Saturday, January 31, 2015

1 Free First Five Pages Workshop with Agent Shelby Sampsel Opens in One Week!

Our February workshop will open for entries at noon EST on Saturday, February 7, 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 the very talented Chelsea Pitcher, author of THE LAST CHANGELING.  If that wasn’t enough, in the final week agent Shelby Sampsel will not only review the first five pages, but a query letter too!


Chelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light.
Chelsea’s paranormal fantasy, THE LAST CHANGELING, is available now!

 A Kingdom at War . . .

Elora, the young princess of the Dark Faeries, plans to overthrow her tyrannical mother, the Dark Queen, and bring equality to faeriekind. All she has to do is convince her mother’s loathed enemy, the Bright Queen, to join her cause. But the Bright Queen demands an offering first: a human boy who is a “young leader of men.” 

A Dark Princess In Disguise . . .

To steal a mortal, Elora must become a mortal—at least, by all appearances. And infiltrating a high school is surprisingly easy. When Elora meets Taylor, the seventeen-year-old who’s plotting to overthrow a ruthless bully, she thinks she’s found her offering . . . until she starts to fall in love.

We are thrilled to announce that Shelby Sampsel of the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency will be our guest agent for February – and Shelby has agreed to review a query letter, too! See below for Shelby’s bio!

Shelby Sampsel joined the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency after graduating from NYU. She comes to the agency with previous internship experience at Thomas Dunne Books, Simon and Schuster, Tor Books, Penguin Group, the Maria Carvainis Agency, and McIntosh and Otis. She is interested in Young Adult and New Adult Fiction as well as memoirs with a strong voice.

3 J.J. Howard, author of TRACERS, on using music to write

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Cam meets Nikki when she crashes into him—literally—and this complex action scene was a fun challenge to write. I started, as always, with a playlist. I imagined what Cam might listen to in his headphones as he zooms in and out of traffic as a bike messenger.

My favorite scenes to write were the ones that had Cam and Nikki arguing back and forth—I love to write dialogue—and then, of, course, they always make up!

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I would say that all of my characters share a certain dry sense of humor and they’re all outsiders, or feel they are, in one way or another. My writing professor in grad school called an early draft of my first book That Time I Joined the Circus “sort of The Catcher in the Rye with a girl”—and that’s still the best note I’ve ever gotten (or probably will ever get!)

How long did you work on TRACERS?

This book happened very quickly—the entire process from first pages to final copyedits all happened in 2014. The book came out just a few days in to 2015 on January 8.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

I learned that I really enjoy writing action scenes!

What do you hope readers will take away from TRACERS?

Cam is a really different character for me. For one, he’s not a snarky teenage girl with the vocabulary of a much older girl ;) But seriously, he’s really damaged by what’s happened to him in his life, but he hasn’t actually given up hope yet. He acts as though he has, that he doesn’t care, but when you read his interior monologue in the book you find out that in spite of everything he still believes in love—and, more importantly—he still believes in himself.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My debut novel was published in 2013. I’d been writing for over ten years by that point, so it was a long road. I write really fast, so I have several projects that I hope to see make their ways to bookstore shelves at some point.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I’ve wanted to write for a long time. My AHA moment: that I could (and should) write a novel, well that happened a long time ago. It was 1996 and I was walking through the social sciences section of Borders bookstore (RIP) where I worked. It really was one of those light-bulb moments. I remember it vividly. And ever since then, I’ve never been bored. Because when you have a novel going, you’re never, ever bored!

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

Music is absolutely essential! I figure out the characters and the feel of the novel through the music. I make a playlist for every project, and refine it as the writing goes along. I work best at home, with my dog Willow snuggled beside me. I get the guilt eye when I pack up my laptop to head to a coffee shop. ;)

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

I wrote a short piece for Writer’s Digest online in which I compared a writing career to a theme park—and I still really stand by all of those observations. You will spend a lot of time in line, it is a lot of fun (with a lot of ups and downs) and, as with most aspects of life, I’d suggest wearing a pair of comfortable shoes.

What are you working on now?

I am writing my first middle grade for Scholastic! I’m excited to branch out into this age level! And there are also a few other works in progress there on the back burner. I can’t wait for summer so that I can write, write, write!


by J.J. Howard
Putnam Juvenile
Released 1/8/2015

An action-packed romance—now a major motion picture starring Taylor Lautner.

Cam is a New York City bike messenger with no family and some dangerous debts. While on his route one day, he runs into a beautiful stranger named Nikki—but she quickly disappears. When he sees her again around town, he realizes that she lives within the intense world of parkour: an underground group of teens who have turned New York City into their own personal playground—running, jumping, seemingly flying through the city like an urban obstacle course.

Cam becomes fascinated with Nikki and falls in with the group, who offer him the chance to make some extra money. But Nikki is dating their brazen leader, and when the stakes become life-or-death, Cam is torn between following his heart and sacrificing everything to pay off his debts.

In the vein of great box-office blockbusters, the high-stakes romance here sizzles within this page-turning thriller that will leave readers feeling like they are flying through the streets of New York.

Purchase Tracers at Amazon
Purchase Tracers at IndieBound
View Tracers on Goodreads


J.J. HowardJ.J. Howard is wearing headphones right now, most likely. She grew up in York, Pennsylvania, obsessed with music, movies, television, and pop culture. You can call her if you ever need to phone a friend for trivia on any of the above topics, but don’t ask about sports, because she is hopeless at those (along with math). J.J. graduated from Dickinson College with a BA in English and Tiffin University with an MH in Humanities. She has been some of her students’ favorite English teacher for a quite a few years (she even has a mug somewhere to prove it). THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS is her first young adult novel. J.J. would love to hear from her readers and is always ready to trade playlists. Visit at


2 Sarah Cross, author of TEAR YOU APART, on not rejecting yourself

What was your inspiration for writing TEAR YOU APART?

