The Meaning of Maggie Blog Tour with Interview & Giveaway

Thank you to Chronicle Books and Megan Jean Sovern for inviting me to be a part of this Blog Tour for The Meaning of Maggie.  

So, first can I say where was this book when I was a couple of years older than Maggie and my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis? 

If THE MEANING OF MAGGIE had existed way, way back then, it would have been my favorite book and you would have been my favorite author. (I still think you are really cool. =>) I really felt that no one understood especially since my mother's MS wasn't as visible in those early years but it still significantly impacted my family and me.

It’s just so curious because I really struggled with whether or not it should ever be revealed that Maggie’s dad has MS. I just didn’t think enough people would be able to relate to it. I was always the only kid with a parent who had it. And to be honest, I never felt a real connection to the illness. I heard those two letters a lot around my house but I never really knew what they meant. My dad could have had a really prolonged case of the chickenpox for all I knew.

But in the end it seemed most right to share that he had MS. We didn’t want to keep readers in the dark especially when we were asking so much of them. This story is a big emotional investment. That’s why I advise reading it with chocolate in close proximity.

As you were writing the story, were you thinking about the story that you wanted to tell or did you also think about how it might resonate with other readers who had their own experiences with a family member with MS?  I know that everyone's story/experience is different but when I meet someone who had a parent with MS I feel a certain connection with them. 

When I started writing I didn’t consider the reader as much as I considered the story. And how this story about these people being challenged by this disease was one worth telling. I didn’t think as much readers because I didn’t know if there would ever be any readers. It was just a Word Document for such a long time. One that I kept coming back to not knowing if I would ever let it see the light of day.

This story was in my bones because I lived it in many ways and because I just couldn’t walk away from it. No matter how hard I tried.

But now that it is out in the world, I’m so happy people with similar stories feel connected to it.

You chose to set the book in 1988 (not sure if that makes it historical fiction or not?!), but was there a reason to tell the story in that time period vs. the present day? From reading some things on-line and in the acknowledgements, it seems that the story is very autobiographical and I was wondering if that played a part in the decision for the time period? 

I mostly set the book in 1988 because I didn’t want Maggie to be able to Google every single thing. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding her life that could be easily solved with the Internet. I also set it in 1988 because that’s when Spaceballs came out on VHS and it was really important to me that Maggie like Spaceballs.

In one review on-line, someone mentioned that it felt odd that Maggie's family would have kept her in the dark about her father's condition. Since my mother tried to keep her diagnosis hidden for a while, I could relate to Maggie and also to her discovery of what MS is. Do you feel that families are more open to talking about these kinds of issues or concerns with children today than they were 20+ years ago? 

I don’t know if families are more open about sharing big issues today because they want to. I think it may be out of necessity. Again, kids just have access to so much information and I think you want them to be informed in an educated and responsible way. The Internet is a scary place for everybody. Except for cats. I feel like cats have a really safe and cozy home on the Internet.

I noticed that Chronicle has included the soundtrack ( ) for the book? How did you select the music?  

Every book should have a soundtrack. We should really try to get this signed into law. The music we chose is pulled from the pages of Maggie. Her dad is such a dedicated hippie fan of rock n’ roll and the scenes they share over music are some of my favorites. I also listened to so much of it while I was writing. The Rolling Stones have some mellower melodies that are perfect for writing. Just put on Wild Horses and heat up a muffin and you have a perfect day of revising ahead of you.

To shift directions some, do you have other stories that you plan on sharing with readers? Any projects that you are working on that you can share with us? 

Oh gosh, I do have another story I am working on but it’s in the very early Post-It note and scrap paper stages. But I have high hopes it will take shape. Other than that I am doing my best to share Maggie with the world. I am also trying to keep three tomato plants alive. I don’t have such high hopes for them.

Finally, were there any questions that you wish I had asked? If so, what was it and what would be your answer? 

I wish you would have asked me my favorite thing about cinnamon rolls. And I would have said I love EVERYTHING about cinnamon rolls.

By the way, I truly appreciate your choice and the choice of Chronicle Books to donate a portion of the sales of the book to the National MS Society. 

I think I cried more buckets when Chronicle Books told me about this generous donation than when they actually bought Maggie. It just means the world. They are good people. Yes, indeed.

