Saturday, December 31, 2016

3 Stacey Lee, author of THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE, on smelling notes

We're thrilled to have Stacey Lee join us to chat about her latest novel THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE.

Stacey, what was your inspiration for writing THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE?

I was inspired by my nose! When I was in my thirties, I discovered that I could smell notes. When I smell something-coffee, a leather bag-the smells resonate as musical pitches. This is a kind of synesthesia which may or may not be related to the fact that I have perfect pitch, something my mother discovered when I was four. It took awhile for me to realize I could smell notes because it was something I did without thinking about it. I assumed the rest of the world could smell things the way I did.

Friday, December 30, 2016

0 YALLFest interviews with Aprilynne Pike, Danielle Paige, and Zac Brewer

Today is the third installment of the on-the-fly interviews I did with some of the YALLFest authors. Between panels and signings and catching up with friends, they all had hectic schedules, so I truly appreciate that they indulged me and my silly questions.

Here's what I asked:

What real-life adventure would you most like to go on?

What fictional adventure would you most like to crash?

Besides storytelling, what skill(s) would you contribute to the group on an adventure quest?

As a writer, what do you think is your strongest skill? And do you have any tips for getting better at it?

And then if they had time, I gave them some markers and a paper with "YA Books = " and had them get creative for their picture.

Today's featured victims are Aprilynne Pike, Danielle Paige, and Zac Brewer.

Monday, December 26, 2016

2 New Releases this week 12/26-1/01

Happy Monday! There is only one new release this week with an interview, THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE by Stacey Lee! Don't forget to check it out below!

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, Anisaa, and Kristin


Cursed by R.L. Stine: Melissa P.


* * * *

The Secret of a Heart Note
by Stacey Lee
Katherine Tegen Books
Released 12/27/2016

An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs.

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Secret of a Heart Note?

My favorite thing in writing Heart Note was coming up with novel ways to describe smells. My main character, Mim, with her super sensitive nose, processes the world through smell. Unfortunately, the English language is quite limited when it comes to describing smells. The same thing is true with taste. My inlaws often use Chinese words to describe a particular taste (we do love our food!), and when I ask for the English translation, frequently, none exists. For more exacting descriptions of taste or smell, we must rely on comparisons (e.g., this medicine tastes like a skunk died in my mouth; that perfume smells like cotton candy.)

For Heart Note, I used comparisons, but I also tried to stretch the language to 'suggest' smells, like, "there's a buttery roundness to the scent, like it's used to sunshine." Another thing I did was to read wine descriptions. Enologists are experts in the art of describing taste, and my descriptions often have a 'wine' feel: "It had a dominant of miso soup, osha beats, a lick of buffalo weed, not too spicy, with a silvery finish."

Purchase The Secret of a Heart Note at Amazon
Purchase The Secret of a Heart Note at IndieBound
View The Secret of a Heart Note on Goodreads


* * * *

Endgame: Rules of the Game
by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton
Released 12/27/2016

The explosive final novel in the Endgame trilogy. Two keys have been found. The strongest Players are left. One final key remains to win Endgame and save the world.

For Sarah, Jago, Aisling, Maccabee, Shari, An, and Hilal, Endgame has reached its final phase. The third key, Sun Key, is all that stands between one Player saving their line—or perishing along with the rest of the world. And only one can win.

West Bengal, India: Maccabee is Playing to win. He has Earth Key and Sky Key and he is determined to find Sun Key. But in Endgame, fate can turn in the blink of an eye. He must Play carefully. He must watch his back.

Kolkata, India: An Liu is Playing for death. His goal: stop Endgame, and take the world down with him.

Sikkim, India: For Aisling, Sarah, Jago, Shari, and Hilal, their mission is to stop Endgame. Sun Key must not be found.

No matter what they’re Playing for, all of the remaining Players have one thing in common: they will end the game, but on their own terms.

Purchase Endgame: Rules of the Game at Amazon
Purchase Endgame: Rules of the Game at IndieBound
View Endgame: Rules of the Game on Goodreads

Friday, December 23, 2016

0 YALLFest interviews with Stephanie Kuehn, Justine Larbalestier, Amie Kaufman, and Caleb Roehrig

Today is the second installment of the on-the-fly interviews I did with some of the YALLFest authors. Between panels and signings and catching up with friends, they all had hectic schedules, so I truly appreciate that they indulged me and my silly questions.

Here's what I asked:

What real-life adventure would you most like to go on?

What fictional adventure would you most like to crash?

Besides storytelling, what skill(s) would you contribute to the group on an adventure quest?

As a writer, what do you think is your strongest skill? And do you have any tips for getting better at it?

And then if they had time, I gave them some markers and a paper with "YA Books = " and had them get creative for their picture.

Today's featured victims are Stephanie Kuehn, Justine Larbalestier, Amie Kaufman, and Caleb Roehrig.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

1 A Short Interview with Shannon Messenger

We're pleased to welcome Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of The Lost Cities and the Sky Fall series, to the blog today for a short interview on her first publishing experience. I had the privilege of meeting Shannon at one of my local book stores earlier this year. When I heard about her first publishing experience, I knew it was meant to be told on this blog. She wrote and rewrote her first novel a whopping 20 times before it was published! To me, her story screams, "If I can do it, than so can YOU!!!" I hope you as a reader will take comfort from her story that persistence and perseverance will always be the keys to achieving your goals. 

1) You mentioned that you wrote your first novel, Keeper of the Lost Cities 20 times, got an agent on draft 16, sold the book at draft 18 and published draft 20. What was the one thing you changed between drafts in order to achieve publication?

(Actually it was draft 13 that got me an agent and then we sold draft 18)

Ha—I wish there was only one thing that changed between all those drafts. But they were five seriously major revisions. I’d never written a book before, so I had a LOT to learn. Thank goodness my agent had faith in me—and gave incredible revision notes—to help me shape the book into what it needed to be. 

2) 20 drafts later, you have a published book. What motivated you to keep on going?

