Monday, December 8, 2014

Of interviews, Tammy Theriault, and cookies

Today, I'm at Tammy Theriault's blog, hanging out and participating in the craziest interview I've ever had the chance to be a part of. Come hang out! We can all be crazy (and eat cookies) together.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #8 Adventures Happen Away From the Parents

We are on our final day of the 8 part series on the parenting problem in middle grade! We've been talking about ways to get the kids away from the parents, so that they can go off and do the really big things, and solve all the really big problems, which isn't so easy for the kids to do when parents are around to step in and do it for them. Or at least help way too much. If you've missed any of the other seven, you can get to them here: the Orphan, the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent, the Capable Parent / Capable Child, the Sibling as Parent, the Parents who are Missing Entirely the Present Family, but Adventures Lie Within the Range of Normal, and when Adventures Lie Outside of Where Parents Normally Are.Today, we're going to talk about getting them physically away. Far, far away.

Adventures Happen Away From the Parents


This can happen with any parent dynamic-- it's all about getting the kids away from their guardians so that the adventure can begin. Once you get the kids away from parents / authority figures, you are free to take them on any adventure you'd like.

Okay, so yesterday we talked about the one where the adventures lie outside of where parents normally are. In that one, the kids go the places where kids normally go without parents. In this one, the kids go where they normally DON'T without parents.


Okay, I'm going to do lots of examples on this one.

  • In The Inventor's Secret, the two main characters have parents (and a grandpa who is heavily involved), but the action takes place at a boarding school for gifted kids, so they are physically separated from them.
  • In The Runaway King, the main character isn't getting separated from parents-- he doesn't have any relatives-- he physically separates himself from his advisers and from his castle itself to sneak off and solve the big problems he couldn't from where he was.
  • In Better Nate Than Ever, Nate hops on a bus to New York, and has his own adventures by himself in the Big Apple, while making his parents think he was at a friend's house.
  • In Sunny Sweet is So NOT Sorry, all of the action takes place in a hospital-- one the two girls have gotten to themselves.
  • In The Girl Who Could Fly, the main girl is taken by some evil people to something that's kind of like a boarding school. So she was physically removed from her family, although for most of the book, it wasn't by choice.
  • Okay, let's talk Wizards. This is kind of a brilliant show, in that it treats this method very differently. The kids aren't physically removed from the parents, but they are removed. If you don't know the storyline at all, the kids can do magic, and are taught by their dad, who hasn't been able to do magic since he married their mom, who has never been able to do magic. So their separation is in their skills, not in location. They have to solve their own problems, since most of the problems are caused by using magic and the parents can't help.

And there you go! All eight! If you're an MG writer, which ones have you used before?

To those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you all a very happy Three-Weeks-Until-Christmas! (You're welcome for that panic-inducing friendly reminder. :))

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #7 Adventures Lie Outside of Where Parents Normally Are

If you've been following along, we're on our 7th of 8 methods of separating kids from the parents / guardians / authority figures when writing middle grade books. One of the most important things to do, since the kids are the ones who really need to shine, and they can't do that if the adults are solving all the really big issues for them. And there are so many ways to do it! If you've missed any of the past ones, we've already talked about the Orphan, the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent, the Capable Parent / Capable Child, the Sibling as Parent, the Parents who are Missing Entirely and the Present Family, but Adventures Lie Within the Range of Normal. Today, we're on to the adventures happening away from the parents!

Adventures Lie Outside
of Where Parents Normally Are


The parent situation can be anything you want it to be, because it doesn't have a strong bearing on the kids solving the problems, since most of the problems happen where the parents usually aren't present (such as school, bedroom, sports/music/arts practice, etc.).


Okay, let's talk about these examples for a minute.

In Wednesdays in the Tower, the main character, Celie, is in the castle with her family. They're around, and she can go to them at any time, but all of the adventure parts-- and the parts where she really gets into trouble-- happen in her room or in the tower, or in parts of the castle where her family isn't.

In The Glitter Trap, all of MC Lacey's problems happen when she is either at school, walking to and from school, at a friend's house, or in her bedroom. Her family is there at home, but the parts where she solves the book's problems all happen when she's away from them.

And, of course, in P and F, the adventures happen in the backyard. (Well, and beyond, but that's where it all starts.)


You usually never need to figure out how to get the kids away from their parents, because they already are, just by being in those places where kids that age are typically away from their parents anyway.


All of their problems / problem solving generally have to take place within the physical areas where the parents would let them go on their own.

Tomorrow, peeps! TOMORROW, we'll get to the 8th and final method-- when adventures happen away from the parents. See you then!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #6 Present Family, but Adventures Lie Within Range of Normal

Hi, all! How is the writing going? Anyone just trying to recover from NaNoWriMo?

