle grade review of A Dog Called Homeless to have it's due, but please click over and visit me on The Kindness Project's site today. I shared a little something about my dog--which fits the dog theme I've got going this week. Here's the link: The Kindness Project.

Hope to see you there,

Monday, January 28, 2013

Marvleous Middle Grade Monday: A Dog Called Homeless

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean is a beauty of a story. Now, admittedly, I'm a sucker for a dog story (probably because my own dog steals my heart with a blink of his eyes), but this dog story is unlike any other I've read. I'm not usually, however, a fan of middle grade stories where a parent has died. There seems to be too many with that bent. But, again, this story is unlike any other in that realm also.

The premise: Cally's mom died one year ago, but Cally's dad still won't talk about her. And one day Cally sees her mom. Not a scary, strange, ghostly figure -- just . . . her mom, dressed in raincoat and rain hat. Each time Cally sees her, a big dog is with her too, but no one believes Cally, so Cally quits talking.

What keeps readers reading: The friendship Cally develops with a (mostly) blind and deaf boy named Sam. Sam 'sees' and 'hears' differently than other people, and Cally trusts that he sees and hears her mom. Sam also knows there's something important about the wolfhound and homeless man that keep popping up, too. Cally and Sam need to make it all make sense.

What I loved: The realness of each characters' struggles. Cally, her brother, and her dad. Sam and his mom. Jeb, the homeless man. Each has real hurts, real problems, and needs real rescue. But I super-love that a dog brings everyone together and rescues each in the way they need it.

For more middle grade fun, check the links on
Happy middle grade reading!  

Monday, January 21, 2013


In the summer of 2009 my family vacationed in Washington, D.C. We saw so much, learned so much, and were reminded how much our country has endured in its short life. But one of my most poignant personal moments on the trip came when I ascended the steps of the Lincoln Monument, looked beneath my feet, and found this:

When I realized what the stone was marking, I turned and gazed over the Reflecting Pool, imagining Martin Luther King, Jr.'s view that day in August 1963. Thousands of expectant and hopeful people listened as he gave the speech of a lifetime, as he spoke words that still echo across America today.

"I have a dream," he said.

And as I stood there, imagining, remembering . . . the power and hope contained in those four small words swept over me. It's a moment I revisit when I need to remember what hope feels like.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Flow and the Beast

So my shiny new project is still not underway. Even though I finished revisions on another story before Christmas and I finally have a clear brain, the new story is still not started. I do have plot notes, the main character is firmly established, the opening scene is right at my fingertips, but . . . I have yet to open a new Word doc and write.

And this isn't like me. Not at all. But I think I know what the problem is: I was so comfy in my other story. Like wrapped-in-a-warm-blanket comfy. It was my third novel, and the story simply flowed out. The setting, my main character's voice, everything. It all just . . . came.

But already I sense this new story will be a completely different experience to write. Which reminds me of something I heard Kate DiCamillo say. She talked about how one time a book just flowed for her and she expected the next one to be the same. Only it wasn't. The next ended up being the hardest writing she has done so far.

I know I'll get this new story written, but getting there will be a struggle. How about you? Do some of your stories flow while others are complete beasts?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Iron Hearted Violet

The winner of my ARC of The 13th Sign is . . .
Yay! Email your mailing address to barbarawatson94(at)gmail(dot)com
and I'll get this action-packed read to you.

The day Iron Hearted Violet released, in October 2012, my daughter and I attended a reading by its author, Kelly Barnhill. It was fun to hear Kelly read her story's opening, and we all oooh'ed and ahhh'ed over the book's cover and interior art. It was even more fun in the days after, however, to read the rest of Iron Hearted Violet.

The premise: Princess Violet is not a beautiful princess. But she is smart . . . and very good at story-telling. She and her best friend Demetrius find a book one day--a forbidden book--that tells of an evil being who has been imprisoned in their world. But stories are just stories . . . until they become more than that.

What keeps readers reading: The twisty-curvy plot. A girl, a boy, and the last dragon alive can save all they love -- if they are brave enough and have the courage to see beyond the story they know. What makes this novel even more rich is its point of view. It's told by the palace storyteller. Brilliant.

What I loved: Kelly Barnhill's storytelling. The world she created and the characters who live there and the things they experience are so developed and so much more than simply a story. Kelly makes readers think -- and I love that in a story.

For more middle grade reviews, visit the links on
Happy middle grade reading! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Interview with Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

I'm thrilled to welcome Kristin O'Donnell Tubb to my blog today! Her third middle grade novel, The 13th Sign, released earlier this week. My questions for Kristin are in blue; her responses are in black.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Anything but typical! Most days start with email and coffee, and I start writing somewhere around 10 a.m. or so. I usually place myself back in the story by rereading what I wrote last and editing that before moving on to the next scene.

I don’t write every day (much to Stephen King’s chagrin!). For me, having time to really think about a scene before putting it on paper is helpful. And I usually only write a single scene at a time. I suppose this makes me a slow writer, but after a decade of freelance writing, I still truly love what I do, so I’m hesitant to make it feel too much like work!

And it’s working, so why fix it? :-) Do you write in a certain place all the time or do you write anywhere and anytime you have a minute?

The “anywhere and anytime” camp is more my style, although I’ll add that I do a lot of “writing” on the voice recorder on my phone. Some of my best ideas come while I’m walking the dogs or driving the kids. Large portions of The 13th Sign (and my latest manuscript, Island of Superstition) were voice recorded and then transcribed. Lesson: you probably don’t want to meet me in oncoming traffic!

