Jacqueline West, Writer

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One Day More

April 4, 2016    Tags: , , , , , ,   

(Yes, that’s a Les Mis reference for all my fellow theatre nerds out there.)

So…DREAMERS OFTEN LIE will be released TOMORROW.
You can preorder it right now from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or better yet, you can request it at your favorite indie bookstore. Best of all, if you’re in the Twin Cities area, you can come to the release party at the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul (6:30 p.m., Friday, April 8) and eat cake, play Shakespearean Mad Libs, listen to the baby’s animal sounds, and get a signed and personalized copy of your very own.

If you can’t make it to the release but want to know where I’ll be next, keep an eye on my events calendar; new things are being added all the time.

Speaking of new things: Reviews! Giveaways! Interviews! Guest posts! Lists! A battalion of links and blurbs to share…

  • The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books has reviewed DREAMERS, saying
    “West’s use of quotes from Shakespeare’s various plays is restrained but perfectly timed, and her allowance for the characters to go off script offers both moving and humorous moments… Shakespeare’s characters really shine as they come to life in the twenty-first century.” Thank you, BCCB.
  • The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a review in their Sunday book section; you can read the whole thing here.
  • The blogs Book Stop Corner, Log Cabin Library, and Sharing Stories have all posted early reviews. (Thanks, everyone. If you’re a book blogger who has reviewed DREAMERS, feel free to send me a note pointing me in your direction.)
  • Teen Vogue has selected DREAMERS OFTEN LIE as one of its “Best YA Books of April”; check out the whole beautiful list here.
  • Adventures in YA Publishing is offering a giveaway of one signed hardcover copy. Read more and enter, and stay tuned for a full-length interview later this week…
  • Brenda of Log Cabin Library was also kind enough to host me last week. Read my guest post about moving between middle grade and YA here.

Now I shall say good night ’til it be morrow.

Spectacles

Springing Ahead

March 16, 2016    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

It shouldn’t feel like spring yet. It’s too early. It’s eerily early. But here we are in mid-March in Minnesota, and it’s sixty degrees and drizzly, and the hostas and lilies are starting to send up little green nubs all around our house, and book events are piling up faster than I can post about them. All signs that spring is definitely here.

And, because this tends to happen when you don’t manage to write a blog post for more than a month, I have a slew of things to share.

First, more lovely reviews for DREAMERS OFTEN LIE have come in. Here are a few of them, in flashy poster format:

dreamers-poster-ad

(That Booklist line made me glow all day.)

Second, event news:

On Saturday, March 26, at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, I’ll be moderating a Penguin Teen panel featuring Sabaa Tahir (AN EMBER IN THE ASHES), Alison Goodman (THE DARK DAYS CLUB), April Genevieve Tucholke (WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT), Rachel Hawkins (REBEL BELLE and MISS MAYHEM), Karen Bao (DOVE ARISING and DOVE EXILED), and Alwyn Hamilton (REBEL SANDS). I can hardly believe how amazing this lineup is. (If you’re an avid YA reader, your jaw has probably already dropped to the floor, and you’ll have to pick it up with both hands.) This is a ticketed event, and space a Red Balloon is limited, so reserve your spot now.

Then, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 8th, Red Balloon is having me back for the official DREAMERS OFTEN LIE release party (!!!!). There will be Shakespearean Mad Libs, treats, books galore, and at least one baby making loud animal noises in the background (Beren’s repertoire expands daily). Please come and join in! Here’s the event link at Red Balloon’s site.

If you can’t make it to the release party, or if you’d like an even more intimate, in-depth writing chat, come to Stillwater, MN for May 20th’s “Authors After Hours.” I’ll be there with my writing group cohorts Anne Greenwood Brown and Heather Anastasiu, whose new YA collaboration, GIRL LAST SEEN, was called ‘a sexy, fascinating, fast-paced, and darkly dynamic mystery for teens’ by School Library Journal. This is another ticketed event, so make your reservations pronto. I can’t wait for this one myself.

