Five Fun Facts with author Karla Valenti

Hi, everyone! Thanks for stopping by. Today, I am so pleased to have author Karla Valenti as my guest to celebrate the release of her debut picture book, MARIE CURIE and the POWER OF PERSISTENCE, illustrated by Annalisa Beghelli and out with Sourcebooks.


My Super Science Heroes is a picture book series for children ages 4-9. This series is designed to introduce children to science as it really is: an epic adventure complete with heroes, super powers and evil villains.

The first book, Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence (Sourcebooks, 2020), uses a novel storytelling approach to bring this historical figure to life for readers, both young and old. Written and illustrated as a dynamic superhero story, this book introduces children to Marie Curie as an important scientist whose greatest achievement was not the discovery of radium and polonium, nor having earned two Nobel Prizes, but rather for her extraordinary power – the power of persistence.

Throughout her life, society and institutional limitations threatened to block Marie’s progress. Determined to become educated and successful, Marie Curie persisted. Marie’s unfailing persistence was a recurring theme and played a critical role in her success. In her super science hero story, this power plays an equally important role as Marie must rely on persistence during her ongoing battle with her arch nemesis, Mr. Opposition. In this way, Marie Curie represents an important role model for girls and boys who face their own version of Mr. Opposition.

Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence is unlike any other children’s book about historical figures, and it is sure to inspire countless young scientists (and non-scientists) as they develop their own super powers.


Karla and I go way back to the beginning of my own publishing journey (we were agency sisters!) and I am pleased as punch to shout about all of her success! Let’s get to know Karla a little better. Take it away, Karla!



* I was born and raised in Mexico. After high school, my parents took my siblings and me on a year “garden leave” to France. I deferred college for a year and my siblings took a year off from school. We lived in a tiny house in the woods at the foot of St. Victorie in Aix-en-Provence, while my father completed some professional certifications. At the time, it felt like a nightmare to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with none of my friends and only my younger brother and sister and parents (gasp!) for company. In retrospect, it was a life-changing event that not only forged an unbreakable bond between the five of us, but inspired me to continue pursuing adventures abroad. For example, I ended up going to college in the U.S. After college, I took a job in a small village in southern Japan teaching English. After the birth of my third child, my husband and I took our young brood to Europe and spent six wonderful years in Germany. I’ve had the great privilege of living in many countries, and I can’t wait for the next one!

* I believe in magic. Not the David Copperfield type, but the magic that comprises the tapestry of Mexican life: dreams about a past you never knew, but which came alive around you in a century-old castle in Belgium (true story); pink stones that you bury in your garden and they turn into diamonds (true story);  reading texts and colors with your fingertips while blindfolded (true story). My Mexican heritage extends well beyond my race. Magic runs in my blood.

* I almost died, should have died, twice. The first time led to the birth of my son. The second time was due to the birth of my son. Life is funny that way. Fortunately, not dying meant the aforementioned son got two additional siblings, who have enriched our lives in more ways than I have words to describe (while simultaneously driving us to the point of madness).

* I once jumped out of a three-story window. This is the least interesting part of that story.

* I hiked up Mt. Fuji at night. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I swear I could touch the moon. We arrived at the summit at dawn, and from that highest point in all of Japan we watched the sun spill its inky gold across the cloud covering. I will forget many things in my life, but I will never forget that moment.


Wow! Thanks so much for stopping by, Karla, and congratulations again on your picture book debut, MARIE CURIE and the POWER OF PERSISTENCE.

MARIE CURIE and the POWER OF PERSISTENCE is on sale now wherever books are sold. I was fortunate to get a sneak peek of the book and I can promise that it is fantastic! Keep an eye out for my forthcoming review!



I was born and grew up in Mexico city. Since then, I have had the great privilege and opportunity to live in a number of places I have come to call home: the U.S., Japan, France, and most recently Germany. I currently live in the Chicagoland area where I keep myself busy with lots of words and big ideas (both in my job as a lawyer and author).

My writerly self focuses on picture books and middle grade novels. I also offer a Master Course on Picture Book Writing and Editing and Picture Book critique services. I’m rep’ed by the inimitable Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Find me at, Facebook or Twitter.







