Monday, June 10, 2019

Interview with Jenna Zark author of the Beat Street Series

Today I'd like to welcome Jenna Zark. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a playwright and new-ish novelist. I’ve been writing plays for a while but my debut novel was published by Booktrope in 2016 and moved to Dragon Moon Press the following year. Years of writing for Scholastic Magazine readers taught me a lot about middle grade and Y/A readers, and I had an idea for a long time about a young girl growing up in the midst of the Beat Generation in Greenwich Village. I am still writing plays and lyrics, and as my bio says, am also trying to figure out which is the hardest to write: a play, novel or a song.

Wow it sounds like you can do it all. What got you into writing?

I had a babysitter as a child who used to compliment my writing, and I can’t for the life of me remember what I wrote for her. It might have been birthday cards? I started writing a little more as I got older and sometimes shared things with her. She kept telling me I should become a writer, though I wanted to be an actor first. Eventually, I believed her and started taking my writing more seriously.

Share a short excerpt from your novel

From The Beat on Ruby’s Street:

THERE’S A GUY in the neighborhood who wrote a book on toilet paper. They made it into a real book, but when he first wrote it you could unwind it all the way uptown and back again. His name is Jack Kerouac and I was on my way to see him at The Scene, when I got waylaid by a blood orange.

Now I’m in the police station, and my mother’s going to eat me alive. She hates police and social workers, and I’m knee deep in both of them. When my mom was a kid a social worker came by because my grandmother had a car accident and wasn’t like she used to be. So the kids ended up with foster parents and only saw their own parents on holidays. That’s what social workers do.

 Sounds intriguing. Which do you prefer: print books or ebooks?

I really love print books because I love holding a book and turning pages. Plus, I think it’s easier on the eyes.

 Have you been given any helpful advice during your career, Jenna?

One word: persist. That’s for just about anything you want to do, including writing.

I couldn't agree with you more. If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
My first choice would be Prague. First of all, any country that was run by a playwright is a country I want to see. Secondly, I’ve heard it’s an exquisite example of a beautiful, ancient European city. I have been to Ireland, Paris, Switzerland, Israel and Amsterdam. But Prague calls to me the most (though I’d return to Ireland in a heartbeat).

 Currently, what are you working on?

I’m beginning to plot out the story that will become book three, the last book in the Beat Street series. I’m also working on a new play about a new immigrant.

 Jenna, can you tell us a little bit about your main characters?

Ruby is the main character in the Beat Street series. She begins the book when she’s close to her twelfth birthday. She is fierce and funny and doesn’t like conforming to rules; in fact, she barges through them (a little like her author). She wants to be a poet and admires the Beat Generation poets in her neighborhood, and though she’s very rebellious and strong willed, she can also be very kind.

Ruby’s best friend Sophie is the daughter of a comedy writer who is one of the very few women comics to succeed. Sophie’s mom is based on Lucille Kallen, one of the writers of a famous series called Your Show of Shows. Sophie is a perfect sidekick for Ruby—funny and strong willed as well, but much richer than Ruby. When Sophie disappears in book two, Ruby is thrown into a tailspin.

  Share something with us not a lot of people know about you.

I was once a singer in a rock band called The Seizures. I wrote songs with the man I was married to at the time. Later we divorced and I married someone else, and he was very impressed with the songs. But to me, it feels like a whole other lifetime.

Wow you really have done everything. Who designed the artwork for your cover?  Or did you design it yourself?

My cover was designed by Gwen Gades, the publisher of Dragon Moon Press and a superbly talented cover artist. I first met her via Booktrope Press and fell in love with her work there. I love being able to tell her what I’m looking for and then, by magic… it appears!

 What advice would you give someone who is considering publishing? Should they consider traditional or self-publishing?

I tried self  publishing The Beat on Ruby’s Street in 2013, and was very happy to have the option. When Booktrope accepted my title in 2016, I really liked how easy the process became. They did the layout, helped me find the editor and cover artist and paid the cost. In my opinion, life is easier if you have a publisher because you don’t have to be involved with every tiny decision. You get to be a writer, and for me, that’s the most important role I need to have.

Any last words?

Thank you for reading this interview today! And thank YOU, S. T. Sanchez, for writing and sharing it.

Thanks so much for sharing. Find out more about Jenna at the links below. Happy Reading!!

