Kathleen Burkinshaw on Authenticity in Historical Fiction.

Today it is my pleasure to help Kathleen Burkinshaw – the award-winning author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSON – celebrate the book’s third anniversary. In this post she discusses the research involved in the sequel she is writing for the book. Here’s Kathleen:

I’ve always loved reading history books and researching a topic to find unexpected or lesser known facts on a subject, long before my first book published. I also tend to get so caught up in research, especially when I find out something that leads me down a totally different path than I could have imagined (I can’t be alone here 😊). So,  I have to be sure I’m not using it as a way to avoid actually writing my story and being creative.  

For example, I have been working on the sequel to The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) for a while now. Health issues have gotten in my way and then because I hadn’t written in a while, insecurity settled in. So, I spent a lot of time looking for, purchasing, and reading books on life in Tokyo during the American Occupation, since the sequel takes place a few years after the end of WWII. I wanted to involve headlines and propaganda posters as my chapter headings like I had in TLCB.  I was ecstatic when I found out I could subscribe to a resource that included the STARS and STRIPES newspaper edition that reported from the Pacific region.  

But I couldn’t help but feel that my research was missing something, just not sure what that ‘something’ could be. Since, I couldn’t quite figure that out, I began writing more scenes for the sequel.  As I did, some of my insecurity lifted and I realized the importance of balancing my research time with making time to write creatively.  It didn’t work well for me to have an all or nothing approach.

However, I kept getting stuck in some of my descriptions and the direction I wanted my story to take.  I have mentioned before that while writing TLCB, I found my sources in unexpected places. One in particular was my family’s visit to Hiroshima, honoring my mother at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims, a few months after she passed away. Being there in person, I  discovered the beauty that my Mom often spoke about growing up in Hiroshima before the bombing.  I used this discovery in re-writing my descriptions of Hiroshima for my final edits.

Well, this time, a resource found me believe it, or not!  It began with a speaking engagement for a local book club. After the event, a lovely woman introduced herself to me and told me of her recent visit to Japan. Coincidence, yes, but the incredible part is coming next! Interestingly enough, she had a friend (who lives in Maryland), Mr. Pittell, that served in the US Air Force and had been stationed at Miho Air Base (now Miho-Yonago Airport) in Japan during the later Occupation years(1953-54). He recently sent her copies of photos that he took during that time.  She asked if I might be interested in seeing them. My eyes immediately lit up and I said a resounding, YES!!

She received his permission to show the pictures to me, and we met at a local coffee shop. Not only were there pictures, but he also had written a few descriptive paragraphs about them. He loved photography and these photos were a treasure trove for me! I had the opportunity to see literal snapshots in time capturing the essence of everyday life in the town and neighboring towns to Miho Air Force Base (about a 3-hour drive north of Hiroshima).

Most pictures were in black and white, but he did have some pictures in color. I was thrilled to be able to see how young women dressed during this time and to imagine my mom dressing like that as well. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her early teen years in Tokyo. I only have a few of her and my Dad when they first married and were on their honeymoon at Lake Yamanaka (she was in her mid-20s by then).

Mr. Pittell kindly let me keep his copies for a while to use as a guide for descriptions in my book.  This was the ‘something’ I was missing. I now had a better idea of what the towns, the soldiers, and the Japanese people looked like during the first years of the American Occupation.  These pictures also inspired another tangent to my story line for the sequel.  On top of that, I now have a wonderful new friend in the woman who shared these pictures with me.

You just never know where you will find your resources or where they might find you! I mean, what are the odds of meeting a woman who just received pictures from a soldier stationed in Japan during Occupation time?! 😊 I’m a firm believer that connections matter whether through emotions bared through your writing so that your voice or other voices can be heard; or in actually meeting someone and making that face to face good ol’ fashioned, in-person connection.

Once I finally complete my sequel, I hope that readers will feel the authenticity in and connect with my descriptions gifted to me by someone I didn’t even know!

Here is one of the incredible pictures that Mr. Pittell had taken:

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August also happens to be TLCB’s 3rd Blooming Anniversary and to celebrate, I have a Rafflecopter giveaway going on now through August 31st. Two winners will be chosen at random and win what is shown in the picture below along with a complimentary 45-minute Skype visit for teachers, librarians, and home school students. Below is the link to my TLCB Rafflecopter Giveaway. Thank you and Good Luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cd590dfc6/?

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Teresa Robeson Presents:QUEEN OF PHYSICS – her debut picture book + a giveaway.

Today it is my pleasure to feature children’s book author TERESA ROBESON with her debut picture book QUEEN OF PHYSICS about an unknown physicist who helped unlock the secrets of the atom. Here’s Teresa to tell you how it came about.