I really, really, REALLY wanted to be a published author. And I firmly believed that if I just kept trying, I’d find a way to get there. Which was true—I really think the only difference between someone who reaches their dream and someone who doesn’t is that the person who doesn’t gave up. If you keep pushing and learning and practicing, eventually you’ll get there.

3) After your experience, what advice on revision would you give aspiring authors who are in the process of drafting and redrafting their work?

The best advice I can give is, “remember, it’s part of the process.” It’s so easy to look at your hot mess of a draft and think it’s proof that you’re just not good enough—but it’s not. Revision is a part of writing, even if you have to do it multiple times. Just keep pushing yourself and you’ll get there. (and work with critique partners!)

4) How do you think your experience has taught you to be a better writer?

It taught me tons of important things, and pointed out a ton of mistakes I was making. But I think the most important thing it taught me is how to sort through edit notes. I never want to dig in my heels and ignore changes that would make my book better. But not every note ends up being a helpful note either. And going through so many rounds of revision really helped me develop a gut sense for when I need to take a note to heart and when I can disregard—or, more importantly—how to get to the heart of the issue and find a different, better fix to address the problem.

5) What would you tell other authors in the querying process?
The same thing I already said above—don’t get discouraged or give up. I know it can be a stressful, discouraging process. But if you believe in yourself, work hard, and keep trying, you will get there eventually. I promise!


Let The Wind Rise
by Shannon Messenger
Simon Pulse
Released 4/26/2016

The breathtaking action and whirlwind adventure build to a climax in this thrilling conclusion to the “remarkably unpredictable” (BCCB) Sky Fall trilogy from the bestselling author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

Vane Weston is ready for battle. Against Raiden’s army. Against the slowly corrupting Gale Force. Even against his own peaceful nature as a Westerly. He’ll do whatever it takes, including storming Raiden’s icy fortress with the three people he trusts the least. Anything to bring Audra home safely.

But Audra won’t wait for someone to rescue her. She has Gus—the guardian she was captured with. And she has a strange “guide” left behind by the one prisoner who managed to escape Raiden. The wind is also rising to her side, rallying against their common enemy. When the forces align, Audra makes her play—but Raiden is ready.

Freedom has never held such an impossible price, and both groups know the sacrifices will be great. But Vane and Audra started this fight together. They’ll end it the same way.


Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she learned--among other things--that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She's studied art, screenwriting, and film production, but realized her real passion was writing stories for children. 

She's the NYT and USA Today bestselling author of the middle grade series, KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, and the SKY FALL series for young adults. 

Her books have been featured on multiple state reading lists, published in numerous countries, and translated into many different languages. She lives in Southern California with her husband and an embarrassing number of cats.

Monday, December 19, 2016

6 New Release this week 12/19-12/25 and a giveaway!

Happy Monday! Surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly), we only have one new release to share with you this week, CURSED by R.L. Stine! We also have a giveaway of it below so don't forget to enter!

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, Anisaa, and Kristin


* * * *

by R.L. Stine
Paperback Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon Pulse
Released 12/20/2016

From the beloved and bestselling author of the Goosebumps series comes three haunting and terrifying Fear Street Saga novels—now available in one chilling paperback edition.

Fear Street is cursed.

It’s been that way for hundreds of years. Unspeakable horrors haunt those who’ve walked on its terrifying path. And it all started with one family—the Fears.

Go back to how it all began and discover why the heir to the Fear name attempted to escape the family curse, how a young woman fell victim to the haunted Fear mansion, and why marrying into the Fear family means being trapped in a world of death and horror.

And how Fear Street became the evil place it is today.

Purchase Cursed at Amazon
Purchase Cursed at IndieBound
View Cursed on Goodreads

Saturday, December 17, 2016

0 Sasha Stephenson, author of ICELING, on learning how to live with the people you're writing about

We're thrilled to have Sasha Stephenson join us to share more about his debut novel ICELING.

Sasha, 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 thing to write from like a technical perspective was the big Arctic Showdown towards the end. I've never written a scene that big or with that much incessant action before, and to spread one scene out over a few chapters, to try to encompass this huge event ... it was a lot of work. 

In terms of the scenes I'm proudest of, one would have to be the end of chapter 11. Balancing Lorna's interior narrative with the actual description of the events unfolding in front of the car was real challenging, and plus I got to include some references to The Edge. Writing it felt like this tightrope act of conveying the genuine terror Lorna feels at this scene via the ways in which she was reacting to it, which was equal parts denial and bad jokes and cussing and panic, while at the same time needing to describe things from both inside and outside of her perspective, to let the reader see both what was happening and what she felt was happening, to blur them without losing track of her feelings or the situation itself, which was, quite rapidly, escalating way out of hand. 

But, for me, the scene I love the most is at the end of chapter 25. [I'm trying to talk about all of this without spoiling anything! It is not the easiest thing!] It was a big scene, for me, emotionally, to try to get myself to understand what Lorna would feel in that moment, and how she'd want to express it. The scene just came tumbling out at first, and then I had to wrench the rest of it out word by word. It felt very important to try to feel every single thing that Lorna would be feeling in that moment, and to render it as painfully and tenderly as possible. To watch someone's dreams die, and then to imagine what that would feel like, and then to look over, and to see what their eyes look like watching all this, and to realize that you maybe understood a fraction of that hurt... I remember it was real late at night, in December of 2014, and as soon as I finished that scene I went outside, and the air was freezing, and I was sort of just walking around, stunned and spent.

Friday, December 16, 2016

2 YALLFest interview with Sara Shepard

The last of my pre-scheduled interviews during YALLFest is with Sara Shepard, the NYT bestselling author of the series PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and THE LYING GAME. Not only are her books addicting, but so are the TV shows based on them. And it sounds like she might have more TV excitement in store for us. How has she achieved all this success? Through a lot of hard work and outlines and schedules that keep her on track. Keep reading to find out what it takes to turn your book into a show.

Since it’s National Novel Writing Month, I was wondering if you’ve ever participated?

Not in any sort of official way, but in unofficial ways, sure. I sort of challenge myself, "Like, alright, we’re gonna try to get this done within the month." November or other months. But, no, I’ve never officially participated.

