2020 Kidlit Book Releases
I had a minor family emergency yesterday for my 4 year old. He’s fine. Just needs to be on antibiotics for a week. I didn’t get a chance to put these up yesterday, so here they are late today. I’m going to continue to post these on Tuesdays until I get through my list!
No Party Poopers by Gretchen McLellan and illustrated by Lucy Semple
Gretchen’s Website: http://gretchenmclellan.com/
Lucy’s Website: https://www.lucysemple.co.uk/
I've Got A Tail! by Julie Murphy and illustrated by Hannah Tolson
Julie’s Website: https://juliemurphybooks.com/
Hannah’s Website: https://www.hannahtolson.com/
Benny's True Colors by Norene Palson illustrated by Anne Passchier
Norene’s Website: http://www.norenepaulson.com/
Anne’s Website: http://www.annepasschier.com/
WHAT A PRICKLY PEAR by Tina Mowrey, Illustrated by Sarah Williams
Tina’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/tmowtx
I could not find Sarah’s website. If you know Sarah, please send me a link to her website!
Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Snyder illustrated by Robin Rosenthal
Gabi’s Website: https://gabisnyder.com/
Robin’s Website: https://www.robinrosenthal.com/
In Support of Black Lives Matter I’m posting about books by Black authors/illustrators. (I will be posting the rest of the books on my list later.) Right now Black creators need our support. This list are books I’d like to read and are mostly 2020 releases. There are so many more new books out there this year so follow these people on Twitter, because they are constantly posting great Black reads this year!
The first book is by Kacen Callender is about and written by a trans Black person. Recently the trans community received a big hit by JKR’s comments on Twitter. This isn’t right and it’s caused a lot of pain. I want to show my support, respect and love to trans people!
On My TBR Pile
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (Queer, Trans, Romance, YA)
Felix Love has never been in love–and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many–Black, queer, and transgender–to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages–after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned–Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.
Kacen’s Website: https://www.kacencallender.com/
Kacen’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/kacencallender
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (Sci-fi, YA)
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Today, seventeen-year-old Ellie Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie still keeps a secret library.
When young Ilori commander M0Rr1S finds Ellie’s library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more.
Humanity’s fate rests in the hands of an alien Ellie should fear, but M0Rr1S has a potential solution–thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous journey with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
Get the Book: Signed + Swag: https://www.onemorepagebooks.com/book/9781335911551
For more places to buy the book go here: https://twitter.com/alechiawrites/status/1238622395856019456
Alechia’s Website: https://www.alechiadow.com/
Alechia’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/alechiawrites
Given by Nandi Taylor (Fantasy, YA)
As a princess of the Yirba, Yenni is all-but-engaged to the prince of a neighboring tribe. She knows it’s her duty to ensure peace for her people, but as her father’s stubborn illness steadily worsens, she sets out on a sacred journey to the empire of Cresh, determined to find a way to save him at any cost, even though failure could mean the wrath of her gods and ruin for her people. One further complication? On the day she arrives at the Prevan Academy for Battle and Magical Arts, she meets an arrogant dragon-shifter named Weysh who claims she’s his “Given”, or destined mate. Muscular, beautiful (and completely infuriating), he’s exactly the kind of distraction Yenni can’t afford while her father’s life hangs in the balance.
But while Yenni would like nothing more than to toss Weysh the man into the nearest river, Weysh the dragon quickly becomes a much-needed friend in the confusing northern empire. Yet when her affection for the dragon starts to transfer to the man, Yenni must reconcile her duty to her tribe with the call of her own heart.
Buy The Book: https://hypel.ink/given
Nandi’s Website: https://nanditaylor.com/
Nandi’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/nandi_taylor
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Queer, Romance, YA)
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down… until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams—or make them come true?
Buy The Book: https://linktr.ee/byleahjohnson
Leah’s Website: https://www.byleahjohnson.com/
Leah’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/byleahjohnson
A Song Below Water by Bethany Morrow (Fantasy, YA)
Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Nevermind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore―soon Portland won’t be either.
Bethany’s Website: https://www.bethanycmorrow.com/
Bethany’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/BCMorrow
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown (Fantasy, YA)
In a world inspired by West and North African mythology, where magic and spirits lurk behind every corner, two teens on opposite sides of a thousand-year-old conflict must kill each other to save the ones they love —even if it means fighting the blossoming connection that ties them together.
An explosive new Young Adult Fantasy novel by Roseanne A. Brown, perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone and Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes!
Buy The Book:
Signed copy of the book: https://bookswithapast.com/home/bookdetailsin/0062891499
Other places to get the book: https://roseanneabrown.com/books
Rosanne’s Website: https://roseanneabrown.com/
Rosanne’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/rosiesrambles
The Gilded Ones by Namia Forna (Fantasy, YA)
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.
Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.
