Here’s why both the Moon Base Alpha series and the Last Musketeer series have ended

Hi everyone –

The information in this post may be old news to many of you, but I have been getting a lot of questions from readers asking why both MBA and Musketeer stopped at three books.  The posts where I explained this are now a couple years old, so I thought I would revisit the issue.  The reasons I stopped writing each series are quite different.

Why I ended Moon Base Alpha

When I first started writing this series, I really thought it might run for a long time.  But I also made the decision to write a sci-fi series where space travel was depicted as realistically as possible.  My good friend, astronaut Garrett Reisman, who was overseeing the human space flight program at SpaceX, served as my technical advisor.  I was very pleased with the world that I created, but it had an unforeseen side effect:

It was very limiting.  Moon Base Alpha was small and cramped; there weren’t many rooms and less than thirty residents.  I had originally planned to bring in new residents (which is why the Patucket family is mentioned) but after three books, I was having trouble coming up with new ways to make life in the moon base exciting.

Meanwhile, the world outside the moon base was also more limiting than I had realized.  Planet Earth has billions of different locations, all of which are different from each other — but the exterior of the moon is basically the same, no matter where you go.  True, there is variation, but for the most part, it is moon dust, with the occasional crater or lava tube.  And there is no way to get from one place to another quickly, so even if there was great variation, I couldn’t move my characters very far.

Even worse, the only way to go outside the moon base involved wearing a space suit, which provided its own limitations.  An action sequence in a space suit is very different from one where the characters are free to move about in any way they would like.

Therefore, I realized that, if I kept going with the series, it was going to start feeling repetitive — and I didn’t want that to happen.  I really hated ending the series, because it was a very personal series to me, but I thought that letting it get boring would be worse than bringing it to a close.  (Plus, I was having trouble getting inspired to write another book.)

Many of you have written to me, suggesting various ways to move the series along.  But all of them have their issues:

Why not open Moon Base Beta — or move the series to another planet?

Neither of those really solves my issue with a series that is set in a base on another planet (or a moon) feeling limited.

Why not follow up with Dashiell’s life when he gets back to earth?

What made this series special was the fact that it took place on the moon.  Once it returns to earth, it’s just not that special any more.

Spoiler alert:  Why not continue the story after it ends in Waste of Space, on another planet in another galaxy?

Because, first of all, after the epilogue in Waste of Space, Dashiell is in his forties.  But more importantly, the story would be very different that the type of story I was telling in the series so far.  I wanted to write mysteries set on a moon base, which was technically science fiction, but very heavy on the science.  Switching to a whole new world would definitely open up what I could do — but it would veer into full on science fiction, which isn’t really what I want to write.

So is the series over forever?

Probably.  I won’t rule out the chance that maybe, some day, I will be inspired to write another story in this series, but for now, I am going to focus on the three series I have going: Spy School, Charlie Thorne and FunJungle.  That is really the maximum number of chapter series I can handle.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read the MBA series, you can get the whole thing in a lovely boxed set by clicking here.

 

Why I ended The Last Musketeer

The Last Musketeer is, to this date, the only series that I have written for a publisher besides Simon & Schuster.  (That’s why the covers look different.)  It is also the only series I have written that was not my original idea.  Before Belly Up was even published, I was approached by an editor at another publishing house (which I will not name).  The editor wanted to know if I would do a three book series and gave me the basic concept: Kid goes back in time and meets the three musketeers.  He had a few other ideas, which I used in the book, although I would say that 98-99% of the story is my own original ideas.  I was told that this was a huge priority for the publisher, and that I would need to be prepared to do a lot of travel to promote the series.

Here’s what happened instead: After I finished the first book, the publisher fired the editor and shut down the entire division.  I still was under contract to do the other two books, but no one really was looking out for the series.  In my opinion, the publisher didn’t do much to market the books at all.  To this day, they have never arranged for a single school visit, festival or book store event.  Meanwhile, the original covers were very disappointing.  Bookstores didn’t realize that I had even written those books.  They looked so different, people assumed that a different Stuart Gibbs had written them.

