Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Books by Flanagan, Delaney, and Haddix for Xmas

Christmas is fast approaching, and the time is getting short for buying those books for your young readers. My favorite authors have new books and a new series that are worth picking up.

First is John Flanagan, author of the Ranger's Apprentice series. The Siege of Macindaw, Book 6, continues the exciting saga of young Ranger Will and Warrior Horace. Not only does the survival of their homeland fall upon these young shoulders, the Renegade Knight Sir Keren has taken someone very dear to Will hostage!

Second is Joseph Delaney, author of The Last Apprentice series. The Clash of the Demons, Book 6, brings back Thomas Ward's mother to ask for Thomas' help to fight one of the most powerful of old witches! However, Thomas will have to choose: his mother or the Spook.

Third is Margaret Peterson Haddix. Her new series Missing has taken off with readers. If you know someone who loved The Shadow Children series, then introduce them to Found and Sent, the first two books.

Radio Interviews of YA Authors

Browsing through some of my regular internet haunts led me to a site called The Author Hour.
Author Matthew Peterson conducts a weekly online radio show where he interviews a wide variety of authors.

On Dec. 10, 2009, the radio show is dedicated to YA Fantasy authors. Favorite author John Flanagan is featured along with James A. Owen (Here There be Dragons, Starchild comics), Frank Beddor (Looking Glass Wars novels), and James Dashner (The 13th Reality series).

If you and your young reader can't make the live broadcast, Peterson archives the interviews on his site.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Book Fairs/Author Visits/Book Stores

It’s Fall and time to start thinking about books. (Do we ever not?)

With Xmas on the way, Fall is a good time to start stocking up for Xmas gifts, birthday gifts, and any day that calls for a personal gift. The best gift: a book. Here are 3 top book buying venues.

  1. One of the great bargains this time of year are the Scholastic Book Fairs at local elementary schools. Prices are usually 20% to 50% off. And the best part: a portion of all sales go back into the school. Librarians are happy to made recommendations if you’re not sure what to buy. Scholastic usually brings in a wide range of reading materials. If you don’t have elementary school age children, call your local elementary school and ask for information about their book fair. They always welcome community involvement.
  2. Another offering at elementary schools are local author visits. In addition to presenting a program about their writing and their works, authors come prepared to sell autographed copies of their books, usually at a lower rate that at book stores. Most authors also donate a portion of sales to the school library. Here again, call your local elementary school to ask about author visits.
  3. If you like autographed books, then watch the local paper or visit/call the bookstores in your area. Many offer signings by authors of all types of books. While there are no bargains here, you are able to meet the author and purchase an autographed copy. Bookstores tend to schedule authors more in the Fall in hopes of enticing buyers into the stores for the holiday season.
Books are always great personal gifts for any occasion.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dom Testa: Author and Radio Personality

When the name Dom Testa comes up in a conversation, most people think of the host of the Dom and Jane Morning radio show on Denver’s Mix 100. However, teenagers know a different Dom Testa. He’s an award winning YA writer of Science Fiction with his Galahad series which starts with The Comet’s Curse. He is also a frequent visitor to schools to discuss writing and the founder of The Big Brain Club.

Recently I had the opportunity to ask him about his writing.

CC: When did you start writing?

Dom: Like most writers, I've been creating stories since I was a kid. I began to get serious about it in my 30s, but it was the work that I began doing with students that inspired me to write a young adult novel. The Comet's Curse was the result.

CC: I read that you write what you liked to read as a teenager. What else influences your writing?

Dom: It's true. When I was a kid I was a big fan of The Hardy Boys, and a series called The Three Investigators. I enjoyed the combination of action/adventure, along with a bit of mystery, and felt like kids today might want the same thing in an updated version.

I'm also influenced by the science magazines and television shows that I'm hooked on. It seems like there's so much material in the realm of the unknown, especially in deep space, that it allows young people to really fire up their imaginations.

CC: The Comet's Curse has garnered lots of positive press. What do young readers tell you about the book when you visit the schools?