Side note: The nature of this book just hit me on a much more personal level then most books do that my questions were of a much more personal nature and I appreciate Megan's willingness to answer them. Here was her final comment...

I just can’t believe there are others out there like us! I really hope you felt at home in this story. It has been such a nice thing for me to come back to whenever I need to revisit all those many moons ago. MS is a terrible, horrible thing. But it does offer a few beautiful moments. Watching my dad give it his all shaped my whole entire life. I’m sure you feel the same way about your mom. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

by Megan Jean Sovern
Chronicle Books (May 6, 2014)
Audience: Ages 8-12

About the book:
As befits a future President of the United States of America, Maggie Mayfield has decided to write a memoir of the past year of her life. And what a banner year it’s been! During this period she’s Student of the Month on a regular basis, an official shareholder of Coca-Cola stock, and defending Science Fair champion. Most importantly, though, this is the year Maggie has to pull up her bootstraps (the family motto) and finally learn why her cool-dude dad is in a wheelchair, no matter how scary that is. Author Megan Jean Sovern, herself the daughter of a dad with multiple sclerosis, writes with the funny grace and assured prose of a new literary star.

A portion of the proceeds of the sale of this book will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Read a chapter here:

Meaning of Maggie by ChronicleBooks

Watch the Official Book Trailer:

Additional resources: Discussion Guide
click on image to go to PDF

About the author:

Megan Jean Sovern is a purveyor of fine teas, old time-y music and hugs. Recently she was in a bad break-up with muffins and her life hasn’t been the same since. She’s often mistaken for a seventh grader but don’t be fooled, she is very grown-up. A grown-up who watches television past ten o’clock and everything.

Before her first leap into fiction, she was an advertising copywriter for many moons where she worked with top-notch talent mostly named Matt or Karen.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Ted and his near complete collection of Transformers. He doesn’t like it when she says, “Zoinks.”

Her website: 

Additional Blog Tour Stops:

5/13/2014          Chronicle  
5/14/2014          VVB32 reads   
5/15/2014          Mother Daughter Book Club    
5/16/2014          Actin' Up with Books   
5/17/2014          The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia       
5/18/2014          Kid Lit Frenzy 
5/19/2014          The Children's Book Review    
5/20/2014          Let's Get Busy podcast

Thank you to Chronicle Books, one lucky reader will be selected to receive a copy of The Meaning of Maggie plus a set of Maggie buttons.  You must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address.  Please enter the giveaway by filling out the Rafflecopter below.

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The Secret Hum of a Daisy Blog Tour & Giveaway

Thank you Tracy Holczer for including me in your blog tour for The Secret Hum of a Daisy.

The Secret Hum of a Daisy
by Tracy Holczer
Putnam Juvenile (May 1, 2014)

Description from GoodReads:
Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place like gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she's found it her mother says it's time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother's sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met. She can't imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe it is her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

Lyrical, poignant and fresh, The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a beautifully told middle grade tale with a great deal of heart.


Tracy took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about her new book, writing, her personal book journey and more. Thank you Tracy for visiting with me and for writing such a wonderful book.

This is your debut novel and I know that you have been working on it for awhile, how does it feel to finally see it out in the wild and also to see that is was a SLJ starred review & top pick, and a starred review from PW, and though not a starred review an excellent review from Kirkus

When I sat down to write a novel, my wildest dream was to be published. But what fuelled that dream, was the idea that someone, somewhere would read my story and feel a personal connection to it. To have people personally connecting and enjoying the story enough to give it their best praise is more than a little surreal. Ultimately, I’m thrilled about the great reviews because I’m hopeful it will get into the hands of more kids.

The Secret Hum of a Daisy (SHoaD) has been well received by teachers, librarians, and other adults. I know the book hasn't been out for long, but have you received any emails or letters from middle grade readers yet? 

All three of my kids went to the same elementary school and two of them had the same sixth grade teacher (Hi, Mrs. Hall!). She has been a wonderful support and advocate for the book so when it came out in galley form, I gave a copy to her and she read it aloud to her class. I was nervous about this as HUM has such a prominent emotional journey. But Mrs. Hall assured me the class was enjoying the treasure hunt elements and the family mystery as well. When she was finished, I visited with the class and was overwhelmed by the response. A few wrote letters, some made art, others folded cranes. They had such wonderful and astute questions about Grace and her journey. I got many hugs and one proposal of marriage. So I’d say that was a win!

