Tuesday, December 30, 2014

43 The Secret to Compelling Fiction -- 6 Simple Questions Writers Ask While Plotting PLUS A MYSTERY BOX Giveaway

Have you ever noticed that the key to writing fiction, or writing anything really, is a simple three letter word?


In truth, though, the simplicity of this question is deceptive. Asking why is liable to lead you down the rabbit hole. The more you ask why, the more often you will need to ask it.


Getting a story sold often comes down to a great concept. To ensure that your concept is compelling and novel-worthy, you must know the whys to three important questions.

1. Why is the conflict in this story large enough and dramatic enough to instantly grab a reader's attention?
2. Why would the concept interest a large potential audience?
3. Why is this different from anything that's been done before or why does your twist make it unique?

At a basic level, every story has been done before. For example, there have been stories about children forced to fight for their lives. There have been stories about children competing in games. But before THE HUNGER GAMES, there was nothing that made forcing children to fight for their lives a game that entertained the masses.

Hold on, though. Was entertainment the real reason for THE HUNGER GAMES? Of course not.

With simple entertainment as the motive, there might have been a story about the some games featuring children fighting each other, but it would have been a much smaller story, and it certainly wouldn't have been the one that Suzanne Collins turned into a brilliant trilogy. 

Collins has famously said that she got the idea behind the book when she was flipping TV channels between a reality show and something that featured Roman gladiators. What came next came from asking WHY.
  • Why would children be fighting for the entertainment of others?
  • Why would this entertainment be more than entertainment?
  • Why would it be a punishment and why would it need to be repeated every year?
  • Why are there a specific number of children?
  • Why were the specific children in this particular story be important? (Why these kids, this year?)
  • Why would one specific child be able to not just win the games, but win in such a way that it changed the status quo


That last question is what that created the character of Katniss Everdeen and began one of the most successful books in decades. It took THE HUNGER GAMES from a general concept to a specific concept, and from a generic story to one based on a compelling character.

At the most basic level, a protagonist is the leading character of your story, but often it's helpful to think of your leading character as one of the additional definitions: a proponent, champion, or supporter of a cause.

To establish the specifics of your concept, you must create a compelling character.

To create a compelling character, you must know what cause your idea your protagonist is going to champion. But you must go beyond even that.

To build an active, engaging story concept, it's helpful to know the why for three more questions.

4. Why is the status quo in your story in need of change?
5. Why is your character a champion for change within your story?
6. Why do your character's actions threaten the status quo?

Obviously, why is only one of the famous questions of writing. The others are: who, what, where, when, and how.

For fiction, why is the key to all of them. Writing COMPULSION, for example, I had an idea of a location and some characters. I knew some of the local history of the Charleston, SC area that I wanted to weave into the book. I'd even had a dream that became the anchoring visual of the book, that of the Fire Carrier setting the river around my low country island on fire at midnight every night. What I didn't know was why that happened, why it had been going on for as long as anyone could remember, or why it was important that it continued to be able to happen. Once I figured all that out, I still needed to know why my protagonist would be the one person who could find out these reasons, why she would care enough to want to change the status quo, or why she would be the one person able to do so.

Barrie, my protagonist, is deeply flawed. Her flaws lead her to make mistakes, and those mistakes create a specific set of circumstances that she must fix. Ultimately, she becomes the agent of change that Watson Island has needed for over three hundred years.

The moment I understood how my protagonist's character traits and upbringing both drive her to change the status quo and make her able to do so, I had not only the idea for one book, but a concept for a story big enough to span several books.

I'm in the process of plotting out book three now, and it's eerie and exhilerating seeing how all those things come together, and how they all stem from asking why.

Are your favorite characters champions for some sort of a cause? What do you think makes a character compelling? 


Win a New Year's surprise pack of five total books and/or ARCs plus swag. I hope your 2014 was wonderful, and I hope your 2015 will be even better!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

2 New YALit Releases 12/29 - 1/4

We hope you had a wonderful holiday! What books did Santa bring you?

~The ladies of AYAP
Martina, Alyssa, Lisa, Susan, Shelly, Jocelyn, Becca, and Jan


* * * *

by Donna Jo Napoli
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Released 12/30/2014

A young girl must learn to survive and find her family against all odds in this heartbreaking companion to Hush from award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli.

Lost at sea when her sister is taken captive on a marauding slave ship, Brigid is far removed from the only life she knew as a princess and the pampered daughter of an Irish king.

Now Brigid has few choices. Alone and abandoned, she disguises herself as a boy and vows to find her innocent sister taken into slavery. Through her search many years pass and she grows from being a child to a woman, tough Brigid does not give up. She lives from the land, meets friend and foe along the way, and gains a reputation as a woman thought to be fierce enough to conquer men. It is not fierceness that guides her but the love of sister and the longing for her family to be united. One day she finds her way, knowing that her only real power comes from within herself.

Based on the legend of the first Norse woman pirate, award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli has told a remarkable survival story spanning years and continents and one that transports and transforms readers.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Hidden?

