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Illustrating: How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings.

Meet Ernie D’elia, illustrator for How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings. He received a degree in illustration from the American Academy of Art in Chicago and currently lives in Massachusetts.

I invited Ernie to talk a little bit about the thought process behind designing the cover. I had the privilege of meeting him last spring at New England SCBWI. Of course, at the time I didn’t realize he’d be my illustrator.

I absolutely love that Pugalicious Press chose an upcoming talented artist from New England to design the cover. His artwork is incredible. Now, here’s Ernie.


“How do you feel about Mayans?”

That’s what Jennifer Carson from Pugalicious Press asked me.

“I love Mayans!”

I said, and in a few short days I had the manuscript for “How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings” in my hands.

When I finished reading it I started sketching some loose ideas. A couple of the earlier sketches had some drama, but lacked an overall vision. As I worked I realized the feel of the book, to me, was very cinematic, so I decided the cover should have an adventure-movie poster feel. Once I decided on the movie poster approach, it all fell into place.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the elements:

First, everybody knows that every good adventure-movie poster has the villain looming menacingly in the background somewhere, so the “Crazy King” had to loom, and he had to be menacing. Head down, scowling, and about to pounce, his body language doesn’t say happy and friendly. I thought the jaguar headpiece from the story would be a great way to add to his ferocity.

 Second, to establish a setting I placed the Mayan temples below the “Crazy King”. Now there was no mistake: he was a crazy Mayan king.

Third, the necklace gives us the “Ancient Spell” part. It was also an important piece of the story, linking our modern day heroes to this ancient setting. In the painting it loops around them, pulling them into this world.


Lastly, I placed the main characters, Bianca and Melvin, right in the middle of it all, surrounded by the dangerous villain and the mysterious glowing green jade necklace. But do they look scared? No. They’re confident, determined, and daring!

There are an additional six black and white illustrations at key points inside, but to see those you’ll have to wait till the book comes out.

From creepy to scary to joyous, “How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings” is a great adventure, and I loved doing the artwork for it. Thanks to Laura for writing such a thrilling adventure, and thanks to Pugalicious Press for asking me how I felt about Mayans.


Pugalicious Press sent me the sketches and I chose the one that appealed to me the most. So the following sketch…


…turned into the cover!

Thanks Ernie! I love the cover! I also love the black and whites that will grace the inside print copies. They’ll be fantastic! Can’t wait for everyone to see them.

Sign up for a review copy.

Add to Goodreads.

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My middle grade cover reveal! Squee!

Wow. I can’t believe I’m here.

I need to clear my eyes and blink a few times to make sure I’m not hallucinating. Maybe take a sip of champagne. That’s how publishing feels at times. Especially with this book. But I’ll be sharing a lot more about that in the coming weeks, leading up to the launch.

HOW TO SURVIVE ANCIENT SPELLS AND CRAZY KINGS will release this November from the up and coming Pugalicious Press.

Convinced that her grandfather, Zeb, needs help, twelve-year-old Bianca persuades her family to fly to the Mayan ruins of Tikal on a search and rescue mission. Impatient, she and her brainy cousin, Melvin, sneak out in the middle of the night and follow the clues to the ancient Maya city of Etza, where the people haven’t aged in 2,000 years. The cousins must learn to work together as they face loincloth-wearing skeletons from the underworld, a backstabbing princess, and an ancient prophecy—one that says in three days the city will be destroyed. They’ll find Zeb and zip right out of there. No problem.

Except, Bianca starts to care for her new friends, and Zeb does not want to be rescued. The fact that a crazy king wants to serve Bianca up to the gods as an appetizer is just a minor technicality. But this ancient evil dude has finally met his match.

Here’s what Anna Staniszewski, author of My Very Unfairy Tale Life, had to say:

Ever wondered what Indiana Jones would be like as a 12-year-old girl? Here is your answer! This non-stop adventure will whisk you off to an ancient Mayan city, throw you into certain doom, and keep you chuckling the whole way through.

If you’d like to be a part of this exciting launch, please click on the link below and fill out the form. You have the choice of accepting an ebook arc in exchange for an honest review; or better yet, sign up for the blog tour this coming December!

Click here to access the google form!

Add to Goodreads!

Thank you so much! And come back next week for a guest post from Ernie D’Elia, the amazing illustrator!

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Random Acts of Publicity – TIMELESS



When I decided to participate in Darcy Pattison’s Random Acts of Publicity, I knew right away I would choose the Timeless Anthology by Pugalicious Press. The instructions are to choose a new or lesser known book that I’ve read and let my readers know about it.

I love the BLLURT concept to promote other books. Blog about it. Leave purchase Links. Like their page. Review it. Tell others about it. Love it. And it’s something I try and do for all the books I enjoy.

I’ve never been one to read or purchase anthologies. But I’ve read several this year. It was nice to read a short story before making dinner, another one a few days later before bedtime, or after I’d finished a novel, each story enticing and enjoyable in its own way.

The writing in this anthology was incredible. I kept reading all of them because they engaged my attention and the writing drew me from one page to the next.

All of these stories are historical romance with sweet, innocent love. I would read novels by any of these authors. In fact, some of the stories I wanted to be a novel.


A reworking of the Scheherazade tale that portrays the young storyteller as a gutter-thief down on her luck.


A reworking of an old German tale about a young woman who has to weigh up her love for a poet, her standing in the village and her need for freedom.

A LIGHT OF VICTORY by Jennifer Carson

If your love for a highwayman is eternal, then eternal is what it is. Put a candle in the window, and all will be well…


A prisoner fears to leave the walls of the notorious French prison because of his love for a ghost who is bound to the Bastille’s stone walls.