When NaNo rolls around each year, it reignites the pantser versus plotter debate – where do you stand on this vital matter?

I’m a plotter, for sure. Writing mystery/thrillers you kind of have to know, otherwise you’ll just go on bad tangents. You kind of have to figure out your clues. And then usually I work backwards, so I know who the killer is, for example, and then go backwards from there. I have very, very detailed outlines - twenty pages, single spaced. I do a lot of behind the scenes – what the killer is thinking – manuscripts. What the killer wants everybody else to think. What the police think. A whole bunch of different documents that never make it into books, that are just supplemental material that I refer to.

I wish I could just follow the flow, but it doesn’t work very well for me. Because I’ve tried it, and it just leads to a lot of agony. *laughs* So, yeah, I’m a plotter.

What's your writing ritual like? What’s your day in the life as a writer?

It used to be before I had kids, I wrote whenever. But now I have two little kids and somebody comes to watch them from nine to five, Monday through Friday, and I am dedicated. I make myself write from nine to five. I mean, do I take breaks? Yeah. Do I leave my computer? Yeah. But I feel like this is my time to work.

I have an outline, and I’m writing to the outline. Or I’m doing something related. Maybe I’m writing the outline, maybe I’m editing, maybe I’m revising, but it’s something regarding the books.

After you finish a first draft, what does your revision process look like?

Well, it depends on if I have time. If I’m at the deadline, then it goes to the editor. Is this a really, really rough first draft or a pretty polished first draft? Because even my first drafts have like six drafts. So once it’s a polished first draft, then it goes to the editor.

Within polishing the first draft, there’s a lot of – most of my books are multi POV, so for example PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, I’ll take all of Aria’s chapters and read them to make sure that they work. Then all of Spencer’s chapters. And then sort of go over it again, making sure that it works as a story. It’s like layers, different layers of how does this story work.

Has there been 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?

The thing that I have realized is that I have bad writing days – I’m not getting ideas, everything that I’m doing is not working – but those days pass. You have better days after those days. So just try to write something in those days and don’t doubt yourself. Being a writer, unfortunately, your life is full of self-doubt. Insecurity. Paranoia. Ya know, horrible feelings. *laughs* But it’s just sort of the faith in, “Well, I have done this for long enough that I kind of know my story works, and I’m going to work through it, and it’s eventually going to make sense.” And it has always worked. And I have good editors, too.

But there’s never been like one single moment of, “Oh, this is the key.” Because all books are different, every single book I write is different, and it’s a different challenge, and they’re all hard, and I’ve never written one that’s easy. Unfortunately.

I read on your website that you create projects with your sister, which I think is so cool because I write screenplays with my brother. So what kind of projects do you guys do?

Well, this was when we were younger. Unfortunately. I have been trying to get her to work on a couple of print projects with me. She’s an artist, she works as an art director at a record label, and I want to write a picture book and I want her to be the artist for it. I don’t have an idea yet, but I just think it would be fun if we teamed up.

When we were little, we had a lot of imaginary worlds, and we both loved to draw, so we would draw those worlds too. We created whole societies and franchises within these worlds. We had this one world and there were these creatures with square heads, and they were pretty much like people, but they had square heads. And we made up video games for them. We made up catalogues that you would get in the mail for clothes that they would wear. We had many, many novels. We had board games. We had a website for them. And that continued well into our twenties. Well, well into our twenties. We were going to do an art installation at a music festival, which was frightening, and I’m glad we didn’t do it. We were accepted into it, and we made these big papier-mâché replicas of them, and then we found out all the other artists were serious artists and we were just being ridiculous.

We were the kids that didn’t play outside. We just sat at our coffee table and drew and talked to each other and drove our parents crazy. But I feel like we need to come together – maybe just doing them as a picture book because they were very, very fun. But, yes, well into our twenties we would still talk about this world. We realize anybody else would think this is crazy, like your childhood little universe, imaginary friends, are still part of your dialog. But it’s fun to have that. I think a lot of people don’t have that creative relationship with their sibling, and it’s fun to have it.

I saw that THE AMATEURS has been optioned for TV – congrats! This is now your third after PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and THE LYING GAME, right?

The THE PERFECTIONISTS was optioned for TV as well, but it’s just floating around in TV land. It’s great for things to be optioned for TV, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to be made. It’s a really long process. The person that is developing a pilot, I think he has a really good idea of how it could become a TV show. He made a couple of really minor changes, but mostly it’s the same. So we’ll see. It’s all about, “We’ll see.” PRETTY LITTLE LIARS was optioned for TV in 2005 and then in 2010 it became a show, so it’s a long waiting process. But it would be really fun to see it as a show.

I know authors don’t have much control about getting a show optioned or input once it does, but our readers dream of seeing their book become movies or shows, so can you pull back the curtain for our readers about the process?

I have agents in LA, who that’s what they do – they pitch the ideas to studios and networks. It’s a lot of me not really doing anything. Unless … I’m now involved in trying to do an adult pilot. I sort of have a pilot deal, which is not related to THE AMATEURS or anything like that – it’s not book-to-screen, it’s a pilot idea. But I have script deal with Warner Horizon, and so I know a little bit more. There are a lot of steps. You have to create this pitch document where you have your core idea, you have your characters, you have like why do people want to see this as a show, you have all these things and you kind of have to explain it in four minutes. Because you have to go to the studio and they get bored, and then you have to go to the networks and they really get bored. I’m in the process of putting that together and getting ready to go and present it, which sounds very nerve-wracking. But that’s, I think, how it works.

I think getting a good agent that specializes in that kind of stuff is helpful because they know how to get your material out there. But I think it’s also great for writers who want their book to go to TV to be involved in it because I was not that involved in PRETTY LITTLE LIARS or really even with THE AMATEURS I wasn’t involved with getting it out there for TV. But I think it’s kind of fun to see how the process works – it makes you sort of empowered and, I don’t know, it’s an interesting angle to see how it all unfolds.

Since you’re so successful at having your books optioned, do you have any advice for people while they’re writing a novel to facilitate getting it optioned?