I would have been happy to write more books in this series if the publisher had supported it.  But it made far more sense to write books for a more supportive publisher like Simon & Schuster instead.  There is little point in writing a book that you think no one is ever going to read.

I spent years pestering the publisher of The Last Musketeer to change the covers, which they finally did.  This change encouraged more bookstores to carry the books, and so they have started selling better — although they still don’t sell nearly as well as my other books, as that publisher really still doesn’t promote them.  The major way those books are promoted is on this website.  At this point, it has been nearly a decade since I wrote that series, so I can say that there is no chance that I will revisit it.

I still like the series, though.  If you want to give it a try, you can get the first book by clicking here.

And just in case you’re interested, here’s what the book originally looked like:

 

Here’s what it look like now:

 

I am the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Hero!

More exciting news today.

I am the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Hero.  (Perhaps you already deduced that from the title of this post.)  That means that they are promoting my books a lot — and I am promoting their great summer reading program.

Basically, you can get a free book of mine from B&N this summer.  All you have to do is:

  1. Be in grades 1-6
  2. Download a B&N summer reading journal
  3. Read eight books and record them in your  journal
  4. Tell which part of which book is your favorite
  5. Bring your journal in to any Barnes & Noble

Click here to download the journal, get a list of 100 great suggested books to read — and find a nice little post from me.

And while I’m at it, the FunJungle series was selected for The Week Junior’s Summer of Reading List.  So that’s nice.

Lots of great reading lists out there.  Lots of time to read this summer.  So why not do some reading and get a free book?

UPDATE:  I have received dozens of messages and comments from readers who say that they are older than sixth grade and asking if they still qualify for this book.

The answer is: I don’t know for sure.

If you look at the parameters that Barnes & Noble laid out, it clearly states that this is for kids in grades 1-6.  I am not a Barnes & Noble employee, so I have no idea if there is any wiggle room on this.  In theory, you should ask your local Barnes & Noble that question and hope for the best.

Sorry, but that’s the best answer I have for you.

New FunJungle mystery now available — in Super Puzzletastic Mysteries!

Hey everyone!

Many of you have been writing to me, saying that you need a great new book to read.  Well I have one for you.

Super Puzzletastic Mysteries is out today.  It has twenty great short stories written by a cavalcade of exceptional Middle Grade authors: folks like Chris Grabenstein, James Ponti, Kate Milford, Lauren Magaziner, Peter Lerangis… and more.  Including a short FunJungle mystery by me.  Grabenstein himself edited them all — and did his usual, excellent job. Some are hilarious.  Some are touching.  And all are wonderful.

And, for extra fun, you get to match wits with these mystery writers.  Like Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, each story challenges you to solve it — before turning to the back of the book to see if you’re right.

Click here to order it today!

BIG NEWS: There will be a Spy School graphic novel!

Over the years, many of you have asked me if any of my books will be translated into graphic novels. The answer is: Yes.  The graphic novel version of Spy School is coming.

Simon & Schuster has hired a very talented artist named Anjan Sarkar to illustrate it, while I am adapting the book.

I am pretty sure of what your next question is:

When will the graphic novel come out?

Some time in 2022.

And I am now betting your next question will be:

What??? Why do I have to wait so long???

Because making a graphic novel is A LOT of work.  Especially for Anjan.  We are only in the early stages.  But what I have seen so far is great and very exciting.

I will now answer a few more theoretical questions.

Is the book going to stay true to the original Spy School novel?

Yes.  Although there has been some adaptation to take advantage of the graphic storytelling.

Will other Spy School novels be adapted to graphic novels?

I certainly hope so, although I don’t know that for sure.

What are Ben and all the other characters going to look like?

You’ll have to wait a bit until you get to see them.

