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5 Innovative Ways to Spark a Love of Reading in Your Middle School Classroom

If you find it hard to get your classroom full of tweens to crack open a book, you are not alone. The leap from easy read chapter books to full-blown YA novels can be daunting. Even the most avid readers in elementary school can find it difficult to summon the time or desire to read for fun. Here are some sure-fire tips to help you spark or re-kindle (no Amazon-based puns intended) the love of reading in your middle school classroom.

In-Class Book Clubs

Leadership Coach and former educator Elena Aguilar, in her blog post titled Ten Ways to Cultivate a Love of Reading in Students, says, “Many students (especially boys) need to interact with each other around texts. It greatly enhances their comprehension and makes it so much more enjoyable.”

Creating book clubs is a great way to divide the classroom into smaller groups, which makes it easier and less intimidating for in-depth discussion among the students.

And here’s an idea… Read More

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Let’s Do the Time Warp – UtopYA style!

UtopyaCon2015_Badge_Exhibitor_MEDIUMI’m packing my bags for sunny Nashville, Tennessee, and the annual UtopYA con. The event, coordinated by Social Deviants, seems almost like a reunion, a gathering of indie writers from across the nation (and even a few international authors).

What I love most about UtopYA is that everyone is a fangirl. Doesn’t matter if you’ve sold one book or thousands, if you are a hobby reader or a book blogger with an army of followers, everyone is treated as an equal.

This year’s theme is time travel. I think I did a Snoopy happy dance when I heard it. I’m an absolute sucker for time travel stories. (check out Butterman Travel by P.K. Hrezo). And being the nut that I am, I declared to myself right away that I wanted to kick butt with my display.

IMG_0126You have to see it. I’m doing a whole Men in Black theme for my latest book, Wrong Side of the Grave, but I gave it a time twist. You see, Doctor Emmett Brown has joined forces with the MIB to stop a time disturbance in Nashville. Yep, I’m kind of a geek (of course, you already knew that). Even my convention booth has a story.

Anyway, visitors can stop by my booth, pick up a Save the Clock Tower flier and if Jennifer’s number is on the back, they win a prize like a flux capacitor car charger, futuristic sunglasses like in Back to the Future 2…heck, I’m even giving away a journal with a cover that’s a reproduction of George McFly’s Match Made in Space novel.

I’ll have BRAND temporary tattoos, toe tags “from” Rigby Funeral Home, signed bookmarks and cards. So, fill your bags up while you sit back and watch the MIB’s Secure Network screen. (oh yeah, that should be all kinds of fun).

My little sis and mom at UtopYA in 2014. Can't take them anywhere - LOL!

My little sis and mom at UtopYA in 2014. Can’t take them anywhere – LOL!

And I’m not the only one who is going all out. Starting this Wednesday, I’ll be featuring the cool giveaways that UtopYA authors will have to offer. You can catch the #CountdowntoSwag on my twitter, @mogdocnews, or instagram @butlerwroteit accounts.

Great Scott! I’ve got to go back…back to UtopYA. See you there!

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Easter Eggs for Wrong Side of the Grave

A few months after every new release, I love to share some of the hidden gems in my story. Past Easter Egg articles have included what went on behind the scenes, inspiration for settings, namesakes, and those fun little factoids that come with writing fiction.

And now it’s time to reveal the Easter Eggs for the first in the Mothman Mysteries, WRONG SIDE OF THE GRAVE!

B.R.A.N.D. 

The BRAND went through several generations before it became the Biometric Remodeling Apparatus with Necessity Duplicator. For a long time in my manuscript, I called it PRISM (Protective Remote Identification Simulator Mechanics). But the term seemed to confuse beta readers into thinking that it was just projecting an image, not physically changing Eric. It was also called PET, PM, MRU, ACT, and yes, even a BUTLER (Biotic Unilateral Transitioner & Limited Elemental Renderer). Gotta love acronyms!

Bridget’s Sister

In an early version, Bridget had an older, always-perfect-without-trying sister named Rayne. However, Rayne only served to dilute the story so in the end she had to go.

Kendall Mitchem aka Kendalla the Dreaded

When writing for Kendall, I picture Taylor Swift gone bad. Seriously.

Where have I read about Eric before?

Eric had cameo roles in the Midnight Guardian series. He appears in Shadows Rising as Mikey’s drummer friend and again in Book of the Lost as Mikey’s prom date. Keira notices the BRAND on his arm and refers to it as an eagle tattoo.

What’s the name of Eric’s band?

Though no one calls it by name in Wrong Side, his band’s name is Sweet Kick. It is the same band that appears from time to time in the Midnight Guardian series.

Lone Oak Cemetery & Tu-Endie-Wei

Both are very real places in the real Point Pleasant, WV. In Tu-endie-wei Park, the memorial that I describe is really there and there really is a plaque on the back of it with an oddly obvious tree with a fingerprint-sized knot hole. Although, I doubt that placing your finger on it will open a secret elevator to a spaceship…I think…maybe.

Duey’s heritage

Little clues indicate that Duey is French. The city of Gallipolis, located just across the Ohio River from Point Pleasant was originally settled by the French. In 1749, the French created Point Pleasant as a trading post. Although many of those first French settlers in the area died out or disappeared…

Agent Hisato Ikeda

During my research, I came across an account of a strange man who was spotted in Point Pleasant at the height of the Mothman sightings in the late 60s. The man was described as wearing a black suit, asking lots of questions, and exhibiting odd behavior and movements. My MIB Agent Ikeda is the sleeked out next generation version of this very odd little man.

