Double Giveaway

found thingsFrom Amazon: One morning, River Rose Byrne wakes up talking like nobody else, and she doesn’t know why. Maybe it’s because her beloved older brother, Theron, has abruptly vanished. Maybe it’s because that bully Daniel Bunch won’t leave her alone. Or maybe it has everything to do with the eerily familiar house that her mind explores when she’s asleep, and the mysterious woman who lives there.

River has to puzzle through these mysteries on her own until she makes a strange new friend named Meadow Lark. But when she brings Meadow Lark home and her mother reacts in a way that takes River by surprise, River is more lost than before. Now all that’s left for her to do is make wish after wish—and keep her eyes open for a miracle.

Marilyn Hilton’s haunting debut dives down deep into murky waters brimming with secrets, sorrow, and hope, giving us faith in the things that we seek, but haven’t yet found.

AND

atlantis risingNow out in paperback! From Indiebound: In a magical land called Ellegandia, a young boy named Promi scrapes by, stealing pies, cakes and sweets to survive. But little does he know that his country is a pawn in an ages-old war between good and evil, battled both in the spirit realm and in the human world. Harboring secrets of his own, Promi teams up with a courageous girl named Atlanta and the two vow to save their
land—and each other—no matter the cost. But their vow has greater repercussions than they ever could imagine—in fact, it may just bring about the creation of Atlantis, an island cut off from the rest of the world, where magic reigns supreme.

T.A. Barron, author of the Merlin Saga,  explores a new mythology—the origin of the legendary isle of Atlantis. 

One lucky reader will win a copy of each book. To enter, leave a comment below.

