Author Spotlight: Julie Leung Talks About Merlin’s Last Quest

Merlin's Last Quest | Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgToday I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Julie Leung and her middle grade novel MICE OF THE ROUND TABLE:  MERLIN’S LAST QUEST

Title: Mice of The Round Table: Merlin’s Last Quest

Genre: Fantasy

Age Range: 8-12

Launch Date: 10/2/2018

 

Please tell us a little bit about your book.

Merlin’s Last Quest concludes my trilogy, Mice of the Round Table. After pulling the Sword from the Stone and saving Camelot from a mysterious plague, Galahad and Calib infiltrate Morgan le Fay’s lair to secure the Holy Grail from their enemies.

The stars are align for a final battle that determines Camelot’s fate. Calib and his friends must harness the magic of Merlin as well as the strength, bravery, and wisdom within themselves to become the mythical heroes they were destined to be.

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

I loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques with a fierce, probably obsessive passion. To this day, the mere description of potato leek soup and anything with the word trifle in it sends nostalgic shivers down my spine. And like any budding fantasy fiction fanatic, Arthurian legends were a gateway drug. These kinds of books made me who I am today. Mice of the Round Table is the perfect marriage of those two early loves.

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

Even though I find myself always changing my outlines, it has helped me immensely to set a destination in mind when writing—or even multiple destinations, like a road trip. I package my writing goals in small sprints, scene-to-scene, chapter-to-chapter. It keeps my fingers moving on the keyboard and makes drafting feel less daunting.

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a   librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

I think often about my experiences growing up in the public education system—its many pitfalls, classroom distractions, and budget constraints. And yet, the English teachers who taught me gave it their all. In the 10th grade, one of my literature teachers read an essay of mine out loud to the class. It was a simple 5-paragraph glorified book report on the Elie Wiesel book, Night. However, it was the first time I’d ever heard my words being read out loud by someone else. It was the first time I thought I could make a career out of writing.

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

In the practical sense, I like to think of my series as a gateway to the Redwall series, as well as to the larger body of Arthurian legends. In a more poetical sense, I wrote Calib’s story as an examination on navigating familial, societal, and self-imposed expectations. How does one carve out one’s own legend against a backdrop of outside influences? How does one find the courage to become their own person?

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about  your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

My husband and I have a dream of getting a Boston Terrier one day and naming him, Admiral Ackbark. He exists only in our hearts and imagination currently.

 

Author Spotlight | Julie Leung Talks About Merlin's Last Quest |www.patriciabaileyauthor.comJULIE LEUNG was raised in the sleepy suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, though it may be more accurate to say she grew up in Oz and came of age in Middle-earth. She works in book publishing as a digital marketer. In her free time, she enjoys furtively sniffing books at used bookstores and winning at obscure board games. Her favorite mode of transportation is the library. You can follow he on these Internet tendencies: TwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

 

You can learn more about Julie and the other books in the MICE OF THE ROUND TABLE series by clicking on this interview I did with her about Book 1:  A TAIL OF CAMELOT and this Guest Post Julie did about Book 2:  VOYAGE TO AVALON.

You can buy Julie’s books at your favorite independent bookstore.

Thanks, Julie!

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Author Spotlight: Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski Talk About A Hint of Hydra

Today IAuthor Spotlight | A Hint of Hydra | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com’m shining the Author Spotlight on Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski and their middle grade novel A HINT OF HYRA. A HINT OF HYDRA is the sequel to a book I loved last year, A DASH OF DRAGON.

Title: A HINT OF HYDRA

Genre: Fantasy

Age Range: 8-12

 

Please tell us a little bit about your book.

Lailu Loganberry just wants to hunt and cook “monster cuisine” and serve lots of customers in the restaurant she owns with her (somewhat unreliable) mentor. Unfortunately, due to the events in book one of this series, a war is brewing between the vicious elven mafia and a group of up-and-coming steampunk scientists, and Lailu is caught in the middle.

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

KATI: For the first book, I was actually inspired by a “throwaway” episode of my favorite anime, SLAYERS. The characters go on this whole quest to eat dragon cuisine, and I thought it would be really fun to write a story about a girl whose goal is to become a master chef of dragon cuisine.

HEIDI: I loved Kati’s idea so much that I pestered her until she let me write this story with her, and it kind of evolved from there. We set our chef up in a magic versus science world, where the elves used to have a stranglehold on all the people and their businesses, but now they’re being replaced by steam-powered science.

KATI: We knew the first book would be about setting up the restaurant and starting those tensions, and then this sequel would be where those tensions really build. The whole book takes place during the Week of Masks, which is basically like a giant, week-long Halloween party.

HEIDI: Halloween is Kati’s favorite holiday, so the idea of a week-long celebration of it really appealed to her.

