Tony the Phony and the Northern Woods, by T. Man

Tony the Phony and the Northern WoodsTony the PhonyToday I’m part of a very special blog event hosted by T. Man, a 10-year-old author and homeschooler who has just completed his SECOND book! When T. Man was only 8, he partnered with his older brother, M. Man, on a special homeschool writing project that resulted in their first published book, Tony the Phony and Cursed Mansion. This year, T. Man went solo and just finished the second book in the series, Tony the Phony and the Northern Woods. Written in the engaging style of a Choose Your Own Adventure™, each book is available for .99 on Amazon.

But today T. Man has chosen to share his new book with his readers in its entirety in a special interactive virtual event. Seven different bloggers are hosting sections of his story. The fun begins on T. Man’s blog. At the end of each page YOU have to decide how the story will go. Each choice will lead you to a new blog. You have the possibility of landing on any of four endings. Of course, when you finish you can always go back to the beginning and start again. Choose wisely!

(I’m hosting one of the conclusions. Head over to T. Man’s blog to begin and I may see you back here at the end of your story.)


Tony the Phony and the Northern WoodsWhat do we do?” asked Ed.

“We fight it, I guess,” said Tony.

“Are you crazy?”

“Hang on a minute,” said Tony. “I got it! Give me your underwear.”

“Why me? Can’t you use yours?”

“I’m not wearing any.”

“All right. Here,” said Ed.

“Do you have a tomato in that backpack?”

“Yes, I was going to put it on my sandwich. Are you hungry?”

“No. Give it to me while I get some sticks,” said Tony.

Tony used the sticks and underwear and made a slingshot just in time. Because the zombie did a cowabunga jump off the top of the plane and charged them.

“Fire!” said Ed.

Tony let go of the underwear and the tomato hit the zombie in the eye.

“Yes!” yelled Tony.

The zombie let out a roar so loud that Tony and Ed fell to the ground and covered their ears. Then it stumbled around blindly and ran into a tree. With a crash that shook the ground, it fell over unconscious.

“Let’s go!” said Tony.

Ed grabbed his underwear and they ran to a house and called the police.

The End

Go back to the beginning and choose again.


pawprint2Author T. Man co-authored his first Kindle book at age 8 and ran his first 5K at age 10. He likes the Detroit Lions and monster trucks. He loves to visit Great Wolf Lodge with his cousins, and he’s conquerered every roller coaster at Cedar Point. He has no idea what he wants to do when her grows up, but he hopes it includes eating a lot of popcorn.

Blood Moon (Ella Wood, 2) Cover Reveal!

Time for an update and a cover reveal. It’s mid-January and I’m into the final third of Blood Moon, sequel to last year’s Ella Wood. I’m still planning a May release date. In the meantime, anyone who leaves a review of Ella Wood on Amazon or Goodreads between now and May AND emails the link to me at misenhoff (at) will receive a free Kindle copy of Blood Moon as soon as it releases!

Here’s the new cover alongside book one, and below is the blow-up. I figured if Hollywood can do period movies with modern makeup, I can too. :) I’ll share blurbs and interesting research tidbits and such in a few weeks. If you want a sneak peek, you can browse my Blood Moon Pinterest board.

Ella Wood cover blood moon
blood moon

The Legacy Human (Singularity #1), by Susan Kaye Quinn

legacy humanI first heard of Susan Kaye Quinn when I read her YA sci-fi novel, Mindjack. It was one of the best indie books I had ever (or have ever) read. I made a point to contact her and strike up a brief conversation. Later, after she penned a middle grade story, we were thrilled to add her experience and expertise to our Emblazon author group. The bucks and the fans, however, are in the older markets, and she has returned to YA for her Singularity series.

In The Legacy Human, humanity has divided into those who have ascended, or become more than human, and the “legacies” who remain unchanged. Eli has always wanted to become part of the godlike, powerful ascender class, and his desire for immortality has been amplified by his mother’s fight with cancer. But that option was taken away from legacies long ago. The only way to attain his dream is participate in the Olympics, the contest of arts styled on the long-ago athletic games by the same name, and win the right to ascend. But he has no control over when his creative genius will strike. In fact, his best work was painted when he was unconscious. Fortunately, his timing wins him a sponsor. But his Olympics experience nets something far different than gold. He finds out secrets about his own past that he can barely comprehend…and that prompt him to flee for his life.