Indie Spotlight: Avid Bookshop, Athens GA

Sue Cowing for Mixed-up files:  We’re talking today with Janet  Geddis, avid logoowner of Avid Bookshop (www.avidbookshop.com),  a new and thriving book haven in Athens, Georgia.
MUF: Your shop is only three years old, which means that you opened at a time when those-who-were-supposed-to-know-but-weren’t-getting-around-the-country-much were predicting that bookstores were dying out, bound to be replaced by online sites and ebooks. So what inspired you to do this? Avid books front #1
Janet: I was inspired by many things: my love of reading, my love of Athens, my love of people, and my love of those special spots we call “third places.” I’d experimented with lots of great jobs (teaching, tutoring, event planning, community outreach, and more), but I didn’t want to do any of them full-time. I had a major a-ha! moment when I realized that my lifelong half-dream of having my own bookstore would allow me to do a little bit of everything I loved. Once I started doing market research, I realized how sorely Athens needed a bookstore like Avid, and the community has responded in such an incredibly inspiring way.
MUF: Describe the atmosphere at Avid Bookshop.
Janet: Avid is one of my favorite places in the world. We hear customers commenting on its warmth and “good vibes,” and it’s so amazing to hear that the ambiance we aimed to create translates clearly to our customers. Avid Interior #1My booksellers and I are all people-people, so we love to greet everyone who walks in and help as much or as little as people need. Since we have no back office or receiving room, the shop can seem a little jumbled and messy at times, but we roll with it and like to think it’s part of our charm.
MUF: Athens seems to be a lively and unique community. Tell us about your customers and how you help them find their good reads. Janet: We LOVE our customers and our town so much. I’d venture to guess that at least every other person you walk by is rather creative—we have a ton of musicians, visual artists, writers, and more in our relatively small city. The first step in connecting readers with books comes up when I meet one-on-one with publisher reps and decide what titles I will stock from season to season. I think of my existing customers as well as potential customers; I look at past sales data and consider the trends that I witness in my community. Once a customer walks in (whether it’s someone we know well or have just met that day), we are able to choose from a curated collection of titles that my booksellers and I already love and/or think our customers will love. Avid read #1We take the time to listen to a customer’s description of his or her reading tastes and make sure we give a personalized recommendation. And then we ask that they check back in down the line to let us know what they thought of their purchases!
MUF: I love it when the recommended titles on a store’s website include books I haven’t even seen reviews of. It’s a sign to me that the booksellers read widely and curate the books. This doesn’t happen on Amazon or the chain store’s sites. How do you choose the books you carry in your store?  What are some titles new or old, fiction or nonfiction, that you are recommending to middle-grade readers at the moment?
Janet: In addition to very carefully selecting books on publishers’ lists, I talk frequently with my staff not only about what books they’re loving (or not loving), but also the kinds of comments and feedback they overhear from customers in the shop. My store is very, very small, so it can be hard to say no to certain books, but I think we’ve gained a reputation for being selective without being snobby (and of course we can order any book in print and get it in within a couple of weekdays if a customer wants something specific we don’t have on the shelf). Avid Timmy FailureFor a long while, we’ve had our reliable sales in the middle Avid fourteenth goldishgrade section: I’m thinking of how we continue to sell books in the Wildwood series (Meloy), anything Origami Yoda, the Wimpy Kid books, and more. We have helped make some books Avid bestsellers due to our love of putting them in readers’ hands: the Timmy Failure books (Pastis) and anything by Jennifer Holm (especially one of my new favorites, The Fourteenth Goldfish) come to mind right away.
MUF: You have a special Young Reader’s Book club for middle graders. What titles will they be reading next?
Janet: The next book on the list is The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm. I know that our Young Readers’ Book Club moderators (Rainey, a customer, and Will, a bookseller) have some ideas they will be nominating for the kids to vote on—we’ll have the November selection listed on our website calendar soon! MUF: Please tell our readers about Frank the FFF, and how he came to be?
Janet: Ha! Oh, Frank. Avid frank #1We love him so. In July 2012, we participated in Candlewick’s Where’s Waldo? buy local promotion. (We’ve done it each year since, to continued and growing success.) A few months later, we still had customers asking us about Waldo and itching for the next contest to begin. We decided to create a brand new character that our local print shop would make multiple standees of—we would then distribute this character to 50+ local businesses to help promote buying locally for the holidays. Instead of selecting an existing book character, we put out a call to artists. After a blind judging from our panel, a winner was chosen: a then-11-year-old artist named Jeremy Kiran Fernandes’s “Frank” character was the winner! He has a book for a head and loves Athens ever so much. We elongated his name (we’re obsessed with words—what do you expect?) and he became Frank, the Fabulous Fiction Fan. The effort was a BLAST but also rather exhausting, so we didn’t do the promotion during the 2013 holidays. Jury’s still out on whether Frank will make a repeat performance this year.
MUF: Do you have any events coming up that are of special interest to middle-graders?
Janet: Apart from our Young Readers’ Book Club meeting in October, we don’t have anything middle-grade-specific on the list at the moment. We have had some stellar events this school year already, though, introducing hundreds of kids to Random House authors Lou Anders (Frostborn) Avid Frostbornand Jennifer Holm at their schools and at the bookshop. Those events were very well received and the middle grade readers loved the chance to meet these authors. MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit Avid Bookshop, would there be family-friendly places nearby where they could get a snack or meal? And if they could stay awhile, are there other places and activities around Athens they shouldn’t miss? Janet: There’s so much to do in our neck of the woods! Avid Bookshop is a few blocks outside of downtown proper on the lovely Prince Avenue. You could stroll two doors down to the Daily Co-op, a member-owned grocery story that is famous in the kid crowd for their bulk selection of candy and snacks. (You can grab a sandwich or salad from their deli department as well.) A few blocks in the other direction is a complex called The Bottleworks, where families can enjoy food and drink from any number of locally-owned restaurants/cafes. For families with more time in Athens (and a car), I recommend a few different things off the top of my head: a)   A visit to Bear Hollow, the small zoo at Memorial Park; b)   A kids’ craft class at Treehouse Kid & Craft; c)    Weekday story time at the Athens-Clarke County Library; d)   Pizza and sandbox playing at Ted’s Most Best, a local joint known for its pizza and kid-friendly atmosphere.Avid sign #1

MUF: Thanks Janet, for taking time to describe your delightful shop to us.  Readers, have any of you had the pleasure of shopping here, or are you now tempted to treat yourself to a visit?  If so, please chime in on the comments and let these folks know.
Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog, Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012, Harper-Collins UK 2014.