I really got into the relationships between the women in this book. All relationships always interest me -- that's what I tend to write about. But in this book women kept playing different sorts of roles in each other's lives, and that really sucked me in. I don't know what my characters will do until they do it. The main character meets a woman in the very early chapters of the book who seems like a horrible person to her. But then that woman winds up being almost a big sister to her. I didn't expect that and it made me grateful. Women who are servants have loyalty and love toward one another that were impossible to see in their roles as servants -- it is only once they run off that we can appreciate the depth of their feelings and their understandings of each other. This gave me hope

Purchase Hidden at Amazon
Purchase Hidden at IndieBound
View Hidden on Goodreads


* * * *

After Us
by Amber Hart
Released 12/30/2014

Sometimes secrets kill. Maybe slowly, maybe painfully. Maybe all at once.

Melissa smiles. She flirts. She jokes. But she never shows her scars. Eight months after tragedy ripped her from her closest friend, Melissa is broken. Plagued by grief, rage, and the painful memory of a single forbidden kiss.

Javier has scars of his own. Life in the States was supposed to be a new beginning, but a boy obsessed by vengeance has no time for the American dream. To honor his familia, Javier joins the gang who set up his cousin, Diego. The entrance price is blood. Death is the only escape.

Two broken souls could make each other whole again—or be shattered forever.

Our time will come. And we'll be ready.

Purchase After Us at Amazon
Purchase After Us at IndieBound
View After Us on Goodreads

* * * *

Lights, Love & Lip Gloss
by Ni-Ni Simone
Released 12/30/2014

Pretty little lies gone viral have left Hollywood High’s elite Pampered Princesses reeling. Now their secrets are in 24/7 overdrive—and only one diva can be victorious…
Finally, London Phillips is defying her domineering mother and taking control of her life. But she’s striking back with a weapon that could destroy her future—and her last chance at real love…

Two too many cuties have left Rich Montgomery desperate for the perfect cover-up—but when her house of lies comes tumbling down, things get pretty twisted and her fate is left in the hands of her most vengeful frenemy…

Heather Cummings is more successful than ever thanks to an amazing comeback—and the ultimate Hollywood betrayal. But old habits die hard and threaten to turn her glittering success to sparkling ash…

There’s no one better than Spencer Ellington when it comes to revenge. But stopping her inheritance-stealing mother and saving her crown turns into an all-access media battle. Now Hollywood High’s in-crowd is poised for oh-so-sweet payback.

Purchase Lights, Love & Lip Gloss at Amazon
Purchase Lights, Love & Lip Gloss at IndieBound
View Lights, Love & Lip Gloss on Goodreads

* * * *

Love and Other Theories
by Alexis Bass
Released 12/30/2014

Love and Other Theories is a fast-paced twist on the coming-of-age novel . . . and the romantic comedy.

Aubrey and her best friends made a pact to play by the guys' rules when it comes to dating. They're hoping the rules will keep them from experiencing high school heartbreak--they don't realize that these rules could just as easily keep them from opening their hearts and minds. And when new boy Nathan Diggs moves to town, Aubrey starts to think that some rules are meant to be broken.

With equal parts bite and romance, topped off with an irresistibly engaging voice, Alexis Bass's debut novel is one you won't want to miss.

Purchase Love and Other Theories at Amazon
Purchase Love and Other Theories at IndieBound
View Love and Other Theories on Goodreads

Saturday, December 27, 2014

0 Free First Five Pages Workshop Featuring Agent Tracey Adams Opens January 3rd!

I was sad to see the First Five Pages December Workshop come to an end.  What a talented group! Everyone worked hard on their revisions, gave thoughtful comments, and connected on the workshop’s Facebook page. A huge thanks to our guest mentor, Peter Salomon (if you haven’t read his fabulous book, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS you should!) and also to super agent Ginger Clark. Both provided great feedback.

Our January workshop will open for entries at noon EST on Saturday, January 3, 2015. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have our own Lisa Gail Green, whose new novel, SOUL CROSSED, will be published on February 25, 2015 (how gorgeous is that cover?!!) and agent Tracey Adams of Adams Literary!

So get those pages ready – First Five Pages January Workshop opens in one week. 

by Lisa Gail Green

One Demon.

One Angel.

One Soul.

Josh lived a reckless, selfish life, so upon his death, escaping the eternal torments of Hell by assuming the role of a powerful, soul-corrupting demon is an easy choice. His first soul assignment doesn’t seem too hard: the mortal Camden is already obsessed with weapons, pain, and torture. If only Josh wasn’t distracted by Cam's beautiful friend, Grace.

Grace never expected to die violently at age sixteen, but now she’s an Angel, responsible for saving a soul. She can already see past Camden’s earthly flaws, so the job should be be easy. If only that handsome, playboy Josh would stop getting in the way.

It’s forbidden for an Angel to be with a Demon, so if Josh and Grace stop resisting each other, the results would be disastrous.

