Author Archives: DEBtastic Reads!

About DEBtastic Reads!

Writer, reader, traveler, dog- and duck-lover, mom and wife. Author of two nonfiction children's books.

Book Buzz! Cooper & Packrat Are Back!



Cooper & Packrat: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest by Tamra Wight, illustrated by Carl DiRocco

Islandport Press, 2014

Cooper and Packrat are back in another Wilder Campground adventure. This time after they discover one of their campgroup geocache boxes filled with illegal eagle parts, two goons chase them down. Cooper and Packrat are determined to discover the mystery of these illegal activities, while trying to evade the thugs. When they find out that the campground eaglets may be in danger, they enlist the help of their friend Roy and try to protect the eagles. Will they save the baby eagles? Will they find out the mystery behind the stolen eagle parts? And will Cooper get grounded by his parents for sleuthing? An adventurous story with fascinating eagle facts.

This book is perfect for young readers who love adventure, mystery, and nature. I already look forward to the next installment. I hope there’s a next book!

For more about Tamra and her books, see my spotlight interview with her here.

Happy reading!


Highlights Foundation – A Writer’s Retreat


I’m going to digress a bit from my reading raves to talk about my fantastic few days at The Highlights Foundation where I took a Revision Workshop with Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. It was in a word -blissful!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I didn’t take photos of the most important part – the actual workshops – because I was too busy listening to what Harold and Eileen had to share about revision techniques. Okay, I lie – that wasn’t the most important part, even though it was a key element. Everything about this retreat was important!

If you’ve ever considered taking a Highlights Foundation workshop or going for their Unworkshop days (where you go just to work on your own), I highly recommend it! I don’t know that I’ve ever worked so well, so focused over a 4 day period away from home. The lodgings are extremely comfortable and the atmosphere is conducive to writing. It’s quiet and peaceful and there are plenty of places to sit and write, including your room. Meals and snacks are provided – and the food was absolutely delicious. (Confession: I asked for seconds of dessert one night.)

The revision retreat itself was perfect for me – I’m diving into a tough revision of a YA novel. The sessions in the mornings were informative and interesting, and gave us opportunities to put some new techniques into practice. Having the afternoons free for writing (or critique group) time was outstanding. I didn’t know how much real work I would get done in the afternoons (I’m typically a morning writer), but when I sat down to write, the hours flew by! Going on hikes in the gorgeous hills before dinner helped me settle my mind and regroup. Evenings were on our own and varied. The first night, I read and relaxed in my comfy and quiet room. The second night, I wrote. I admit that I hadn’t planned to, but my neighbors all said they would be writing that evening, so peer pressure pushed me to write as well. The third night, a group of us got together to read one another’s work and offer feedback. And the last night (sigh) we had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows and talked about the market. There were 13 of us, plus Harold and Eileen, and our group really connected. I miss everyone!

The days went by too quickly, but the good news is that I carried all the positive energy home with me and worked hard all week. I feel like I’ve gained new insight into revision and am excited to dive into this next draft. Thank you to everyone at the Highlights Foundation, to Harold and Eileen, and my new friends, Kristy, Theresa, Marie, Carole, Nathalie, Betsy, Marie, Taunya, Linda, Raj, Eric, Jennifer, and Catherine! It was a honor and a pleasure!

Check out Kathryn Erskine’s post about this wonderful place. It was when I read her post that I knew I was going to have an amazing time there. For another retreater’s take on this workshop, check out Kristy Boyce’s blog post.

Happy reading and writing!

Summer Reads


Summer is a busy time for me with a bit of travel and a lot of writing and reading. Plus, as many of you know, I now have ducks!


Long story, but meet Darcy (the white Pekin) and Lizzy (the black Indian Runner). I’ve had them since they were ducklings and they are now a little over four months old. I’m completely smitten by my ducks and fortunately they seem to adore me right back. Ducks are kind of like dogs – they follow simple commands (come, stay, go home, etc.) and are great company. I spend almost every afternoon sitting in the fenced-in backyard with them. They forage, run around, take a dip in the kiddie pool, and act cute, and I read. *


I’ve been reading some fantastic books! Here are some I recommend if you’re looking for great summer reads!


Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (YA)


Landline by Rainbow Rowell (adult fiction)


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (YA)

If you pre-order you get some really cool swag!


To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (YA)


One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (adult fiction)

Plus don’t forget the great books I’ve highlighted in my Spotlight interviews!

If you have book recs for me, feel free to share in the comments! I have a huge towering TBR pile but I’m always willing to buy more books!

Happy summer and happy reading!

*For anyone concerned about the well-being of my ducks, I have a long history of working with animals of all kinds and a degree in Zoology.