Namia’s Website: https://naminaforna.com/
Namia’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/NaminaForna
Manifique Noir by Briana Lawerence (Fantasy Graphic Novel)
“It’s all fun and games until you question the magic.”
Our favorite magical girl squad is back for their regularly scheduled program.
After the last colossal battle, Marianna, Bree, and Lonnie are trying their best to recover, but the daily monsters don’t give a lick about self-doubt and personal struggles. Fortunately, Prism Pink is there to lend a hand, turning the trio into a courageous group of girls who can take on whatever threat comes their way.There’s just one problem: they still don’t know who Prism Pink is or where she came from.
In fact, where did any of this come from?
The monsters. The magical powers. What does any of it mean? It’s time to start getting answers, but are the girls ready to hear the truth? Knowledge is power, as they say, but power is fickle and can be corrupted so easily. After all, Blaze never said what happened to the previous generation of magnifiqueNOIR, did she?
Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0999398326
Magnifique Noir Website: http://www.magnifiquenoir.com/
Brianna’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrichibiTweets
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett (Fiction, Queer, YA)
Simone Garcia-Hampton is absolutely positive that having a crush is more dangerous than having HIV; after all, she’s got her viral load under control. Simone knows that her status isn’t a death sentence, as long as she remembers to take her medication and go to her doctor’s appointments, she can live a long, healthy life. There’s just one problem: she wants to have sex. Badly.
She knows abstinence is the safest policy, she’s heard it almost every day of her life from her sweet and well-meaning Dads, and up until now, she’s been able to handle it herself, but Miles Austin has ruined that. He’s hot! He plays lacrosse! He asks Simone about her favorite plays because of how it lights her face up! What’s a horny (but responsible) teenage girl to do!?
Simone is already agonizing about how to tell Miles about her status, but she’s been burned before when she told people that she loved that she was positive—she even had to switch schools over it, leaving her boarding school when there was a huge public outcry from uneducated parents, not to mention a scarring shunning from the people she cared about most. She’s determined to keep her status a secret, but the cardinal rule of dating-while-positive is disclosure. Allowing herself to get close to Miles would be a gigantic risk.
Before she’s able to figure out what to do, Simone finds a threatening note left in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know, too.
Buy the Book: https://www.camryngarrett.com/full-disclosure
Camyrn’s Website: https://www.camryngarrett.com/
Camyrn’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/dancingofpens
Books I've Read and Love
Clyde the Hippo: Clyde Goes to School by Keith Marantz, Illustrated by Larissa Marantz (Fiction, Picture Book)
Meet Clyde, a lively (and often worried) hippo with a heart of gold who’s always eager to go on new adventures, in this fun-filled 8×8!
Clyde can’t believe his mom is making him go to school. He has so much fun at home—what could a classroom possibly have to offer? As his mom lists all the activities he’ll get to do, Clyde only imagines the worst possible outcomes. He’s so caught up in what could go wrong that he’s determined to turn around and go home. But when he comes across his kind teacher and the butterfly habitat she’s carrying inside, it might just be enough to convince him to stay!
Buy the Book/Clyde’s Website: http://www.clydethehippo.com/index.html
Larissa’s Website: http://larissamarantz.com/index.html
Larissa’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/LarissaMarantz
Odd One Out by Nic Stone (Fiction, Queer, YA)
Courtney Cooper and Jupiter Sanchez (Coop & Jupe!) have been next-door neighbors and best friends since they were seven-years-old. She’s his partner-in-crime and other half. But lately, Cooper can’t ignore he might want something more than friendship from Jupiter.
When Rae Chin moves to town she can’t believe how lucky she is to find Coop and Jupe. Being the new kid is usually synonymous with pariah, but around these two, she finally feels like she belongs. She’s so grateful she wants to kiss him…and her.Jupiter has always liked girls.
But when Rae starts dating Cooper, Jupe realizes that the only girl she ever really imagined by his side was her.
One story. Three sides. No easy answers.
Nic’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/getnicced
Nic’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nicstone/
I had so wanted to do a Black only book release post today to support Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, I didn’t responses to my Tweets yet (I’m still going to try). It’s expected because it took me some time to get responses to my author posts. If you are Black you can still comment here and hopefully I can get several people for a dedicated post. https://twitter.com/DaniDuck/status/1267504987367587847
Even if I’ve already posted your work please feel free to submit you book again for a second post!
I do have some Black authors below, and am also including other POC to the list. I may have missed a few people, so feel free to let me know if I missed you!
Books for Grown-Ups
Dragonborn by Whitney Rines
Five Amaranthine coveting godhood commit horrific actions against mortals and the world they share and are granted twisted versions of their desire.
Dragonborn follows the story of Fayet and his own journey to humanity, by watching mortals over time. He eventually falls for a mortal woman named Ayshir and assuming a mortal shell builds a family and home with her.
