Christmas Shopping Time!

Still doing some Christmas shopping? Yeah, me too! In fact, I have lots left to do!

If you’re looking for a gift idea, why not give someone an autographed book?

If you live in the Chicago area, you can come see me and three of my author friends (Susan Miura, Randall Allen Dunn, and Pamela S. Meyers) at the Fremd High School Holiday Craft Fair this Saturday from 9 am – 4 pm. We’ll be on the second floor at Booth 1077. We have book ideas for just about everyone–from middle grade readers to adults and from mysteries and fantasies to romance and action-adventure!
This is a HUGE craft fair, so even if you’re found your fill of books, you can probably find lots of other goodies.


If you aren’t local but would still like to give someone an autographed copy of either of my books this Christmas, just drop me a line and I’ll mail you an autographed bookplate to insert into the book, plus a bookmark.

bookplatesHappy Christmas shopping!


Posted in Angelhood, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mysteries, Reading, Seven Riddles to Nowhere, young adult | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Book Trailer to Mark Five-Year Anniversary!

Five years ago tonight, I finished the rough draft of Angelhood. I considered it a “practice novel,” something that would never be published (let alone win three awards). It was simply writing practice as a NaNo project for 2011.

To celebrate the “Book That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen,” I’m releasing a new book trailer. Who knows where the next five years will take my writing journey?


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Come to our Christmas Book Party!

On Wednesday night, nine young adult authors from the Catholic Writers Guild will be teaming up to give one whopper of an early Christmas party on Facebook!

(We know, we know, it’s too early for Christmas, but we thought we’d do it now so that people who are already doing their Christmas shopping could check out these books for gift ideas and maybe even win some books to give as gifts!)


We’ll have more than just books to give away, too! Many unique, special prizes will be offered, so come check it out. Click here to join the Facebook group, and then find the party under the “Events” tab. Be sure to click that you are “going” so that you get all the updates!

Join 9 Catholic authors as they give away books and prizes in time for you to receive (or give a loved one!) for Christmas!

Click here to join the fun!


Posted in Angelhood, Fantasy, Giveaway, Mysteries, Reading, Seven Riddles to Nowhere, young adult | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Monday Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

In case you missed it, this summer a new Harry Potter book was released.

The first thing that needs to be said about the latest Harry Potter book is that it’s not really a book. It’s a play.

The second thing that needs to be said is that it’s not really written by J.K. Rowling. The play is written by Jack Thorne, and it’s based on a story idea by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne himself.

harry-potter-and-the-cursed-childTitle: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: Jack Thorne

Genre: fantasy

Synopsis: It’s nineteen years since Harry Potter and his friends defeated Lord Voldemort. (Uhh, should I have mentioned a spoiler alert? You did read the original seven stories, right?) Harry has married Ginny and had three children. It’s time for his second son, Albus, to head off to Hogwarts, but Albus isn’t thrilled about being the son of the famous Harry Potter. When an unexpected time turner is discovered, Albus and his new friend at Hogwarts decide to travel back in time to right some wrongs.

It’s hard to talk too much about the plot of this play without giving away too much. I’ll only warn you that the story skips forward in time pretty quickly in the beginning. Albus is just a first year at the beginning, and then suddenly he’s in his fourth year.

While it was a lot of fun to be back with the characters and settings of Harry Potter, I found a few things about the play to be distracting. First, because it’s written as a script, we didn’t get the descriptions of the characters we usually get. This might not have been a problem with characters we already knew from the first seven books, but when a new character (such as Delphi) is introduced, we get something very brief, such as “a twenty-something, determined-looking woman.” That doesn’t really tell us much, and at times, she came across as more of a kid than an adult.

Another thing that tripped me up was when characters would suddenly “appear” on the scene, but they would never actually enter the stage. At one point, a character begins speaking, and I thought, “When did he walk onto the stage? Where is he standing on the stage? Or are we just hearing his voice? Is this a voiceover?”

All that being said, the climactic scenes have some nice tension, and the characters remain true to how we’d expect them to act.

