Evil Spy School cover to be released tomorrow!

The release will officially take place on the Mundie Kids blog right here, tomorrow.  (That’s 9/18.)  So check back in to check it out!

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The publishing plan for 2015 — and 2016!

A couple months ago, I wrote about the possibility that I might publish three books in 2015.  Well, it turns out, that was just crazy talk.  (Or maybe, crazy typing?)

Turns out, writing, designing, publishing and marketing three books a year is a lot of work.  Plus, my touring schedule has stepped up quite a bit.  (I’m not just doing those events you see over in that calendar on the sidebar to the right.  I also do a lot of school visits, which I don’t bother posting because, well… unless you go to those schools, you’re not invited.)  So there wasn’t quite enough time to put out three books of the same insanely high quality you’ve come to expect from me.  However, don’t cry.  Okay, maybe cry a little, but don’t get too worked up.  Because my fine publisher Simon & Schuster and I have got the next 2.5 years of your reading life planned out.

First of all, as I’m sure you’re aware, on September 16, Space Case, the first book in my newest Moon Base Alpha series, will be out.

Then, next spring — on April 21, 2015 — Evil Spy School will be in stores.

Next fall, probably some time around September, the third FunJungle mystery will be out.  (Right now the working title is Big Game.)

In spring 2016, Spaced Out, the second in the Moon Base Alpha series, will be in stores.

And in fall 2016, a mere two years from now, the fourth Spy School book will be out.

As you can probably see, there’s a pattern here:  Every 6 months or so, a new book comes out, rotating between the three series.  Hopefully, we’ll continue like this well beyond 2016.  If anything changes, though, I’ll let you know.

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First look at Space Case’s Moon Base Alpha!

It’s only about a month until the launch of ‘Space Case’!

I have just received my first copies of the book, and it looks absolutely awesome. I know I’ve posted the cover image here before, but here’s the book itself (with a bit of a ’2001: A Space Odyssey reference’)  If you don’t know the reference, go ask your parents and they will explain to you why this picture is so clever and hilarious.
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The photo still doesn’t quite do it justice, as you can’t see the sparkliness of it.  (I should point out that the book does not come with adoring apes.)

I should also point out that the first reviews have started to come in and that Kirkus gave the book a starred review!  What’s that? you ask.  Well, it’s very good.  Just imagine that Kirkus is the most important book-reviewing company in the world, and that, rather than use a system of 1-5 stars like many people do (like Amazon and Goodreads) where one star means ‘crappy’ and 5 stars means ‘excellent’, Krikus only uses one star.  You can still get a perfectly good unstarred review from them (which I have) but a star means ‘really, really good’.

Finally, here’s a sneak peak at the inside of the book itself.  For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few months, Space Case takes place in… space.  On the moon, to be exact.  On Moon Base Alpha, to be even more exact.  And since Moon Base Alpha is so important to the story, a map had to be done of it.  So, here it is…

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Excited yet?  It’s coming.  And keep an eye here for details about the cities I’ll be visiting!

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Why is it so hard to find the Last Musketeer series?

A lot of readers have been very kind to write to me, letting me know that they have enjoyed my Last Musketeer series, but there are probably many of you who don’t even know that Last Musketeer series even exists — or maybe you do know about it, but you’ve had trouble finding it at your local bookstore.

If so, here’s why:

The Last Musketeer series was published by a different publisher than my other books. Belly Up, Poached, Spy School, Spy Camp and my upcoming Space Case were all published by Simon & Schuster, which has done a really wonderful job designing and marketing my books. Meanwhile, the publisher of the Last Musketeer didn’t do such a good job with designing and marketing.

(For those of you who don’t even know about this series, a quick update: The Last Musketeer is a trilogy I wrote after Belly Up but before Spy School. It’s about a 12-year-old boy, Greg Rich, who ends up traveling back in time 400 years to Paris and uniting the three musketeers — who are only teenagers as well — for their first adventure. There’s lots of excitement and adventure and swashbuckling.)

Marketing is extremely important in selling books. You may not realize it, but Simon & Schuster has done a great job of creating an author ‘brand’ for me. By which I mean that my books all have a similar ‘look,’ from the cover design to the colors to the shape and size. If you see the cover for Space Case, even though you might not know I wrote it, it kind of looks like the other books that I wrote, which might make you stop and pick it up:

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Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’? Well, that phrase is really about people, not books. Everyone judges books by their covers. If a book has a cover that’s not very eye-catching or interesting, they don’t pick up the book.

So… Here’s the cover for ‘The Last Musketeer.’