However, the events preceding their union and the ones that that follow after, slowly bring a darkness that threatens to destroy his family.
Buy Dragonborn and preview Whitney’s Other Books: https://www.whitneyrines.com/publications
This is My America by Kim Johnson
Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?
Preorder the Book:
Kim’s Website: https://www.kcjohnsonwrites.com/
I Should Have Worn A Curtain by Samyra Alexander
This quick read follows one woman’s struggle to accept her childhood trauma, face her relationship with food with honesty and bravery, and overcome an illness that has kept her silent too long.
Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088KBYT6C
Folow Samyra: https://twitter.com/SamyraTell
Island Seas by V.E. WilchCombe
Can 12yr old Michael Jones survive the night alone on Lightning Cay? It belongs to them, everyone knows this! Island myths and legends come to life in my new fantasy novella.
Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084LL15MD
V.E. Wilchcombe’s Website: https://starbeam88.wixsite.com/mysite-4
Calculated Murder by H.G Ahedi
In New York, Roumoult Cranston is infamously known for his keen interest in bizarre cases. So, when Garner Moss, a millionaire playboy is murdered by rich ex model, he is not intrigued. Fate intervenes when Roumoult becomes a prime suspect who was not only at the crime scene but also benefits from the dead man’s will.
With only seven suspects, including Roumoult, who killed Garner Moss might be a simple question to answer, but why? When motives like jealously, revenge, lust, money, power do not apply, the quest to answer this question will open a Pandora box because, in the case of the Calculated Murder, the living and the dead tread on dangerous terrain.
Buy the Book: amazon.com/H.G-Ahedi/e/B0
H.G’s Ahedi’s Website: https://harbeerahedi.wordpress.com/hedi
Older by Emily Schaubeck
A collection of poetry and prose for the lost and broken hearted. As everyone is on their journey to healing as I am.
Follow Emily: https://twitter.com/EmilySchaubeck
Not Your American Girl by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Lauren and her best friend, Tara, have always done absolutely everything together. So when they don’t have any classes together in sixth grade, it’s disastrous. The solution? Trying out for the school play. Lauren, who loves to sing, wonders if maybe, just maybe, she will be the star instead of Tara this time.
But when the show is cast, Lauren lands in the ensemble, while Tara scores the lead role. Their teacher explains: Lauren just doesn’t look the part of the all-American girl. What audience would believe that she, half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren, was the everygirl star from Pleasant Valley, USA?
From amidst the ensemble, Lauren tries to support her best friend. But when she can’t bring herself to sing anymore, her spot in the play and her friendship are in jeopardy. With the help of a button-making business, the music of Patsy Cline, and her two bickering grandmothers, can Lauren find her voice again?
Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VVTB9Q2
Madelyn’s Website: http://www.madelynrosenberg.com/
Wendy’s Website: http://wendyshang.com
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled, but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.
As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.
Buy The Book & Adiba’s Website: https://adibajaigirdar.com/the-henna-wars
Adiba’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/adiba_j
The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho Illustrated by Jess X. Snow
Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean’s many gifts.
Tina’s Website: https://www.tinamcho.com/
Jess’ Website: http://www.jessxsnow.com/
Cyndi Marko puts the POW in Kung Pow Chicken — The book series, not the food (maybe also the food). She is a writer and illustrator. She started off her career hoping to sell picture books. Things don’t always happen the way we plan, but Cyndi did end up selling books. Just not the picture books she had planned.
Cyndi has now created a wonderful collection of superhero chicken books called Kung Pow Chicken. This was my son’s first chapter book. I read them to him when he was in kindergarten. It’s still on the top of my list for fun chapter book series! Cyndi’s new book Kung Pow Chicken: Jurassic Peck comes out in September. The Kung Pow Chicken Collection can be now bought as a 4 in 1 book!
Check out Cyndi’s Website here: https://www.cyndimarko.com/
Dani: Besides writing and illustration, What is your superpower?
Cyndi: Well, I’m actually pretty put out that I can’t fly or shoot lasers from my eyeballs, but I am a fairly decent cook. I love to put on loud music and just lose myself in the kitchen, and I always sing while I cook.
Cooking is a creative outlet for me separate from book work stuff. I’m particularly good at creating dishes from whatever’s on hand when there’s almost no food left in the house because I haven’t gone grocery shopping (which I hate doing), and I’m also good at recreating dishes I’ve had at restaurants. I hardly ever use recipes (except for when baking because science) and prefer to just go by instinct as I’m cooking. (Pro tip: there’s no such thing as too much garlic!)
I love to bake as well, and have been making sourdough from my own starter for about a year now. I think I most enjoy making soups (I save bones and make my own stock) and baking fancy cookies at Christmas time. I think this love of cooking comes through in my books because I almost always find a way to incorporate food into my stories. There are candy corn cupcakes in KUNG POW CHICKEN and stale jelly donuts in THIS LITTLE PIGGY.
