Thursday, April 17, 2014

Interview and Giveaway: Justin Swapp, author of The Magic Shop

I'm thrilled to have Justin Swapp stopping by today to chat about his fantastical middle-grade book, The Magic Shop! Check out our Interview below and enter the Giveaway to win a copy...

The Magic Shop
by Justin Swapp

When Marcus's grandparents decide it would be good for him and his twin sister, Ellie, to tend the family business, a Magic Shop, the children are thrown into a world that they never knew existed. Not only is the family business a front, but Marcus learns that he has been marked as a dead man from the time he was born.  
Marcus tries to develop his powers before the Dun-Bahr find him and assimilate the magic he was born with. Will he and his sister survive? Will they find their parents? First they must discover the secret his grandparents have been keeping from them all these years. It all comes down to what's hidden at the Magic Shop.

What three words best describe The Magic Shop?

Unexpected, adventurous, Page-turner.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give The Magic Shop a try?

When Marcus and Ellie sell a magical item that they shouldn’t have from their grandparent’s Magic Shop, they find themselves thrown into a strange world full of sketchy characters with unclear intentions, and embark on a journey to reclaim the object that was to have ultimately restored their family.

(How’s that for a crazy run on sentence?)

Grab a copy of The Magic Shop and answer the following:
favorite chapter? Chapter 26: The Brimlets. Epic family fight in the blood circle.

favorite page? 160. I wrote it half asleep, and when I woke up, I really liked it.

hardest page or chapter to write? Chapter 1: Issues. Getting the beginning just right is always a challenge.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: "He glared at Mr. Diddley's yellow-toothed smile, and thought how he’d like to shove a toothbrush in his mouth and teach him how to use it."

What inspired The Magic Shop? How did the story come to be?

I was working on another (unreleased) book, and got stuck. Someone in my writer’s group was in the same situation, and she had decided to leave her work in progress behind, and to start on a new book. She encouraged me to do the same, but I was reluctant.

One night, I was watching an episode of Fringe (a good Sci-Fi show), and I was thinking about twisting a sci-fi theme and turning it fantasy. There was a great scene about a pawnshop, and a universal soldier entering and asking the shopkeeper for “the back room.” For whatever reason, that stuck with me.  So, I wrote a scene about a young boy that had to miss out on an afternoon of Basketball (my favorite sport) because he had to watch his grandparent’s shop. As he was sulking, a stranger comes in, and asks for “the back room.” They have a strange interaction, and Marcus discovers that there is a shop within the shop, filled with real magical items. Although he did it with good intentions, Marcus sells something that he wasn’t supposed to and thus commences a crazy adventure to set things right in a world he never knew existed.

Who is your favorite character in The Magic Shop? What do you love about him/her?

Elba, the Crypt Keeper (Keeper of the Dead –You know, that kind of thing).  She’s hard to read, and you never quite know what side she’s on. This makes her complicated, and interesting.

Can you tell us a bit about the actual magic shop in The Magic Shop? What makes this place unique?

Well, they live in The Magic Shop, for starters, and there are so many secrets right under their nose. Also, it’s a humble little family shop juxtaposed against a glitz and glam Magic Shop down the street.

If you could possess one magical power or enchantment/spell, what would it be and how would you use it?

Um, “World Peace?” Kidding.

I guess I would live forever, and do lots of great things. Flying would be cool too, though, wouldn’t it?

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being an author?

I think it’s the over-thought, or subliminal thinking that is happening when you are writing (or not writing). You can be totally stuck on the conscious level, but in the subconscious, the brain is still plugging along. It’s amazing when you just write, and then suddenly realize how everything connects in such a special way.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at _ foosball__.
I’m really embarrassed to admit that __ I fell off a stage once__.
The last great book I read was _ Larry Correia’s, Monster Hunter International__.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Magic Shop, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

It would look like Phoenix droppings. I’d call it Uribrim, and it would taste like licorice. (This will make sense if you read the book!!)

Thanks so much for stopping by, Justin!

Justin was born with an active imagination on a U.S. naval base in Spain, but has spent most of his life in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains of Utah. He is bilingual, and has lived all over the world. He has four children; two boys, and two girls, and an enduring wife. He doesn't have any pets that he's aware of, but his children have been known to hide things under his bed.

In his free time Justin loves to read, write, and play games. He enjoys his close friends, and loves to make people laugh. To learn more about Justin, or his work, you can visit him at
Justin is the author of The Magic Shop. He has also been published in several anthologies, including The Crimson Pact (Volumes 1, 2, and 5), The Memory Eater, and Short Sips: Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2.