Harbinger

There are many theories as to who/what Mothman is. One such theory is that he is a harbinger that precedes any major disaster. In my book, his Tokyo counterparts, Ren and Katsu, are considered Tengu, which are also mythical birdman-like creatures and have also been rumored to be harbingers of disaster. They’re kind of like the Mothman of the Far East. Thought it would be cool to tie together similar myths from different cultures.

What book was Bridget ranting about in chapter 1?

She had just read Book of the Lost.

More Easter Egg posts on my novels: Of Sun & Moon | Whispering Evil | Midnight Child | Shadows Rising | Book of the Lost

More Behind the Scenes for Mothman Mysteries: BRAND | Cover | Music

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Do Word Counts Count 2015

I like numbers.

After all, I do pretend to be a banker from time to time. And what can be more banker-ish (that is so not a word, but should be) than my annual Do Word Counts Count? post. It’s an annual look at the word counts of bestselling teen books as well as a comparison between traditional and indie published word counts.

It’s the first question that most new authors ask, but there isn’t much out there on the topic. While there are no official ranges for fiction novels, there is an expectation.

To start, we take a look at bestselling authors. Below is the Barnes & Noble bestselling teen fiction list from earlier this month. Every book on it is traditionally published, which should give us an idea of strategy for the market makers.

Barnes & Noble Bestselling Teen Fiction 5/4/15
Novel Page Count Word Count*
The Heir by Kiera Cass 368 92,000
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir 464 118,384
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard 400 100,000
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen 432 108,000
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas 432 108,000
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 384 96,000
Paper Towns by John Green 336 84,000
After the End by Amy Plum 352 88,000
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart 240 60,000
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews 304 76,000

*Word counts are estimated based on the standard of 250 words per page

Weird random fact: The 1st place book in today’s 2015 list has the exact same number of pages as the 1st place in the 2013 list (The Fault in Our Stars).

Last year’s B&N Teen Bestseller word counts averaged 88,875 words. This year’s average is 93,038.

To get an idea of word count average for indie authors, below are the current bestselling books from Smashwords, a leading distributor of indie novels. As you will see, these are significantly lower word counts than their B&N counterparts.

Smashwords Young Adult/Teen Bestsellers 5/4/15
Novel Words
His Bad Boy Ways by Faye Aden 55,850
Flit by Abieth Winter 78,810
Wisdom by Amanda Hocking 91,079
Torn by Ashley Stambaugh 83,040
Newborn by Joshua Dee Preece 19,670
Undeniably Chosen by Shelly Crane 152,550
Crutch by Alex Rushmur 2,600
Bloodline by Kei 9,950
Masked SheWolf by Yara Gharios 108,550
Rise of the Valiant by Morgan Rice 81,050

Last year’s Smashwords list included a novella, so I think it’s interesting to note that this year’s list contains two: Newborn and Bloodline.

Average word count for books distributed through Smashwords is 68,314, well under the 93K plus we saw from the B&N bestsellers. Not surprising. The last two years have demonstrated the same as traditionally published works on average tend to be longer than indie published work (though there are exceptions).

As a writer, I typically hear 55k-80k is the way to go for a Young Adult novel. I used to hear that a debut author should never go over 100k as publisher’s, tight with their dollars, often find it hard to justify printing that many pages on an unknown. These numbers seem to reinforce those mindsets with a decreasing average word count every year.

Here’s the comparison over the last few years that I’ve been doing this post.

wordcount

 

Bottom line: Keep it short and sweet, kids.

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Mogdoc News Network: Top 10 Better Uses for a Black Suit

The humans call them the “Men in Black”. These formally dressed do-gooders are a constant thorn in the side of any self-respecting alien. Therefore, in honor of Mothman May and the release of WRONG SIDE OF THE GRAVE –and in dishonor of the boys in black– join me for this countdown of the Top 10 Better Uses for a Black Suit.

young man10. Impersonate life insurance salesman, collect and run

9. Cover up an unsightly stain or girlfriend

8. Wear backwards and securely pin arms for a stylin’ straightjacket that your asylum inmates will go crazy for

7. Tie up ends of pant legs, stuff with hams and hang in smokehouse to cure

6. Take your Wayne Newton impression to a whole new level

5. Gothic quilt

4. Secretly remove stitching from bottoms of all pockets, give suit to compulsive shoplifter, watch the fun

3. Upholster a vampire’s casket or an elegant footstool

2. Cut off legs, sew hem-to-hem…giraffe neckwarmer!

1. Three words…Best Dressed Scarecrow

Brought to you by the Mothman Mysteries, teen sci-fi mystery novels by Bryna Butler on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Sony, and more.

See also:

>The Art Behind the Mothman Mysteries Cover

>The Art Behind the Mothman Mysteries BRAND

>The Music Behind the Mothman Mysteries

>Kirkus Reviews Wrong Side of the Grave, Mothman Mysteries #1

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Book Tour this Thursday

Just wanted to give you a quick heads up on Thursday’s Virtual Book Tour hosted by Goddess Fish. We’ll talk about WRONG SIDE OF THE GRAVE, and there’s a surprise giveaway you won’t want to miss!

Thanks to the hosting blogs. Use these links on Thursday, April 30, to join the tour.

1: Unabridged Andra
2: BooksDirect
3: CBY Book Club
4: Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock
5: Rayna Noire
6: Undercover Book Reviews
7: A Book Addict’s Delight
8: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
9: Independent Authors
10: Deal Sharing Aunt
11: fuonlyknew
12: Kit ‘N Kabookle
13: Books & Other Spells
14: Mom With A Kindle
15: FictionZeal.com
16: The Avid Reader
17: The Reading Addict
18: LibriAmoriMiei
19: Edgar’s Books
20: Word Menagerie
21: Enchanted Book Nook
22: Books in the Hall
23: Long and Short Reviews YA
24: Straight from the Library

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