To find the Beat Street Series books:

Facebook page is called Jenna Zark Author - Playwright
Twitter is ZarkWriting

Monday, May 27, 2019

June Middle Grade Summer Reading List

 10 Exciting Middle Grade Fiction Novels

If your looking for some new reads to pull your kids away from their electronics this summer, take a look at some of these fun reads.

Cole Randolph was just trying to have a fun time with his friends on Halloween (and maybe get to know Jenna Hunt a little better). But when a spooky haunted house turns out to be a portal to something much creepier, Cole finds himself on an adventure on a whole different level.

After Cole sees his friends whisked away to some mysterious place underneath the haunted house, he dives in after them—and ends up in The Outskirts.

The Outskirts are made up of five kingdoms that lie between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. It’s an in-between place. Some people are born there. Some find their way there from our world, or from other worlds.

And once you come to the Outskirts, it’s very hard to leave.

With the magic of the Outskirts starting to unravel, it’s up to Cole and an unusual girl named Mira to rescue his friends, set things right in the Outskirts, and hopefully find his way back home…before his existence is forgotten.

Sometimes zombies don't know they're dead until they look in the mirror! 

When 11-year-old Aiden Winters becomes infected with the deadly XR-30 virus, he figures his life is over. He just wants to be a normal kid, but that’s hard to do when you look like a zombie. Except, he's different than the other zombies. He doesn't crave brains– yet! Twelve-year-old James Hadley wants the world to go back to the way it was before the virus ruined everything. Nowadays, he needs to help his mom find food and medicine for their family. Not to mention, survive the zombie apocalypse! Everything changes when Aiden and James embark on a quest to find the cure for Aiden. If they’re really lucky, they might even save the world.


In the space of three days, Rogan loses his royal privilege, his country, and his mother.
Now knowing that his father, the King of Kanrine, orchestrated his mother’s execution, Rogan is left stranded in his mother’s homeland. Sickened by the idea of returning home to face his mother’s killers, Rogan lowers himself to washing and sweeping for a local healer to survive. He’s now a drudge, a mongrel, a nobody with airs. His one friend is Bryna, the poverty-stricken daughter of the city’s former baron, who has her own reasons for skirting the notice of the city’s occupying soldiers.

Before Rogan can decide his next move, the mysterious death of a soldier pulls him and Bryna into a web of politics, murder, and magic. The two of them must race to separate truth from lies as the authorities’ investigations quickly turn personal…and deadly.

Told from the alternating perspectives of a conqueror’s son and a conquered lord’s daughter, THE EMPIRE’S ORPHANS follows two twelve-year-olds in a country simmering with national, racial, and class tension.

What if everything you knew about your father was a lie?

Andromeda “Rommy” Cavendish doesn’t really have a home, unless you count the exclusive boarding school where she stays year round. With her mother dead and her father out to sea most of the time, Rommy counts down the days to her father’s two visits every year - on her birthday and Christmas. 

Every year, she hopes this will be the summer her father takes her with him on his travels, but he always says she is too young and it is too dangerous. 

But this summer is going to be different. Rommy’s going with him on his travels. He just doesn’t know it yet. 

As the newest and youngest member of her school’s fencing team, danger is her new best friend. There’s no way her father can say no. 

But he never shows up for his visit. 

Worried that something awful has happened, Rommy dresses as a boy and sneaks out of her school, traveling through nineteenth century London only to find more questions than answers. To find her father she’ll have to travel to the magical island of Neverland where heroes are villains, and  her father might be the biggest villain of them all. 

If you like fairy tale twists, magical adventures and spunky heroines, you’ll love Hook’s Daughter: The Untold Tale of a Pirate Princess, first in the middle-grade fantasy adventure trilogy The Pirate Princess Chronicles. 

Pick up Hook’s Daughter and start your adventure today!

When her father fails to return home from a business trip, Madison and her family set out to find him. But then? Her entire family vanishes. This sparks a shocking revelation from Madison’s godmother. Madison is one of the Chosen Ones, one of three young girls secreted inside the human realm at birth. They were born to fulfill a prophecy. The time has come. There are those who seek to destroy them so they can rule the realms. Only one question remains as they prepare for battle, a question posed by an ancient realm of trees... Would you sacrifice your life for those you love?
Saving Tir na nOg is a middle grade fantasy novel steeped in Irish mythology. "A dazzling read for all ages," 5 Stars -- Liz Konkel, Readers' Favorite

Wizards, Heroes, and shape-changing Amorphae have hidden in plain sight among ordinary Humans for eons. But, when two Heroes seek to use an innocent Humanchild to circumvent their own daughter's fate, a magical backlash occurs and the boy accidentally becomes a Wizard.