And from June 14 – 16, I’ll be teaching at the first ever Minneapolis Young Writers’ Workshop. This three-day event includes workshop sessions with writers like Ally Condie, Jeffier Nielsen, Jay Asher (…and me), offers tracks for writers of fantasy, speculative, and realistic fiction, and provides critique opportunities with professional authors and editors. The evening speeches and signings are free and open to the public–with registration–but the workshop itself is only open to registered writers from ages 13 – 19. (I practically rub my hands together with glee whenever I think of meeting a classroom full of enthusiastic young writers…) The workshop is sure to fill up fast, so reserve your place now.

More things are in the works, events-wise; I’ll post again when things solidify. As always, you can keep an eye on my appearance calendar to see which schools/stores/libraries I’ll be visiting. (And teachers/librarians/bookstore people: spring always seems to be crazy-wild-chaos time for me, but fall is a lot quieter. If you’d like to book me for the ’16 fall and winter season, now is the perfect time to get in touch.)

 

 

 

Spectacles

A brief hello from the land of revisions, board books, and packing tape

August 12, 2015    Tags: , ,   

Holy cats, it’s been a while.

I just managed to weather final revisions on the YA novel, Ryan’s scary bout with Lyme disease, buying a new house and packing up an old one, and a few more months of babyhood, and suddenly it’s mid-August. Everything’s on the upswing now — YA novel in copyedits, husband recovered, move rapidly approaching, baby getting bigger and more fun with every hour that passes — but this summer has felt like one long log-rolling competition. I’m starting to look forward to fall, when I can lounge in front of the fireplace (!!) in our new library (!!!) with a baby in my lap, and maybe everything will slow down for a few minutes. Or maybe not.

Proof of Beren’s increasing fun-ness: He’s starting to love books (– and not just sucking on their corners, although he loves that too). As you can see from this photo, he’s a quite a discerning reader already.
Beren reading skeptical
…I’m just not buying the characterization here.

Because god knows he’s reading more books than I am these days, I present the first edition of BEREN’S BABY-SIZED BOARD BOOK REVIEWS.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK: Full of great messages about kindness, interdependence, and the importance of toads. Plus, it forces your parents to make a wide variety of animal and vehicle noises! You’ll want to hear it again (and again and again and againandagainandagain).

WHERE’S SPOT?: I don’t want to be hyperbolic here, but this may be the single greatest mystery since The Hound of the Baskervilles. Is Spot under the stairs? In the closet? Under the rug? You’ll be on the edge of your seat/mother’s lap until the stunning conclusion!

ORANGE PEAR APPLE BEAR: A compelling story told in only five words. If Hemingway had written a children’s book, this would be it.

PAT THE BUNNY: A true classic. A feast for the senses. The standard by which all others can be judged. At that climactic scene where Judy touches Daddy’s scratchy face? Gets me every time.

Beren reading ABCD

 

More news on the YA front to come. For now, it’s back to packing…

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Now entering the October Country

October 7, 2014    Tags: , , ,   

…one of my favorite places to be.  (And here’s something great to read while you’re there.)

With October in Minnesota comes the Twin Cities Book Festival: a big, free, day-long event at the State Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 11.  All the info you possibly want is here.  The lineup of authors is incredible, and I’m honored to be included.  Here’s what’s going on at Middle Grade HQ:

Capture

I’ll be telling lies (and some truths) with Margi Preus and S.A. Bodeen from 12:00 – 12:45, and you can find me at the signing tables afterward.  Then be sure to head over to the Teen Tent and/or the Children’s Pavilion, where you won’t be able to swing a book bag without hitting an amazing author. (This is not one of my lies.)

Reviews of STILL LIFE are still coming in — including a recent one in Newsday that concludes, “This exciting book will have you on the edge of your seat.”  Nice to hear, and a nice place to hear it from.

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Recent events, not-so-recent reviews, and one truly awesome map

November 18, 2013    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

The last four weeks have been a little crazy: seven school visits, three bookstore events, one book festival, one cross-country road trip, and Halloween in New Orleans.  At Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, I met with lots of wonderful readers (including one with earrings that looked like miniature copies of The Strangers) and got to pet a chicken on its belly.
photo(3)photo 5

At schools in Wisconsin and Louisiana, I answered questions, signed books, led writing workshops, and received hugs and pralines.