And only one can claim Cam’s soul.

Friday, December 26, 2014

2 Top 10 Books We're Looking Forward to in 2015

Happy Boxing Day! Or as I (Martina) prefer to call it, Happy Reading Day! Today is the day that everyone in my family traditionally curls up in the family room together to read or play games. We sometimes get to a movie as well, but more often, it's all about the printed page and the old-fashioned board games that actually get us talking. It's a day where I traditionally take the gift cards that I received and apply them to pre-ordering books for the coming year, because that way the gift cards bring happy surprises all year around.

What do you normally do today? Any great traditions?

In case you're looking for something to spend your gift cards on, Adventures in YA Publishing is proud to present our own list of Top Ten of 2014! This awesome event is originally hosted on Two Chicks on Books!


2015 is going to be a great year for YA novels and I can say that this is probably the hardest category for me to pick. Too many great books! I think I'm going to have to go with SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli. This one sounds like a great LGBT and I have been obsessed with reading it since the deal was first announced!


There are already so many books I can't wait to read in 2015! I am really looking forward to reading BLUE VOYAGE by Diana Renn. An international mystery set in Turkey, involving an ancient cursed treasure, a flawed main character, and a political scandal - what's not to like?


Ooh, I love Erin's pick. Can't wait to read something set in Turkey, my husband's home country. But for myself, I'm going to pick Lisa Gail Green's SOUL CROSSED. I love her concept of a romantic conflict between and angel and a demon battling it out over control of a soul, and the cover - WOW! So glad I won't have to wait long to read it.


I’m really looking forward to reading SOULPRINT by Megan Miranda because of its intriguing premise, in which science can perform soul-fingerprinting. This means a soul can be traced from reincarnation to reincarnation, and in the case of the heroine, she’s held prisoner because of the crimes committed in her past life. Such a cool jumping off point for a story that’s sure to be thrilling!


Obviously, I have to say PERSUASION, the sequel to COMPULSION, because I'm going to be focusing on that until it comes out in October, and because it gets seriously magical with the addition of a couple new characters, the hunt for Cassie's treasure, the quest to discover what the Fire Carrier wants, and the continuation of Eight and Barrie's romance. Beyond that I truly can't wait for the world to get its collective grubby mitts on SOUL CROSSED. There have been angel/demon books before, but the fast-pace, subtle humor, and delicious romance in this book will have everyone turning pages as quickly as they can. I can't wait for BLOOD AND SALT by Kim Liggett, and for, of course, the final installment in the Raven Cycle books by Maggie Stiefvater. There are so, so many incredible books coming out in 2015, I'm already so over-budget in pre-orders that it's ridiculous!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

1 Best Book Boyfriends of 2014

The timing for this question is fabulous, because I (Martina) literally just finished picking winners for  my 'Tell Santa What You Want in a Book Boyfriend' contest. With this fresh in my mind, Adventures in YA Publishing is proud to present our own list of Top Ten of 2014! This awesome event is originally hosted on Two Chicks on Books!

Happy Christmas, y'all! And may Santa bring you the book boyfriend of your dreams this morning!


Oh gosh, how can I even choose this one?! I think I'm going to have to go with Josh from ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins. This novel was not only a fantastic series ender, but a great romance. I loved how different this one was compared to the other books in the series, and I really loved Josh. I mean, I'm still partial to St. Clair but Josh is a close second! (Sorry Cricket!)


Another tough category! I really loved the budding romance and the dynamic between Ileni and Sorin, in DEATH SWORN by Leah Cypess.  As these two seemingly very different characters get to know each other, they discover that they have more in common than either thought. It is a complicated relationship, and yet very romantic at the same time. I can't wait to read DEATH MARKED!


Best book boyfriend for me has to be Eight from our own Martina's COMPULSION. I mean, what's not to love about a guy who knows what you want without your even asking? Now, that's a fantasy! Seriously, Eight always had Barrie's best interest at heart and was there for her when she needed him. But what I think I liked best about him was his close ties with his family, ties that meant a lot to him even without the binding magic. ;-)


For best boyfriend, I’m picking Liam from KILLING RUBY ROSE by Jessie Humphries. A lot of bad stuff happens in the book, and Liam suffers serious consequences because of that bad stuff, but he remains steadfastly loyal to Ruby. Plus he gives scorching kisses!


Because my holiday book boyfriend contest was entered by all sorts of readers, not necessarily those who had read COMPULSION, I was delighted to see how many people who entered mentioned the qualities that I love in Eight Beaufort. Kindness, compassion, intelligence, consideration, a touch of badass . . . Not to get on my favorite soapbox here, but I want girls and women all across the world to be treated well, with respect, equality, and kindness. As human beings, we deserve that, but too often that's not what happens. I love Eight with all my heart, which is a good thing since I have Persuasion coming out this year and book three still to write for 2016, but there are obviously a ton of amazing books out there with incredible book boyfriends. I'll take one of everything from any book Jennifer L. Armentrout writes, for example, and I'm still shipping Gansey from the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. In hindsight, he's a little like Eight, but Compulsion is more of a romance so my love for Gansey in BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE is less about what's happening between him and Blue and more about what I hope will happen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

1 Best Adult Books Of 2014 For YA Book Lovers

Happy Christmas Eve!