Hello, World! (again)

Hi, everyone! It’s hard to believe it has been a year since my last post. Time really does fly when you’re having fun, and let me tell you, I’ve been having SO MUCH FUN working on new books.

ICYMI, 2020 is going to be a big year for me. I am so thrilled  to have TWO picture books releasing in the next year—EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY ELLA (Amicus Ink Feb.25) illustrated by the phenomenal Luciana Navarro Powell

Ella cover


and SUPERHEROES DON’T BABYSIT (Beaming Books, June 2) illustrated by the amazingly talented Kyle Reed

Superheroes cover


— along with the first two titles in a yet-to-be-announced board book series.

In the next few months, I’ll be sharing more about each book, so stay tuned!

Susanna Hill’s 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest

It’s time again for Susanna Hill’s annual Halloweensie writing contest! This will be my first time participating (I know! How did I go so long?!) and even though the rules are simple– come up with a Halloween story appropriate for kids 12 and under that is 100 words or less and features the words howl, shiver, and cauldron— it wasn’t easy!

There’s still time to enter! For more information on Susanna’s fun writing contest, and to check out all the other amazing stories, head over to Susanna’s Blog.

Without further ado…..

WITCHES BREW (98 words)


Cauldrons boil, pop, and bubble.

 Busy witches making trouble.

Capers in the pale moonlight

 can raise a monster appetite.

What’s a wicked witch to do?

Conjure up a Witches Brew.

Dragon scales and candy corn.

Twisted horn of unicorn.

Beetles, batwing, macaroon.

Sing a howling, haunting tune.

Garnish with a pickled liver.

Pour in bowls and with a shiver,

Call your ghouls, it’s time to eat.

Round the cauldron take a seat.

Once they’re done it might be swell,

to cast a little clean up spell!

It’s time for taking witchy flight

and soar beneath the moonlit night.


I hope you enjoyed my little story. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and Happy Halloween!






ARC REVIEW: Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman


Retribution Rails (Vengeance Road)

When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece’s path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.In this thrilling companion to Vengeance Road, dangerous alliances are formed, old friends meet new enemies, and the West is wilder than ever.





I was absolutely thrilled when the news dropped that Erin Bowman was writing a companion novel to her stunning YA Western, VENGEANCE ROAD. I waited eagerly for the cover reveal (THAT COVER!!) and the first two chapters, and waited even more impatiently for ARCS to appear on Edelweiss. Thankfully, HMH approved me and I dug right in.


Guys, I INHALED Retribution Rails. I read the book in a little under two days. I’m generally a quick reader but I’d been struggling with a reading slump for the past few months and Retribution Rails was like the clearest, purest, sweetest water to my parched reading soul. I was transported to the wild west from page one with Erin’s vivid writing. It was glorious to return to her world of gunslingers and farmsteaders, outlaws and lawmen, proper folk and…not so proper folk!


Retribution Rails picks up approximately ten years after Vengeance Road and though it is in the same world, we are introduced to a completely new cast of characters with their own story to be told.


I adored Reece Murphy’s character. He was so entirely human and flawed. He was constantly at war with himself, weighing each sin committed in the name of the Rose Riders against his inherent goodness. He wore those sins like a yoke, but refused to let them completely stain his soul even though that would have been so much easier.


Charlotte Vaughn on the other hand was insufferable. She was strong-willed and absolutely certain of what constituted wrong and right. Erin did a fabulous job throughout the story with Charlotte’s character arc and though Charlotte was not my favorite character, her cunning, bravery, and loyalty were hard to deny. In a world where women were treated as second class citizens, Charlotte Vaughn was a force!


It was so much fun to revisit places from Vengeance Road and reconnect with familiar characters. Sorry to be vague, but that was my absolute favorite part of Retribution Rails!


Also, can we talk about the writing itself? Erin’s knowledge of cowboy vernacular and old west slang made this book. From her world building to character development, you feel like you are part of the story. There are so many amazing passages and one liners!


I loved this book and can’t encourage you to pick up both Vengeance Road and Retribution Rails enough.  And if you do, saddle up for a rollicking wild ride!

(You’ll thank me!)


Second chances and how I got my agent

Writing is hard. Working to become a published author is even harder.