Meet Farley Bumblestook! Born with the unique ability (once attributed to ancient Shamans) to commune with the Spirits of Earth itself, Farley is the not-so-ordinary Human boy-next-door. Through no fault of his own, his life becomes entangled in the power struggles between factions of magical folk, and he is drawn into a Quest filled with danger and discovery. 

Protect their community or protect their discovery?

For eighth graders Chace, Harley, Will, and Cherise, that’s a life-changing question after they find a dragon’s egg while hunting for thundereggs on the beach. Toss in summer jobs, family struggles, and a National Security Agent, and their summer vacation just became complicated.

Can they find a solution that won’t leave their hearts broken or their community in flames?


She went searching for her birth mother and found another world …from 
which no one can escape.Yumiko Corr never knew her birth mother. She 
loves her adoptive parents, but she can’t help wondering who she really 
is and where she belongs. While searching for her mother in Tokyo, 
Yumiko and her parents are swept into another world, where nothing 
exists but an enormous island. An island filled with mythological 
creatures that aren’t supposed to be real.

But the island is ruled by a spoiled boy, King Rodney, who has taken 
control of the creatures through some strange magic. He refuses to let 
anyone leave, including Yumiko and her parents!
Can Yumiko find a way off the island and back home, for herself and the 
other imprisoned creatures?

Discover your destiny.

Fans of C.S. Lewis, Rick Riordan, and J.K. Rowling now have a new 
fantasy world where they can escape! A world brimming with mermaids, 
minotaurs, centaurs, and a sea serpent! Explore the beauty and danger of 
the mysterious Island of Myste! Includes a Sneak Preview of Book 2: 
Terror on the Island of Myste!

The Island of Myste


Love this book! Couldn't put it down. Cannot wait for the second book!” V. Bruderer 

A shadow of shame has fallen over the once proud Maxwell family, and only their faithful son Ajax, can restore honor to their name. He is tasked with guarding a mysterious portal, the existence of which only a few people outside the King are aware. A prophecy warns of a danger to come, as the new keeper, Ajax fears he will let everyone down. 

When the Prince of Rastella comes to visit the portal for the first time, accompanied by Ajax’s childhood friend Nivara, disaster strikes! In an accident, the Prince falls into the portal and Ajax knows that it’s up to him to venture in and get him back. 

With the knowledge that nobody who has entered it has ever returned, Ajax and Nivara leap through the portal to try to save the Prince. He discovers a world full of magic and fantastic creatures, in an adventure that will test him to his limits, and leave him wondering if he will ever get home. 
If you like Brandon Mull, you’ll love The Portal Keeper!

The seven dragon tribes have been at war for generations, locked in an endless battle over an ancient, lost treasure. A secret movement called the Talons of Peace is determined to bring an end to the fighting, with the help of a prophecy -- a foretelling that calls for great sacrifice.

Five dragonets are collected to fulfill the prophecy, raised in a hidden cave and enlisted, against their will, to end the terrible war.

But not every dragonet wants a destiny. And when the select five escape their underground captors to look for their original homes, what has been unleashed on the dragon world may be far more than the revolutionary planners intended . . .

Friday, May 17, 2019

Interview with Carla Vergot author of The Mystery of Jane Dough

Today I would like to give a warm welcome to author Carla Vergot. Thanks for joining us today.

Carla, when you pick up a book which do you prefer: print books or ebooks?

I’m 100%paper, which is weird because I’m known to be a bit of a conservation nut when it comes to protecting the planet. Ebooks for me are…well…let’s just say my relationship with technology is tenuous at best.

I love the feel of having a book in my hand, but when I travel ebooks are so convenient. Have you been given any helpful advice?

Sure! In life—dance with every guy who asks. In writing—don’t be afraid to cut a scene if it doesn’t work. But even more importantly, when you do decide to cut something, put it in a folder for safe keeping, because there’s a real good chance that same defunct scene will be a showstopper somewhere else in the story. Save everything.

