Cover Reveal for Long Lost by Jacqueline West!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

Today, we’re excited to have Jacqueline West visit and reveal the cover for her new book, LONG LOST!

First, a little about Long Lost:


Eleven-year-old Fiona has just read a book that doesn’t exist.  

When Fiona’s family moves to be closer to her older sister’s figure skating club—and far from Fiona’s close-knit group of friends—nobody seems to notice Fiona’s unhappiness. Alone and out of place, Fiona ventures to the town’s library, a rambling mansion donated to the town by the long-dead heiress. And there she finds a gripping mystery novel about a small town, family secrets, and a tragic disappearance.  

Soon Fiona begins to notice strange similarities that blur the lines between the novel and her new town. And when she looks for the book again, it’s gone. Almost like it never existed. With stubbornness and a little help from a few odd Lost Lake locals, Fiona uncovers the book’s strange history. It’s not a novel, but the true story of an unsolved century-old crime filled with clues to the mystery. Lost Lake is a town of restless spirits, and Fiona will learn that both help and danger come from unexpected places—maybe even the sister she thinks doesn’t care about her anymore.  

Once there were two sisters who did everything together. But only one of them disappeared. New York Times-bestselling author Jacqueline West’s Long Lost is an atmospheric, eerie mystery brimming with suspense. Fans of Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces and Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts series will lose themselves in this mesmerizing and century-spanning tale.  


Hi Jacqueline,

Thanks for visiting us today and letting us host the reveal for the awesome cover for Long Lost!

JR: First off, I love the cover! For those who don’t know, can you tell us a little bit about Long Lost and the impetus behind writing it?  

JW: This book began with a street sign. There was nothing special about it: It was just a crooked green street sign at a quiet intersection in the woods near my hometown, and I spotted it through the car window as I drove past. But that was enough to plant the seed of an idea in my brain. All at once, I could see a girl discovering an old book in an odd small-town library. I imagined her realizing, bit by bit and street name by street name, that the eerie story inside the book was set in her own little town. And I imagined the book vanishing without a trace before she could read its ending. Everything else grew from there.

JR: That sounds fantastic! Can’t wait to read. Long Lost is a ghost story. What is it about the genre that makes for good books? 

JW: I suppose it’s because ghosts are—or were—human. They have human emotion and intelligence, just without the body that makes us vulnerable. Ghosts are familiar and mysterious at the same time. They also let the past and the present exist simultaneously, which, from a storytelling perspective, is pretty great.

JR: I couldn’t agree more. Have you ever had a ghostly encounter of your own?  

JW: Oh, I WISH. I love old houses obsessively, and I’ve lived in several of them, including the 1860’s one I’m in now—but they’ve never been haunted, as far as I could tell. As a kid, I was convinced that Bloody Mary’s face appeared in my bathroom mirror, and that I once felt someone who wasn’t there holding my arm as I walked home late one night…but I think those were just stories my imagination wanted to tell me. Not much has changed since then, really. I just tell the stories on paper now.

JR: What’s your favorite ghost story?  

I’m going to cheat and name lots of favorites. As a kid, I adored Mary Downing Hahn’s books, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Michael Norman’s nonfiction collections Haunted Wisconsin and Haunted Heartland. Next, I fell wildly in love with novels like The Haunting of Hill House, The Turn of the Screw, The Woman in Black, and Wuthering Heights (which is a ghost story, in a way). More recently, I thought Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box was great, and Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Ninth Ward—which is full of ghosts while not being a traditional ghost story—was mind-blowingly gorgeous.    

JR: My daughter loves The Haunting of Hill House! Did you have any input on the cover?  

JW: This cover is so perfect, I think the sum total of my feedback was: “Yes, let’s move that one tiny spider off of Fiona’s forehead” and lots of incoherently delighted screaming.


JR: That sounds like the usual scenario. 🙂 Who is the illustrator?

JW: The artists behind the cover are the Balbusso Twins, two stunningly talented Italian sisters ( That a book about pairs of sisters is fronted by art from a pair of sisters is such kismet, I can hardly believe it.

 JR: That really is. When should we be on the lookout for it?  

JW: May 11, 2021!

JR: Jacqueline, thank you so much for joining us today. Can’t wait to read Long Lost!

