Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #4 Sibling as the Parent

Welcome back, everyone who's been following along! If you're just joining us, we've been talking about ways to get the kids away from the parents / guardians when writing middle grade. Because it's only when you get the kid separated from those who would fix all the really big problems that the kid gets to do it themselves. And that's what kids really want to read about when they pick up a middle grade book-- they want to see kids just like them being capable and doing the hard things that save the day. So far, we've talked about The Orphan, about the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent, and about the Capable Parent / Capable Child. Today, we get to tackle a Sibling as the Parent!

Sibling as Parent


The parents are either deceased or otherwise unable to take care of the kids, so they are being raised by an older sibling.


I'm going to use a couple of movies / TV shows as the examples, because try as I might, I can't come up with good book examples. (I know they're out there, though! If you can think of any of them, please mention in the comments, and I'll get some book examples up here.)

So in Lilo, her parents have died, and her older sister is taking care of her. In Carly, her mom is deceased (I think... I'm not sure I've seen an episode where it has said.) and her dad is in the military and always gone. So she lives with her older brother.

  • Let's be honest: siblings generally don't keep as good of an eye on a kid as a parent does. They just don't. And voila! This makes for kids who have much more freedom to go off and be heroes than they would otherwise.
  • It adds an element of sibling dynamic that you don't usually get to explore. The sibling has to not only fill the role of the sibling, but also fill the role of parent, which gets things interesting.
  • Sibling parents tend to be over/underprotective on random and unpredictable things, making them flexible in both good and bad ways.
  • It's not overdone. (Ha! See above inability to list books... ;))
  • Coming up with a way to make the circumstances in which the kids would be being raised by a sibling believable can take a lot of work. 
On next Tuesday, we'll talk about parents who are missing entirely. Until then, have the most wonderful of Thanksgivings! I hope it's wonderful and glorious and filled with family and good times and pie.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #3 Capable Parent / Capable Child

If you've missed it, we've been talking about how to get kids away from the adults who so want to solve all the big problems, so that the kids can be the ones to solve them all. (SOOOOO important in middle grade books!) We've talked about two of the most common methods for getting the kids separated from the parents / guardians: The Orphan and the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent.

Today, we're talking about one of my FAVORITES METHODS OF ALL TIME. The Capable Parent / Capable Kid. I think what made this one work its way into my alley of love was the TV show Kim Possible. (A.k.a. one of the greatest cartoons of all time.) Kim's mom is a brain surgeon. Her dad is a rocket scientist. They're smart. They're capable. And they're around a good deal of the time. So how do the writers get Kim away from her parents so that she can go save the day? By making her capable as well. Uberly capable, in fact. So much so that her parents can trust her to go fix all the problems, and still make it home in time to do her homework.


Consists of one or both parents (or even a guardian / guardians, such as grandparents, adoptive parents, etc.) who are capable caretakers. This works when the main character is also a capable child whom they can trust.


In Rump, Rump's grandmother is his caretaker. She is a good guardian, and trusts Rump. So when he goes off to find his destiny, it works. In Sky Jumpers, Hope has good parents. There's also a bad situation where she can help, so she goes off with her mom's (but not so much her dad's) blessing. In Kim, they trust her to go off, because they know it'll be okay.

  • It is a method not used as common, so there's a lot more room for uniqueness.
  • It can be nice to model good parents. It's something of a rarity.
  • Sadly, a lot of kids don't get to experience this in real life, so it adds an element of fantasy / wish fulfillment.
  • Teachers and parents appreciate when they aren't depicted as incompetent.
  • Extremely hard to pull off, especially repeatedly and especially if the book is more realistic. (I can speak to this firsthand! I got my capable character away from her capable parents just fine in book one. But repeating it gets more difficult-- especially if you're trying to do it in a way that doesn't make the parents / guardian or the child seem like they're making a bad decision, and without making the child defy the parents and sneak off, knowing that the capable parent has said no.)
  • You get less sympathy for the character in this area. Nobody is going to cry crocodile tears for your character who has caring adult figures in their lives.
Come on back tomorrow-- we'll talk about the fourth method: the Sibling as the Parent.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #2 the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent

On Friday, we started talking about how to get the kids away from the parents in middle grade books, so that they kids can be the ones to really shine and do the do the hard things, without the responsible adults stepping in to do it for them. We already talked about having your character be an orphan. Today, let's talk about the parents (or parent-figures) in middle grade who.... well... aren't the best role models ever. Because let's face it-- it really helps when the parents are NEVER AROUND. (Haha! I just realized how that last sentence sounds if only read it and nothing else. Parents are awesome. Keep them around. Unless you're writing a book, of course. ;))

The Absent / Busy / Bad Parent

Usually characterized by a single parent, who is caught up in his/her own life, sometimes because of work, sometimes because of social. (Wicked Step-Mother also fits into this category.)

