Middle Grade Ninja…and a little presentation advice.

Hi Everyone!

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If you’re new around here (welcome) you might not know that I spent my pre-author years as a seventh grade language arts teacher.

I LOVED it.

Seriously.

I worked with some of the best people and middle school kids are some of my favorites. When I transitioned from teacher to author, I brought some of my teaching savey with me, and I shared some of that wisdom today over on Robert Kent’s AMAZING blog Middle Grade Ninja. 

Middle Grade Ninja

I used to stalk this blog religiously when I was in the querying trenches, and his agent interviews are priceless. (Also-fun fact. When I was stalking his blog I ACTUALLY LIVED IN THE SAME TOWN WITH HIM! I HAD NO IDEA!  MIND. BLOWN. )

Anyways, if you haven’t stumbled upon him yet on your own, you’re welcome.

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Having taught my fair share of middle school kids, I like to think I know a thing or two about what to do…or more importantly…what NOT to do when presenting.  So pop on over to Middle Grade Ninja and check it out!  Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.23.26 PM

 

Book Launch!

There are three things you need to know before reading this post.

  1. My mom throws fabulous parties. She stresses about them for months before hand, gives pinterest a workout, and ultimately ends up with a show-stopping event that she will immediately credit to other people. She is wonderful.
  2. I asked my mom to throw this party. However, I asked her six years ago. I was nowhere NEAR having a book published. It was still a dream at that point, but I remember being on the phone whining and griping (in the way one only can to one’s mother) about a recent rejection, and I said. “Mom. If I ever do get a book published. I want to throw a party. A big one.” She remembered. And six years later. She and my dad threw me one heck of a book launch.
  3. This post has about a million pictures. You’ve been warned.

Now that that’s out of the way, back to the Book Launch Party!

How to Throw a fabulousbook launch

The theme was obviously going to be dinosaurs, but there is a fine line between dinosaur book launch and little boy’s dinosaur birthday party. I think we hit the nail on the head though!

We held the launch at my parent’s house, and it was the perfect backdrop for Edge’s launch! (I think Ivan would have felt at home here? Don’t you?)

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As our visitors arrived they were greeted by this sign…

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Some strategically place dinosaur bones…

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And this toothy wreath!

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The fun didn’t stop on the front porch though! Inside guests was met by this handsome girl!

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Everyone thought we rented an animatronic dinosaur for the event, but this was actually a toy my cousin Jenna had stored in her garage. WHAT?! I know! Who has dinosaurs stored in their garage?! My family apparently!

She was even cooler in person, moving her head and horns around, opening her mouth, making dinosaur noises.

I tried to buy it off my cousin.

She said no.

I don’t blame her.

But could you imagine the look on peoples’ faces if I hauled a three foot dinosaur into bookstores for book signings? #priceless

Moving on. We had a table set up with my recent reviews as well as the blown up cover of my book.

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I’m biased. But I think the cover is even prettier three feet tall. Eric Deschamps really outdid himself on this one!

Inside we had an author’s table set up for me to sign books.

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My mom also bought a TON of books in case our visitors decided they wanted to buy any extras as gifts for friends, neighbors, the mailman, the mailman’s cousin…you get the idea. She was prepared!

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The good news is that we sold them all! Yippee!!!

And then there was the food. OH the food.

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We may have gone a little overboard.

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I’ve seen weddings with less food. My cousin Jeff’s restaurant catered the big stuff for us, and if anyone went home hungry they just weren’t trying hard enough…

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I was so busy signing and talking and hugging all the wonderful people who came that I never really got to eat much of it!  Which was okay, because I got to take home the leftovers!

My Aunt Cathy carved up the watermelon T-Rex. Amazing.

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And the desert table was enough to make any kid flip.

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There were dinosaurs decorating Every. Single. Surface.

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Beware the Megapnosaurus guarding the fruit tray!

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Do you recognize the handsome guy in the middle from my cover?

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Mmmmmm Dino Droppings…..

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I also have to mention the dirt cups because they don’t show up very well on the desert table. But they were one of my favorite things there.

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Well, actually, that’s a lie. My favorite thing at the party was the people who drove HOURS and HOURS to be there to celebrate the realization of a life long dream. Friends and family came and bought stacks of books. I got hugged and congratulated and hugged some more.

