Current Giveaways

Word Spelunking’s temporary hiatus is now permanent. All requests are closed and there will be no new content. Thank you to everyone I’ve worked with and everyone who has read and supported this blog. Y’all are awesome!!

Aeicha @ Word Spelunking

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The 4th Annual March MG Madness Comes To A Close

The 4th Annual March Middle Grade Madness has come to a close

I can't believe March is over and another FABULOUS March MG Madness is ending. This year's event has been stupendous and I must thank each and every author/pub who participated. I could not have made this event awesome without each of you!! And to every reader who stopped by, commented, an entered the giveaways: y'all rock!

All the giveaways will run until 11:59pm ET on Friday, April keep entering! There is no limit to how many giveaways you can win. You can find links to ALL the giveaways HERE and you can find links to all this month's posts HERE.

I hope everyone has discovered some marvelous new middle-grade books to read and had lots and lots of fun! Until next March:


Monday, March 30, 2015

(MMGM) The Second Guard by JD Vaughn {interview and giveaway}

Welcome to Day 30 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today we are celebrating The Second Guard by writing duo J.D. Vaughn...

The Second Guard
(Second Guard #1)
by J.D. Vaughn
In the peaceful realm of Tequende, all second-born children at the age of fifteen must journey to the Alcazar to fulfill the mandate of the Oath of Guilds. There they train to earn a place among the queen’s legendary Second Guard, or work as indentured servants.

Talimendra has always wanted to join the Guard, but there are dark rumors in the queendom that she may not be ready for. Rumors that whisper of greed, traitors, and war.

There is very little time and too many unanswered questions, but one thing is for certain: if there is a traitor among the Second Guard, then everyone—including the queen—is in grave danger.

Praise for The Second Guard

A carefully crafted and empowering coming-of-age tale that adds welcome diversity to the fantasy shelves. Kirkus

Teens will cheer for Tali and her friends and appreciate the rich setting in this well-written and engaging fantasy. ~ School Library Journal

J.D. Vaughn is the pen name of Second Guard co-authors Julia Durango ( and Tracie Vaughn ( We’ve answered most of the questions together, but a few individually, as noted!

What three words best describe The Second Guard?

Diverse Epic Fantasy. (Tracie)
Girl with Sword! (Julia)

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give this book a try?
If you were forced to leave home on your fifteenth birthday to serve the Queen, would you choose to be her soldier or servant?

Grab a copy of The Second Guard and answer the following:
favorite chapter?
Chapter 9, when the main characters meet their mentor, Saavedra. (Tracie)
Chapter 28, when all may be won or lost. (Julia)

favorite page? 
The last one.

favorite place/setting? 
The salt mines in Chapter 14.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: 
He’s dangerous now, Tali realized. He just got taken down by a girl and he’s furious about it.

What inspired The Second Guard? How did the story come to be?
Several years ago we had both finished writing individual novels (Julia’s Sea of the Dead, Tracie’s The Floating Circus) and we daydreamed about writing something together, combining what we each love most about story. Julia loves to plot and world build, while Tracie loves to flesh out characters. We brainstormed many times together via email, phone, and occasional writing retreats (we’ve never lived closer than 300 miles to each other) until the realm of Tequende slowly took shape.

Can you tell us a bit about your heroine, Talimendra? What makes her special and sets her apart from other middle-grade heroes?
Tali is impulsive, scrappy, and a bit stubborn to boot, which gets her into trouble pretty quickly! But she’s also fiercely loyal, brave to a fault, and willing to look objectively at her decisions. When she makes a mistake, she owns it and tries to make it right.

Can you tell us three fun, interesting facts about Tequende, the world in The Second Guard?
1. At the age of fifteen, all second-born children of the realm must leave home to serve in the Queen’s army for four years. Those not fit enough to be warriors must become servants for six years instead.

2. All Tequendians are born into one of three guilds – the Sun Guild, Moon Guild, or Earth Guild – which determines their occupations, their style of dress, and even the gods they worship.

3. The realm of Tequende was greatly inspired by Julia’s love of Latin American history, while the legends or “godtales” of Tequende were inspired by Tracie’s love of world mythology. And finally, the packhounds – the strong, loyal work dogs of Tequende – were a tribute to the many wonderful dogs we’ve known and loved over the years.

As a middle-grade author, why do think MG is so important and popular? What do you love about MG?