KATI: You’d love it, too. 😉

HEIDI: Yeah…I would. Especially the whole masked ball thing. Always wanted to go to one of those.

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

HEIDI: Our process is a little different because there are two of us. This is the second book we’ve written together, and surprisingly our co-writing system has stayed the same. Basically we brainstorm about our overall story and then Kati writes these really detailed outlines, which I then ignore.

KATI: It’s extremely frustrating.

HEIDI: She loves it. Secretly. 😉

KATI: Anyway…we take turns writing sections. So I’ll write a scene and then I’ll send it to Heidi. She makes any changes she wants to my scene and then writes the next scene and sends it back. I make my changes to hers, write my next scene, and…you see where we’re going with this.

HEIDI: When we’re finished with a draft, we both go through it together and come up with a plan for revisions. Our goal is to make sure our entire story is a good mix of both of us so the voice will feel like one voice.

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

KATI: Honestly I really struggled with writing when I was younger, until in my junior year of high school I started writing a story for fun about a girl samurai. I think that made me realize I could write things I enjoyed instead of just trying to write what I thought the teacher was looking for. I tested that out my senior year, and Mr. Degman, my English teacher that year, actually really liked my writing and gave me good grades on my papers. I think that was when I started to believe more in my writing.

HEIDI: Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to be a writer (aside from a brief period in second grade when I wanted to be a person who rehabilitated injured owls), and I was constantly writing these little stories until somehow, in high school, I did the reverse of Kati and lost my confidence in my writing. It wasn’t until I took a creative writing class in college that I rediscovered that confidence, and I owe a lot of that to Professor Berman. He could be brutally honest when critiquing our work, which was sometimes hard to take, but also meant when he told me he thought I had something good in my writing, I believed him. And when I told him I wanted to be an author, and he was very encouraging about it, I believed that, too.\

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

KATI: We both loved Tamora Pierce’s “Alanna” series when we were kids, so we also wanted to write a story about a girl who has a very specific goal that she is willing to devote her whole life to. We’d read more than a few books about girls who had goals that they were willing to give up when they fell in love, because that love was the most important thing, and we were like, no.

HEIDI: So in our book, Lailu has a few potential love interests, and we won’t give away any spoilers here, but let’s just say her first love, her true love, will always be her cooking. We both think it’s important for kids to find something they are passionate about and willing to work toward. And to not feel constrained, either. Be creative, invent your own job if you can. In our world, there are no restaurants until Lailu invents the idea, and even though many people stand in her way, she works hard and makes it happen. Obviously there are different roadblocks for people living in this world than there are in our fictional one, but we wanted to show someone who doesn’t follow the conventional “chef” footsteps of getting a job in an aristocratic household, but instead wants to share her cooking with everyone.

KATI: Our sequel also deals with things like loneliness, or that feeling when your friends start growing apart from you, which we think is so relatable at that middle grade age. We wanted to show how friendships can change as you grow older, but that doesn’t mean they have to end. And also, we love creating characters who are morally gray. Someone can be a great chef, for instance, but a terrible mentor. Or someone can be loving, but unreliable. We’d love to see teachers highlighting those points.

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

HEIDI: Well, my favorite dogs have to be my own. Gordy is a twelve-year-old heeler/border collie mix (we think), and he’s the best boy ever. We’ve taken him on so many adventures – he goes camping, backpacking, rafting, hiking, he’s been up mountains and swimming in rivers and pretty much anywhere in between. Super smart, very loyal. And then there’s Gomu…

KATI: Go on, tell us about Gomu. 😉

HEIDI: Well…he’s super cute, a corgi/Australian shepherd mix. And he can also be super sweet.

KATI: When he wants to be.

HEIDI: Exactly. His loyalty is sometimes questionable. ;D But when he is being affectionate, he’ll pull his ears back and wag his whole body, and it totally wins us over every time. Plus he’s got so much personality, he keeps us entertained always.

KATI: I don’t have any dogs of my own, but I love my dog nephews, too.

Author Spotlight | A Hint of Hydra | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

 

Author Spotlight | A Hint of Hydra Kati And Heidi | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comHeidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski are a writing team of two sisters with twenty years of experience in Judo. Heidi likes to fling food across her stove while attempting to cook new dishes, and Kati enjoys trying new cuisine at fancy restaurants. Between the two of them, they love creating characters that kick butt both inside and outside the kitchen. They are the co-authors of A DASH OF DRAGON and A HINT OF HYDRA. Find them on their website, www.HeidiandKatiwrite.com, or follow them on twitter @hidlang and @ktbartkowski.

 

You can pick up A HINT OF HYDRA at your favorite independent bookstore or online.

While you’re at it, you might want to read A DASH OF DRAGON first. (It’s so fun!)