I wanted to do another book set in Beau Rivage (a city where people are cursed to live out fairy tales), and "Snow White" is one of the fairy tales I was most surprised by when I first read the Grimms' version, because it's so disturbing and the "happily ever after" is not romantic at all. I really wanted to play with that story, and write about a girl who was anticipating that twisted fate.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The hardest scenes to write, for me, are the emotionally intense scenes. I tend to rework those the most, going over and over them until I feel like the intensity I want is there. I don't know that there's a scene I'm most proud of; at this point in the process, it's hard for me to break it down like that. I'm really proud of the book as a whole.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Anyone who likes dark reimaginings of fairy tales should check out Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, Tanith Lee's Red as Blood: Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, and Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Don't give up. Seriously. That is the most important thing. The most devastating rejection is the one you give yourself. It's the only "no" that's final, the only one that can really stop you.


Tear You Apart
by Sarah Cross
Released 1/27/2015

If you want to live happily ever after, first you have to stay alive.

Viv knows there’s no escaping her fairy-tale curse. One day her beautiful stepmother will feed her a poison apple or convince her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Henley, to hunt her down and cut out her heart before she breaks his. In the city of Beau Rivage, some princesses are destined to be prey.

But then Viv receives an invitation to the exclusive club where the Twelve Dancing Princesses twirl away their nights. There she meets Jasper, an underworld prince who seems to have everything—but what he really wants is her. He vows to save her from her dark fate if she’ll join him and be his queen.

All Viv has to do is tear herself away from the huntsman boy who still holds her heart. Then she might live to see if happily ever after is a promise the prince can keep. But is life as an underworld queen worth sacrificing the true love that might kill her?

Purchase Tear You Apart at Amazon
Purchase Tear You Apart at IndieBound
View Tear You Apart on Goodreads


Sarah Cross is the author of the fairy tale novels Kill Me Softly and Tear You Apart (coming January 2015), the superhero novel Dull Boy, and the Wolverine comic "The Adamantium Diaries." She loves fairy tales, lowbrow art, secret identities and silence. Visit her website here

2 Michael Jensen and David Powers King, authors of WOVEN, on writing collaboratively

What was your inspiration for writing WOVEN?

WOVEN was inspired by a dream. Michael dreamed he was crushed by a tree and became a ghost. He could fly around and pass though objects. Nobody could see or hear him. Being a ghost was such a fascinating experience, he wanted to write a story where our readers could experience the same thing. It was after he met David that this dream soon became a reality.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

We could write a book about all the things we learned from writing WOVEN. One thing we both learned about writing is that each character must not speak, move or act without having a clear motivation for doing so. If their motivation is unclear, then they cease to be real people.

What do you hope readers will take away from WOVEN?

It’s clear by the end of that book what we hope our readers will take away from WOVEN, how important it is that love and being yourself is key to becoming whole and “woven.” If our readers walk away from WOVEN with a higher sense of self-worth and purpose, then our job is done.

How long or hard was your road to publication?

Our road to publication was unusual to say the least. After the rights for WOVEN were returned to us, the controversy with our previous publisher ignited a media frenzy that landed us offers of representation with six major literary agencies. All of the Big Five publishing houses requested and read the manuscript. After carefully weighing our options, we selected Meredith Bernstein to represent WOVEN in an action with major publishers. Scholastic made the best offer and they have been an absolute pleasure to work with.

What's your collaborative writing ritual like?

The “Lead Writing” approach has worked exceptionally well for us. That’s when one writer handles the initial draft while the other focusing on editing and adding elements. We always plan our chapters ahead of time. This has helped us streamline the presentation into one that is unique. You could say this would be a very different book if it was written by either of us on our own.

What are you working on now?

We intended WOVEN to be a great book by itself with the potential for more. We are now working on our own projects, another collaborative project, and drafting a companion novel for WOVEN with a different main character. It’s clear by the end of WOVEN who the character is.


by Michael Jensen and David Powers King
Scholastic Press
Released 1/27/2015

Two unlikely allies must journey across a kingdom in the hopes of thwarting death itself.

All his life, Nels has wanted to be a knight of the kingdom of Avërand. Tall and strong, and with a knack for helping those in need, the people of his sleepy little village have even taken to calling him the Knight of Cobblestown.

But that was before Nels died, murdered outside his home by a mysterious figure.

Now the young hero has awoken as a ghost, invisible to all around him save one person—his only hope for understanding what happened to him—the kingdom’s heir, Princess Tyra. At first the spoiled royal wants nothing to do with Nels, but as the mystery of his death unravels, the two find themselves linked by a secret, and an enemy who could be hiding behind any face.

Nels and Tyra have no choice but to abscond from the castle, charting a hidden world of tangled magic and forlorn phantoms. They must seek out an ancient needle with the power to mend what has been torn, and they have to move fast. Because soon Nels will disappear forever.

Purchase Woven at Amazon
Purchase Woven at IndieBound
View Woven on Goodreads


Michael Jensen is a graduate of Brigham Young University’s prestigious music, dance, and theater program. Michael taught voice at BYU before establishing his own vocal instruction studio. In addition to being an imaginative storyteller, Michael is an accomplished composer and vocalist. He lives in Salt Lake City with his husband and their four dogs.

