Great article on grown-ups and kids’ books

A few blog posts ago I wrote about how grown-ups (such as myself) can find a lot to enjoy in books that have been written for middle-grade and young adult readers. Here’s a terrific article on just that subject. Apparently more grown-ups are reading kids’ books than kids are. Who knew? Here’s what the article in The Atlantic Wire says:

“According to a new study from Bowker Market Research, adults make up the majority of people buying young adult fiction, and most of those grownups are buying the teen-targeted books for themselves.”

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Johnny Graphic Featured on Kindle for Kids

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb is now among the featured titles on Kindle for Kids, one of the web’s leading sites for young e-book readers. There are lots of other great books to learn about on Kindle for Kids, as well. Check it out right here.

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Win a Paperback of Johnny Graphic on Goodreads

From now until the 28th of September, Goodreads members can register to win a free paperback copy of Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb. I’m giving away 10 copies and will be mailing them out right after Goodreads selects the winners.

To enter the contest, just go to the Johnny Graphic page on Goodreads by clicking this link.

If you’re not a member of Goodreads, you should consider signing up. It’s a great place to talk about your favorite books and authors, and meet other readers with tastes similar to yours. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s free.




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Tintin and Johnny Graphic

Not too long ago a friend wondered if Johnny Graphic was inspired, in any way, by the great Belgian cartoon hero Tintin. After all, she said, Tintin was a teenaged newspaper journalist who flew all over the world having adventures with his trusty sidekicks (most especially Snowy the Dog and Captain Haddock). I agreed that these were points in common, but that Tintin hadn’t even occurred to me when I started writing about my twelve-and-a-half-year-old news photog hero. Of course, I’d love it if kids got to know Johnny a fraction as well as they know the famous Tintin. (Strange fact: Tintin is hugely popular around the world, even 82 years after his creation in 1930. But not so much in the U.S. I’m not sure if Steven Spielberg’s Tintin movie last year made much impact in America.)

No, I didn’t have any thought of Tintin when I was creating Johnny. I was vaguely aware of the young Belgian newsman with the blond cowlick, but had never read any of his adventures. Johnny Graphic is purely my invention; inspired modern fantasy writers like J.K. Rowling + the great 1920s newspaper comedy The Front Page + 1930s pulp adventure stories such as Doc Savage.

But I have started reading Tintin books and am enjoying them lots. The stories are great fun and the cartoon work of Herge is exquisite. If you’ve never read them–whether you’re a kid or an adult–you should.

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What’s So Great about Kids’ Books?

Okay, I’ll ‘fess up. I’m an adult. And I read books intended for adults–sometimes grim, serious books. But when I really want to have fun reading, I usually grab a book by someone who writes for kids. I’m a big fan of Garth Nix, Eoin Colfer, J. K. Rowlings, Rick Riordan, Karl Hiassen, Dave Barry, Diana Wynne Jones, and others. My all-time favorite book of all books is a kids’ book–Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

Here is why I love kids’ books…

The storytelling. The story–the plot–is super important in kids’ books. It’s all about the challenges the hero boy or girl is facing, and how he or she handles them. And you’re right there with that kid, all the way through, biting your nails. Reading a good kids’ book is like riding the roller coaster.

The momentum. These books rarely bog down. You don’t have to push through them. They pull you along. It’s hard to put them down.

The characters. The young heroes are usually (not always) straightforward and easy to like. You’re on their side right away and you care about them. You identify with them. I mean, everyone is a kid or was a kid. The villains tend to be entertainingly nasty and easy to hate. The supporting characters are often good-natured and eccentric and stalwart.

The humor. Not every kids’ book is funny, but a lot of them are. Whenever I read a kids’ book by Hiassen or Barry, I always end up laughing away. Much to the dismay of my wife, who is usually sitting nearby reading some serious, grown-up book.

The adventure. The stories can take place anywhere, anytime. Incredible events occur. Danger is ever-present, but the young heroes always manage to come through okay. Though, of course, the occasional sidekick doesn’t make it.

And those are just a few of the reasons I read books written for readers who are nine, twelve, fifteen years old. What do you like best about the kids’ books you read?

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Johnny and the Pulps

In the 1930s–even in an alternative universe such as the one Johnny Graphic lives in–there wasn’t as much for a kid to read as there is today. Every library, of course, stocked its shelves with classic literature that appealed to young people–authors such as Jules Verne, Louisa May Alcott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. There were boys’ and girls’ adventure novels and mysteries, as well. Think Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Comic books had just gotten started. And there were pulp magazines–chapter stories with dauntless heroes and colorful action covers.

“Pulp” got its name from the cheap paper all those adventure and mystery magazines were printed on. They came out every month (sometimes more often) and cost a dime or fifteen cents. Keep in mind, back in the 1930s that would be big money for the average kid. A lot of pulp fiction was aimed at adult readers, but some of it was popular with young readers. A few of the major pulp heroes included Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, the Shadow, Doc Savage, and the Phantom.

