Monday, October 27, 2014

The Galaxy Trail

Welcome to the second stop of The Galaxy!

This trail is based on the YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes presented by the Apocalypsies. In THIS trail, you’ll find all kinds of posts, and discover new authors and their work.

How do you play? Every post contains information that will lead to killer prizes! Books, swag, skype sessions, locks of hair (jk jk)! At the end of each blog you’ll find a link that will take you to the next stop in the trail. By the end, you’ll find a quiz. Submit your entry to the quiz for a chance to win a grand prize! Accuracy matters here, so take your time, or go back and refresh your memory! One quiz entry per trail.

About me:

I'm the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD (Razorbill/Penguin-paperback edition out Jan. 8, 2015) and its sequel, IN TODD WE TRUST (St. Patrick's Day, 2015). I grew up in the midwest, often the only girl in my neighborhood, which was okay, because when we played Star Wars, I always got to be Princess Leia. I now live in southern Kansas with my big family and a very noisy parrot.

Here are the answers to the questions I got for The Galaxy Trail:

Me as Mongee Poo-minus the radiated sludge.

Favorite Costume?

My favorite costume is this one of me as the Dragon Sensei character Mongee Poo. He’s a green Japanese snow monkey that shoots radiated sludge out of his nose and shouts, “HOO HOO HOO HI-YAH!”

If your MC went trick or treating, what would they dress up as and why?

Todd is obsessed roleplaying characters from the Japanese anime series, Dragon Sensei, so he would be Emperor Oora, the evil salamander ruler of the planet Fernsopi. He’s already made the wicked awesome costume complete with a poison mushroom necklace that shoots green smoke from the BoomShroom’s mouths!

If your villain went trick or treating, what would they dress up as?

Max “The Behemoth” Loving would go as himself, and he’d tell you that he’s scary enough as he is.

What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever eaten on a dare?

I was dared to eat dog biscuits in fourth grade, and of course I did. The grossest thing I’ve ALMOST eaten would have to be fried worms. No one dared me to do it – it was a personal goal after reading HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS. I got the butter-fried nightcrawler into my mouth, but to my everlasting shame was too grossed out to chew.

What scares the pants off of you?

I’m petrified of popping noises of any kind: gunfire, fireworks … balloons are the worst. I was in a play in college where three flash pots went off around me every show for a two-week run. Thankfully my character was supposed to scream. 

What is your dream subject to write about?

Horses. As a girl, I read every horse series I could get my hands on. I still love them and have a daughter who gives riding lessons. One of these days…

Do you legit believe in ghosts and things that go bump in the night? (We won’t think you’re cray)

I certainly believe in spirits, both good and evil. And I believe your spirit or “ghost” can materialize after your body has died (think the witch of Endor summoning Samuel.)

What is the worst prank you’ve ever pulled?

I’ve already confessed this for Anna Staniszewski’s THE PRANK LIST contest, so why not? In middle school, we were dissecting frogs and I snuck a frog lung into my foe’s macaroni at lunch. But I was so scared she’d get sick or die that I told on myself.

Would you rather be covered in slime or blood?


What magical/supernatural creature so you secretly want to be?

Pegasus, because, yanno, horses. But I’m not keen on heights, so I’d better say Unicorn. I’m thinking that horn would make me klutzier than I already am, skewering things here and there. So I’ll go with fairies, because I love flowers. As long as I don’t fly too far off the ground.

What is your favorite paragraph/sentence from your novel?

I like reading this one at school visits because the kids really react to it: “Lucy lifted the sock to her nose, sniffed it, and jerked back. ‘That is definitely the most odious odor I have ever inhaled.’ She shut her eyes and licked her lips, like she was flavor testing or something. ‘A disgusting and musty blend of mushrooms, mildew, and damp dog produced by your dead skin tissues mixed with moisture.’ Lucy took my hand and shook it. ‘Congratulations. It’s so dirty, I bet you could grow a plant from it.’”