Dom: Kids love the concept of a group of teenagers on their own, without any adults around. It's truly a coming-of-age tale, but also a story that inspires kids to learn responsibility and cooperation. Technically the book is science fiction, but the characters are so strong that it goes way beyond its genre. I've had kids (and parents, too) tell me that they'd never really read science fiction before The Comet's Curse, and they were now hooked. That's a huge compliment.

CC: Tor has picked up the Galahad series. Is this the first publisher you have had?

Dom: The Galahad series was originally a product of my own publishing company. After publishing three books in the series, I reached an agreement with Tor, and they have re-issued the first book (The Comet's Curse) in hardcover. They'll follow with the second book, The Web of Titan, in early 2010.

CC: You have committed yourself to helping youth with your web site The Big Brain Club. In what ways has your dedication to youth brought you satisfaction?

Dom: As a society we sometimes dwell too much on the negative stories we hear about young people, primarily because that's how the news media make their living. Yet, once you work with young people, you see so much to give you hope, and make you smile. The Big Brain Club gives kids the confidence to pursue their love of learning, without worrying about any negative stereotypes that otherwise might have held them back.

The Comet's Curse, and the rest of the books in the Galahad series, features characters who essentially embody the spirit of The Big Brain Club. The stories highlight the very best in kids, and hopefully inspires young people to achieve great things.

CC: For all those writers of young adult fiction:
Please tell how long you marketed the book before signing with Tor.
Did you go the agent route or submit to publishers yourself?
Did you ever consider self-publishing?

Dom: I did publish the books myself at first, which is quite a lot of work. I didn't pursue a traditional publisher, or seek out an agent, because I was anxious to get the books into the market right away. There are certainly trade-offs taking that approach; you DO control the product completely, including the timeline, but you're also responsible for everything, including distribution, marketing, sales, etc. It really eats at the time you have left for writing. I'm thrilled that the Galahad series has a new home with Tor!

CC: What advice do you have for writers?

Dom: Well, that's difficult to answer, because all writers are different. Like most writing teachers will tell you, it's all about discipline, about carving out that time to write as often as possible. The competition is staggering, but until you get your butt in the seat and stare down that keyboard, all you have are dreams. And nobody's buying those right now.

CC: You have three full time jobs with the radio show, writing, and speaking. How do you balance them all? Are you able to write everyday as writers are told they must do?

Dom: Finding balance is a challenge sometimes, but it helps that I love all of the things that I do. I'm fortunate, because so many people are dissatisfied with their professional lives, while I enjoy multiple careers.

However, given that they are all careers, the reality is that at any given time one of those activities is hogging my time, which might mean that writing has to take a back seat temporarily. But usually not for long! It always calls me back.

The Comet’s Curse is available on and major booksellers can order it if they don’t carry the book on their shelves. Locally, in Colorado, many grocery stores are also carrying it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

PDB Interview

My interview with PolkaDotBanner is now posted. Please stop by and read it. Invite your friends also. If you have read "Guinevere" then please leave a brief comment at the end.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Internet Interview

Look for my interview with this month. PDB is a supportive site for authors and readers. Readers can register for free and sign up to enter a free book drawing. They have lots of good books listed. Please stop by and take a look. Watch for Guinevere's cover on the site and click on it for additional information.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Arthur's Story from Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend

Many times, small stories are found in the material that an author must cut from a novel. Following is the story behind Arthur's visit to King Leodegrance and Guinevere.

Arthur's Story

The rider galloped his sweat-streaked horse over the bridge and amid a cloud of dust rode in the bailey (inner courtyard) of the castle. Dismounting, he led his horse to the water trough. The muscles of the broad-boned horse belied its strength. Once the horse was done drinking, the rider dunked his head into the trough. Shaking the water free from his light brown hair, he ran a hand down along the ragged scar on his left cheek. His hand stopped midway as if the scar was painful.


The rider turned and and a broad grin transformed his face and softened the scar.

“Leo,” he replied, striding over to shake the older man’s extended hand.

King Leodegrance pulled Arthur into his arms and hugged him, nearly smothering him in his embrace. Arthur patted the king on the back, his head barely reaching the king’s shoulder.

