I’m so happy with the trailer for my upcoming middle-grade fantasy novel, Grace’s Ghosts! It releases three weeks from today, but you can already preorder it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and  Indie Bound! Let me know what you think of the video in the comments.  

Check Out the Trailer for Grace’s Ghosts

 

I’m so happy with the trailer for my upcoming middle-grade fantasy novel, Grace’s Ghosts! It releases three weeks from today, but you can already preorder it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Bound!

Let me know what you think of the video in the comments.

 

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Free E-Book and Activity Guide

I know that this is a really trying time for a lot of families. There’s not a lot we can do for one another while social distancing during the Covid-19 outbreak. But I do feel that books are very healing, especially for kids. What I can offer won’t make this horrible period in history end any sooner, but it might keep some kids happy any distracted. I hope it helps.

The ebook for Nellie Nova Takes Flight will be free from 3/17-3/21. It’s both fun and educational. I’ve also created an activity guide full of fun, educational activities about Amelia Earhart and flight. I really hope that families suddenly homeschooling can use these.

You can download it here.

And the activity guide below:

Nellie Nova’s Guide Amelia Earhart (1)

Stay safe. Stay home. Stay well.

 

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Keeping Kids Busy While Practicing Social Distancing

Parenting During the Coronavirus Outbreak

However you choose to educate your kids, the isolation caused by the looming Covid-19 crisis will be tough with small kids in the home. Though I homeschool my three kids, we’re intentionally stepping back from activities that aren’t high priority. Within a week or two, I suspect that all activities we participate in outside of the home will be cancelled or postponed. Most of the school districts in our area are closing as well. I won’t lie. The idea of my kids unable to attend classes with homeschool friends, band classes, dance, tumbling, and occupational therapy kind of scares me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. But they do best when they’re busy. We take classes with other homeschoolers two full days a week. They do so many activities it’s hard to keep them all straight. They thrive on activity. But as more and more schools close and events are cancelled, I know we will soon face a reality where we don’t have these options.

I want to be clear, public safety comes before boredom. I understand and appreciate the closings.  As new recommendations come out for my area, I will follow them. Even if my own family should be fine, I don’t want to contribute to spreading the virus to someone who won’t be okay if they get Coronavirus.

Art Activities

All three of my kids love art. Art activities can keep them busy for hours, which is a good thing right now.

ARTVENTURE

Artventure is a subscription-based service, but the prices are really reasonable. The business is based in Australia. A three month subscription comes out to about $20 USD. The lessons are aimed at elementary aged kids, but my middle schoolers enjoy the more complex lessons as well. They are meant to be child-driven and use common materials. They can also be done as basic drawings if you run out of basic art supplies like watercolor paints.

ART FOR KIDS HUB

I love Art for Kids Hub! The lessons are usually done in Sharpie and colored pencil or crayon. There are tons of familiar, pop-culture or holiday related options, such as this adorable Baby Yoda and this super cute Easter Bunny. Most lessons are free, but there is a subscription option.

Audiobooks

I’ve often written about my love of audiobooks. A lot of public libraries use apps like LIBBY to electronically lend audiobooks as well as e-books. This means you get all the benefits of the library without having to step inside a possibly germ-infested and possibly soon-to-be-closed building.

AUDIBLE is another great option. And one that will soon have Grace’s Ghosts as an option to download!

My kids are seven, ten, and twelve, but I can usually find a middle-grade audiobook all three will love. We often listen to them in the car, but also listen to them inside, gathered around the kitchen table while the kids doodle. They buy me hours and hours of peace while exposing my kids to some great literature. All three of my kiddos score high on vocabulary sections of standardized tests and I totally credit the audiobooks for this.

Actual Books

For real. It’s a great time to read. If your home library is lacking, take a run to your local indie bookstore or library before things get too crazy. Or Barnes and Noble. Did  you know B&N offers its educator discount to homeschoolers?

If you need some ideas for great books for kids, check out Goodreads.

Science Fun

I know so many parents fear science, but I love it. Science projects can be fun, messy, and engaging. Exactly what you’ll need to distract your kids while they can’t see their friends during the Covid-19 outbreak.

