Monday, May 23, 2016

How To Capture The Middle Grade Voice by Pete Catalano

It's Monday! And why do I seem so excited about it? Because it's the day I share another wonderful middle grade tale with you. And today I have an extra treat - Middle Grade Author Pete Catalano is here to share how he captured the middle grade voice. I'm so excited to read his hilarious book! Let's see what he has to say.

How To Capture The Middle Grade Voice (Or how this author did, anyway.) :)
by Pete Catalano

In ARTIFACTS I feel like I really found my Middle Grade voice for the first time.

In every #MSWL or every plea for the next great book, Agents and Editors stress VOICE! VOICE! VOICE! Once you know what they are looking for it should be easy to write – or is it?

The quest to find a voice that works, no matter what age you’re writing for, is a prize that once it’s inches from your grabby little hands . . . suddenly vanishes. I have been fortunate enough to find a voice that is perfect for the stories I write. A friend of mine wrote in a review of ARTIFACTS that they were “Impressed with how Mr. Catalano was able to create the hysterical sarcasm that is the trademark middle school wit.” I now wear that compliment as a badge of honor as I continue to write Middle Grade!

I guess it helps that I never really grew up.

To this day I still watch movies that other people last saw twenty years ago or more. I can’t turn down the opportunity to watch The Sandlot, Home Alone, Uncle Buck, or even Stand by Me every time it comes on TV (it drives my wife crazy! ) When I write a story I spend a great amount of time watching the action in my head, hearing the conversations between the characters, and writing it all down.

Finding your Middle Grade voice can be accomplished in a number of different ways. 

Become a teacher! While that might be a little dramatic or you might be a little late in life, you get to be part of the wonderful work they do but at the same time be a fly on the wall to conversations that will, one way or the other, find their way into the next great novel.

Read! Read! Read! Read! And then Read some more. The ideas you present in your story will be your own, but if you are able to pick out the sarcasm, the inflections, the wonder, and the conversations that make the reader want to turn the page, you’ll be that much closer to finding your voice.

Listen! If you’re drawn to Middle Grade in the first place there’s probably a chance that the inner child is still there waiting to be heard. It may start as a whisper at first but the longer you listen and the more you pay attention, eventually the words will pour onto the page. To this day there’re things I think are funny that others dis at one time too, but that was when they were twelve. 

I could say hang out at the playground to hear the way kids talk to each other, but in this day and time that will surely get you arrested.

Finding your voice in Middle Grade will be frustrating, awkward, and nearly impossible, but when you do find it (and you will find it) your writing will be funny, believable, funny, realistic, funny, authentic, funny, convincing, and did I mention funny?
Pete Catalano’s books are written for kids of all ages — and adults who secretly never grew up. He lives in Charlotte, NC with his adorably funny wife and two neurotic dogs. Pete was a theatre major in college and tries to keep the ‘suspension of disbelief’ in his life as much as he can. 
Want to know more about Pete? You can find him on his Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Goodreads and also by following the rest of his blog tour. 

by Pete Catalano
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Tantrum Books

Description: It's funny how one little letter can change a person's life. Jax and his friends have been planning the summer of a lifetime at Camp Runamuck. However, when one of them is facing summer at a school desk for failing English, they watch those plans crash and burn!
At the last moment they're given a way out.

An extra credit assignment to find several fake artifacts for a fairy tale display their teacher is presenting at the local library.

Thinking they've hit the easiest-extra-credit-ever jackpot, they begin rummaging through any piles of junk they can find. As they start putting the clues together, they realize that what they're really searching for is one authentic artifact that can rewrite fairy tales!

Enlisting the aid of the Lost Boys, Jax and his friends battle fairy tale villains to see who can get their hand, or their hook, on it first.

What do you find unique about writing or reading middle grade stories? 
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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

YA In The Alleyway~THE UNMOVING SKY by K. L. Hallam & Giveaway!

YA in the Alleyway is my revised meme to give young adult literature the spotlight it deserves. It also gives YA authors the opportunity to share their signature with the world! 
Feel free to join me any Wednesday. 

Let's give a big Alleyway welcome for my next featured Young Adult Author, K. L. Hallam - an air force brat as a young child, who moved around to more schools than she can list, gathering the stories that would connect to her heart! She also writes middle grade tales, short fiction, and anything else she hasn't tried. Her other creative endeavors include being a singer, songwriter, illustrator, and mom. And to top it all off, she's one of my publisher sisters!

Hi K. L. It's wonderful to have you here. Let's start with childhood. Did you have a favorite book or story and why? 
My mother’s first language is Greek, she spoke little English, and I can’t remember a time when she’d read books the way I do for my sons. But when my fifth-grade teacher read The Secret Garden aloud to the class, my world changed. Forever. I still recall that time, listening to her read I can almost smell the day. 

Ooh, The Secret Garden... <3 With the emotions of that story in mind, I'd like to introduce the readers to your moving story.

Goodreads | Smashwords | Amazon

by K. L. Hallam

Publisher: Leap Books: Shine Imprint
Release Date: May 16, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller

Description: There is nothing darker than the woods, until you meet your worst fear.

Jackson Bower has a lot on his mind lately. His younger brother hasn’t been the same since his mother’s death. His father’s drinking is out of control. Then there’s Jackson’s girlfriend and the grief that ties them together even as it threatens to drive them apart.

He distances himself, hoping for a little perspective at the family lodge. But when their father gets drunk and dangerous, he and his brother escape into the woods.

Night creeps in, and the rains come fast. Artie slips down a ravine. He’s wounded and the brothers seek shelter in a cave, only to find someone else already taking refuge there.

A desperate man with plans to destroy their town.

Jackson must get him and his wounded brother out of the cave and over the mountain to warn everyone in time. Without getting them both killed first.

Here's a peek at the book trailer: 

How did you approach the topics of parental death and alcohol use (or alcoholism) to develop these characters?
My father was an alcoholic. My mother left him when I was eight years old and my brother was five. I had to look after him a lot, while she worked. Growing up without your parents talking to each other for years, not until I graduated high school, feels like a death. I wasn’t allowed to talk about him or his new life around my mother. 

What other books do you feel are comparable to this story and why?  
Hm? This is hard. I’ve searched for stories that might be comparable. When talking with others about The Unmoving Sky, I’ve heard that it sounded like the Mathew McConaughey’s film, MUD, 2012. I haven’t seen the film, but it sounds as if there might be a few elements of similarity. Two young boys, find a drifter … etc. Maybe that’s the one similarity? 

One of my children watched that film. I believe he got the same impression. What can your readers expect from you next? 
I have a middle-grade, SFF launching with GMMG in 2017. (And a few in the hole!) I’d love to write a prequel to The Unmoving Sky. Brianna, Jackson’s girlfriend, has her side to the story. Hopefully I can complete the song of her POV and have it ready by the time TUS publishes on May 16th. Or maybe it will be a pet project. 

A prequel would be cool! I always love to learn more about a story's characters before and after. :) One last - and silly - question. You're in the mall and all the stores are closed except three of them: a kitchen utensil store, a gag gift store, and a gallery art store. Which do you patron, why, and what do you buy?
Gallery Art Store. Because I paint with watercolors and I’m out of supplies. I know I’ve used all of my blues and yellows. I might even grab more clay for the figurative sculptures I used to make. 

Sculptures...whoa. You really do dabble in all creative arenas. Thanks you so much for sharing your signature in the Alleyway, and congratulations on your release!

Readers, what are your thoughts on reading true-to-life teenage struggles such as dealing with an absent parent, death, or battles such as alcoholism?

Want more of K. L. Hallam? Find her: Website | Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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