It’s hard to say. For commercial TV you want a story with a world that will build beyond just a season – that has a compelling reason to continue beyond a single arc. Which is hard to come up with. I’m thinking about very, very network TV, not like the HBOs of the world, not like Netflix, where you can kind of branch out a little bit. I think you want relatable characters that enough people can relate to and they’re not completely out there, you know, way too quirky. Or like relatable situations that a lot of people are going through. PRETTY LITTLE LIARS was lucky in that it was the right time for a lot of the issues that the characters were going through, like Emily coming out. It was the right time for that to be on TV. Now it being on TV maybe wouldn’t be as impactful, but in 2010/2011 it was. So it’s timing it right, and getting your characters right and relatable and that kind of stuff. It’s hard. Its’ hard to kind of figure out what’s going to make a good show. Fortunately, I deal with a lot of people who have worked in the industry for a long time, so they kind of are like, “Yeah, this will make a good show” or this won’t.

What are you working on now?

I am working on THE AMATEURS 2, which is called FOLLOW ME. And there’s going to be a third Amateurs, which I haven’t even thought of yet. And I’m working on this unnamed pilot thing that’s sort of in the atmosphere. And I’m trying to figure out my next YA series because I love YA, and I never want to not be doing a YA something. I have a couple of early ideas, but I’m not sure yet. But, yeah, I’m pretty busy!

Thank you, Sara, for taking the time to chat with me!

As we wait for FOLLOW ME, make sure you've read her latest, THE AMATEURS.


The Amateurs
by Sarah Shepard
Released 11/1/2016

As soon as Seneca Frazier sees the post on the Case Not Closed website about Helena Kelly, she’s hooked. Helena’s high-profile disappearance five years earlier is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.

So when Maddy Wright, her best friend from the CNC site, invites Seneca to spend spring break in Connecticut looking into the cold case, she immediately packs her bag. But the moment she steps off the train in trendy, glamorous Dexby, things begin to go wrong. Maddy is nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin Kelly, seems completely hostile and totally uninterested in helping with their murder investigation.

But when Brett, another super user from the site, joins Seneca and Maddy in Dexby, Aerin starts to come around. The police must have missed something, and someone in Dexby definitely has information they’ve been keeping quiet.

As Seneca, Brett, Maddy, and Aerin begin to unravel dark secrets and shocking betrayals about the people closest to them, they seem to be on the murderer’s trail at last. But somewhere nearby the killer is watching . . . ready to do whatever it takes to make sure the truth stays buried.

Purchase The Amateurs at Amazon
Purchase The Amateurs at IndieBound
View The Amateurs on Goodreads


For as long as she can remember, Sara Shepard has been writing. However, when she was young she also wanted to be a soap opera star, a designer for LEGO, a filmmaker, a claymation artist, a geneticist, and a fashion magazine editor when she grew up. She and her sister have been creating joint artistic and written projects for years, except they’re pretty sure they’re the only ones who find them funny.

She got her MFA at Brooklyn College and now lives outside Philadelphia, PA with her husband and dogs. Her first adult novel is called The Visibles/ All The Things We Didn’t Say.

Sara’s bestselling young adult series, Pretty Little Liars, is loosely based on her experiences growing up on Philadelphia’s Main Line…although luckily she never had any serious stalkers. The series has also inspired the ABC Family television series of the same name.


Which Sara Shepard books have you read? Do you write documents of supplemental material that never make it into your books? Do self-doubt, insecurity, and paranoia plague you and how do you push them away? Did you/do you have a creative relationship with a sibling? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

0 The Truth about Roadblocks and Quicksand

We're excited for Carol Lynch Williams, author of The Messenger, to join us today to shed some light on two popular writing myths. 

"I don't believe in writer's block...I also don't believe in the muse."

What a pleasure to write something for Adventures in YA Publishing! I love young adult novels. 
Aren't we lucky to be able to go to a library or a bookstore and have thousands of choices at our fingertips?

I also love to write (I mean, once my project is finished I love to write. Or when I'm thinking of the next novel I'm going to work on and haven't put anything down on paper yet.). And I love to share about writing. Lucky me! :)

There are lots of things I could say that other writers might disagree with. Like . . .
I don't believe in writer's block. The truth is, writing is just hard work. And that means pushing through the tough times of your novel. Perhaps you made a wrong turn somewhere and now you feel stuck. 

It's like when you get caught in quicksand.

My mother said when I was little: Stop running around the woods with your cousins.
Mom: You'll step in quicksand.
Me: We have quicksand here in Florida?
Mom: (Solemn head nodding) Yes. And then what will you do?
Me: Die?
Mom: Exactly.

Now I know, after a recent google search, if I get caught in quicksand I shouldn't struggle.
It's the same with writing. If you feel you've hit a roadblock in your novel, back up. Reread. Do you know the direction you should be going? Have you run off the path and into quicksand? If so, don't struggle. Take a breath and find where you took the wrong turn. Trust yourself. Trust your story.

I also don't believe in the muse. I don't sit around waiting for some idea to bonk me on the head. I think, remember people I knew (or know), read the news, wonder at odd things, look into history, listen to people talk, read other books etc then settle on a character and write.

This leads me to some of the best advise I've been given.
My dear friend, Rick Walton, just died. (He had a brain tumor, and I'm pretty sure he felt, toward the end of his life, he was caught in quicksand and he couldn't get out.)
Rick was a prolific writer, publishing more than a 100 books (mostly picture books). He went after ideas. He never sat around waiting for them.
His best advise to me? Don't give up. No matter what, go after what you want as a writer.

We met when my first novel was coming out.
He had a few joke books out with Lerner publishing and was awaiting the publication of his first picture book.

"Keep writing," he told everyone he met who had the dream of holding a book of their own. "Keep writing. It will happen."

That's the key to it all. Keep writing. Keep trying. Get past the roadblocks. Stay away from the quicksand. Put the words on paper. Work.

You will succeed.