“It has been many months since these old eyes have rested on your face,” the king said.

“I know, Leo. The northern tribes have kept me and my knights running around a lot of territory just to try and keep up with them, let alone have a chance to conduct a parley.”

“Well, come on inside. Have something to drink and eat. We’ll talk there.”

Arthur glanced around at his battle horse, now breathing more normal.


A short barrel-chested man stomped out of a nearby doorway. His body was covered with a leather apron and he grasped a hammer in his right hand. He acknowledged the hail with a nod of his head and a quick smile on his narrow lips as he recognized the king’s companion.

“Arthur, good to see you again,” Sauder greeted him as Arthur extended his hand which fit easily in Sauder’s.

“Sauder, take care of Arthur’s horse will you?”

“With pleasure, sir.”

“You’ll spend the night?” King Leodegrance asked.

“Yes, if you will extend your hospitality to the knights that are following me. I have gathered several different clans from the southern kings. Somewhere close to two hundred,” Arthur paused.

“It’s not a good sign that you travel with so many,” the king replied.

“No, it is not.”

“Well, no trouble here. I’ll be right back. I’ll advise Brynwyn so Cook can prepare a proper feast for road-weary men.” With that, King Leodegrance left but returned shortly.

As he reentered the room, Arthur was looking out across the bailey. King Leodegrance took a moment to take stock of the young man. Though it had been several months, Arthur had not appeared to have changed much. At times, like now in the safety of friends, his broad shoulders sagged a bit with the weight of the responsibility he had taken upon himself with the death of his father Uther Pendragon. But it was his slight stature that people focused in on, an inheritance from his mother. Most who did not know him believed at first sight that he was weak and easy pickin’s. Those who knew him, like King Leodegrance, understood that that slight stature was deceiving. Rarely was there a warrior as strong mentally and physically as Arthur.

“Well, Arthur, how can I be of assistant in pulling the northern clans together?”

Arthur turned from the window, the sunlight framing him in shining light.

“What I need, Leo,” Arthur started, “is something to make them believe that my proposal is for all of England and not just for my ego. Something that will let them know that this plan, this dream will enable all of us to endure the times ahead.”

“That I agree with. I’m troubled, though, that even with our gathering the support of the southern kingdoms behind you, the northern kings have still chosen to continue their rebellion and their raiding. What do you think they are looking for?”

“I’ve given some thought to this. Maybe stability, a permanence, a sign that whoever pulls all of the kingdoms together will be strong enough to hold them together.” He paused, allowing King Leodegrance to think about his words.

“What do you think would offer this stability, this permanence, this sign?”

“I was thinking of occupying the deserted castle down at Camelot pass. Rebuild the outer walls and fortify the entrances. Also make the castle and other buildings livable. Make it my permanent headquarters. A place where garrisons from all of the kingdoms could live, rotating time of service. What do you think?” He anxiously looked to the king, eager to hear his approval.

King Leodegrance pondered Arthur’s words carefully before speaking. “It just might be what they are looking for, the sign that you are invested in this land like they have been for years. The sign that while you are your father’s son, you bear none of the meanness that he showed them before his death. Yes, it might be a start. But will they also need further assurance?”

“Possibly, but this would be a start. If we work hard, and draw extra men from the southern kings, the castle could be ready by this time next summer.”

“Then let’s do it. We’ll pass the word here tonight and send out messengers to the other kings tomorrow. By the end of the month, you should have an army at work on the castle. Good plan, Arthur.” King Leodegrance reached out and shook Arthur’s hand, sealing the bargain.

“Your highness!” A voice called out from the hall. “Your highness!” James the carver ran into the room. “Cook sent me to tell you,” he paused trying to catch his breath.

“Tell me what?” King Leodegrance demanded.

“Sir, your highness. It’s Guinevere! Look. Out there!”

King Leodegrance strode to the opposite window, Arthur followed. Below, beyond the moat, a crowd was gathering. And there at the edge of the forest ran Guinevere.