One of the things that struck me about SHoaD when I started was the lovely writing voice. There was a lyrical or poetic feel about the book, which always makes me stop to savor the richness of the language, and also to admire the skill of the writer. Were you influenced by poetry or particular writers as you were developing your craft? 

When I first started writing, I went to a workshop where I had my first experience with professional critiques. The agent told me she had no idea what I was trying to do with my story, and the group critique was equally dismal. They told me I had no voice. I’m not sure there is a worse criticism of one’s writing than being told you have no voice. Interestingly, I didn’t get my feelings hurt, though. I just figured I had a ways to go. Boy did I. It wasn’t until I was mentored years later by Patti Gauch in Chautauqua—a program put on by the Highlights Foundation—that I even understood what “voice” was. Patti pointed out the sentences that actually carried my voice and once I recognized myself, I was able to stay true. Sounds strange, but I was so caught up in thinking my “voice” was weird, that I resisted it for a long time.

As far as influences go, I have always loved Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou. I haven’t read poetry widely as most of it feels a bit esoteric to me. But I have loved those three because they are accessible. I don’t consider myself to be all that poetic, really. I do far too much galumphing for that. Both metaphorically and literally. But I also steeped myself in middle grade books by Sharon Creech, Katherine Paterson and Cynthia Rylant to name just a few. So their influence has definitely leaked in.

Sometimes the most obvious things are right in front of us, but we have trouble seeing it. Maybe we are too close to the situation or just not ready to see what others can clearly see. Grace seems to struggle a lot with that issue in this book? Was that intentional on your part as the writer or did Grace resist what you were trying to show her? 

Yes and no as to my intention. No because Grace’s circumstances dictated her story. As a writer who starts with character first, I had to follow her lead. She was a very stubborn girl, who was street smart and had grown a hard shell to protect herself. Grace did what any kid would have done in her situation, I believe. She desperately wanted what was right in front of her, but had to battle deep feelings of disloyalty, grief and confusion. Also, to a certain degree, she’s punishing herself.

And yes, it was intention on my part because this is a snapshot of a dysfunctional family. Not to an extreme degree, but dysfunctional none-the-less. In dysfunctional families there tends to be an alternate reality of How Things Work. Unravelling that is hard. This was a really important element of the story for me.

What was your own book journey like as a child and teen or did you find books later? Do you have particular books that acted as the back drop to your life as a child and teen? 

I had a strange book journey. I have no memory of enjoying reading until I was eleven and read Little Women. That book completely changed the way I looked at reading. Not long after, my parents didn’t want me reading, afraid it was fanning the flames of my introversion. But then fate intervened, and we moved into a house across the street from the Cupertino Public Library when I was twelve. I snuck over there every weekend and those librarians fed me books. But mostly, they left me alone to read what I wanted. No matter which shelves I pulled from. I remember reading a biography of Marilyn Monroe, Flowers in the Attic, some Stephen King along with The Hobbit, and some Agatha Christie mysteries. My taste was eclectic and still is.

What is in your TBR pile currently?

Right now, my TBR pile is empty. I can’t read when I’m writing. The stories don’t stick with me and I find myself reading the same page over and over again. And I don’t make a pile because there are already too many of those in my house. So here is a picture of all my Already Read Books.

What is/are your favorite indie bookstores and why? 

Oh how I love Once Upon a Time in Montrose, California. They are my local indie and I have been buying books there since we first moved into the area and my kids were tiny. My middle girl and I stood in line at midnight for the Deathly Hallows dressed up like we lived at Hogwarts, and made wands out of sticks that the store provided (I still have hers), and we’ve been to countless author visits and book signings. Maureen Palacio and Kris Vreeland are very dear to my heart and have cheered me on for all the years I was writing. Plus they have always been great at recommending books for my whole family.

If you could do a book tour with another author (living or dead) who would it be and why? 

Definitely Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is my very favorite novel in all the world. Plus there is so much mystery surrounding why she never wrote another story and why she is so reclusive. I couldn’t resist.

