This is a strange time, I know. It's stranger for some than others. As a writer, I was already working at home, so I had a basic routine in place already (though now my family is all home with me and adaptions have been necessary!) For those new to working at home, it might feel overwhelming, especially now that it's been a few weeks, but you can do a few things to make things smoother. Here are my top 5 tips for being productive when working at home!
1. Get dressed in the mornings. I know, I know, it’s fun to sit in pajamas all day, but I find that being dressed for the day actually preps my brain to start working.
2. Make sure you move around often. There are no office mates who stop by to chat (unless you have kids or a spouse at home sharing your space now, too) so it’s up to you to take breaks. When I get stuck in a story, I take walk around the block to help clear my head. I have weekly exercise classes I make time for, and I also take plenty of snack breaks!
3. Set up your office to be comfortable. Consider not working in bed, even if you can. It might feel silly to set up pictures near your temporary desk, but it will help make your home office feel more like a regular work space. My work space is pictured below, but even if you are just using a space on your kitchen table, give yourself somewhere to stack folders and papers so they are easy to find. It'll save you a lot of time in the long run to spend time up front organizing your space.
4. When you are feeling isolated, take a moment to really notice your surroundings. I can hear the birds outside my window and kids playing in their backyard a few doors down. Someone is mowing their lawn. I'm not alone--and neither are you. We're in this together. Then send a short check-in email to someone else who is newly at home, just to say hi. Pretend you just stopped by their desk to ask how their weekend was. Physically distancing doesn't mean we should distance ourselves in all ways. Stay in touch with others.
5. Don’t feel guilty at night when you leave your home office. You’ve put in the time. Taking time to rest and relax is critical to keep your brain and heart fueled, especially during such uncertain times as these. Setting boundaries is important.
Best wishes to you all as we navigate this unique time.
Love mermaids and magic? From April 2 to April 6, the Kindle copy of MER-CHARMER (U.S. Amazon only) is FREE! Grab your copy today and escape with Tristan and Phoebe under the sea. (Between you and me, Tristan is one of my very favorite characters of the entire series.)
It's today! I'm so happy!
YA Books Central kindly hosted the cover reveal for Paris on Repeat today. Please hop over there to see what I had to say about my cover (spoiler: I love it!) and enter the giveaway! Three lucky entrants will win a free ARC (U.S. only, sorry!)
Thank you, YABC and Jolly Fish Press!
I'm so happy to let you know that you can now add PARIS ON REPEAT to your Goodreads list! Check it out to see if it sounds like a fit for you! The series name is Wish and Wander. (Book 2 is set in Rome!)
GROUNDHOG DAY gets a hilarious French twist in this delightful upper middle grade novel about first crushes and friendship when an eighth-grade class trip to Paris goes horribly wrong and the worst day of one girl’s life keeps happening over and over.
Fourteen-year-old Eve Hollis is ready to push through her fears and finally let her crush know how she feels. And what better place to tell him than on top of the Eiffel Tower in the City of Love? But things don’t go as planned, and Eve is sure she’s had the worst day of her life— until she wakes up the next morning to realize the whole disaster of a day is happening again. She’s trapped in a time loop.
Desperate to make it stop, Eve will have to take some big risks and learn from her mistakes or she’s destined to live the most awkwardly painful day of her life over and over again, forever.
Cover reveal coming soon!
Book coming July 2020 from Jolly Fish Press
It's been a while since I've shared a book review here on my blog. I try to keep my Goodreads updated, but I'm not the best at that, either. But there's been a few books I've loved lately.
Today I'll share about the most recent one:
THE HOTEL BETWEEN, by Sean Easely
The Book Blurb:
Twins Cam and Cass have never known their parents. They’ve been told their mother died, and Cass is certain their father abandoned them. Cam isn’t so sure. He wants to prove her wrong; he must.
Cam’s wish is soon granted in the form of a glistening, golden sign with elaborate flourishes that reads: The Hotel Between. With doors that open to countries all over the world, magical trollies, charmed corridors that can be altered on a whim, stone elephants that come to life, sweets made from rocks; everything is possible in the Hotel. Cam has a hunch his father is somehow connected to this magical place, and may even be lost within its hidden halls.