Final verdict? If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, you’ll probably want this just to add to your collection and to find out what might have happened to Potter and friends, but realize that it’s not going to read like the original series.


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Top 8 Tips for Writing for Teens & Tweens

Last Sunday, I had to pleasure of joining a panel of authors from the Mystery Writers of America in a free workshop on writing for young readers. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve learned over the years with regard for writing for young readers, particularly middle grade and young adult.

Learn these top 8 tips for writing for young readersTIP #1: Read many books for the age group you want to write for.

If you want to write for teens, read a lot of young adult books. If you want to write for tweens, read a lot of upper middle grade books. There’s definitely a difference between the two, and you won’t know it unless you read a lot of both. Young adult novels have a much more introspective tone and often deal with much more complex questions about life, family, and friends–and most importantly, one’s place in the world. Upper middle grade novels tend to be more about friendships and fitting it, but they can still touch on tough topics. However, if they deal with tougher topics, they tend to do so in more of an off-the-page, slightly removed way, whereas YA books aren’t afraid to bring the difficult issue to the forefront. A YA book can spend longer periods being reflective as the teen protagonist tries to sort out her beliefs. A middle grade book will spend less time being reflective and more time keeping the plot rolling.

Kid readers are smart readers.

Kid readers are smart readers.

TIP #2: Don’t dumb down your stories or characters.

Young readers still demand that their stories are full of realistic and likeable characters that are fully rounded. Flat, one-dimensional characters are dull. Young readers know when they are being talked down to or preached to. Even if you find your sentence structure and vocabulary slightly less robust in a middle grade novel, it doesn’t mean that your story should be simple or your vocabulary stale. There’s a difference between limiting challenging vocabulary (or complex sentence structure) and completely eliminating them.

Remember that your books will be competing with this.

Remember that your books will be competing with this.

TIP #3: Keep the action moving.

This is especially true for middle grade books, but it can hold true for young adult novels, especially ones aimed at younger teens. In this fast-paced, technology-driven world, your writing needs to compete with 60-second Instagram videos and 10-second Snapchat clips. Study the pacing of other popular YA novels and see if it matches yours. Popular movies can also give you a hint at what good plot pacing looks like. See Save the Cat by Blake Snyder for tips on plotting out your story arc so that the reader stays engaged.

You don't have to do this writing thing alone.

You don’t have to do this writing thing alone.

TIP #4: Join a professional writing organization.

There’s so much to learn about the craft of writing as well as the business of marketing books that you could spend years researching this all online. Save yourself some time and join a writing organization like the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators or the Mystery Writers of America so that you can learn from others’ experiences. Attend conferences and workshops. Not only are these informative and fun, but you’ll make great connections with other writers and you’ll find yourself recharged for writing again.

Everyone needs a good laugh now and then.

Everyone needs a good laugh now and then.

TIP #5: Add humor to your story.

Young readers love humor. Even if you’re writing a serious story, see if you can’t inject a little humor now and then (even if it’s sarcastic) in order to vary the tone and tempo of your story. Being in middle school and high school is no walk in the park. Teens and tweens enjoy the chance to laugh even in the midst of their struggles. Create a character that they can laugh with, and they’ll be eating out of your hands.

Keep your writing timeless, not uber trendy.

Keep your writing timeless, not uber trendy.

TIP #6: Don’t overdo the slang.

I’ve seen a couple unpublished authors do this. They think they have to use “teen speak” in their books in order for their characters to seem realistic. The problem is two-fold: first, unless you really know how teens speak, you’ll probably misuse any slang you think they use. Second, whatever terms are popular today are likely to be unpopular by the time your book is published. While you don’t want your teen characters to sound too adult, you also don’t want them so firmly rooted in a generations’s slang that the book quickly becomes dated.

Don't bore your reader until she's tempted to throw her books up into the air.

Don’t bore your reader until she’s tempted to throw her books up into the air.

TIP #7: Avoid overly lengthy descriptions.