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for . . .


That is a gorgeous cover!

To learn more about Jacqueline West, please visit her website at




Remember to be on the lookout for Long Lost!


Until next time,


Interview with Tony DiTerlizzi, author of Kenny and the Book of Beasts

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

I’m really excited today! Besides looking forward to his new book, Kenny and the Book of Beasts, which came out yesterday from Simon & Schuster, I’m also a huge fan of all of his previous work! Please help me welcome New York Times bestselling and Caldecott Honor–winning author Tony DiTerlizzi

JR: Hi Tony, thanks for joining us today.

TD: Thank you for having me. I love talking middle grade books. This was the age where I became an avid reader.

JR: First off, I love everything about this book! As soon as I hear dragons and witches, I’m already invested. For those who don’t know, what can you tell us about the book and where the idea for the story came from?

TD: This story picks up some years after the events of Kenny & the Dragon and it’s about how life changes affect our hero, Kenny Rabbit—especially his friendship with his best pal in the world, Grahame the dragon. Kenny is coping with new additions to his family, friends moving away, new friends joining his circle, old friends returning…he grows up a lot in this book.

I had a wisp of an idea for this book when I finished Kenny & the Dragon. But I put any notion of a sequel on hold because I really wasn’t sure how successful Kenny would be. To my delight, it became a bestseller and is celebrated in many one-book-one-school programs. I still receive mail asking if I could write more adventures. So here we are.

Like its predecessor, Kenny and the Book of Beasts is inspired by a classic story that I cherished as a young reader. I was a fan of Edith Nesbit, in particular a collection of short stories titled The Book of Dragons. In it, there is The Book of Beasts, a tale about a magic bestiary. Since a bestiary played an important role in the first book, I was excited for an excuse to explore the history of these medieval tomes further and weave them into the lore of Kenny’s world.

JR: This is a sequel to Kenny and the Dragon, which came out in 2012. What made you decide to revisit those characters now?

TD: I used to think that when I finished a book, and it went off to press, my characters were no longer mine. They were now out in the world, never to return. But that is not the case. Kenny and his friends, along with every other character I’ve imagined, live here in the studio and I think of them often.

I decided to revisit Kenny and company a couple of years back when my daughter, Sophia, began 6th grade. At the parent-teacher conference, her teacher described how middle school can be tough for many students because they are coping with so much change in their lives: new school, new friends, new feelings, etc. This aligned with my ideas of what this sequel could be about. It was then that I knew I had the emotional story and the arc for Kenny. Simply put, this would be a book about change.

JR: Many of your books involve magical places and creatures. What is it about those elements that fascinate you and lend themselves to fun stories?

TD: I’ve always been drawn to imaginative stories. For me, the best of these use a fantastical setting to convey real-world themes. Fantasy gave me freedom to question and discuss these complex themes with friends, teachers and my parents. So, when I read The Phantom Tollbooth, Watership Down or The Hobbit in middle school, I wasn’t just processing the “fun” elements of the story, I was thinking of the deeper meanings as well and wondering how those paralleled with experiences in my own life.

JR: Reading through your resume makes my jaw drop. You’ve been involved in so many high-profile franchises, starting with one of my son’s favorite things, Dungeons and Dragons. Btw, I love it too, and D&D was perhaps one of my favorite cartoons as a kid. How did you get involved with that, as well as Magic the Gathering afterwards?

TD: Back in 1992, I was an art school graduate with big dreams of being a children’s book author and illustrator…but I was unable to procure work with any of the publishers. At the encouragement of my friends, I submitted samples to TSR, the original publisher of Dungeons & Dragons. After several submissions, I was hired as a freelance illustrator and continued to work with TSR throughout the 1990s. It was a dream come true for me—you see, I’d been a gamer since I first rolled a twenty-sided dice back in middle school.

What I didn’t realize then was that working with TSR would have a tremendous impact on my creation of children’s books later on. Illustrating for D&D wasn’t just about drawing monsters and wizards: it was about conflict, characters, setting, architecture and artifacts. It was a master class on worldbuilding. Magic the Gathering came later but continued this education. To this day, I draw upon those experiences when I worked on both these games. They’ve been incredibly influential on my books.