Do you celebrate tonight, or tomorrow? I (Martina) grew up celebrating Christmas Eve, and that remains the Christmas of my heart. My husband grew up celebrating Christmas Day, so we adopted both holidays, and we open some presents tonight and the rest in the morning. We always get to pick what we open, and one of my favorite personal traditions is to pick a book that I can start reading that night.

Do you have a holiday book tradition? If not, consider starting one. : ) And to help you pass on some books to family members who might not generally read YA, here are some of our recommendations for adult books we've read this year. This awesome event is originally hosted on Two Chicks on Books!


Since we talk about YA books here, it's great to mix it up by discussing my favourite adult novel this year! I'm going to go with WRITTEN IN RED by Anne Bishop. Although it came out in 2013, I only read it this year so I'm going to count it! I really love this book, and the series as a whole. As I pitch this book to all my friends: it's basically all character and world-building. There is of course plot, but I love how well-written and well-rounded each character is, and the world around them.


Thinking about the books I've read this year, it seems like the only adult novel was THE UNDEAD POOL by Kim Harrison, so it becomes my best by default. But I’m okay with that because it was a nice return to form for the series. It is the 12th book in the Hollows series, which I’ve enjoyed reading for years, but the last few have been very disappointing. So I was relieved and happy this one was more like the early books, since it was exciting, sexy, emotional, and had plenty of humor. An all-around fun read!


Like everyone else here, I have a hard time keeping up with the YA that's published, much less the adult work. I'm sure I've missed a lot of memorable books this year--more than normal because the year has been busy. But I do have an adult novel I found to be enchanting and evocative and gorgeously written. THE CAT'S PAJAMAS by Marie-Helene Bertino all takes place December 24th with a cast of characters centered around a Philadelphia jazz club and a nine-year-old girl who wants to be a jazz singer. Can't recommend this one highly enough. Other great choices include BELZHAR by Meg Wolitzer and STONE MATTRESS: NINE TALES by Margaret Atwood.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

37 Book Boyfriends, Alpha Males, and Danger in the "Safe" Zone plus an HEIR OF FIRE Giveaway

I love alpha males. In theory.

In practice, I want them to be alpha to everyone but me.

At the same time, I love a good old-fashioned gentleman who opens doors and picks up checks and pulls out my chair. In short, a guy who wants to take care of me even though he knows I'm perfectly capable of taking care not just of myself but everyone else in the room as well.

When an author gets the blend of strength, kindness, attractiveness, and loyalty right, that's my personal sweet spot in book boyfriends. Add to that intelligence, humor, and a little bit of brokenness, and I'm in book heaven. I love that so much that, of course, I gave Eight Beaufort those same characteristics in COMPULSION. I also made him charming, protective, and a little bit pushy about doing what he thinks is right, which is okay because Barrie pushes right back.

To me, while many of Eight's characteristics might be included in the term "alpha male," I think we all define alpha males according to our own values. Truly, it's kind of an ambiguous term, and I've been thinking a lot about what it actually means and whether we really want an actual alpha male in real life? Are they as attractive when we meet them in person, or do we like them on the confines of the page because that's a relatively safe zone in which to live out the fantasy?

I also wonder whether we're doing men a disservice by suggesting that we love "alpha males" without putting clear definitions on what that means. I suspect fewer of us want a guy who is violent, domineering, demanding, self-centered, or over-confident. Speaking for myself, I prefer someone who is confident, successful, physically fit, a good leader, and both able to take care of himself and his family and loved-ones and responsible enough to want to do so.

When I look around the world and see the way that so many women are mistreated, it makes me want to cry. Mostly, it makes me want to sit down with my son and have a long talk about what strong really means and about the boundaries of respect that he needs to set for himself.

I recently took a very unscientific poll on this subject by running a 'Tell Santa What You Want in a Book Boyfriend" contest for the holidays. At the time, it was nothing more than a way to have some fun with readers and get to send out one last book for the year. But I'd like to go ahead and share some aggregate results. I've combined things so it's easier to see,

attractiveness (in various subjective forms)
sweet, generous, compassionate etc. 
funny, sense of humor, witty, mischievous, etc.
intelligent, smart, loves books, educated, etc.
tough, dominant, possessive, bad ass, foul mouthed, rugged, brutish, bad boy, etc.
trustworthy, real, reliable, trusting, dependable, honest
gentleman, respectful, good listener, supportive, understanding, thoughtful, old-fashioned, etc
loyal, family oriented, best-friend
loving, romantic, likes to cuddle
loves dogs, horses, animals, cats, coffee, pizza, movies, music, coffee, and various other specific preferences
alpha male, protective
snarky, smart ass, sarcastic, smirky, etc.
charming, smooth talker, outgoing, etc.
bold, fearless, adventurous, brave
adorkable, dorky, nerdy, different, quirky
exciting, passionate, spontaneous
sane, not a criminal, employed, good hygeine, has all teeth, smells good -- aka, the very basics : )
strong minded, strong, determined, confident
intense, haunted eyes, broken, moody, angsty
happy, easy going, balanced

What Do You Think?