The Messenger
by Carol Lynch Williams
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman BooksReleased 10/18/2016

From PEN Award–winning author Carol Lynch Williams comes an eerie and atmospheric coming-of-age tale about a girl who can talk to the dead—even if she would rather not.

Evie Messenger knows that her family is different from other families. But it isn’t until her fifteenth birthday that the Messenger gift is revealed to her. Evie has the family’s gift—a special power. Soon she realizes she is able to see and talk to the dead—ghosts—often with no idea who the person was. Or as Evie says: “I see Dead People. It’s a Messenger gift.” That doesn’t mean she wants the Messenger gift. So Evie tries to ignore it but soon she finds she cannot. Can Evie find a way to live her life without letting her power take over?And what if the dead person is someone close to Evie’s family?


Carol Lynch Williams, who grew up in Florida and now lives in Utah, is an award-winning novelist with seven children of her own, including six daughters. She has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College, and won the prestigious PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. The Chosen One was named one of the ALA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and Best Books for Young Adult Readers; it won the Whitney and the Association of Mormon Letters awards for the best young adult novel of the year; and was featured on numerous lists of recommended YA fiction. Carol’s other novels include Glimpse, Miles From Ordinary, The Haven, Waiting, Signed, Skye Harper, and the Just in Time series.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

1 10 Favorite Quotes to Inspire You to Write

I'm taking until the new year to recharge my blogging batteries a bit, my lovelies, so no real craft posts for a bit. It's hard to stay inspired at the end of the year, but that writing bug doesn't leave you. When it's hard to keep thinking about my manuscript, I like to look to other writers for inspiration. Here are a few of my favorite quotes on writing. I hope you love them as much as I do!

“Don't get it right, get it written.” ―Ally Carter

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov

"The first draft of anything is shit." Ernest Hemingway

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”—Samuel Johnson

"Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly." Franz Kafka

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”—Larry King

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.” —Stephen King

“Don't say it was delightful; make us say delightful when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers Please will you do the job for me.” C. S. Lewis

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." Mark Twain

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth

Monday, December 12, 2016

0 New Releases this week 12/12-12/18

Happy Monday! Unfortunately we don't have any new giveaways this week but don't forget to check out all the new releases and add them to your TBR.

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, Anisaa, and Kristin


Mind Games by Heather W. Petty: Amanda M.


* * * *

by Sasha Stephenson
Released 12/13/2016

Seventeen-year-old Lorna loves her adoptive sister, Callie. But Callie can’t say “I love you” back. In fact, Callie can’t say anything at all.

Callie is an Iceling—one of hundreds of teens who were discovered sixteen years ago on a remote Arctic island, all of them lacking the ability to speak or understand any known human language.

Mysterious and panicked events lead to the two sisters embarking on a journey to the north, and now Lorna starts to see that there’s a lot more to Callie’s origin story than she’d been led to believe. Little does she know what’s in store, and that she’s about to uncover the terrifying secret about who—and what—Callie really is.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Iceling?

Lorna's voice. I get the feeling it may not be everyone's favorite thing about the book, but it felt like the biggest thing I was able to bring to it. I feel that I was able to work in a great deal of syntactical rhythms and some turns of phrase that I am deeply proud of. I wanted her to speak in a way that could lull the reader into unpacking some larger ideas. I wanted her to be fun, and a little bit difficult, and incredibly strong.

Purchase Iceling at Amazon
Purchase Iceling at IndieBound
View Iceling on Goodreads


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Crystal Storm
by Morgan Rhodes
Released 12/13/2016

An epic clash between gods and mortals threatens to tear Mytica apart . . . and prove that not even the purest of love stands a chance against the strongest of magic.

MAGNUS and CLEO are forced to test the strength of their love when Gaius returns to Mytica claiming he's no longer the King of Blood but a changed man seeking redemption.

LUCIA, pregnant with the child of a Watcher, has escaped the clutches of the unhinged fire god. Her powers are dwindling as she goes forth to fulfill a prophecy that will keep her baby safe . . . but could mean her demise.

JONAS treks back to Mytica with a plan to overtake Amara, but fate takes hold when he runs into the beautiful Princess Lucia and joins her on her perilous journey.

AMARA has taken the Mytican throne, but with no way to unleash the water magic trapped within her stolen crystal, she'll never be able to seize glory and get sweet revenge.

And what kind of darkness will descend--and who will be safe--after Prince Ashur reveals the dangerous price he paid to cheat death?

Purchase Crystal Storm at Amazon
Purchase Crystal Storm at IndieBound
View Crystal Storm on Goodreads

* * * *

Forever, Again
by Victoria Laurie
Released 12/13/2016

Lily Bennett is less than thrilled to be the new kid as she starts her junior year in high school.

But soon after classes begin, she meets a classmate, Cole Drepeau, with whom she forms an immediate and intimate bond. As Cole and Lily grow closer, Lily learns about the murder that divided the town more than thirty years before. In 1985, graduating senior Amber Greeley snapped, killing her boyfriend Ben—Cole’s uncle—and taking her own life.

Lily feels inexplicably linked to Amber, and she can’t help but think that there’s more to the girl’s story. Determined to investigate the truth about Cole’s uncle’s death, Lily and Cole are pulled into a dark mystery—one that shakes the constraints of the world they’ve always believed in.

Masterfully told by best-selling author Victoria Laurie, this novel alternates voices between Lily and Amber, a generation apart, as decades of dark family secrets and treacherous betrayals are woven into the most epic of love stories.

Purchase Forever, Again at Amazon
Purchase Forever, Again at IndieBound
View Forever, Again on Goodreads

Saturday, December 10, 2016

0 Romina Russell, author of BLACK MOON, on your story singing through your bones

BLACK MOON is the third book in the Zodiac series, and we're thrilled to have Romina Russell here to chat about writing.

Romina, what book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Harry Potter, Lunar Chronicles, Starbound series, Illuminae Files, Hunger Games

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

It took me nearly a decade to land my first book contract: Before the publication of ZODIAC, my debut novel, I'd completed five other manuscripts that were all rejected by the publishing industry.