For the last while, we've been talking about how to get the kids away from the adults who like to... you know-- get in there and fix everything so the kids can't. Which, as cool as kids think that is in real life, isn't so awesome in books. Kids love to see kids doing the fixing. So far, we've talked about a lot of different ways to get the kids separated from the adults around them. We've talked about the Orphan, the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent, the Capable Parent / Capable Child, the Sibling as Parent, and the Parents who are Missing Entirely.

Today, let's talk about the family who is actually there with the protag!

Present Family, but Adventures Lie Within Range of Normal

Generally a traditional family dynamic, where the family spends time together and is fairly functional. Most issues they run into are issues very normal kids would encounter. (And "traditional family dynamic" doesn't mean it has to be a mom and dad as the parents. It can any parent / guardian type. The big thing is that they are around, usually with siblings (or even cousins) in the mix, and that a lot of the issues or problems happen at home and with other family members involved.)


I'm going to go with some kid TV shows here, because they are fantastic examples of the present family / normal adventures method.

In all three of these examples, the kids live with the parents, and a good portion of the time, they are at home. The rest of the time, they're at school or places nearby their home, usually with siblings there, too.

  • This type works really great for contemporary books, and is instantly relatable to kids.
  • Since the parent(s) are actually around, you can include more conflict / interactions with them than you can with other stories where you are trying to separate them more. The kids still have to be the ones to solve their own problems, but they do get more input on how to do that from the other members of the family.
  • There's more history, depth of motivation, and consequence when the parent(s) / guardians are present.
  • You generally can't have very big adventures or problems. And by "big," I mean big in reference to location (how far from home the story takes place) or breadth (so no saving the world :)). You can definitely go big in regards to the depth, though (or how serious the issues are).
Tomorrow, we'll tackle the method of when Adventures Lie Outside of Where Parents Normally Are.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #5 Missing Entirely

Hi hi hi! I hope your Thanksgiving was INCREDIBLE! Mine sure was. Times two. Since both mine and my hubby's families mostly live nearby, we get to have Thanksgiving twice! (But luckily they're on different days, because pie, people! PIE.)

So, for the last several days, we've been talking about writing middle grade, and how to get the parents / guardians away from the kids, so that they kids can do the really big, impressive things that solve the problems, without those pesky adults stepping in to save the day. So far, we've talked about The Orphan, the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent, the Capable Parent / Capable Child, and the Sibling as Parent. Today we are talking about those parents who are mysteriously MISSING.

Parents Missing Entirely


Generally the parents are never even mentioned, as if they don't even (and didn't ever) exist.

  • It's the easiest method. Because, come on-- if there are no parents, then there isn't a single thing you have to do to separate them from the adults. They already are!
  • The reader will always (always, always, always!) question why. The real trick is getting the reader to not be bothered by not knowing why there are no parents / guardians.
  • Only some books will have a whimsical or fantastical enough feel to pull it off.
  • Without parents, the kids have no parents to please or to have as role models, and the opinions of parents really matter at this age. So with no parents, you lose that element of your story (and also lose out on some of the relatability kids will have with your characters).
Come back tomorrow, when we'll talk about a present family, but when adventures lie within the range of normal.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Great new MG action / adventure! PALADIN PAWN by Michael D. Young

Looking for a new middle grade book to sate your action / adventure appetite? Check out this fabulous book that just released a couple of days ago:

Paladin Pawn
by Michael D. Young
Middle Grade Fantasy
Trifecta Books
When nerdy Rich Witz unwittingly becomes a Paladin, a white knight, in training, he is thrust into a world where flunking a test can change the course of history and a mysterious bully is playing for keeps with his life.

Rich’s grandmother leaves him with one thing before disappearing for good: a white chess pawn with his initials engraved on it. The pawn marks him as the next in an ancient line of white knights. He must prove himself in a life or death contest against his Nemesis, a dark knight in training, all while dealing with math homework and English projects. With the ghost of an ancestor for his guide, he has seven days to complete four tasks of valor before his Nemesis does, or join his guide in the realm of the dead.

As Rich rushes to complete the tasks, he realizes the chilling truth: his Nemesis is masquerading as someone at school and will stop at nothing to make him fail. As the tasks grow ever harder, the other knights reveal to him that his failure will break a centuries-old chain and bring the Paladin order to ruin. If he fails, the dark knights win the right to control the fate of the world, a world without hope or the possibility of a new dawn. So this is one exam Rich has to ace, with no curve and no extra credit.

Michael is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Western Governor’s University with degrees in German Teaching, Music, and Instructional Design. He puts his German to good use teaching online German courses for High School students. Though he grew up traveling the world with his military father, he now lives in Utah with his wife, Jen, and his two sons. Michael enjoys acting in community theater, playing and writing music and spending time with his family. He played for several years with the handbell choir Bells on Temple Square and is now a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

He is the author of the novels The Canticle Kingdom series, The Last Archangel series, and the Chess Quest series. His also authors several web serials through He publishes anthologies for charity in his Advent Anthologies series. He has also had work featured in various online and print magazines such as Bards and Sages Quarterly, Mindflights, Meridian, The New Era, Allegory, and Ensign.