Dani: How has your process changed since you first started creating books?
Cyndi: I’m much faster now, for one thing. It used to take me months to make a sketch dummy for a picture book, and writing was like pulling teeth. But now I can sketch a dummy for a picture book in about a week, and a book like KUNG POW CHICKEN in about two weeks.
The biggest difference is scale, I think. I used to sketch at full size and it led me to be a perfectionist. Over the years my sketches got progressively smaller. Now I sketch at thumbnail size and then enlarge when I scan. I can then edit the composition in PhotoShop, and print off and trace using my lightbox when I go to final art.
As for writing, I’m much more likely to start with a loose outline before jumping into a first draft, which has totally helped my productivity. Also, I found a writing partner who writes and illustrates the same types of books as I do and getting feedback from a peer has been invaluable. (Hi, Troy!)
Dani What’s it like writing your 5th book in a series? Is it hard keeping a series fresh so far into the series?
Cyndi: It had been about five years since KUNG POW CHICKEN 4, so it was interesting to jump back in with book 5 (JURASSIC PECK). I had to reread the previous books to make sure I got all the details right. It surprised me how little I remembered writing the words or painting the art!
But I had SO much fun working on book 5. We had more time in the schedule for each step of the book, and I found I was faster and more experienced. KPC 5 also has dinosaurs, and I have always wanted to do a book with dinosaurs so I was pretty much geeking out the entire time. I really love the end result and I hope we get to do many more KPC books. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of adventures for those plucky little chickens!
Dani: What is your favorite way to relax?
Cyndi: Reading a book while having a glass of wine and eating Sour Patch Kids (pairs nicely with merlot) or spending time with friends. During social distancing I’ve found ways to spend time with friends online: playing tabletop games on Roll20 or watching a series or movie at the same time and chatting about it over messenger.
Dani What are you working on now?
Cyndi: So many things!
First there’s SLOTH SLEUTH, a graphic novel series about a sloth named Paz who solves mysteries on the fantastical island of Winklefuss. The first two books will come out in 2021 and 2022, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I’ve also got BOO! HISS! (Aladdin, 2021), about a ghost and a snake who are roommates in a haunted (by them) house.
I also have a couple dozen (I’m not kidding) WIPs—works in progress for the layperson—on the go. I’m working on picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, middle grade novels, and maybe a humorous coffee table book for grown-ups. I am sometimes overwhelmed by so many ideas that I am dying to work on that I end up working on none of them and just drink too much coffee and share too many memes. But I am determined to prioritize!
Buy the Kung Pow Chicken Collection: https://shop.scholastic.com/parent-ecommerce/books/kung-pow-chicken-collection-books-1-4-9781338599213.html
Preorder Kung Pow Chicken 5: https://www.amazon.com/Jurassic-Peck-Branches-Book-Chicken/dp/1338596640/
Indiebound links to all of Cyndi’s Books: https://www.cyndimarko.com/my-books
Here is a short list of books I gathered from Twitter that had releases this year. Check them out and pick up a copy if you like!
I’m working through a long list of books suggested to me, so I will not have all of the books in this one post. I will continue to make posts on Tuesdays until I get through the list.
If there is a problem with the information on the page, please contact me. If there is a problem with any of the books I may not display them on my site.
MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON by Laurie Smollett Kutscera released April 1st (published by Blue Whale Press/Clearfork). Middle Grade.
Buy the Book: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781732893542
Taste Your Words by Bonnie Clark. Illustrated by Todd Bright. Picture Book.
Bonnie Clark https://bonnieclarkbooks.com/
Todd Bright http://www.toddbright.com/
Buy the Book:
Cells by Julia Cowan. Languishing in a mysterious prison, a teenager is torn between exposing his abductors and his desire for a new life.
Website & Buy the Book: https://www.blkdogpublishing.com/cells
Write What You Love
Dea Poirier is just delightfully dark. If I could name one Twitter feed that is just full of fun, it’s hers. Did I mention she’s hilarious? I laugh so much when I read her posts.
Dea didn’t always think of herself as dark. She tried several different genres before she found her place in the book world. Today Dea is going to talk about her journey to find herself.
Dea has two books “Next Girl to Die” and “Beneath the Ashes”. These books have murder, mystery and lots of thrills. You can check out Dea’s website here: https://www.dhpoirier.com/
There’s a bit of writing advice that will still echo through the ether long after we’re all gone — write what you love. It’s great advice, really. Something I think we should all use as our starting point when we put pen to paper. But there’s something more than love that needs to be considered, what’s in your heart. It’s not just love that exists there, there’s so much more.When I started writing books—a thousand years ago—what I loved were historical books that had a lot of romance, fun fantasy books, oh and a lot of other books that are in no way representative of anything I could ever write. I thought I could craft books like the ones I loved, but the moment I tried, something very different came out of me.