What is the view from where you write?

There are many views from where I write since I am mostly in coffee shops all around La Crescenta. But when I’m home, I plop in the middle of my sofa. The view isn’t the greatest (especially now since my husband’s truck is in the way) because it’s a view of a wall. We live down an easement which means our front neighbor’s back yard wall is in our front yard. However, it does make me feel cozy and tucked in. And there is the bonus of no street traffic to distract me from my made up worlds.

Bio - Tracy Holczer lives in Southern California with her husband, three daughters, and two rather fluffy dogs named Buster and Molly. She has a deep love for the mountains where she grew up so she writes them into her stories. A 2014 ABA *Indies Introduce*New Voices pick, her debut middle grade, The *Secret Hum of a Daisy*, was written in praise of both nature and family, and all that can be found if you're willing to hunt for treasure. It will be also be published by Konigskinder/Carlsen in Germany, fall 2015.  
Where to find out more about Tracy Holczer: website | facebook | twitter |

For a signed copy of The Secret Hum of a Daisy, you can contact Once Upon a Time. (Note: Make sure and note it in the comments of the purchase that you would like an authographed copy, or they won't know about the autograph.)

Check out all of the links in the Blog Tour:

May 7: Leandra Wallace 
May 8: Heidi Schulz 
May 9: AuthorOf 
May 11: Kidlit Frenzy 
May 12: Literary Rambles 

To enter to win a copy of The Secret Hum of a Daisy, please enter using the Rafflecopter below:

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Going Over Blog Tour - Interview with Author Beth Kephart & Giveaway

Beth Kephart stops by to talk about her new book, GOING OVER, and shares with us about her own writing journey, favorite Indie Bookstore, and more.

GOING OVER takes place in 1983. Do you see this as a story that is told in the recent past or historical fiction? Does the difference even matter? 

I love that you ask — does the difference matter. Because I am just the worst of the worsts when it comes to labeling things. I think of GOING OVER precisely as you describe it—a story that takes place in 1983. Because I live inside that space in my imagination, it feels like right this instant.

What drew you to the story of Ada and Stefan? 

I had a conversation with my editor, Tamra Tuller, about Berlin—a city to which we have both traveled and a city with which we both fell in love. We felt it was important to tell a very personal story about the impact of the Wall. The Wall came first, then. And then I began to study geography, character, the historical record. Ada and Stefan emerged from that.

Authors doing research for books have some great tips and ideas for gaining information. Do you have one or two techniques that English teachers could adapt to make writing projects/prompts more interesting for students? 

There’s little I love more than doing the research. My gosh, it breaks my world wide open with the new. I think the trick lies in making the whole thing relevant, making it feel urgent. So, for example, Ada has pink hair. I needed to be sure that she would have access, in 1983, to pink dye, I needed to know how the pink hair would grow out, all of that stuff. I hopped on down to my hairdresser. Sat in her chair. Had her talk to me about hair color and its history. And then she began to talk to me about graffiti, believe it or not. And she gave me the details with which I begin the book.

What is your book story? (What was the book that made you a reader/writer and who was the person who recommended it if there was someone?) 

The book that made me a reader/writer! What a great question. Well. Let’s see. I was a writer (or thought I was) before I was a real reader, I hate to admit (since everything is wrong about that). Then again, I was only nine years old. But I have to say that it was a research project I did when I was sixteen (the subject: F. Scott and Hemingway) that turned me into a reader. You couldn’t stop me after that. For many years, I read only nonfiction—biography and history. (I majored in the History and Sociology of Science at Penn.) When I was in my early thirties I turned to memoir. Then I became a book omnivore.

Is there an author or authors that influenced your writing journey? 

I wish you could come to my house and see the hundreds upon hundreds of triple stacked books on my many shelves. (My house isn’t big, but my shelves are wide and long.) Every single book here has influenced me in some way — either because I loved it or because I didn’t and because, no matter what, I study the pages to understand why. But I happen to love Michael Ondaatje, Alice McDermott, Colum McCann, Chloe Aridjis, and many, many others. Really, the emphasis is on many.

What is your favorite indie bookstore? Where is it located? Why do you like it? 