Every journey has its risks, and The Hotel Between is full of dangerous secrets. If Cam’s not careful, his stay may be over before his vacation has even started.
This is a fabulous middle grade adventure with magic and mystery at its heart! There are many twists and turns I didn't see coming, and I couldn't put the book down. Sean Easley did an incredible job with world-building and character development-- I will miss these characters AND the magic of The Hotel Between. Luckily, there's a book 2 and I plan on reading it asap!
f you enjoy fantastical stories with magic, adventure, and twisty turns, get this one today! I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover! It really captures the story perfectly.
I'm so excited to be a part of the Snowy Wings Publishing Middle Grade Blog hop! My World of Aluvia books were re-released with Snowy Wings, and it's been a wonderful experience!
For our blog hop, The Reading Faery asked me a few questions-- and they are some really fun ones. Thank you for such a lovely interview, Moa! You can visit her post for the blog hop here. Her blog is beautiful and offers information on tons of books! I enjoyed our visit. At the bottom of our posts, there are links to the rest of the blog hop, so please be sure to check those out, too!
The World of Aluvia has three books in the series: Fairy Keeper, Mer-Charmer, and Dragon Redeemer. These books are upper middle grade, and a great fit for grades 4th-8th and up. Though the series has a story line that spans all three books, each book can stand alone, each with a different main character and a focus on a different magical creature.
Fairies, mermaids, and dragons, oh my!
Fairy Keeper, World of Aluvia, Book 1
Forget cute fairies in pretty dresses. In the world of Aluvia, most fairies are more like irritable, moody insects. Still, almost everyone views the fairy keeper mark as a gift, a sign of an ability to attract and even control fairies. Fourteen-year-old Sierra considers it a curse, one that binds her to a dark alchemist father who steals her fairies’ mind-altering nectar for his illegal elixirs and poisons.
But when all the little fairies die mysteriously and the fairy queens go missing, more than just the life of her fairy is in the balance. Sierra will stop at nothing to find the fairy queens, leading her to a magical secret lost since ancient times. The magic waiting for her has the power to transform the world, but only if she can first embrace her destiny as a fairy keeper.
A short EXCERPT from Chapter One
At this point in the story, Sierra has realized she needs to collect more fairy nectar right away, though the fairies are more dangerous at dusk. She and her little sister Phoebe have just reached the fairy field.
When they turned the corner at the clump of blackberry bushes where Phoebe would wait, Sierra paused. A haunting silence sat heavily in the meadow. No bass-deep thrumming of the fairies in their hatch rode along the breeze. No tiny lights like sparks flittered within the darkening trees nearby. Her heart galloped. Where were her charges? Thankfully, her sister hadn’t noticed yet.
“Phoebe, I need you to go back and start cooking, okay? We don’t want dinner late for Jack. This won’t take long, but they get irritated at dusk, and I don’t want you to get hurt.” That last part was not a lie.
Phoebe’s shoulders sagged, but she knew a late dinner meant trouble. She headed back, dragging her feet, head tucked down into her chest. If their mother hadn’t died birthing Phoebe, maybe things would have been different. Whatever kindness had been in their father must have died right along with her. Before Sierra could ache over how much more she wished she could give her sister, she turned her attention back to the fairy hatch.
There were no cages for Sierra’s fairies. No wires, no lids, no glass. Except for the queen, they were so tiny they could fit through most holes, but they didn’t need cages with a fairy keeper around anyway. She was the reason they kept coming back. They did live in a slatted wooden box that allowed easy access to their nectar, but otherwise they were free to come and go as they pleased. Unlike Sierra. She was trapped by her mark, her father, and by her love for Phoebe.
Sierra tiptoed forward. The sky was darkening, but there were no glowing wings covered in the nectar that dripped off them in their hatches. Her skin prickled as it did in that still moment before an earthquake hit.
Next to the hatch, a pile of tiny rainbow flower petals were spread on the ground. For one moment, she didn’t understand. Then her knees gave out when her mind made sense of the sight.
