Author Archives: Kimberley Little

Kersten Hamilton and the Book of Half a Lifetime

I’m very pleased today to feature a long time friend of mine.

Kersten and I have critiqued each other’s work, we’ve gone on writing retreats together, attended conferences, and enjoyed group meet-ups with other local authors over the years. Kersten Hamilton is an incredibly talented writer, deep thinker, and a selfless, giving person.

Here at From the Mixed up Files, we’re excited to show off the gorgeous cover for her middle-grade novel, DAYS OF THE DEAD, which will launch into the world this coming summer.

Enjoy a little bit about Kersten’s inspiration and an excerpt from the novel.

~Kimberley Griffiths Little, one of your MUF’s authors and bloggers~

From Kersten Hamilton:

“When I first saw the art created by Merce Lopez  for the cover of Days of the Dead I wanted to shout, “LOOK AT THIS! IT IS THE BEST COVER EVER!!!” because Merce had captured the magic and mystery at the heart of my story. Having a cover means the book is real! It is almost here!

Some books take half a lifetime to write. Days of the Dead is one of those books. I can’t remember when the story started to grow in me. When I was six, and my mother left? When I was a teen sitting in a chill of a lava tube, breathing in darkness so deep it was almost alive?  The day my heart broke so badly I thought I would die. I know the roots of this story reach back through that day. But the story took years of drafts and re-writes to form.

Slowly, it settled into a time: the Days of the Dead, when the border separating the living from the dead grows thin.  And a place, Puerta de la Luna, where strange things happen. Things that science isn’t big enough to explain. And a girl, Glorieta Magdalena Davis y Espinosa, whose choices would destroy her family – and whose courage would make it whole again.

Days of the Dead will be coming from Sky Pony Press this August of 2018, but I can’t wait one minute longer to introduce Glorieta. I hope she will find a lot of friends and help them pick themselves back up when they have made a terrible mistake.”

LOOK AT THIS STUNNING COVER!

And here’s Glorieta in her own words:

“Every bowl of Alpha-Bits starts out with hundreds of words. But the power is in the last spoonful.

“Dios mio, Magdalena!” Mamá’d said as she’d pointed to my spoon, “Your spoon says ‘libros’. Books!’ Now, you choose. If you swallow it down, then you will learn about books!” I swallowed it, and that year I’d been the first kid in class who learned to read. I learned about big books, thick books, their smell, their feel, the letters gathering into words and the words into stories. Mamá and I read together every night, in English and in español, Spanish.

In third grade I’d had to find the word in my Alpha-Bits myself. I used an extra big spoon, one that could fit all of the letters of mother, if Mamá wasn’t enough. Or even Mamá, come home.

The word had been hoggs. I’d known that was too many ‘gees’ for a real word. I’d swallowed it anyway, and cried because I thought my Mamá’s magic had gone away with her.

Then, one month into the school year, a new editor for the Epoch Rattler came to my school to interview me about a poem I’d written for the paper. His name was Hogg. That hadn’t made me feel any better. You can’t knock off one letter and say it’s close enough. That’s not magic. It’s cheating.

But just after Christmas my teacher Miss Dotson, who’d met Mr. Herbert Hogg the day he interviewed me, married him and became Mrs. Hogg. Two Hoggs. Pieces fitting together. The magic worked.

I shook the box, and something rattled inside.

I got a bowl, and turned the box upside down. Letter pieces and cereal powder rained out. I poured in some milk, and three perfect letters bobbed to the surface.

“Are you looking for a word in your Alpha-Bits? Seriously?” Lilith was leaning over my shoulder.

“Go away.”

Lilith laughed. As she walked across the room and picked up the phone again, one more letter struggled to the surface of the sludge. I stared at the bowl. It couldn’t be right.

I’d wanted the magic to help me keep my promise to Mamá. I hadn’t wanted this.