I went and looked at Anjan’s site and some of his stuff looks too young.

First of all, that’s a complaint, not a question, but I know I’m going to hear it over and over again.

So, know this: Anjan is very talented.  If you come across some illustrations he has done for younger readers, that does not mean he can only do illustrations like that.

When is the Spy School movie going to come out?  When is it going to cast?  

Yes, I know that these questions have nothing to do about the graphic novel, but I still keep getting asked them.  And the answer is, yet again: I don’t know.  I don’t even know if the movie will be made.  Sooner or later, I will know this, and when I do, I promise you that I will not keep such big news a secret.

Books you should be reading right now

Hi everyone.  I have been getting a lot of mail from readers telling me that they have read all my books and now want to know what to read next.  I have already done one list, but now I’m going to do one that is a bit more targeted.

These are very tough times in our country.  First, COVID-19 forced us to isolate and upended our lives, and now our country is confronting the issues of our own entrenched racism head on.

Reading teaches us empathy.  So here is a list of great books that can help you do that.

Ideally, it would be great if you ordered these from bookshop.org or your local indie bookstore.

Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi, just came out and could not have been published at a more appropriate time.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams has won so many awards, they can barely all fit on the cover.  And it deserves them all — and more.

The Parker Inheritance, by the very talented Varian Johnson, is a great mystery with great characters that will also really make you think.

New Kid, a graphic novel by Jerry Craft, has also won a slew of awards.  And deservedly so.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon is a Coretta Scott King honor book.

You have probably already heard of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  But still, if you haven’t read it, you should.

Slay by Brittney Morris is a great, fun read that will also illuminate you.

So check these out.  And, of course, there are many, many more great books out there.  So if you’re feeling cooped up, upset, frustrated or angry about what is happening in the world, take some time to read.

 

Today, May 18, 2020, is the tenth anniversary of Belly Up’s publication.

Ten years ago today, I became a published author. Belly Up was released by Simon & Schuster.  If you go back to my very first blog post (which was also published about ten years ago) you will see that it was a very momentous week fo me.  On May 14, I had watched my friend, astronaut Garrett Reisman, blast off into space, and then my family spent the next few days having fun in Florida.  Somewhere around may 18, Garrett took this incredible photo of my first copy of Belly Up (which was an Advanced Reader Copy) on the space shuttle.

At the time that Belly Up was published, I thought that maybe, this might be the only book I would ever write. But thanks to the support of some of the finest people I have ever worked with, such as my agent Jennifer Joel, my publisher, Justin Chanda, editors like Courtney Bongiolatti (who really left publishing to become an FBI agent), Kristin Ostby Hoyle, Liz Kossnar and Krista Vitola, and my cover artist Lucy Cummins (who may have created the finest cover ever for this book), I have now published twenty books and am scheduled for another six over the next two and a half years.  (Plus, there might be some exciting new projects to mention in a few months.)

My career in publishing has been an incredible journey. When I started, I had no idea that I would get to engage with my young readers so often via school visits and blog post comments, or that my own children would eventually get involved in the editing process, or that I would be participating at book festivals and meeting fellows authors. As it happens, many of those authors have become some of my closest friends.  Authors like James Ponti, Sarah Mlynowski, Christina Soontornvat, Karina Yan Glaser, Max Brallier, Gordon Korman, Ally Carter and many, many, many more.

So thank you to everyone who has supported my career, bought one of my books, come to a reading of mine, sat in on a panel, written me fan mail, given me a positive review, or simply enjoyed the book. Thanks to all the hard-working bookstore employees and librarians out there who have recommended my books to young readers.

And of course, thanks to all of you, my readers.  This wouldn’t have happened without you.

Stuart

How COVID is affecting the release of Spy School Revolution and the Spy School movie

Hi everyone –

At this time, there are two questions I have been getting over and over and over again.  So I figured I would post to answer those questions before anyone else asks them.

Can you please release Spy School Revolution early so that I have something new to read during the pandemic?

The simple answer is NO.

Here is the more complicated answer: You have to realize that releasing a book is not easy.  After I write it, there are still many steps.  The book has to be designed, then printed, then shipped to stores.  All of that takes time, and each one of those steps has been adversely affected by the virus.

Plus… to release a book, it helps to have bookstores be open.  Thousands are not right now.

Now, you might be arguing that you could order the books on line, so you don’t need the stores to be open — but it still helps to have stores open, so that people who don’t know about the book can see it and decide to buy it.

Due to these issues, many author friends of mine are having their book releases pushed back, rather than moved forward.  Hopefully, the release of SSR is far enough away that this won’t happen.

Also, if you are still ordering books on Amazon… stop it.  You are hurting the publishing business!  Instead, order your books through either your local independent bookstore (if they are still open), bookshop.org or Barnes & Noble.

Is the Spy School movie going to film after all this is over?

I have no idea.

Hollywood is completely shut down.  I haven’t heard from the executives on the project in weeks.  Disney, which now owns the rights, is having severe financial problems because all its theme parks are shut down.  No one can film anything because there is no way to do that while being socially-distanced.

At some point, Hollywood will need to start making movies again, but no one knows when that will be.  Until that happens, I will have no further updates on the movie.

One more thing:

Not to sound like a jerk here, but please please please stop asking me if I can cast you in the movie.  I know you are all shocked that I won’t have any sway over casting, but here’s the best explanation I can give:

Actors are hired by casting directors.  That is the casting director’s job, and they train for years to do it.  So, if I were to call a casting director and say, “Hey, you should consider this kid for the movie,” that would be like the casting director coming up to me and saying, “Hey, would you mind if I wrote a chapter of your book for you?”  The casting director has their job.  I have mine.  It is not cool for me to try to tell them how to do their job.

Thus, I have no idea if there will be an open casting call or when that would even happen.  My bet is, it is unlikely.  If there is an open casting call, I will post about it on this blog.  So please do not ask me if I can contact you directly at your email to let you know about this.

Again, not to sound like a jerk, but I have a lot to do.  Emailing every one of the thousands of kids (and a lot of parents) who has asked me to contact them directly would take me weeks.  I do not have time to do that.  I have books to write.

That is all for now.  Stay safe.

BIG NEWS. I will now be releasing THREE books in 2021.

Here’s one side effect of the COVID-19 crisis: I have a lot more time to write.

Originally, I was going to be gone for several weeks between book tour for Tyrannosaurus Wrecks, spring book festivals and my kids’ spring break.  Instead, I have spent that time at home, writing.  Which means that I could make something happen that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

Instead of releasing two books next year, I am going to release three.

The newcomer is the seventh FunJungle book, which is going to come out in May of 2021.  Charlie Thorne will now come out early in the year (I assume around February) while Spy School 9 will come out in the fall.

Obviously, I do not have titles for these books yet.  And I am not going to answer any questions about what the storylines are for a while.  That information — along with more accurate release dates, will be forthcoming.

In other exciting news, Spy School is finally coming out in Spanish!  If you’d like to preorder Escuela de Espias, click here.

Okay, that’s all I have time for.  I have lots of writing to do.

I hope that your isolation is going as well as can be.  Stay strong.  And keep reading.

Five reasons to start buying books from Bookshop.org

  1. Bookshop.org supports local businesses, which are having a very hard time right now.
  2. You will get your books delivered to you faster if you use Bookshop.org.  Amazon has said that shipping books is now a low priority for them.  They are too busy shipping other supplies.
  3. Bookshop.org can connect you with local independent bookstores.  Some of them are still open, as they have been deemed vital businesses.  You can’t go inside, but they will deliver your books to you at the curb.  That’s much faster than having them shipped!
  4. Bookshop.org is easy to use!  Just click here.
  5. Let’s face it, Amazon is kind of evil.  (And frankly, they’re going to be fine.  They’re making plenty of money shipping toilet paper right now.)

And if you want a signed book from me, Once Upon A Time has many in stock.  And they will ship to you as well. Click here to get one!

Finally, if you want an exclusive version of tyrannosaurus Wrecks, with sixteen pages of bonus content, click here to get it from Barnes & Noble.  Yes, B&N is not an independent company, but they are still a bookstore and thus, prioritizing shipping of books over other items.  (You can also order puzzles, games, Legos and other items from them as well.)

I hope all of you are holding up well during this trying time.

Need something to do during the virus outbreak? Read these authors!

Hey everyone –

These are strange times.  All over the world, kids are stuck at home, being kept apart from friends and schoolmates, while we cut down on socializing to try to minimize the effects of this pandemic.  Quite frankly, it stinks.

I am guessing that many of you are feeling cooped up, disconnected — and possibly bored. Sadly, things probably aren’t going to get any better for a while.

But there is one thing that’s easy to do that can make your boredom go away:  Read.

I’m not only talking about my own books here.  I would certainly love it if you read my books, but if there is one silver lining to this cloud we are all in, it’s that this is a golden age of middle grade and young adult writing.  There are hundreds of great books out there for you to read, and at the moment, there are still ways to stock up on them.

The easiest way for me to introduce you to a trove of incredible authors is to direct you to the Renegades of Middle Grade website, which features the work of eighteen fantastic authors with links to their websites.  Plus, there’s even some fun games devised by my fellow author James Ponti that can keep you busy for a while.  Just click here to visit it.

Or click here to see a great trailer for books by thirteen of us, each talking up our books.

That said, I’ll single out some other great authors that I have become friends with over the years.  Just click on their names to access their sites.

Since I’ve already mentioned him, James Ponti writes great, clever mysteries and just published City Spies, which is excellent.

Sarah Mlynowski has books for just about every age that are all funny and extremely creative (sometimes with a bit of romance thrown in).

Christina Soontornvat also has a book for just about every age, although her newest, A Wish In The Dark, comes out the same day that my new book does and it’s wonderful.

Gordon Korman has published 96 books!  So it’s guaranteed that he’s written at least one that you will love.

Karina Yan Glaser writes the endearing Vanderbeekers series.

Ally Carter writes exceptionally good spy stories and has a brand new middle grade book out this month: Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor.

Max Brallier writes hilarious illustrated books like The Last Kids on Earth and Galactic Hot Dogs.

Varian Johnson wrote the award-winning Parker Inheritance and the very fun Great Greene Heist.

Liesl Shurtliff has her new Time Castaway series — and many other great books.

Elizabeth Eulberg has the Great Shelby Holmes mysteries — plus lots of YA too.

Leslie Margolis writes the Maggie Brooklyn mystery series.  (She’s also my neighbor!)

 

If you’re looking for something a little more YA, check out the books of Julie Buxbaum.

And… this one is for all the adults out there.  My father just published his first book!  It’s an alternative history of the Revolutionary War that wonders what might have happened if George Washington was wounded in battle.  It follows the race to save his life and keep the British from taking advantage of the lack of leadership.  You can get it by clicking here.

And there are so many more that I could list!  Maybe I will get around to adding a few more names to this list when I have more time.  (I’m actually staying very busy right now wrangling my kids and writing more books for you to read.)  But for now, that ought to get you started.

IMPORTANT UPDATE!  IF YOU WANT YOUR BOOKS QUICKLY, DON’T USE AMAZON.

Amazon says that it is so overwhelmed by filling other orders that it may deprioritize book sales.  Meanwhile, companies that only sell books are not.  If you order online from Barnes & Noble, they will not make shipment of your books a low priority.  And if you order from a local bookstore, they might even deliver the books to you themselves.  So now, more than ever, maybe support booksellers besides Amazon.