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DSC01314(Did you spot the Edge of Extinction T-shirts?  My dad also made mugs! He was all for putting the cover on everything from a golf shirt to coasters, but we had to reign him in. I mean, my husband loves me, but I don’t think even he would wear a huge book cover on his back while golfing!)

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Some of my old colleagues from Clay Middle School even made the drive up to see me…wearing…get this…pins with my face on them. My mom promptly stole one and wore it for the rest of the night.

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Fun fact…the only guy in the picture is the ORIGINAL Todd. I totally stole his name while working on the book with every intention of changing it later on…but then I got attached and it stuck. I waited until the book was two days from being published to mention it to him though. Whoops!

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Speaking of teachers…if you read the acknowledgements page I posted on here recently, you may have noticed that I mentioned my high school English teacher. Well he and his wife made the hike to come to the party! It just goes to show the impact one phenomenal teacher can make. I was blessed to be taught by an entire fleet of phenomenal teachers...a fact I am incredibly thankful for.

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The other surprise of the night was when my girlfriends from high school all showed up! Each of them had told me they weren’t going to be able to make it…and I believed them! They all have kids and the general chaos that comes from this season of life. But they made it happen, and on top of that, they spent the night so I was able to laugh and talk to them until it was WAY past our bedtimes. Seriously the best.

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My best –known me since third grade and likes me anyways– friend Allison tried the same trick- telling me she couldn’t make it when she really planned on coming- but I knew her too well and she wasn’t able to pull it off. That didn’t change the fact that I was SO grateful that she flew all the way from Colorado with her two kids to be here for the party. You caught that part about flying by herself with two kids right? Because that makes her either a rockstar or insane. I’m going to go with rockstar.

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Speaking of rockstars…

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These beautiful ladies were my mom’s partners in crime when it came to getting this party set up. They moved picture frames, adjusted dinosaurs, carved watermelons, and generally helped my mom in the way I used to be able to before I had two children and became more of a hindrance than a help.

This whole thing wouldn’t have happened though without these two amazing people.

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Let me introduce you to my parents. They are just the best and I can’t even begin to thank them for everything they’ve been and done for me. I attempted to do it in my acknowledgements, but I don’t think I did them justice. And even though my mom was the brain child and the hustle behind this party, my dad did MORE than his fair share of the work getting the house into shape, running errands, and even picking up the dinosaur eggs (donuts) the morning of the event, and surprising a certain two year old with her very own blueberry donut. Ever since we started reading If You Give A Dog A Donut at bedtime, the girl has been obsessed.

On a side note, a party goer also sent me this picture after the party was over. When did my dad become a pushover about sweets?

My husband also wrangled BOTH kids all afternoon, and they did not make it easy on him. He deserved an award when it was all over. (No pictures of that dapper dude though. He prefers to remain mysterious on the blog front!)

If all of this party hoopla wasn’t enough, people even brought me gifts! Can you believe it!????

Insane.

They would hand me things in baggies and boxes and say something like, “We didn’t know what to get someone for a book launch!” My answer was “YOU GET THEM NOTHING!” The gift was that you BOUGHT MY BOOK and you CAME! THAT is the gift. Still, everyone’s generosity amazed, overwhelmed, and touched me deeply.

I am so blessed to be so well loved by so many amazing people.

So there you have it. A book launch like no other! Now I’m off to my kitchen. Those left overs aren’t going to eat themselves!

Plus a certain two year old also already tucked the T-Rex in for the night…so my job here is done!

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A School Visit and a Walk Down Memory Lane

Middle schoolers are their own unique breed. I’m convinced. But after teaching them for over six years, I have to admit that they are far and away my favorite people to talk to and teach.  I can talk to a huge group of seventh graders and keep them quiet and engaged without a problem.   Give me the same room full of adults, and I get a little twitchy.

So when it came time to start actively promoting my book, school visits seem like the best fit for who I am and what I’m good at. Unfortunately, Edge of Extinction came out at the very END of the school year when everyone is scrambling to wrap up grades, finish standardized testing, and generally keep things in some kind of order until summer. Not the best time to contact people about visiting their school. BUT I did manage to visit my old grade school/middle school this week, and it was awesome.

I left the babies behind with my parents and cruised down I65 listening to my audiobook for the very first time.

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It was surreal. It was amazing. I got chills.