HANDS ON AS WE GROW has a great list of science experiments you can do with supplies you probably have in your home.

STEVE SPANGLER SCIENCE is another amazing science resource. We’ve used it often over the years.

There are tons of great science-related shows on Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube. My kids are obsessed with MYTHBUSTERS and COYOTE PETERSON.

Nature

While we’re being cautioned not to gather in large groups, hiking and exploring your own backyard are still a great idea. Find a trail near you and escape to the great outdoors.

Online Learning

Fight world hunger while learning new vocabulary on FREE RICE. My oldest son loves this website. It’s free, and the better you do, the more rice gets donated to hungry people.

STARFALL is great for kids who are just learning to read. All of my kids learned to read on this platform. They have free and paid options.

SCRATCH and CODE.ORG are great for learning computer programming. All three of my kiddos love both websites.

Over 100 companies are offering FREE educational services during the Cornonavirus outbreak. Not all of the websites are available to individuals, but there are lots of amazing options.

Video Games

Don’t hate me for this. But a little Minecraft or Fortnite isn’t going to wreck your kid and it might save your sanity. While video games aren’t my first choice to keep kids busy,  they can save the day for cooped up kids. Both games have creative modes, so no fighting bad guys. And both have options for you to play without interacting with other players. Just turn off your headset for Fortnite and play on your own server for Minecraft.

My oldest has started to incorporate his homeschool lessons into his games. He’s build historical sites and scientific models, like a plant cell. Fun and educational!

While I know this time of social distancing won’t be easy, I am trying my best to relax and embrace the time together. I’m sure we will all be glad when it’s over, but for now, we’ll just make the best of it.

What are you and your kids doing to stay sane during this Coronavirus outbreak? Let me know in the comments!

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Grace’s Ghosts Reviews

The reviews for my upcoming middle-grade fantasy novel, Grace’s Ghosts, are starting to come in! It’s so exciting to find out what people think of the book!

I received a 5-Star rating from Wishing Shelf Reviews! I’m so flattered! I’ve pasted the review below.

Grace’s Ghosts is the spooky story of a girl who can see ghosts. In fact, her cat, Midnight, is a ghost too. In this delightful book for 9 – 13 year olds, the hero must find a way of helping all the ghosts in her small town. To do it, she must find a way of shattering a witch’s curse; and so the adventure begins! There are many, MANY aspects to this story that I enjoyed.


Firstly, it is excellently plotted with plenty of spooky twists and turns to keep children happy. There’s never a lull in this exciting adventure; and there are plenty of comic moments and tiny cliffhangers that children will enjoy. In terms of the genre, it reminded me a little of Tiffany Sparrow, Spook Slayer by Billy Bob Buttons. And also Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson.


I also enjoyed meeting many of the ghostly characters. The author seems determined for her young readers to understand all her characters – even the secondary – and, I must say, she’s very talented at it. At the end of this book, I felt I knew Grace so well. She’s a wonderful character to fall in love with! I like cats too so, for me, Midnight was the best. But all of them jump (pardon the pun) off the page and add much to the story.


Finally, there’s the writing style. It’s light with a good balance of speech and plot-driven narrative. Written in the first person, you really get to know the girl and what she is facing; and, trust me, she is facing a lot. All in all, this is a well-constructed story full of interesting characters and, also, a dilemma for the hero to unravel and overcome. I would recommend it to children who enjoy adventure with a spooky element to it.

-A Wishing Shelf Review

The book will release on 4/28/2020. Be sure to add it to your “to read” section on Goodreads.

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Spooky Halloween Writing Prompts for Kids


I just love Halloween. My kids do, too. About this time every year, they start to get fidgety with excitement and all they want to do is talk about Halloween, make Halloween crafts, tell spooky stories, and draw pictures of their costumes. I always try to find a way to work Halloween fun into their school work to keep them happy and focused. I’m guessing my kids are not the only ones out there with this problem, so I thought I would share this list of Halloween writing prompts.