Photo credit: Michael Schoenfeld

David Powers King was born in beautiful downtown Burbank, California where his love for film inspired him to become a writer. An avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, David also has a soft spot for zombies and the paranormal. He now lives in the mountain West with his wife and three children.

Photo credit: Katie Pyne Rasmussen

0 J.R. Johansson, author of CUT ME FREE, on being inspired by two vastly different concepts

What was your inspiration for writing CUT ME FREE?

My inspiration for CUT ME FREE was a very organic thing. I was in a writing group where they were joking around and challenged me to write something that featured a creepy puppet. While pondering how to do that in a way that hadn't already been done to death, I came across information on child trafficking and child abuse and how easy it is not to see it even when it is right in front of you. The true stories I was reading were absolutely horrifying and I think they changed me in some ways. They really stuck with me and opened my eyes. Anyway, somehow these two vastly different concepts floated around in my brain until one day they ran into each other and the foundation of CUT ME FREE came to life.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There were so many difficult scenes to write in CUT ME FREE. It's not an easy book. This is a book that seems pretty polarizing. Some people love it and others can't handle it. I didn't gloss it over or make it seem less awful than it would be. It was important to me that this deal honestly with what the recovery of a victim looks like. It's a daily struggle and I wanted to be true to that. One scene that was very emotionally difficult for me to write was a scene a bit over halfway through where Charlotte/Piper is terrified and she's decided to run again. She is walking down the street in the middle of the night and she looks around herself and finally sees what she is doing. She sees that her life has become a series of times where she flees one situation after another. She sees how it is hurting the people she cares about and she decides that she needs to change things. It's a moment that is both scary and empowering. The emotional strength she required to make that decision was difficult to capture, but now that it's done, I love it and I'm very proud of it.

What are you working on now?

Thanks for asking! I'm currently working on a standalone contemporary thriller that will be released with Macmillan in the fall of 2016. We're doing revisions on it and getting it all shiny, which is my favorite part of the creative process. I'm also starting to prepare the next project which I think might be going back in the direction of a series and introduce fantastical elements of some sort again. More to come on that soon!


Cut Me Free
by J.R. Johansson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 1/27/2015

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped from her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, wasn't as lucky. Now she's trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of for them, but never thought she'd have to experience alone. She's hired a techie-genius with a knack for forgery to remove the last ties to her old life. But while she can erase her former identity, she can’t rid herself of the memories. And her troubled history won’t let her ignore the little girl she sees one day in the park. The girl with the bruises and burn marks.

That’s when Charlotte begins to receive the messages. Threatening notes left in her apartment--without a trace of entry. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency, she doesn’t just need to uncover who is leaving them; she needs to stop whoever it is before anyone else she loves ends up dead.

Purchase Cut Me Free at Amazon
Purchase Cut Me Free at IndieBound
View Cut Me Free on Goodreads


photo credit: Michelle Davidson ArgyleJ.R. JOHANSSON has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. When she's not writing, she loves reading, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. She has two young sons and a wonderful husband. In fact, other than her cat, Cleo, she's nearly drowning in testosterone. J.R. lives in a valley between majestic mountains and a beautiful lake where the sun shines over 300 days per year.

Friday, January 30, 2015

10 Ask a Pub Pro - Lisa Colozza Cocca on POV and Trends & Originality

Today is our first Ask a Pub Pro response post! This is the first of a monthly feature where writers can ask specific craft questions regarding their work in progress and get a response from a publishing professional.

Joining us today to answer your questions is Lisa Colozza Cocca, author of Providence, a YA novel from Merit Press/F&W Media plus almost a dozen nonfiction titles. We appreciate Lisa guiding us through our first post as she takes your questions and answers them with her warmth and insight. Plus, she's giving away a copy of her book! Check the Rafflecopter at the end!

Remember to get your questions in for next month's Ask a Pub Pro column. Just send an email to me, Susan Sipal, at AYAPLit AT gmail and put "Ask a Pub Pro Question" in your subject line. And thank you, Lisa!

Ask a Pub Pro - Lisa Colozza Cocca Responds to Questions on POV and Trends

 Question: POV in YA:

I've written my first three YA\MG novels in first person past and first person present tense. While I enjoy first person, I'd still like to switch to third person with multiple POVs. Does the average YA reader insist on first person? I'm sure there are third person YAs out there, but I can't recall the last time I've read one.


-- Ron Estrada, author of: Now I Knew You, contemporary YA with a touch of the supernatural -- What if you visited heaven and everything you thought important turned out to be meaningless? And that you've ignored all that truly is important.

Hi Ron,

Since you’ve been thinking about exploring new-to-you POVs, you’ve probably Googled the topic and found thousands of posts on the subject. Most advocate first person for YA, because of the intimacy it builds between the reader and the character telling the story. This is a good reason to use first person, but by no means are you limited to that point of view. I think the only thing YA readers insist upon is a story they can connect with.

One advantage of third person over first person is it gives readers a broader view. This can be especially important if you’re writing fantasy and building a new world. Are there things in your story you want your readers to see or know that your main character does not notice or know? Third person narration can fill in the gaps. Have you read Ann Brashere’s Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants? It’s been quite a while since I read it, but if I remember correctly it is written in third person with multiple viewpoints. There are plenty of teens who read the Harry Potter series too. That series is another example of third person point of view.

I do think though you have to start with the story. Let the story you want to tell determine the point of view. Don’t pick a point of view and then shape a story around it. Story always comes first.