Thank you so much for inviting me to talk about my debut book, Darlene!

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I think it’s pretty common knowledge that though I don’t have an advance degree in physics, it’s my passion-hobby. It started with astrophysics, but I’m now just as intrigued with quantum and particle physics.

I can’t remember where I first heard of or read about Wu Chien Shiung, the Chinese American physicist who is the subject of my biography, but I was immediately taken by her since she was of the same cultural heritage and had the same love of physics.

So I researched her a bit more and drafted a picture book manuscript. After honing it for a while, I submitted it to a few places but got no bites. Then I did something one should never do: whine on social media about it. LOL! Someone I met in the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge saw my tweet (I was kind of mortified since I always thought nobody read my tweet back then) and offered to critique it. She then confessed that she is training to be a literary agent and wanted to take me on as her first client.

Sadly, she was never able to sell the story and quit the agenting business after only a year.

A year and a half rolled by and I was rather depressed that my story had gone nowhere. But then Jane Yolen (!!!) picked my story to as the nonfiction winner in the We Need Diverse Books mentorship program. Jane is a masterful teacher who guides with deep knowledge but lets you make your own choices. I attended the NESCBWI conference in the spring of 2017 so I could meet her in person.

Through the conference, I submitted the mentored version of that story to a number of editors. Christina Pulles, who was then with Sterling, expressed an interest in my manuscript. With that interest, I approached a number of agents and ended up signing with Natascha Morris of Bookends Literary.

And, finally, about two years after Christina expressed her interest, my book will be born!

Things I want the world to know about Wu Chien Shiung:

1) Despite facing racism and sexism, Wu persevered.

2) Wu always gave every task she undertook all her attention and effort.

3) In her later career, Wu used her knowledge of nuclear physics to work on treatment for sickle cell disease.

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Teresa Robeson draws upon her Chinese heritage, Canadian-American sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of nature when she writes. She has been published in children and adult magazines. QUEEN OF PHYSICS, a picture book biography, is her debut. Teresa’s hobbies include making art, making soap, knitting, baking, helping out around the homestead, and wowing the chickens with her bilingualism (they are not impressed). 

 

http://teresarobeson.com

Teresa is offering to give away one of her lovely Women in STEM TOTE BAGS to a randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post.  The winner can choose either the white handled or blue handled bag. The winner will be announced in a future post on this blog. Good luck!tote bags 2 handle colors

Amalia Hoffman Blasts off With a New Board Book.

Today it is my pleasure to feature Author/Illustrator AMALIA HOFFMAN and her new board book ASTRO PEA. I found the book to be charming and perfect for adventurous toddlers who enjoy exploring outside their own “pods”.

Here is my review of ASTRO PEA:  “Toddlers and young readers will delight at the fanciful adventure of Pete the Pea and what he discovers when he steps outside his pod. This simple board book, and the whimsical illustrations that accompany it, celebrate curiosity and imagination and reminds us that even after a grand adventure, it is good to come home to those we love.” 

thumbnailBlast off with Pete the pea on a cosmic adventure of daring and friendship. Follow Pete whose imagination turns a carrot into a spaceship, an artichoke into a satellite, plain veggies into planets, an ear of corn into a corn-trol shuttle and such more.

A short link to a video of Amalia performing the story:

https://youtu.be/V-sJk2HZ8oU

Book Journey:

In 2017, I started experimenting with pastel pencils.  I loved the textures that I could achieve and the vibrant lush colors. After working for a while on a white background I wondered what the colors would look like on black. So I ordered a fine black art sand paper and fell in love with the way the colors looked on it 

I didn’t really have a project in mind. I was just having fun painting fruits and vegetables. I ended up making a pea pod. The drawing was on my art table and one day I got the idea of doing a story about peas.

I had envisioned a board book where the young child reads a clue and turns the page to see what happened. I think it was the black paper that sprouted the space idea. So then, why not make spaceship? 

I envisioned this little curious protagonist – a pea named Pete who is tired of living in an ordinary pea pod and his imagination takes him on a cosmic adventure. I created a dummy and sent it to my agent, Anna Olswanger.

We worked on the story for a while and I was delighted when Schiffer Publishing acquired it as well as another board book, executed in the same technique, coming up in Fall, 2019.

 

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Amalia Hoffman is an author, illustrator and storyteller. Her board book, Dreidel Day (Lerner/Kar Ben Publishing, 2018) is a PJ Library book and received the PJ Library Author Incentive Award. She is the author/illustrator of two other board books, Astro Pea and All Colors (Schiffer Publishing, 2019.) Amalia is the author of The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero (Capstone Publishing, 2019, illustrated by Chiara Fedele.)