In New Orleans, we visited yet another cemetery — Greenwood — and found the Ducoing family tomb, where John Kennedy Toole (A Confederacy of Dunces) is interred.  We also wandered in the Garden District and the Quarter and Audubon park, and bought lots of books and ate lots of pastry and caught beads at a Halloween parade.

IMG_20131102_192712IMG_20131102_171237IMG_20131031_130609Then I returned home to another school visit (here’s a newspaper write-up of this one), rehearsals for The Little Prince, and a middle grade panel at Addendum Books in St. Paul that included me, Brian Farrey (The Vengekeep Prophecies), Lisa Bullard (Turn Left at the Cow), Kurtis Scaletta (The Winter of the Robots), and Anne Ursu (The Real Boy).  I felt lucky just to share a row of stools with these people.

photo 3As long as I’m in the middle of overdue recaps, here are some reviews of The Books of Elsewhere that I missed when they originally appeared:

A recent and very kind writeup on the blog Remembering Wonderland

Great reviews of each book in the series from Common Sense Media

“My Top Ten EPIC Heroes. Or Heroines!” – a list from the Nerdy Book Club blog that puts Olive alongside Harry Potter and Frodo, which is some awfully good company

And now for the Truly Awesome Map.

On Saturday, November 30 — also known as Small Business Saturday — authors all around the country will be joining in Sherman Alexie’s brilliant “Indies First” project (and if you aren’t already familiar, follow the link) by hanging out at local independent bookstores.  As for me, I’ll be back at Addendum Books from 12:00 – 1:00 to chat with customers, recommend books, dust shelves — whatever Katherine and Marcus want me to do.  To help book-shoppers find out what authors will be where–and there are some HUGE names taking part in this!–IndieBound has created this incredible map of participating bookstores all around the country.  I hope that you’ll check out your local bookstores, maybe drop by one or two or more for signed copies and conversation, and show your brick-and-mortar shops some love.

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STARRY-EYED giveaway (and other Halloweeny goodness)

October 14, 2013    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

October is my favorite month.  Sweaters.  Falling leaves.  Cider.  Pumpkin carving.  An excuse to read creepy books and watch creepy movies and scatter creepy things over every household surface.

Over at my Facebook page, I’m asking readers to share their own favorite things about October.  On Friday the 18th, I’ll pick a winning comment at random, and that winning comment-writer will receive a free signed copy of the new YA anthology STARRY-EYED (and I’m throwing in a signed ARC of THE STRANGERS too, just for fun).  Go forth and comment/share!

This is also the season of All Hallow’s Read

allhallowsread2(Supercool poster by Introverted Wife)

I’ll be in New Orleans over Halloween this year, thanks to the Louisiana Book Festival (which reminds me: Come see me talk at 1:30 on Saturday, November 2nd, at the Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge!), so I’m going to celebrate All Hallow’s Read a bit early by putting together a big box of Halloweeny books and passing them on to a nearby school, where I hope they’ll find their way into the hands of young readers who need or want them.  If I had enough money, I’d blanket the entire area with Ray Bradbury and Poe and James Howe books, all dropped from a Jack-O’-Lantern-shaped hot air balloon on spiderweb parachutes…

Maybe someday.

If you’re looking for some All Hallow’s Read books of your own to share, remember that you can catch me and THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE at the Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis at 1:00 on October 26th.

Here’s a lovely new review of THE STRANGERS at Charlotte’s Library.

And finally, here’s me, my mom, and our spiderweb cookies. October: I love you.

IMG_20131012_152005IMG_20131012_151844

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A star for STARRY-EYED

October 8, 2013    Tags: , , , , , ,   

STARRY-EYED: 16 STORIES THAT STEAL THE SPOTLIGHT is out TODAY.  Order your copy here or here or here…or head to an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore to order or browse or drink coffee.  (Chances are they’ve got good coffee.)