Friday, December 9, 2016

5 YALLFest interviews with Carrie Ryan, Diana Pho, C. Alexander London, and Alex Gino

Although I had several pre-scheduled interviews at YALLfest (with Jonathan Stroud, Dhonielle Clayton, and next week's guest), I was also able to catch on-the-fly interviews with some of the YALLFest participants. Between panels and signings and catching up with friends, they all had hectic schedules, so I truly appreciate that they indulged me and my silly questions.

Here's what I asked:

What real-life adventure would you most like to go on?

What fictional adventure would you most like to crash?

Besides storytelling, what skill(s) would you contribute to the group on an adventure quest?

As a writer, what do you think is your strongest skill? And do you have any tips for getting better at it?

And then if they had time, I gave them some markers and a paper with "YA Books = " and had them get creative for their picture.

Today's featured victims are authors Carrie Ryan, C. Alexander London, Alex Gino, and an editor from Tor Books - Diana Pho.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

9 The Zen of Accepting Bad Reviews

We're excited to welcome Carol Riggs, author of THE LYING PLANET, to the blog today to discuss the value in accepting negative reviews.

"Reading reviews can be eye-opening, a constructive learning experience for some (warning: not all) authors. If I choose to, I can incorporate any relevant feedback I happen to come across."

Reviews: The Danger Zone. 

Before my debut book, The Body Institute, was about to release in September of 2015, I vowed never to read the reviews about my “baby.” I figured the last thing I needed was other people’s feedback at that late point, and I knew I’d obsess over the negative reviews instead of the positive ones. That was just the way I was wired as a perfectionist, fussing over things that weren’t “perfect” about myself and my creations. Many wise, already-published authors advised against looking at reviews. They cautioned that negative reviews could burn a hole in a writer’s psyche for weeks, months—even years. This negativity could derail future writing and cripple creativity, because doubts would lodge in the brain about one’s supposed lack of skill. I totally saw how that was possible.

Sidling up and sniffing the danger. But then the ARCs went out for my debut, and advanced reviews started coming in on Goodreads. I had to look. My friends—even strangers—gave me great reviews. I floated on the high. This was fun! And when some negative reviews came in with 1-star and 2-star ratings, I dared to take at peek. After all, my “skin” was pretty thick, since I had extensive experience with critique partner feedback as well as a long submission process before I found my publisher, in which one editor would love one thing and dislike another, while another editor loved and disliked exactly the opposite thing. Reading reviews was pretty much the same experience, I figured.

Did the low-starred reviews still sting? Yes, indeed. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how some readers felt so adamantly negative. I anguished when reviewers condemned the book for a simple misunderstanding (or sloppy reading) or for some random thing no one else had a problem with. It was puzzling, agonizing, and morbidly fascinating all at the same time. 

"One reviewer said the book was “fast-paced” while another said it “dragged.” Which one was right?"

Dabbling in the danger. It went downhill from there. 

A cat’s curiosity gripped me. I kept reading the reviews: the good, the bad, and the ugly. On one hand, I saw my writing described as “delectable” while another reviewer said: “The. Writing. Was. Horrible.” One reviewer said the book was “fast-paced” while another said it “dragged.” Which one was right? I tossed those contradictory comments around in my mind for a while, until I finally decided this: It really doesn’t matter. Authors can’t please everyone, and it’s all subjective. I’d known that in my head, but I began to experience it in full force.

It helped immensely to look up the first Harry Potter book on Goodreads and see that JK Rowling had more than 64,000 one-star reviews. Whoa! That’s a staggering number of dislikes and negativity, even when compared to her nearly 2,539,000 five-star reviews for balance. I reminded myself I was in good company. The good reviews helped even out the negative ones; the praise of the higher-starred reviews helped soothe my ruffled writer ego.

Going in neck-deep. The reviews for my debut kept rolling in, and periodically, I would hop online and read them…I actually saved most of them in a Word document so they’d all be in one place (will I ever read them again? eh, probably not). In July 2016, I published Bottled, my YA fantasy. Reading those reviews was a lot easier on my toughened, now-more-relaxed psyche. When a low rating would pop up, I was like, “Oh look—there’s my first 2-star review.” While one person couldn’t bear to finish the book, others raved and wanted a sequel. It was so subjective! 

"So, after three published books, I’ve concluded readers have incredibly different tastes, and the best thing I can do is accept that subjectivity."

Close on the heels of that summer release, in September 2016 The Lying Planet came out, and I got an amusing range of reactions there too: is the concept unique and creative, or is it cliché science fiction, derivative of books like Divergent and The Giver? (There’s a Testing in it, so that bit is admittedly similar.) People’s tastes were so varied.

I’m quite Zen with it. So, after three published books, I’ve concluded readers have incredibly different tastes, and the best thing I can do is accept that subjectivity. For me, reading reviews also was beneficial in that I saw some comments cropping up repeatedly, and I analyzed whether or not I thought they were valid. Just like any other feedback from agents or editors or critique partners, I had to trust my gut. Be objective. Did the criticism strike a chord and feel true? Did I need to tighten up the pacing of my new novels, or work more on rounding out my secondary characters? Yes, maybe I did. I don’t believe authors should be chameleons who change their writing to please the critics, but reading reviews can be eye-opening, a constructive learning experience for some (warning: not all) authors. If I choose to, I can incorporate any relevant feedback I happen to come across. 

"My new goal now is to go back to my writer cave and write more books, improving my craft and doing the best I possibly can. I treasure the readers who do connect with my writing. My writing isn’t for everyone—and it doesn’t have to be. In the end, as long as people are reading and enjoying my book; those are the ones I’m writing for. My true fans." 


The Lying Planet
by Carol Riggs
Entangled Teen
Released 9/19/2016

Promise City. That’s the colony I’ve been aiming for all my life on the planet Liberty. The only thing standing in my way? The Machine. On my eighteenth birthday, this mysterious, octopus-like device will scan my brain and Test my deeds. Good thing I’ve been focusing on being Jay Lawton, hard worker and rule follower, my whole life. Freedom is just beyond my fingertips.