When I first started this blog, it was to gush all things books while sharing my own publishing journey. I had just signed with my first agent and was filled with excitement and anticipation. This was it! I had made it through the query trenches! I was on my way to fulfilling my dream of becoming a published author!

As the rejections piled on, I had to keep reminding myself that at least I was in the game. Editors were seeing my work! I received many lovely rejections and had several close calls. I adhered to all the advice: just keep writing, when something isn’t working, start a new manuscript, the only difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is time and determination. I even wrote a guest blog post on patience in publishing.

But over the course of just shy of two years, the rejections began to weigh me down. That terrible little voice began to whisper my biggest fears: what if you’re not good enough?

In the fall of 2016, I made one of the biggest/scariest decisions of my life. I had to take a step back from publishing and that meant breaking ties with my agent.  At first it was a relief and I thought, I tried and failed, but at least I tried! I kept writing, even though I told myself it didn’t matter.(Who was I kidding?)  I think I was in shock because soon enough, the emotions hit me like a brick wall. The doubts began to creep in, mingled with the tears. What had I done? I had an agent! Was I crazy for letting that go? What if I never got back to that place again?

Thankfully, I had an amazing support group that continued to encourage me and lift me up. They helped me polish new manuscripts and after about four months, I felt strong enough to try again. I couldn’t shake the desire to become published, the desire to write. When anyone asks me why I write for children, I always answer that there is something magical about introducing a child to the love of reading. I couldn’t let that go.

So I polished my query and with tentative hopes, sent it off. Rejections came, but imagine my surprise when over the course of a few months, four agents asked to see more work! I was delighted! More rejections came, but that was ok because I was still riding the high of four agents being interested in my work! (That had never happened before!)

Then after #PBPitch in February, I saw the news that an editor with Simon and Schuster was making the move to BookEnds Literary and was looking for authors. I did a bit of research and really liked what I saw.  I sent a picture book query and held my breath.

Not too long after, I received an email saying that she was intrigued by the query and requested that I submit the entire manuscript. I did and was shocked to receive a second email saying that she loved the manuscript and could we set up a time for a call. THE CALL!

I was in a daze! A literary agent had connected with my story and loved it! Could it be true? Fit is so important when it comes to an agent and even though I was insanely nervous, when we chatted, Natascha checked every box. I was thrilled to accept her offer of representation and join #TeamNat!

I am so grateful for second chances and look forward to what this new journey in publishing brings.



ARC Review: Jonah by Nikki Kelly

jonahJonah (The Styclar Saga #3)

The conclusion of the Styclar Saga trilogy focuses on Jonah, the vampire badboy with a hunger for Lailah and a rivalry with the angel Gabriel.

Jonah is the vampire who saved Lailah from the appetites of even darker evil: the vampire Purebloods. Now he must decide whether he will give up his existence so that Lailah will survive—even if it means that she will spend eternity with his friend and rival, the angel Gabriel.

This stunning conclusion to the Styclar Saga will have fans deciding once and for all: Team Jonah or Team Gabriel?



What an amazing ending to an amazing trilogy! Be prepared, Nikki Kelly will rip your heart out and hand it back with no apologies. But the end is worth the pain, I promise!

In Jonah, we start off with a gorgeously written re-imagining of Creation and the Garden of Eden. It is here that we finally learn the truth of how the Dimensions, and all that exist within, came into existence.

We quickly pick up right where we left off in Gabriel. Lailah has picked her ship and she’s determined to see him saved, even if it means sacrificing her own life to the third dimension. Lailah is prepared to die in order to seal the rifts between the third dimension and earth and save everyone that she loves, after she saves Jonah. Too bad Jonah wasn’t on board with the plan.

Paraded around as The Savior, Lailah struggles with reconciling her two halves: angel and demon, and what it means to be truly human. And only a chance meeting with an old friend who knows her only as Cessie, does she gain the clarity she desperately needs.

The end, guys… the end is as brutally beautiful as a butterfly’s wings. But it’s perfect.

I have been a fan of Nikki Kelly and The Styclar Saga since day one and cannot get enough of these characters.  I have unabashedly proclaimed my love for Gabriel and will ship him and Lailah until the day I die. However, I have nothing but love for Jonah  and I think it really says something for the character development throughout all three books.

