High Street Dares middle grade coming Jan. 27

high street dares3

My newest  middle grade comes out Jan. 27. The first offering in the High Street Dares series includes two books, “The Locket of Doom” and “The Ghostly Connection.”

I’m super excited about this new series, which I’ve dedicated to members of the “real” High Street Gang. Growing up on High Street in Manchester, that’s what we called ourselves.

What’s the story behind the name? One year, we were caroling on Maple Street in Manchester when the WSBA van spotted us. I don’t remember who was driving the van, but he stopped and asked us to sing on the radio. So we did. At the end, he asked us our names and we shouted, “We’re the High Street Gang!” The name stuck. I remember running home to tell my parents we were on the radio only to find out they had heard us sing. WSBA was always on in our house!

When I started writing this new middle grade series, I pulled from my childhood. We really did live down the street from a cemetery and there really was an old barn in my backyard and we really did sleep out in a big old tent during the summer. Oh, and we definitely got into plenty of trouble! Especially me.

 So, here’s the skinny on my latest tween adventure:

Dares and danger…

Dare Mags to do anything and she’s game. Make it a double dare, and face the whole High Street Gang.

In the Locket of Doom, Mags’ sister and A.J.’s brother, double dare the gang to walk through the cemetery at midnight and perform a spell to make a stone statue cry. But weird things have been happening ever since A.J. started wearing an old locket she found in the park. For one thing, she can’t take the locket off. When an old woman who smells like rotten garbage and has different-colored eyes shows up, things go from bad to worse. Every time A.J. sees the old woman, the locket shrinks. Somehow the locket, the stone statue, and the lady are related. Can the gang figure out the mystery in time to save A.J.?

In The Ghostly Connection, the gang faces another dare—sleeping in a haunted barn. But there’s a lot more to the dare, including another mystery to solve. There’s a good ghost, a bad ghost, and an important message to deliver. Oh, and a treasure to find!

My other middle grade books “Freaky Frank” and “Will, Middle Name Trouble,” are available in paperback and ebook. High Street Dares will first come out in ebook, followed by the paperback later.

February will be a busy month for me bookwise, too, with two titles releasing. “Ella’s Rain” and “It’s in the Stars.”

ellasraincover“Ella’s Rain” is a beautiful book about love and loss and finding the strength to go on.  It includes 365 letters Grandma D wrote to Ella before she died. Grandma instructs her best friend, Maddie, who becomes Ella’s guardian upon her death, to give Ella a new note every day.

“It’s in the Stars” is a romantic comedy about a girl who follows her daily horoscope in search of love. I had a ton of fun writing this! And the protagonist is a reporter who works for a small newspaper. I hope you check it out!

My other titles include:

The Moment Keeper

The Christmas Violin

The Lion Awakens

The Yearbook Series: Gina and Mike

The Yearbook Series: Sue and Tom

The Yearbook Series: Tess and Jeremy



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York Rescue Mission seeking books for spring sale

The York Rescue Mission is looking for books as part of its spring sale to benefit the organization.

People can donate books at the mission’s Economy Store at 283 W. Market St. in York – not far from the York Emporium – during normal business hours. Or, you can call 845-7662 to schedule a pick-up.

The mission’s spring book sale will take place on Friday, April 24 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday, April 25 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fellowship Hall of York Alliance Church at 501 Rathon Road in Spring Garden Township, right near Penn State-York.

All proceeds from the sale benefit the mission, a nonprofit organization that provides food, shelter, clothing and spiritual guidance to those in need in York County.

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Comic Book Wednesday: ‘The Underwater Welder’

downloadOnce again writer and artist Jeff Lemire makes it onto my review post.

From break-through story “Trillium” to his time remastering well-known titles, Lemire can create amazing stories and emotional responses from the most unlikely places and simple ideas.

This time the story is about Jack Joseph, an underwater welder off the coast of Nova Scotia. The first few pages of “The Underwater Welder” is just the eerie black-and-white panels of Jack on his way to work and making his way under the ocean water.

Then, we are introduced to Susie, Jack’s very pregnant wife. Jack seems out of it, and we learn that he doesn’t like Halloween and the festivities surrounding it, as if something monumental in his life happened on that holiday that he cares to forget about.

Jack is about to go away on a two-week job, leaving Susie and his baby behind right before the baby’s birth. He is supposed to take some time off after that, but he wants one last shift before that time. All of his co-workers and friends advise him to take a break, but he can’t be deterred.