“Darn girl. If she were not my daughter and the likeness of my late wife, I could easily take care of her rebellious streak.” He turned and left, off after his daughter. Arthur started to follow, but stopped as the King was confronted by another man outside the room.

“Your highness, you have got to do something about Guinevere. She simply must spend more time on her lessons. It is really a waste of my time otherwise,” Professor Rhymes related.

“How about I decide what is a waste of your time, Professor,” the king answered gruffly as he pushed the professor aside.

“Maybe I’ll just stay here and watch from the window,” Arthur muttered to no one but himself, a smile upon his face. Although he had never met Guinevere, the tales related by the king told of a strong-headed girl on the eve of being a formidable woman.

Watching the scene unfolding below, Arthur continued his conversation with himself.

“What else I need, Leo, my friend and mentor, is a wife. And if I can overcome your objections, I do believe that I have found her.”

If you wish to purchase a signed copy of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, go to www.beyondtodayeducator.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer Writing Fun for Kids

Journaling is an easy and simple way to improve writing skills.

Journals don't have to be lengthy or perfect, or even written. Some of the most exciting journals could be created by kids who aren't old enough to write.

Journaling is a good way for kids to record a special outing, event, vacation, or an entire summer. Because of their creative flexibility, the journal can be adapted for any age and ability. The most common forms are the weekly or daily journals and the lengthier vacation journal.

Weekly or Daily Journal

Have kids pick a week or a day; it doesn't matter. Some special times for the weekly journal could include
  • Summer day camp
  • Visiting relatives
  • Vacation Bible School
Some special times for the daily journal could include
  • Outing to the zoo, museum, ghost town, or....
  • Storytime at the library
  • A birthday party
  • Holidays like Flag Day, 4th of July, Colorado Day
  • Frontier Days
Journal entries can take several forms and all are great learning tools.

• Draw a picture of what they have done, or
• Cut and paste a picture from a magazine, newspaper, etc.
• Take and upload photos to a computer journal.
• Write an entry to go with the picture.
• Simply write an entry without any pictures.

Remember those cave and tomb pictures you've seen? Those were the first journals! So even if you have a child who cannot write a word, they can still create a picture. And if they want, you can fill in the words for them.

Vacation Journal

These journals use a combination of the weekly and daily journals. Several ways to have kids get involved with the journal can be used.
  • At the end of the day, record sights, travel, food, etc.
  • Tell about getting there.
  • Tell about each activity or sight
  • What the hotel/motel was like
  • Where we ate and what we ate
  • What does this vacation place look like
Final Product

Regardless which journal is used, help your kids make it special.
  • Put it on the computer and print it out.
  • Buy an inexpensive photo/scrapbook so kids can then mount their writings and their photos.
  • Encourage them to share with family and friends.

The key for getting kids to use journals is to make it fun. If you demand that they do a journal, then they probably won't. Let them decide what they want to record and how. Even if they know how to write, they may prefer a photo or drawing journal. Remember those cave and tomb paintings!

If your kids, or even you, do this over the summer, let all of us know how it worked. Leave your comment by clicking on the envelope below.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Summer Reading for Kids

If you are still searching for middle grade novels to get your readers and reluctant readers involved in over the summer months, here is one series that will surprise readers and one great horse story to consider.

Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the first book in the Shadow Children series of novels that explore the lives of children who were not supposed to be born. In this world, families are forbidden to have more than two children.

Luke, the third child in his family, has only spent a few hours outside his house. He has never attended school and spends his days inside keeping to himself. He must be careful never to let himself be seen. Then he discovers a girl like himself living next door. The two meet and scheme to get the government to change the ruling. The compelling nature of children being forbidden and forced to remain in hiding engulfs young readers and hooks them to the end.

War Horse

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is a story of Joey, a farm horse, who finds himself in the middle of WW1. That fact alone hooks many young readers. Told by Joey, this story follows his journey into war and explores his relationships and friendships with the many people that come into his life. Along his journey, Joey encounters adults and loving children. His view of war and people present readers with unique views. From his beginning friendship with Albert, to his new master in the army, to the young girl in the French countryside, Joey's story holds young readers' attention.

