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A Big Lie & a Book Decision

In my May update, I said I’d announce publication plans for my next book this month! Crazy, right? The choice was a tough one. It came down to two manuscripts: DARK SKY’S ASHES and CROOKED CASTLE for a pub date in…drumroll…August of this year.

The decision was impossible. Thinking about it, I tossed and turned. I barely ate, barely slept. One title would emerge as the clear favorite, then the other. But at last, I’ve realized what I have to do.

And now we’ve reached the moment you’ve been waiting for—the moment when I announce…

That I may have accidentally lied. Um. So, an indie press is showing interest in one of these two books. (A couple weeks ago, I declined an indie offer on the other.) Before I go on, I know what you’re thinking: AJ, you just broke up with an indie press, remember? And you told to us in a discrete and roundabout way, things went badly. So just publish your own books yourself already.

But as it turns out, the indie considering my book is just about the only small press I’d be open to working with. The upshot is, hashing things out with them makes it tricky for me to pull the trigger on my launch plans. That’s the bad news.

The good news is, this extra window gives me the chance to get your thoughts on these titles. I’d love to know which book you think I should publish next. I’m still planning to get one of these into the world in August…or slightly later, depending on whether we get any more crazy, tornado-like storms around here (pic below).

Without further ado, here are the two contenders:


Gist: Airdropped by a dragon, a girl with blurred memories wakes up on a deadly island that feels nothing like California. CROOKED CASTLE is 56,000-word contemporary fantasy about an orphan flung into a survival puzzle with a hulking mystery in the middle.

Age/content: This is the “darkest” book I’ve written to date, and with good reason—it deals with the seamy side of the Casey Grimes universe. There are scary situations and violence. There’s humor, too, but I’d give it a low-YA classification and recommend it for ages twelve and up. (No romance, no extra gore.)

Casey Grimes connection: Crooked Castle directly ties into the CG world in a way I obviously can’t divulge, but as far as reading order, you could call it CG 2.5.


Gist: When Conley's family leaves their safety-obsessed neighborhood to move to the historic Kansas City Dragon District, he hopes for adventures and new friends. What he gets is an ancient house with a secret that might roast him alive. DARK SKY'S ASHES is a 65,000-word contemporary fantasy about learning dragon warfare before summer break goes up in flames.

Age/content: This one is squarely middle grade, with lots of adventure, antics, and family heroics. Of course there are scary scenes too—I mean, I’m the one writing this book after all. Ages ten and up would be a safe label with precocious kids able to jump in early.

Casey Grimes connection: Dark Sky’s Ashes also ties in to the CG world, in a slightly more forward-looking way. You could say it’s CG 2.75.

Other comments: Yeah, both these books feature dragons for my own secret reasons. What are you gonna do about it? Both manuscripts are almost, just about, super close to ready. Either one slides in nicely after Casey Grimes #2, Trickery School.

So what do you think? Which one of these gets the nudge? Jump over to the FB page and comment. A simple vote is fine, but it would be great to hear your rationale if you have a minute. I’ll report back with the results next time.

In other news, I’ve started Casey Grimes #3—working title, THE JABBERWOCKY. I’m hoping to knock out my first draft in the next several months. Similar to Casey #2, I did more plotting with this one, so I have a good idea where the story is going. Fingers crossed—characters sometimes have plans of their own.

The Mostly Invisible Boy continues to stack up great reviews, most recently from For Books’ Sake, The Artsy Reader and Bookish Bliss.


“It kind of gives off treetop Percy Jackson vibes, and I am totally here for it.”
“The characters are all so witty and eloquent, and yet the dialogue feels so natural and flowing.”
“The way Vanderhorst puts this world in your mind is nothing short of brilliant… I want to visit this place to walk the trails and the paths through the treetops. ”

And now, blushing slightly, it’s my sad duty to inform you that our neighborhood was ravaged by a gale-force storm that destroyed trees left and right. One of our favorite oaks lost half its canopy and we were faced with the job of sawing up the 20’ tall carcass of our timber-hearted giant.


On the bright side, we’re keeping its skeleton in the yard as a play structure for a while.

That’s it for now, friends. To beat the heat, I recommend spending some time in the woods. The deeper and darker the better, as long as you bring your scythe-staff.

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