Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Celebrate good times, blogfrogs! THE WAND & THE SEA has finally launched!

Order yourself a brand-new copy here

And a salute to you too, Captain Jack, for being only the latest in a long line of charismatic pirates who helped inspire THE WAND & THE SEA. These rogues of the sea have been a lifelong passion of mine. I may even have my own pirate hat. But I'm not telling.

THE WAND & THE SEA by Claire M. Caterer
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015
384 pp |  ages 8+
fantasy adventure | #2 in THE KEY & THE FLAME series

From Goodreads:
A year has passed since Holly and Ben Shepard have been to England, where they brought their friend Everett to a fantastical realm called Anglielle. Having vowed to return and help the Exiles, Holly, Ben, and Everett are hoping to find their way back to the land ruled by a tyrant king and sorcerer who have outlawed magic.

But when they arrive in Anglielle, they discover things aren’t what they expect: Their friends are imprisoned and the alliance is scattered. Ruthless King Reynard and the sorcerer Raethius are determined to find the very Adepts they exiled in the first place—but why?

It’s up to Holly and the boys to sail to the Isle of Exile and find the Adepts first, but that means enlisting the help of the Water Elementals and a pirate captain with a private agenda. Everett is obsessed with a mysterious locket with a mind of its own, and somehow, no matter where they go, a sinister black-sailed schooner appears on the horizon. With no one to teach her, can Holly master Elemental magic in time to save the Adepts of Anglielle?

This book was a tough write followed by a long wait, but I'm oh so glad it's finally here. And to show my appreciation, I'm giving away a double gift: both THE KEY & THE FLAME and THE WAND & THE SEA--just in case you missed the first book and don't like starting a series in the middle. I totally get that.

(If you already own a copy of THE KEY & THE FLAME and don't know what you'd do with another, we can negotiate another book of your choosing. But don't get greedy until you've won, eh?)

Enter the giveaway below!

1. U.S. AND international entries accepted.
2. Must be 13 years or older to enter (or sucker a parent into entering for you).
3. Winner will be notified by email on July 23, 2015, and must respond within 72 hours or a new winner will be chosen.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

A Piratical Giveaway

One day to go before the release of THE WAND & THE SEA into bookshops and libraries everywhere! Tomorrow I'll be giving away free copies, but until then, here's another giveaway for a superfun pirate book.

This fun-filled book purports to be the "journal" of one Captain William Lubber, who sailed to find the notorious pirate Arabella Drummond. More than just a story, this book has all the cool stuff you expect from the popular 'Ology series (info per Amazon.com):

  • a stunning cover bearing a working compass and glittering gems
  • treasure map with a missing piece--for the canny reader to find
  • multiple flaps, maps, charts, and booklets harboring codes and clues
  • intricate drawings of ships’ interiors
  • a packet of gold dust
  • a pocket sundial
  • a cache of pirate letters, pieces of eight, and a jewel as a final reward

Sound like a blast? Enter below and I'll send the winner his/her very own copy of Pirateology!

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Talking Like a Pirate

Of course, everyone knows that September 19 is the official Talk Like a Pirate Day. But what do you say if you're looking to get your free dozen doughnuts from Krispy Kreme? What does it mean to talk like a pirate?

The popular version of the pirate "accent" can be traced to actor Robert Newton, who used his West Country accent in his portrayal of Long John Silver in Walt Disney's Treasure Island (1950). Newton reprised his role in the followup film Long John Silver (1954).

As to the terms pirates used, we don't have any recordings of them, and they didn't exactly keep detailed logs of their raids, robberies, and carousings. But George Choundas, author of The Pirate Primer, has culled examples from famous novels, films, and television shows to give us an idea of where our "pirate talk" originated. The Primer is a wealth of fun information. Here are a few of the colorful oaths Choundas offers up:

curse me for a papistical Spaniard = I'm telling the truth, on my honor; if I'm lying, you can call me a Spaniard 

damn my gizzards! = Relates to one's stomach or innards

may I drink a bowl of brimstone and fire with the devil = May I burn in hell if I'm telling a lie

shiver my timbers! = expression of surprise; refers to the trembling of the ship when hit with a cannonball

And threats:

them that'll die be the lucky ones

There's never a man yet looks me between the eyes and lives to see a good day afterwards.

you'll be meat for the sharks

up the yardarm you'll swing by your thumbs = You'll be hung from the yardarm, which is the crosswise pole supporting a square-rigged sail; often used for hanging 

For more tips on being the chattiest pirate around, check out this handy how-to site. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!