In Janitors, the MC's mom is a single parent who is gone a lot. In Ophelia, her father is in the middle of curating a display for a museum, and extremely busy with that over the course of the book. In Gregor, his mom is very sick, and his dad is busy trying to keep everything in order.

  • It's easy to get kids off on an adventure believably. Tons of kids come from single-parent homes where the parent is rather busy and gone a lot (or even double parent homes where they both work a lot), leaving kids free to go on whatever adventures / mischief they'd like. So it's not a stretch for kids to believe that the kids are off doing things on their own.
  • Many kids have parent(s) who fall into this category, so it's very relatable.
  • It can annoy the gatekeepers. Middle grade books get read out loud by teachers / parents / guardians / other adults quite a bit. And let's face it: we kind of get tired of the adults in the stories making us look bad.
  • It's been done a lot. So, just like with orphans that we discussed on Friday, it's a little more difficult to make it feel fresh and new.
Tune in tomorrow, when we'll discuss one of my favorites-- Capable Parent / Capable Kid!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #1 The Orphan

I think it's high time for some more posts on Writing Middle Grade! What say ye?

The biggest key thing in writing for a middle grade audience is LETTING THE KIDS SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Seriously. Issue nĂºmero uno. And sometimes that's easy. But sometimes.... not so much. Why? Because responsible adults wouldn't let the kids be the ones to go off and save the world / do the really dangerous things / tackle issues all by themselves. They step in and help. It's what we do.

So the trick is to get them away from the parents or other responsible adults in their lives. For however long is needed in the story for them to really solve the problem on their own.

How do we do that? Make them all orphans? After all, Roald Dahl said, "Kill the parents!"

And that is definitely one way. For the next 8 days (skipping weekends and Thanksgiving, of course!), I'll talk about the eight different methods you can use to separate the kids from the parents/guardians so that they can be the ones to save the day.

First up: Let's go the route of Roald Dahl's suggestions, and talk ORPHANS!

The Orphan


Parents are usually dead or missing, and the child is either being raised in an orphanage, a foster home, or by absent / unfit replacement parents.


In The Boxcar Children, the kids are orphaned and living by themselves in an abandoned boxcar, figuring out everything they need to survive. In The False Prince, Sage is living in an orphanage before he gets dragged into his adventure. In Harry Potter, Harry is an orphan living with mean relatives. All of them have lost their parents, and are trying to make it on their own.

  • The parents are conveniently out of the picture.
  • You get instant sympathy for your character.Who doesn't feel bad for a kid who doesn't have parents? We pretty much instantly root for any kid in this situation.
  • There's more at stake, since no one is coming to their rescue.When they don't have parents somewhere who care for them, there's no hope that they'll get saved by someone else.
  • Kids find the concept fascinating. Think about when you were a kid. You probably wondered several times what it would be like if you were an orphan, and had to do everything on your own-- and had the freedom to do whatever you wanted whenever you wanted.
  • Because having orphans as main characters is so prevalent, it makes it harder to feel more fresh and integral to the story.
  • To be able to function on their own, many times the character ends up thinking and acting like an adult, which creates a credibility gap.
Things to look out for:

Look at the reasons why you want to make your character an orphan. Is it integral to the plot? Is it so that you can force the character to grow up faster? To give them more responsibility? To leave them isolated and wounded and more vulnerable?

Or is it just a convenient way to get the parents out of the way?

It will be more compelling when there is a good reason for them to be parent-less.

Check in tomorrow, when we'll talk about the Absent/Busy/Bad parent. Until then, happy writing, all!

And if you live in Central Utah and want to get a jump on your Christmas shopping by getting SIGNED BOOKS (the best Christmas present ever, right? :)), I'll be hanging out with 10 other authors tonight at the Orem, UT Barnes and Noble. If you can, come by and say hi!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Favorite bedtime stories

Happy National Young Readers day!!

Casper Sleep is a new company that makes American made, ship to your door memory foam mattresses. They are celebrating National Young Readers Day by combining their two favorite things, comfortable beds and books. So....

Yaaaaaaawn, smack smack

...let’s talk favorite bedtime stories!

Mommy Mine (written by Tim Warnes, illustrated by Jane Chapman) was one of my kids’ favorites! It shows a bunch of different animal moms with their little animal babies– beautifully illustrated, and snuggling together. Not only is it sweet and gets kids calm and ready for bed, but it shows that every mom is different, and that your own mom is special and perfect for you.

