Friday, October 13, 2017

My Visit to Madison County Schools

I recently spent two great days visiting schools in Madison Country North Carolina. WISH is on the North Carolina Elementary Battle of the Books list.

Getting ready to speak to students at Mars Hill Elementary

Being introduced at Mars Hill Elementary by Melanie Morgan, Library Director at Madison County Public Library

My greeters, tour guides and bodyguards at Brush Creek (l to r) Elizabeth, Bella, Jordan and Phoenix

A nice greeting from Brush Creek Elementary School

Brush Creek 4th Graders displaying their copies of WISH

Speaking to students at Brush Creek Elementary

Signing books at Brush Creek
The beautiful mountain setting of Hot Springs School

4th and 5th graders at Hot Springs School

Some great drawings done by students at Hot Springs School

More great drawings from Hot Springs students


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cover Reveal for A Side of Sabotage

Today I have the great pleasure of having my friend and fab middle grade author, Cynthia Surrisi, here for a cover reveal.

I LOVE cover reveals!

Check it out, y'all!!

Isn't it great??

You can buy a copy of this beauty March 1, 2018.

Now let's hear from Cynthia:

Thanks for inviting me to reveal the cover of my new book here on your blog, Barbara! 

It’s the third Quinnie Boyd Mystery, A SIDE OF SABOTAGE and even
more than the first two, it’s a mystery that can’t stop talking about food!  However, in this one, the food is integral to the suspense.

About the book:

For decades, Gusty’s Cafe has served up hot plates of comfort food to the folks in Maiden Rock, Maine. Quinnie Boyd’s dad runs the cafe, just like Quinnie’s granddad before him. But the family business has new competition when a bad-boy chef from Boston opens his own place in the small vacation town.  

The new restaurant takes fancy dining to the extreme. Still, that’s not a crime . . .  even if Quinnie would rather pass on a snooty dish like “raw-beet foam.” But then things start to go wrong at Gusty’s: the dishwasher overflows, the cooler is on the fritz, and worse! 

Are the people behind Restaurant Hubert trying to squash Gusty’s Cafe? It could be a coincidence or —

--or it could be sabotage. 

Since the first Quinnie Boyd Mystery, THE MAYPOP KIDNAPPING, readers have been asking me if Maiden Rock is a real place, if they can have the directions to Gusty’s Café, and whether I will reveal the recipes for food I refer to in the book. 

The questions intensified after the second book, VAMPIRES ON THE RUN, where Whoopie Pies were featured. 

I expect the questions will keep coming with A SIDE OF SABOTAGE.

I’ll reveal now that Maiden Rock is a fictional town but it
is based on a small coastal town where I used to live during the summers as a child. Gusty’s never existed, but there was a café where I ate the best Maine blueberry pie ever. 

We also used to order our French fries at this cafe, go sailing for the day, then pick up steamed lobster from the lobster pound, grab
our French fry order and pour it all out on newspaper on the kitchen table. My mother made the dipping sauce that turned the fries into what we called lobster fries.

Here are recipes for some of the most requested items in the
books: Gusty Burgers, Lobster Fries, Whoopie Pies, and Bean Scoop.

Gusty Burgers

The charm of a Gusty burger is that it is served on a toasted, buttered English Muffin. You can make any burger you like from all beef to turkey to veggie, but Gusty makes his from 80% fat beef and grill-cooks it with salt and pepper. There are no fillers or additions to the meat. Then h serves it with a slice of raw onion, and mustard. That’s it. You can add a slice of Vermont cheddar and still have a Gusty Burger. Okay, in later years he condescended to put crispy fried onions instead of raw for special customers. 

Lobster Fries

Many folks are disappointed that lobster fries are not strips of fried lobster. I can’t even go there. I’m more for unadulterated lobster steamed in salt water, picked and handled with a light touch for a lobster roll. I will give you Gusty’s Lobster Roll recipe another day.

Lobster fries are the best double-fried fries that you dip in the drawn butter concoction that is typically used for lobster dipping, except Gusty has his own version. When these things are hot, you weep with joy as you eat them and lick the empty paper when they are gone. 

The Fries:

If you are up for the trouble, cut fresh Idaho potatoes into the long familiar shape. Soak them in water in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Bring oil to 300 degrees F and dry the potatoes thoroughly in a towel. Fry for five minutes, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. At this point you can either refrigerate the fries for later or increase the heat to 400 degrees and fry them again immediately for a finish to your desired crispiness.

The Lobster Butter:

Melt unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat until the solids separate and come to the top. Skim off the solids and add saffron threads, mashed garlic, fresh lemon juice and a little orange zest. Continue cooking on low heat until the butter is infused with the added ingredients. Strain before serving with fries as dipping sauce. 

Whoopie Pies
These are Maine through and through. I can tell you how to make them, but they are fussy and the truth is, they have things in them that you probably don’t want to have on your shelf, like shortening. So, like me, when you have a hankering, I’m going to recommend you order from WICKED WHOOPIES 
These are the whoopie pies I had at the book launch and I think they are wonderful.  They got lots of yums, too. 