I have visited many a great independent bookstore in my day. Locally I love, for example, that Children’s Book World, the Spiral Bookcase, Main Point Books, Harleysville Books, and Chester County Book Company are still here and near and proud. In Florence, Italy, I love Paperback Exchange. In California, I love Book Passage, Copperfield, and Kepler’s. In Decatur, GA, it’s all about Little House of Stories. In Larchmont, NY, it’s all about The Voracious Reader. When I’m on the Penn campus I always visit the used bookstore, The Last Word, and always bring something home (most recently Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue). But I also have to mention the very first independent bookstore I ever frequented, as a young college girl. It’s called Joseph Fox Bookshop. Fabulously small and fabulously smart, in the city of Philadelphia. I bought every single architecture book they had, way back when. And today, at many Philadelphia events, you can count on Fox to be there.

Any new projects that you are working on that you can share with us? 

Gosh, yes. Many new projects. Next year, Chronicle will publish One Thing Stolen, a book that takes place in Florence, Italy, and West Philadelphia. In the fall, Temple University Press will re-release my river autobiography, Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, as a paperback—excited about that, because it’s such an odd, little book and because my river was just named PA River of the Year (woot) and because, after all these years, schools are beginning to assign the book in their science and literature classes. I’m also at work on an essay/photography collection about Philadelphia, based on my monthly columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer. And I have just started work on a new novel.

What is in your TBR (to-be-read) pile? Can you share a picture of it? 

Well, you just opened up a huge can of words, I mean worms. Because my TBR pile is the oddest one in the universe. I teach memoir at Penn, and so there are some old and new memoirs in there (not to mention my students’ work). I review adult novels for the Chicago Tribune, and so I’ve got some stuff I cannot show you. I’m still fascinated by Berlin and by walls in general, so I’m reading some new texts like Within Walls and Border Patrol Nation. I’m reading about linguistics and environmental science, I want to read several grand new novels like The Flamethrowers. I’m halfway through Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle. And on my Kindle reader is Boy, Snow, Bird. Yep. I’m one confused, crazy person.

by Beth Kephart 
Chronicle Books (April 2014)

To read a excerpt:

What would Ada and Stefan have listened to on their Sony Walkmen?

Check out the blog tour schedule here

4/2/2014 My Friend Amy
4/3/2014 The Flyleaf Review
4/4/2014 The Book Swarm
4/5/2014 There’s A Book
4/6/2014 YA Romantics
4/7/2014 Teenreads Blog
4/8/2014 The 3 R’s Blog
4/9/2014 Forever Young Adult
4/10/2014 Kid Lit Frenzy
4/11/2014 Tales of the Ravenous Reader
4/12/2014 Addicted 2 Novels

Enter to win a copy of Going Over - the book and audiobook.  Please enter by completing the Rafflecopter below.  The winner must have a US mailing address and be over 13 years old. 

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Author Interview: Mike Mullins, The Ashfall Trilogy

Welcome to Kid Lit Frenzy Mike! Thank you for being willing to answer a few questions. 

My pleasure.

I have to admit that I tend to have an anxiety/panic attack when I think about or read apocalyptic type books, especially the natural disaster types.  So, I can't imagine writing about them.

Well, I guess I owe you an apology. Sorry about that.

So for my first questions - After writing three books centered around a disaster, do you find yourself checking your basement food stock or replenishing a survival bag in your trunk? Or maybe I should ask what have you done to prepare for a disaster? 

Nope. I’m well prepared for a short term disaster—three weeks or less. But if something like what I describe in my books happens, I have a simple plan: I’ll die.

If you’re a woman between 14 and 35, prepping for the end of the world as we know it makes a lot of sense. But men are far less likely to survive apocalyptic situations than women (we have more muscle mass and less body fat on average than women, so we need more fuel and have less). And people over 35 generally don’t survive in famine situations, which makes me doubly doomed. There’s an interesting study of the Donner party that makes shows who survived and why here: 

In your first book, ASHFALL, you had to create the parameters in which you would work with for subsequent books. Was there anything that you wish you hadn't written because it made something more difficult in later books? 

No, I outlined the whole trilogy before I finished ASHFALL. So I’ve been working from the same outline for five years. I did allow myself to diverge from the outline quite a bit, so what I wrote isn’t exactly what I envisioned five years ago. But it’s pretty close.