This one is especially true for the middle graders. Older teens can better wade through description if it’s told in an interesting enough voice, but my middle schoolers often lament books where the narrator just “describes stuff too much.” They want the action to keep moving. Give them enough description that they can picture the character and the setting, but don’t create long paragraphs of description. Work the description into the action. Instead of telling them every single detail about your character’s appearance at once, sprinkle the description throughout the story. Have her catch her reflection in a shop window and remark how typically flat her blonde hair looks today. Or have her slip on her shoes as she laments the fact that her feet are so freakishly small she has to shop in the kids’ department.

Are you writing for a teen or a tween?

Are you writing for a teen or a tween?

TIP #8: Know your age group.

As stated before, some people really struggle with the difference between YA and middle grade. If you don’t have children in those age groups, read up on books written for them. Learn what word lengths are common for each age group and each genre. A YA romance will probably not be as long as a YA fantasy or a YA sci-fi. Middle grade humor books will be probably shorter then middle grade historicals. Again, the best way to learn all this is by reading widely in the age group and genre you want to write for.

Most of all, have fun! Teen and tween readers are the best fans! They are devoted to writers they like, and they eagerly anticipate the next book.

Got a tip I didn’t mention? Leave it in the comments below!

Want info on my book giveaways? Join my Insiders Club!





Posted in Angelhood, Behind the Scenes, Middle Grade, Reading, Seven Riddles to Nowhere, Teaching, Writing, young adult | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Monday Book Review: An Unexpected Role by Leslea Wahl

Today I am so excited to talk with you about the next book from Leslea Wahl. Leslea and I met online through the Catholic Writers Guild, and then this past summer we got to meet in person when we met up in Rome for dinner!


I knew from reading Leslea’s first book The Perfect Blindside that we would be kindred spirits. Her main character in that book employs the same sort of “Jesus, please help me not to make a fool of myself today” kind of prayers that I’ve been wont to make. 🙂

Anyway, today I get to tell you about her next book, which releases tomorrow!

Monday Book Review: An Unexpected Role by Leslea Wahl. Check out this YA book with romance, mystery, and adventure!Title: An Unexpected Role

Author: Leslea Wahl

Genre: contemporary romance with a little mystery

Age group: young adult

Synopsis: High school student and theater geek Josie just wanted to enjoy the perfect summer before becoming an upperclassman. She dreamed of afternoons at the pool and weekends at the lake. But just as the school year is ending, her mother’s latest young adult novel releases, and everyone at school seems to have read it and believes that the terribly embarrassing moments that happen to the main character are based on things that actually happened to Josie. She becomes the target of ridicule at school and is teased mercilessly.

To get away from it all, Josie leaves her Minnesota hometown to spend the summer with her artsy Aunt Lily who lives in a small beach town in South Carolina. Unfortunately, one of the “tier one” baseball superstar athletes from Josie’s school is playing for a baseball team in South Carolina for the summer, and he’s staying in the same beach town. Josie knows he’ll remind her of all the ridicule back at home and make her summer miserable. Not to mention, she’s got her eye on a hot young Latino boy who’s working at the beach town so he can send money back home to his family in the Dominican Repulbic, and baseball star Ryan seems to keep getting in the way.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s been a string of robberies in the small town that no one is able to explain. Josie wants to stop the crime spree and have a little summer romance, but first she’ll have to discover who she really is.

How could I not enjoy this book with all its baseball and musical theater references? Anyone who’s read Angelhood would have no problem imagining Leslea’s main character Josie and my main character Nanette getting along really well!

What I really liked about this book was Leslea’s ability to bring up topics like caring for immigrants and refugees, respect for veterans, and a teen’s struggle to find herself amidst the bullying climate of high school–all without coming across as preachy or didactic. She easily weaves these topics into a tale that teens can enjoy from Josie’s attempts to find romance to her efforts to discover what’s really going on in this small island beach town.

Told with humor and heart, An Unexpected Role is a tale for any teen who enjoys a book with a little romance, mystery, and adventure!

Want a chance to win books for teens and tweens? Sign up for my Insiders Club by clicking here. Once a month, I’ll mail you updates on giveaways from me and my author friends as well as the inside scoop on my writing and some fun recipes I like to share!