These books, written for ages 8-12, treat readers to fast paced adventures and protagonists close to their own ages. All three novels novels have strong boy and girl characters. The concepts of friendship and trust presented in each story are ones easily understood by young readers. These books are sure to entice reluctant readers.

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who attended the Book Signing Open House and to those who have purchased Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend.  Your support is appreciated.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Book Signing Open House

May 2nd is the day set for my Book Signing Open House from Noon until 5 pm.  Here is your invitation:

At the dawn of Camelot, one young girl is about to take her place beside the greatest king in England’s history.

Come and meet Guinevere before she became a Legend.

Book Signing Open House:  

Date:  Saturday, May 2, 2009

Time:  Noon-5 PM

Location:  7101 W. Yale Ave.


Buy a book here (10.95) or bring your own to be signed by the author.

Feel free to bring a friend(s).

I hope to see you there.  Thanks to my daughter Shelley and my sisters-in-law Barb and Jodi for arranging this.  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Web Sites for Middle Grade Authors

I came across these fun websites for authors Riodan, Delaney, and Flanagan.

Riodan's site offers a section on Percy's Adventures as well as a section for More Worlds to Explore.

Delaney's website is suitably named The Spook's Mistake. The site offers visitors a chance to see if they have what it takes to be a Spook's Apprentice. There is also a place to sign up to receive the Spook's email newsletter.

Flanagan's website is The Ranger's Apprentice. The site offers in-depth accounts of the characters, heroes and villains alike, as well as maps of the different countries traveled through in the series.

Adults and young readers will enjoy exploring each of these sites.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Guinevere: On The Eve Of Legend is now published and available for purchase.

To say I'm excited is an understatement.

Please visit my website (click on the cover in the upper left hand corner of my blog) to view sales options and to read part of the story.  

There is going to be a release/signing party on May 2nd.  Signed books will be available for purchase.  If you live out of state or will be out of town that weekend and would like a signed copy, let me know, and we'll work out the details.

Hope you visit and enjoy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Great Books for Young Readers

With summer just around the corner, it's time to start thinking of books for summer for those young readers. Here are some excellent choices from the many middle grade novels out there.

Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson Series

These action-packed novels feature the young hero Percy Jackson, half Greek God courtesy of Poseidon, and his friend AnnaBeth, half goddess courtesy of Athena. Together they battle to save the world today from all kinds of threats from the still existing ancient Greek Gods. Mythology has always been a draw for kids of all ages, and Riordan's adventures pull students in immediately with the first chapter of each book. Chapter one in the Thief is titled, "I Accidentally Vaporize my Pre-Algebra Teacher."
  • The Lightning Thief
  • The Sea of Monsters
  • The Titan's Curse
  • The Battle Of The Labyrinth
  • The Demigod Files
Joseph Delaney's The Last Apprentice Series

Thomas Ward is twelve years old and the seventh son of a seventh son. As such, it falls to him to become the apprentice to the local Spook who fights evil and evil creatures. In Revenge, he becomes friends with Alice, the youngest of a witch family, and this complicates his learning because the Spook imprisons witches in a pit to keep them from hurting others.

Each book ends with the current journal entries of young Ward.
  • Revenge Of The Witch
  • Curse Of The Bane
  • Night Of The Soul Stealer
  • Attack Of The Fiend
  • Wrath Of The Bloodeye
  • The Spook's Tale and Other Horrors
John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice Series

Readers meet fifteen-year-old Will who is chosen to be apprenticed to the mysterious Ranger (a modern day spy) in this medieval series. He must learn how to move around the kingdom without being seen, fight for his life only when there is no other choice, and recognize dangers to the kingdom and its people. His enemy from Battle School presents his first challenge. Lots of adventure lurks between the pages.
  • The Ruins Of Gorlan
  • The Burning Bridge
  • The Icebound Land
  • The Battle For Skandia
  • The Sorcerer Of The North
All of these series are suitable for readers in the Fifth grade and up (even adults!). They are lively enough for children as young as seven or eight if read aloud.