A Dash of Dragon (Lailu Loganberry #1)A Dash of Dragon by Heidi Lang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! Heidi Lang places her super tough, super fun heroine into a great fantasy world – and adds cooking! The adventure is fun. The stakes are high. And there’s plenty of humor to keep you laughing along the way. Middle grade fantasy fans are going to love this one!

View all my reviews

 

Thanks Kati and Heidi!

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Guest Post and Giveaway: Julie Leung and The Mice of the Round Table

I’m so thrilled to share my blog space with Julie Leung this week.
Julie is the author of two of my favorite middle grade books:  A Tail of Camelot and Voyage to Avalon – both part of her Mice of the Round Table series.

Julie’s latest book is Mice of the Round Table: Voyage to Avalon.

Guest Post and Giveaway | Julie Leung | www.patriciabaileyauthor,comA mysterious new threat sparks a dangerous quest in book two of the epic middle grade series Booklist called “a charming blend of Arthurian legend and Brian Jacques’ Redwall series.”

Young mouse Calib Christopher has nearly completed his training to become a squire to the Knights of the Round Table when news of a deadly plague comes to the castle. Soon all of Camelot is showing signs of the illness, animals and humans alike. Desperate to find a cure, Calib and his friend Cecily set off on a treacherous voyage to find the mythical, healing island of Avalon.

But even as their journey takes them over land and sea, back at home, Calib’s human friend Galahad discovers that the true enemy may have already found a way inside the castle walls…

Perfect for fans of New York Times bestselling series like Wings of Fire and Warriors, Mice of the Round Table brings to life a legendary world of animals and magic that kids will want to return to again and again.

I asked Julie to speak with you about the historical roots of her latest novel.

Five Historical Corollaries in Mice of the Round Table

As well as we all know the legends of King Arthur, what’s less known are the historical roots of this mythic king and his fabled court of Camelot. Throughout the centuries, so many storytellers have left their mark on the lore, it is impossible to separate fact from fiction. Even though most of Arthurian legends as we know it today are based in a tradition of literature rather than history, I still found inspiration in the latter. Here are a few ways I’ve infused some of my favorite medieval (and older) historical details into A Voyage To Avalon:

Plague: In Book 2, Camelot is beset by a mysterious illness that sweeps the castle like wildfire. Both animal and humans fall sick and no one can determine the cause, leading to panic and fear among Camelot’s inhabitants. Much like the plagues that ravaged the European countries in the Dark Ages, this disease operates as a silent and insidious foe. It is an enemy with no army and no face.

Feverfew: When the sickness first reaches the castle, Camelot’s healers, both human and animal, rely on a tea brewed with feverfew petals to help ease some of the symptoms. Feverfew is a real plant, a member of the daisy family, long thought to have medicinal effects. Dating back to the first century AD, it has been used to reduce fever, treat arthritis, and stomach problems. In terms of modern medicine, however, it is now only used as an herbal remedy to prevent migraines.

Vikings: A large part of the book will take place on the high seas, as our rodent heroes seek the healing realm of Avalon. Their aim: Find a cure for the plague. Along they way, they will encounter a new species of snow-colored pine martens I modeled after the ferocious Vikings of old. Much like their creature corollaries, these Norse seafarers raided and traded through Europe during the 8th to 11th centuries. When they were most active along the coastlines of the British Isles, they were a fearsome force to be reckoned with.

Ley lines: Avalon’s whereabouts are a mystery in the beginning. However, Calib and company discover important clues to its location using ley lines. Ley lines refer to the alignment of many ancient monuments, including the stone circles at Stonehenge. There are some who believe that the alignments mark a network otherworldly energy lines that criss-cross the globe, and that the ancient druids built their stone circles at key points along the lines to enhance their magic.

Triskelion: The inhabitants of Avalon all bear a mark on their skin modelled after triskelion, a triple spiral conjoined together. It is a symbol found on carvings throughout Neolithic Europe, including Newgrange in Ireland. It pre-dates even the Celtics, though it has now been adapted into Celtic and Christian imagery. The original meaning has been lost to time. But in my story, I imagined a magical origin.

Guest Post and Giveaway | Julie Leung |www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

JULIE LEUNG was raised in the sleepy suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, though it may be more accurate to say she grew up in Oz and came of age in Middle-earth. She works in book publishing as a digital marketer. In her free time, she enjoys furtively sniffing books at used bookstores and winning at obscure board games. Her favorite mode of transportation is the library.

 

 

Julie is generously giving away a set of books. Comment below for a chance to win both of Julie’s Mice of the Round Table books. Winner will be chosen at random on November 3 and announced here!

Guest Post and Giveaway | Julie Leung | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

Thank you so much, Julie!

 

We have a winner! Congratulations, Gwen Katz! The books will be making their way to you soon.

Thanks for everyone who entered. And thanks again to Julie for guest posting and offering her books for the giveaway!