My first book was about a teenage version of God playing with the earth like it was an ant farm. He was super mean to the earth because he was bullied at school. Sounds like a fun premise, right? That is until you get to the villain—the dad that God didn’t know he had—that was literally destroying their planet by sucking the life out of it, and Earth was next. It got super dark, super fast.
Whoops. My second book, I ventured into trying to write a fun paranormal romance about a teenage psychic. What did I end up with? Well, this particular psychic’s gift involved her being able to see and feel the exact way that someone would die if she touched them. An evil stage mother made her famous off this gift, and a radical doomsday cult thought the psychic had to die for the end of days to come… SUPER FUN RIGHT? Oh, and her boyfriend was dying. Good job bringing all the fun, Dea.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed writing these books, but every person that read them began comping my work with The Hunger Games and they’d always say first Wow, that’s really dark before saying anything else about it. Naive baby writer Dea had no idea why they were so dark.
This went on for years. I’d write a new book and get told it was too dark for the market. ALWAYS. I shifted to historical hoping for a better reception. I mean, if it’s dark because it’s historical, that’s fine, right? Nope. Then on to romance. Haha. I wish I knew what I was thinking. I finally found my stride when my agent at the time suggested that I try writing dark romantic suspense with troubled characters… and mystery is what ended up coming out. Not a single person has told me that Next Girl to Die or Beneath the Ashes are too dark, so yay. I’m hoping that one day a historical fantasy of mine might make it out into the world as well.
My journey through so many genres taught me that it’s not just about writing what you love, and it never can be. Darkness is what comes out when I write, it’s not something I seek out on purpose, but it’s the subtext in all my prose. It took me a long time—over ten years—to understand what it would take to find the balance of what I love and what’s in my heart. There are some parts of us we just can’t fight no matter how hard we try. Maybe I should have embraced the darkness sooner.
Bio: Best-selling author, Dea Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she found her passion during a creative writing course. She studied computer science and political science at the University of Central Oklahoma. She later spent time living on both coasts and traveling the United States before finally putting down roots in central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp with her son. Her books Next Girl to Die and Beneath the Ashes can be found wherever books are sold.
Right now it’s a difficult world for everyone. Sharon Glitrow is one of the authors who has had to release their books during a pandemic. She has written a wonderful picture book called BEDTIME, DADDY. Sharon is here today to talk about releasing her book during this pandemic. Lots of great information for both people releasing books now, and in the future where a digital launch may be just a bonus.
You can visit Sharon’s website here: https://sharongiltrow.weebly.com/about.html
Releasing a Book During a Pandemic
By Sharon Giltrow
Covid-19 has forced all of us to make major changes to our daily lives. We have all had to find ways to do things differently, to adapt and change. My debut picture book BEDTIME, DADDY was released this month, May 1st, through EK books.
When I signed the publishing deal for BEDTIME, DADDY back in August 2018, I could never have imagined that twenty months later a pandemic would be sweeping the world. As a result, I have had to adapt and change the way that my book is being released and promoted.
My in-person book launch for BEDTIME, DADDY was booked for June 21st (Father’s Day in the Northern Hemisphere). My favourite book shop in Fremantle, Western Australia, Paper Bird Children’s Books and Arts, was going to host the event. However, as a result of the required and essential Covid-19 social distancing rules, my in-person book launch became a virtual book launch.
On May 1st, 2020, via Paper Bird’s live Instagram, from the comfort and safety of my own home, I launched my book BEDTIME, DADDY. I still wore my favourite dinosaur pyjamas.
I still had an audience, my immediate family, as well as family and friends from around the world. There were still fun activities from BEDTIME, DADDY. Signed copies of BEDTIME, DADDY were still available through Paper Bird’s online store, and signed book plates were posted around the world. Cakes and cookies were still eaten at the end of the launch. So, despite the world-wide pandemic my book launch still happened, just in a different way. Actually, I may even have had more people at my virtual book launch as people from all over the world ‘attended’ through Instagram. Here is how I promoted my book launch on social media.
In-person book readings, signings and story times were also now out of the question. So, my publisher EK Books asked me to do a sneak peek read aloud of BEDTIME, DADDY on YouTube. I quickly upskilled myself in selfie-videos and found out that it is tricky to hold up a book and read naturally even though you can see yourself the whole time. But by the end of the fiftieth take, I finally got the hang of it.
My publisher also asked me to do a radio interview on ABC – Radio National, but I couldn’t go into the studio. So, with the help of Voice Memos, a script I prepared, and my family, I was able to record the interview and email it to the radio station.
My next challenge, with book shops now closed – How would readers discover BEDTIME, DADDY? The answer, online. Online book shops are now the main place to sell books so I stepped up my online presence through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to let readers know that BEDTIME, DADDY existed.