Do any of the above qualities resonate with you? What do you want in a book boyfriend, and who are your favorite examples? Leave a comment and complete the Rafflecopter to win a copy of HEIR OF FIRE by Sarah J. Maas.

This Week's Giveaway

Heir of Fire
by Sarah J Maas
Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

Purchase Heir of Fire at Amazon
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View Heir of Fire on Goodreads

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1 Best Book Covers of 2014

Adventures in YA Publishing is proud to present our own list of Top Ten of 2014! This awesome event is originally hosted on Two Chicks on Books!


2014 was a great year for book covers, but I think I'm going to with THE WINNER'S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski for this one. I can't resist a pretty dress on a cover, especially when the girl on it is sporting a dagger! I love it!


I agree with Shelly - there were so many gorgeous covers that it's hard to choose! But if I have to, I'll pick FORBIDDEN, by Kimberley Griffiths Little. It is mysterious, lush and striking, perfectly suited to this wonderful book!


Not sure if I'm breaking any rules here or not, but the best book cover I've seen this year is actually a set of covers, and they're fan generated rather than the real covers on the publisher-issued books. I'm talking, of course, about the Kincso Nagy covers for the Harry Potter series. Not only are these cut-out covers beautiful in their symbolic simplicity, but they glow in the dark! How cool is that? She also added interactive illustrations within Philosopher's Stone. If you want to see more, check out and article here and here.


So many stunning covers this year, including COMPULSION by our fearless leader Martina Boone, but if I can only pick one, it’s CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge. First, the giant, red rose captures your attention, and then the spiral staircase woven within the petals guides you to the core, so the cover subliminally draws you deep into the book before you even open it. Gorgeous and genius design!


I love the cover for COMPULSION that the miraculous Regina Flath created and the cover for PERSUASION, which no one has seen yet. I also loved the covers for FORBIDDEN, and AFTERWORLDS by Scott Westerfeld. But one of the most gorgeous covers I've ever seen was on A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

8 Best Books We've Read in 2014

It's that time of year where everyone recaps everything. But seriously, one of the best things about being in the YA community is that we get to share what we love with others.  That said, Adventures in YA Publishing is proud to present our own list of Top Ten of 2014! This awesome event is originally hosted on Two Chicks on Books!


As I've been saying all over twitter and other websites, my favourite of 2014 hands down is I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, I even included it in the Thanksgiving post! I am honestly in love with this book, and everything about it and I will definitely be re-reading it in the new year. If you haven't read it yet, please go do so! The writing is lyrical, the plot is superb, and the sibling relationship is beyond magical.


My favorite book of 2014 is COMPULSION, by our own Martina Boone. The writing is lyrical and descriptive and the characters are so well drawn – each flawed in their own way – that I felt like I knew them -- that I was sitting in Pru’s kitchen in Watson Landon with Barrie and Eight. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a heady romance, a page turning mystery, a fresh and intriguing fantasy world, and a protagonist that I cheered for from the very first page. I highly recommend it!


Because I’m always ridiculously behind on my towering TBR pile, the best book I read in 2014 wasn’t actually published in 2014. I finally read ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell, and it was definitely one of those ‘I forgot to eat and sleep’ books. I loved everything about it - the characters, their relationship, the 80s nostalgia that took me back to my childhood. And then that ending. It made me ugly cry, but in the best possible way, and any book that can do that instantly becomes a favorite.


Okay, my favorite book of 2014 is obviously COMPULSION, because it's mine and that's like having a child. But the best book has to be a tie between BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE and DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS. Not only does the writing of both Maggie Stiefvater and Laini Taylor get more exquisite with every book, but the concepts in both these books are so beautifully mind-boggling that they blew me away.

That's a taste of what we loved reading this year. What about you? 

0 New YALit Releases 12/22-12/28

Happy holidays to all of our fabulous readers! What books are on your holiday wishlist this year?

~The ladies of AYAP
Martina, Alyssa, Lisa, Susan, Shelly, Jocelyn, Becca, and Jan


* * * *

by Lesley Livingston
Released 12/23/2014


On a storm-swept terrace high above the streets of Manhattan, Mason Starling holds the fate of the world in her hands as her beloved Fennrys lies bleeding at her feet, his life hanging in the balance. The ancient Norse prophecy of Ragnarok stands poised on the knife edge of fulfillment. Mason’s transformation into a Valkyrie—a chooser of the slain and the one who will ultimately bring about the end of the world—is complete. Still, she remains determined to thwart her father’s apocalyptic desires. Whatever is to come, it won’t happen because of what the prophecy foretold, or what Gunnar Starling has planned, or what the fates have already decided. What happens next will be up to Mason and the Fennrys Wolf. The world had better hope they haven’t reached the limits of what their souls and swords can survive.

Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, and set in the same universe as Lesley Livingston’s much-loved WONDROUS STRANGE trilogy, with roots in Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, and Celtic myths and legends, this thrilling conclusion to the acclaimed Starling trilogy is filled to the hilt with sweeping adventure and soaring romance.

Purchase Transcendent at Amazon
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View Transcendent on Goodreads

Saturday, December 20, 2014

5 Announcing the Free January First Five Pages Workshop Featuring Literary Agent Tracey Adams

I was sad to see the First Five Pages December Workshop come to an end.  What a talented group! Everyone worked hard on their revisions, gave thoughtful comments, and connected on the workshop’s Facebook page. A huge thanks to our guest mentor, Peter Salomon (if you haven’t read his fabulous book, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS you should!) and also to super agent Ginger Clark. Both provided great feedback.

Our January workshop will open for entries at noon EST on Saturday, January 3, 2015. We'll take the first five Middle Grade, Young Adult, or New Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have our own Lisa Gail Green, whose new novel, SOUL CROSSED, will be published on February 25, 2015 (how gorgeous is that cover?!!) and agent Tracey Adams of Adams Literary!

So get those pages ready – First Five Pages January Workshop opens in two weeks. 
Click here to get the rules!

by Lisa Gail Green

One Demon.

One Angel.

One Soul.

Josh lived a reckless, selfish life, so upon his death, escaping the eternal torments of Hell by assuming the role of a powerful, soul-corrupting demon is an easy choice. His first soul assignment doesn’t seem too hard: the mortal Camden is already obsessed with weapons, pain, and torture. If only Josh wasn’t distracted by Cam's beautiful friend, Grace.

Grace never expected to die violently at age sixteen, but now she’s an Angel, responsible for saving a soul. She can already see past Camden’s earthly flaws, so the job should be be easy. If only that handsome, playboy Josh would stop getting in the way.

It’s forbidden for an Angel to be with a Demon, so if Josh and Grace stop resisting each other, the results would be disastrous.

And only one can claim Cam’s soul.

Add to Goodreads  | PreOrder 

Friday, December 19, 2014

11 Craft of Writing: What Does Strong Mean to You? by Tracy Banghart

Today we welcome Tracy Banghart to the blog whose newest book, Storm Fall, released Tuesday from Alloy Entertainment. Tracy has insightful ideas about creating strong female characters that will help you consider a variety of ways to challenge your heroine toward her full potential. Tracy is also giving away Kindle copies of each of her books, both Rebel Wing, the first in the series, and Storm Fall. So be sure to check the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of the page!

What Does Strong Mean to You? by Tracy Banghart

People use the phrase “strong female character” a lot these days, particularly in describing the protagonists of young adult books. But so often they seem to mean characters that embody a certain type of strong. The strong female characters listed most commonly in Goodreads’ lists and Top 10s are characters like Katniss and Tris, or Graceling’s Katsa, who are all physically strong, skilled with weaponry, and often emotionally closed off.

But I think “strong” can – and should – mean a lot more than that.

In my Rebel Wing series, the main character, Aris, has gotten some flack from reviewers for being “weak” at the beginning of the first book. She begins her journey with a pronounced limp, a dependence on her boyfriend, and a fear of life turning out differently from the perfect future she expects. A fear, of course, that’s justified. But, in writing her, I never saw her “weakness” at the beginning. I saw the seeds of the strength that would carry her through the challenges she’d face. I saw her out-of-whack priorities, sure, her immaturity. But she transforms. She grows up. She discovers her own self-worth.

What I find interesting is how many readers were surprised – and delighted - to see her change. The badasses of today’s young adult fiction have conditioned readers to expect relatively static characters. To me, the journey – the transformation – of a character, from weakness to strength, from naivety to knowledge, or from arrogance to humility – is the sign of an interesting, complex, strong character. I’m not talking the geek-to-pretty-girl makeover – I’m talking real change, real growth.

Some of my favorite novels growing up were the stories of teenaged girls who had no clue who they were. What they wanted. Where they belonged in the world. They were trapped within the predictability of their lives or beaten down by the expectations of others. Because hey, I could relate to that.

The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery, features a main character who’s never spoken up to her mother in her entire life…until she receives devastating news and realizes she doesn’t want to spend the little time she has left being proper and afraid. Just because she doesn’t think she has anything left to lose doesn’t make her bravery, her strength, any less impressive. She transforms her entire life – and finds more joy and beauty than she ever hoped for.

On Fortune’s Wheel, by Cynthia Voigt, has a protagonist who begins her story inexpressibly bored with her life, chained by the limitations of being a women in a medieval world, who makes rash, ridiculously immature decisions. She’s foolish, not strong. But her experiences, the thread of steel she finds within herself in the darkest of circumstances, transform her into a mature, self-sufficient, and empathetic woman.