MG fiction is the last great chance for kids to become readers before they get swept up into the teen world of high school, jobs, driving, and romance. The best MG novels teach us how to be heroes in our own lives, how to stand up for what’s right, and to question what we know about ourselves. They also provide us with a healthy escape from real world drama and the internet…imagination still rules inside the pages of a book!

What are some of your favorite middle-grade reads?
Tracie loves Neil Gaiman’s off-kilter realities, Megan Whalen Turner’s alternative historical settings, Rick Riordan’s take on mythology, Emily Rodda’s fantasy worlds, Holly Black’s vision, just to name a few!

Julia concurs but would also like to shout out Madeleine L’Engle and Diana Wynne Jones, whose novels were hugely influential during her middle-grade years and beyond.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at daydreaming. I wish someone would pay me for it.
I’m really embarrassed to admit my first crush was on Han Solo and Chewie (it was a tie).
The last great book I read was THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY (Gabrielle Zevin).

I’m really awesome at eating chocolate chip cookies. I am willing to help you anytime.
I’m really embarrassed to admit I still count on my fingers.
The last great book I read was  THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE (Neil Gaiman).

If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by The Second Guard, what would it look and taste like and what would you call it?
Sugarbread and Lemonsong. It’s a treat in Tequende (think elephant ear and tart lemonade). It would be shaped like the Alcazar (a training fortress), and blue. Everything about Second Guard for me has a blue tint to it and I can’t explain exactly why.

The cake would be dark chocolate, to represent the Earth Guild. The frosting would be a silky, rich vanilla, to represent the Moon Guild. Sparkly golden sprinkles would adorn the top, to represent the Sun Guild. I’d call this delicious confection “The Oath of Guilds,” or perhaps, as my son Ryan suggested, “The Second Cake,” since I would probably burn the first one. ☺

J. D. Vaughn is the pen name of Julia Durango and Tracie Vaughn who are also writing partners.

By the time Julia Durango started Kindergarten she was an avid reader and has been ever since. She attended the University of Illinois where she received degrees in Latin American Studies and Political Science. In addition to writing children's books she is a school librarian and member of the Three Silly Chicks. Julia received the Golden Kite Award for SEA OF THE DEAD and currently lives in Ottawa, Illinois with her family. 

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer graduated from The Ohio State University and attained her master's degree at Miami. Tracie writes in a variety of genres from historical fiction to poetry. She has received critical acclaim and the Schneider Family Book Award for her work, REACHING FOR THE SUN. She teaches at her alma mater in the Lakota Local School district near Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Win 1 of 2 finished copies of
The Second Guard!
Disney-Hyperion has generously offered two copies for two winners.
-US/CAN only
-ends 4/3
-each winner will get one copy
(please read the FULL rules below the rafflecopter)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Unless otherwise stated, the policies and rules for each giveaway are as follows:
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and Washington D.C. who are 13 years old or older as of date of entry.
To enter, fill out the appropriate Rafflecopter form associated with each giveaway.
The start and end dates for each giveaway will be clearly stated and followed.
The specified amount of winners shall be selected in a random drawing.
Winners will be notified by email and must claim their prize within 48 hours. If a winner does not respond within 48 hours, then a new winner will be chosen.
Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail. Once a prize is dropped off at the post office, it is no longer my responsibility and I will not compensate in anyway for prizes not delivered because of the USPS.
If a third-party (author, publisher, etc) is shipping a prize, once I provide the winner(s)' mailing information to them, the prize is no longer my responsibility. I will forward your mailing info to the proper people within 48 hours after getting it from you. If you have not received your prize from an author or publisher within 8 weeks, it is your responsibility to contact them further.
By participating in any giveaway, you agree to adhere to these rules. Any breaking of these rules by entrants will disqualify them from the giveaway and their entries will be deleted.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

(MMGM) Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose {interview}

Welcome to Day 29 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today we are celebrating Caroline Starr Rose's 
Blue Birds...

Blue Birds
by Caroline Starr Rose
It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.
Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.
A beautiful, tender story of friendship and the meaning of family, Caroline Starr Rose delivers another historical gem.