School visits are now on hold, but I have been sharing links to BEDTIME, DADDY’S teaching notes, for parents who are home-schooling and educators who are preparing online lessons. They can be found on EK Books and SCBWI – Australia West websites. I will also be recording and sharing short videos of some of these activities.
Finally, as travelling is now out of the question, instead of going on an in-person book tour around Australia and possibly the world, I created a BEDTIME, DADDY blog tour,which can be found on my website. My book and I are now touring around virtual space.
I hope that through this blog I have shown you that despite a world-wide pandemic, books can still be successfully released and that now more than ever they need to be released, purchased, read and shared.
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, WA with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. When not writing, Sharon works with children with Developmental Language Disorder. Sharon was awarded the Paper Bird Fellowship in 2019. Her debut PB BEDTIME, DADDY, released May 2020 through EK books.
Buy BEDTIME DADDY:
From the Publisher: https://ekbooks.org/product/bedtime-daddy/
It’s always fun finding new writers. While visiting Cythia Mackey’s website I read the most wonderful interview with Helena KuRhee. I fell in love with the idea behind the story of Helena’s new book: The Paper Kingdom! I had to find out more about this story about Helena herself.
To read more about Helena visit her website here: http://helenakrhee.com/
Finding Magic and Wonder Around You
by Helena Ku Rhee
I have a rare gift: I’m never bored. Even as a child, I rarely complained of boredom. I wasn’t born with this gift. Instead, it was cultivated in me by two amazing people: my parents.
When I was little, my parents worked as night janitors in a corporate building in L.A. And on nights they couldn’t find a babysitter for me, they took me with them to work, where they turned drudgery into magic. They told me funny stories about the people who worked in the offices by day, and helped me imagine a fantasyland in that empty office building. Thanks to them, I had early practice in the art of finding fun wherever I found myself. I wrote a children’s book about that time in my life, The Paper Kingdom, and it was released by Penguin Random House in early 2020. More info here: http://bit.ly/2IRw8Ti
NPR interviewed me and illustrator Pascal Campion about our book, The Paper Kingdom. The interview is all about finding magic and inspiration. You can listen to the 6-minute interview here: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/14/815250760/behold-the-magic-of-take-your-child-to-work-night
And I’ll let you in on a little secret: this gift of mine can be cultivated in all of us. How? Well, we hear phrases like “be in the now” or “live in the present.” But the key question is: how do you do this on a practical level, on a day-to-day basis?
I’ll give you one concrete example. When I take my dog Sherwin on an early morning walk, I explore the neighborhood like a writer, hungry for sensory details that I can later use in my stories. I stop to observe the shape of shadows on the sidewalk from a neighbor’s tree. If my dog yanks on the leash to chase a squirrel, I take note of the burn of the leash in my hand, the strain of the muscles in my arm (these descriptions could be used in an action scene). And I try to listen for different layers of sound – the birds gossiping in the trees, an airplane flying overhead, music filtering out from a home. I smell lawns being mowed, the roses blooming near the sidewalk, the exhaust from a car zooming past. I’m hungry for these details because I know they’ll be useful when I sit down at my computer. In other words, my brain is engaged and I’m not bored.
While I write this, our world is going through a very tough time due to Covid-19. We’re all so grateful for first responders and all those keeping our cities safe, clean, and livable. But people stuck at home may be bored and restless. Perhaps they’re stressed and filled with anxiety. So I get it. It’s not easy to fend off boredom when you’re trapped inside day in and day out. And it’s not so easy to take great interest in the shape of clouds, the sound of rain, the taste of dark chocolate when your mind is filled with worries.
But I hope that no matter the circumstances, you manage to see magic and wonder in this amazing world. If you’re an aspiring author, that ability is a gift that’ll serve you well with your stories.
Helena Ku Rhee is a writer based in Los Angeles. You can read more about her books and writing process here: http://helenakrhee.com/
And if you want to keep posted about Helena’s events and news, subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/cPRrL5 All new subscribers will receive a free dreams-to-reality worksheet Helena put together to achieve her writing dreams. (You can use the worksheet for any goal you may have.)
Each link has a list of places to buy Helena’s books!
The Paper Kingdom: http://helenakrhee.com/books/the-paper-kingdom/
The Turtle Ship: http://helenakrhee.com/books/the-turtle-ship/
Larissa and Keith Marantz are the creators of the Clyde the Hippo series. They have worked together through four wonderful books. I realize now that I didn’t talk enough about Clyde the Hippo in this interview. It started with their child asking for a pet, and Keith saying that they didn’t need a pet, because they had a hippo in their back yard. Years later they worked together and came up a wonderful series with a hippo named Clyde! You can read more about their books here: http://clydethehippo.com
Recently Larissa and Keith launched their book series in a virtual book launch party! It was so much fun. In some ways it was better than a bookstore book launch because I (and many other people including their agent) got to see the launch even though I live so far away.