Johnny, for example, loves pulps such as Captain Justice Adventures and Astounding Stories with Duke Donegan. He’s as fanatic about keeping up to date on the Captain’s campaigns as any modern kid is about his or her video games or TV shows. Johnny imagines himself a kindred spirit of Captain Justice, the fearless hero in the red cape and streamlined helmet. As Johnny is flying across the Greater Ocean with Mel and Nina and the others, he passes the time by reading these kinds of stories.

Johnny doesn’t have a pocket radio or smartphone or an iPod. These things don’t exist in 1935. But when he wants some ripping-good entertainment, he can always escape into his pulp magazine adventures.

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Paperback Now Available

As much as I enjoy reading books on my Nook, I spend more time reading old-fashioned paperbacks and hardcovers. Clearly, a lot of kids and grown-ups still read that way, with physical books currently outselling e-books by far. For me as an author, nothing can beat the experience of holding one of my books in my hands for the first time.

I received my first paperback of Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb a few weeks ago. It was a proof copy–that is, the first copy of the book that I proofread to make sure there were no problems. And man, it was fun to touch it and look at it and read it!

Now the Johnny Graphic paperback is officially available at Amazon and CreateSpace. You can order it by clicking on the appropriate line in the sidebar or on the “Buy the Book” link above. In coming weeks, the paperback will become available at other booksellers that offer print-on-demand books, such as Barnes & Noble.

I hope you check it out and let me know what you think of my ghost adventure.

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Johnny Goes Live

I’ve been working with that kid photographer Johnny Graphic for over six years, on and off. But now it’s finally time for him and his sister Melanie and friend Nina Bain and all the other characters–the living and ghosts–to go out into the world and meet readers like you.

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb is now live as an e-book at both the Amazon Kindle Store and Smashwords (for the Nook and other e-readers). If you’re interested in buying it or simply checking it out further, just click on the Amazon or Smashwords links that you see to the right of this blog post. More outlets will follow. And if you prefer to read a paper book, that will be coming within the next few weeks.

Up until now, I could keep working on this book–making improvements, fixing little errors. But now it has to stand on its own legs, while I start to work on the next book in the series. It really is kind of like sending your kid off to school for the first time. It’s a little scary, but it’s also exciting and wonderful.

I hope that you’ll take a look at Johnny Graphic and let me know what you think.

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Where in the world is Johnny Graphic?

Johnny Graphic sure knows how to travel.

In his first big adventure, the 12-year-old news photographer journeys halfway around the world in search of clues to a murderous ghost conspiracy. Johnny starts by heading west to La Concha (Los Angeles in our universe), but that trip is cut short by a mid-air ghost attack on his plane. So, after a narrow brush with death in the clouds, it’s back home to Zenith (real-world equivalent: Duluth, Minnesota). Then Johnny and his companions take flight again, making their way across the Greater (Pacific) Ocean, where they encounter tropical tremors of terrible treachery.

Just like Johnny himself, my book Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb has traveled a lot. The novel was mostly written in Minneapolis, but also during a long trip to Florida and during jaunts around the Midwest. The wonderful editor who helped me make it into the best story possible lives in Rhode Island, but also worked on it in Australia–where she used to live. The formatter (the person who turns manuscripts into e-books) lives and works in Malta, an island in the Mediterranean.

In a few short weeks, Johnny will be traveling to Amazon–where his adventures will be available as both a Kindle e-book and a print-on-demand (POD) paperback. Johnny will also show up in places like Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and the Apple store. Most independent bookstores will be able to order the POD book, for anyone who doesn’t use an e-reader (or prefers to read the traditional way).

And then the final leg of Johnny Graphic’s journey will happen, as the book finds its way into your hands. And into your imagination.

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Time for Johnny Graphic to Fly

I first thought of Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb over six years ago. It had been a few years since I had worked on any fiction and I thought it was about time to take another shot. Having read so many great fantasy books for younger readers–by Rowling and Riordan and Nix and Colfer and Gaiman and others–I decided to try to write one of my own. So I just started tapping out the words on my laptop. The very first paragraph described the eyeless ghost warrior Burilgi charging through a thunderstorm with his troop of wraiths. And that never changed.

But so much else in the book did. Johnny Graphic himself evolved from a shallow kid without much personality to an energetic young man of strong character who knows just what he wants and has the guts to grab for it. He wants very much to live in a grown-up world, but along the way learns how hard it can be.

His sister Melanie started with an almost equal role. I was sorry to cut her back, but it wasn’t her story that needed telling–it was Johnny’s.

When I first started writing the book, Johnny had no one whom he could confide in, who would be honest with him. That’s when I realized he needed a best friend and I created his “honorary cousin” Nina Bain, nicknamed “Sparks.”

For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what I wanted the villain to be like. Why, I wondered, did he do the things he did? The bad guy with his dastardly scheme, after all, is the force that drives a good story. If you don’t get your villain right, you won’t get your story right. After all, if there was no Voldemort, what would Harry Potter do?

Johnny Graphic has been through at least nine revisions, most of them in the last year and a half. It’s been a long, hard process, but I’ve loved every minute of it. And now it’s time for Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb to fly out into the world. Which may be Johnny’s greatest adventure of all.

D. R. Martin

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