Thank you for participating! But before you go, I’m giving you a bonus contest, open to U.S. & CAN only. Enter your orneriest prank (or one you think would be great to play on someone) in the comments below. I'll pick a random winner who will receive a personalized copy of the book, a signed poster, and a bookmark!

Thanks for playing along! Here's the next stop on the Galaxy Trail:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

STOMP Out Bullying with these Bs!

When I visit schools I talk to students and hand out flyers that discuss ways to stop bullying. Since October is the time when schools emphasize bullying, I thought I'd post the six Bs I'll be sharing with students this week.

BE who you ARE!

The BRAVEST thing you can do might be to get help.

Remember, bullies have BACKGROUNDS. (Bullies aren't born, they become.)

BAND together. There is safety in numbers.

Never, ever BE A bully!

Remember, if you're being bullied, there is HELP! Call 1-850-790-HELP. No one deserves to bullied!

And here's a random picture of my littles in wigs to make you smile and remember that it's safer to stick together!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee!

I was thrilled to learn recently that BY THE GRACE OF TODD is a 2015-2016 Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee. This made me especially happy since I lived in Indiana before my family moved to Oklahoma.

Students pick the winners, which I think is awesome. But the best part is that kids get connected with some great books! Congratulations to the rest of the nominees!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

IN TODD WE TRUST Cover Reveal!

I'm so excited to announce that IN TODD WE TRUST has a cover! I think it's AWESOME, and I hope you agree!

The sequel to BY THE GRACE OF TODD releases March 17th, 2015 and is available for preorder from the links below. Here's the official book blurb:

Out of the dirt on Todd’s smelly sock came a race of miniature people who worship Todd as a god.
Now, the tiny Toddlians need everyone's prayers!

The Toddlians have always believed in the omnipotence of their god, twelve-year-old Todd Butroche. After all, Todd is their creator and they would not exist if it were not for him and his benevolent grossness. But when the Toddlians are confronted with a vile “red thing” (a moldy apple) and its mysterious and horrifying inhabitant (a worm!), they begin to believe Todd has forgotten all about them. There’s only one solution to the Toddlians’ problems: to find a new god! And so they decide to build a raft à la Noah’s ark in order to search for a more thoughtful deity. But who can the Toddlians turn to in their time of despair? And does Todd really not remember the miniature race generated by the dirt on his smelly sock? It will take more than divine intervention to save the Toddlians and mend their relationship with their neglectful creator.

And without further ado, here it is!

Isn't it COOL?! Let you know what you think in the comments. Here's where you can preorder (I'll add to the list as more sites become available):

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mongee-Poo SLIME Recipe!

Here is the slime recipe that I make for library visits. It's super easy!

This recipe is straight from Check out his site for more cool science stuff to make!

Elmer's glue (most kinds of white craft glue work)
2 disposable cups
Food coloring (Mongee-Poo slime is green)
Borax powder (available at most large grocery stores near the detergent)
A plastic spoon (for stirring)
A tablespoon (for measuring)

1. Fill 1 small cup with water. Add a spoonful of the Borax powder and stir it up. Then set it aside.

2. Fill the other small cup with about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the glue and stir.

3. Add 3 tablespoons (20 ml) of water to the glue and stir.

4. Add a few drops of the food coloring and stir it up until mixed.

5. Now the fun part! Add 1 tablespoon of the Borax solution you made earlier and stir well! Watch the slime form!

6. After the slime forms, let it sit for 30 seconds and then pull it off the spoon and play!

Tip: Keep your slime in a tightly closed plastic bag when you aren't playing with it, and keep it away from carpet and your cat! (Or little sister's hair.) :)

The slime in these photos is more like a triple batch. Be sure you have an adult help you, Borax is powerful stuff!

If you make slime, be sure to let me know how it turns out!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read with Louise and Lucy!