Bean Scoop

VAMPIRES ON THE RUN introduced readers to the Bean Scoop. Dominic loved it. It fills the hungry spot in a growing boy and an old lobster man.

This one is more in the combining than the cooking. Make your favorite baked beans. Heavily butter a couple slices of dark bread and scoop the beans on top. Great on a cold day.

I hope everyone enjoys A SIDE OF SABOTAGE and I look forward to seeing whether I get requests for Fish Head Soup.

Barbara, come on over and I’ll cook a Gusty’s lunch for you!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Coming Full Circle

It's no secret that my literary crush, my author idol, my all-time favorite I-want-to-be-her-when-I-grow up writer is Cynthia Rylant.

I gushed about my stalking here.

Eighteen years ago (1999), I sent her a letter to tell her how much she had influenced my writing.

That letter read, in part:

In my journey to becoming a children's writer, I've searched long and hard for my voice - the voice that will bring authenticity, heart, and soul to my writing. I've read hundreds of children's books - and no writer has touched me like you have. I'm sure I've read Missing May twenty times.

Finally I realized why your writing touches me. You write from the heart - and plunk your characters right down in the middle of your heart's home...That's when I knew how to bring my voice to my writing.

Without this letter, you would never know that your writing has touched another writer to the core - and has continued the chain of creative spirit. 

-->Imagine my excitement when she wrote me back!!!

Well, recently, an amazing thing happened.

I received a letter from an author named Sybil Berkey that totally blew me away. 

It read, in part:

As you know, there's great power in stories, and your storytelling has affected me deeply, as a person and as a fellow writer. There aren't many people who've impacted my creative process and expression the way you have. Your work consistently challenges me to dig deeper and always make sure I'm giving my everything - story and style - with well-developed characters.

In short, you've encouraged me to find my true place and voice as a writer.

Reading that note was a magical, full-circle moment for me.

I felt such joy and satisfaction knowing that I was able to do for another author what Cynthia Rylant did for me.

And I was so grateful that she took the time to tell me.

Thank you, Sybil.

Funny how the world works that way, isn't it? 



Monday, September 18, 2017

A New Book!!

What's more exciting than a new book??

I'm super stoked to show y'all the cover of the third Mr. Puffball book coming this spring:

Mr. Puffball: Escape from Castaway Island
Constance Lombardo

 Ta da!!

Isn't it fantastic??

About the book:

Are you a Hollywood stunt cat? 

Do you want fame and fortune? 

Could you beat the current feline, Ninja Warrior, in the ultimate challenge of awesomeness?

"Yes, yes, and yes!" says Hollywood stunt cat, Mr. Puffball. 

Finally, the fame and fortune he deserves. But what happens when the fame wears off and the fortune is spent? (Hint: tropical island adventure!)

In this third book of the Mr. Puffball series, Mr. Puffball and the gang find out just how real reality TV can be!

Read all about it when Mr. Puffball, Escape from Castaway Island (HarperCollins) comes out on April 24, 2018. 

Constance Lombardo

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Love this Wish Trailer!!

Check out this amazing trailer for Wish

Made by the amazing Charlii

In Ashley Hayball's 4th grade class

at Amelia Earhart Elementary School

in Indio, CA

Thank you, Charlii!!!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Shout Out to Malcom Bridge Elementary School in Bogart, GA

Major thanks to the teachers and students of 
Malcom Bridge Elementary School in Bogart, Georgia

What a day I had!!

The evening before my visit, I had dinner with some of the teachers and the assistant principal. A good time was had by all.

The next morning, I was greeted by this great sign!

And in the library....this great sign!
Check out this AMAZING gift they gave me!! A wish tree along with lots of wishes from students. Special thanks to 4th grade teacher Lee Rogers for the beautiful flower pot.
So many wishes!!!!
It now has a special place in my office. I will always think of Malcom Bridge when I look at it.
The second graders
The third graders
The fourth graders
The fifth graders
Alexia presented me with boiled peanuts, y'all!!
Joel gave me a great drawing.
Elloree gave me this great #1 Author badge to wear!
The students were so polite and attentive. I had fun presenting to them.
Special thanks to 3rd grade teacher Brittany Breiner, who organized my visit. Thank you, Brittany!!
So great getting to know library media specialist (and TEACHER OF THE YEAR, Y'ALL) Julie Payne (BFFs forever)
Loved meeting principal Susan Stancil

And here I am with teacher Lee Rogers with that great Wish project they gave me (and she painted!!)

Thank you, Malcom Bridge!!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Amazing Day at Leicester Elementary School

Lucky me!

I got to spend the day with students and teachers at Leicester Elementary School in Leicester, North Carolina - celebrating their One School One Book program. 

The whole school had read 


How cool is that?

Here are some pics from that great day:

Presenting to some eager 3rd graders
Being filmed by the local TV station

Huge thanks to librarian Caryn Levy for all of her hard work and warm hospitality

Students had made some awesome projects, including cool boats.

Posing with the winners of the boat/poster contest

Students showing me some of their projects

Teachers and students made some amazing bulletin board displays

Thank you, Leicester Elementary, for this amazing day!