Now you choose, Glorieta…

“We’re on hold, B,” Lilith said into the phone. “I’ve got to work out something with my stupid step-tard first. See you at school.”

Lilith saw me still staring at the bowl and leaned over to see what I was looking at.

“O.D.I.O.?” She laughed. “That isn’t even a word, loser.”

It was a word. Lilith just didn’t know it because she couldn’t speak español.

You choose, Glorieta.

If it had been about anyone else, it would have been wrong. But I knew it wasn’t about anyone else. It was about Lilith. Somehow she had gotten in where she didn’t belong and messed everything up. Even the magic.

I could feel her breathing on the back of my neck as I scooped the word onto my spoon and lifted it to my mouth. I would learn it like I’d learned to read, learn the pieces and the parts and how they fit together and it would keep Lilith away from me.

Lilith took a step back, and I couldn’t feel her breath anymore. It was working already.

Shivers raced up my spine as I chewed.

Odio. Hate.

My magic word for the sixth grade.”

Thank you for letting me share, Mixed-Up Files!

Kersten Hamilton

Website: www.kerstenhamilton.com

Pre-order DAYS OF THE DEAD

Email: Kersten@kerstenhamilton.com

Summer Series for the Adventuring Child

Summer is here, the kids are out of school, and temperatures are rising. Now I know that during the summer we just want to get those adorable little mess-makers out of the house and into the outdoors to explore nature and discover the world around them, but sometimes it just gets too dang hot. Parts of Arizona are going to be 120 degrees this week – and I’m headed there Wednesday for a family reunion! At the moment, northern California is hotter than southern California! (That never happened when I grew up there.)

So, after you’ve had them run around outside for the cooler hours of the morning here is a list of great series to keep their minds adventuring instead of melting crayons into the carpet. (True story, don’t ask.)

How to Train Your Dragon Series, by Cressida Cowell

The series that inspired the beloved movies, the Train Your Dragon series tells the story of Hiccup and his dragon Toothless and their adventures together. Great for those who love the movies and just can’t get enough of Toothless! Bonus points for having a very well-read audio book by none other than David Tennant!

The Heroes Guide Series, by Christopher Healy

A fun quirky series which doesn’t follow the leading ladies of the more popular fairy tales but the leading men, whom after being discredited by lazy bards are out to prove that they are more than just the “Prince Charming” of their stories. A great read with wonderful illustrations to help you know whom is who.

Enchanted Forest Series, by Patricia C. Wrede

So, we all know that when the dragon steals the princess the brave knight has to go rescue her. But what if the princess didn’t get stolen but instead ran away and is having a much better time hanging out with dragons than being a princess? This quirky series has it all.  Smart Princesses, silly knights, and cunning wizards. Forget rescuing the princess, someone should maybe help that poor knight out instead.

The School  for Good and Evil Series, by Soman Chainani

Not another magical school series! I know its summer break and no kid wants to think about school let alone read about one, but this series is worth it. Following the two lead females who seem to have accidentally been placed in the wrong school (see title) the series leads you to question, what makes one good or evil? And can appearances be deceiving?

The Unicorn Chronicles Series, by Bruce Coville

An oldie but goodie. Following a young protagonist who has been dumped into a magical land by her grandmother, Cara must find out how to make it back to her own world and learn what secrets this land may hold about her missing parents. Unicorns and Adventures! Need I say more?

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started and if your kids are anything like mine you’ll need every one of those books just to survive until July! Don’t forget that your local library is always a great place to check for more series and see if they may be hosting a summer reading contest. Nothing gets kids’ reading like the thought that they might win a gift card or something better!

What are some of your favorite adventure series? Share in the comments!

Happy Reading!

~Kimberley

P.S. And if your child likes contemporary stories with adventure and magical realism, you’re always welcome to check out my 4-book MG series set in the mysterious swamps of Louisiana. Gators and danger abound! The Healing Spell, Circle of Secrets, When the Butterflies Came, and The Time of the Fireflies.