Amalia designed and illustrated an oversized book with pop-up elements for the production of Rose Bud at Israel’s children’s theater, The Train. Other books include The Klezmer Bunch and Purim Goodies (Gefen Publishing House, 2007 and 2009.) The Klezmer Bunch was featured in a play, Jewish Books Cooking by the celebrated choreographer and producer, Elizabeth Swados. She received the SCBWI 2005 award for illustration in the category of Fantasy. Her portfolio was selected as the winning portfolio in the 2014 21st Century Non Fiction Conference.

Amalia performs her stories in schools, libraries and bookstores dressed up in costumes with puppets and props.

 Visit Amalia at www.amaliahoffman.com

 

How to Keep on Writing When the Going Gets Tough by Wendy Greenley

Thank you so much, Darlene, for inviting me to chat on your blog!

After publication of my debut picture book, LOLA SHAPES THE SKY people began asking about my writing journey and tips to success. The best tip I know is to keep writing and seeking feedback.

It can be HARD to keep writing. The perfect sentence you wrote? Sometimes no one likes it. The fantastic idea you had? Being published next year, by someone else. In the spirit of keeping everyone writing, I’m sharing a list of ten things I embrace. Perhaps it will help other writers keep going when bad stories turn into bad days, turn into bad months (yup, had those!).

  1. Connecting with like-minded people
  2. Feeling pride in achieving my goals and joy in celebrating other people’s successes
  3. The thrill of finding the perfect image or word
  4. Being an example of bravery to my children in the face of rejection
  5. Finding a way to share my heart with the world
  6. Getting stories out of my head (am I the only one who hears “voices”?!)
  7. Having an excuse to daydream
  8. Learning about myself by embracing vulnerability and peeling back emotions
  9. Creating a vision of better lives, better places
  10. Having a reason to go to writing conferences and meet amazing authors I admire

Actual sales of my materials and publication aren’t on this list. I can’t control that, so while it’s fantastic when it happens, I can’t hang my happiness hat on those items. Publication is my ultimate objective, but thinking about it doesn’t always make me happy!

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“In this lyrical origin story Thor wants all the clouds to make weather, but Lola only makes shapes. LOLA SHAPES THE SKY embraces every child’s magical experience of imagining whimsical shapes in the clouds with the timeless theme of supporting what makes us each unique. Be who you are—who you need to be!”

Kirkus Reviews: “Lola’s attitude inspires confidence in one’s imaginative abilities to pursue life’s aspirations.”

 

The achievable goals that I can take pride in are things like—doing another revision. Finding the heart of a story that went in too many directions. Rewording the opening to a story. It may have to be rewritten ten more times, but the immediate goal is giving it one more try.

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Enjoy the process! Happy writing everyone!

If anyone is in MD area this weekend, I’ll be one of the authors at the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival in Easton, MD. Stop by and say hi! http://chesapeakechildrensbookfestival.com/

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Bio: Wendy Greenley has been an ice cream scooper, night security guard, microbiologist, attorney, Cub Scout leader, Art Goes to School Volunteer, and public relations for a dog rescue. She enjoys being a critique group leader for the Eastern PA SCBWI. Connect with her at wendy@wendygreenley.com and Twitter @wendygreenley. A current list of events and appearances is on Lola Shapes the Sky’s Facebook page.

MG Author Malayna Evans Presents her Debut Novel:Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh + Win A Free Copy.

My inspiration for Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh: by Malayna Evans

COVER

When my oldest son was nine years old (he’s now sixteen and 6’2”!), he asked me over lunch at my favorite coffee shop what ancient Egyptians looked like. I’m a pretty legit person to ask about that: I spent too many years (and way too many dollars) earning my Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history. When I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well, he told me someone should write a book about a kid who looked like him lost in ancient Egypt. I added the sassy little sister, also much like his, and, voila, I had an idea and two South Side Chicago protagonists. He and I wrote chapter one that very afternoon. (Okay, that chapter one is long gone … but the inspiration is still there.)

Three things to know about Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh (Month9Books):

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  1. The magic and oversized crocs and scorpions are fake, but the history is real. Well, much of it anyway. The setting, the main ancient Egyptian characters, even the artifacts and sections of magic spells are attested, as is the weird period of time—that Amarna Period—when the pharaoh tried to replace the old gods and goddesses with his favorite deity, the sun disk (Aten).