What's with all this pirate stuff? We're approaching the Launch Day of THE WAND & THE SEA, in which Holly and the boys are forced to team up with a pirate captain to save the Adepts of Anglielle. Look for it June 23! Read more about the book here. And learn more pirate stuff on the website's new Pirate Lore page!

ship image by Torley. Used by permission via this Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Pirate's Code--or Just Guidelines?

Only one week to go in the countdown to the publication of THE WAND & THE SEA! In honor of that momentous event, I'll be putting up some piratical posts to whet your whistle. Today, we're talking about the infamous Pirate Code.

more about THE WAND & THE SEA here

Was there really a Pirate's Code? Or were they really more guidelines?

That depends on what sort of pirate you're talking about. Men like Sir Francis Drake did their share of robbing and plundering on the high seas, but thanks to generous monarchs like Elizabeth I, they were called privateers. In other words, they had legal permission to go a-pirating.

A privateer had to abide by strict rules. Otherwise, it would look like the British Crown approved of murder and torture, and that was bad publicity. Instead, the Queen--and anyone else who issued privateers their letters of marque--insisted their privateers act like gentlemen.

But according to Captain Charles Johnson, who wrote a book called A General History of the  Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates in 1724, many true pirates also wrote up a list of rules, known as their code. For instance, Captain Black Bart Roberts's code looked like this:
  1. Every man shall have an equal vote in affairs of moment. He shall have an equal title to the fresh provisions or strong liquors at any time seized, and shall use them at pleasure unless a scarcity may make it necessary for the common good that a retrenchment may be voted.
  2. Every man shall be called fairly in turn by the list on board of prizes, because over and above their proper share, they are allowed a shift of clothes. But if they defraud the company to the value of even one dollar in plate, jewels or money, they shall be marooned. If any man rob another he shall have his nose and ears slit, and be put ashore where he shall be sure to encounter hardships.
  3. None shall game for money either with dice or cards.
  4. The lights and candles should be put out at eight at night, and if any of the crew desire to drink after that hour they shall sit upon the open deck without lights.
  5. Each man shall keep his piece, cutlass and pistols at all times clean and ready for action.
  6. No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them. If any man shall be found seducing any of the latter sex and carrying her to sea in disguise he shall suffer death.
  7. He that shall desert the ship or his quarters in time of battle shall be punished by death or marooning.
  8. None shall strike another on board the ship, but every man's quarrel shall be ended on shore by sword or pistol in this manner. At the word of command from the quartermaster, each man being previously placed back to back, shall turn and fire immediately. If any man do not, the quartermaster shall knock the piece out of his hand. If both miss their aim they shall take to their cutlasses, and he that draw the first blood shall be declared the victor.
Note that the punishment for disobeying the Code was harsh--slit ears, death, or marooning, which means being put ashore on any given island and left to fend for yourself. The Code seemed to be mostly a way for captains to keep order aboard ship than a code of honor, but it served its purpose. And, as Captain Barbossa so astutely points out above, you had to be a pirate for the Pirate's Code to apply.

Love pirate stuff? Check out the website's new Pirate Lore page!

clip above from The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Monday, May 25, 2015

Launch Party Deets Are In!

You Are Invited!

Ahoy, maties! Come one, come all to a swashbuckling launch party to celebrate the publication of The Wand & the Sea. This is a FREE, PUBLIC event for anyone who loves pirates, fantasy stories, chocolate doubloons, and/or (of course) The Key & the Flame. 'Cause it's a sequel. You know.

