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A Bland New Book

Fasten your seatbelts.

The final book in the Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters trilogy is taking off on January 8, 2019. It’s called Flight of the Bluebird.

I’m still getting used to the idea that this is the last book I’ll ever write about Jaundice and Kale. (Though it’s certainly not the end of their story, as you’ll see when you read it.) Despite how challenging this series has been to write, these girls have thoroughly charmed me. I hope you’ve been charmed (however-Blandly), too.

And I hope you’ll help me celebrate this final chapter. I’ve partnered with my neighborhood indie bookstore and I’m running a preorder contest over the next month — I’ll choose three winners, and each winner will receive signed and personalized hardcover editions of ALL THREE Bland Sisters adventures, as well as 2 pieces of mystery swag!

Here’s how it works:

  • Preorder Flight of the Bluebird (link here) and I’ll sign and personalize it once it’s published on 1/8/19. Be sure to add how you want it personalized in the order comments. (While you’re at it, feel free to order any and all of my other titles, and I’ll sign/personalize those, too — if you order soon, you’ll get them in time for the holidays!)
  • Email me here with a photo/screenshot/printout of your receipt. That counts as one entry to win!
  • You can also promote Flight of the Bluebird on Twitter or Instagram; use the hashtag #FlightoftheBluebird and mention me (@karalareau) so I see it. Each time you promote the book counts as another entry to win!
  • The contest ends at 11:59pm EST on January 7, 2019. I’ll then draw the three winners and they’ll be announced here and on my Twitter and Instagram feeds on pub day, January 8, 2019. US mailing addresses only.

Thank you so much for supporting my books and accompanying me on this however-unintentional adventure — good luck and BON VOYAGE!

Cars, Butterflies, and Pez: Addressing Toxic Masculinity as a Writer and a Parent

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It happened on Christmas Day this year. My son was showing everyone the Wonder Woman Pez dispenser he’d just unwrapped, when one of my (female!) relatives scoffed, “That’s for girls.” Thankfully, there were plenty of us on-hand to refute that claim, but the statement was out there. And my four-year-old’s brain is like a sponge. It seems like a little thing, but raising a child is all about little things, which can sometimes turn into bigger things later on.

We’ve all seen the statistics: that only three mass shootings since 1982 have been committed by women, that men commit more than ninety per cent of all murders, and are more likely to drink to excess, to suffer from anger disorders and undiagnosed mental illness, and to commit suicide. We’ve read about (and, all-too-often, experienced first-hand) the denigration and harassment and assault from men who feel entitled to women’s bodies and/or compelled to assert their dominance. And by now, we’ve all heard the term to describe what many (including this author) consider the root of this crisis: toxic masculinity. Just as there are social constructs that limit girls and women, boys and men face their own lifelong struggle. They’re taught not to show emotion, to solve conflicts with violence, to devalue authentic friendships, to refuse help, to view women as objects and conquests. And above all, to not appear or act feminine. (For more information on this issue, the documentary “The Mask You Live In” is a must-see.)

So, what can we do? As a writer, I’m trying to examine and dispel gender stereotypes in my work; my chapter book series, THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, addresses a different aspect of toxic masculinity in each story: the first is about the façade of male toughness; the second, The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, is about admitting fears and different definitions of bravery; the third will be about personal connection and empathy; and the fourth will be about accepting help. While the main goal in my writing is always to entertain, I’m hoping these stories also encourage further thought and even discussion.

As parents, my husband and I are committed to raising our son without gender limitations, and while we champion equality, we are honest with him that our world has a long way to go. We encourage his interests, which are currently cars, butterflies, reading, music, cooking, geography, the weather, rainbows, glitter…and yes, Pez. We remind him that everyone’s body is their own territory — and while we love that he’s affectionate, we also remind him to ask before hugging someone, and that everyone has a right to say no. We praise him when he expresses his feelings in a healthy way and makes other “good choices” in his behaviors, and we make sure we model those behaviors, too, including solving conflicts peacefully (well, as peacefully as we can!) and apologizing and admitting when we are wrong. And we foster empathy — particularly through the books he reads. In honor of #WomensHistoryMonth, here are just a few of our current woman-powered favorites:

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill

Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Windows by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale

The Duck, Duck, Porcupine books by Salina Yoon

The Charlie and Mouse books by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Ketara A. Bobo

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Why Am I Me by Paige Britt, illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls

Please feel free to comment with other titles (even books for older readers, as I am starting to collect those for him, too) you think might further this cause. And of course, I welcome any other suggestions you might have for raising healthy, empathetic boys. As my husband and I tell our son, none of us is perfect, and we all need help sometimes — even (and especially!) grownups.