Or so I thought. Two weeks before my Testing with the Machine, I’ve stumbled upon a new reality. The truth. In a single sleepless night, everything I thought I knew about the adults in our colony changes. And the only one who’s totally on my side is the clever, beautiful rebel, Peyton. Together we have to convince the others to sabotage their Testings before it’s too late.

Before the ceremonies are over and the hunting begins.

View The Lying Planet on Goodreads
Purchase The Lying Planet at Amazon
Purchase The Lying Planet at Indiebound


Carol Riggs is an author of young adult fiction who lives in the beautiful green state of Oregon, USA. Her books include her sci-fi debut, The Body Institute, as well as her fantasy, Bottled, and her recently released sci-fi, The Lying Planet. 

She enjoys reading, drawing and painting, writing conferences, walking with her husband, and enjoying music and dance of all kinds. You will usually find her in her writing cave, surrounded by her dragon collection and the characters in her head.

Monday, December 5, 2016

6 New Releases this week 12/5-12/11 plus Giveaway of MIND GAMES

Happy Monday! Don't forget to check out all the new releases and enter to win below.

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, Anisaa, and Kristin


* * * *

Mind Games
by Heather W. Petty
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon & Schuster Books
Released 12/6/2016

Sherlock Holmes and Miss James “Mori” Moriarty may have closed their first case, but the mystery is far from over in the thrilling sequel to Lock & Mori, perfect for fans of Maureen Johnson and Sherlock.

You know their names. Now discover their beginnings.

Mori’s abusive father is behind bars…and she has never felt less safe. Threatening letters have started appearing on her doorstep, and the police are receiving anonymous tips suggesting that Mori—not her father—is the Regent’s Park killer. To make matters worse, the police are beginning to believe them.

Through it all, Lock—frustrating, brilliant, gorgeous Lock—is by her side. The two of them set out to discover who is framing Mori, but in a city full of suspects, the task is easier said than done. With the clock ticking, Mori will discover just how far she is willing to go to make sure that justice is served, and no one—not even Lock—will be able to stop her.

Purchase Mind Games at Amazon
Purchase Mind Games at IndieBound
View Mind Games on Goodreads


Avalanche by Melinda Braun: Theresa S.


* * * *

Black Moon
by Romina Russell
Released 12/6/2016

One final secret stands between Rho and the enemy. But will the devastating truth be enough to destroy her first?

Rho, the courageous visionary from House Cancer, lost nearly everything when she exposed and fought against the Marad, a mysterious terrorist group bent on destroying balance in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now, the Marad has disappeared without a trace, and an uneasy peace has been declared in the Zodiac Galaxy.

But Rho is suspicious. She believes the Master is still out there in some other form. And looming over all are the eerie visions of her mother, who died many years ago, but is now appearing to Rho in the stars.

When news of a stylish new political party supported by her best friend, Nishi, sends Rho on another journey across the galaxy, she uses it as an opportunity to hunt the hidden master and seek out information about her mother. And what she uncovers sheds light on the truth--but casts darkness upon the entire Zodiac world.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Black Moon?

My favorite thing about BLACK MOON is that I finally got to create my very own royal ball! In addition to young adult fiction, I love the Victorian novel, so I’ve always longed to script an over-the-top ballroom scene riddled with gaudy gowns, decadent decorations, and cryptic conversations—a night rife with romantic and political entanglements—and now I finally have! Plus, the ball takes place on a new planet, so it was extra fun playing around with the setting, technology, and fashion. 

Purchase Black Moon at Amazon
Purchase Black Moon at IndieBound
View Black Moon on Goodreads


* * * *

by E.K. Johnston
Released 12/6/2016

The world is made safe by a woman...but it is a very big world.

It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains where the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained.

But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled--and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.

Purchase Spindle at Amazon
Purchase Spindle at IndieBound
View Spindle on Goodreads

* * * *

True Power
by Gary Meehan
Jo Fletcher Books
Released 12/6/2016

The War
After battling their way across Werlavia, Megan and her companions have sought the promise of safety in the mountain city of Hil . . . but the army of the True lies in wait for their arrival.

The Threat
Megan knows they can't ignore the witch menace any longer. Empowered by their guns and their allies, the True are coming for her, for her young daughter, and for everyone else she loves. Nothing less than the soul of Werlavia hangs in the balance.

The Power
Now deep into her quest, which began when she suddenly found herself a refugee from her destroyed village, Megan is no longer an ordinary miller's daughter. As her destiny has unfolded through her travels, she has taken on the role of Mother, Apostate, and Countess. And now it is up to her to protect the people of the Realm from evil. But she will have to risk everything and everyone she loves if she has any hope of succeeding against the savage forces of the True.

Purchase True Power at Amazon
Purchase True Power at IndieBound
View True Power on Goodreads

Saturday, December 3, 2016

0 Melinda Braun, author of AVALANCHE, on writing in long hand

We're thrilled to have Melinda Braun stop by to tell us more about her latest novel AVALANCHE.

Melinda, 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?

I think the hardest scene for me to write was the actual avalanche. Trying to describe it, not just what it looks like, but what it might feel like to be in one, was difficult. I have never been in an avalanche - I NEVER want to be in an avalanche. Being buried alive is definitely in my top three worst fears so writing that scene almost made me sick! While I have done my share of downhill skiing, I have never done that type of back country mountain skiing so I was fortunate to know some people who have. One of my friends even survived this type of avalanche (thanks to her airbag she was wearing at the time, which is an inflatable device that you deploy if you find yourself going under). She told me she would not have survived without it.

While that scene was the most terrifying to write, some of my favorite scenes are from the perspective of the mountain lion. When I first started the book, I had no idea those perspectives were going to show up, but now I love them. I also like how the ending turned out. I was stuck for awhile on how the story should end. It was bugging me because I usually know my beginnings and endings. It's the stuff in the middle that's the hard part!

0 Thank You to the Mentors and Participants of November 1st 5 Pages Workshop!

Congratulations to all of the participants who worked so hard during our November 1st 5 Pages Writing Workshop! And a big thanks to our wonderful guest mentors, Nancy Ohlin as our author mentor, and Tracy Marchini as our agent mentor. As always, thank you to our talented and fabulous permanent mentors, who read, comment, and cheer on our participants every month!