1.It’s October 30th and you don’t have a costume yet. You decide to check out an old costume rental shop with your best friend. When you ask the little old lady who runs the shop for a spooky costume, she brings you an amazingly realistic monster costume. But something does not seem right…

2.Your parents take you and your brother to a pumpkin patch. The drive takes over an hour. When you finally get there, you make a surprising discovery. Instead of pumpkins, something else is growing in the field. What is it? What do you do?

3. You wake up on Halloween and can’t find your family. You check your parents’ room. You check your sister’s room. You rush in and out of every room in the house and then check the front and back yard. The cars are here, but your family is gone. You go back inside and find three black cats sitting on the sofa. You don’t own any cats. What do you do next?

4. You’re trick-or-treating with your sister. For the first time ever, your parents let you go out without them. You’re so excited! After a few houses, you see something strange in the street. A crowd has gathered and in the middle of the huddle you see a ….

5. Your mom brings home the most embarrassing Halloween costume in the world. You hate it, but she loves it. She says it was really expensive. What do you do? Do you wear it? If so, how do people react when you do? If not, what do you tell your mom?

6. Your piano teacher is a very strange, but kind woman. Each week, during your lessons in her home, you notice that she isn’t quite like other people. One day, you take a wrong turn on the way to the bathroom and  you find a room full of…

7. On Halloween night, you hear a knock at the door. Expecting trick-or-treaters, you grab a bowl of candy and open the door. But the figure on your porch isn’t a trick-or-treater. Or even a person…

8.At the end of your street is an old house that no one has lived in for a long, long time. Your neighbor, Eric, thinks the house is haunted. You don’t believe him, but one night, you see a light on in the old house. You decide to go investigate. What do you find?

9. You wake up one night to a rustling sound. Something is in your room! You listen and realize it’s under your bed! You peek under the bed and find…

10. It’s 11:00 pm on Halloween night and you’re fast asleep in bed when a noise wakes you. You turn over in bed to see four bats fluttering around your room. What happens next?

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How I got a Literary Agent

Great news! I am now represented by Jessica Reino at Metamorphosis Literary Agency.

If you’re a writer, or know writers, you probably know that the journey find a literary agent can be a long one. It was for me. Querying is a pain in the behind, but all of the hard work and rejection was worth it. I can’t wait to share the action-packed, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking middle-grade contemporary fantasy I wrote with the world. And Jessica is going to help me do that!

If you’re reading this and you are considering querying a book, you might want to know a bit about the process. I thought I’d share my experience with you all. Maybe it will help someone out there. Here are my tips for querying authors.

  1. Twitter is your friend!  Really! I was never a huge fan of Twitter until I discovered the Twitter Writing Community. Authors, aspiring authors, agents, and editors all come together on the platform and really support one another.  Agents will post with the tag #MSWL, which stands for manuscript wish list. Say you’ve written a sci-fi romance about mermaids in space. (I mean, hey, maybe it’s a thing!)  You’d  type “#MSWL mermaids space” into the Twitter search bar. And maybe, if you were lucky, you’d find an agent who posted a tweet that says, “I need mermaid romance set in space in my inbox ASAP!” You might have just found your perfect agent. Someone who is looking for exactly what you’ve written. My own agent posted something on her profile saying she was an invisible illness advocate. The protagonist of my latest book has an invisible illness so Jessica moved to the top of my list of agents to query.
  2. Personalize your query! Especially if you’ve found an agent begging for space mermaids on Twitter. Tell the agent why you picked them out of the sea of literary agents. It can only help you to do your research. I made sure to let Jessica know exactly why I was querying her.
  3. Don’t let the muggles rejections get you down! Your book isn’t for everyone. It’s not for every reader and it’s not for every agent. That’s okay. Even when it makes you feel like the world’s worst writer. Even when it makes you want to quit. You’ll get through it. I got so many rejections with my last book. I had to rewrite that thing a half-dozen times before I found a publisher. All of that hard work taught me to be a better writer. And when I queried my latest book, I only had a handful of rejections before finding the right agent. I truly believe that is because I learned from my mistakes. Every step of the process is teaching you something in the long run, even when it stings.
  4. QueryTracker is amazing! I’m not being paid to say this. I’m telling you this because it’s one of the best tools out there. If you’re planning to query a manuscript any time soon, do yourself a favor and head over to querytracker.net. This website lets you see statistics on agents. For example, you could look up an agent and find out that they only request a full manuscript about once every sixth months and haven’t made any offers in the past two years. Or that another agent doesn’t send rejection emails. Or that another is super fast and provides personalized feedback. You get the idea. You can also look at the current log of queries each agent has, and see where your query sits in line. So maybe you queried on September 5th. You can look and see that the agent has responded to everyone who queried before September 3rd, so you will probably hear back soon. Or that they’ve skipped you and responded a bunch of people who queried after you. It’s also great for just keeping track of all of those queries. You don’t want to forget and query the same agent twice!
  5. Be sure your book and query letter are ready before you begin. Find another writer to swap queries with. Get beta readers and critique partners to read your book before you query it. Maybe hire an editor if you’re struggling to find honest beta readers. Don’t send a first draft. And probably not a second draft, either. You don’t want to blow your shot because your manuscript just isn’t ready yet.
  6. Query a handful of agents at a time. This goes hand in hand with number five. You don’t want to send your query to all of your dream agents only to realize that you sent it out full of errors. Or that the manuscript needs a lot of work. Send your queries out in batches. That way, you can use any feedback you may receive to your advantage in your future queries.