These two books meant so much to me as a teenager – and echo the kinds of stories that resonate most with me now. As a writer, transformation stories can be difficult. We get a lot of flack for writing “unsympathetic characters,” for asking our readers to stick with our whiny / weak / insecure / obnoxious main character long enough to see her grow up / grow into herself / become worthy of the “strong” moniker.

But I also think those kinds of stories can be really valuable, particularly at a time when “strong” still seems to mean “masculine” or “physically badass” to many. Being strong isn’t about wielding knives or a witty barb; it’s about how your characters respond to the challenges life throws at them. A girl in a wheelchair, overcoming discrimination and dismissal, is damn strong. A woman moving past bullying or rape, a girl defying stereotypes to become a scientist in a male-dominated industry – these characters are no less strong for not wielding a sword or a gun.

For me, the Katniss’s and Tris’s represent an opposition to the physical weakness and sexism I struggle with daily. I love reading about girls physically kicking ass because I can’t…those stories make me feel less helpless and impotent. But watching a girl transform – from weak to strong – whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, is aspirational. It gives me hope. I too can be strong. I too can grow into a better version of myself.

After all, even the original Chosen one, Buffy, began her story as a stuck-up, Valley girl cheerleader…and look how she turned out. ;-)

If you’d like to read more about the different opinions on strong female characters, I recommend the following articles:

“A Plague of Strong Female Characters” by Carina Chocano

“The Best New Strong Female Characters Are the Weak Ones” by Tasha Robinson

Question: What does “strong female character” mean to you? What characters do you feel best embody the moniker? What books have you read and loved with characters that embark on transformative journeys?

About the Author

Award-winning author, Army wife, and mom, Tracy Banghart has an MA in Publishing and an unhealthy affection for cupcakes. Her quiet childhood led to a reading addiction, writing obsession, and several serious book boyfriends. She writes novels featuring strong women, realistic romances, and tight female friendships because she believes in cultivating worlds where women support rather than compete with one another, and first kisses happen en route to new adventures, instead of in lieu of them. Her fourth novel, Storm Fall, the sequel to Rebel Wing, was just released by Alloy Entertainment.

Website |  Twitter |  Facebook |  Goodreads

About the Books

In the action-packed sequel to Rebel Wing, Aris battles for life and love . . . and not everyone will survive.

Aris Haan gave up everything to join the Atalantan Military: her family, her boyfriend, even her identity. In the end, though, it didn’t matter that she was a war hero. When the all-male Military discovered that she was actually a woman, she was sent home and erased from history.

Now she has a chance to go back to the battlefield—as herself. But as hard as it was to be a soldier in disguise, it’s even more difficult now. The men in her unit undermine her at every turn. The Safaran army has spies everywhere, perhaps even on Aris’s stationpoint. And she’s falling for her mysterious superior officer, Milek. But their relationship is forbidden, just stolen moments between training sessions and missions. There’s no room for love in war.

Then Aris discovers that Safara’s leaders have set their sights on her, Atalanta’s hero. And she must find them before they find her . . .

Storm Fall on Amazon  | Goodreads

The Dominion of Atalanta is at war. But for eighteen-year-old Aris, the fighting is nothing more than a distant nightmare, something she watches on news vids from the safety of her idyllic seaside town. Then her boyfriend, Calix, is drafted into the Military, and the nightmare becomes a dangerous reality.

Left behind, Aris has nothing to fill her days. Even flying her wingjet--the thing she loves most, aside from Calix--feels meaningless without him by her side. So when she's recruited to be a pilot for an elite search-and-rescue unit, she leaps at the chance, hoping she'll be stationed near Calix. But there's a catch: She must disguise herself as a man named Aristos. There are no women in the Atalantan Military, and there never will be.

Aris gives up everything to find Calix: her home. Her family. Even her identity. But as the war rages on, Aris discovers she's fighting for much more than her relationship. With each injured person she rescues and each violent battle she survives, Aris is becoming a true soldier--and the best flyer in the Atalantan Military. She's determined to save her Dominion . . . or die trying.

Rebel Wing on Amazon  | Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 18, 2014

3 News to Share: An Interview With Contest Winner Rosalyn Eves and Her New Agent, Josh Adams of Adams Literary!

You may all remember a little contest we did a few months back called Pitch Plus Five. Well, we have some good news to share! Grand Prize Winner, Rosalyn Eves, went on to receive multiple offers of representation. And since we always enjoy sharing the love,  we've asked both Rosalyn and her new agent, the amazing Josh Adams of Adams Lit, to join us for an interview. 

1. Rosalyn, How long have you been seriously writing?

That’s kind of a hard question to answer. I first started thinking of myself as a writer when my fifth grade teacher told me I had a talent for it. I wrote all kinds of things through junior high and high school (including an inflated fantasy trilogy that is now safely trunked), but in college I got sidetracked by academics. After I graduated with a BA in English, I continued on, earning an MA and a PhD, also in English. These degrees required a lot of writing, but very little of it was creative. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I started writing fiction again. My sister was writing, and watching her made me realize that my goal of publishing a book wasn’t going to happen unless I started now.