And The Winner Is…


Thanks to everyone for stopping by to shine the spotlight on Justina Ireland and her awesome YA novel


Promise of Shadows (Simon & Schuster/2014)

If you missed it, be sure to check out my interview with Justina: click here.

Using a random number generator and numbering the comments in order of appearance, the winner of a copy of Promise of Shadows is: number 3. Who is that? Why it’s Catey! WOOHOO! Please email me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) with your mailing address and I’ll be sure to get you your copy ASAP!

Thanks for stopping by! Come back soon for more book buzz and give-aways.

Happy reading!


Welcome To The Spotlight Justina Ireland and Promise of Shadows!


I’m super thrilled to shine the spotlight on YA author Justina Ireland and her fabulous novel Promise of Shadows! I met Justina at the Vermont College Novel Writing Retreat earlier this year and found her to be hilarious and talented. I could not put this book down! Stay tuned below to enter for a chance to win a copy of this suspenseful, action-filled, thrilling book.


Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland (Simon & Schuster/2014)

The story opens on Zephyr who is stuck in Tartarus’ worst section – the Pits – as punishment for killing one of Hera’s guards. Zeph is a Harpy but a failed one, and is scared when she shouldn’t be. Fortunately, she has found a protector in Cass. When her childhood friend (and crush) Tallon comes to the rescue to release her from the Underworld, she and Cass join Tallon, his dragon brother Blue and Zeph’s childhood nemesis Alora in a quest to keep Hera from taking over the mortal world. Zeph, a very reluctant heroine with a dark power, has growing feelings for Tallon which complicates matters. Exciting and original and full of adventure and tension!

Spotlight on Justina Ireland:

Please share with us how you came up with this amazing story. What was the writing process like for you?

Zephyr had actually been kicking around in my mind for a little while.  I’d tried her in a couple of different stories, but things never really clicked.  Mostly that’s because I don’t outline.  I’m a pretty disorganized writer.  I start with the opening and the ending, but all that story in the middle I have to discover during the writing process.  So that was a lot of different things throughout the drafts, but it eventually clicked.  And then when my editor came back with notes it clicked even more.

Zephyr is a “failed” Harpy who is afraid of things any proper Harpy should not be. She struggles with this as she mourns the loss of her family. When she learns she is they prophesied Nyx and is destined to battle Hera, she is not quite thrilled. Zeph is a layered character who felt very real to me. How do you get to know and develop your characters, in particular, Zeph?

Zeph was hard for me, because I desperately wanted her to be a badass.  And she isn’t.  At heart, she’s a coward and lazy, and I like to think that if I were the Nyx I’d embrace it wholeheartedly and start kicking ass on day one.

But that isn’t Zephyr, so I really had to put aside my personal feelings and think what would someone who has zero self-confidence do.  I ended up rewriting most of the book because each revision I’d think “No way would she do that, she’s not there yet.”  It was a definite process.

I’ve long been fascinated by Greek mythology. What brought about your interest in using Greek mythology and these characters? Did you have to do a lot of research?

I’ve loved Greek mythology since I was a kid.  I’m actually a big fan of all kinds of mythology, and I use several mythologies in Promise of Shadows (Greek just tends to be the most prevalent).

I do a ton of research before writing anything.  For my Greek mythology my go to resource is the Rutledge Greek mythology book, which is about a thousand pages long.  But I usually take whatever the established story is and change it to suit my whims.  Harpies are a great example.  In the established mythology they’re these monstrous birdlike creatures.  In my story, they’re mercenaries.  But I use enough of the established details so the people can feel the details are familiar and fresh at the same time.

Who is your favorite Greek god/goddess and why?

I’m a big fan of Ares, although I also dig Hades.  My favorite Greek gods/goddesses tend to be the ones that don’t have such a great reputation, because I like to imagine that maybe they aren’t really as bad as people say.  I love a tragic backstory.

Justina Ireland lives in a house made of books. At least that’s the excuse she gives when people trip over one. When she isn’t accidentally killing house guests with her TBR pile she writes books. She enjoys eating, sleeping, and watching Judge Judy on her DVR. You can usually find her on Twitter.

For more about Justina and her books, check out her web site, follow her on Tumblr, or follow her on Twitter.

For a chance to win a copy of Promise of Shadows, just follow these instructions:

1.  Comment below and for fun tell me your who your favorite Greek god/goddess is. Mine is Athena, mostly because I just recently visited Athens and learned a ton about her. I also like that she’s the goddess of wisdom and the arts.

2. You must have a US or Canada mailing address to win.

3. Enter by Friday, July 11th midnight EST. Winner will be chosen at random and announced here on Tuesday, July 15th.

Good luck and happy reading!