STARRY EYED cover

Booklist gave it a star (yay!) and even mentioned my Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed story in their review (another yay!), which you can read right here:

For any teen who has dreamed of being a star, Starry-Eyed will serve as both encouragement and a reality check. YA authors like Alex Finn, Aimee Friedman, and Garret Freymann-Weye weave mesmerizing stories of talented kids whose lives revolve around music, drama, and the arts. They’ll meet videographers Stringbean and Goose; Becca First, Meghan’s rival for every solo, every role, but keeper of a sad secret; and the vanished Maia Crane, spotted during a bizarre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Juxtaposed with each short story is an anecdote from artists familiar and less-so: Clay Aiken, Andrea McArdle, Montego Glover, Anthony Fedorov. The amalgam of swoon-worthy and unfamiliar household names is a reminder that TV, Broadway, movies, and records provide myriad opportunities for happiness and career satisfaction, if not fame and fortune. The short stories themselves, each of which is memorable for unique characters and situations, spotlight the importance of the arts in the growth and development—and even the survival!—of a large portion of the teenage population. Complex and focused on far more than art as a high-school extracurricular, Starry-Eyed “breaks a leg” in the finest sense of the word.
–Booklist, starred review

I’ll be hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of STARRY-EYED very soon, so keep your eye on my Facebook page. (And why not keep an eye on Tumblr while you’re at it?)

Speaking of brick-and-mortar bookstores:

This is one more reminder that I’ll be at Wild Rumpus Bookstore in Minneapolis at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 26 for a special Halloween-themed book event.  THE STRANGERS, creative projects, unusual bookstore pets…You know you want to join in.

Also, my schedule for the Louisiana Book Festival (Saturday, November 2nd, in Baton Rouge) has been finalized.  I’ll be speaking from 1:00 – 1:30 on the 3rd floor of the Capitol Park Museum and signing from 1:45 – 2:30, either in the Barnes & Noble main tent or the B&N Junior tent.  If you are in the area, or if you know any readers who will be, please send them our way!

Lastly, for any aspiring or established fantasy authors out there: The Jim Henson company is searching for an author for a new novel set in the world of The Dark Crystal.  It’s an incredible opportunity, and if I wasn’t in the middle of four novels already, I’d be all over this myself.  Details are here.

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Release date approaching…

October 1, 2013    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

Just one week until STARRY-EYED hits shelves!  Kirkus really liked it:

Sixteen stories of performing are each paired with anecdotes about life behind the scenes and in front of the footlights.
Even a teen with only a pang of stage or screen hunger will be fascinated by this book, with its various accomplished contributors, from the introduction by Clay Aiken to stars from television shows such as Modern Family and Glee. The stories run a rich and varied emotional gamut… Each story is followed by a first-person anecdote by a noted performer, which is itself followed by a brief biography. Teens needn’t be star-struck to enjoy this collection, as under the hubbub of the theater world are themes that deal with common teenage issues such as insecurity, jealousy, the fear of coming out and young love.
Definitely worthy of applause. (Anthology. 12 & up)

You can read the whole review here, at least for now.

The school visit season is kicking into high gear.  Events are lined up in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Missouri, with Tennessee and Illinois as additional possibilities. To find out where I’ll be, keep an eye on http://jacquelinewest.com/appearance-calendar.php,and I’ll do my best to keep it up to date, I swear.

It’s October, my very favorite month of the year. It’s time to reread some of my very favorite books and rewatch some of my very favorite movies and listen to the fallen leaves whisper along the curbs. And later, there will be miniature Milky Ways and Twixes.  (Twixices? Twixi? Is Twix already plural?)  The only way this month could be better is if it lasted twice as long. And if Twixes were calorie-free.

Right now, I’m rereading this particular favorite book…
something-wicked new
…although it’s this cover, which was on the copy that I checked out from my middle school library twenty years ago, that left its mark on my mind for good.
something wicked hardcover

Now back to the copy-edits of STILL LIFE. Nearly done…

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100 Shows (school visits and my theatrical past)

March 11, 2013    Tags: , , , , ,   

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(Wow, Little Falls: Way to make a writer feel welcome!  Brom Bones even gets his own section.)

