Monday, November 19, 2012

Artifacts and Lies Blog Tour -- and a Giveaway!

As part of the Artifacts and Lies blog tour, I'm happy to welcome Jordan Jacobs, real-life archaeologist and the author of SAMANTHA SUTTON AND THE LABYRINTH OF LIES (Sourcebooks, October, 2012)

First, let me tell you about his book:

Samantha Sutton is a curious, headstrong twelve-year-old girl. She wants to be an archaeologist just like her Uncle Jay. When he offers to take her on one of his digs in Peru that summer, she jumps at the chance. The catch? Her older brother, who loves teasing her, comes along too. Not only that, but she has to work with her uncle's grouchy assistant. And then artifacts start to disappear from the dig site.

Combining history, mystery, and heart-racing adventure, Jordan Jacobs weaves a plot full of non-stop fun and incredible facts in Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies. If you like Nancy Drew and other mysteries, you'll love this book. I received the galley from netgalley, courtesy of the publisher. 

Ever wonder what it’d be like to be an archaeologist, to travel to exotic places and dig into the mysteries of centuries old civilizations? For today's guest post, Jordan explains what a day in the life of an archaeologist is really like.

Jordan Jacobs (from his website)

Just Another Day at the Office

The movies don’t get everything wrong when it comes to archaeology.   Even in real life, there’s plenty of adventure to be found.  

As an archaeologist, I’ve gotten to work high in the Andes at Chavin de Huantar—crawling through unexplored tunnels full of bats and rubble and scattered human bones. I’ve excavated Crustumerium, just north of Rome, where Bronze Age peoples lie at rest in a sprawling city of the dead. I’ve worked in the United States as well, clearing cemeteries in advance of major construction projects, excavating cliff dwellings, and digging the toilet of a California governor from the wreckage of his earthquake-totalled mansion.

But of course, this sort of adventure is only part of the job.  

An archaeologist’s task is to study past cultures through what they’ve left behind.  These pieces of evidence—or “artifacts”—can be as big as an Egyptian pyramid or as small as a speck of pollen, stuck to an ancient cooking pot.   But the information they contain can be surprising.  Archaeologists can use these artifacts to reconstruct how people once lived—from the food they ate, to the way they fought, to the religions that they practiced and their views of the world around them.

The archaeologist’s “typical day” takes a variety of forms.  Some work mostly in the field--surveying the land, digging precise excavation units into the earth, looking for patterns, making comparisons, and drawing careful conclusions from whatever pieces of the past still remain.  Others work in laboratories, using the tools of science to discover how old an object is, exactly what it’s made of, or precisely where it came from.  Still others spend their days in museum storerooms, re-examining the evidence recovered by their predecessors.  And some archaeologists work with governments and companies in order to protect sites from destruction through development, looting, neglect, or war.

But archaeology also carries a lot of responsibility.  One awkward truth is that excavation destroys sites, meaning that each particular discovery can be made only once.  It’s up to the archaeologist to record everything he or she can--otherwise, that information is lost forever.  Just as importantly, archaeologists have a responsibility to the people who live nearby the site, or who claim it as their ancestors’.  

At its best, archaeology is a little like time travel. Holding an artifact in your hand can make you feel a connection to someone who lived centuries or millennia before. It’s intimate.  It’s humbling.  Seeing the fingerprint of a potter on the surface of a plain and broken pot is a reminder of the humanity all people share--no matter where, or when, we live.  

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Ooo, I love time travel, so I guess that means I love archaeology too! Thanks for joining us today, Jordan.

Readers, Sourcebooks has generously offered to give away a paperback copy of SAMANTHA SUTTON AND THE LABYRINTH OF LIES to one lucky winner from the U.S. or Canada (sorry, Sourcebooks won't mail outside of the US or Canada).  To enter, you must be a follower and comment on this post.  You have until Saturday, December 1 at 10 pm EST. Remember, only US and Canada addresses, please.  Winner will be chosen by and announced on Monday, December 3.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh, the irony!

How odd to be mentioned in a book.

Starting on p. 183 of MY BOOKSTORE: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop (Black Dog & Leventhal, Nov. 13, 2012), Philadelphia news personality Larry Kane shares his enthusiasm for Chester County Book & Music Company. And along with such key employees as Michael Fortney, he mentions... me.

It's ironic, of course, because I no longer work there. So I've decided to treat this as a tribute to the ten years of hard work I put in there, trying to make order out of chaos and helping customers find just the right book.

This isn't the first time I've seen my name in a published book, and I hope it won't be the last. Having reviewed all five volumes in Suzanne Collins' Underland Chronicles for Booksense (now called Indiebound), I was quoted in a compilation volume. And believe it or not, Booksense Best Children's Books is still available through Indiebound!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Guest Blogger Natalie Bahm visits for MMGM

Today, I'm honored to have a guest blogger: Natalie Bahm, author of THE SECRET UNDERGROUND, published by NLA Digital Liaison Platform LLC (September 28, 2012)

First, let me tell you about her book:
Twelve-year-old Ally is the only witness to a bank robbery in her small town. Unable to block out the memory of the robbers, a notorious gang known as the Gauze Men, Ally joins her little brother and a bunch of neighborhood boys digging a hole in her backyard. Only the hole isn't just a hole - it's a massive set of tunnels snaking beneath the neighborhood and heading for an abandoned steel mill. Ally is old enough to know the danger, but she reasons spending time with sixth-grade heartthrob Paul is more fun than sitting at home with her worries. And dangerous it is - none of the kids' parents realize the tunnels exist, but the Gauze Men might.