I have two complaints. First, I struggled to connect with the protagonist. I think the setting was a contributing factor. While it was vivid and imaginative, I tend to shut down in worlds different than my own, and this one felt a little sterile despite a bid for compassion for Eli’s suffering mother.

Also, I totally wasn’t buying the mottled mess being passed off as religion. One of the main themes in the book is religion and the soul. (Do ascenders still have one?) But the culminating passage that was supposed to stir my heart simply made me shake my head. “Fashioned and formed in my mother’s womb by the random chance of DNA, the twisting strands of molecules and faith, and in that moment, with that spark, I was made.” We’re descended from apes, yet formed in the Creator’s image. Purposefully made, yet the result of random chance. The mesh of worldviews didn’t make any kind of sense.

But if you want a page turner, this is it. The imagination, the delimma, the action, the twists, the futuristic details–all classic Quinn. Despite my reservations, I was thoroughly entertained. The prose is smooth and lovely. The language and sexuality are perfectly clean. Appropriate for 14+.

I do have to say this is the best cover I’ve seen this year, bar none. Great job, D. Robert Pease!


Audiobooks as a Literacy Tool

No review today. Because of the business of Christmas, I’m just going to reprint an article I posted over on Emblazon a few weeks ago…

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.Jim Trelease, author of The Read Alound Handbook

audiobook kids

The Benefits of Reading Aloud

When I attended college back in the 1990’s, we elementary education majors got an earful about the 1985 findings of the U.S. Department of Education’s Commission on Reading. Study after study was telling us that reading to children is one of the very best ways to help children become successful readers.

That consensus hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. It’s a philosophy that was pushed heavily in the schools where I worked. When I stopped teaching to raise a family and it became apparent that two of my kids struggled with varying degrees of dyslexia, I read widely on the subject. Guess what the experts recommended? Reading aloud in a variety of formats: teachers reading to students, students reading to teachers, teachers reading chorally with their students, students reading chorally with other students, students performing practiced text aloud to an audience, students recording practiced text, etc, etc, etc.

brainAgain and again studies suggest that listening provides many of the same benefits as reading. And it seems that taking in language audibly and visually creates connections within different parts of the brain that aid a variety of reading skills: decoding, comprehension, increased vocabulary, fluency, word recognition…

I opted to homeschool my low readers so I could impliment these suggestions liberally throughout the school day and across the curriculum. It was a wise decision. Though they aren’t quite up to grade level, their proficiency has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years.

Audiobooks: A Practical Solution

But very few teachers have a 1:2 teacher to student ratio. And parents may not have time to read aloud as much as they would like to. Let me suggest a very practical solution: audiobooks.

Many teachers I know actually record themselves reading classroom books and provide their students with MP3 players so they can listen while reading along. I did this with my boys. It’s a great way for kids to practice reading without direct help. But pre-recording all those books takes a lot of time. And the quality? Um… Let’s just say listening to professional voice artists is far more enjoyable. Reading along can be really FUN!

But aren’t audiobooks expensive?

They don’t have to be! If you buy an ebook on Amazon, the audiobook is often available for a ridiculously low price. For example, the audiobook for The Candle Star lists on Amazon for $14.95. But if you purchase the ebook for 99 cents, you have the option of adding the audiobook for another $1.99. That is a significant savings! Just look for “Add Audible narration” on the page listing.


I don’t know how to listen to an audiobook.

No problem. You can turn any device you own into an audiobook player (Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Android phone, iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, Android tablets, even your PC or MP3 player). Just download the appropriate app and bingo! You’re listening.

If you’re still not certain you want to jump onboard the audio bandwagon, let me suggest that audiobooks are absolutely AWESOME for family road trips. (They’re not bad for work commutes, lawn mowing, cooking, or other brain-free, hands-busy moments either.)