I'm visiting libraries this summer, reading from Lucy's science passages in BY THE GRACE OF TODD and doing a fun Mongee Poo slime experiment. I was a total science nerd in school, (yes, I even liked dissection--in fact, there's a song about it in the upcoming, IN TODD WE TRUST) and so this is going to be extra fun for me.

There are still a few openings left in July if your library would like me to bring Koi Boy and Mongee Poo for some reading and science shenanigans! Just contact me via my website!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Falling into a Vortex: My Writing Process and a Talented Trio of Writers

This post is a part of the #mywritingprocess blog tour. I was lucky enough to be tagged by the incredible Jessica Lawson, who's the author of the ingenious book (which I CANNOT WAIT to read), THE ACTUAL TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER (Simon and Schuster, July 2014).

You can read about Jessica's writing process HERE and read more about her book HERE. Be sure to check out what she says about her upcoming middle grade novel, NOOKS & CRANNIES, which is set in the Lake District, England. (One of my favorite spots on the globe, thanks to Jane Austen.)

And now, a bit about what I'm working on:

The sequel to BY THE GRACE OF TODD, IN TODD WE TRUST, is in its final editing stages. The Toddlians get more involved in the narrative of this one, and Todd's evil genius baby sister, Daisy, gets more page time, too. (She's one of my favorite characters.) 

In the sequel, Todd gets his first real crush, and the Toddlians fear that with him always hanging out at the "magical kingdom" called The Mall, Todd may have forgotten them. He's certainly been forgetting to leave them dirty gym clothes to feast on and refresh the water in Lake Parkay. Do they need to find a more attentive, responsible god? Should that god be Lucy? And of course, there's still the problem of surviving Max, the hairy, Toddlian-obsessed, behemoth of a bully that just won't go away.

I'm also reworking an unpublished novel, and outlining an upcoming series I hope to find time to write.

How does my work differ from other humorous middle grade?

I feel I definitely have a distinct voice in my writing. Part of that is due to the fact that while I read a lot of humorous fiction, I don't read as heavily in my own genre as writers are often advised to do. I'm definitely part parrot, in the sense that I tend to imitate what I've read/heard. That comes in handy when creating a character like the Toddlian, Persephone, who speaks in Western slang. But I don't want to inadvertently sound like my contemporaries. So I wait until after I've finished a book to read someone else's, especially if I admire their writing.

I'm also a playwright, so my writing tends to have a lot of lively dialogue. It's my strength and my weakness, because I often forget that my reading audience can't "see" the scenery, like a theater audience can. So I have to really focus on setting and sensory details when I write.

Why do I write what I do?

Writers of middle grade fiction often say they write for this age because these were the books they loved as a kid, and I'm certainly of that group. I'm a forty-three-year-old mom (and grandmother!) stuck inside a middle grade mindset. I'm still goofily insecure at times, feel as if I'll never really grow up, and love hanging out with kids this age and making them laugh. 

Most of my protagonists are boys, and I still haven't quite figured out why. I think it's because I never felt at ease with girls my age. I wasn't into all the "girly things" growing up. I played with the boys in my neighborhood (albeit I did play Princess Leia if we were having a light saber duel.) Even in high school, my best friends were boys. 

How does my writing process work?

I used to be a "panster," meaning I wrote by the seat of my pants, letting all the words just spill onto the page as they flowed from my imagination. But that led to problems plot-wise, so I'm training myself to outline first, using tools like the Hero's Journey and Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT!

I generally work like Jo in LITTLE WOMEN, "falling into a vortex"for days on end once the creative well has been tapped. Which can be problematic, since I oversee a large family that depends on me to be sweet and feed and clothe them regularly. The outline saves the day again, by reigning in my creativity and helping me stick to a schedule. Usually the best work comes from those vortex times, though. So I do allow for them when creating characters initially and writing dialogue. I just force the mental river to stay inside the banks of the outline.