Read more about The Wand & the Sea here.

a free, superfun, pirate-themed party, featuring:
  • pirate-themed food & drink for all
  • giveaways
  • arts & crafts
  • party favors
  • brand-new hardcover editions of The Wand & the Sea for purchase & signing
  • brand-new paperback editions of The Key & the Flame

Lackman Library
15345 W. 87th Street Parkway
Lenexa, KS 66219
(913) 826-4600

June 25, 2015 | 6:00-7:30 pm

no reservation or purchase necessary to attend,
Books do run out (at least, they did at the last party), so please reserve your copy!
Contact our authorized bookseller to reserve:
Mysteryscape Books
(913) 649-0000
or email them at orders@mysteryscape.com

See you there!


Monday, May 11, 2015

May Giveaway & More Great Reads

Apologies, blogfrogs, since I could've given these away last month. But as long as you're getting free stuff, who can complain? Here are my latest middle-grade recs from the wealth of great material on my TBR list:

title & author: Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, and a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans
pub info: Sterling Children's Books, 2012; 272 pp
audience: middle grade (8+)
genre: real-world magic & mystery
caveats: none
Goodreads summary:

As if being small for his age and also having S. Horten as his name isn't bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends. But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart's swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony--a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth--and Tony's marvelous, long-lost workshop.  Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who's also desperate to get hold of Tony's treasures.

my thoughts:
I'm hardly going to dislike a book featuring a smart, spunky narrator who, while exploring his new village in England, discovers that his family bears a remarkable secret. I kind of love stories about magicians, and the possibility that they're holding out on us--they know magic really does exist, and yet they're selling us this bill of goods about illusions. Stuart is a likeable character, as is his eventual helpmate, next-door neighbor April. My only complaint is that the book is deceptively short. It looks long, but the chapters are short and the print is large, and suddenly, just as the adventure seems to be taking off in a new direction, the reader stares woefully at the words THE END. However, more is to come in the next installment, so don't despair. Kids who love adventure will enjoy the marvelous writing and story, and they'll continue to nurture the wild hope that even in the most boring of lives, a bit of magic may lurk.

find Lissa:
Lissa has written several books, both for adults and children. The next one in the Stuart Horten series is Horten's Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery, and Another Very Strange Adventure (Sterling, 2012). While I'm anxious to get my hands on that one, I'm equally intrigued with Evans's Crooked Heart, a novel for adults about a boy and a woman who team up in a wartime scheme to profit from the London Blitz (I know--wha???). Connect with Lissa via her Twitter account here.
title & author: Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill; illus. by Iacopo Bruno
pub info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012; 424 pp
audience: middle grade (9+)
genre:  fantasy
caveats: none
Goodreads summary:

Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being—called the Nybbas—imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true—not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph . . . or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.

Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.

my thoughts:
Kelly Barnhill is the marvelous author of The Mostly True Story of Jack, which was one of my favorite books of 2011. In Violet, she brings her spot-on narrative voice to the story of a girl who's not just plain--come on, she's ugly, and everyone knows it. Haunted by the idea that she is not a real princess, Violet pushes the boundaries at every turn and winds up charged with saving her world through a series of events partly of her own making. The character of Violet is so beautifully rendered that the fantasy aspect pales beside her, though the world is stunning and well constructed. If the story went on a little long, I wasn't sorry, to be honest. Gorgeous.

find Kelly:
Kelly's website is here, and you can also find her on Twitter. Her latest novel for middle-grade readers is The Witch's Boy (Algonquin, 2014).

title & author: Splendors & Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
pub info: Candlewick Press, 2012; 384 pp
audience: middle grade (10+)
genre:  historical fantasy / supernatural
caveats: better for strong readers (see below)
Goodreads summary:
The master puppeteer Gaspare Grisini is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants.

Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara’s life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. 

As they seek to puzzle out Clara’s whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini’s criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it’s too late.
my thoughts:
This is a marvelous, gothic novel that takes place in 1860s London (and environs). The period detail places the reader right there, from Parsefall's Cockney slang to the costumes and mores of the time. The story is pretty creepy, which I love, and the characters endearing. I wouldn't call it a dense novel, exactly, but it would be a challenge for the reluctant reader trying to juggle a different time period as well as a sophisticated plot. Nothing too horrific for an 8-year-old, but better suited to the older set. Laura Amy Schlitz is a fantastic writer who won the Newbery Medal in 2008 for Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! This book won a well-deserved Newbery Honor.

find Laura:
Laura Amy Schlitz doesn't maintain much of an online presence, but you can visit her Penguin Random House page here. Candlewick Press maintains an author bio page here.