JR: One of your best-known works, The Spiderwick Chronicles, is another favorite of mine. Where did that idea come from?

TD: Over the summer in 1982, I filled a 3-ring binder with a homemade field guide to dragons, trolls and other monsters using markers and notebook paper. Brought about by my obsession with Dungeons & Dragons, Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s book, Faeries, and my collection of pocket field guides, this fantastic field guide—made when I was just 13—served as the inspiration for the Spiderwick.

Of course, the story was expanded and developed with my good friend, and incredible writer, Holly Black. She and I shared an unusual working relationship in that we not only plotted the stories together, but she also had input on what I drew as well. In the end, we used all our talents to tell the best story we could. Fortunately for us, the world loved Spiderwick just as much as we did.

JR: I read in other interviews that you believe in there is something more to these stories than fiction, and I’m with you on that, but have you had any experiences to make you feel that way?

TD: The more I learn, the less I know. And I realize there was a time when mankind, as a whole, was more attuned to the rhythm and balance of the natural world. Nature was viewed with respect and awe. I feel that when I hike in the woods near my home. On these walks, I hear strange noises in the whisper of pines, catch a fragrant whiff on a hot summer breeze, or glimpse something tiny flit by out of the corner of my eye, and I wonder: what are my limited, archaic senses not showing me? Maybe there is more to our world than meets the eye.

JR: You got to be an Executive Producer on the movie version of that. I’ve seen it so many times, and just love the way it was done. How was that experience, and how much involvement did you have?

TD: To see so many talented people working toward this singular vision, based on a concept that I’d created as a kid, was surreal. When I say talented, that crew was one of the best. Kathleen Kennedy produced the film. She brought in quite a few folks from Steven Spielberg’s team as well as Phil Tippet AND Industrial Light and Magic for the effects. It was nuts!

Holly and I consulted on the various incarnations of the script and I was able to offer feedback here and there with the visuals. Making a film is a tremendous effort, taking years to complete. In that process you, as the creator of the source material, have to be willing to give up control and let the filmmakers do what they do best. In the end, you hope that the final product retains the spirit of the books while entertaining the audience. And the Spiderwick film did just that.

JR: Was it surreal to see your characters brought to life?

TD: Very. The cast was top notch and the digital creatures were just awesome. It’s a strange feeling to see them all cavorting on the screen, made into Happy Meal toys, video game characters and so on. It almost seems like it’s happening to someone else and I’ve got an all-access pass.

JR: It would’ve been impossible to incorporate everything from the books into one movie, but were you satisfied with the translation?

TD: Yes. As I said, all one could hope for is that that retain the spirit of the stories in the adaptation. You don’t want a slavish copy of the books. Films and books are structured differently and experienced in different ways. The translation of prose to script is an art unto itself. We had a dedicated team who worked diligently to bring our books to life.

JR:Is there anything that didn’t get in that you wish would’ve?

TD: Holly and I had both hoped that the scene with the elves as well as the dwarves would have made it, but the production budget was ballooning with every effects-laden scene so the filmmakers had to pare down the scope of the movie. Maybe we’ll get to see those moments in another adaptation one day…

JR: Out of your other stories, which one would you most love to also see get made into a movie?

TD: Quite a few of my books are currently in development with film and television studios. We’ll see what comes of it…


JR: You actually got to work on a Star Wars book! SO jealous about that one! Did Lucasfilm have much involvement with that, or were you left alone to do your interpretation of the source material?

TD: Crazy, right? The team at Lucasfilm knew I was a HUGE Star Wars fan. They asked if I could create a storybook based on the original film trilogy using the concept art of the late Ralph McQuarrie. This was an honor for me because, not only had I grown up on Star Wars, but I had copied McQuarrie’s drawings as a kid.

I flew out to the Lucasfilm archive and familiarized myself with the breadth of Ralph’s work. It was an incredible moment to see his paintings in person. In creating the book, there were challenges, to be sure, but it was more like solving a puzzle; fitting the pictures with words to create the feeling of the films. I used onomatopoeia throughout to recreate the sounds of Star Wars that we all seem to do when we play with the toys.  It was certainly a memorable experience for me.