Win 1 of 3 ebook copies of 
The Magic Shop!
Justin has generously offered three e-copies for three winners.
-open to those who can read ebooks
-ends 4/26
-must be 13+, one free entry per person
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
Fill out the Rafflecopter form:

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Character Interview and Cupcake Filled Prize Pack Giveaway

I am SO excited to have fellow cupcake enthusiast, Priyanka Gupta, here today! Pri is one of the awesome characters in Kami Kinard's latest middle-grade The Boy Problem. Learn all about The Boy Problem and Pri below, and enter to win a spectacular cupcake filled prize pack, below...

The Boy Problem: Notes and Observations of Tabitha Reddy
by Kami Kinard
April 29, 2014

Tabitha "Tabbi" Reddy believes in signs. Like fortune cookies. Magic 8-Balls. Shooting stars. And this year, she hopes, looking for the right signs will lead her to the right boy! Inspired by her BFF, Kara (star of THE BOY PROJECT), Tabbi starts her own "project" in the hopes of finding a cute crush. With the help of a math lesson on probability, Tabbi tries to predict who the right boy for her might be! Where is she most likely to meet him? What is he most likely to look like? Full of fun illustrations, hilarious equations, and lessons in cupcake-baking, life, love, and friendship, this book has a 100% probability of awesomeness. A perfect "next step" for fans of DORK DIARIES.

Hi, Pri! Thank you so much for stopping by Word Spelunking today and giving us all a chance to get to know you!

I am so excited to be here! This is the first time I’ve been interviewed. It’s going to be so much fun!

What three words best describe you?

Cupcakes. Energy. Family

Can you tell us a bit about your family and home?

Sure. There are four people in my family. My parents, my little brother, and me!
Our home is very colorful. My favorite room is our red living room. I especially like it because it has some beautiful paintings in it, and a few statues my parents brought back from Kolkata.

What makes your family special?

I think all families are special in their own ways, don’t you? But I think one thing that makes us special is that we all love books. And sometimes we act out scenes from our favorite books, just for fun.

I know you LOVE cupcakes, and as one cupcake enthusiast to another, what exactly is it about cupcakes that you love? What are some of your favorite cupcake-ish things you own?

I like the way cupcakes look. They’re so cute! But also, I like the way they make people smile. When you’re holding a cupcake, you’re holding something good, even if other things in your life aren’t all that great at the moment. My favorite cupcake-ish thing is a giant bean-bag chair shaped like a cupcake!

In your opinion, what are the three absolute best cupcake flavors?

Red Velvet, Oreo Surprise, and Lemon

I know you’ve recently become friends with Tabbi and Kara; what’s your friendship with them like? What kinds of things do y’all do together?

Tabbi and Kara are awesome! We started out doing school projects together, then we worked together on a fundraiser. When you work hard with people for a common goal, I think it must bond you, because now we hang out a lot. There’s often baking involved. But when we have sleepovers, we mainly talk…. sometimes about boys, but I’m not mentioning any names!

Are you as boy crazy as Tabbi? What do you look for in a boyfriend? Any special fellas in your life right now?

I think Tabbi just wanted to know that someone would like her for herself, and she really really wanted to find that person. The right guy, not just any guy. I’ve never had a boyfriend, so I would like to know what that’s like. I guess I would look for someone who likes cupcakes. That gives me a lot of guys to choose from! I’m pretty open minded about it. I don’t have my eye on anyone in particular.

This OR That
baking cupcakes OR eating cupcakes?  Baking!
Math class OR English class? English!
watching the movie OR reading the book? Reading the book!
getting a gift OR giving a gift? Giving a gift!
slaying a dragon OR being a dragon?  I don’t think I could ever slay anything. So I guess being a dragon. I wonder if you can bake cupcakes with dragon breath?

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at baking.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that the first time I baked cupcakes they tasted horrible! We didn’t have any baking powder, so I used an equal amount baking soda instead. Yuck!

The last great book I read was It by Stephen King. Just kidding! I could never read something so scary! The last great book I read was Malcolm at Midnight by W.H. Beck. Malcolm is a rat, but he enjoys eating tasty treats as much as I do!