When you think back to your own teen self, do you think you would have managed as well as Alex and Darla did/have? 

No, I would have died. I had all of Alex’s impulsivity and none of his taekwondo skills. I started taking taekwondo about five years ago specifically so that I could do a better job of writing ASHFALL.

On a lighter note (or hopefully it will be lighter), if you could spend the day with any character from another author's book, who would it be and what would you spend the day doing?

I’d love to take a day of survival and combat training from Katsa, the heroine of Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

What books have you read as a teen or an adult that you consider mentor text for your later development as a writer? 

I got some feedback about ASHFALL from a literary agent who thought I wasn’t deep enough into Alex’s head—that the story wasn’t involving enough at an emotional level. So I reread The Hunger Games three or four times—it does a fabulous job getting the reader emotionally invested in Katniss. The only problem? My copy of The Hunger Games is a signed first printing. I couldn’t bear to make notes in it. Instead, I put a zillion color-coded post-it notes in the book with my observations on how Collins added emotional content to her work.

What writing routines do you have? And where do you like to write?

I’m a nomadic writer—I work anywhere my laptop happens to be. I like to intersperse my writing with walks—I’ll write a few pages, walk for a while, then plop down somewhere and write some more.

Do you have any new projects that you are working on that you can share with us? 

Sure. I’m about 30,000 words into the first draft of SURFACE TENSION, a young adult thriller. It’s about a teen who sees a group of terrorists crashing an airplane from the ground. He’s the only one who knows how they did it, and they want him dead. I haven’t sold it yet, so I don’t know when or even if it will be published. Wish me luck!

What is in your current TBR (to-be-read) pile?

I couldn’t possibly list all the books in my pile. But here’s a pic:

Thank you again Mike for stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy. 

Thanks for having me!

About Mike Mullins: Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really glad this writing thing seems to be working out.

Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. SUNRISE is his third novel. ASHFALL, the first novel of the trilogy, was named one of the top five young adult novels of 2011 by National Public Radio, a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and a New Voices selection by the American Booksellers Association.

You can find Mike: website | blog | twitter | facebook | google+ | pinterest | tumblr | booklikes

About SUNRISE: The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task requiring even more guts and more smarts than ever—and unthinkable sacrifice. If they fail . . . they, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors will perish.

This epic finale has the heart of ASHFALL, the action of ASHEN WINTER, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.

To read an except of SUNRISE:
The first two chapters are available on Mike's website at: You may reprint the first two chapters in whole or in part on your website so long as you do not charge anyone anything to access them. Warning: the sample does contain ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER spoilers.

Little Chicken's Big Christmas: Interview with Katie Davis & Jerry Davis

Today I welcome Katie and Jerry Davis to Kid Lit Frenzy to celebrate the release of Little Chicken's Big Christmas.  

I loved Little Chicken's Big Day and so excited to see that you have decided to do another Little Chicken book. What made you think of doing a Christmas story? And what prompted going the indie route? 

Katie: Both Jerry and I love Little Chicken of course, and I kept seeing him in my mind's eye with a Santa hat on. In mid-October I said to Jerry, in my typical WE-MUST-DO-THIS-AND-DO-THIS-NOW! sort of way, "Hey, honey, we should do a Christmas book with Little Chicken." I figured we could indie publish, double it as a marketing experiment, and help other authors at the same time. I felt it was a symbiotic opportunity because other writers could learn how to launch a book and learn from my mistakes, missteps, and successes, and for me to see if an effort like this would work.

If it does work, I'll repeat the process with both my upcoming spring release of my young adult novel, Dancing with the Devil (Diversion Books), and the next edition of my eBook, How to Promote Your Children's Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. I've re-written it with new content, a bunch of additional chapters and information. I'll announce when I'm launching both teams on all my social media platforms: my Site, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, My Podcast and will again have limited signup times, just like this one.