Emma Galvin did SUCH a fabulous job bringing Sky to life, and before I knew it I was pulling into the parking lot where so many of my middle school memories were made.

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To start with, I was greeted by signs like these as I entered the building. Nothing makes you feel like a minor celebrity like a poster board with your name on it. Am I right?

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Unless it’s a whole stinking bulletin board. In which case, you beg someone to take a picture of you with it and pose shamelessly.

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I got the opportunity to talk to the entire junior high as well as the 4th and 5th grade.

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The coolest part of the day though was sitting down with the creative writing class and discussing how to turn an idea into something more.

I started off by reading this brilliant book.

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I just adore it. I think it should be a staple in EVERY creative writing teacher’s arsenal of teaching tools. Kids are NEVER too old to enjoy and get something out of a picture book. Especially a picture book as phenomenal as this one.

But back to the school visit. It was such an odd feeling to be back in the halls that I used to walk when I was a middle schooler myself. In some ways, it was exactly the same, but in others it was so changed. For one thing, I remember everything being a lot bigger!

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I wandered the halls after my presentation and found my old class picture. Ahhhh memories.

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I drove home after the visit with a grin on my face and a halls cough drop in my mouth. (While my teacher’s voice still works great, it’s not used to talking for that long anymore! I’m officially a wuss!)  Despite my sore throat, it was so nice to slip out of my “mom” shoes and back into my teacher shoes. Even if it was only for a little while.

Also, the fact that these guys are part of my job now is pretty darn cool as well. Who else gets to tote a bag full of dinosaurs around and call it work?

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I’m so blessed that I get to do this. Thank you Highland Christian for the opportunity and the memories.

Laura

Acknowledgements…

Today is the day!

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Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan is officially on shelves! If you pre-ordered, it lands on your doorstep TODAY.

I woke up multiple times last night from pure excitement (think kid before Christmas anticipation) and had to force myself to go back to sleep. It wasn’t easy.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for YEARS.

But.

For those of you holding this bright and shiny (and dare I say drop dead gorgeous) book in your hands, you may notice that something is missing.

Although, honestly, you might not. Not everyone looks for an author’s acknowledgements, but friends and family usually do. And mine unfortunately aren’t there. My amazing team over at HarperCollins was working with me to add things to the book at the eleventh hour: from an author’s note on my dinosaur research to an awesome download that you can find over at HarperCollins website. So in the middle of all this, my acknowledgments got lost in the shuffle and didn’t make it into the first print run. Which, is hopefully the first of many print runs. (Fingers crossed!) But, it will be in the next print run!

If this was my tenth book, I probably would have shrugged and moved on. But since this was my first book, and it took SO MANY PEOPLE to make this dream a reality, I was looking forward to having a platform to publicly thank them.

So I decided to do the next best thing, which was to post my acknowledgements here.  So without further delay…here are the acknowledgements for Edge of Extinction- The Ark Plan. 

Acknowledgments

How do you begin to thank the people who helped make the most passionate dream of your heart a reality? Somehow, a paragraph in this book doesn’t seem to cut it. But until I win the lottery and can fly everyone somewhere exotic and warm, this will have to do.

First, I have to thank my parents, Jim and Joyce Van Weelden, who gave me a magical childhood, supported me in my every endeavor, and prayed for me. For my dad, who taught me the importance of a strong work ethic and a good left-handed lay-up. For my mom, who read too many versions of my book to count and worked tirelessly to help make my dream a reality. Without her this book never would have happened. I am who I am, what I am, and where I am because of my amazing parents. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart.

For my brother, Aric, who reminds me constantly not to take myself or this life so seriously. When I wrote the character of Todd, it was with your mischievous and big-hearted personality in mind. For Allison and Jenna and too many friends and family members to mention, who have always been in my corner no matter how awkward or uncoordinated I was.

For the countless teachers in my life who pushed me to be better, specifically the teachers of Illiana Christian High School and Butler University. For Jeff DeVries, for challenging me even when I didn’t want to be challenged, and Dan Barden for telling me to stop making excuses and just write a good book.

For the countless middle school students who walked through my classroom door every year at Clay Middle School. This book was inspired by and written for the quirky kids who made teaching the best job in the world.