Between the ages of about 1 and 8, My middle child was a HUGE dinosaur enthusiast. So we pretty much all turned into a dinosaur family (partly because it was impossible not to). Our very favorite picture books EVER is Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp (written by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Scott Nash). This book is so very much fun to read out loud! The words are fun and catchy and completely stand on their own, yet are brought to life so colorfully and fun (as evidenced by this awesome cover!). And, of course, at the end of the fun, the dinosaurs all fall fast asleep in the swamp (where they’re still asleep today). I love this book so very much.

And, because– dinosaurs!– another bedtime favorite was How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? (By Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.) The first half of the book shows what dinosaurs would look like throwing the same type of tantrums that toddlers/preschoolers do when it’s bedtime (which is hilarious!), then it shows how dinosaurs really fall asleep— like perfect little examples.

What are some of your favorite bedtime picture books?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy Release Day to Jessie Humphries and RESISTING RUBY ROSE!

My girl, Jessie Humphries, has a book releasing today! It's the sequel to the hugely bestselling YA thriller, KILLING RUBY ROSE. If you haven't read it, definitely pick up a copy! Because when you finish, you'll definitely want to get this:

Ruby Rose’s turn as a teen vigilante ended in carnage and betrayal. But with her nemesis at large and the CIA looking to recruit her, how long can she resist her killer instincts?

Still reeling from the heartbreaking events that unfolded on Grissom Island, Ruby Rose is trying to come to terms with the fact that she’s gone from a vigilante in killer shoes to a stone-cold killer. Everyone from her therapist to her smoking-hot boyfriend, Liam Slater, keeps trying to convince her that she hasn’t crossed over to the dark side, but Ruby isn’t so sure. It doesn’t help that her nemesis, Detective “Mastermind” Martinez, is still out there, waiting for another chance to take her down.

When an alleged CIA agent named Skryker shows up and asks for a meeting, Ruby figures it just means more questions about her case. But he has information of an entirely different nature and a job offer: join an elite force of young assassins, including Skryker’s right-hand guy, Quinn Donovan. Quinn is distractingly charming, handsome, and more deadly than Ruby—or so he thinks. Ruby resists becoming a killer again, but as she becomes more ensnared in a web of deceit, no one around her is safe.

Available at Amazon, BAM, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble
And other local & national retailers.

“This dark and twisty mystery is everything I love in a book!” —Megan Miranda, author of Fracture, Hysteria, and Vengeance

About the Author: Jessie Humphries was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. She received a BA from San Diego State University, where she cultivated her love of the beach, then lived in France, where she cultivated her weakness for shoes, and finally earned a law degree from UNLV, where she cultivated her interest in justice. After practicing law for several years she began writing, and, appropriately, her debut novel Killing Ruby Rose is a thriller about vigilante justice set in sunny southern California with a shoe-obsessed protagonist. Jessie currently writes and practices law in Las Vegas, where she lives with her husband and children.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Want to know what is a good clue that you might have overbooked events, school visits, and speaking engagements? When you don't even have a moment to blog about your book releasing!

Seriously, though? I've had a ton of presentations to write.

Seriously, though? I've loved every single speaking engagement.

What's a girl to do? I don't know. I keep thinking I'll learn something from this carzy-packed stretch of conferences, literacy events, school visits, launches, events, and library functions. I just haven't figured out what that something is.

Let's recap, shall we?

First off, THE FORBIDDEN FLATS released last Tuesday! And the paperback of SKY JUMPERS released the same day!

Having a double release calls for a double launch party, yes? Okay, in reality, no. But it was pretty fun, and that's what really matters. ;) My first one was at the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on Tuesday:

Okay, I've been to dozens and dozens of launch parties at the King's English, but never done my own there. Being the person up at the front: surreal.

And then I had one at my favorite library on Thursday.

I spoke for a few minutes in the auditorium, then gave away a lot of Sky Jumpers swag.

Then we moved into the big open area, where there were tons of games, made uberly awesome by my talented and creative assistant, Kristine (above). Having activities for kids at a book launch for a children's book is a huge plus! It gave all the kids something to do while all the parents waited in line.

These were just a few of the extremely helpful (and so adorable!) kids who ran the activities, all ready and waiting for me to go speak in the other room, so that they could show the hordes of kids a great night. They were awesome!

And of course, we had cookies! Lots and lots and lots of cookies. Over 600 of them.

These are the posters that the lovely librarians made and hung up all over the library.

And the King's English came loaded with boxes of books, and stayed until the end. Have I mentioned how much I love them?

Add in six school visits last week (OHMYGOSH, MY FAVORITE THING TO DO EVER), a reception for the Utah Book Award (woot!) and a library literacy event (so fun!), and it was a rather exhaustingly exciting week.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go prepare some workshop presentations that some schools I'm visiting later this week have requested. And then a joint presentation I'm doing with another author. And then another I'm giving to librarians.