Posted in Book Reviews, Mysteries, Reading, young adult | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

FREE workshop on writing for children

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be part of a panel of authors presenting a FREE workshop on writing for young readers on Sunday, October 23.

FREE writing workshop! Come hear five mystery writers talk about writing for children

Registration and parking are all free. Just sign up here.

Here are the rest of the details:

Sunday, Oct. 23, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., Concordia University Chicago, Christopher Center Room 200, River Forest, IL
Expect some treats and tricks—writing tricks, that is—as five Chicago-area mystery authors discuss writing and publishing stories for young readers in an event co-hosted by the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and Concordia University Chicago’s Center for Literacy. The event is free and open to writers and readers of all ages. Free parking is available in Lot 1, at the corner of Augusta and Monroe.

“Tricks (and Treats) for Writing for Young Readers” will feature Kate Hannigan, author of The Detective’s Assistant, winner of the 2016 Golden Kite Award for best middle-grade novel from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; Keir Graff, executive editor of Booklist publications and author of two middle grade books, The Other Felix and, coming soon, The Matchstick Castle; Michelle Falkoff, author of the young adult titles Pushing Perfect and Playlist for the Dead; A.J. Cattapan, author of the middle grade adventure Seven Riddles to Nowhere; and Natasha Tarpley, author of the best-selling picture book, I Love My Hair! and the forthcoming middle grade mystery The Harlem Charade and the co-founder of Voonderbar!, a multicultural children’s book publisher.

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Book Trailer for Seven Riddles to Nowhere

I’ve finally put together a book trailer for Seven Riddles to Nowhere.

Feel free to let me know what you think and to share it with others you think might be interested!

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Middle Grade, Mysteries, Reading, Seven Riddles to Nowhere, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Signing Party September 10


Book Signing TeaLula 3

Come join us this Saturday at my favorite tea shop! I’ll be signing copies of all my books. You can purchase them there or bring copies you bought online!

If you’ve never been to downtown Park Ridge, IL, it’s a charming area, and this tea shop is my absolute favorite! It’s a “must visit” whenever my tea-loving sister-in-law is in town.

Take advantage of the lovely Farmer’s Market going on at the same time!

We’ll have copies of both Seven Riddles to Nowhere and Angelhood for purchase.










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Goodreads Giveaway of Seven Riddles to Nowhere!

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway!

I’m giving away two signed copies of Seven Riddles to Nowhere.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Seven Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan

Seven Riddles to Nowhere

by A.J. Cattapan

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Can’t wait until the giveaway?

Purchase Seven Riddles to Nowhere right now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It’s also available on Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo!

Here’s what people are already saying about

Seven Riddles to Nowhere!

“With a fast-paced story and compelling characters, A.J. Cattapan’s Seven Riddles to Nowhere inspires young readers not only to spend time reading, but also to believe in their own ability to make a difference in this world. Highly recommended for middle schoolers, and the grown ups who love them!”

-Lisa M. Hendey, author of the Chime Travelers series

“A.J. Cattapan has a knack for getting into the hearts and minds of middle-schoolers. Kids will be hooked from the first page (and parents tempted to read over their shoulders) as they follow an intrepid troop of friends on a quest to save their school. Seven Riddles to Nowhere has it all—action, cryptic clues, unique settings, and a hero every kid can root for.”

-Stephanie Landsem, author of The Living Waters series

“Seven Riddles to Nowhere is a blast, taking the reader on an exciting tour of Chicago streets and churches, while characters gain insight into mysteries and symbols of our faith as they struggle to solve riddles. The tension and suspense mount right up to the very end.”

-Theresa Linden, author of Roland West, Loner

“A fun and informative mystery for Catholic middle-schoolers or anyone who has eyed a Catholic church or cathedral and wondered about the meaning in its structural details and symbols.”

-Cynthia T. Toney, author of the Bird Face series

“Seven Riddles to Nowhere will keep teens turning pages, even while they gain an appreciation for Church history, its rich symbolism, and the universality of the faith. Parents, beware! Your kids will want to stay up late finishing this book – and you might, too!”

-Stephanie Engelman, author of A Single Bead





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