I am hoping to post a  Middle Grade Book Review every week. Today I have the pleasure of reviewing a great non-fiction book.


The book blurb:

Some bugs litter. Some pass gas. Some bugs throw their poop! Discover ten of the rudest, crudest bugs around.

Full of scientific facts, humor and just the right amount of yuck, How Rude! will make you scream “gross!” Featuring a countdown of the top 10 bad bugs who just won’t mind their manners. One part illustration and one part photography, How Rude! is hilarious, informative, and seriously gross!

The verdict:

How Rude! is a hilarious, and enGROSSing, look at ten bugs, such as Gassy Guy (Giant Mesquite Bug) and Upchuck Eater (American Burying Beetle), who are competing in a “Battle for the Grossest”. The animals stink, throw poop, suck the guts of their prey and exhibit other “rude” behaviors. Montgomery explains the WHY behind their behaviors in a way that is interesting and fun. The writing is super and the illustrations are a perfect compliment. I bought this book for my favorite little guy and can’t wait to share it with him.

The details:

This is perfect for 7 – 10 year olds who enjoy bugs, non-fiction, or hearing about the gross and stinky things of the world.

You can purchase the book HERE.

Check out all of the Middle Grade reviews today at www.MiddleGradeMafia.com!


boy_project The Blurb: Wildly creative seventh grader Kara McAllister just had her best idea yet. She’s going to take notes on all of the boys in her grade (and a few elsewhere) in order to answer a seemingly simple question: How can she get a boyfriend?

But Kara’s project turns out to be a lot more complicated than she imagined. Soon there are secrets, lies, and an embarrassing incident in the boy’s bathroom. Plus, Kara has to deal with mean girls, her slightly spacey BFF, and some surprising uses for duct tape. Still, if Kara’s research leads her to the right boy, everything may just be worth it. . . .

Full of charts and graphs, heart and humor, this hilarious debut will resonate with tweens everywhere.


Last month I took my 13 year old daughter to my local bookstore and bought her THE BOY PROJECT by Kami Kinard. I was going to be seeing Kami at an SCBWI conference the following weekend and said that if she liked the book, I’d buy her an autographed copy of the second in the series. While I was at the conference, I had the following text exchange:


I think she liked it.

After she’d finished reading, she gave it to me, and I could see why it was such a hit! Kinard has nailed the middle-school voice perfectly. The “project” allows us to tag along while she observes her subjects and finds that first impressions are not always accurate. The charts and graphics really add to the overall enjoyment and I can imagine this would be a big hit with reluctant readers.

I highly recommend this for tweens and teens who like a bit of romance and a lot of humor.

Find it here.

I’m participating with the Middle Grade Mafia in a blog party, all about reviews! Check them out and find something you love. www.MiddleGradeMafia.com



Author of LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS, (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin)

Blog Reviews Uncategorized

middle-grade-fictionWhen I finished my first middle-grade novel, Last In A Long Line of Rebels, it sat on my desk at 68,000 words. I remember being at a conference and hearing an editor say that a middle-grade book at 60,000 + words would never sell. I’m happy to report that he was WAY wrong. Not about mine, of course, but there have been others, like Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage (62,000) and Wonder, by R.J. Palacio (72,000). My novel didn’t sell until I revised and brought it closer to 50,000. So while there are exceptions to the rules, I wasn’t it.

What are the rules for word count?

Let’s start with Middle Grade since that’s what I write. Middle Grade word count is typically 20,000 to 55,000. Chapter books would be on the lower end, while upper middle grade would be fine in the upper range. Whether your book is considered chapter book or upper middle grade will depend on the age of your characters, and the subject matter. In most cases, your protagonist should be 12 or younger, and the themes shouldn’t include anything too racy.

Picture Books is a broad category. There are early picture books for infants and toddlers that could have as few as 200 words. For kids 2 – 5, you will often see writers aim for the 300-500 range such as Maple and Willow Together, by Lori Nichols. Finally, for older children, you can go as long as 1000 words. Industry standard for picture books is 32 pages, so no matter how long your book is, it shouldn’t go beyond the 32 page mark.