(The photo above is of my son, enjoying a gentle moment with one of his butterfly friends.)

 

The Bird is Back!

Bluebird Works

Greetings, creative friends! Are you looking for editorial guidance? In the middle of a tough project and need a bird’s eye view? With more than two decades of experience as an editor and published author, I’m ready to help.

THE EDITORIAL DIAGNOSTIC:

Based on an intense review of your project, I’ll provide a thorough report, outlining your story’s specific and general strengths and weaknesses, along with suggestions for improvement. I will also provide a follow-up call or email conversation when necessary.

FEES:

The starting fees* for this editorial diagnostic are as follows:

picture books: $750

chapter books: $2500

middle grade novels: $3500

*Final quote to be determined by a variety of factors, including but not limited to word count and story complexity.

QUERIES:

Please submit queries to me ONLY through email, at bluebirdworks@me.com. Queries should include a cover letter (which should include a BRIEF synopsis of your work, your writing and publishing experience, whether you are a member of SCBWI, and the names of any published authors, agents, or editors who might vouch that you’re a committed writer and upstanding human) and an attached Word document containing the full picture book or chapter book manuscript or the first ten pages of your middle grade novel, double spaced and in 12-point Times New Roman. Any queries that do not subscribe to these rules will be discounted.

Please note that I am not considering non-fiction or young adult novels at this time.

I will respond to all queries within 6-8 weeks. I reserve the right to decline what might not be my cup of tea, even if it’s a promising manuscript; if I don’t respond to your work, I’m probably not the right person to help you with it.

OTHER QUESTIONS?

If you have any other questions, please drop me a line at bluebirdworks@me.com.

Looking forward to hearing from (and perhaps even working with) you!

Uncanny Trivia

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This and all other Uncanny Express images copyright Jen Hill.

Hello, friends! The past two weeks have been super-exciting, as The Uncanny Express is now out in the world (and available for purchase here and here and here and via my local indie where if you want a signed copy, just note the personalization in the order comments section), and since its publication, I’ve been riding the rails with Jaundice and Kale on our UNCANNY EXPRESS Blog Tour. You can retrace our route and learn a lot about me and the book via The Little Crooked Cottage, MG Book Village, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook, YAYOMG!, LibrariansQuest, Storymamas, and All the Wonders. Our final stop will be on Sunday, when we visit the esteemed Nerdy Book Club — hope you’ll join us!

In the meantime, I thought I’d give my Bland Fans something extra special — namely, a reveal of some trivia about the book. Without further ado…

  • The book is dedicated to Pearl. Pearl was my beloved cat, who died the day after I handed in the manuscript.
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Dearly-departed Pearl.

  • Colonel Donald McRobb is named after one of my best friends, Rob McDonald. When The Jolly Regina came out, Rob seemed disappointed that none of the characters were inspired by him. You’re welcome, Rob.
  • Kale is obsessed with cleaning (and even cleans the toilet with a TOOTHBRUSH); I actually haaaaaate cleaning.
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Sorry, Kale.

  • I’ve spent a lot of time on trains; when I worked as an editor at Candlewick Press, I took the commuter rail between Providence and Somerville every day. When I worked at Scholastic, I took the train in to New York once a week.
  • When I create my characters, I sometimes envision specific actors. For Magique, I imagined Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton. I can see a bit of a resemblance in Jen Hill’s illustrations!
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Isn’t the resemblance…uncanny?