All the fairies were dead. No movement, no noise, no vibration, no light. Sierra searched the pile for her queen, the tiny wings rasping softly as she sifted them through her hands. They were like dry silk as they slid down her palms, which began to shake. She dropped the last dead fairy from her fingers and stood in shock. All dead but the queen, who was missing. Where was the queen?
Thanks for reading! You can check out the rest of the first chapters on Amazon's Look Inside feature, too.
I appreciate your time and am always glad to hear from readers!
About the Blog Hop, from Snowy Wings:
As a thank you for participating in our blog hop, we’re offering a chance to win eight (8) ebooks and two (2) paperbacks from our middle-grade authors!
Hop around and make sure to visit everyone today, then fill out the Rafflecopter!
October 25th – YA/NA Book Divas
October 26th – Selenia Paz
October 27th – Mindy Klasky
October 28th – I Love Books and Stuff
October 29th – Amy Bearce / The Reading Faery
October 30th – Melanie McFarlane / Jenifer Reads
October 31st – Sarah Dale / Sucker for Coffe
There are many amazing books appropriate for 4th-8th graders within the 700-950 Lexile range, to include Newbery winners and best sellers. Lexile only measures text complexity (sentence structure, words per sentence, etc.), not content. Consider that Grapes of Wrath and Charlotte's Web both have a Lexile of 680, which is a "3rd-5th grade" score. With this information, you can ask teachers to reconsider the 1000 point cut-off. I've had some success with that.
But sometimes it doesn't matter. Sometimes, you just have to find a book for class that is over 1000 Lexile. (And sometimes teachers don't have any choice, either.) I recently found a couple of wonderful resources that will hopefully make your life easier.
Here is an excellent collection of books from the Brownsburg Public Library that includes classics, YA, and adult fiction and fantasy. I started reading adult fantasy in 8th grade, and it can be quite age-appropriate. For a 7th or 8th grader, I'd definitely consider Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and maybe try out some of the older fantasy books by classic fantasy authors like Mercedes Lackey (Owl Flight), Anne McCaffery (Renegades of Pern), and Terry Brooks (Sword of Shannara.) The pacing may be slower, but if you like any of these, those authors have tons of other books for you to enjoy, set in the same world.
And the Elkhorn Library has this incredible list for 5th and up of books that are 1000 Lexile and up. It gives a tiny blurb about each one, too, as well as Reading Counts points. Some of these would be fine for fourth graders, as well. If you haven't read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, this is your chance to enjoy a fantastic book that is over 1000 Lexile, along with his biography GUTS! Bad Beginnings by Lemony Snicket is good for those elementary kids being told to read 1000 Lexile, to include fourth graders.
You can also ask for help from your local school or public librarian to find suitable books. Librarians excel at helping readers find the perfect book--and created both of the linked lists from this post. WE LOVE YOU, LIBRARIANS!
Another excellent option for 3rd and 4th graders is The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, which won the Newbery Award. It's not on these lists, presumably because it's not technically over 1000 on the Lexile site (it's listed at 950L), but it is also sometimes rated as 1010L, as evidenced by its Junior Library Guild page. Either way, it's a fabulous book if you can persuade your teacher to allow that apparent 50 point difference (mention that it was a Newbery Award winner.)
These two lists were more effective for me than searching on Lexile's site, but you can do that, too. Lexile's site is more useful if you have a title that you need to check for its level, rather than searching for a title, in my opinion.
Happy hunting for your next required reading, and best wishes!
Today I shared briefly about what happens after you type THE END on your first draft!
**Please note that this video DOES have closed captioning, but I can't seem to make it work here on the blog right now. Please click through to Facebook (it's also on my Youtube channel) if you would prefer to read along. Apologies and I'll work on that!
I'm so happy to share this news! Jolly Fish Press has signed PARIS ON REPEAT and its sequel (tentatively named WHEN IN ROME)! Right now, it looks like PARIS ON REPEAT may be out next summer, so it'll be here before we know it! More news to come!
To those of you in 4th-8th grade and older, I hope I can offer a smidgen of help & encouragement as you traverse the waters of intermediate school, middle school, and high school.