Young Adult authors get a lot more words to play with in their novels. These books tend to be between 60,000 and 100,000+! An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, checks in at 124,000 and it hasn’t hurt her sales at all. (Maybe because it’s an AWESOME read.) Sarah Dessen’s book, Keeping the Moon, was only 56,000 while Saint Anything was 104,000. Obviously there are flexible words counts for YA, but the sweet spot seems to be in the 60,000 to 90,000 range.

The above ranges are reflective of the average lengths. In the end, the book needs to be the length it needs to be to tell YOUR story. It’s good to have a goal in mind, but the important thing is always going to be about telling a really good story. Now go write!

Today I’m hosting a Blog Party. Check out the great writers/blogs for more tips on writing!


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At the recent SCBWI Southern Breeze conference, I spoke to a group of writers about social media. We spent a great deal of time discussing blogs, and I mentioned that one way to increase traffic is to participate in a blog party.

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If all of this sounds like a foreign language to you, don’t worry. This is going to be a test case where I walk you through it. Here’s what we’re going to do:

Next Wednesday, October 28,  is going to be WRITER WEDNESDAY on my blog. This post will be focused on the craft of writing. It might be a piece of advice I’ve received, tips, a book on writing I’d recommend, etc.

Next, you’ll take a blog post that YOU’VE written, (it can be an old one, or write something new) and link it to mine. At the bottom of my post will be a form for you to fill out with your blog information etc. It will link YOUR post on writing inside of MY blog with the hopes that we will all tweet and share and increase our combined traffic. Note: At the bottom of YOUR post, please link back to my website. That way people can find their way back and look at the other blogs participating.

You will link your POST, not your website. Illustrators can participate too. Think of all the things you wish writers knew about illustrators and your process, etc.

That’s it! You don’t have to buy or download anything, you just need to show up here on Wednesday with a blog post ready to link. If you have any questions, let me know.  If this goes well, you may be inspired to host your own themed blog party. Do it, we’ll all come over. :)

My last piece of advice at the conference was to “Be Fearless”. Come on and give it a try!


#SocialMedia for Writers



I had the opportunity to teach a social media class at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Wik15 Conference this past weekend. The number one rule of social media is to BE USEFUL, so I’ve uploaded the entire social media powerpoint presentation here. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

To see the notes, click HERE.


#SocialMedia for Writers

It’s always nice to get publicity for my book, but it’s extra special when it comes from my hometown.


Thanks, Overton County News. I can’t wait to see everyone on the 24th!




Am I available for school visits?

The short answer: YES!

The long answer:

I am really excited to visit with your school group, either in person or via Skype. My book launch is taking up a lot of my time, but I’m putting together a flyer with complete details on presentations and pricing. My goal is to have everything here for you by the time you get back from Christmas break.

Check back soon!






School Visits

I think we can all agree that the Bible is a good book, but if you had to name ONE part that gets skimmed over, what would it be? The “begats” obviously. The fact that someone begat someone else is vitally important to historians, but for those of us who like a good story, it’s a yawn.

Family history is the same way. When I go to the Ancestry website, I want to to know who these people were, what they were thinking, what their days were like. More often than not, I just get begats or milestones.

Take my great-great-grandmother, Mahala Hailey C. Davis for instance.


Read More From The History Files – Write it all Down

History Fun

I found a nifty social media tool today for Twitter – Spruce! It’s very simple and easy to use, and FREE. You write what you want to say, choose a photo from their library or upload your own, then share the image via twitter. It automatically makes it the perfect size, so there’s nothing to think about. You don’t even have to download anything; you can tweet straight from the website!


Tweets with images get retweeted 150% more often and it doesn’t get any easier than Spruce. This is very similar to another product I love – wordswag.

If you’re a writer, you need to be engaging with people on Twitter. What you don’t need to do is waste a lot of time worrying about creating images. Spruce could be your answer!


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#SocialMedia for Writers Social Media Tools

History doesn’t just have to be about your own family, it can be about anything – famous generals, places, and even trees!

In Last In A Long Line of Rebels, Lou lives in a town named Zollicoffer. In reality, there’s no such town. There is, however, an “area” called Zollicoffer by the locals. There’s not a post office, or town square, but most people living outside Livingston, TN can point you there. The area was named for General Felix Zollicoffer, the first Confederate General killed in the western theatre, because it’s believed he camped nearby during the Civil War.


Read More From The History Files – Zollicoffer Is Real

History Fun