Of course, knowing how that story wants to be told isn’t always easy, is it? Try writing the first 1-3 chapters in first person. Then go back and write the same chapters in first person alternating viewpoints. Make a third run through the same story points, but from third person alternating viewpoints. Finally, try it with third person omniscient. Read through all versions several times. With the omniscient version, note how many times you ask your reader to flip from one character’s head to another. Is there time for the reader to develop a sense of loyalty to any one character?

If you’re just looking to explore POV, you could do the above exercise with an existing YA written by someone else. Rewrite the first chapters from different points of view and compare them.

Good luck with your next novel and with discovering how your story wants to be told.

 -- Lisa

Question: Trends & Originality:

As I've been writing my story, so many of the plot points that I thought were fairly original have come to the public consciousness recently in other ways: controlling ones dreams (Inception), ley lines (The Librarians), Scotland (Outlander, and other books/shows set there). My question has to do with "riding the wave of popularity." I'm worried that by the time my WIP is polished and sent to an agent, the answer I'll get back is "it's too derivative, we need something fresher." What do you suggest?

-- Suzanne Lucero, her WIP: In Dreams Unbidden, a YA novel. When an American teen visits Scotland for the first time she starts catching glimpses of the future in her dreams, some harmless, some deadly.

Hi Suzanne,

I suggest you finish writing and polishing your story. What you’re experiencing is pretty common – that feeling of ‘that’s my idea!’ while reading another book or watching a show. I understand your concerns. If an agent or editor has already received fifty queries for books on Celtic trails will she even consider query 51? Maybe not, but maybe she will if it is a really well-written query. Maybe she will because even though you imagine she has received countless queries on the topic, in reality she hasn’t. There are so many ‘maybes.’

The point I’m trying to make is you can’t predict what an agent or editor will be looking for at some point in the future. I think that can be a good thing. It gives you the freedom to write the story inside of you. As writers, we have to let go of the things we have no control over – like shifting markets. We have to focus on what we do control. So push those little doubtful voices out of your head. Make your manuscript the best story you can write and then send it out into the world. Once you have, start writing your next great story. Take each hurdle as it comes and don’t give up until you’ve reached your goal.

 -- Lisa

About the Author:

Lisa works full-time as a freelance writer and editor of curriculum materials. She is also the author of a dozen books for the school and library market. Her personal goal at the moment is to have three days in a row where everything on her to-do list actually gets done. PROVIDENCE is her first trade novel.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads the Book:

Providence – Sometimes you have to run away from home to find it.

Teen runaway Becky is hiding out with a baby who isn’t hers. Although she found newborn Georgia in a duffle bag in a train car, Becky is as fiercely protective of her as if she were her own.

In the small town where she passes for a teen mom, she finally happy. Then, people start to ask questions, and Becky doesn’t know whether to stay and fight, or run toward an unknown future.

Amazon |  Goodreads


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 29, 2015

4 Agent Danielle Burby of HSG on Women with Swords and More

Danielle graduated from Hamilton College with honors and a double major in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  Before finding her home at HSG, she interned at Writers House, Clarion Books, Faye Bender Literary Agency, Dunow Carlson and Lerner, John Wiley and Sons, and SquareOne Publishers (along with stints as a waitress and a farmers’ market vendor).

Her passion lies in YA, Women’s Fiction, and mysteries. She gravitates toward stories with a strong voice and particularly enjoys complex female characters, narratives that explore social issues, and coming-of-age stories. Genres that appeal to her include contemporary YA, medieval fantasy, historical fiction, cozy mysteries, and upmarket Women’s Fiction. She finds it hard to resist gorgeous writing and is a sucker for romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative, but don’t dominate it.

Danielle was involved in way too many singing groups in college and is always up for karaoke. She also enjoys both tea and coffee, managing to defy the naysayers who claim they’re an either-or thing. She is, however, distinctly a chocolate person. You can follow her on twitter at @danielleburby.

1. What are some of your favorite authors/books and why do you love them?

Growing up, a favorite author of mine was Tamora Pierce and I would love love love to represent a similar author. The best Tamora Pierce series is, in my opinion, the Protector of the Small quartet. Kristin Cashore is another author I adore--Graceling is my favorite of her novels. Medieval-style fantasy with a female protagonist is definitely a weakness of mine--give her a sword and a heroic quest and I melt. Another novel that evokes real nostalgia for me is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Yes, there's a definite theme here. I'm also an enormous Jane Austen fan. I love her witty and cutting insights into human nature, as well as her brilliant characters. I'm also a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I will read anything and everything that she writes because her voice is just so incredibly magnetic and she infuses real depth into the most simple things. An adult author I cannot stop reading is Liane Moriarty because she is so clever, her characters are brilliant, and her writing makes me laugh. Recent favorites include The Cuckoos Calling, We Were Liars, The Husband's Secret, Lies We Tell Ourselves, Before I Fall,  Brown Girl Dreaming, Big Little Lies, All Our Yesterdays, and Fangirl. My favorite author of all time is Virginia Woolf. I'm definitely a girl's girl when it comes to my taste in literature.

2. What are some things you love to see in a query?

When I'm reading queries, I immediately sit up and take notice when the introduction shows that an author has done her or his research and is reaching out to me for a specific reason. I like to know why someone thinks we'd make a good fit. A snappy and compelling description of the book is also a must! When authors ask for advice on how to write that section of a query letter, I always recommend taking a look at the jacket copy of published novels and using that technique as a model. If that section of the query letter is done well, it can give me a sense of the author's voice, in addition to a feel for the plot, characters, and atmosphere. That said, I don't want to see a full synopsis! One or two paragraphs about the project should give me the information that I need.