I'm trying to retrain myself from nighttime writing to early morning writing. It's a hard habit to break, but I'm already seeing how much better my brain functions after decent sleep. I love the early mornings, but got into the pattern of staying up too late in college. Since that was twenty-some years ago, it's high time for a change. :)

And NOW, let me introduce you to the three wonderful writers I've tagged. They will be posting next Monday, April 28th (except for Linda, who tagged me as I tagged her--her post is up today):

Lisha Cauthen
Lisha has been a mentor to me for several years, always bringing her stability and wit to any situation. Her weekly Kidlit SCOOP is my go-to place for absolutely everything going on in publishing, and I've snagged several gigs from it. Check out her stuff, you'll thank me for it!

Lisha Cauthen writes novels for guys that girls like to read too. As well as articles on iPhone apps for writers for magazines and on the Ink & Angst blog, here: She's also leads workshops on Social Media for Writers, see here:   You can find her blog for writers and normal people at, where you will also find links to her Tumblrs, Twitter and Pinterest. And a widget to sign up for the KidLit Scoop, a FREE mostly weekly newsletter concerning children's publishing news and trends: Don't forget to check out Sub It Club, a place for children's writers to learn and support each other: (Our motto: "We shall never monitize.") And my blog geared toward my reader demographic: And yes, my hair is blue.

(She seriously has the best avatar ever. You have to check it out.)

Melanie Conklin

Melanie has been a real encouragement to me with the release of BY THE GRACE OF TODD. I'm super-excited to read her upcoming novel, COUNTING THYME! Here's the PW announcement:

Stacey Barney at Putnam has acquired, at auction, world English rights to Melanie Conklin's Counting Thyme for publication in 2016. The novel follows 10-year-old Thyme Owens, who moves from San Diego to New York City after her brother is accepted into a cancer drug trial. There, she discovers that hope can be found in everyday miracles: in first crushes, in budding friendships, in school plays, and in a sister's love for her little brother. Pete Knapp at the Park Literary Group brokered the two-book, six-figure deal.

Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and all-around lover of words and those who create them. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, Counting Thyme, will be published by Putnam & Sons in 2016. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs.
Website |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Linda Neihoff
Linda has been my good buddy since Junior High. She's an amazing photographer (I mean REALLY amazing) and her writing is exquisite. Please stop by her beautiful blog and read some of her stories!

Linda Niehoff is a writer and photographer living in a small Kansas town. She loves instant film, silver water towers and Gothic novels. Her short stories have appeared in Crack the Spine's 2013 Spring Anthology, Scissors & Spackle, and Literary Orphans, among others.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Koi Boy and Mongee Poo

Meet Koi Boy and Mongee Poo, two of the characters from Todd's favorite anime cartoon, Dragon Sensei. These fellas did a karate routine for my library book birthday bash. They were awesome!

What about you? If you could be any cartoon character, who would it be? I'd be Bugs Bunny, because he's just the coolest.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I had a wonderful time reading and signing books at my launch party at Watermark Books and Cafe! It was incredible to celebrate the launch of BY THE GRACE OF TODD in the store where my critique group meets. Thanks for the wonderful party, Watermark!

Friday, January 3, 2014

AND . . . WE'RE OFF!

Happy Birthday to BY THE GRACE OF TODD! Which means LAUNCH PARTIES! WOOT!

But before we talk birthday bashes, have you seen the book trailer? Please be sure to let me know what you think in the comments!

My first launch party will be Thursday, March 6th @ 6:00 pm at the renowned Watermark Books and Cafe in Wichita, KS. I'm super excited they're having me! All the deets are here. 

My fabulous local library is also throwing me a book birthday party on Saturday, March 15 @ 2:00 pm. There are rumors of Koi Boy and Mongee Poo appearances and toe jam and danderwiches! You've been warned! Isn't my library BEAUTIFUL? It's just about the best place on earth. And the librarians there are pure awesomesauce!

Hope you can make it out to one of these events. If not, who knows? Maybe I'll bring TODD AND CREW to a city near you! Be sure to say "Hi!" in the comments and tell me where you hail from!