JR: I’m sure it was. You mostly grew up in South Florida, which is where I live now. And side-note to that, if you ever come back down for a visit, I’m officially inviting you out for lunch! But did living in this area inspire or influence any of your stories?

TD: Lunch sounds good. I miss eating authentic Cuban food when I was in art school down in Fort Lauderdale.

I loved growing up in Jupiter, Florida. I was a Boy Scout who enjoyed camping, hiking, collecting insects, fishing, snorkeling. It was a blessed childhood. That proximity to nature had a profound effect on my developing artistic ability. Even now, I often reminisce of my adventures in that wild nature for inspiration. And you can see its influence in books like The Search for WondLa and Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. We even set the Spiderwick sequel, Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, in South Florida.

JR: You currently live in Massachusetts, which is pretty much the setting to Spiderwick Chronicles. What about that area makes for good stories?

TD: A lot of stories are inspired by New England and we certainly have a wealth of authors in Amherst, Massachusetts. I did work on the Spiderwick books here (we moved from New York City in 2002) and the changing of the seasons, especially autumn, are evident in those stories.

I would say that is part of the appeal in living here. The seasonal changes are quite dramatic and awe-inspiring. Both of the Kenny books were created in Amherst. You can see my local landscape—the hills, the trees, the farms—in the drawings I rendered of Kenny’s world.

JR: Your wife, Angela DiTerlizzi, is also an author. That’s some creative household. Is there much collaboration between the two of you with ideas?

TD: Ang and I share everything. She’s been with me from the beginning of my journey as an author and illustrator and understands how important it is for me to get my books just right. She has a great eye for color and design, not to mention the fact that she’s a terrific writer, so we bounce ideas off of one another all the time. For instance, in Kenny and the Book of Beasts, I wanted Grahame to recite a poem that he’d written. And I wanted it to hark back to the old poems of A. A. Milne. I roughed out the gist of what I’d hoped for and handed it over to her. What she did with my scribbled out words was amazing. I teared up when I read it. She’s so gifted. I’m a lucky guy.

JR: How much pressure is there on your daughter to follow in the family business? 😊

TD: None at all. I am the product of parents who encouraged me to be who I wanted to be. Ang and I would only want Sophia to chase her own dreams, not ours.

JR: What’s your writing process like?

TD: It often starts with a doodle of the protagonist. I begin there because I have to fully understand and care about the main character. Otherwise, how can I expect a reader to feel for them?

I continue exploring the physical traits of the character through sketching. I add notes in the margins about personality and possible challenges that they may deal with. This stage may sound similar to the process of creating a player-character for D&D.

Once I begin to grasp how the character is going to change from the start of the story to the end, I put away the sketchbook and start plotting. As the story begins to take shape and themes start to become apparent, I return to those initial sketches. At this stage, the words begin to inform how the character appears, and so I revise the drawings. They become more refined.

This process goes back and forth over many months, sometimes years, as I figure out what the story is actually about. Once the manuscript is written and edited, I switch into “illustrator mode” and approach the project as if another author wrote it. I do this to keep critical of the text. Along the way there are trusted readers who give me notes on the writing and fellow artists who offer suggestions on the illustrations. I try to make it as perfect as I can before I send it off to the publisher.

JR: What’s your favorite book from childhood?

TD: There are many. Where the Wild Things Are, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The House at Pooh Corner, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, comic books, Calvin and Hobbes

JR: Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite as well! I read that your favorite show as a kid was The Muppet Show. So, who was your favorite character and why? And if it was someone other than Kermit or Fozzie, really explain why! 😊

TD: I loved the mayhem and madness of that show. I loved that the cast looked like stuffed animals but spoke like adults. I loved how they tortured their guest stars. Mostly, I loved the imagination and ambition of Jim Henson and his team. I miss that in television today.

Fozzie was particularly inspiring to me. I just felt for him and his well-meaning, but terrible jokes. I used his necktie on the titular character, Ted, from my second picture book. It was my homage to my deep Muppet love.

JR: What was your favorite childhood movie?

TD: Star Wars, The Dark Crystal, Time Bandits, Disney animated films. Anything with swords, dragons, spaceships and laser beams.

