Monday, October 24, 2011


I'm not sure why I put off reading this series. I'd been hearing good things about THE MAGIC THIEF, by Sarah Prineas, since it came out. But waiting meant that I got to read the whole series at once, instead of reading it in yearly installments, and it's the best fantasy series I've read this year.

The Magic Thief


In a city that runs on a dwindling supply of magic, a young boy is drawn into a life of wizardry and adventure. Conn should have dropped dead the day he picked Nevery's pocket and touched the wizard's locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus magic and work spells. But for some reason he did not. Nevery finds that interesting, and he takes Conn as his apprentice on the provision that the boy find a locus stone of his own. But Conn has little time to search for his stone between wizard lessons and helping Nevery discover who or what is stealing the city of Wellmet's magic.

The layout and illustrations remind me of Angie Sage's SEPTIMUS HEAP series, but the characters and setting set this series apart. Everyone is more complicated than they appear to be, especially Conn, who isn't the most reliable of narrators. I love how Sarah Prineas even turns the magic into a character. Brilliant. It gives the story an urgency that wouldn't be there otherwise.

Lost (Magic Thief, #2)

You know how I feel about spoilers, so I'm just going to share the covers of the LOST and FOUND.

Found (Magic Thief, #3)

Have you read these? If you'd like to read about more Marvelous Middle Grades, the following people would love to oblige you: 

Shannon Whitney Messenger (our founding mother)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shannon Messenger's Giveaway

Shannon Messenger (co-founder of Write On Con and founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday) is throwing a virtual party (giving away books and jewelry and granting wishes) to celebrate her book deal with her "Wishes Come True" Giveaway.  You have today and tomorrow to enter her contest, though I hope the Shannon-as-a-genie pictures stay up longer.

Have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Not So Secret Life

Do you ever feel like your real life and your internet life are separate? I do. There are things I talk about to people in person, things I talk about to people on the internet, and then there are the things I hardly ever talk about, even though they're part of my everyday life.

On the internet, I mostly talk about books and writing.

In real life, I spend a lot of time trying to convince kids (whether they're my own or the ones I teach) that they want to do their schoolwork. I teach three to five year olds, so the amount of time they actually spend learning to read or write is minimal compared to the time we spend on other activities. Really, it's a job that's as fun as you dare to make it.

Or I'm showing older kids drills that (if practiced) will improve their chances of putting a soccer ball where they want it to go. Our team only has one more game to go. We've won two, lost two, and tied two. I'm competitive enough that I'd love to see them win their last game, especially at the middle school level, but not as much as I'd love to see everyone on the team score a goal. It's such a boost for their confidence. I only have one child left who hasn't scored that goal. I know she can do it. She scores in practice, every week. But I can't score that goal for her. All I can do is teach her and do my best to make sure she's in the right place.

And now we're to the secret. Around the end of August, I started taking piano lessons. My nine-year-old had been wanting to take them, so he and I started taking them at the same time. I enjoy it. I'm not sure why I don't talk about it. I like practicing, but I've noticed that if I don't practice fairly early in the day, it doesn't happen. I get too busy. This usually only happens about once a week.

But it's made me wonder if leaving writing until the end of the day is such a great idea. If I wrote earlier in the day, I could still write at night. Some nights, my brain is too tired. Of course, that's true of some mornings as well, but I'm going to switch things up a bit and see if I can't get more done.

After all, the end of soccer season ought to free up time for things like housework and watching singers in elephant costumes ride unicycles. ;)

Seriously though, if I don't make time to practice skills that are important to me, I won't improve at the rate I want to. I'm still learning how to write stories.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Last year I recommended Michael J. Kirby's debut novel, THE CLOCKWORK THREE, one of my first Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays. If you want to read that post, you can find it here. ICEFALL is even better. The story and characters aren't anything like those from his first novel, though. I've been trying to think of something to compare it to, and the closest I've been able to come up with is John Flanagan's RANGER'S APPRENTICE series.



Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father's victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another.

Those charged with protecting the king's children are all suspect, and the siblings must choose their allies wisely. But who can be trusted so far from their father's watchful eye? Can Solveig and her siblings survive the long winter months and expose the traitor before he succeeds in destroying a kingdom?

Kirby writes with power, beauty, and simplicity. In other words, his prose is gorgeous without ever turning purple.  Researching for this, I found a blog post where Mr. Kirby mentions that he listened to "In the Hall of the Mountain King," by Edvard Grieg, the Norwegian composer, while writing ICEFALL. Listening to it made me smile.

Have you read either of Kirby's novels?

If you'd like to read about more Marvelous Middle Grades, the following people would love to oblige you: 

Shannon Whitney Messenger (our founding mother)


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Third Draft

I finished my third draft of TBW, yesterday morning, and then delivered a hardcopy to Krista*, in Mesquite. This draft was less comprehensive than my second, mostly typos and clarification. It's still in chronological order. I know I'll have to change the beginning though; both of the male readers who picked it up put it back down and made polite noises about why they didn't connect with it.

While I'm waiting for feedback, it's great to be back in Star Swans. :o)

*If you're at the querying stage, Krista's taking entries for "An Agent's Inbox" on Monday, and this month's agent will be Kate Schafer Testerman.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Okay. I'm probably preaching to the choir with this post, but I just have to say that Rick Riordan did it again. THE SON OF NEPTUNE is as Marvelous as they get. Killer action sequences. Laugh-out-loud humor. He's even getting better at writing love stories, though I don't read his novels for the romantic bits. This is the tenth book I've read of Riordan's, and I'm still not sure how he keeps all of his mythology clear without bogging down the pacing. His stories fly.
Heroes of Olympus, The, Book Two: The Son of Neptune

Isn't that an awesome cover? It's even better after you've read the story.

If you haven't read his PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS series, you should really start there.  You can read my recommendation here. If you have read the first series and liked it but haven't picked up THE LOST HERO, again, I'd recommend you read it first. But I loved the second book in his HEROES OF OLYMPUS series even more. Percy makes a comeback in this novel, though he doesn't know who he is for most of it (like Jason in the first one), and I really connected with the other two main characters. I didn't want it to end. And now, I have to refrain from quoting funnies until Ben and Robyn have read it. *sigh*

If you'd like to read about more Marvelous Middle Grades, the following people would love to oblige you: 

Shannon Whitney Messenger (our founding mother)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Writing Update: Second Draft Finished!

I love finishing a draft, especially one that's been a lot of work. My second draft of The Binder's Web is finally complete at 64,352 words or 234 pages (for those of you who don't work with word counts). One of my sisters has been reading it, and I'll incorporate her notes into my third draft, which ought to be a quickie (since I'm about halfway through it). Then I'll let it sit while I figure out a better beginning and work on Star Swans.

I haven't opened Star Swans in almost a year, and writing another novel has changed the way I look at some things. So, I'm excited to see how what I've learned will affect this revision.

If you'd like to recommend books that give great advice on pacing, I'm all ears. Have a great weekend!