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Monday, April 13, 2015

Reading Update and a GIveaway!

Since I eschewed apologies at the start of 2015, I have nothing to say in the way of Sorry I've been gone. But, you know ... sorry I've been gone.

Anyway, I've made terrific headway this year on my TBR list, not to mention doing some writing, which is kind of my job, so, good on me. But now that I've read a few fabulous books, I'm ready to pass them on to you in the form of brand-new, Amazon-minted copies. Here are my recs:

title & author: The Forbidden Stone (Book 1 in the Copernicus Legacy Series) by Tony Abbott
pub info: Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins, 2014; 423 pp
audience: middle grade (ages 9+)
genre: spy / thriller /bit o' magic
caveats: well, you know, thriller--people do chase each other and get hurt, but nothing major; there's murder, but offstage
Goodreads summary:
It all began when four friends--Wade, Lily, Darrel, and Becca--received a strange, coded email from Wade's uncle Henry shortly before the old man's sudden death. They set off for Germany to attend the funeral with Wade's father, Roald, and discover that Uncle Henry left them yet another baffling message that they suspect is the key to figuring out how and why he died.

The message leads to a clue, and the more clues they discover, the farther they travel down a treacherous path toward an ancient, guarded secret. Soon they are in a breathless race across the globe, running for their lives as a dangerous shadow organization chases them around every corner. Their only hope of saving themselves--and the world that they know--is to find twelve magical relics from a hidden past that will unlock the Copernicus Legacy.
my thoughts:
Readers who love a fast-moving, international adventure sprinkled with bits of magic and a hint of time travel will love this new series by Tony Abbott. It's a little bit Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) without all the churchy bits, and there's a definite Rick Riordan flavor as well. The characters are fun, the pages speed by, and I am all set to read The Serpent's Curse, the next in the series (which I bought only moments after closing the cover of Book #1). Of course, the bummer is that there are only two books out so far, though the third (in a series of six) is due out this August. To make things a bit more confusing, there will also be six Copernicus "archives" (paperback originals), which take place in between the six main novels.  I know, it's complicated. The first takes place immediately after the action closes in The Forbidden Stone, and it's called Wade and the Scorpion's Claw. Now, can you still understand what all is going on if you read only the "main" novels? Maybe. I'm not sure on that one, but my Book #2 seems to explain things just fine. (Note: The "archives" sell for only $3.99 each, but they're not short. Scorpion's Claw is 224 pages.)

find Tony:
Tony Abbott, the author of 100+ books and not to be confused with this PM of Australia, has a nifty website here. His books include the popular series The Secrets of Droon as well as loads of others. He also keeps Facebook and Twitter accounts. The Copernicus Legacy series has its own website here.

title & author: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
pub info: Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan, 2014; 226 pp
audience: middle grade (ages 9+)
genre: contemporary fiction
caveats: none
Goodreads summary:
Rose Howard has Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. 
my thoughts:
My thoughts are, READ THIS BOOK. The Goodreads summary doesn't begin to do it justice. Yes, Rose has Asperger's (high-functioning autism), but this isn't a book about autism; it's a book about a girl forced to make some tough choices. She struggles in her classroom, with making friends, and with her father, who doesn't always know what to do with her. But through it all, Rose has her dog, Rain. The beauty of their relationship--and how Rose grows in love and maturity with Rain--is absolutely breathtaking. A beautiful book that won several awards this past year. 

find Ann:
Ann M. Martin has written several books, including the acclaimed series The Babysitter's Club. You can learn more about her and her work on her Facebook page, Twitter account, and the Scholastic Books' site

And now for the giveaway ...

So, two fantastic middle-grade reads! Want one? Tell me your favorite and enter to win!

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And don't forget to check out more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Shannon Messenger's blog!