However, when a small accident happens under water, he is made to stay on land until things with his health are solved.

When he was under the water, he mysteriously saw an old pocket watch that he recognized. He starts to hear noises, and before he can figure it out, his buddies were pulling him up to save him.

And now, he can’t get the strange event out of his mind. Even more weird are the “dreams” he is having. It is as if he is jumping back in time, reliving moments.

Jack can’t just sit on dry land; he needs to figure out what is under the water and why it seems to call his name like a siren. So, he writes a letter to Susie, grabs his gear and takes off for the spot he saw the pocket watch. Unfortunately for both of them, things are about to take a dramatic turn.

“The Underwater Welder” can seem intimidating as a 220-page graphic novel. However, once you start turning the pages and reading the dialogue, Lemire has you: hook, line and sinker.

Some don’t like Lemire’s artistic style, and it is definitely something to get used to. I think it stands out among the crowd of comic book artists. It also gives a creepy, sad vibe to this already sad story (with maybe a happy ending? You need to read to find out.)

If you are looking for something longer to read, to supplement your already-growing list of single issues each month, invest in a copy of “The Underwater Welder.”

Comic Book Wednesday is a feature that will showcase a variety of visually based books that fit into this wide category, to give a taste of this other form of reading.

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Spring Grove graduate returns to sign book ‘Pack of Dorks’

dorkcoverBeth VrabelMeet middle-grade author and York County native Beth Vrabel 11 a.m. Jan. 10 at Glatfelter Library in Spring Grove. Vrabel will sign copies of her first book, “Pack of Dorks,” which is about two loners who pair up to take on frenemies and bullies.

In addition to the book signing, Vrabel will meet with young writers 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8 and spend time with second- and third-grade writers at Paradise Elementary School on Jan. 9.

Vrabel, a graduate of Spring Grove High School, has two more middle-grade books releasing next year, including “The Blind Guide to Stinkville,” which is set in a paper mill town like Spring Grove, and “Dorks in Love,” the second book in the Dorks series.

Prior to moving to Connecticut about three years ago, Vrabel was an editor at the York Daily Record/Sunday News.


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From Page to Projector: ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’

hobbitThis is it: The last Middle-earth movie directed by Peter Jackson, who gave fans of cinema and fantasy the tremendous and epic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. His trilogy take on J.R.R. Tolkien’s children’s classic “The Hobbit” ended with the release of “The Battle of the Five Armies,” which at the time of writing this post sits atop the box office.

The finale focuses on the final 90 pages or so of the book, as well as events understood to be taking place concurrently in the Tolkien universe. The dragon Smaug goes to scorch the nearby town but is brought down by Bard, the until-previously disgraced ancestor of the king of the destroyed city of Esgaroth. The dragon’s death brings several peoples to the Lonely Mountain seeking its riches, but Thorin and his dwarven company close off the mountain to all seeking aid while he searches for his lost gem and family heirloom, the Arkenstone. The nearby Men and the Elves of Mirkwood join forces to siege the mountain and are set to do battle with Thorin’s brethren, who have come from the north as reinforcements, but then an army of Orcs come down on them to claim Erebor’s riches for their own. The dwarves, elves and men join forces to fight off a common foe, and they are able to win once Thorin and his group decide to join the fray (and once the Eagles come to save the day yet again), but Thorin is killed in the battle. Our titular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, grieves the loss of his friend before setting out with the wizard Gandalf, who had his own dealings with the Necromancer (aka an early reiteration of Sauron) to take care of before joining the fight, on his journey home to the Shire.

Continue reading “From Page to Projector: ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’” »

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Comic Book Wednesday: ‘Bodies’

bodies_cover_1_a_p“Four time periods, four detectives, four murders. Identical M.O., identical location — the twist? It’s the same body.”

This is the idea behind “Bodies” by writer Si Spencer.

We are introduced to four time periods, which are drawn by four different artists: Meghan Hetrick for 2014, Dean Ormston for 1890, Tula Lotay for 2050 and Phil Winslade for 1940.

The setting is in London, and in each story, the detective is struggling with some type of hatred in their community: Muslim persecution in 2014, homophobia in 1890, the world’s destruction in 2050 and the Mafia in 1940. Each brings their current logic to the table, the current persecutions and possible reasonings to the front of their minds.

This first issue sets up the scene in each era and gives us a slight background to the characters, but that’s about it. They all end up in the same place: Puzzled by who was killed and why.