For Alec Shane, who first pulled this book out of the slush pile and told me it would make a great middle grade novel. For Jodi Reamer, my rockstar agent, thank you for your excitement, feedback, and unwavering belief in this book.

For my team at HarperCollins: after years of dreaming of publishing a book, this experience has been better than I could have ever hoped. For Tara Weikum and Harriet Wilson, thank you for the brainstorming and insights that helped turn The Ark Plan into the novel it is today. You are both brilliant. Thank you to my cover artist, Eric Deschamps, and the entire art department for making my characters and vision for this book come to life.

For the most important person in my life, my husband, Josh. I cannot begin to thank you for being my rock, my supporter, and my best friend through this entire journey. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in this life. For my daughter, London, and son, Lincoln, you two are the inspiration that lights up my days and the push that makes me want to be better.

And last, to my creator, who makes all things possible, even the impossible dream of publishing a book. Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory.

My First Author Event!

First…a little back story for those of you who are new around here.

I taught seventh grade language arts in Carmel Indiana at Clay Middle School for six years. And loved it. I can honestly say that being a teacher was fabulous. We had great kids, tons of parent support, and fabulous facilities. Plus, I had the privilege of working with some of the best people in the business.

So. As you can imagine. Deciding to stay home with my kids was a hard call for me. I was all sorts of torn up about it. There were tears. There were lots of tears. But ultimately I decided to take a break from teaching to do the stay-at-home-mom thing and write.

I don’t regret it. But I do miss my time in the classroom. I miss sharing my love of reading and writing with large packs of squirmy seventh graders. I miss lunches with friends, even if those lunches were around fifteen minutes total and didn’t allow us to actually chew our food. I miss it. A lot.

So when I found out that Carmel High School was hosting an event called Writing Con (Think knock off Comic con?) I wanted in.

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There were two problems with this.

Problem One. I hadn’t been invited.

Problem Two. I didn’t actually have any books yet.

BUT! I wasn’t going to let those things stop me. After lots of emailing, I was told that I would be welcomed with open arms. (I mentioned the people at Carmel are fabulous right? Because they are.)

So. I went about tackling problem two. No books. As I’ve mentioned around a million times Edge of Extinction- The Ark Plan comes out May 10. The event was April 28 and 29. SO CLOSE!  So I begged to get the books to the Carmel Barnes & Noble a little early. And because the HarperCollins team is amazing, they made it happen!

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The two days were awesome. We got to work hands on with the kids at different writing “pods”, and I got a chance to talk to two different classes. Dusting off my old teaching hat was fun, and man, I miss it.

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IMG_2725Although, as a side note,high schoolers are so put together! I’m used to middle school students who get pumped and excited at the slightest provocation. High school kids are much less wiggly!

Another perk of the event was getting to meet other local authors. I added all their books to my “got to read this soon” list. Here are a few of their books!

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(And this isn’t even everyone! So many awesome people there!

I also picked the other authors’ brains mercilessly. I’m very new to this author game, and I loved hearing what they’ve done to get the word out about their books.

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The event capped off with a book signing at the Carmel Barnes & Noble. I got to sit next to Jeff Stone because we both had middle grade books while the other authors were primarily YA and adult fiction.

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This was a little surreal. Jeff Stone’s books were by far some of the most popular with the seventh grade boy crowd, and I really enjoyed talking to him about the publishing world!

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I would love to say that I played it cool, but I’m not so sure that I did. A lot of my friends stopped by to buy books and I jumped around and gushed at them about how much I appreciated it. A few old students stopped by to buy books as well, which really made my day.

On a side note. My little metal dinosaur got TONS off attention.

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This cracked me up as I threw him in my bag as an after thought. I purchased him years ago when I first started writing Edge of Extinction. He used to live on my desk when I was teaching as a daily reminder to keep working on my book and following my dream, and now he makes a nice little statement on my author’s table. It’s funny how life works.

A big thank you to Carmel High School and the Carmel Barnes & Noble for hosting the event and for letting me be a part of it. SO MUCH FUN!

Also, as this is my book launch eve (Is that a thing?  Oh well, is now.) I’m going to be posting a giveaway on Instagram tomorrow!  (If you don’t follow me over there, you totally should! I’m Lauramartinbooks) So check tomorrow for a chance to win!  Happy Book Launch Eve everyone!

Laura

Bits of this and that…

Hello!

As we cruise towards the official release day for Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan (we’re in single digits now people! This is big!), I wanted to pop in to post a few of the reviews that have rolled in lately. I’m VERY happy with them!

(On a side note, having your book reviewed is like allowing someone to publicly state how much they like your child. So… incredibly nerve wracking.)

Here is the first from the School Library Journal:
Gr 4-6-
Sky Mundy has heard all her life how the Noah saved the citizens of the United States from extinction during the Dinosauria Pandemic, getting them into the old nuclear bomb shelters that were safe from ferocious dinosaurs and the fatal virus they carry. But Sky sees the dark side of the Noah’s Marine enforcers. She is singled out because she is an orphan and thus a burden (though she refuses to acknowledge that her father, missing for five years, is dead), and her life is a litany of work details and isolation in the Guardian Wing of the North Compound. Sky desperately hopes for word from her absent father, and finally, on her 12th birthday, her best friend Shawn finds a clue hidden in the compass Sky’s father gave her just before he disappeared. With that information, Sky decides it’s time to go “topside” to look for her missing dad. Shawn helps her make a daring escape from the compound, and the two discover that the world outside is not as they were led to believe. There are certainly dinosaurs, and most of them are out to make Sky and Shawn dinner. But there are also people living topside, not to mention fresh food and fresh air. In this clever take on Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, the tale is reimagined on a worldwide scale. The characters are developed, and the postapocalyptic world is well imagined and replete with detail. The plot moves forward briskly, with a few good twists, and the ending sets up neatly for a sequel. Nonstop action, marauding dinosaurs, and kids on the run: What’s not to like? VERDICT This is a great buy for the sci-fi adventure-loving crowd.-Gretchen Crowley, Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

Here is the second from the  Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books:
R Gr. 4-7
In a future where bioengineered dinosaurs dominate the earth, twelve-year-old orphan Sky Mundy survives, along with the rest of the supposed last of the human race, in rigidly controlled underground compounds. A message from her presumed- dead father, though, soon sends her out into the dangerous upside with best friend Shawn in tow, but the pair quickly realizes they aren’t prepared to survive the great outdoors. Fortunately they are rescued from a T. rex attack by young Todd, who leads them back to his hidden village in the trees. After being attacked by marines from the compound, the three adventurers journey north, but their expedition may uncover more secrets than they expected, including clues to a dangerous truth compound leaders will kill to keep hidden. This gripping survival adventure offers readers a potent mix of creative setting, edge-of-your-seat plotting, and admirable heroes. The world building is particularly strong, balancing the campy, the ter- rifying, and the dystopian, with plenty of engaging details like dinosaur pets and a treehouse worthy of the Swiss Family Robinson. Sky and friends are equally appealing, bringing their own strengths and foibles to the mix. Perfect for readers who have carried their love of dinosaurs into middle school, the novel is also a strong fit for readers who want dystopias but aren’t quite ready for the bleakness of The Hunger Games. Unresolved mysteries and a few surprising last-minute reveals leave plenty for the adventurers to learn in expected sequels and will leave readers hungry for more. AM

Not bad right? Here’s hoping that everyone else agrees!

I also wanted to share an article recently done by Illiana Christian High School’s newspaper The Echo. I was interviewed by the talented Kassidy Weemhoff, Arts Editor extraordinaire and the following article was the result. (Click on the ARTS PAGE hyperlink to see it. For some reason the file isn’t playing nice with my computer!)

I will be back soon to post about the awesome event I participated in at Carmel High School called Writing Con last week.

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I got to meet so many amazing authors, and it was capped off with my first honest to goodness author event at Barnes & Noble! (Spoiler, it was surreal, and even though I tried to play it cool, I totally wasn’t.)

 

Here Comes The Hardcover!

Hello!

I’m back! The editing for book two is officially done and in the capable hands of my fabulous HarperCollins team. (Insert a little happy dance here.) I’m not going to lie, this one made me nervous.  I usually have no problem hitting deadlines…but after adding this little guy to the mix…free time…and sleep have been hard to come by.

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(The child does own clothing without a dinosaur on it…I think.)

BUT!

It is finished, and I have reemerged from my editing fog to realize that I’m officially behind on, well, everything. Mt. Laundry is especially intimidating. But I wanted to pop in here to share some exciting news.