2. Did you ever have a moment when you thought you were going to give up?

A few—I imagine most writers do! One of those moments, oddly enough, was shortly before I got my first call offering representation. I just felt overwhelmed and discouraged by recent rejections. I think sometimes we can’t see how close we are to success until it happens. Luckily, most of those moments don’t last long for me. One of the nice things about having finished a lot of degrees is that I’ve learned I’m stubborn: I have a hard time letting go of things once I start them. I might not reach my goal as quickly as I’d like, but I do eventually get there.

3. How did you decide to enter Pitch Plus Five? What was the contest like?

I saw an announcement on twitter and thought it sounded interesting. I’d recently had a little bit of luck in one of Miss Snark’s First Victim’s Secret Agent contests and I was waiting to find out the results of Pitch Wars (I didn’t think I had much hope of getting in), so I entered. I was hopeful of making it into the second round, but I didn’t really expect to get past that—I was mostly looking for feedback on my opening pages: what worked, what didn’t.
I had a great experience: I got some positive feedback from readers and other contestants, and several of us connected on twitter. Honestly, I think getting to know other aspiring writers is one of the best parts of contests like this!
I was excited to make it into the second round, thrilled to make it into the top ten, and stunned to actually win—much less get serious requests. I think I wound up with requests from six of the participating agents.

4. Tell us about your offer(s).

Here, I need to back up just a little. In addition to Pitch Plus Five, I wound up getting into Pitch Wars, and between the two contests I had over a dozen agent requests. I queried some as well. Just before Thanksgiving, I heard back from one of the agents from Pitch Plus Five: she’d loved my manuscript and could we talk?
I have to admit that I was really anxious going into that talk: I wasn’t sure what to expect, and part of me was afraid she’d admit she made a mistake if she actually talked to me. Luckily, that didn’t happen. Instead, we had a delightful conversation. She was smart, savvy, and incredibly, she loved my book. So I sent out emails to the other agents who had my manuscript—even just those who had my query.  This last turned out to be a good move, as I ended up with more full requests (even a couple of offers) out of those queries.
Then came the hard part. This is the dark side of getting an offer that not very many people seem to talk about: I had to make a decision. I ended up with five offers (two of them from PP5!)—and every one of those agents was a terrific individual who loved my book enough to want to represent it. I talked to their clients, scoured information about them and their agency, and agonized over which agent to go with. I’m confident that I could have had a good career with any one of them—but I could only pick one. Turning down nice people who loved my book was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
In the end, I went with the agent I personally connected with the most—I think it helped that I’d met him at a conference earlier that year, and he represents a good friend of mine so I knew what I could expect of him. I accepted an offer of representation from Josh Adams, of Adams Literary (http://www.adamsliterary.com/).

What’s next?

Josh has already gotten back to me with some suggestions to strengthen my manuscript before we go on submission, so I’m tackling those revisions and writing up synopses for possible sequels. I’m also trying to get started on an entirely new manuscript.
I’m a little sad that my contest days are over—I had a lot of fun with them—but I’m excited to move on to the next stage of publishing.

Josh: what was it about Rosalyn and her writing that made you decide to extend an offer of representation?

I had the opportunity to meet Rosalyn last April at the LDStorymakers conference—and the chance to read the opening chapter of her novel, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION. I was immediately taken with the strength of her writing and the concept behind the novel. The world she created was intriguing, atmospheric and fresh, and the writing lush, lyrical and engaging. It seemed to be the perfect blend of the type of YA I love to read—at once literary and commercial, with a setting I hadn’t seen before and a pace that made me want to keep turning the pages. I remember clearly that I struggled to come up with constructive feedback on the first chapter, as it was already in such great shape. When we discussed the manuscript in an open critique forum, and I learned that Rosalyn was a professor, it reinforced what I could already tell from her writing: that she’s a smart person and a conscientious writer.
When Rosalyn queried six months later, I was excited to read the full manuscript, as the opening chapter had lingered with me all those months. It didn’t surprise me when she wrote back a few days later to let me know she already had an offer of representation (which would ultimately turn out to be many offers of representation). The novel didn’t disappoint, but continued to impress page after page until its satisfying conclusion. Speaking with Rosalyn on the phone, I was equally impressed with what an intelligent, well-spoken and thoughtful person she is, and I could tell not only that she was committed to her craft, but also willing and able to make her work as strong as possible, with an eye toward a longterm career—exactly the things we look for in an author. I thought we’d be an excellent fit, and it didn’t hurt that she’s friends with some of our extremely talented authors in her area, so I felt confident we’d also be a good personality match.

I am incredibly thankful to be working with Rosalyn, and look forward to sharing her debut with editors—and helping her launch what I believe will be a spectacular career. Rosalyn is someone special—and I know her writing will find a dedicated following who, like me, will both savor and devour every page of her work.