And don't forget about Guinevere: On The Eve Of Legend due out in April 2009. Further details will be forthcoming.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Boys and Reading

What happens to those boys and girls once enthralled with The Little Engine That Could?

What happens to those boys and girls whose dog-eared copy of Where the Wild Things Are seemed to magically appear in their hand each night at bedtime?

What happens to those boys and girls once they reach middle school? high school?

While I claim to be no expert, my 20 years of experience teaching these types of boys and girls in the high school classroom and being a parent of a boy and a girl has given me many insights.

In most homes, as in ours, raising children including fostering their interest in reading. An avid reader myself, this was enjoyable. Our children loved storybooks and stories. School book fairs and class library days were among the favorite activities. We even did summer reading programs through the local library.

Our daughter read animal stories, fantasy, and in middle school discovered Christopher Pike. At that point, she became a life-long reader.

Our son loved the "Choose your own adventure" stories. These were packed with action and characters around his own age. Plots ranged from mysteries to space travel. However, the greatest quality of these books was that readers were free to reread the books many times, each time picking a different ending.

Somewhere between the 6th grade and high school, his reading stopped. No more books from the library and no more book fairs. His interests had changed and there were few or no books that appealed to him. Also, technology had hit. He played Nintendo at every opportunity as did most boys at that time. In high school, he read only one book and that was written by Stephen King. Nothing else. His teachers referred to him as a non-reader.

So what happened? We, parents and teachers, didn't know then. It was only when years had passed and I begin encountering similar students in class that I began to understand.

I began to investigate how to get my high school students interested in reading. Eventually I had to change my philosophy on reading. I also began to question education's definition of reading and came to this conclusion: Reading could not continue to revolve around materials determined to be "literature." Reading had to encompass all materials read for enjoyment and/or information.

Remember Nintendo? I swear our son subscribed to or bought every Nintendo guide published. And, he read them from cover to cover, several times! He also poured over the Sports section of the daily newspaper, every day! In college, he started reading financial publications and textbooks. He read research on investment strategies and the financial pages of the newspaper were added to his sports page reading. Today, his reading is done online, and he doesn't miss a day. Now, I don't consider any of this as reading enjoyment, but he does! And he reads. As does nearly everyone. We all just read differently.

But what about literature? Our son and many others like him may not read literature, but they do know the classics of literature. They know the Three Musketeers, the Count of Monte Cristo, Odysseus, the Trojan War and Achilles, and King Arthur. He, and they, just prefer watching instead of reading, the opposite of me.

These boys are readers, and they need to be referred to as readers, their choice of reading materials valued.

Let me know your thoughts on this topic.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why I Write Middle Grade Fiction

A high school English teacher for 20 years, I repeatedly became frustrated when students, most often but not always boys, would not be interested in reading, not even when given a choice of what to read. At first, I decided that I was not using the right avenue to reach them. Many years later, I came to the conclusion that by the time these students reached me, there was little I could do to change them into readers. Mind you, some did change and thanked me later, but the majority of them just did not like to read, not even non-fiction.

That's when I decided to write for reluctant readers. These students can read, but along the way have made the choice, for whatever reason, not to. I knew that I would have to focus on the lower grades (4-6) and find some topic that would interest them at that grade level and maybe, just maybe, keep them reading beyond elementary school.

I chose the world of King Arthur because I am passionate about everything in that world. In my 9th grade English classes, I taught "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White. The students explored the ideals presented and eagerly searched to find those ideals in their worlds. They (boys and girls) loved the adventures of Merlyn and Wart. The ones who didn't read the whole book listened to their peers talk about the book and became involved that way. So, I knew that this would be where I would start my writing. My subject for this first book evolved when students did not know anything of Guinevere, or only knew that she cheated on King Arthur and caused the fall of Camelot.

I set about to write a story that would acquaint elementary students with Guinevere and show them what she was like at their age. The story leaves students understanding that Guinevere was not the sole or even main cause of King Arthur's failure. It teaches a lesson that I must have had buried in my subconscious and never realized.