3. Are you an editorial agent?

I am incredibly hands-on when it comes to editing my client's manuscripts to get them ready for submission. Editors expect increasingly high-quality and polished projects--especially from debut authors--so I believe it is an essential part of my job to help my clients edit manuscripts on the big picture level (plot, character development, pacing, etc.). I'll never send out a submission until the author and I both feel confident that the manuscript is as strong as we can make it. After the project sells, I keep an eye on the editorial process, but let the author and editor work things out unless I'm needed. Editing is actually one of my favorite parts of the job and is the best way for me to get a sense of my clients, both as artists and of their long-term career goals, which helps me to advise them. The editing process also helps me learn about what kind of communication each individual client needs from me.

4. What do you like to do for fun?

I like to spend time in nature--hiking is a lot of fun. I enjoy seeing theater and taking advantage of NYC specific things like Shake Shack and walking around Central Park. I'm always looking for new recipes to cook. I go to coffee shops with friends as often as I can. One of my favorite ways to relax is to spend hours teaching myself songs on my keyboard, but I have to be pretty sure that nobody will hear me! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

3 How I Use Reviews To Improve My Craft - A WOW-Wednesday Post by Mary Waibel

Today I have the pleasure of presenting a writer who knows how to multitask. Besides being a talented, multi-published author, Mary Waibel is also my editor at BookFish Books. She's got a sharp eye for story and an even keener sense of how to improve your craft. Maybe some of that she learned from reading reviews!

How I Use Reviews To Improve My Craft -- A WOW-Wednesday Post by Mary Waibel

Today I’m talking about the dreaded “R” word. Reviews. They have the power to send an author’s spirits soaring into the atmosphere or plummeting to the depths of the earth. Good, bad, or ugly, reviews are needed to help generate buzz about our writing.

I read my reviews. All of them. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Why? Well, of course I read the good ones because they reaffirm that a reader liked what I wrote.

Why read the bad ones?

I believe reading is subjective, and no matter how much I work on my craft, there will be people who do not like what I write. But, if they took the time to tell me why they didn’t like what I wrote, I feel I owe it to them as a reader to listen to what they had to say and see if I need to make a change in what I’m doing as an author.

Not all reviews are equal. One or two star ratings accompanied by review that say, “I didn’t like it” or “this just wasn’t for me” may sting, but they really do nothing to educate you as an author about why the reader didn’t like your book. These reviews, IMHO, should be glanced at and set aside.

Reviews that say things like, “the writing was formulaic,” “I figured out the villain the moment they stepped on page,” or “too many clichés” are ones you should read, set aside and let the sting fade away, then go back and re-read, listening to what this reader is trying to tell you.
  • Did you follow a formula? If so, why? If you were writing this book again, would you do the same thing, or would you do something different? 
  • Did you introduce any red herrings or was it not important that your reader discover the villain right away? 
  • Could you have made a twist on the clichés you chose to use? Or, did you really need them in the first place?

You might find you disagree with the reviewer, and that’s fine. Look at your work with their comments in mind, fix what you think you need to, and move on.

It’s okay if you don’t read your reviews. Or if you have someone screen them for you. But, I hope you might consider looking at reviews as a way to improve your craft.

About the Author:

YA author Mary Waibel’s love for fairytales and happy-ever-afters fill the pages of her works. Whether penning stories in a medieval setting or a modern day school, magic and romance weave their way inside every tale. Strong female characters use both brain and brawn to save the day and win the heart of their men. Mary enjoys connecting with her readers through her website:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About the Book:
 When Callie Rycroft wakes to find purple flames flickering on the ceiling, she believes she’s still dreaming. But soon she’s forced to accept that she has magic―a special magic that grants her entrance into the Faery Realm.

For centuries humans have been banned from Faery, but dangerous times call for dangerous measures. Declared Champion by the Faery Queen, Callie is assigned a Guardian, and tasked with finding the Cordial―a magical elixir needed to keep the portal to the Faery realm a secret from humans.

The upside? Reece Michaels, the boy she's been crushing on for years, is her Guardian. Callie hopes that by spending time with Reece, he'll start to see her as more than just his best friend's sister.

The downside? She's in a race not only against time, but against another Champion, and a rogue Guardian―a Guardian who stands to threaten her developing relationship with Reece.

Magic, mistaken identities, and hidden agendas are the least of Callie's worries when she learns that the Cordial requires a sacrifice. Will Callie be willing to risk everything―even Reece―to complete her task as Champion? Or will she let the portal open, and doom both realms?

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

-- Happy Writing!
    S.P. Sipal, @HP4Writers

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

14 Reading and Interpreting Reviews and a Reader Appreciation Giveaway Blitz

I just read a post by Jody Hedlund about coping with reviews, and I was struck by a couple of things that she said.
  1. Reviews are for readers, not for writers, and
  2. If, as an author, you choose to read your reviews, be prepared for open, honest feedback.
Having just gone through this with an author friend who is getting her first reviews, and having dealt with my share of stinging reviews as well--ALL authors get them--I've given this some thought.

My conclusions? (And yes, I'm going to share them, even though talking about reviews in public is scary as hell.)

Found on Thought In A Bubble

Reviews Can Force You to Examine Your Writing Choices

I wrote a guest post for one of my favorite writing sites yesterday (it will be out soon!) and I mentioned that one of the things that makes me grateful for editorial feedback is that it forces me to understand the choices that I make in my books.