Dani: How do you both work through ideas?
Larissa & Keith: Since we are a team, and we are married, ideas will happen at any time. Usually, Keith get his idea in the shower, and incidentally does a lot of his “writing” in the shower, too.
He’s more of the “idea guy” and I’m more of the “refiner” of the ideas. Although I have had a few ideas for stories that we’ve worked on. Clyde Lied was based off of my idea that he ended up writing ( and will be released in June, 2020). Basically, we’ll talk about our ideas during our evening walks with the dog, or during the day. If I get a visual idea in my head, I’ll draw a really rough sketch of it in my sketchbook. I’ve got quite a few stories that haven’t been developed yet that are still in rough sketch form in my sketchbooks. When Keith gets an idea, he’ll write it down and spend some time with it. If he thinks it’s promising, he’ll develop it into something to pitch to our agent. She lets us know if it’s worth spending the time to pursue or not.
Dani: What do you do when you aren’t working?
Larissa & Keith: Well, right now in this pandemic, we are doing pretty much the same as we did before. We both work from home, but when we’re not working, we’d usually hang out at the house, taking walks, or go get dessert with our kids. Now, we’re baking desserts at home. Keith is a phenomenal chef so he enjoys making delicious meals every night to keep the feeling of normalcy as much as possible. Except, now his meals have interesting names. The other night he made Hawaiian food and named it Lockdown Luau featuring Kovid Kalua Pork, Quarantine Cabbage and Mac-Corona Salad.
Dani: If there was a movie or song that describes your life, what would it be?
Larissa & Keith: I have no idea how to answer this but when I asked Keith he paused briefly and said “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by McFadden and Whitehead, 1979.
(Keith pulled that out of his head, him being a former DJ, knew exactly the song, the band and they year it was released.)
Dani: Any advice for working on projects with your significant other?
Larissa & Keith: Be open to criticism from your loved one and don’t take it personally when your partner makes suggestions for improvement. Remember that the project you’re working on is a team effort and the goal is to make it a success, and sometimes that means dropping your ego and not holding on to things that you want, but letting go and being open to possibilities. Know what your strengths are in the partnership and know what your weaknesses are so that you can each utilize your strengths and help each other out where the other needs help.
Yes, those are the rules we’ve set. But I have to admit that I’m still learning those rules. It’s very challenging at times, but conversely, it’s also extremely rewarding to know that together we are using the best of our abilities to make something we hope will make a mark in the literary world.
Dani: What projects do you have on the way?
Larissa & Keith: We are both working on our first graphic novel, BLAKE LASER, about a 12 year old inventor who must stop aliens from stealing the sun’s energy which would lead to the total destruction of Earth within 48 hours. It’s set in the 24th century and the main character has a fun relationship with her annoying older brother that will make this epic tale really relatable to readers. That, and we are trying to get through life in a pandemic. We’re lucky we have our health, our family, and an exciting challenging project to engage us during this time.
Follow Larissa and Keith:
Buy Clyde the Hippo: BooksaMillion (More options on the webpage below)
Clyde The Hippo’s Website: http://clydethehippo.com
Larissa’s Website: http://larissamarantz.com/
Larissa’s Online Art Classes http://larissamarantz.com/oc-art-studios.html
Clyde the Hippo: https://twitter.com/clydethehippo
Larissa Marantz: https://twitter.com/LarissaMarantz
Keith Marantz: https://twitter.com/keith_marantz
Christina Myers was a journalist who is now a freelance writer and editor. She has written articles and stories for magazines, newspapers and anthologies. Recently Christina edited the Anthology BIG: Stories about Plus-Sized Bodies. She also written a story in this fantastic anthology. I have my book on order and can’t wait for it to come! You can scroll to the bottom of this post to get links to the book.
I’m so lucky to have her living in the same city as myself. I have met her. I’ll tell you a secret, she’s fantastic! You can check out her website here: https://christinamyerswrites.wordpress.com/
She’s here talking about creating while having kids. What a great time to have this discussion. Right now many parents are home with their kids and for many the situation is difficult. Christine has some lovely words that will help you feel better about your situation.
Juggling Act: Kids and Creating
It’s said that Grace Metalious – the author of one of the best-selling books of all time – routinely sent her kids out into the neighbourhood, locked the door, and let them fend for themselves so she could spend the day writing. Neighbours would give them snacks and they’d spend the day wandering; meanwhile, Metalious was holed up in her rundown cottage, furiously typing away.
Ultimately, the approach worked: her book was picked up by a major publisher and then became such a phenomenon, it was eventually spun off into a tv show, an Academy Award-winning film, and then a sequel. It sold more than 12 million copies and made its author into a very wealthy woman. To this day, Peyton Place is considered one of the most widely read novels ever published.