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Author Spotlight: Kim Ventrella Talks About Skeleton Tree

Author Spotlight | Kim Ventrella Talks about The Skeleton Tree | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comToday I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Kim Ventrella and her debut novel SKELETON TREE.

Title: Skeleton Tree

Genre: MG Fantasy

Age Range: 7-12

Launch Date: September 26, 2017


Please tell us a little bit about your book?

Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit for the Young Discoverer’s Competition. With such a unique find he’s sure to win the grand prize.

But, oddly, the bone doesn’t appear in any photos. Even stranger, it seems to be growing into a full skeleton . . . one that only children can see. There’s just one person who doesn’t find any of this weird—Stanly’s little sister. Mischievous Miren adopts the skeleton as a friend, and soon, the two become inseparable playmates. When Miren starts to grow sick, Stanly suspects that the skeleton is responsible, and does everything in his power to drive the creature away. However, Miren is desperate not to lose her friend, forcing Stanly to question everything he’s ever believed about life, love, and the mysterious forces that connect us.

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

I started by asking what would happen if a boy discovered a finger bone growing in his backyard, and the rest of the story evolved from there. I had no idea where my spooky skeleton story would go, but it ended up helping me through a difficult situation in my life.

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

I write fast and revise slow. By necessity more than by choice. I wrote the first draft of Skeleton Tree in two weeks, but the entire revision process took over a year.

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

J.K. Rowling! No, she wasn’t my actual teacher, but she did inspire me to start writing. And books are great teachers!

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

Skeleton Tree would be a great book to spark conversations about losing someone you love.        

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

My favorite dog is my dog, Hera! I even mention her in my acknowledgements. She’s super sweet and smart, loves to run in the snow and is great at spooning. She’s a rescue dog who was seized by the police from her original owners and is now what they call “severely damaged.” Despite being very fearful of people and dogs, she loves life and is a fantastic co-writer.

Author Spotlight | Kim Ventrella Talks about The Skeleton Tree | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
When she’s not writing, you might find Kim Ventrella working as a children’s librarian, hanging out with the best dog ever, or dreaming of snow.

 

 

 

You can find Kim on the web at:

https://kimventrella.com/

https://twitter.com/kimventrella

https://www.instagram.com/kimventrella/

 

Thanks, Kim!

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Author Spotlight: Alexandra Ott Talks About Rules for Thieves

Author Spotlight | Alexandra Ott Talks About Rules for Thieves | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

Today I’m shining the Author Spotlight on fellow Class of 2k17 member Alexandra Ott and her debut novel RULES FOR THIEVES.

Title: Rules for Thieves

Genre: Fantasy

Age Range: MG

Launch Date: June 6, 2017!

 

Please tell us a little bit about your book?

Rules for Thieves is about a 12-year-old orphan who tries to join a legendary band of thieves in order to get the cure for the curse that’s killing her.

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

I’ve loved heist novels and books about thieves ever since I was younger, and I always knew I wanted to write one of my own. Parts of the book are even inspired by thief stories I invented when I was a kid. But it wasn’t until Alli Rosco’s voice popped into my head one day, full of sarcasm and stubbornness, that all of the pieces fell into place. I knew right away that she was the perfect character to tell this story.

Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?

So far, the process has been a little different for each book. But what generally happens is that I get pieces of an idea—a character or a premise or a spark of something that interests me—and I spend some time developing it. I research things that may be important, jot down a few notes about the characters, and put together a very loose outline of major plot points. But I leave lots of room to explore during the first draft, letting the characters and the story take me in unexpected directions. Once the first draft is down, I do more research. Then I revise again and again and again until the manuscript finally becomes a book.


We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

In the acknowledgments of Rules for Thieves, I thank three teachers. One taught me in middle school, one taught me in high school, and one was my creative writing professor in college. Each of them gave me valuable advice about writing craft and, more importantly, encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming an author. Their support was so important to me as a young writer, and I’m very grateful for it.           

What makes your book  a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

I want Rules for Thieves to be a book that’s fun and engaging for young readers in the same way that my favorite books were for me at that age. I hope it’s accessible enough to young readers that teachers (and librarians) can pass it on to their reluctant readers or those who haven’t yet been introduced to fantasy books. I hope it’s a book that instills a love of reading in young students.         

I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about  your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?

My favorite dog is, of course, my own:  an eight-year-old Lhasa Apso named Penny. She’s described as my tiny canine overlord in my author bio because she completely rules my house. She’s a very small dog with a very big personality. 🙂

 

Author Spotlight; Alexandra Ott Talks About Rules for Thieves penny-20161

 

Alexandra Ott Talks About Rules for Thieves
Alexandra Ott holds a B.A. in English from the University of Tulsa. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her tiny canine overlord. Rules for Thieves is her debut novel. Visit her online at alexandraott.com and on Twitter @Alexandra_Ott.

 

 

Thanks so much, Alexandra!

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