I will miss the characters and the world that Nikki Kelly so intricately created and if you haven’t read The Styclar Saga yet, what are you waiting for???



New Imprint Alert! Introducing Spork!

Hi everyone! Today I have Callie Metler-Smith on the blog to talk about her new publishing imprint, Spork!


Callie Metler-Smith is the owner of Clear Fork Media Group in Stamford, Texas. She has owned the Stamford American since 2009 and Clear Fork Publishing since 2014. When not working on her corner of the Stamford Square, she is spending time with her husband, Philip and two sons, Logan and Ben.

Spork is the Children’s Book Division and an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing. Spork was launched in conjunction with the imprint’s first book MY BIG TREE by Maria Ashworth and illustrated by Bailey Beougher. Callie was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions for me!

TJR: What inspired you to launch Spork.

C: I wanted to create a line of unique books for children. The number of children focused presses has declined over the last few years. I have always loved children’s books and after working with Steven Moore on Theodore Thumbs I felt like I had found my calling.

TJR: What is the biggest challenge for your press since Spork launched? 

C: Having a publishing company is mainly about numbers. Making sure that the printing cost, the author’s compensation, and the overhead are all taken care of. You want to get the best product for the best prices.

TJR: How has running an independent press allowed you to take on varied projects?

C: The great thing about owning my own press is that I get to work with the people and projects I believe in. I have taken on some very unique projects that unlike anything else I have seen.

TJR: What are some of your personal favorite titles?

C: I love The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. I am also a big fan of Fancy Nancy, Junie B. Jones, and David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike.

TJR: How do you determine what stories are print worthy and is there anything in particular you’d love to see in your submission box?

C:  I look at how unique the title is and how the submission process goes with the author. It is a package deal, and I want to work with titles and authors that I feel like matches the vision of Spork. I would love to see more titles that are out of the box. I also would love to see more holiday titles, I always enjoyed reading Christmas and Easter stories to my boys when they were young.

A big thanks to Callie for stopping by!

In addition to MY BIG TREE, Spork recently launched its second book by author Maria Ashworth entitled IGGY LOO.

Gorgeously illustrated by Sunny Choi, IGGY LOO follows a penguin who wants more than anything to live outside of his snow globe. But when he gets his wish, Iggy Loo discovers that what he’s lost was more special than he ever imagined.

IGGY LOO is on sale everywhere books are sold and is sure to become a holiday favorite!


Be on the lookout for more great titles coming soon from this exciting new Press!

Cover Reveal: The Great Pursuit!!!!

I am so excited to be a part of the Cover Reveal for The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins!  The Great Hunt was easily my favorite book of 2016, and The Great Pursuit promises to be just as riveting and swoon worthy!  As the sequel to The Great Hunt and the final book in the Eurona Duology, The Great Pursuit is set to publish March 7, 2017 from Harper Teen!


Can’t wait that long?  Me either!  I promise to get to the cover reveal soon, and trust me guys, it’s GORGEOUS!  But in the meantime, check out this blurb for The Great Pursuit!



Lochlanach has traded the great beast for something far more terrible, a Lashed enemy veiled in beauty, deception, and a vengeance passed down through generations: Rozaria Rocato. And she’s offering the hunter Paxton Seabolt power and acceptance he could never receive in his homeland. Pax must decide how far he’s willing to go under her tutelage, knowing she is the opponent of Princess Aerity Lochson.

In a land where traditionalists dread change, the Lochlan throne must contend with mysterious foes and traitors, while attempting to keep revolt at bay. As dire circumstances strike the royal family, matters of the castle are left in Aerity’s hands. It’s time to put aside her fears and grasp the reign, taking actions that have the potential to save or destroy her people.

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continue. In this sequel to The Great Hunt from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins, political intrigue and romance intensify in another thrilling fantasy. Princess Aerity embraces a quest for identity and passion before making the ultimate sacrifice for her kingdom.

Goodreads Link:


How fantastic does that sound???!!!  One of the reasons that The Great Hunt was my all time favorite read of 2016 was Princess Aerity. She was so strong and so self-aware, but she understood that strength sometimes takes sacrifice and I respect the heck out of her for being strong enough to accept the role forced upon her in The Great Hunt.  If you haven’t picked up The Great Hunt yet, I urge you to do so! And there’s not a better time to do so than right now because  The Great Hunt is currently on sale for $3.99!!!