That's a great piece of advice, and one I have never heard before. I will have to file it away for future use. Carla, if you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

I’m dying to get out to the Galápagos Islands for the nature. I’d love to see the night sky in Iceland.

I've heard Iceland is beautiful. Currently, what are you working on?

As of this interview, I’m 68,000 words into Book 2 of the “Lily Barlow” series. My goal is a minimum of 80,000 by the end of April.

How did you decide on what to title each book?

This is an interesting question. I knew I wanted a way to tie the series together, so my publisher and I decided to use “Lily Barlow” followed by something specific to each story. The first one is “Lily Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Dough.” I have a working title for the second book, but I’m not quite ready to reveal it yet.

For many authors, one avenue of publishing they struggle with is marketing. How do you promote your books? Any tips you can share?

I’ve built a rickety social media platform using Facebook and Instagram which hasn’t been easy (reference my relationship with technology above). I’ve established a lovely community of uplifting writers and readers who have encouraged me along the way. Personal friends have done a lot to spread the word. And I try to promote myself in person as much as possible. I attend book signings, author events, book club meetings, whatever. I think opportunities exist everywhere. In fact, I’m in the process of talking my favorite grocer into hosting an evening with the author for a wine tasing and reading. I enjoy promoting the book in person like this, but it’s harder because you’re connecting with a small group of readers at a time vs. the thousands of people you can reach with a post on Facebook or Instagram. It’s harder, but more fulfilling.

Is this a stand-alone novel or part of a series?

It’s a series, but if I’ve done it well, a reader who never read Book 1 can still enjoy Book 2. That was one of the trickiest parts for me—giving enough background for new readers without boring the ones who are already familiar with Lily.

Carla, what was your biggest challenge when writing? Did you have any writer’s block? If so, how did you work your way through it?

My insurmountable challenge was working full-time as a special education teacher. I didn’t have a drop of creative energy left to put toward writing. I can almost guarantee this book would still be lurking around in the shadows of my mind if my husband hadn’t offered me the chance to take a one-year sabbatical. That’s literally when it started to take shape, and I loved the writing process so much that I resigned from teaching permanently so I could start the second book.

What was your writing process like?

I’m a pantster (writing by the seat of my pants) vs. a plotter (meticulously outlining the story). More than that, though, I’m a schlogger. I write the way a person would walk through waist-deep muck in a Louisiana swamp—slowly and with a great deal of care. I’m constantly going back over what I just wrote to rewrite it or to layer in details. It takes forever. But when I’m done, I’m generally done. The cleanup doesn’t involve any sweeping changes.

In your novels, which character is your favorite?

Miss Delphine has a special place in my heart. Years ago, a friend and fellow writer once asked me what would be my “thing” when I was an old lady. Would I wear mismatched clothes? Would I only eat bananas on days that start with “T.” I’m not sure how I answered the question back then, but when I think about it now, I want to be like Miss Delphine—independent, devoted to my garden, maybe hiding a body out back… 😆

Carla, since you wrote in this genre, do you think you will ever write in other genres?

Oh, I’d love to think I’m talented enough to expand into other genres, but I kind of want to get this one out of my system first.

I agree, writing in multiple genres is a talent. I am working on one, and have found it a lot harder to write in a new genre. Hopefully one day I will finish. What advice would you give someone who is considering publishing? Should they consider traditional or self-publishing?

Turns out, this is a super touchy subject, and one I may not be qualified to address. I went the hybrid route. I couldn’t get a traditional publisher or an agent interested in my work, and I didn’t have the skill set to self publish (or the patience to learn how), so I hired a publisher. There’s such a stigma around paying a publisher, harkening back to the days of the vanity press. However, this industry, like every other industry, has evolved to meet the needs of the customers (writers like me). As with everything else, there are high quality operations, and there are ones that
will rob you blind, so buyer beware. Going the hybrid route allowed me to keep control of my story and to be involved in aspects like cover design. Having the backing of a publisher made it much easier for me to access the big stores like Barnes & Noble. I am very happy with the direction I chose.

Any last words?

Thanks for giving me a chance to share a little about “Lily Barlow.” I enjoyed your questions!

Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us. Find out more about Carla at the links below. Happy Reading!!

Poke around my website
I’m on Instagram @carla_vergot