There's a reason I choose to pace my stories the way I do; there's a reason the scenes are layered the way they are; there's a reason I choose the characters I chose. But not everyone will understand those choices. Not everyone will love any book or read it the same way.

I wrote about my main character, Barrie, because I want a dialogue about strength. About bravery. About women and our roles in society. (My theme song for Barrie--for all girls--is "Truly Brave," the collaboration between Sara Bareilles and Cyndi Lauper, which is an incredible anthem for women and artists and victims and anyone who struggles. Barrie is so lost at the beginning of the trilogy. But it's a trilogy, and she's got a huge arc. Her "brave" is big. And although there are people who don't love Barrie, there are many more people who do love her and "get" her.

Reviews Tell Us Whether We've Done Our Job As Authors 

Just today, right after I started this post, a reader Tweeted a post about Compulsion, and I stopped over to see if I could use it as an example. It happened to talk about the fact that the blogger is a tutor and that she's "had some intense talks [with her students] about Barrie as a female protagonist."

As a writer, I can ask no more than that. And I wouldn't have known that I had made that connection unless I read that review or the many letters I get privately from girls and women who have made similar points.

Getting that affirmation isn't about vanity. It's about making sure I'm doing the job that I set out to do and finding out what else those readers need. Reader reviews are like a giant focus group. They're gold for writers--provided the writer is able to set aside the occasional "ouch" factor that's involved.

Reviews Are Not Always About the Book 

Obviously, not every book is going to be for every reader. I've been very fortunate with Compulsion, and I'll admit I've stopped stalking my reviews the way that I did when they first started coming. It took me a long time to get "zen" about reviews, or to be able to laugh about some of them. Some of them still make for very brittle laughter.

Even people who review because they love books and want to share great books with others won't love every book. A reader brings her own life and life experience into each book she reads. That's the magic of reading.

As a writer, finding out what a reader brought to my book is one of the greatest and most unexpected joys I've experienced since being published. Whether it's about my book or someone else's story, I appreciate knowing why a plot or character does or doesn't work for someone. Negative reviews can be good reading. I enjoy a well-phrased bit of sarcasm, a bit of political-correctness policing, a bit of humor--until it crosses the line and becomes bullying.

As with the Kathleen Hale scandal, reviewers can become extreme with bashing a book, and that can drive authors crazy and destroy books that took a lot of time and resources to bring to market. There are various reasons that happens. In some cases, there's truly a problem in the book. But all too frequently, it's because a book hits a trigger and the reviewer stops being rational or even considering whether the book is making a point about the very thing that the reviewer abhors. Character arcs exist for a reason--characters learn as they go, but sometimes they have to begin in places that some people don't like in order to get to a better place.

Reviews Are Not Always Fair

If someone abandons the book and then writes about it, as may have been the case with the Kathleen Hale scandal, they're not getting the whole picture. And that's okay, too--as long they make that clear in the review. I'm all about free speech. My family and I came to this country because it was a place where we could speak our minds, and I would defend that right to my dying breath.

But I'm also an advocate for justice. I would prefer that the world of reviewing was perfect, and that if a reviewer didn't finish a book, or only skimmed it and assumed that gave them the same interpretation as a full and careful reading, that they would mention that in their review. I would prefer that if someone reviews YA books from an adult perspective and dings the characters for making teen choices, they not write up a one-star review. I would prefer fairness from all reviewers, for every book, for every author, but I still defend every reviewer's, and every author's, right to write whatever they damn well want.

Reviews Need To Be Viewed in Context 

Jody Hedlund mentions that reviews are open, honest feedback. That's not always true, unfortunately. There are as many different reasons that reviewers write reviews as there are reasons why authors penned the books they have written.

If, as authors, we are going to read reviews, then I think that we need to learn to recognize the type of review, the type of reviewer, and take what we can from the feedback. The LAST thing that we should do is argue with a reviewer who provides an honest and genuine review. The last thing we should EVER do -- no matter what the review says or why the review was written -- is bully the reviewer or stalk the reviewer. Even if the reviewer bullies you, you can't respond by engaging in even worse behavior.

Bulling Shouldn't Be Dismissed As Free Speech 

I chaired an advisory council on school safety for the second largest school district in Virginia for many years. In that capacity, I focused on bringing anti-bullying programs into the schools and creating safer school environments. I recognize bullying when I see it. And I am seeing it online. Fortunately, I've not really been a victim myself, and I'm probably making myself a target by writing this. That's unfortunate, but here goes anyway.

It worries me to hear authors and bloggers -- even huge authors and huge bloggers -- say privately that they do not feel that they can speak freely in defense of the victims of online bullying. Let me clarify here. I am not speaking about defending stalking or bad behavior, as in the case of Kathleen Hale. I'm saying that over and over again, I see female authors treated differently than male authors, and I see female authors get bullied in a way that makes me feel like I am back in middle school. On the flip side, there are reviewers who write perfectly innocent and reasonable reviews who are flamed by authors who don't realize their book isn't perfect. There's a cult of extreme behavior going around the internet that makes me want to cry.

Bullying begins with individuals. It grows because people let themselves become bystanders. But kindness begins with individuals, too, as does responsibility.

Take What You Can From Reviews and Move On 

As authors, I believe we have a responsibility to our readers. For that reason, I do think that reviews are helpful. The vast majority of reviewers are responsible, lovely, incredible people who review books because they love books and want to share that love with others.