And The Winner Is…


Thanks to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Jim Averbeck and his debut MG novel


A Hitch At The Fairmont 

If you missed it, click here to read all about Jim and his adventure mystery novel set in San Francisco.

Using a random number generator, the winning number is 1! Counting from the first comment, this makes Carl Scott the lucky winner! Congratulations! Please email me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) and provide me with your mailing address. I’ll make sure your prize is in the mail to you ASAP!

Stayed tuned for more book buzz and give-aways! Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Welcome To The Spotlight Jim Averbeck and A Hitch At The Fairmont!


Happy book birthday to Jim Averbeck for his debut middle grade novel! Stayed tuned below to enter for a chance to win a copy of this awesome mystery-adventure book.


A Hitch At The Fairmont by Jim Averbeck with illustrations by Nick Bertozzi

Atheneum Books for Young Readers/2014

When 11-year-old Jack Fair’s mother dies mysteriously, he is forced to live with his mean aunt at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Jack reluctantly does his aunt’s bidding, fearful of being sent to an orphanage. When his aunt disappears, it’s up to Jack to try to find her before youth services discovers Jack’s predicament. He feels like he’s in over his head until he befriends none other than Alfred Hitchcock, the famous movie director in the room next door. They piece together clues while evading kidnappers and possible murderers, discovering a very tangled web of lies and deceit.

I’m a huge fan of Jim’s picture books. See my previous interview with him about his picture book Oh No, Little Dragon! It’s a real pleasure to talk to him about his first novel:

This book has it all – action, mystery, adventure, and danger! A page-turner, for sure. I know you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s work and that you live in San Francisco. What was the journey of this story – from inspiration to publication?

I’ve spoken of the inspiration elsewhere, so let’s focus on the journey. For me, this was a journey through time, an attempt to turn back the clock to a day when childhood was quite a different thing. I’m a boomer, as is the child protagonist in this story. I think my generation was less supervised than kids today. We were basically turned out of the house in the morning and didn’t come home until it was time to eat. And if it was summer, we went right back out again. It seemed to us that every day was filled with all those things you mention- action, mystery, adventure, and even danger. And if there wasn’t enough of any of those things around, we manufactured some ourselves!

While you have written/illustrated several pictures books (I adore them all), this is your first novel. What are the major differences for you/your writing process when it came to writing a novel instead of picture books?

I can hold the whole story of a picture book in my head. I cannot do the same with a novel, particularly a mystery. So this novel required a ton of charts, outlines, and maps to make sure I had the big picture in mind, whenever I was working on a smaller piece of it.

Jack, an artist, has a photographic memory for images. Do you? How are you like Jack?

I do not have a photographic image memory. Like most artists, I have a vision in my head of what I want to capture on paper. But, also like most artists, that vision is in reality incomplete. My brain tricks myself into thinking I see it all, but when I go to capture it on paper, the holes are revealed. It’s remarkable that Jack can see and capture images in the way he does.

Like Jack I strive to see behind the image, to delve deeper than the apparent surface meaning of what I observe. Indeed, that is a major theme in this book. Jack often uses words like “look” and “see” and Hitchcock expounds on how what we think we are looking at may, in fact, be quite deceptive. The whole mystery hinges on the fact that what you see is not always what you get.

What is your favorite Hitchcock movie and why?

There’s something to like about nearly every one. But the one I could watch over and over is REAR WINDOW. Like many writers, there is a bit of a voyeur in me, I guess. I’m not a Peeping Tom, but when you walk around a city at night, you can’t help but catch glimpses of  the lives of your fellow urbanites. You may remember in REAR WINDOW that there are half a dozen or more little stories unfolding in the windows across the courtyard from Jimmy Stewart’s apartment. I love that aspect of the film

Jim Averbeck is the author of the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, In a Blue Room (Harcourt, 2008) and the author and illustrator of except if(Atheneum, 2011) Oh No, Little Dragon (Atheneum, 2012) and The Market Bowl (Charlesbridge, 2012.)  He studied writing and illustrating for children at UC Berkeley. He was the Regional Advisor for the San Francisco chapter of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

For more about Jim Averbeck and his books, check out his web site.

For a chance to win a copy of this adventure-filled mystery, just follow these rules (you know the drill):

1. Comment below and for fun, tell me your favorite Hitchcock movie (or if you haven’t seen any, which you’d like to see). I have seen only two Hitchcock movies: The Birds and Psycho. I saw both as an adult and both freaked me out. I can’t really say either were favorites only because I don’t like movies that freak me out. ;) Though, I can appreciate the genius behind both. That being said, Jim makes me want to watch Rear Window.

2. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address (yes, I’m opening this one up to include Canada).

3. Comment by Friday, June 27th midnight EST. One winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, July 1st.

Good luck and happy reading!