Kimberley Griffiths Little is the award-winning author of ten Middle-Grade and Young Adult novels with Scholastic and Harpercollins. She’s been juggling book launch parties, research trips, drafting new proposals, eating too many cookies and wrangling a household that never sleeps . . . On location book trailers and Teacher’s Guides at Kimberley’s website: www.KimberleyGriffithsLittle.com. Friend her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimberleygriffithslittle

Hook your Reader with a TERRIFIC First Line

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

(A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle)

 

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?”

(Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White)

Some people call them “hooks”—that all important first line of a book. Imagine a fishing hook with a fat juicy wriggling worm on the end. That worm is much more appetizing to a fish swimming by than the metal hook will ever be dangling all by itself–and so will a juicy first line of a book to potential readers cruising the shelves in a bookstore or library.

A fishing rod and worms is how I describe the creation of story hooks when I do my Creative Diary writing workshop with kids. You want to throw that great, delicious hook out there, capture your reader, and then reel them in and not let them go until they reach THE END. As a writer or a librarian or a teacher trying to grab a child with a book, we want our potential reader to get intrigued, to *Get Hooked* and KEEP READING.

So just how important IS that opening first line or first page for Readers and how important are first lines for Writers?

Let’s go to our panel of experts:

Readers First!

Aubri, 15-years-old: “The cover of a book definitely draws me in first, but the first line makes or breaks it. I have to be intrigued, but I also like funny stories like the Junie B. Jones books that start out really funny and scary books where a character might be in prison and something is going to happen to them.”

Shelby, 12-years-old: “A first line makes me want to keep reading. If it’s boring, I’ll stop. I will probably read the whole first page, but unless I like it, I’ll stop reading the book. When I’m browsing the bookshelves, I read the synopsis on the jacket, too. And the Author stuff on the back.”

Milyssa, 16-years-old: “I like good first lines, but it’s more than that. The whole first paragraph has to be great.”

Writers Next! (Clicking on the author’s name will direct you to their website)

KIMBERLEY GRIFFITHS LITTLE (moi):

“I’m a sucker for great first lines. I also spend a lot of time thinking about my own first lines when I begin a book. Sometimes it takes until the end of drafting before I know what works best. Here’s the first line from my novel, When the Butterflies Came: ‘The first butterfly comes the day after the funeral.’ I hope it raises questions like “the first butterfly?” or “who just died and why are butterflies showing up?

Keep reading for more thoughts about First Lines and great books from some wonderful MG authors!

VIVIAN VANDE VELDE

“The first line needs to set the stage, giving us a glimpse into when and where the story takes place so we can immediately begin to picture things. Optimally, it should give us a meaningful glimpse at the main character–saying, thinking, doing something relevant to the story. (That is, I don’t think highly of stories that try to grab you with a cheap falsehood, as in: Terrified, Melanie screamed, convinced she was going to die. Of course, no one had ever died from seeing a mouse, but it COULD happen…) It should set the tone, giving us the voice of the character if it’s in 1st person.

And, if possible, hint at the conflict which will be at the heart of the story.

The story where I think I accomplished this most successfully is GHOST OF A HANGED MAN, which starts: “Pa said we were too young to go to the hanging.”

 

 

GREG LEITICH SMITH

“The voice has to grab you and make you want to continue and there should be some follow-through in the rest of the novel about the thing(s) that arose in the first line.

In NINJAS, I used, “I knew I was in trouble when I heard the cello,” which lets us know the protag is (a) in trouble and (b) is in some strange situation wherein that trouble is announced via a cello. And the “trouble” itself forms the basis for the main conflict.”

 

BARBARA O’CONNOR

“First lines set the tone for the story (funny, dramatic, etc). First lines are the front door of the story and should say “come on in”.

My new favorite first line is from The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester coming out the end of August: “Owen Jester tiptoed across the gleaming linoleum floor and slipped the frog into the soup.”