STELLA’S HERO by Kristine Carlson Asselin and Ansha Kotyk

A Victorian seamstress gets into trouble for falling from a boy from Chinatown when racial segregation is very much prevalent in society.


A mute boy undergoing experimental treatment in a sanitorium discovers that he can speak with the doctor’s son via thoughts and dreams. Very subtle steampunk.

IT LIES BENEATH by Magda Knight

The superficially beautiful city of Victorion is run on lode, steam, pride and the labour of diggers down in the Pits. Challenged to locate a mysterious underground threat, Ellie Darkbrow must find a way to survive.

But don’t trust my word on it. Read them for yourself!


Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble


Give a shout out in the comments to a book you’d recommend everyone reading!

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One author’s decision to go with a small press (and her fantastic cover!)

Please welcome Kell Andrews to my blog. She’s my publishing sister with Pugalicious Press and after her cover reveal I invited her to talk about her decision to go with a small press. I absolutely love the cover and can’t wait to read the book!

Why I Chose a Small Press

My debut middle-grade novel, DEADWOOD, will be published later this year by Pugalicious Press, a new small press that is releasing five new titles in its first year of publication. I didn’t start out my publication journey with small presses in mind, but I’m convinced I found the right place for my book.

A few years ago, I had an agent and all the big dreams that go along with that – maybe a six-figure deal from a Big Six publisher. It didn’t happen. My agent and I parted ways. I wrote another middle-grade novel, which turned out to be DEADWOOD, and I felt that it was better than my first novel had been. But when I queried it, I had some close calls, but no offers of agent representation.

So then what? Trunk it? No. I felt that it was a good story that deserved a chance to reach kids. Self-publish? Maybe. A lot of self-published e-books are breaking through but from my observations, the middle-grade market still seems to lags. Younger readers haven’t adopted e-readers as widely as adult readers, and children’s novels still have to pass muster with additional gatekeepers. To get into readers’ hands, a middle-grade novel needed the support of parents, librarians, teachers, and reviewers.

To win that support, I thought I needed a publisher, and that’s why I began researching small presses.

Small Presses: The New Midlist?

The heated discussion seems to be the issue of traditional publishing versus self-publishing, but small presses are hot too, snapping up books that once would have been on a bigger presses’ midlist.

Certainly all small presses aren’t the same. There is a wide range in the category — new and old, tiny and mid-size, traditional, e-only, and POD. Some offer advances, and some don’t. Some are genre specialists, and others are literary fiction vanguards. Some are open to unagented submissions, and some are closed. Some have great bookstore distribution, and others sell chiefly online. Inevitably, some will grow into the big presses of the future (look at the growth of Entangled!), and others will disappear. And yes, there is a range of quality in acquisitions, editing, marketing, and covers, from the highest standards to strictly amateur.

I studied my options and sent my queries.

Finding a Home

When Pugalicious offered, I was thrilled. I loved their artwork, their narrow focus on middle-grade and YA adventure, historical fiction, and fantasy, and their emphasis on building relationships with reader communities.  It was a match for DEADWOOD and for me.

I’m realistic about what being published with a small press means: my book will have an opportunity to reach readers. I have a gorgeous cover and an expert editorial and marketing team behind me.

I also know what it doesn’t mean: I probably won’t be in the major bookstore chains and big box stores. But you know what? A Big Six publisher is no guarantee of B&N placement either. The playing field isn’t even, but at least I have a chance.

And next time? Well, another book is always another story.


Kell Andrews writes picture books through middle grade. DEADWOOD is her debut book for young readers. Visit her at kellandrews.com or operationawesome6.blogspot.com.


DEADWOOD by Kell Andrews

Coming from Pugalicious Press, December 15, 2012

There’s something evil in Deadwood Park.

Twelve-year-old Army brat Martin Cruz hates his rotten new town. Then he gets a message from a tree telling him it’s cursed — and so is he. It’s not just any tree. It’s the Spirit Tree, the ancient beech the high school football team carves to commemorate the home opener. And every year they lose.

But the curse is no game, and it gets worse. Businesses fail. Trees topple like dominos. Sinkholes open up in the streets, swallowing cars and buildings. Even people begin to fade, drained of life.

Martin teams up with know-it-all soccer star Hannah Vaughan. Together they must heal the tree, or be stuck in Deadwood Park at the mercy of the psycho who cursed it.

Add it on Goodreads:


Thanks Kell! What a great post! Kids are going to love this!

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The secret is out! My good news!

I signed my first book contract! Yay!

Here’s the official PM announcement that several of you pointed out to me!

Children’s: Middle grade

Laura Pauling’s HOW TO SURVIVE ANCIENT SPELLS AND CRAZY KINGS, convinced that her grandfather needs help, a twelve-year-old persuades her family to fly to the Mayan ruins of Tikal on a search and rescue mission; she and her brainy cousin sneak out and follow the clues to the ancient Maya city of Etza, where the people haven’t aged in 2,000 years; due to an ancient prophecy she must hurry…in three days the city will be destroyed, to Jennifer Carson at Pugalicious Press, in a nice deal, for publication in November 2012.

What can I say? It was a now or never kind of deal for me, especially with the whole 2012 Mayan apocalypse. I love this story. I love the philosophy behind Pugalicious Press so I went for it! There’s a longer story behind this story but that can come later.

Okay, and it was kinda cool to see the announcement.

I do feel like a total newbie at the announcement thing. People tweeted and emailed me before I knew it was out! Talk about bad planning. But better late than never. And thank you to anyone who emailed or tweeted their congrats!

I’m really excited to see this story out in the world next fall.

If we survive the apocalypse…

Check out the announcement on Pugalicious Press. I’m officially in the doghouse. Woo hoo!

Any questions about it? Ask away in the comments.

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