 

I hope this helps! If you have any query tips of your own, please leave them in the comments below! Happy querying!

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52 Family Adventures Halfway-ish Point Update

 

So, um. I am bad at timely blogging.  But my family and I have had some amazing adventures this year! At my count, we’ve had 28 adventures together so far.  We’re 28 weeks into the year, so we’re right on track to have 52 amazing experiences before 2020. Life has been a bit insane. Some of has it good, like my publishing contract. Some of it has been stressful, like multiple hospital says for my kiddos. But through it all, we’ve stayed positive and we’ve had a lot of fun.

I love that homeschooling has allowed us the freedom to do this. Our hands-0n approach t0 life and learning not only makes education fun, it makes it impactful as well. And the time we spend together is precious! We’ve seen and done so much. I am so happy we decided to make adventure a priority in 2019.

Here’s a fast rundown of our adventures so far this year. These are in no particular order.

#1- A bear program in a National Park (Shenandoah in VA)

#2- The Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC

#3- Fishing at the KOA in Harriosnburg, VA

 

#4 Lake Gaston, VA

 

#5- Meeting a hungry groundhog while exploring Gatlinburg, TN

#6 Playing with goats and alpacas in Durham, NC

 

#7 Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Gatlinburg, TN

 

#8 Learning about history in Shenandoah National Park, VA

 

#9 Hiking Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park, Va

 

#10 Exploring the wilderness near Harrisonburg, VA

 

#11 Embracing nature at The State Arboretum of Virginia

 

#12- Taking in the Great Smoky Mountains (and dancing, of course)

 

#13 Hiking to High Knob Tower in WV

 

#14 Climbing Stony Man in Shenandoah National Park

#15 – Dance nationals in Pigeon Forge, TN. And coming home a National Champion!

 

#16 Hiking the Appalachian Trail. Or as my six-year-old called it, the “Application Trail.”

#17 Finding our own private waterfall in Shenandoah National Park, VA.

 

#18 Hiking Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park

 

#19 Exploring Durant Nature Preserve in Raleigh, NC

 

#20 Mountain Coaster in Pigeon Forge, TN

#21 Exploring Yate’s Mill Park in Raleigh, NC

 

#22 Loving Science at The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

 

#23 Meeting author Adam Rubin at Page 158 books in Wake Forest, NC

#24 Hiking in Raleigh, NC

 

#25 Trying out a drama class in Raleigh, NC

#27 Nature journaling  in Wendell, NC

 

#28 Exploring Luray Caverns in Luray, VA

Thanks for reading! I plan on giving a more detailed account of our time in Shenandoah National Park soon.

How is your year going? Has it been full of adventure?

 

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