JR: Sounds like we would’ve gotten along fine. Loved all of those. Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

TD: I don’t know if I’ve any personal surprises left to share. It’s all pretty much out there on my website and social media. I’m just a big old nerd who tells stories for a living.

JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

TD: I’m sure there is plenty of great writing advice out there. Instead, I’d like to pivot to aspiring artists. I was asked by a friend to give advice to a young artist in high school. Here is what 50-something-year-old Tony would say to daydreamy-teenage Tony:

  • Don’t stop drawing. It’s a talent that takes years to refine.
  • Listen to what people say, even if you don’t agree with them. Teachers, friends and family usually offer advice from the heart and their experience.
  • Copy every artist you love. If you want to learn how they did it, you have to be them.
  • Being afraid is okay. But pushing yourself leads to realizing what you’re capable of.
  • Failure is part of success. I never get it right the first time, EVER. There are times I never quite figure it out, but I take what I learned and apply it to the next drawing.
  • Success isn’t money and it isn’t fame. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and creating something that didn’t exist before.
  • Satisfy yourself first. If you love what you do, others will too.

…and, of course, good luck!


JR: That is all great advice. How can people follow you on social media?

Kenny and the Book of Beasts:



JR: Tony, I’d like to again thank you for joining us today!

Everyone, please make sure to go out and get a copy of, Kenny and the book of Beasts!

STEM Tuesday — Planets and Stars — Writing Tips and Resources

Look Up

“We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” ― Carl Sagan


Orion Nebula, By NASA, JPL-Caltech, J. Stauffer (SSC/Caltech) – NASA JPL, Public Domain

Estimates calculate our speed traveling on Earth through the universe to be around 492,126 miles per hour. That’s fast! Under such conditions as our tiny planet races through the heavens, our very existence on Earth seems against all odds. We are improbable beings. Nevertheless, we exist. We occupy our tiny niche on our tiny planet revolving around a tiny star inside a tiny galaxy.

There are times, though, when our world seems to be spinning out of control. We drift farther away from each other at the very moment we need each other the most. At times like these, it’s good to step back, take a deep breath, and remember the gift of having our place in the universe. We need to remember humans are designed to explore, discover, create, and share. This holds true not just for STEM but across the spectrum of existence.  

We are improbable beings, yet here we are. Why not make the most of this improbable existence?

This STEM Tuesday Writing Tips & Resources post will seem a departure from the usual fabulous content delivered by Heather Montgomery and Kirsten Larson. The Writing Tips & Resources tip for this month’s Planets & Stars theme (and all year!) is simple and yet often forgotten.

Look up.

Be awed. Explore. 

Be curious. Discover.

Be inspired. Create. 

Be humbled. Share. 

Look up.

Creation. Sistine Chapel. Public Domain.

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.


The O.O.L.F Files

The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files this month has its origins in my childhood fascination with space. It’s fueled by my recent STEM writer’s interest in electromagnetic waves which, in turn, led back to space and the study of our place in the universe. In short, all roads lead to the rabbit hole of curiosity and inquiry.

The Cosmos Series

This family of TV shows, originally by Carl Sagan and revived by Neil deGrasse Tyson, are some screen time I definitely need to catch up on and revisit.

Speaking of Neil deGrasse Tyson…


Starts With a Bang

I’ve been reading Ethan Siegel’s stuff for a few years on Medium and recently found out he has a podcast too. Highly recommended by me!

Down to Earth (Netflix)

To say I was skeptical about this Zac Ephron documentary series would be an understatement of galactic proportions. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and despite a bit of pseudosciencey stuff, I learned and/or realized a great deal about our interactions with the planet. It was also my first introduction to superfood guru, Darin Olien, which has been a good thing. My single favorite lightbulb moment was in Episode 2 about the changes Paris has made about their water supply and access to it. After years of water quality issues, followed by the years of generating mountains of plastic waste with the bottled water “solution”, Parisian officials did the most Occam’s Razor thing possible. Instead of continuing to create more problems by solving the basic problem of poor water quality, they simply invested the capital in producing and distributing better quality water. A touch of brilliance I discovered in the most unexpected of places…from the dude who starred in that Disney movie my kids used to love to watch.

I guess there’s a hidden lesson there also –> Look up/Pay attention.

Down to Earth with Zac Efron | Netflix Official Site