A New Year of Writing

In our household, yesterday and today mark the start of a whole new year! And whether you celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year’s) or not, there are lessons that can be applied by writers looking forward to improvement in the upcoming year of 5775

Here are my Rosh Hashanah writing tips…

Resolutions

Hopefully, you have already made progress on the resolutions you made back on January 1st (that other New Year’s). If not, take this opportunity to rededicate yourself in the fourth quarter of CY2014.

It’s not even October yet, so there’s still time to lose those 20 pounds, finish that manuscript, jog five miles a day, send out those query letters, floss regularly, register for a conference, stop smoking, and this time make it stick!

Or just pick one or two of the above and give it all you’ve got while there’s still some year left to work with. If you didn’t make a writing resolution this year, what about joining a community of blogging middle grade authors? (Hint, hint!)

Even if you’ve been sleepwalking through 2014, it’s not too late because you have…

The Shofar

The shofar is a symbol that you might have seen on Rosh Hashanah cards in the Hallmark Store. It’s a musical instrument from the days when the horn section played on actual horns–the bone-like projections from the head of a ram, removed, shaped, and polished to horny perfection.

The sound of the shofar was meant as a wake-up call, because those were also the days before digital alarm clocks. To begin your new writing year, you will also need a metaphorical wake-up call.

Pick a sound that represents your dreams for the next year. It might be your mobile phone ringing with “the call” from an agent. It might be the flipping pages of your next book. It might be the creak of a chair as a reader leans forward in anticipation of your next chapter.

Or maybe it really is the sound of a ram’s horn, if you also happen to moonlight as a shepherd.

Find a way to represent that sound, focus on it with all your attention, and resist the temptation to hit the snooze button.

Once you’re fully awake, it’s time for…

Tashlich

Some people follow a tradition called tashlich, in which all the sins and troubles of the past year are symbolically thrown away as breadcrumbs tossed into a river.

I like this tradition a lot. We all have habits we’d like to get rid of and mistakes we’d like to forget, but how often do we actually make a physical effort to dispose of them? And how great would it feel to watch these problems float away or become fish food?

Your writerly tashlich will be personal to you. Maybe you’ll throw away a handful of cliches. Toss out a double-handful of procrastination. Rid yourself of a slice of self-doubt. It will make you feel better–and when you feel better, you will write better.

At least that’s my theory for this year, and I’ve resolved to follow it.

And also…

Ask Forgiveness

According to another tradition, this is the time of year to ask forgiveness from anyone and everyone you may have slighted, offended, or harmed in the past year–intentionally or not, and knowingly or not.

I’ve made such requests and have had them result in a list of things I’ve done that I never even imagined as offensive or harmful, which is a humbling experience. Then I received forgiveness, which always has a cathartic effect.

But since we are writers, we can harm people who inhabit fictional worlds as well. Have you done your protagonist wrong? Have you neglected your manuscripts? Have you kept a promising idea in your head instead of setting it down on paper?

This holiday may be a great opportunity to review your work, ask forgiveness of your characters, and make a plan for setting things right.

When you’re done, it’s time for…

Apples and Honey

After all that introspection, you deserve a reward. So slice an apple, and dip it in honey. That’s the traditional way to symbolize the sweet year ahead.

And if one of your resolutions was to eat more fruits and vegetables, go ahead and make it a double serving!

Finally…

Be Inscribed in the Book of Life

The ancient rabbis believed that our future was predetermined one year at a time, subject to the influence of our thoughts, deeds, and prayers. It’s a blend of predestination and free choice that could give headaches to any philosophy major.

The best part of Rosh Hashanah, especially for us writers, is the idea of a metaphorical Book of Life. According to tradition, this is an actual annual book that lists everyone in the world and their entire upcoming year in great detail. Today, it’s been written, but we still have time to request edits, revisions, and changes–at least until the Yom Kippur publication date.

God is the Author of history, but each of us has the chance to do some light edits of our own personal stories, and that’s the most exciting collaboration of all.

L’Shanah tovah, and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of all good things!