  • In Chapter Eight, the great detective Hugo Fromage is served tea, though he barely takes a sip of it before pushing it away. I wanted to be sure he never drank traditional tea, as Hercule Poirot only drank tisane (herbal tea).
  • It’s mentioned that the Bland Sisters have just started reading a series of books about two intrepid brothers: Keith and Joe, aka the Nubbins Twins. Of course, their names start with a K and J, like Kale and Jaundice, though I imagine Keith and Joe to be the very opposite of the Bland Sisters, a cross between the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins.
  • After Hercule Poirot would interview all the suspects of a crime, he would take some time to himself to review all the evidence; he called it using his “little gray cells” (aka his brain). Similarly, Hugo Fromage tells the Bland Sisters he needs time to allow his “brain stew” to simmer.
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Mmm…brain stew.

  • Like a certain murderess on The Uncanny Express, I too own a poison ring.
  • A lot of my own experience with failure is reflected in Magique’s feelings about it — I’ve never had anyone throw tomatoes at me, though (not literally, anyway).
  • One of the clues left behind by Magique is a box of Good & Plenty. I hate Good & Plenty, and anything flavored with black licorice in general.
  • The Uncanny Valley Hippodrome was inspired by The Holiday Hippodrome, a kitschy circus my sister and I saw when we were kids.
  • At the end of the story, the Bland Sisters encounter an airplane called the Bluebird. For some time, I had a freelance editing business called Bluebird Works (named for the bluebird of happiness).
  • The third and final (???) Bland Sisters adventure will come out in early 2019. Among other things, it features an ancient curse, a villain with very bad teeth, and a BIG reveal of some Bland Family secrets.

Hope you enjoyed these little factoids — if you have any other questions for me, be sure to leave them in the comments. Which brings me to today’s big GIVEAWAY…

If you comment here on the blog, or follow/like/RT me on Twitter or Instagram TODAY, you’ll be eligible for an Uncanny giveaway! I’ll announce the winner on Twitter on Monday, January 22.

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The giveaway includes: signed copies of The Jolly Regina and The Uncanny Express, and a swag pack featuring fun bookmarks, a set of Jolly Regina postcards, and a genuine Hugo Fromage mustache!

P.S. Just a reminder the The Jolly Regina is now out in paperback, wherever books are sold! If you want to check out some fun trivia about the book, take a look at my Five Things About the Jolly Regina series, mateys!

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Infamous FUNTIME winners!

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Hello, all! Thanks so everyone who participated in my pre-order contest for The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid. As mentioned, EVERYONE who entered will receive a signed bookplate and a bookmark for each preordered copy, but the grand prize winner of the Infamous FUNTIME Prize Pack (which includes 1. a copy of The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid AND a copy of The Infamous Ratsos, both signed by me AND Matt Myers, 2. a pack of (new INFAMOUS RATSOS character!) Stinky Stanko’s favorite purple pens, and 3. a Skype visit from me with the library or classroom of your choice) is…*drumroll please*

SHARON BRADLEY!

Please drop me an email and let me know your mailing address, as well as how you’d like me to personalize your bookplate(s). (And Sharon, we can work out the details re: the Skype visit.)

Thanks so much again to you all!!

An Infamous Birthday!

 

(Book trailer by my pal Gaia Cornwall!)

Hooray, hooray — it’s my book’s birthday! The second book in the INFAMOUS RATSOS series, THE INFAMOUS RATSOS ARE NOT AFRAID, is now available wherever books are sold, so go to your local indie or Amazon or Barnes & Noble and get yourself one (or more)!

Many thanks, as ever, to my editor Sarah Ketchersid, and artistic genius Matt Myers, for bringing my words to life, and to my publisher, Candlewick Press, for sharing my Infamous stories with the world. I’m so excited about this book, especially because it deals with a topic that’s very important to me (and that’s important now more than ever): bravery. I hope it inspires some good conversations — here’s a handy discussion guide to get you started!

If that’s not exciting enough, today is also the publication day for the paperback edition of the first INFAMOUS RATSOS story! You can also buy it through your local indie or Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It deals with the topic of kindness, and it’s also a great conversation starter (discussion guide here).

In the meantime, I am finishing up the text for Book Three of THE INFAMOUS RATSOS series, while ALSO finishing up the text for Book Three of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters series. Whew! I’m a LITTLE tired, but otherwise no complaints.

Hope I’ll see you at one of my book events this fall — check out my schedule to see if I’ll be appearing near you!