The hardcover copies for Edge of Extinction-The Ark Plan are officially here!

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I may have been stalking the mailman waiting for the box with the “first glimpse” copies that were sent my way. It’s okay, he already thinks I’m odd because I meet him at the door daily to prevent the dreaded doorbell ring while the babies are napping. I think the eleventh commandment should have been, “Thou shalt not wake a sleeping baby.”  It would prevent a lot of exhausted moms who find themselves tempted to break the “Thou shalt not kill” commandment.

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But back to the books…I’m so beyond impressed with how everything turned out. It’s probably weird to describe a book as being pretty…but gosh darn it I think it’s gorgeous!

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My cover artist Eric Deschamps outdid himself on the inside illustrations too.  If you missed the post on the evolution of the cover you can check it out here. Anyways, there are three interior illustrations as well as some cool graphics at the beginning of each chapter, and I just keep staring at them.  BUT-I’m not going to post them here…if you want to see all the amazingness, you’ll have to buy the book!

Speaking of covers, the UK cover is officially up on the HarperCollins UK website. They took a very different approach than the US, and I love the contrast.

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The audiobook has also been recorded. Which, if you read my post where I pledged my undying love for the discman, then you know this was a big hairy deal. Probably more exciting than the hardcover, if I’m being honest. The fact that the amazing Emma Galvin read it just adds an extra layer of pinch me I’m dreaming to the whole thing. If you recognize her voice it’s because she also read the Divergent series. And if you’ve never read the Divergent series…you need to drop what you’re doing and get on that. Like now.

Anyways, between tackling Mt. Laundry, and its neighbor Mt. Clutter, I’ll be over here petting the pretty cover of this book and trying to convince myself that this is all happening…and soon!

I started writing Edge three years before this one was born.

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Now I’m less than three weeks away from having my book on bookshelves…seriously…if I wake up and this is all a dream I’m going to be beyond upset.

In other exciting news I’m gearing up to participate in Writing Con at Carmel High School.

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This is doubly exciting, one because I’ll be participating as an honest to goodness author. But secondly, and probably more exciting for me, I’ll be getting to see a lot of my old students. The last class of seventh graders that I taught are now freshmen at Carmel, so my old students are in all four grade levels. (I had around 150 students every year…times four…equals a lot of kids.)  It will be fun to see them as put together human beings, because, let’s be honest, the middle school years are rough on everyone. Including yours truly.

I give you EXHIBIT A

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You’re  welcome.

So any ways, I’m excited to get to see them all again, and the two day Writing Con is topped off by a Meet The Author event at the Carmel Barnes and Noble. And folks, I was going to be the only author there without any books to sell since Edge technically doesn’t come out until May 10. However, my amazing HarperCollins team pulled some strings to get some books there, so I won’t be standing around like a big dork with no books to sell. This was a huge relief. Despite all my dork practice in middle school (see EXHIBIT A again ), I was not looking forward to standing around empty handed. So if you absolutely can’t wait to get your hands on all the dinosaur goodness…stop by and say hi on April 28th!

Another way to get your hands on a copy before the rest of the world is by entering the Good Reads giveaway! Hurry! It ends soon!

That’s all for now!  I’m off to bed to sleep…for maybe an hour or two in a row. If I’m lucky.

-Laura

 

A New Arrival…and a few reviews!

Hi Friends,

So…long silence over here on the blog. I apologize. Life has been busy! Although, as I type that, I realize that life has been in a constant state of busy for…well…ever, so I guess I really have no excuse. Is anyone else like that out there? Constantly working on a to-do list that seems to get longer by the day? Memo to self-slow down sometime soon. Although, that may be a while since our baby boy decided to throw my whole “get-stuff-done” schedule on its head when he arrived almost three weeks early!

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Welcome to the world Lincoln! We couldn’t be more excited you’re here!

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So please forgive me for long periods of silence over here as I adjust to this new normal! People survive two kids all the time…right?!

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Meanwhile there have been some exciting things happening with Edge of Extinction! I got my VERY FIRST REVIEW! This was equal parts terrifying and exciting. Especially since it was a Kirkus Review and they have a reputation for not holding any punches! Here is the link!

My first review was followed closely by my second review. Here

I couldn’t be happier with these two. Fingers crossed for more good reviews in the future!