We have a growing selection of kid-friendly audibooks here on Emblazon, often for dirt cheap through Amazon’s narration option. Now that you know about that little secret, you can watch for it on thousands of Amazon titles.

Audiobooks should never replace the special one-on-one time a parent and child share reading books together. But they’re an effective, practical, and inexpensive option for all those other “listenable” moments. Pick one out to enjoy with your family today.

Flying the Dragon, by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

flying the dragonSkye has a cousin, Hiroshi, she has never met. Because Hiroshi lives in Japan, and Skye was born in America. But when Grandfather grows ill, Skye’s Japanese relatives move to America for Grandfather’s treatment.

Skye is embarrassed to have Hiroshi in class with her. He can’t speak English well. He’s completely unaware how “uncool” he is acting. And she may need to give up soccer, her passion, to improve her ability to speak Japanese.

On the flip side, Hiroshi never wanted to leave Japan. Especially before he had a chance to compete in the traditional kite battle with Grandfather, the contest he’s been looking forward to all his life. He feels like he’ll never fit at the American school, and he resents having to share Grandfather’s attention with his new cousin. Especially when he doesn’t know how much time Grandfather has left.

This is a beautifully rendered tale of two children who have to overcome cultural boundaries and selfishness in favor of understanding and forgiveness. Chapters alternate between the two points of view, giving us two sides of the same coin. Ms. Lorenzi does a fantastic job getting us into each child’s head and creating sympathy for each. The problems and misunderstandings that separate them are real everyday predicaments that kids can totally relate to. Who’d want their cousin coming to school in a dorky medical mask to prevent the spread of germs? Who’d want to leave friends to live in a new country where they barely speak the language? But through the rough times, the dragon kite that Grandfather made draws Skye and Hiroshi to Grandfather as well as to each other.

Beautiful, thoughtful writing. Highly recommended for ages 9+.

From the Emblazon newsletter…

emblazonOur new Emblazon catalog is here!

Do you have children between 9 and 14? Let us help you turn them into lifelong readers. 

The Emblazon authors have been hard at work this year adding to our fine collection of tween literature. We’re nearing 100 titles! Now, just in time for the gift-giving season, they have been collected in one convenient location. 

Our winter catalog has a brand new look, with titles listed by genre, blurbs, Lexile scores, and live Amazon links. (Links to additional retailers can be found on the Emblazon website.) We’ve made shopping for your young reader so easy! Take a few moments to browse our great selection.

To view or download our catalog,
please click the link below:

Winter 2015-2016

Merry Christmas!
And thanks for browsing Emblazon books!

Blood on the River, by Elisa Carbone

blood on the riverI discovered this book several years ago, when I was looking for historical fiction to suppliment an American history class I was teaching to my then-homeschooled daughter. I’ve just finished reading it with both of my boys for the same class. I’m still impressed.

This is the story of Jamestown, told through the eyes of a young boy who was there. Little is known of Samuel Collier, but he really did serve as Captain John Smith’s servant. Ms. Carbone has developed him into a rich character, a London orphan assigned to the voyage as punishment after a run-in with the law. His fighting spirit serves him well in the harsh New World, though he must learn to temper his independence and cooperate with others if the struggling new colony is to survive.

Ms. Carbone illustrates in rich detail the arrogance and ineptitude of the wealthy gentlemen who signed with the Virginia Company, men so ill-suited to the realities of wilderness living. And she contrasts them well the “commoner” they refuse to heed, Captain John Smith, the only man among them with the experience and discipline necessary to ensure the settlement’s survival. This butting of heads provides the real life conflict that drives the story. And Captain Smith’s many close calls, both at the hands of the Indians and the hands of the gentlemen, will thoroughly captured readers’ attention. Meanwhile, they’ll be picking up so much information about the era’s social class struggles, the various motivations behind colonization, details of day-to-day life, and the power struggle between the ignorant representatives of the English king and the mighty Powhatan emperor.

Superbly narrated, artfully crafted, and historically accurate, Blood on the River is a top-notch resource for studying this time period in American history. Experiencing events through story is the next best thing to going back in time. Highly, highly recommended for ages 9+.