 

HEATHER VOGEL FREDERICK

“The former journalist in me always thinks of first lines as the “lead” to a story. When I was writing for newspapers and magazines, I always found that once I got the lead right, the rest of the article flowed from there. It’s like building a house on a solid foundation.

My goal for the first line is to reach out and grab the reader by the lapels and pull them into the story.”

Favorite first line? Still my first-born, from The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed:

“‘Absolutely, positively not!’ roared my father in a voice meant to be heard through the teeth of a Cape Horn gale.”

 

 

BARBARA BROOKS WALLACE

“Tell him, Muddle! Tell him we’re not mice!”

The first sentence of The Barrel in the Basement is a first sentence that HAS to be followed by the second – which is even better!

“Pudding gazed with horror at the huge yellow cat who lay on his side daintily probing the mouth of the jar with his paw.”

LAURIE CALKHOVEN

“I often go back and change my opening after I’ve written the end. In Daniel at the Siege of Boston, 1776, my main character thinks in the end that the siege was like one long staring match between the British and the Patriots. I wasn’t happy with my opening, so I went back and decided to open with a staring match:

“I stared into Josiah Henshaw’s red brown eyes and vowed not to blink.”

“I wanted to open with action, and this sets the tone for the rest of the book.”

M. J. AUCH

“Here’s my favorite from a short story called “Witch’s Son”.”

“When Abigail Brewster brought her son, Hugh, back from the dead the first time, he looked all fragile and wispy, like morning mist on the village commons.”

SUE COWING:

“When the flying boat/returns to earth at last, /I open my eyes/ /and gaze out the round window./What is all the white? I whisper. /Where is all the world? ”

“This is from Katherine Applegate’s masterful novel-in-verse, HOME OF THE BRAVE. Civil war tears young Kek from his family and his cattle-herding village in the Sudan, and he is relocated in Minnesota in the middle of winter. He has never felt such cold, never seen or imagined snow or such a place as America. I love the way Applegate has this character express in such powerfully simple language experiences that he can barely comprehend, making the reader instantly curious and sympathetic.”

MICHAEL HAYS:

“He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms.” – from THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy & Ramdall Wright.

“This is a feline twist on A Tale of Two Cities in this great MG animal story told within the world of the inn where Charles Dickens spent quite a bit of time. Need I say more?”

T.P. JAGGER:

I’ve always liked the opening lines of SCHOOLED by Gordon Korman because it effectively introduces the 1st-person narrator’s voice while hinting at the plot enough to raise some questions that compel the reader (at least me!) to keep reading:

“I was thirteen the first time I saw a police officer up close. He was arresting me for driving without a license. At the time, I didn’t even know what a license was. I wasn’t too clear on what being arrested meant either.”

HILLARY HOMZIE, author of Queen of Likes:

“I love this first line because I just love Deborah Wiles writing: “I come from a family with a lot of dead people.”

It’s the first line of Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (MG Harcourt, 2005).

The next lines after that: “Great-uncle Edisto keeled over with a stroke on a Saturday morning after breakfast last March. Six months later, Great-great-aunt Florentine died–just like that–in the vegetable garden. And of course there are all the dead people who rest temporarily downstairs, until they go off to the Snapfinger Cemetery.”

And on that funny “morbid” note, I want to give a huge thanks to all of our reader and writer experts on the subject of First Lines and Hooks! Now Go forth! Find a Great Hook Today or Write a Great Hook  – and Fall In Love at First Line!

Since I adore first lines, please share your favorite First Lines below in the comments!

Kimberley Griffiths Little has been juggling book launch parties for her FORBIDDEN trilogy (Harpercollins) with her right hand, twirling a handful of new characters with her left while drafting new book proposals with her toes. Throw in too many cookies, a household that never sleeps . . .and you have a typical day in the life of a writer on deadline. See Kimberley’s beautiful new website here: www.KimberleyGriffithsLittle.com. Friend her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimberleygriffithslittle

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