And wish me luck!  Getting work done with two kids is going to be a whole different ball game!

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The Best Children’s Books You May Have Never Heard Of…

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I believe in reading to kids.

I believe in it more than I believe in chocolate’s ability to turn around a bad day.

Trust me. That’s a lot of believing.

I preached it as an English teacher, and I preach it as a parent.There is nothing better that you can do for your child (except maybe feed and water them daily) to help them succeed later in life.

I started reading to our daughter when she was less than a month old. Every night and before every nap time we’d spend at least five to ten minutes reading.

IMG_0032And do you know what the result has been of all that reading? My child LOVES books. We probably spend over an hour every day curled up reading her books over and over and over again. Every time I pick up a new one for her my husband asked “Doesn’t she have enough books?”

The answer is no. There are NEVER enough books.

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If my mom is to be believed…London even loves reading even more than I did at that age. Although, my mother also thinks she was cuter than I was at that age, had more hair, was smarter…. you get the idea.

You know everything they say about grandparents thinking their grandkids walk on water?

All true.

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Anyways…after the last 21 months of reading more children’s books than I could ever count…I’ve come to a conclusion.

All children’s books were not created equally.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I have definite opinions for what constitutes a good children’s book.

So in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share some of my tried and true favorites. I chose not to include the obvious ones like Good Night Moon, On the Night You Were Born or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Those books make an appearance at almost every baby shower and birthday. Which is fine, they’re great. But if you are looking for a few off the beaten path to give as a gift, check these out!

The Quiet Book

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Adorable illustrations of bunnies and owls illustrating all the different kids of quiet that happen throughout the day. Really clever idea. Bonus-teaches the concept of being quiet. Priceless.

The Pout Pout Fish

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You get to say “Blub Blub Blub” quite a bit. Always a bonus in my book, plus the words rhyme beautifully, and if you’re like me, you get to give lots of smooches to your kid at the end when the pout pout fish realizes he is really a kiss kiss fish.

All of Baby Nose to Toes

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This book is too cute for words, and it’s a great way to teach your little one where their nose and eyes etc. are.

Any book by Matthew Van Fleet

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Between things to pull and fuzzy things to pet, these books were London’s favorites very early on. The older she gets the more she enjoys them as she can now point out the different kinds of animals.

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!

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Anything by Mo Willems really. Although, his smart alecky pigeon is my favorite. Start with “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus” and work your way through all of them.  Bonus- the writing is LARGE so grandparents can read these without digging out their reading glasses.

Diary of a Worm

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Of all the kids books I’ve listed, I wish I’d written this one. Hilarious. The illustrations are spot on, and the writer is extremely clever when describing the day to day life of a worm.

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair

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This answers the age old question…why should I brush my hair? According to this book, the answer is to prevent well-meaning but party-prone mice from moving in. Very well written with adorable illustrations this one is a must for the little girl in your life.

How do Dinosaurs Say Good Night

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You knew I had to throw a dinosaur book in here somewhere, didn’t you? Ever since I wrote a book about dinosaurs, London has been swamped with dinosaur toys, books, clothing, pajamas…you name it…we have it. Which is great because she LOVES dinosaurs.( No gender stereotyping of toys around here thank you very much.) The dinosaur nerd in me really enjoyed the way each of the dinosaurs featured in this book are actual dinosaurs, and the message of how to go to bed like a “good little dinosaur” is an added bonus. (We also own “How Do Dinosaurs Play with their Friends and How Do Dinosaurs Pick Up Their Room”)

Duck on a Bike

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This book has all the familiar barn yard animals in it, but unlike the monotony of “Old McDonald” it’s clever and has a great ending. In my humble opinion, all ducks should ride bikes.

Press Here

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The concept of this book is simple yet brilliant. Using nothing more than colored dots, this book will keep your toddler entertained for hours… Okay, maybe not hours, but a good five minutes. Which in toddler time IS an hours.

Violet the Pilot

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Hurray for this book! Rather than the typical pretty, pink-loving princess character, this book features Violet- girl engineer. Along with her dog Orville, Violet spends her time turning bits of junk into working flying machines. She is one of my favorite children’s book characters and it is a great way to encourage girls to do and be anything.

Who knows, maybe a few of these will find their way under your tree this year. Remember, there is no better investment than reading to your child.

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