 

  1. Two real bits of history helped me shape the plot. One was a tomb from this period that features the second Amarna princess, Meketaten, who died young. (I needed a mummy, after all). And the second thing was a spell, which is usually written as three hieroglyphs right after a pharaoh’s name: ankh, wedja, seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity, and health. I figured exploring the meaning of life in book one was a pretty good theme. (I couldn’t save that princess–she really did die around this time–but saving her afterlife seemed like an emic spin on the age-old boy-saves-princess classic.)

 

  1. Absentee parents are hard. That doesn’t stop many kids from having to live with the situation. I wanted to explore that common problem as well. Jagger’s (barely existent) relationship with his father isn’t central to the plot, but it is key to Jagger’s personal growth, and perhaps also informs his big brother over protectiveness.

Thanks for reading. I hope kids will enjoy the adventure and hardly notice all the history they’ll be soaking up on the way. You can grab Jagger’s story here: https://www.amazon.com/Jagger-Jones-Mummys-Malayna-Evans/dp/194867162X/

Here’s Darlene’s review of the book:

Although 13 year old Jagger Jones loves ancient history, he’d rather learn about it from the comfort of his own bedroom than the constant globe-trotting to which his mother subjects him and his younger sister Aria. The trio are on their way to Jagger’s favorite place – Egypt. When they check into their hotel Jagger is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of someone calling his name, telling him to “Come”.

            Unable to stifle his curiosity, Jagger and Aria go outside into the Egyptian night to investigate. They discover an underground tomb and begin the adventure of a lifetime. Inside the tomb Jagger discovers the source of the voice – an Egyptian ankh – the symbol of life. When Aria touches the amulet, they are swept 3000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt.

            If Jagger doesn’t find some mysterious gemstones with magical properties, Mek, the sister of an Egyptian princess, will lose her soul and her chance at the afterlife. Jagger, Aria, and their entire family will also die and be wiped away from history as if they never existed. How can Jagger save the ancient princess and his own family? Why can’t he and Aria just go home?

            Readers will enjoy the action and details of ancient Egyptian history as they are swept up in the intrigue and magic of the Pharoahs and Egyptain Gods. They will also marvel at how the author mixes ancient magic with modern technology to affect the story’s outcome in clever and surprising ways. A quick, enjoyable read for any adventure loving kid.

 

Malayna is giving away a SIGNED COPY of her book JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH. Just leave a comment at the end of this post to be part of the random drawing. Winners will be announced on this blog on May 16, 2019.

 

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Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, she earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. She’s used her education to craft a time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is out in May of 2019. http://www.Month9Books.com

Malayna lives in Oak Park, IL, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hamster.  She’s considering adding chickens to the family.

 

 

PB Author Vivian Kirkfield Presents:Unsolved Mysteries: Three Questions About Sarah E. Goode.

Thank you so much, Darlene, for inviting me to chat again on your wonderful blog. I wanted to share some details of the process I went through as I researched my non-fiction picture book SWEET DREAMS, SARAH. (Creston 2019)

Sarah cover

When I decided to write a nonfiction picture book story about Sarah E. Goode, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find information about her. I mean, you’d think, a person who was one of the first African American women to receive a U.S. patent would have a lot written about her, right? Especially since she’d been a slave when she was a child. Just think about that…from owned to ownership. Those words actually spurred me on as I dug deeper, trying to unearth more information.

I turned to my local librarian and she reached out to some of the larger libraries in the country. We were sure that the Chicago Public Library would have loads of stuff – after all – Sarah lived and worked and died in Chicago. But, when the librarian at the Harsh Research Collection answered our plea, here is what she said:

Wow! Your author seems to have amassed much more information than we ever dreamed there would be. We have nothing in our files on Goode and her name only comes up every Black History Month when some unlucky child has her name assigned for a report. All we’ve ever been able to lead them to is a photo of the patent and a brief blurb in a “Black Inventors” book. Essentially nothing more than can be found on the internet.

When I read her reply, I knew that I had to pursue this story because Sarah had obviously not received the recognition in life or in death that she deserved. She was a trailblazing courageous young woman who could inspire the children of today to build their own dreams.

But even though I searched high and low, there were three things I was not able to track down and verify.

WHAT DID SARAH LOOK LIKE?

Searching around the internet, I found two or three sentences repeated on just about every website that had a bit of information (often untrue) about Sarah E. Goode. Several of the websites had her photo.

NOT!

There is no known photo of Sarah E. Goode. The photo that appears on several websites? I don’t know who it is, but it is definitely not Sarah.

WHERE WAS SARAH BORN?

Some websites say Toledo, Ohio. Some websites say Toledo, Spain. What?