Praise for Blue Birds

Composed in varying formats, the descriptive and finely crafted poems reveal the similarities the two girls share, from loved ones lost to hatred between the English and the Roanoke to a desire for peace…Fans of Karen Hesse and the author’s May B. (2012) will delight in this offering.
— Kirkus
Rose skillfully paints the abject loneliness that primes both girls for friendship… Though the poems generally alternate between the girls’ voices, Rose occasionally combines both perspectives into a single poem to powerful effect… Rich with detail, it’s a memorable account of a friendship that transcends culture and prejudice.
— Publisher’s Weekly
With two compelling main characters and an abundance of rich historical detail, Rose’s latest novel offers much to discuss and much to appreciate.
— School Library Journal
The author skillfully builds conflict between the colonists and the Native Americans and between Alis and Kimi and their respective families… It is an excellent historical offering and belongs on public and school library shelves.
An imaginative historical novel with two sympathetic protagonists.

What three words best describe Blue Birds?

Worlds colliding. Secrets.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Blue Birds a try?

Two girls destined to be enemies choose forbidden friendship instead.

Grab a copy of Blue Birds and answer the following:

favorite chapter? 
Because it’s a verse novel, Blue Birds doesn’t have chapters. How about favorite poem? It’s short, so I’ll include it here:


I could not imagine going about
with my chest bare.
Never would I allow
others to ink my arms and legs.

Yet she is beautiful.


I would not wander unaware
as she does, unprotected,
loud and stumbling
through a forest
she doesn’t know.

Yet she is daring.

favorite page? 

favorite place/setting? 
The place Alis and Kimi meet secretly.

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:
For the first time since
my little sister’s death,
her memory brings
no stabbing pain.

What inspired Blue Birds?  How did the story come to be?

There are always a few things that lead to a book, but I’m not fully aware of them at the beginning. I was drawn to the Lost Colony story while teaching fifth-grade social studies. I hadn’t thought about those 117 missing people and their mysterious last word, CROATOAN, since my own school days. Coincidentally, our Scholastic book order had several books about the Lost Colony available at the same time. I ordered them and shared what I was learning with my students. This is where the seeds of the story began.

But I can look further back and see that Alis and Kimi’s friendship came from my own girlhood relationships. I relied a lot on those feelings of belonging, the intensity and sincerity of those early bonds to tell the girls’ story.

Can you tell us a bit about your two heroines, Alis and Kimi? What makes them special and sets them apart from other middle-grade characters?

Alis is from London but has learned to love nature through her uncle’s stories. Coming to Virginia is so satisfying for her. She really embraces her new surroundings.

Kimi has suffered loss at the hands of the British. Seeing them again angers her, but she can’t help denying she’s also kind of fascinated. Like Alis, she has an uncle that means a lot to her, but his new position as weroance (leader) has complicated their relationship.

Both girls are lonely. Both are curious. It’s the perfect storm for what’s to come.

I think what sets them apart from other characters is the unique friendship they form. They share no language. They are meant to be enemies. And yet these things aren’t a barrier.

If you could switch lives with any middle-grade character, who would you choose?

I’m going to pick an oldie but goodie: Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. Even in the midst of hardship Anne’s able to find a way through and have fun at the same time. She’s creative, joyful, and comfortable in her own skin. Sounds pretty good to me!

As a middle-grade author, why do think MG is so important and popular? What do you love about MG?

Middle grade novels are the first books independent readers connect with in a deeply personal way. These are the books that made me who I am, that filled me with wonder and showed me the world. I love how middle-grade honors childhood in its big and small moments. These books say “you matter”. And that’s everything.

What are some of your favorite middle-grade reads?

My childhood favorites include all of L.M. Montgomery books, such as the Anne books mentioned above; the Little House on the Prairie series; all of Beverly Cleary’s books (I think Ramona Quimby is the greatest middle grade character in existence); the Chronicles of Prydain books; and the Mary Poppins and Dr. Dolittle series.

Three more recent books that inspired me to write middle-grade historical fiction would be Catherine, Called Birdy; Our Only May Amelia, and Fever 1793 (which I just finished last week, for the third time).

Fill in the blanks:

I’m really awesome at Push ups. Or at least I’m trying to be. In January I did one on the first, two on the second, and on and on. That’s 480 push ups in all!

I’m really embarrassed to admit I’ve never read beyond the first Harry Potter. Don’t hate me!

The last great book I read was Wolf Hall. I’m finishing it up in anticipation of the new Masterpiece Theater series.

If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by Blue Birds, what would it look and taste like and what would you call it?

Its would be sweet and wonderful, as familiar as the friend who knows you best.

Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. Caroline lives in New Mexico with her husband and two sons. She is the author of Blue Birds.