The concept of “carving out space for yourself” was not yet around in the 1950s but if it had been, Metalious would certainly have been an extreme version of it.
In truth, for every Grace Metalious who ignores kids in favour of writing, there’s a million other parents (usually mothers) at the far opposite end of the spectrum – ignoring creative passions, because of the demands of parenting. The day fills up easily with a million small and big tasks, from feeding to diapering when they’re babies, to the juggle of activities and schoolwork later, and then on to the emotional upheaval of puberty and beyond.
It’s well intentioned, of course, but fueled by a culture that expects mothers to be selfless and perpetually available in order to ensure their children are happy, healthy, thriving and successful (but that conversation could be a lengthy post all its own.) The result of this pressure on parents is countless people who want to write, draw, sing, design, paint, play, or otherwise create, but who set aside their passions entirely – and once abandoned, those passions are often impossible to return to later.
The best path, as is so often the case, is the one that exists somewhere between these two polar opposite approaches – but finding that path can be tricky. To have interests and hobbies and pursuits beyond our own children, even when we logically know they’re good to have, can spark intense bouts of mom-guilt (or simply increase the ever-present level of mom-guilt). Somehow, setting aside time for ourselves feels wrong, even if most of our time is devoted to others. (This is the same flawed thinking that leads so many of us to easily indulge in new clothing for our children, while we carry on in the same 10-year-old jacket with holes in the pockets.)
On top of the emotional side of this equation is the practical aspects. Even if you want to pursue your own goals, you might simply not have the time, depending on the dynamic of your own family, how many kids you have, how much energy goes into your work either at home or the office, and even financial limitations (most writers can afford a notebook but things get trickier when you’re looking at art supplies or instruments.)
For most of us, “carving out space” is both a mental and physical task, in equal measure. I’ve spent years trying to figure out the balance between feelings of guilt and limited time, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not – and here’s a little bit of what I’ve found helpful:
Letting go of the guilt is easier said than done, I know. But every single time that feeling crops up, look at it objectively and critically: what’s making me feel like this right now? Is it valid? What’s another way I could approach this? Are my children clothed, fed, happy and healthy and if so, what is it exactly that I feel guilty about? Imagine what you would tell a friend feeling the same way? How much more gentle and kind would you be to a friend than you are to yourself? Better yet, imagine what you would say to your own child if they felt “guilty” for enjoying an activity that was special to them. Speak to yourself the way you would a best friend, your spouse, or your children. Find a phrase or quotation that helps you re-focus, something as simple as saying “I’m allowed to have my own interests” to start re-shaping your internal dialogue.
Ironically, most research shows that parents who have their own interests and hobbies tend to have happier, more balanced households. Their children grow up in a family dynamic that models what it looks like to allow room and time for everyone to pursue what makes them happy. Imagine if pursuing your own passions also makes you a better mom in the process? Instead of feeling bad, think of the benefits: we know intuitively that most of us feel more relaxed, calm, and content when we have time doing something we love, whether it’s a creative pursuit or gardening or working out.
Finding actual time and physical space is an equally challenging task. To find time, think about what you’re willing to trade: don’t drop your favourite TV show but if you watch things that you’re not adoring, maybe consider swapping one of them for a bit of time working on your projects. Do you usually spend the time at your child’s karate class alternately watching them and surfing on your phone? Bring along a notebook and jot down ideas, images, or other inspirations. Even those small allotments towards your craft may feel challenging when your brain needs downtime (which every parent needs especially as the end of the day approaches) but you may find the creative activity gives you more energy in the long run and the satisfaction provides a different kind of relaxation. Creating room for yourself as a parent rarely means an actual room – if you’re lucky enough to have a spare space, it’s probably full of toys, games, and crafts. Maybe you can’t set up a desk for your writing or a room to paint, but you can start with a corner somewhere – or use a common space at a quiet time during the day.
Find support for these things in community – search out online groups for artists and writers, or get involved in a local organization. Joining events like Spring into Writing create both a network and a sense of guidance and deadlines to help stay focused. Talk to other writers with kids the same as age as yours, to commiserate – and talk to writers with kids who are older, so you know what’s coming (for example, I can tell you that my kids almost always sleep in on Saturday mornings now, even though they were 6 a.m. risers for years – guess what I use the extra time for – at least when I’m not feeling guilty about the laundry!)
Finally, forget about perfection – in your parenting or in your art. Perfection kills possibility. Write imperfect drafts and learn from them. Make imperfect plans and try again if it doesn’t work. Be patient with yourself – and your kids (if they don’t sleep in now, I promise they will someday.)
BIG Anthology (Canada Only): https://caitlin-press.com/our-books/big/
BIG Anthology (Everywhere Else): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/big-christina-myers/1132740881