Despite this slow start (which I normally hate), I think the overall idea behind “Bodies” is unique. It doesn’t stick to just one era; it ties in the favorite past eras, the current and an idea of a future.

The smart choice was having four different artists for the timeline, which gives each era a different flavor that goes beyond different characters and storylines. It truly separates them and makes each detective stand on his or her own.

This issue has been out since August, so Spencer has had a few more issues under his belt. I think “Bodies” is a good title to grab and catch up on while munching on leftover holiday cookies in front of the Christmas tree.

Comic Book Wednesday is a feature that will showcase a variety of visually based books that fit into this wide category, to give a taste of this other form of reading.

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Comic Book Wednesday: ‘Batman 66: The Lost Episode’

A1ik9e3fh1L._SL1500_If you are a Batman fan, you have seen or heard of the Batman TV series in the 1960s.

It was a wildly popular, campy show that starred Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin. It was known for its witty words, over-explanations, devices called the “bat-something” and Robin usually exclaiming “Holy (insert word here), Batman!”

The show ended in 1968, but with the 75th anniversary of Batman’s creation, DC Comics have been celebrating everything about the Caped Crusader. In this one-shot, “Batman ’66: The Lost Episode,” a lost episode created by Harlan Ellison comes to life on comic book pages. Jump back into 1966 with “The Two-Way Crimes of Two Face.”

In this comic, we are introduced to Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face. We find out that he was injured when a suspect splashed his face with acid, and slowly he went crazy. He uses his two-sided coin to determine the fate of his violent acts, so he will hand robbery money back if his coin dictates so. But this time, he is determined to kill Batman.

After a constant wild-goose chase, Batman and Two-Face comes to blows — twice. Both times Batman prevails and Tw0-Face eventually faces jail.

What makes this comic so special is, the villain Two-Face was never introduced on the television show, and would have been if Ellison’s script was produced.

Behind this special one-shot comic there are two special features: the pencil sketches of distinguished comic book artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, who drew “Batman ’66: The Lost Episode.” Behind that is a copy of the original screenplay manuscript by Ellison. Writer Len Wein used this manuscript to create this comic.

Batman fans will thoroughly enjoy this kooky, fun comic book. It is rated E for Everyone, and it makes a perfect stocking stuffer for those comic book fans. Check it out at your local comic book store soon.

Comic Book Wednesday is a feature that will showcase a variety of visually based books that fit into this wide category, to give a taste of this other form of reading.

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From Page to Projector: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1′

mockingjayContinuing the trend of splitting the final book in a popular series into two films, “The Hunger Games” released part 1 of “Mockingjay,” the movie version of the last installment of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian teen series, last week. With the building success of the first two films, it’s no big surprise that “Mockingjay — Part 1″ raked at the box office, outpacing the No. 2 movie by $100 million.

Much like “Catching Fire,” this edition sticks very closely to the source material. It tells of heroine Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and her transitioning to life in the underground shelter of District 13 and as the symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol. The leaders of the revolution want to use her mostly as a propaganda star, but when it becomes clear that she can’t just act her way into being a firebrand, she goes into a field of combat to visit a hospital of wounded citizens, which then leads to her first taste of combat outside of the Hunger Games when a Capitol bomb squad attacks the hospital. Throughout her time there, she sees propaganda pieces aired by the Capitol that feature interviews with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), her partner in the Games and government-enforced love interest, where he looks increasingly depreciated. At Katniss’ request, the rebels send a team to extricate Peeta and a handful of other hostages from the Capitol, but when she sees him again in District 13, he tries to strangle her as a result of the psychological torture he underwent at the hands of the Capitol.

Continue reading “From Page to Projector: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1′” »

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Hearts and Minds Bookstore hosting local author

Hearts & Minds Bookstore, 234 E. Main St., Dallastown, will host a celebration of the newly released books by local United Methodist pastor, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth M. Loyer, at 7 p.m. Dec. 9.

Loyer will read excerpts of his new book, “Holy Communion: Celebrating God with Us” and discuss how he came to write it.  Books will be available for sale and there will be opportunity for him to sign them.

“Holy Communion” is the second in a series of brief books called Belief Matters. Loyer is the pastor of Otterbein United Methodist Church in Spry. For details, call Hearts & Minds, 717-246-3333

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Enter coloring contest and you might win bag of books


There’s still time to enter YDR’s Thanksgiving coloring page contest and get a chance to win this bag of books from York County Libraries and a $25 Target gift card. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7. Winner will be announced Friday, Dec. 19.

See all of the entries so far.

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