I've just finished reading the book and it's filled with adventure and excitement... and mud! And every kid loves mud.  I know when I was 10 or 11, I would have adored the idea of digging tunnels under the backyard. When I heard the extraordinary story of how and why this book was published (and where the proceeds are going), I bought the book from Amazon to show my support  -- if you know me, you may realize how unusual this is, because normally I only support indies! And I welcomed the chance to have Natalie Bahm on my blog.

Take it away, Natalie!

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Want to Write More?  Get a Critique Partner.

A year ago I was so frustrated with writing I almost quit.

My life was chaotic, thanks mostly to my four little children.  I hadn’t finished a book in over two years.  I felt guilty about not making time to write.

I decided I needed a real critique partner—someone I could trade pages with on a daily basis.  I wanted someone who would push me to finish a book.  This person was Wen Baragrey.

Wen and I started sharing books about a year ago.  Since then, we’ve both written two complete books and started several more.  I’ve written more pages this year than just about every year before combined. 

This is why:

                  1) For me, being accountable on a daily basis is CRUCIAL.  Before I started working with Wen, I didn’t write regularly.  I needed to know someone was waiting for the story—someone I didn’t want to disappoint—before I felt motivated to get my daily writing done.

                 2) Reading her writing made me want work harder.  Wen is an amazing writer, but more than that, she’s brilliant at some of the things that I struggle with—like description and humor.  Reading her stuff makes me push harder when writing my own. I’m a way stronger writer now than I was a year ago.

                3)She is ALWAYS positive about the first draft.  I believe that once a manuscript is done you need a  harsh critique or two… or ten.  But during a first draft there’s no such a thing as too much praise.

Wen has taught me that positive reinforcement is important.  As writers we’re hard on ourselves.  If I had a dollar for every time I think I should quit writing because I suck and I’ll never be good enough, I’d be a rich woman.  I’ve realized it’s essential to have a voice in our lives counteracting that negative self-talk. 

Wen is also the biggest reason that my first book, The Secret Underground, is out now.  Wen’s grandson, Jayden, has been very ill since birth and her daughter and son-in-law have struggled to pay the bills.  I felt like I needed to do something to help them.

I called my agent, Sara Megibow, and asked if we could do a book for Jayden.  She thought it was a great idea. Wen spent countless hours reading and rereading the book, offering critiques and advice, and drawing the beautiful interior illustrations. 

All profits from sales of The Secret Underground go directly to Jayden’s family. You can read more about the project here. The paperback version is available on Amazon.  The eBook can be purchased just about anywhere eBooks are sold.  The audiobook is available through iTunes, Audible, and Amazon.  The paperback will be available through more booksellers soon.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Natalie. Readers, please consider helping Baby Jayden by buying the book!

Friday, November 9, 2012

And the winner of TOUCHING THE SURFACE is...

According to the winner of the hardcover copy of TOUCHING THE SURFACE, Kimberly Sabatini's stunning debut novel, (plus the cool swag) is:


Congratulations, Christina!  Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address, so I can get this out to you as soon as possible!

And never fear, there will be other giveaways in the near future. Happy reading.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Giveaway Winner! And Random Acts of Reading

First, it's my pleasure to announce the winner of the signed, hardcover copy of GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by Mike Jung.  According to, the winner is:


Congratulations, Erik!  Expect an email from me very soon, asking for your mailing address.

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Now, instead of an MMGM post here today, go check out my contribution to Random Acts of Reading's book blogger panel, where this month we're talking about backlist books that deserve your attention.

Next week's MMGM: guest blogger Natalie Bahm!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. She has the links, or you can check out my sidebar.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I was going to write about PiBoIdMo... but then this storm came along...

The news has been saturated with the endless coverage of Sandy and its aftermath so I'll keep this short.

We were lucky here in my little corner of Pennsylvania. We didn't even lose power for more than 1 minute! My parents were not quite as lucky. They just got their power back after two and a half days.

But a lot of people in New Jersey and New York, especially, were not at all lucky.  Their lives have been changed forever. Please take a moment to think of them as you go about your day.  Sometimes pictures really do say it best. The most haunting photos I've seen are these from Reuters.

In addition, if you feel moved to give money to the disaster relief, you can go directly to the donation page of the American Red Cross right here.

OR, you can bid on the wonderful auction items -- including critiques from some pretty famous authors -- at Kid-Lit Cares (all donations going to Red Cross relief effort for Sandy).  See Kate Messner's website for details.

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Good luck to everyone who signed up for NaNoWriMo. I can't handle it, myself. That's not how I write.

Maggie Stiefvater explained it most eloquently: I don’t have a problem with other people doing NaNoWriMo. If that’s what it takes to motivate you, go for it. If you work well that way, go for it (not that you were sitting around, waiting for my approval). But for my style of writing, for my creative process, it will literally never work. I cannot knowingly write crap. I just can’t. I can and do write crap, but I can’t realize that I’m doing it at the time. Read the rest of her Annual Dear John Letter to NaNoWriMo here

But after visiting Caroline Starr Rose's blog yesterday and finding out that she's participating in a different activity this November, I realized... hey, I can handle that!  I've done it before (in 2010).

This year's logo is by Ward Jenkins

What's PiBoIdMo?  Picture Book Idea Month! All you have to do is come up with 30 new ideas for picture books. You don't even have to write them yet.  PiBoIdMo was created by the one and only Tara Lazar. Visit Tara's PiBoIdMo page for all the details and to sign up.  Quick! While you still have time!

And you still have time to enter my two giveaways.  

Enter here for GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES. But hurry! Giveaway ends tomorrow night!

Enter here for TOUCHING THE SURFACE. Giveaway ends Wed November 7.

What about you?  Did you sign up for NaNo?  Or PiBoIdMo?  Or are you plugging away at a revision on your own?  Yay for you!