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Not exactly eye-catching, is it? I don’t mind the title font, which has an ‘Indiana Jones’ quality to it, but I find the cover dark, old-fashioned and somewhat confusing. That’s obviously Greg in the foreground, but I’m not sure if the people behind him are bad guys who are chasing him or good guys who are just running along with him — and I’m the author. There’s nothing about this cover art that tells you much of anything about the story. And though there’s a catchphrase, it’s also confusing: ‘In a dangerous time, he’ll need more than a sword.’ What does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine.

You could probably also argue that the title doesn’t even make that much sense.  If it’s the first book in a trilogy, why is it called ‘The Last Musketeer’?  Why isn’t it called ‘The First Musketeer’?

I made all these arguments years ago, because I had already seen the cover art for Belly Up — which I loved — and I thought that this cover was not only uninteresting, but also didn’t link thematically to Belly Up. By which I mean that if someone looked at the Belly Up cover and the Last Musketeer cover, they wouldn’t realize that both books were by the same author.

The company that published The Last Musketeer told me I was wrong, and since I was new to publishing, I believed them. But guess what?

I was right. I quickly found that, even at bookstores where they knew me and loved Belly Up, no one realized that The Last Musketeer series was also written by me. (Yes, they’d see that it had the same author name on it, but they often assumed there must be another Stuart Gibbs.) The publisher also didn’t promote the books very much, and so a lot of bookstores simply stopped carrying them.

Which means there’s a good chance that, if you want to get The Last Musketeer for yourself, you either have to ask your local bookstore to order it for you specially — or you have to buy it on-line.

Personally, as an author, I’d prefer that you buy it from your local bookstore, as I think bookstores are awesome. But if you don’t have a local bookstore anywhere near you (which is sadly the case many places) then you can just click here to link to where you can order from the publisher.

And while you’re at it, you can get the other two books in the series, Traitor’s Chase and Double Cross:

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Although I should point out that both these books are only available in hardback, which is another reason not so many stores carry them.

It’s possible that, as my other books start to do better, and more and more people ask for The Last Musketeer in their local bookstores, that the books will start to be sold in more places again.  Every year or so, I ask the publisher of The Last Musketeer if they wouldn’t mind redoing the covers to make them more like my other books, so that they’ll be more appealing to book buyers — and thus book sellers — but we’ll have to see how that pans out.  In the meantime, if you’ve read Belly Up and Poached and Spy School and Spy Camp and can’t wait for Space Case or Evil Spy School to come out, might I recommend The Last Musketeer?  It might be a little harder to find, but it’s still a good book!

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Answers to Your Burning Questions About Space Case

Space Case, my newest book, will be out in stores on September 16.  I’m proud to announce that it has just received a starred review from Kirkus, which is a pretty big deal.  (They’re some big shot reviewers, so a starred review from them is a like a five star review from anyone else.)  Many of you have been asking for more information on it, so’s another exciting installment of “Answers to Your Burning Questions About…”

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What the heck is Space Case about?

It’s the first book in a new mystery series — and this one takes place on the moon.  The idea is that, 25 years from now, we have finally started colonizing the moon.  The first families have been sent to live at Moon Base Alpha, and the first kids in space have discovered that space travel isn’t nearly as amazing as Star Wars and Star Trek have led us to believe it will be.  Twelve-year-old Dash, in particular, is frustrated by the awful food, small living space, horrendous toilets — and the fact that the only other kid there his age is kind of a dork.  Then, the base’s renowned doctor dies mysteriously on the surface of the moon.  NASA claims its and accident.  Dash suspects foul play.  So he investigates to find out what really happened and soon finds his own life is in danger as well.

Why are you writing a series that takes place on the moon?

One of my very closest friends was an astronaut.  (Yes, an astronaut.  Coolest job ever.)  Through him, I was lucky enough to tour the Johnson Space Center behind the scenes, get VIP passes to space shuttle launches and send things cool things up to the space station so they could be photographed with earth in the background.  Like this:

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When my editor and agent found out I knew an astronaut, they immediately suggested that I should write a book with him.  That didn’t quite work out, because he was too busy, but I was able to take everything about space travel that I’d learned from him and come up with an idea.  One of the big things I’d learned was that traveling in space isn’t quite as glamorous as I had always assumed it was.  For example, if you’ve ever seen an IMAX movie about space travel, the spacecraft look enormous inside, but in real life, they’re claustrophobically small.  In Spy School, I found a lot of comedy in playing up the differences between the spy world of movies and what spying is like in real life.  I thought it’d be fun to do the same thing with space.