I swear there's a lesson on overscheduling in there somewhere. And I know I'm going to find it soon...

I hope you have the most fantastic of weeks! Mwah!

Friday, August 29, 2014

SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

I am so excited to be part of Elana Johnson's cover reveal, because I received an ARC of SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE, and fell in love with it! (Ha! No pun intended.) Elana has a gift with verse novels. It was absolutely beautiful. The main character is a photographer, and I loved how much of the story that colored--- especially in the way she saw beyond the surface of other people and, ultimately, herself. I highly recommend it.

Annnnnnnnd....... Here's the cover!!

High school senior Olivia Winging gave up her love of photography when she gave up her boyfriend, Trevor Youngblood, a year and a half ago. She broke things off with Trevor because her mom married his dad, and dating your step-brother? Creepy.

Livvy hasn’t been on good terms with her mother since, and one of her stipulations for staying at the Youngblood’s every other weekend is that Trevor can’t be there. When she gets nominated for the Junior Photography in Excellence award, Trevor insists she enter. She agrees—only if every photo in the portfolio can be of him. Knowing that Livvy can capture a person’s deepest secrets through her lens, Trevor hesitates before accepting the deal.

As Livvy gets behind the lens of her camera again, her love of photography is rekindled. Unfortunately, the time she spends with Trevor also re-ignites the old flame for him she’s kept smothered for so long.

In order for Livvy to finish her portfolio, she’ll have to face her feelings for Trevor as well as deal with the animosity between her and her mother. Livvy’s always been able to capture a person’s soul from behind the camera—but she’s not sure she likes it when the lens is suddenly focused on her. If she can’t find a way to forgive her mother and admit how she feels about Trevor, Livvy may end up losing more than just the photography contest. She could lose her heart.

Special Promo: Elevated, Elana’s first verse novel, will be FREE for five days in September as SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE releases! (Another incredible book! Have I mentioned?) So get your copy of Elevated for free from Monday, September, 15 – Friday, September 19.

Praise for Elana’s first verse novel, Elevated:

“The taut poetry keeps tension high. The plot is deftly paced, as past intrudes on present, like a photograph emerging in developing fluid.” ~San Francisco Book Review

“Every word Johnson writes carries an emotional heft that lifts readers up to the highest happiness and then sends them crashing down to the depths of despair. It is easy to flow from the first word to the last without ever putting down the book. Johnson shows outstanding talent in this form, and her words are beautiful, important and deeply felt.” ~The Deseret News

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Elana Johnson: Elana Johnson’s work, including Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), is available now everywhere books are sold. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for free download, as well as a Possession short story, Resist.

Her self-published novels include two YA contemporary novels-in-verse, Elevated and Something About Love, as well as a YA/NA futuristic fantasy series, which includes Elemental Rush, Elemental Hunger, and Elemental Release.

School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Social Media Links:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ARC giveaway of Sky Jumpers 2: THE FORBIDDEN FLATS!

Release day is almost here! In just four weeks from today, two exciting things happen:

The hardback of THE FORBIDDEN FLATS releases! 

This is the sequel to Sky Jumpers, and has so much fun stuff in it. Hope, Brock, and Aaren get to leave White Rock and see what dangers & excitement are out in the rest of the world. There are some cities / settlements that were so very much fun to create, and some pretty awesome sky jumping scenes, if I do say so myself. :)


The paperback of SKY JUMPERS releases!

I love that Sky Jumpers will be out in paperback! Its list price is only $6.99 (U.S.), which makes it so much more accessible. And you can even pre-order it now. :)

Want a chance to win an ARC (advance reader copy) of THE FORBIDDEN FLATS before it even releases? Yes? Okay, then. Here you go.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a fantastic week!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I can't believe how close we're getting to the release of the sequel to SKY JUMPERS!! It releases on September 23, which is just over two months away.

That's 10 weeks.

Or 70 days.


Guys. I'm so excited for this book to be out in the world. It was a very tough nut to crack, and it required a lot of very painful rewrites. And a lot of massaging and tweaking and reexamining and sweat and tears and changing and adding and refining and polishing, and I am so thrilled with the finished product!

Random House has been gracious enough to give away 5 advance reader copies right now on Goodreads.

Go forth and enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sky Jumpers Book 2 by Peggy Eddleman

Sky Jumpers Book 2: 


by Peggy Eddleman

Giveaway ends September 04, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

And keep watching here-- very soon, I'll give away another ARC to a lucky blog reader.

I hope your summer has been shaping up perfectly!