I can totally understand the confusion. On the 1870 Chicago census, Sarah was 15 years old and her parents listed her place of birth as Toledo, Ohio. However, in the 1880 Chicago census, when Sarah is a married woman of 25, she listed her place of birth as Toledo, Spain.

NOT!

From all the research I’ve done, I surmise that Sarah might have been born in Northern Virginia…a slave state in 1855, the year of her birth. The border of Northern Virginia runs along the southern border of Ohio…a free state in 1855. It might have made sense for Sarah’s father, a freeman, to claim that his daughter was born in Ohio where she would be considered free. And, as for Sarah claiming she was born in Toledo, Spain, again, we can only guess. Perhaps she thought if she said Spain, that would grant a bit of the exotic to her existence. I doubt we will ever know the true story.

WHAT HAPPENED TO SARAH’S BUSINESS?

By 1883, a time when most women didn’t own anything, Sarah owned a furniture store in downtown Chicago. She built the innovative cabinet bed and applied for a patent. A year later, her application was returned – DENIED. Other similar inventions had already been patented. Sarah could have given up. But she didn’t.

Carefully she changed a word here and a sentence there, explaining more about her unique mechanism, the idea that had come to her so long ago. Slipping the paperwork and a bit of her heart into the envelope, Sarah sealed her fate and sent it off.

A year later, on July 14, 1885, Sarah’s patent was granted. In 1886, her business appears in Chicago’s city listing. But sadly, by May of 1887, an advertisement in the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean newspaper shows another vendor selling cabinet beds that look just like Sarah’s. “Manufacturer of these beds went bust and we are now the exclusive distributors.” We may never know why Sarah lost her business – illness, bad luck, or jealousy and possibly violence from business competitors—I did discover that her mother and one of her children had died the year before. She had lost two of the people she had loved the most. But there is one thing Sarah will never lose: her place in history. Sarah E. Goode will always be one of the first African American women in U.S. history to be recorded as earning a patent for her invention.

And now, the next time young students are given the name of Sarah E. Goode as a Black History Month or Women’s History Month project, there will be a book they can take out from the library, Sweet Dreams, Sarah. The author’s note, timeline of Sarah’s life and list of African American women patent holders in the back matter add rich STEM content to the book.

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BIO: Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found

 

 

 

Katia Raina, Debut YA Author Presents CASTLE OF CONCRETE.

Today it is my pleasure to feature my friend and debut YA author KATIA RAINA, with a sneak peek at her new book, CASTLE OF CONCRETE. Here’s Katya:

CASTLE OF CONCRETE is a young adult novel set in the last year of Communist Russia, about a shy Jewish girl Sonya who reunites with her once-dissident mother after a long absence and falls in love with a boy who may be an anti-Semite.

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Where I got the idea for the story:

You’d think it’s such a straightforward question, right? But the path to this story idea, for me, was meandering.

The short answer is: the idea for this story came straight from my soul and the core of who I was. I grew up in Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Russia, I grew up quiet, an outsider and a Jew-in-hiding (I didn’t have what the Russians would consider a typically Jewish look). I was missing my mama and having a hard time connecting with the society in which I lived. I read lots of fairy tales and science fiction, and lots of romance. Then, when I got older and thought I was in love, I went out on a date with a boy, who used an anti-Semitic slur against a stranger. I didn’t know if he knew that I was Jewish or not. I never said anything. I never found out. But the “what if” questions never quite left me alone. Merging with memory and imagination, eventually these questions led me to write CASTLE OF CONCRETE.

Three things you should know about the main character Sonya:

  1. Sonya thinks she is a shy and quiet mouse, a myshka. She has no idea how fierce and crazy she can be!
  2. Sonya used to be a good student. Back when she wasn’t as focused on boys. Ahem.
  3. Sonya’s talents are ice skating, piano playing and singing. She is not necessarily champion/super star material in any of these areas. But when she lets go, when she is feeling the magic and trusting herself, she definitely has her shining moments, in all three.

The book is coming out on June 11, but I have been already beyond thrilled at the excitement and early reception. Here is the link to pre-order the early copy! 🙂 

https://www.amazon.com/Castle-Concrete-NOVEL-Katia-Rainia/dp/0999541633/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=34D5AELYWG0DP&keywords=katia+raina&qid=1550768775&s=gateway&sprefix=katia+%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Katia Raina photo, cropped

Follow Katia’s blog, The Magic Mirror, for updates!

Twitter: KatiaRaina1

Instagram: katiawrites

Facebook: katia.raina

When she was a child, Katia Raina played at construction sites and believed in magic mirrors. She emigrated from Russia at the age of almost sixteen. A former journalist and currently a middle school English teacher in Washington, D.C., she has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her family just outside of D.C., and still believes in magic.