Now, I’ve tortured you enough.  Who’s ready to see the gorgeous cover for The Great Pursuit? Just scroll down……… 🙂








































Keep scrolling!!!!











































TA DA!!!!!!!!



Do you love it???  I love it and cannot wait for this book!  If you love it too, let Wendy know!


Wendy’s social media links:






Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

21414439Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.


I have been hearing how great this book is for quite awhile now.  Normally, I’m a bit wary when it comes to a book surrounded by so much hype, but I’m happy to say Truthwitch deserves all the accolades!

The thought that kept going through my head while reading was, this book is SO clever!

It is clear that Susan Dennard spent a lot of time in creating the world of the Witchlands, and even more time in creating the magical system of the world.  And let me tell you, the magic is COMPLEX!

At first I was a bit put off by the fact that everybody, main character and secondary, had magical powers.

I’m definitely used to the school of magic where you had to “special” to have magic, therefore there weren’t many.

But the more I read Truthwitch, the more I could see just how absolutely brilliant Susan is!  The world in Truthwitch couldn’t function without so many people possessing a Witchery.  Sure there were some rarer forms of Witcheries, but for the most part, a Witchery was a utilitarian part of life.  Witches truly made the world go round in Truthwitch, from Tidewitches to Threadwitches to Wordwitches, and all the in between.

Susan’s creative genius doesn’t just stop at the world.  Her characters are fascinatingly flawed and multi-faceted.  Take Safi for example.  She was often unapologetically abrasive, creating mess after mess that her Threadfamily would then be forced to clean up for her.  But I loved her for that.  I loved that she was fiercely protective and would take on anyone for Iseult.  Her sharp tongue often made me chuckle, and though there were a few times when I thought, Really Safi?,  I continually found myself rooting for her.  My favorite thing about Susan’s characters is that they all fought to be better versions of themselves.

Now can we talk about the romance?  Susan Dennard has mastered the craft of the slow burn! The romance didn’t overpower the story, it wasn’t an us against them kind of thing.  It was organic and just as unpredictable as the people involved, and so beautifully written that it left me breathless!

If I had any complaint, it would be that, for me, there were no real surprises.  Well, one, but from that time on I pretty much knew what was coming.  But that’s ok for this story!  I wanted the characters to get to the place where I knew they’d end up, and I was happy to go along for the ride.

Truthwitch for me was a solid five stars.  Not just for the story, but for the time and attention Susan put into the story.  I look forward to see where she takes Safi and Iseult in the next book!

ARC Review: DNF A Study in Charlotte


23272028A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1)

The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson–wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.

Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.

Equal parts tender, thrilling, and hilarious, A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy brimming with wit and edge-of-the-seat suspense.


I had high hopes for this book, I mean, just look at that cover!  I loved the idea of a YA Sherlock and Watson. Unfortunately I DNF’d this book at chapter three.

I hear you asking, chapter three? Isn’t that a bit soon to decide whether you’ll like a book or not? Perhaps, but there were just some things I couldn’t get past.

The first being the setting.  Jamie and Charlotte’s story is set in Connecticut, not London.  Now both Jamie and Charlotte are English, but find themselves at a Prep School in Connecticut.  I would have much preferred to read a story set in England.

The second issue was that by the third chapter, there were so many drug/alcohol/sexual references– not to mention the F-bombs.  Oh look, the mayor’s daughter is buying drugs from the skeevy townie drug dealer, or, I bet all of Charlotte’s money is going up her nose.  I’m sure this is how the author believes that kids in an elite private school act, but for me it was very Cruel Intentions.

Get with the times Old Lady, Sherlock was a heroine addict! I hear ya,  I do.  But for me, these were just things I couldn’t get past.  They bother me and I don’t think they’re necessary for a good story.  BUT, that is just my opinion.   I know a lot of you are excited to read this book and probably won’t be bothered by the aforementioned things.  That’s great!  Even though A Study in Charlotte wasn’t my cup of tea, I hope that if you take the time to read it, you enjoy the story.