Over the past month, I’ve been busy with Volume Five, school visits, and performances of “Sirens” with Red Wing’s Soapbox Players.  (If you’re near Red Wing, you should really come to a show sometime.  We perform in a gigantic barn!  Seriously!!)  The play is over, but the school visits will continue; it’s going to be a travel-crazy spring.  While I’m here at my very own desk, I want to give one more huge round of thanks to the students, staff, and parents at Little Falls Middle School of Little Falls, Minnesota, Mounds Park Academy of St. Paul, and Ashbel Smith, Stephen F. Austin, and San Jacinto Elementary Schools in Baytown, Texas.  It was a privilege meeting all of you.

I’ve been too busy to notice it happening, but somewhere within the last few months, I passed the magic number: The number of performances you need to give before you really know the material.  Not counting writing workshops and bookstore signings and talks with adults, I have given somewhere around 100 presentations to young readers.  Yup.  100-ish.  And something I learned several years ago has proved itself to be true again.

While I was in college, I worked as an actress at a dinner theatre.  Our shows were mostly classic comedies–lots of Neil Simon, lots of British farces–and from Wednesday to Sunday, we would put on 6 – 8 performances, with a show each evening, plus matinees on the weekends.  Throughout the run, we would do 50 – 120 performances (the cast kept track by making hash marks on the back of the wooden set, so I know).  I was used to the community theatre/school play model, where you rehearse for three months and then give four performances, which are over in a blur of adrenaline and Ben Nye face paint.  80 shows is different.  80 shows is actor boot camp.  You learn a lot from 80 shows.  80 shows means you can polish and practice in front of a live audience, which is the only way you’ll really see what works…and what doesn’t.  You learn how to adjust split-second timing to get a laugh where there wasn’t one before, or to create a pause long enough for a thought to seep in.  You learn about inflection and expression and physicality.  There’s nothing in the world that could substitute for the learning experience of 80 live shows.

When I’m making school visits, I’m kind of a writer/teacher/actor combo — and these are exactly the jobs that I’ve done, so I’m laughably lucky!  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Speaking in front of big crowds of grown-ups still scares me to death.  And getting up in front of an audience and just being myself, not some much cleverer and more interesting character, still makes me squirm a teeny bit on the inside.  But after three years and dozens of school visits, I’m starting to think that I just might know what I’m doing.

Almost.

Maybe.

So, here are the things that dinner theatre taught me about school visits:

– Every audience is different. Audiences may be quiet or hyper, reserved or full of questions, rolling on the floor or barely cracking a smile.  You can give the same presentation to two different groups and have head-spinningly different reactions.  That’s because it’s not all about you.  A really small group is less likely to laugh aloud; a bigger group probably will.  They might have had a day full of bad weather, or hard work, or multiple choice tests.  They may have just eaten Beef Stroganoff in the cafeteria and now they can barely move, or they might have just gotten back from a field trip and they’re so electrified with excitement that they can hardly sit still.  Maybe they’ve actually read your book, and they loved it and they’ve been waiting for you to come, and they treat you like you’re Marilyn Monroe stepping off the plane at an Army base.  Or maybe they’ve just been plunked down in the library and told to behave themselves, with no idea who you are or why they’re supposed to care.  Once again: It’s not all about you.

Adjust to fit your crowd.  So, because every crowd is different, you might have to do things differently.  Think about your volume, because if the audience can’t hear you, everything else is a wash.  Make sure you can speak loudly enough for your voice to fill the space, or that you’ve got a working microphone.  If the microphone doesn’t work, set it aside, ask the kids to scoot closer, and project.  Pay attention to your pacing.  Keep it energetic, but not too fast to stifle laughs or other reactions.  Depending on your audience’s age, adjust your habits to fit the crowd.  Older kids might be less likely to laugh aloud, or to want to be the first to raise their hand with a question or comment, and younger kids may have shorter attention spans.  Watch their reactions.  Adjust accordingly.

Scenery is important.  Of course, a great performer can give a great show on a bare stage…but a little set dressing never hurts.  If you use a slideshow or other images, you can accent your talk with mystery or information or humor.  It gives visual learners something to focus on (and, really, we’re all visual learners, aren’t we?) and it will help keep your talk on track.  In my own slideshow, I use embarrassing photos from my childhood, pictures of the places and people that provided me with inspiration, manuscript pages that show my revision process, and big, full-color images by my illustrator.  I often hear gasps or giggles as I change the slides, so I’m pretty sure they’re working.