Found on WoodleyWonderWorks

I Have WONDERFUL Readers 

I am so grateful that I have the readers I have. Compulsion has gotten such wonderful support--more than I ever dreamed--and I have met so many incredible readers along this journey that I am truly, truly overwhelmed. Not all of my reviews have been favorable. Duh. But my favorite reviews aren't always five star, or even four star reviews.

My favorite reviews are the ones that are honest. That make me think. That make me grow as a reader and as an author. There have been many of those.

And I thank everyone who has taken the time to read Compulsion and think about it. I thank you for your letters, and emails, and messages, and reviews, and tweets, and support.

Which brings me to this week's giveaway!


You'll find this giveaway on a lot of sites this week, and if you'd like to share it on your site, please email me at ayaplit (at) gmail dot com. I'd love to spread the word. The cover reveal for Persuasion will be next week. Next week! Yikes. And for anyone who would like a good deal on Compulsion, this is the final week it is available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks for $1.99!

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Monday, January 26, 2015

12 Win WOVEN or CUT ME FREE plus New YALit Releases 1/26 - 2/1

We're back again this week with the weekly roundup of new releases plus giveaways of WOVEN by Michael Jensen and David Powers King and CUT ME FREE by J. R. Johansson. What are you reading this week?

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


* * * *

by Michael Jensen and David Powers King
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Scholastic Press
Released 1/27/2015

Two unlikely allies must journey across a kingdom in the hopes of thwarting death itself.

All his life, Nels has wanted to be a knight of the kingdom of Avërand. Tall and strong, and with a knack for helping those in need, the people of his sleepy little village have even taken to calling him the Knight of Cobblestown.

But that was before Nels died, murdered outside his home by a mysterious figure.

Now the young hero has awoken as a ghost, invisible to all around him save one person—his only hope for understanding what happened to him—the kingdom’s heir, Princess Tyra. At first the spoiled royal wants nothing to do with Nels, but as the mystery of his death unravels, the two find themselves linked by a secret, and an enemy who could be hiding behind any face.

Nels and Tyra have no choice but to abscond from the castle, charting a hidden world of tangled magic and forlorn phantoms. They must seek out an ancient needle with the power to mend what has been torn, and they have to move fast. Because soon Nels will disappear forever.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Woven?

WOVEN is a ghost story unlike any other. It has a timeless, symbolic feel to it. There are many great life lessons in WOVEN if you look for them. It’s about reality through the eyes of sewing needles and the threads that go through them. Since there are lots of elements to the art of sewing and weaving, we had plenty of material to work with. Every character has a purpose, even the background characters. There’s so much to love about WOVEN, it’s hard to pin down.

Purchase Woven at Amazon
Purchase Woven at IndieBound
View Woven on Goodreads

* * * *

Cut Me Free
by J.R. Johansson
Hardcover Giveaway
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 1/27/2015

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped from her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, wasn't as lucky. Now she's trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of for them, but never thought she'd have to experience alone. She's hired a techie-genius with a knack for forgery to remove the last ties to her old life. But while she can erase her former identity, she can’t rid herself of the memories. And her troubled history won’t let her ignore the little girl she sees one day in the park. The girl with the bruises and burn marks.

That’s when Charlotte begins to receive the messages. Threatening notes left in her apartment--without a trace of entry. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency, she doesn’t just need to uncover who is leaving them; she needs to stop whoever it is before anyone else she loves ends up dead.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Cut Me Free?

My favorite thing about CUT ME FREE has to be the heart of this book. It's a thriller, but at it's basis it really is about resiliency of the human spirit and how we are capable of recovering from the most horrifying of circumstances. It's a very character driven book and Piper is my favorite character I've ever written. I'm a fan of strong female characters and she is definitely that.

Purchase Cut Me Free at Amazon
Purchase Cut Me Free at IndieBound
View Cut Me Free on Goodreads


* * * *

by Mindee Arnett
Balzer + Bray
Released 1/20/2015

Winner - Melinda Pratt

Following the events of Avalon, Jeth Seagrave and his crew are on the run. Jeth is desperate to find the resources and funding he needs to rescue his mother from an ITA’s research lab and leave this whole galaxy behind for a new life somewhere else. But the ITA is just as desperate, and soon Jeth finds himself pursued by a mysterious figure hell-bent on capturing Jeth and his crew—dead or alive. In a last-ditch effort to save everyone he holds dear, Jeth enters into a bargain with the last person he ever thought he'd see again: Dax Shepherd, the galaxy’s newest and most fearsome crime lord. And he’s not the only one: upon arriving back at Peltraz spaceport for the first time since he witnessed the death of his old employer, Jeth discovers Dax has a new partner: Jeth’s mother, Marian.

This shocking turn of events is only the first in another breathless, action-packed sci-fi adventure rife with danger, love, and betrayal, as Jeth has to once again ask himself how much he’s willing to invest in a morally bankrupt galaxy in the hopes of saving those he cares for.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Polaris?

With POLARIS I learned two critical things, both of them more affirmations than revelations. The first is that even when the writing is hard you have to push through it. That might seem self-evident, but it’s one of those things where you don’t really know what “hard” is until you’ve run smack into. The affirmation aspect of this is that I learned that I can push through it. I was in a very hard place emotionally when I started work on POLARIS, and it didn’t go away throughout the whole process. Some of it was struggles in my personal life and some of it is what I call the post publication blues. All writers get them and they are awful—the mean reds times a thousand. But the great thing is that even when it’s hard, the writing is always worth it. I’m proud of POLARIS, despite all the struggle or maybe because of it.