Jerry: Why we went the indie route and the Christmas story is actually quite related. An indie book can be done quickly, and that worked for us in this case. It's a holiday book, so we had to get it out fast. A traditional publisher couldn't have done that in this time frame. What I love about Little Chicken is he has a lot of attitude. He'll go along with his mom's agenda, but his patience wears thin in about a nanosecond. And from a kid point of view, the holiday season involves all this adult craziness while kids are focused on the presents. So it was fun to imagine Little Chicken amid the holiday bustle. Impatient at times, but enjoying the traditions despite himself. And by discovering that Little Chicken's impatience comes from a purely loving and selfless place, we get to underscore the importance of giving and expressing love during the holiday season, no matter how crazy things get. That seemed like a good reason to do an indie book!

Do you and Jerry have any special ways of collaborating together on projects? Do you talk things through or work separately? 

Jerry: I think and process and process and think and edit and then process and think and edit. Then I speak. Katie's process is kind of the other way around. So we each have to bend a bit for the other.

Katie: That's Jerry's nice way of saying I speak before I think. 8-) I definitely leap and then look. Lucky for me Jerry's at the bottom of the crevasse holding the net!

Picture books can be a challenge. You have a limited number of words and pages to get the story just right. What techniques do you use/go through when writing a picture book? 

Jerry: Every word needs to earn its place. I've worked in animation for a long time, and the challenge is similar: making sure each word and gesture and image is working together to tell the story. It's an iterative process that requires a lot of revisions to keep it simple!

Katie: What he said. (That was me keeping it simple.)

Do you have any other projects that you are working on that you can share with us? 

Katie: Yes! I'm especially happy to share this with you because of Bridge to Books! I just sold my first young adult novel and am furiously working on that for my new editor. It's the book I mentioned above called Dancing with the Devil, and should be out the end of March or the beginning of April, 2014 from Diversion Books.

What has been the best letter/comment/question that you have ever received from a child/student? 

Katie: Two come to mind. One is funny and one, meaningful.

Funny: I was giving a presentation to a gym full of first and second graders. Finally, at the end of the program I told them it was Q&A time and that they could ask me anything they wanted. I got the usual "how do you come up with your ideas" kinds of questions, and then one little girl raised her hand and asked, "How do you play the trumpet?" Frankly, I had no answer to that because I don't play an instrument, nor was I speaking about music at the time!

Meaningful: "How can I be a writer when I grow up?" I love this question because it reveals a lot. It tells me that books mean something to this child, and that he or she knows that the job of writer is a possibility. It's also an opportunity to let them know that reading is important (and will get them somewhere) because the more you read the better you write.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and where is it? 

Katie: That's so not fair! There are too many awesome ones. After all, these are the people who love and champion books that need boosts. There's my local, Noka Joe's, in Katonah, NY. There's Vroman's and Children's Book World near you, and Hicklebee's, and I love the peeps at Copperfield's in Petaluma where my brother lives, there's my friend Elizabeth Bluemle's Flying Pig, up in VT. and RJ Julia's in Madison, CT... and there are so many more! No way to pick a fave.

What inspired you to start Brain Burps? 

Katie: In the welcome video on my site I go into that story a bit. The name was a mistake, actually. I wanted to create a blog that could cover anything under the umbrella of the craft and business of children's books so I called it Brain Burps About Books. I thought the phrase was brain BURPS. It's not "burps," it's another word that has to do with a bodily function but I didn't know that! But the name stuck. By the time I started the podcast people knew the name so for continuity, stayed with the name, Brain Burps About Books.

I know that you have done quite a few picture books. Have you ever thought of taking on the challenge of writing a book for 2nd and 3rd graders? (I think you have a great sense of humor and would really be able to create a wonderful story for that tough to write for audience.) 

Katie: Now I have!

Any questions that you wish I had asked?

Both: Yes! "Where can my readers get Little Chicken's Big Christmas?" 8-)

The link to get Little Chicken's Big Christmas is: 

If you don't have a Kindle, you can still get it because there's a free Kindle for Mac app available right on that page which you can download for your iPad, laptop, or desktop.

Plus, if you buy it between Dec 5-12 and submit your receipt to you will get a gift with every purchase: a downloadable Write Your Own Coloring Book version of the book!

We're having a different enticing promotion every week up through Christmas. You never know what you might get and nothing will be repeated, so you'll have to take advantage if you like what you see at the time!

Thanks for doing this and glad to celebrate Little Chicken. 

NO! Thank YOU, Alyson!! We so appreciate the support!

Stop by on Thursday for my review of Little Chicken's Big Christmas.