And finally, if you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by YOU, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

I love colorful things, so it would definitely be colorful. I’m thinking I’d start with red velvet – but I like the idea of a surprise in the center, like the mini oreo we put in the oreo surprise cupcakes – so maybe I’d stick a Hershey’s kiss in the middle of each one. I’d substitute chocolate icing for cream cheese icing, and add lots of sprinkles. And of course a cherry on top! A creation like that should be called something like Red Kiss Surprise! How about that? I’m thinking it might be a best seller someday!

That was so much fun, Pri! And that Red Kiss Surprise cupcake sounds super yummy!!!

Kami Kinard likes being happy, therefore she loves art, reading good books, spending time with family, laughing with friends and watching Sherlock! She is not afraid to make ridiculous analogies, an obscure talent that serves her well. Check out her novels THE BOY PROJECT (Scholastic 2012) and THE BOY PROBLEM (Scholastic 2914). 

A former high school English teacher, Kinard lives in coastal South Carolina with her family and the world's smartest dog.

Win a fabulous cupcake filled prize pack!
Kami Kinard has put together an awesome cupcake themed prize pack that includes:
Large cupcake bead kit, The Boy Problem bracelet, hardback copy of The Boy Problem (shipped from Scholastic), Cupcake ring, eraser, lotion, and bubble bath, and cupcake nail art.
I am seriously drooling over this prize pack *_*
-there will be one winner
-ends 4/30
-must be 13+
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

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Friday, April 11, 2014

The Summer I Wasn't Me Blog Tour {Interview & Giveaway}

I'm thrilled to have The Summer I Wasn't Me Blog Tour stopping by today, with my Interview with Jessica Verdi and a Giveaway...

The Summer I Wasn't Me
by Jessica Verdi
April 1, 2014
Sourcebooks Fire

Lexi has a secret…
Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen year old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good.
You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way
The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi- she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feeling is harder than she thinks. And when she falls head over heels for Carolyn, one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what.
In The Summer I Wasn’t Me, Verdi writes with raw honesty and an open heart, asking the hard questions and exploring emotional depths and difficult truths in her character that no YA author has done before.

What three words best describe The Summer I Wasn’t Me?
- Self-discovery
- Journey
- Friendship

Grab a copy of The Summer I Wasn’t Me and answer the following:
Favorite chapter?
        - Chapter 16, when Lexi and Carolyn start writing notes in the margins of The Great Gatsby.
Favorite page?
        - The last page. 339.
Hardest chapter and/or page to write?
        - Chapter 29. If you’ve read the book, you know what chapter that is.
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser:
Whoa, I think as I take in the dorm room. That’s a lot of pink.
The Summer I Wasn’t Me has some really memorable characters...did you have an absolute favorite character to write and explore? Did any of your characters end up surprising you in how they turned out?
I love my narrator, Lexi, so much. She’s conflicted and strong and giving and vulnerable. I also love Matthew, because let’s face it, he’s the voice of reason in the story. No spoilers, but Brianna definitely surprised me as the story went on.

What do you hope readers walk away with or learn from The Summer I Wasn’t Me and Lexi’s story?
I hope this book will go even a small way in helping LBGTQ teens to know that they are not alone and that they do not need to change for anyone—even if their families or churches or towns are insisting they do.
I hope Lexi’s story will help readers to know that they are perfect the way they are. And if someone is telling you otherwise (whether they’re criticizing your sexuality, your appearance, your disability, your hobbies and interests, or anything else) they’re the ones who have to take a long, hard look at themselves, and maybe start to make some new choices, not you.
I hope readers, regardless of whether they’re atheist, super religious, or anything in between, will be able to take something away from this story.
And I hope the more people know about these types of camps and “conversion” programs, the quicker we’ll be able to shut them down. California and New Jersey have already banned reparative therapy from being used on minors—great progress, but we still have a long way to go.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at finding opportunities of the “that’s what she said” joke.
I’m really embarrassed to admit I still tie my shoes with bunny ears.
The last great book I read was the Mara Dyer series by Michelle Hodkin. I can’t wait for book three.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Summer I Wasn’t Me, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
It would be rainbow colors inside and out, with rainbow sprinkles and a rainbow flag stuck in the top. :) It would taste like summer, and I’d call it Peace, Love, and Equality.
Thank you so much, Jessica, for stopping by today!

Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dog. Visit her at and follow her on Twitter @jessverdi.

Win a finished copy of 
The Summer I Wasn't Me!
Sourcebooks Fire has offered up one book for one winner.
-US/CAN only
-ends 4/19
-must be 13+
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway