I fulfilled a lifelong dream recently by trekking across Transylvania (in Romania). I’ve been pining for a trip to the misty Carpathian Mountains since I saw my first vampire movie—or was it werewolves? Either way, the real thing topped even the most delicious of B-movie thrills. Sure, I hit the requisite Vlad “the Impaler” and Bram Stoker landmarks, but Transylvania itself turned out to be the real star. The emerald green forests, the medieval towns and castles, the majestic, brooding mountains—oh, and did I mention the wolf tracks and the nine(!) very real bears that we saw?
I could go on well past the witching hour about this, but I hear a picture is worth a thousand words. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorites from the trip:
At Bran Castle, a.k.a. Castle Dracula. If you’ve read Bram Stoker’s novel, that facade will be eerily familiar to you.
“Wolf Dan” Marin, the best (and coolest) nature guide in Romania, leads us high up into the Carpathians. I’m the dork in the red backpack (or, as the wolves say, the snack).
One of the nine bears we saw, 90 meters away—the distance to third base!
For more pictures, more bears, and one profoundly funky train, check out my album on Facebook.
The compact, lightweight, and entirely beach-bag appropriate paperback of my middle grade survival novel Surrounded By Sharks is here—just in time for Shark Week!
The cover is gorgeous, and that’s the tooth! Even better? The fantastic quote from Lauren Tarshis (author of the bestselling I Survived series and undisputed queen of survival stories!) at the top: “A heart-stopping survival story . . . Readers will devour this book!”
Also not too shabby, that shiny new New York Times Bestselling Author under my name. That definitely wasn’t there when the hardcover came out.
Apart from all the bells and whistles, though, I really love this book. I’ve always been fascinated by (and maybe a little scared of) sharks, and I definitely got to nerd out over our fine, finned friends in this book. (There’s even a chapter written from the perspective of a tiger shark!) But this book is also about survival, the ocean, and family. I’m also very proud of the pacing: It’s a slow build to a frenzied finish!
And did I mention that this toothsome blue book is only $7.99? So water you waiting for? Why not dive into your local independent bookstore, ominously humming the JAWS theme as you hunt the shelves for it? It’s also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and pretty much everywhere else books are sold (and fish are scared).
Anyway, that’s enough of the sales pitch. Suffice it to say, this book is one of my favorites. If you get a chance to check it out, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Can you believe it, TombQuesters? The fifth and final book is out now! (And how amazing is that creepy-cool cover?!) This is what it’s all been leading up to. In The Final Kingdom, Alex and Ren must venture into the world of the dead in a desperate attempt to save the world of the living. They are pursued by The Order and their Death Walker allies at every step, leading up to a fierce, final showdown right back where it all started.
It’s been quite a ride for me, too. The first book came out a little over a year ago, on January 27, 2015, and immediately hit the New York Times bestseller list. It was one of the highlights of my career (and life!), but it was just getting started. I visited scores of schools from California to New Hampshire to talk about reading and writing (and mummies and magic). Another highlight: I got to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, where so many key scenes in the series are set, early in the morning before it opened to the public. Here I am talking with my amazing insider guide in front of the Temple of Dendur!
This whole thing has been an amazing experience—and it’s time for the final chapter! If you want to get Book 5 now, why not pop into your local independent bookstore and tell them you’re on a TombQuest? Or get it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books-a-Million. The final book—and the Final Kingdom—is here. And like the mummy-maker said: It’s time to wrap this thing up!
This post is overdue, as usual, so once again, I am playing catch up. Here’s a roundup of recent events at Michael Northrop World HQ!
1) Trapped in Korea!
Don’t worry, I haven’t been taken captive by the “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea—not yet, anyway! Instead, I just received copies of the South Korean edition of my young adult novel Trapped. So cool! This is the sixth(!) foreign language edition for my snowbound survival tale. I love the cover on this one: kind of haunting—and very Korean. There are even some original illustrations inside!
2) The Stone Warriors are rock stars!
TombQuest 4: The Stone Warriors is out in the world, and I am excited, proud, and… relieved. I don’t talk much about books sales and things like that on here, as it might harm my delicate artistic soul (bows Frenchly), but I will say two quick things. First, the scariest thing about writing a five-book series is having to maintain the momentum and excitement all the way through. What if you write five books and no one’s paying attention after the third? (Pardon me while I hyperventilate into a paper bag for ten minutes.) Fortunately, Book 4 hit shelves on December 29—and around a thousand copies were plucked from those shelves that very same week. Hooray—and phew! Here’s hoping we can keep that momentum up all the way to Book 5 on March 29! (In the meantime, if any of you fine and discerning readers would like to leave a review of Book 4, it definitely helps! *Bows Frenchly*)
3) Congratulations, fantasy champion!
I won my fantasy football league! That’s not even bragging, really, because I think I just wasted more time on it than anyone else in my league. Let’s just say I watched a lot of Fantasy Football Live and got to know the waiver wires *very* well. And here, in glorious, everlasting pixels, is my reward:
Team duckweather1: All it’s quacked up to be.
4) New bookcase!
I talk way too much about my writing on here—now it’s time to talk about my reading! I finally got a new bookcase. It arrived this morning, about ten minutes before the overloaded shelves of my other bookcases gave out. I loaded it up immediately. I put my To Be Read books right at eye level *as a constant reminder* and filled the tall bottom shelf with those hard-to-fit picture books. Here’s a look. Don’t worry, it didn’t fall over—I just couldn’t figure out how to rotate the image in this new version of WordPress!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I guess they’re right because it would take me at least that many to describe how much I love the covers of TombQuest books 4 and 5. So how about I spare you all the essays and just show you these gorgeous covers?
I think my favorite thing about this cover is how it offers a cool twist on the signature look of the first three books. It’s similar enough to fit right in with the rest of the series, but different enough to be unique and new. There’s a lot of action inside the cover too. Alex and Ren cover a lot of ground in this one, from a mystical jaunt between continents (you can catch a glimpse of their destination on the cover!) to a fateful duel in the desert.
This cover is creepy and cool and downright perfect for the series finale. It’s a big, bold look for an epic final book, where Alex and Ren must brave the world of the dead (and its guardian, Anubis!) to save the world of the living. All the questions will be answered and the ultimate battle will be fought!
I recently packed up my wheelie bag and spent three weeks on the road to promote TombQuest 3: Valley of Kings. Along the way, I made stops in nine states: California, New York, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Kentucky. Every one of them was at least nine parts awesome: full of amazing schools, stores, libraries, and thousands of curious, smart, energetic, and just generally great kids. Here’s a look at just some of the memorable scenes from life on the road:
So there you have it: Nine states total—twelve if you include exhaustion, elation, and gratitude—a voice that faltered but did not fail and a suitcase full of amazing experiences. I can’t wait to do it all again for Book 4: The Stone Warriors!
The third book in the TombQuest series is officially out: Valley of Kings is now on sale wherever books are sold! And this time, Alex and Ren (and Luke and Pai!) have finally made it to Egypt. Here’s a look at the stunning cover. As you can see, the action definitely heats up in the desert.
The first two TombQuest books were set in New York and London, and I had a blast unleashing Ancient Egyptian magic in two of the world’s greatest cities: Scorpions in the subway! Evil under a creepy Victorian cemetery! But from the very start I’d been looking forward to writing about Egypt, itself. If you didn’t think this series would make it to da Nile, you were in denial!
In Book 3, the mummies finally get home field advantage. This one begins in Egypt’s sprawling capital, Cairo, which has descended into supernatural chaos. Sinister voices whisper on the wind, driving people to dark deeds in the dead of night. Fleeing the madness, Alex, Ren, and Luke follow a string of clues to the famous Valley of the Kings. Under the burning desert sun, they discover that the final resting place of such pharaohs as King Tut and Ramses VI might not be so restful (or so final) after all. As the friends turn over every stone in their search for Alex’s mom and the Lost Spells, a Death Walker lurks, a sinister plot begins to take shape, and a stunning twist awaits!
In the end, the most burning question of all could be: Who can you trust in a world gone mad?
Find out in Valley of Kings!
If you haven’t played the TombQuest game lately, you need to Get On That! The game-design geniuses at Scholastic keep making it better and better, with new tomb designs, new treasures, and of course, new monsters and traps to guard it all. But don’t worry, you get some cool new stuff too. I love the new gear, weapons, and art they added in honor of Book 2’s London location. Here’s one of my favorite additions…
Look at those wee Beefeaters, ready for action! So awesome. That could be you! Can’t wait to see what they add for Book 3!
[UPDATE: I just took my new improved avatar treasure hunting and, well, you had better bring your A Game! The other players have definitely beefed up their defenses and built some truly tough tombs!]
TombQuest 2: Amulet Keepers is here! I am very proud of this one and excited to share it. Alex and Ren are in London this time, and the story began to take shape last February with a week of intense (rainy) research there. I was holed up on Gower Street, in a room not much longer me, with the wind howling outside each night. And each morning I would button all my buttons, don my new flat cap, and head out to fill my boots up with rainwater, my notebook up with history, and my camera up with the astounding sights.
From the world-famous Egyptian collection at the British Museum to the glittering crown jewels at the Tower of London to the Victorian grandeur (and gothic creepiness) of Highgate Cemetery, it was an unforgettable experience—and bloody great material! So maybe it’s not a surprise that the writing process for this book was one of the smoothest and most inspired of my life. Was it hard to imagine I was back there, in blustery, brilliant London? It would have been hard not to! The result is now available for your consideration, wherever books are sold. (You can get it right now from your local independent bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.)
Worlds Collided—and we’ve got the video!
And finally, here’s an amazing video look back at the World Collide convention, which brought authors and fans of Scholastic’s many multiplatform titles together in March. How awesome are these young readers? And who’s the goofy guy in the headdress?
And that’s all for now, TombQuesters. Book 3: Valley of Kings comes out in August!
Holy Nile crocodile, people: TombQuest made the New York Times bestseller list! And it didn’t waste any time, either: Book of the Dead debuted on the List of Lists, securing a perch at lucky number 13 after its first week of release. It spent two more weeks on the Middle Grade list for a grand total of… *gets out calculator* three weeks! It slipped off this week, but here’s hoping it will Rise Again—I mean, come on, everything else in the book does!
And where was I when I got the news? On the road of course. The first leg of TourQuest took me coast to Great Lake to coast, from NY/NJ/CT in the east to Chicagoland in the middle to Texas and California out west. Dozens of amazing school visits, thousands of enthusiastic kids, and half a dozen bookstore events: It was epic (and, OK, occasionally exhausting, but let’s concentrate on that epic part)! What’s that, you demand proof? Pictures or it didn’t happen? Fine! I admire your intellectual rigor—and boy howdy do I have pictures. Here are just a handful of them:
What a tour, what a trip, what a start. I am happy and humbled by the reception Book 1: Book of the Dead has gotten so far and thrilled that all of this momentum is leading to Book 2: Amulet Keepers, a book I straight up love. Thanks to everyone who attended an event, bought a book, read a book, or just didn’t trip me as I stumbled blearily to my next destination. If you ruled any more, you’d be pharaohs.
It’s finally (finally!) TombsDay, people! TombQuest, Book 1: Book of the dead is officially on sale everywhere: bookstores, book fairs, online, you name it! Basically, it is rampaging through the world of the living like a hungry mummy. Hungry for what? Hungry for readers! *Arrr!* *chomp chomp* Uh, sorry. I’m a little punchy over here. It’s my first series—and definitely my first multi-platform series with an online game and message boards—and I’ve been working on it for a long time now. Research trips around the world, outlines and story arcs, intense writing schedules, and *no small amount* of revision… And now it’s out, and I really, *really* hope that readers enjoy the high-stakes adventures of Alex and Ren as much as I am enjoying writing them. VOYA Magazine recently described those adventures this way: “Nonstop action, great horror descriptions, and good teen camaraderie provide a perfect background for the adventures of this dynamic duo.” And what’s better than a dynamic duo? A dynamic trio, of course: just add reader!
Hitting the road for TourQuest!
I did a full week of school visits in Chicagoland last week, two more yesterday in Scarsdale, NY, and I have dozens more (seriously, like 50!) scheduled between now and mid-May. It has been an incredible experience meeting so many creative librarians, dedicated teachers, and just straight-up amazing students and talking about reading and writing and why, exactly, the ancient Egyptians kept a mummy’s intestines but threw out its brains.
If you’re no longer in 4th grade (I am a few years past that myself), I also have a *dazzling array* of public events coming up. Here is the official schedule of my first National Tour!
TOMBQUEST: BOOK 1: BOOK OF THE DEAD
SPRING 2015 NATIONAL TOUR
Monday, February 2, 2015 at 5:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
Stonebriar Center Mall
2601 Preston Road
Frisco, TX 75034
Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 5:00 PM
Blue Willow Bookshop
14532 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77079
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 3:00 PM
1378 Lincoln Avenue
San Jose, CA 95125
Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 5:00 PM
The Reading Bug
786 Laurel Street
San Carlos, CA 94070
Friday, February 13, 2015, time TBD
350 Hartz Avenue
Danville, CA 94526
Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 1:00 PM
Books of Wonder
18 W. 18th Street
New York, NY10011
Monday, May 4, 2015 at 4:30 PM (Official Children’s Book Week event)
Oblong Books and Music
6422 Montgomery Street (Route 9)
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
[The Oblong in Millerton was my local store growing up, and my main source of poetry books and D&D modules, so this is a really big deal for me!]
It’s all subject to change—we’re still in blizzard season, for example—but these are amazing stores, and I am incredibly excited about it. I hope to see some of you at, well, some of these!