– Interact.  The younger and livelier your audience, the more interaction is necessary.  (This does not necessarily apply to dinner theatre, where most people will react with a look of frozen horror if someone onstage tries to draw them in to the action.  At least they do in the Midwest.)  Create multiple opportunities for comments, questions, and activities.  Try to leave something fun for the very end, like a skit or a game or an especially funny reading.  It’s your closing number.  Go out with a bang. 

– Eye contact is tricky.  It’s also important.  Make sure to look up into the crowd often, especially while reading.  I like to move back and forth in front of the crowd rather than stand still, so that I can gaze out into more faces, making contact with a greater number of people.  But I keep those looks brief and blurry.  If you lock eyes with somebody–whether they’re laughing, yawning, or watching you open-mouthed with one finger up their nose–it can be pretty distracting.  If direct eye contact makes you nervous, pick a spot just behind the crowd and focus on that.  When I do musicals, I often sing straight to the exit sign at the back of the hall.  (We have a long, romantic history, me and exit signs.  Over the years, I’ve told exit signs that I would know when my love came along, and that if I loved it I would try to say all I wanted it to know, and that someone like it had found someone like me and suddenly nothing would ever be the same… (Bonus points to any musical theatre nerds who get all the references.))   Nobody will know you’re not making direct eye contact.  Except for the exit sign.  Which might try to follow you home. 

 

And now, in completely un-dinner-theatre-related news:

Pour mes amis francais: Here’s a brand new review of the French translation of The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One: The Shadows (or as it’s called in France, “La Maison des Secrets: Les Lunettes Magiques”)!  Check it out:http://un-souffle-sous-la-plume.over-blog.com/article-la-maison-des-secrets-t1-116078795.html

The schedule for this year’s “Endangered Authors” tour is nearly complete!  I’ll post an update on my appearance calendar very soon…

And for the young pen connoisseur who I met at Mounds Park Academy: The beautiful fountain pen I was sent as a Cybils Award is a Lanier.

 

 

Spectacles

Wintry Mix

January 29, 2013    Tags: , , , , ,   

Freezing rain and fog here in Minnesota, with the roads so treacherous that schools are closed. I’d much rather have an actual blizzard…but a flurry of words and links and news will have to do.

First things first: The advance reading copies of The Books of Elsewhere, Volume Four: The Strangers have arrived at my house in their excitingly heavy box!  If you (or someone you know) is a book blogger or reviewer, and you would like an ARC of The Strangers, contact me in the comments or email me at jacqueline@jacquelinewest.com.  Obviously, quantities are limited, but I will guarantee a copy for the first three reviewer-respondents.

(For now, this offer is for bloggers/reviewers only.  I will very likely do a giveaway for readers in a few more weeks, so stay tuned!)

Speaking of book bloggers, two great reviews of The Second Spy appeared on Book Nut and Book ‘Em! Huge thanks to everyone who is spreading the word in this way.

I learned that The Second Spy was nominated for the 2012 Cybils Awards, as well as for the Minnesota Book Awards.  It isn’t a finalist for either, but both awards have been very kind to The Books of Elsewhere in the past, and truly fantastic books are on both lists.

The Second Spy also got a mention (and its picture!) in Publishers Weekly, in an article on holiday book sales.

My spring travel schedule is about to get really crazy, with more events being added all the time.   Keep an eye on http://jacquelinewest.com/appearance-calendar.php, if you’re interested.  This weekend, I’m off to booksALIVE! in Panama City, Florida.  So long, freezing rain.  Hello, Emerald Coast.

 

Spectacles

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© Jacqueline West

[A] delightful tale filled with magic, adventure, danger and all the usual challenges of growing up. Written for young readers and featuring charmingly simple illustrations, this will capture the interest of adults as well and leave fans looking for the next installment…

- Monsters and Critics

This is a charmer of a series filled with witches, magic, cats, and danger. Fans of the first novel in the series will be clamoring for this second one.

- Waking Brain Cells

West's writing takes you on a spin through the world of Elsewhere, and it is impossible to guess what will happen next, right up to the superb finale.

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