So… it’s going to be funny?

Yes. Although there’s also going to be action and suspense.  And the book takes place in a somewhat more realistic world than Spy School.  I don’t really know what the future of space travel will be like, but I made the most educated guess I could.

Was it fun to write something set in the future?

Actually, that was the hardest part of the book.  Writing something only 25 years in the future is kind of weird, because the potential for getting things wrong is enormous.  My readers are still going to be around in 25 years.  Hopefully, people will still be reading this book in 25 years.  So anything that is prescient will seem cool — but anything I get wrong will seem idiotic, probably.  Right before I started writing, I watched the second Back to the Future movie.  (For those of you who haven’t seen it, the movie takes place in 1985, and they travel to the distant future — of 2015.)  They weren’t really shooting for reality in that movie, but it’s amazing how far off they were.  Almost nothing they imagined for 2015 has happened yet.  They have flying cars everywhere.  And flying skateboards.  (Or hoverboards, really.)  And instant food. And all sorts of other ridiculous stuff.  And then, at some point, the hero runs right by a bank of pay phones.  They’re videophones, but still… These guys predicted flying cars, but no one had any idea the smartphone was coming.

Will I still like this book if I don’t like science fiction?

I think so.  It’s only science fiction in the sense that it’s set in the future.  Really, it’s a mystery with some action and adventure and humor in it, just like  my other books.  I’m guessing that, even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi, you’ve at least wondered what it might be like to live on another planet, or to travel somewhere on a rocket.  I know I did as a kid.  So this book hopefully taps into that wonder and expands on it.

So now, with this, you’re going to have three book series going: Belly Up, Spy School and Space Case.  Why can’t you be like other authors and just stick with one series?

Because there’s too much fun stuff to write about.  I love writing, but the idea of only doing one series over and over and over again isn’t that appealing.  I love the Belly Up series and the Spy School series, so I can promise you I’m not abandoning them for Space Case.  In fact, I’m already at work on new books in both those series that will come out next year.  But for now, I like the idea of jumping around between worlds.

You’re not going to start a fourth series, are you?

Not for middle grade.

That’s a kind of a cagey answer.  Are you planning something for YA?

Let’s just say I have ideas.  But it might be a while before I act on any of them.

Is there anything else I should know about Space Case?

I think that, out of all my books, this one might have the best ending of all of them.  I was pretty excited when I came up with it.

What’s so exciting about it?

I’ve already said to much.  You’ll just have to wait until September to find out.

Aw, man.  That’s months away!

Yes, but it will give you something to look forward to when school starts.

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Good stuff from young readers

The best thing about being a middle grade author is getting to meet your readers.  It is amazing and rewarding to get to simply interact with young, avid readers, to visit them at their schools and answer their questions.  But every once in a while, one of them will go the extra mile and do something quite amazing and flattering.

For example, there’s Justin, who has created a whole blog  http://justintalksbooks.blogspot.com about his favorite books, with a large concentration on mine.  Justin obviously has excellent taste in books and I am very thankful to be honored on his blog in such a nice way.

I’ve also had some nice reviews on kids’ websites that are devoted to other authors as well.  Like Maci & Zoe Read Books which not only has great reviews and author interviews, but is also an extremely good-looking and well-put-together website.  Much better than mine, in fact.

And then there are the book trailers, like this one for Spy School.  Not only does this make my book seem amazing, I feel it puts a lot of trailers for this summer’s movies to shame.

Finally, there’s the wonderful speech that was given to me by students Dynasty and Jeremiah when I received my Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Award, which I will simply insert below.  You should be aware that I was completely surprised by the quiz at the end, which was given to me in front of several hundred people.  Luckily, I didn’t completely embarrass myself, although I did get a few questions wrong.  (How could I have not known that a group of hippos is called a ‘bloat’?  Shame on me!)  And it’s definitely worth checking out the excellent joke at the end.

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Want to get a FREE copy of Spy School from Barnes & Noble this summer? Here’s how!

I am thrilled to announce that Barnes & Noble has selected Spy School as one of the books they will be using as a reward in their Summer Reading challenge this year!  Getting your free copy isn’t just easy — it’s also fun.  All you have to do is:

1) Be a kid.  (I believe their official definition for this is someone in grades K-6, and not someone who merely acts like a child.)

2) Read 8 books.  Any 8 books you want.

3) Download their reading journal (click here for it) and record your books.

4) Bring the journal in to any Barnes & Noble.

5) Get your free book!

That’s it!  You get a free book just for reading eight other books and doing a little paperwork.  How great is that?