Voice recording. I like that idea and will try it with the new, fancy phone I got for Christmas. From where or from what did the idea of The 13th Sign come?

After I finished writing Selling Hope, I knew I wanted to tell another space-oriented story. (I was, in a former life, an Aerospace Engineering major). The idea of astrology – and how much I loved reading my horoscope when I was a tween – popped into my head. But when I started researching and uncovered a missing 13th zodiac sign, I knew I had my story.

I was nervous, because it was obvious this story lent itself to a fantasy format, and I’d been successful with historical fiction in the past. But my wonderful agent Josh Adams loved the idea, as did my also-wonderful editor, Liz Szabla. They believed in me, and that made all the difference in this story coming alive.

I love when ideas percolate in writers’ brains for long amounts of time before becoming ‘something.’Could you share a bit about your writing journey and path to publication?

Sure! I started writing for kids by writing coloring and activity books – Scooby-Doo, Holly Hobbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and more. That’s when I knew for sure I’d found my niche. I wrote two really horrible middle grade novels and (embarrassingly) queried several agents and editors with those monstrosities. Then I got the idea of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (Delacorte, 2008) while on a freelance newspaper assignment. Something clicked for me, writing that story, and I truly felt like this story was one that needed to be told.

I met Wendy Loggia, Autumn’s editor, at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in Nashville in 2006. Twelve publishers had already rejected Autumn when she requested the full. And…she rejected it, too! But she asked for a revision, and accepted the story after that. My debut!

I still didn’t have an agent, though. I attended an SCBWI conference in New York in 2007 and saw Tracey Adams of Adams Literary speak. It was obvious that she genuinely loved her clients and her career, so I queried her. Her husband and co-agent, Josh, became my agent several months later. I feel very, very lucky to work with this team; it is both a partnership and a friendship. (And they’re both black belts! Hiyah!)

Josh sold Selling Hope to Liz Szabla, whom I’d also met at that same SCBWI conference. I’ve been delighted to work with Feiwel & Friends on both Hope and The 13th Sign.

The moral of this story? Join SCBWI!

Wow! What great opportunities SCBWI provided. Do you/can you work on more than one writing project at a time?

I think most writers, when they are serious about making a career out of writing, must do of this. The projects won’t all be in the same stages, of course. But researching a new story while writing another and editing/promoting a third is a necessity, I think.

Well said, Kristin. What is the best writing advice you have or have heard?

Not to quote myself, but: Join SCBWI! SCBWI allows you to meet and network with like-minded professionals while providing many, many outlets for honing craft. It strikes a balance between the business of publishing and the art of writing for children. Plus, the friends you meet through SCBWI will be friends for life. I’m now the Regional Advisor for Tennessee and Kentucky, the Midsouth chapter. I’m delighted to give back to this organization that has made my dreams come true.

One tiny extra: I invite everyone to come take a fun quiz to find out your 12-sign horoscope, your 13-sign horoscope, and which horoscope sign you ACT like! The quiz lives at It’s fun- please come play!

That does sound fun! Thank you, Kristin, for your insight. And a giveaway of my ARC of the just-released The 13th Sign is still open, simply scroll one post below!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The 13th Sign (with ARC giveaway!)

The 13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb releases on January 8th! Woohoo! To celebrate with Kristin, I have a signed ARC I'd like to give away. Giveaway details are at the end of this post.

The premise: Every birthday, Jalen and her grandma visit Madame Beausoleil's shop to have Jalen's horoscope read. Even though Jalen's pretty sure she doesn't believe in "dis hoo," she comes on her thirteenth birthday mostly because her beloved grandmother is sick and she wants to honor her 'Nina.' This year, Jalen finds a book in the shop, a book which--when unlocked--releases the 13th Zodiac sign. And accidentally, Jalen releases this sign, the sign of the Healer. But then everyone's personalities shift . . . and the other twelve signs are furious . . . with Jalen.

What keeps readers reading: The action. Jalen has twenty-three hours to battle the twelve zodiac signs before the changes she unleashed become permanent, so this novel moves fast. Jalen, her best friend Ellie, and Ellie's brother Brennan barely catch their breath as the story races along. And readers are breathless right beside them.

What I loved: There is a healing theme woven throughout this story. It's a story under the main story, but to me, it is the more important story. It involves a healing of the heart, not the body, and centers around Jalen, her grandmother, and Jalen's father who disappeared at a crucial moment in Jalen's life four years ago.

Because of its intricate plot and underlying theme, The 13th Sign is designed for upper middle grade readers. To snag my (signed!) ARC, simply comment on this post by 8pm CST on Sunday, January 13th, 2013. Blog followers get their name in the drawing twice. U.S. residents only. Winner announced next Monday.

For more middle grade fun, check the links on
Shannon Messenger's blog.
And on Thursday I have an interview with Kristin O'Donnell Tubb!
Happy middle grade reading! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Something New

If you'd like to join the Insecure Writer's Support Group, you can do so here. You'll be glad you did. Post the first Wednesday of each month and get the writer support we all need.

And now, here's a little update on my writing . . .

When you finally finish revisions on the something you've been working on for months and months, the time does arrive to write something new.

I've reached that time! New year. New project.

Happy 2013 and happy writing, everyone!