Secondly, I learned that it’s okay to channel your own emotions into a story. Like I said, I was in a very dark place when I wrote this book, and a lot of that darkness translates to the page. The main character Jeth struggles a lot in this book. I’m downright awful to him at times. But ultimately, I think that emotional struggle has a big payoff in the end, both for me personally and for the reader, I hope.

Purchase Polaris at Amazon
Purchase Polaris at IndieBound
View Polaris on Goodreads

* * * *

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
by Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse
Released 1/20/2015

Winner - Alicia Guerrero

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.

Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.

Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.

But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley?

Growing up as a gay teen, one of the most difficult things to deal with was always hiding who I was. I spent most of my teenage years feeling like no one really saw me, like I was invisible. We read books in order to connect to characters, to feel like someone sees us. But there aren’t a lot of YA books that feature LGBTQIA characters whose biggest problem isn’t their sexuality. That’s one of the reasons I wrote The Fives Stages of Andrew Brawley. I wanted LGBTQIA teens to know that they are more than their sexuality, I wanted them to know that they are not invisible. That’s my favorite thing about The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. Also, there’s a freaking graphic novel inside the book!

Purchase The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley at Amazon
Purchase The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley at IndieBound
View The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley on Goodreads


* * * *

Tear You Apart
by Sarah Cross
Released 1/27/2015

An edgy fairy tale retelling of "Snow White" set in the world of Kill Me Softly for fans of Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

Faced with a possible loophole to her "Snow White" curse, Viv goes underground, literally, to find the prince who's fated to rescue her. But is life safe in the Underworld worth the price of sacrficing the love that might kill her?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Tear You Apart?

My favorite thing about TEAR YOU APART . . . is that it exists. A sequel or companion novel (TEAR YOU APART is a companion novel to KILL ME SOFTLY) is never a guaranteed thing. But readers supported KILL ME SOFTLY and that made a second book possible. That's why TEAR YOU APART is dedicated to my readers. Without their enthusiasm and support, this book would be a dream, not a reality.

Purchase Tear You Apart at Amazon
Purchase Tear You Apart at IndieBound
View Tear You Apart on Goodreads

* * * *

We Can Work It Out
by Elizabeth Eulberg
Released 1/27/2015

A return to the world of THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB -- in a novel that gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be . . . and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.

When Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys looked at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life . . . but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be.

But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend . . . but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her.

Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood.

Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it -- and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about We Can Work It Out?

I absolutely loved getting to return to the world and characters of my first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club. Ever since I finished writing that book five years ago, I'd been itching to see what was next in store for Penny Lane Bloom and her friends. Plus, I got to listen to the Beatles while writing the book, which is always a fun thing!

Purchase We Can Work It Out at Amazon
Purchase We Can Work It Out at IndieBound
View We Can Work It Out on Goodreads


* * * *

A Cold Legacy
by Megan Shepherd
Balzer + Bray
Released 1/27/2015

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.

Purchase A Cold Legacy at Amazon
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View A Cold Legacy on Goodreads

* * * *

Burning Nation
by Trent Reedy
Arthur A. Levine Books
Released 1/27/2015

In this wrenching sequel to DIVIDED WE FALL, Danny and friends fight to defend Idaho against a Federal takeover and the ravages of a BURNING NATION.

At the end of DIVIDED WE FALL, Danny Wright's beloved Idaho had been invaded by the federal government, their electricity shut off, their rights suspended. Danny goes into hiding with his friends in order to remain free. But after the state declares itself a Republic, Idaho rises to fight in a second American Civil War, and Danny is right in the center of the action, running guerrilla missions with his fellow soldiers to break the Federal occupation. Yet what at first seems like a straightforward battle against governmental repression quickly grows more complicated, as more states secede, more people die, and Danny discovers the true nature of some of his new allies.

Chilling, powerful, and all too plausible,, BURNING NATION confirms Trent Reedy's place as a provocative new voice in YA fiction.

Purchase Burning Nation at Amazon
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View Burning Nation on Goodreads

* * * *

by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends
Released 1/27/2015

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Purchase Fairest at Amazon
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View Fairest on Goodreads

* * * *

I Was Here
by Gayle Forman
Viking Juvenile
Released 1/27/2015

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

Purchase I Was Here at Amazon
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View I Was Here on Goodreads

* * * *

I'm Glad I Did
by Cynthia Weil
Soho Teen
Released 1/27/2015

Mad Men meets Nashville in this debut mystery set in 1963, written by Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cynthia Weil.

It’s the summer of 1963 and JJ Green is a born songwriter—which is a major problem, considering that her family thinks the music business is a cesspool of lowlifes and hustlers. Defying them, she takes an internship at the Brill Building, the epicenter of a new sound called rock and roll.

JJ is finally living her dream. She even finds herself a writing partner in Luke Silver, a boy with mesmerizing green eyes who seems to connect instantly with her music. Best of all, they’ll be cutting their first demo with legendary singer Dulcie Brown. Though Dulcie is now a custodian in the Brill Building and has fallen on hard times, JJ is convinced that she can shine again.

But Dulcie’s past is a tangle of secrets, and when events take a dark turn, JJ must navigate a web of hidden identities and shattered lives—before it snares her, too.

Purchase I'm Glad I Did at Amazon
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View I'm Glad I Did on Goodreads

* * * *

Playlist for the Dead
by Michelle Falkoff
Released 1/27/2015

A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend's suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here's what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you'll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it's only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now, Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that's always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it's about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

Purchase Playlist for the Dead at Amazon
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View Playlist for the Dead on Goodreads

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