The program starts May 22 and runs through September 2 (I think).  Want more details?  Just click here.

 

And if all that wasn’t cool enough, there’s been plenty of other great stuff going on:

First of all, a few weeks back, I had the great honor of not only receiving the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award for Belly Up, but I also got to finally meet the fantastic Sharon Draper, my co-winner and author of Out Of My Mind, Tears of a Tiger and plenty of other great books.  (What do authors do when they have a free afternoon together?  Well, if they’re in Hershey, Pennsylvania, they go to Chocolate World.)

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Then, I learned that Belly Up has been nominated for Minnesota’s Maud Hart Lovelace book award.  (In both age categories!)

And then I learned that Spy School has been nominated for a Virginia Reader’s Choice Award.

And then, good reviews for Poached have been pouring in from around not just the USA, but other countries as well.  Like Canada!  Check out this awesome podcast.  (Admittedly, it’s not just about my book, but it’s still worth a listen.)

Plus, I’ve been visiting readers and book stores all over the place, from San Diego to St Paul, Milwaukee to Philadelphia, Chicago to San Francisco.  It’s been great to meet so many young, excited readers!  (Although now, I have to get back to writing books again.)

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Reading/Signing at Pages bookstore in Manhattan Beach, CA

Southern Californians!  I will be doing my first bookstore visit since the release of Poached at the awesome Pages Bookstore in lovely Manhattan Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 14 @ 7pm.  So come on by and say hello! Pages is located at 904 Manhattan Avenue.

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Reading/signing at Hicklebee’s in San Jose with author Ken Oppel

I will be returning to Hicklebee’s fabulous bookstore in San Jose, CA on Wednesday, May 21 from 3:30-4:30 — and better yet, I’ll be there with another fantastic author, Ken Oppel, author of Silverwing — and a great new adventure novel, The Boundless.  The Boundless is an adventure set on the largest train of all time as it races through the Canadian wilderness, combining mystery, adventure, treasure, magic — and sasquatches.  What more could you ask for?  (Except, perhaps, a signed copy of ‘Poached’?)

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Poached launch week update

What an amazing week this was.  The launch of Poached (in ebook, audiobook and good old actual book formats) — as well as the launch of Spy Camp in paperback — coincided with Children’s institute and the Texas Librarian’s Association in San Antonio, my old stomping grounds.  So not only did I get to hang out with my awesome editor, Kristin Ostby, and my awesome publisher, Justin Chanda (as well as all the other awesome folks at Simon & Schuster) — and not only did I get to sit on panels and hang out with a huge number of super-cool fellow middle-grade and YA writers (including but not limited to Michael Buckley, Michael Fry, Erica O’Rourke, James Ponti, Jonathan Maberry, Liesl Shurtliff, Nathan Hale, Tom Angleberger and Pseudonymous Bosch) — but I also got to hang out with folks I grew up with and speak at my old elementary school!

I hadn’t been back inside the school since I’d been a student there.  It was amazing how many memories came flooding back, especially when one of my fifth grade teachers, Mrs. Yates, showed up.

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In addition to being a great teacher, Mrs Yates was also one of the finest practical jokers I’ve ever known.  Every year, she pulled off what is still the best Halloween prank I’ve ever seen.  She had made what looked like a giant doll which would sit in a rocking chair on her porch with a bowl of candy in its lap with a sign asking trick or treaters to only take one piece.  But it wasn’t really a doll.  It was a full-sized doll costume with Mrs Yates inside.  If anyone grabbed more than one piece, she’d grab them — and scare the holy heck out of them.  We used to hang out by her place, waiting to see her frighten unsuspecting kids.

At some point, Mrs Yates and her fellow fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hiester, even inspired a prank in Belly Up.  Mrs Yates liked jellybeans.  Mrs Hiester had a rabbit.  Rabbits produce what look like black jellybeans in great quantities.  So one day, Mrs. Hiester picked the most trustworthy, well-behaved kid in her class (that would have been me), gave me a bunch of rabbit poo in a cup and suggested I go ask Mrs Yates if she’d like any jellybeans.  Mrs. Yates figured it out before anything terrible happened and thought it was funny.  Years later, when I needed a prank for Teddy to play on Large Marge, I had him swap out her jellybeans with rabbit poop.  I’d totally forgotten that the inspiration for this was none other than my own fifth grade teachers!

Anyhow, it was an absolutely fantastic week.

For the record, here’s me with my publisher, Justin and editor, Kristin, just so you can see what nice, friendly, great people to work with they are.

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