Speaking of our wonderful mentors, we have exciting mentor news!

CURSING FATE, the sequel to Brenda Drake's fabulous YA fantasy, TOUCHING FATE, was published on November 21. I loved this YA fantasy, so you should definitely check it out!

And on December 6, Stephanie Scott's YA contemporary, ALTERATIONS will be released! I can't wait to read it!

We are taking a hiatus in December, opening again in January, 2017! So get those pages ready - we usually fill up in under a minute!

Happy writing (and revising!)


Friday, December 2, 2016

2 YALLFest interview with Dhonielle Clayton

Next up in my YALLFest interview series is Dhonielle Clayton, co-author of TINY PRETTY THINGS and SHINY BROKEN PIECES. After chatting with her, I'm amazed at everything she's doing and am convinced she either has a clone, is a robot who doesn't need sleep, or has gotten her
hands on Hermione's Time Turner. She not only co-writes with Sona Charaipotra, but the two of them also run CAKE Literary, and Dhonielle writes her own solo novels, AND she's the COO and Sr. VP of Librarian Services for We Need Diverse Books. Whew, I'm tired just typing that! Let's jump in and find out more about the wonderful things Dhonielle is doing.

Since you co-write with Sona, I’m curious how the process works at the various stages. What does it look like from the initial idea to the final manuscript?

So we brainstorm, or I’ll call her and say, “I have an idea!” And then she’ll be like, “Oh my God, and add this!” So we always kind of collaborate and put them together. And then she’s a plotter and I’m not. I’m a world-building and character person. So she will build the frame, and then I fill in the character details and the world, since that’s my wheelhouse. So we really do a divide and conquer thing. And then we usually split up chapters or characters and take responsibility. And then we go back and we’re not precious about it, so we edit each other’s work. Because her strengths are really plotting, pace, dialog and mine are world-building and character, so we just play to our strengths within each chapter. So it’s a lot of fun.

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

*laughs* No. Every single time I start a book it’s painful, and I feel like a fraud. Every time. And I have to return to books that I’ve written and say, “Oh, I did this. It’s okay. I will be okay. It will turn out in some way to be beautiful. But right now, it’s trash.” So I have not reached that. Maybe ten books in? Right now I’m only four books in, and I’m still in the danger zone.

What are you working on now?

I have a high fantasy from Disney coming out called THE BELLES. It comes out in February of 2018. So I’m working on that, well copy edits. And I’m working on what will be my next fantasy. And then Sona and I will have some news about another co-written project that we have coming.

You and Sona also created CAKE Literary together, which is boutique book development company. So what is CAKE Literary?

It’s all about trying to open the door of publishing to other writers who are marginalized and underrepresented in publishing. So we got together and said, "Hey, we’ve got to show people how we do diversity and how we would have loved to see it as kids, where it’s fun, delicious, page-turning stories." So we tried to come up with a recipe.

I love the CAKE website. And it made me hungry for cake!

We thought that every time we hung out, we would go eat cake or have cupcakes, and we thought how boring would it be if every time we had to eat the same type of cupcake. And Sona was like that’s our thing - it’s cake! Because it would be really boring if it came in one flavor, and we want to show different flavors and different kinds of diversity and different ways to do it. So it’s a lot of fun, and we get to create from scratch together. It’s great.

I saw the reveal of the fantastic cover for THE GAUNTLET the other day. Is this the first project from CAKE that y’all didn’t write yourselves?

Yes, it’s by Karuna Riazi, and we packaged it, meaning I came up with the idea. I said, “I want to do an inverted Jumanji.” Because I love the picture book, I love the movie, and I wanted to do it the opposite way. I wanted to go into a game and have to work your way back out to the real world. And I said I wanted to do something with sand and India and the Middle East, and then we found the perfect writer. And we plotted it and really worked with her to make something really beautiful and scary and interesting.

How does the process work?

We do all of the legwork, meaning we do the plotting, we do the pitch, we do the characters, we do all of those things, and then we go find the writer. And we talk to them about what their goals are and if they want to break into publishing or if they’re already in publishing and are looking for another way to have like a middle grade if they write YA. And then we do a matching to see if their voices work and see if their goals line up with what we’re trying to do too. And then we go forward – we jump in.

How do you work with the authors?

We give them the outline and we hold their hands through the process and whatever they need help with we’re there, but we allow them to sort of wade into the water and know that they’ve got two other editors – two other people there – they’re not alone.

Any advice for writers who want to submit to CAKE?

I like meeting people, so most of the people that we’ve signed up are people that we’ve met at conferences, at festivals. So if you really want to write for us, come see us, come talk to us. Because what we’re finding is that the best people that we’ve signed up are the ones that we’ve met or someone who’s been a reference to us. I mean, we do accept submissions and we look at them and we try to match things, but we’ve found really good success at meeting people face-to-face. Talking to them and just getting a sense of their heart and what they’re into, which is really hard to do electronically. So it’s nice to meet people and say, “Well, what are you working on? What are you into?”

Any other upcoming projects besides THE GAUNTLET?

We have a book called LOVE SUGAR MAGIC that will come out in 2018 from Harper. It’s about a little girl in a small town of Texas, and her family owns a bakery, and she finds out that her family are kitchen witches. They run a Mexican bakery, and then of course she bungles up the magic. It’s a lot of fun.

Do you have any advice for people interested in setting up their own boutique book development company?

You’ve gotta find your shtick. You’ve got to figure out how you do things and what your signature is and what makes you different from the other packagers that are out there. Our shtick is diversity and trying to model to publishers ways to do it well.

You’re also the COO and Sr. VP of Librarian Services for We Need Diverse Books. I’m sure most people are familiar with WNDB, but remind us how it started.

It was a viral hashtag. Ellen Oh saw an advertisement for a book con of twelve luminaries in children’s book publishing, and they were all white, mostly men, and a cat. Grumpy Cat. And she was devastated because she was like there are so many more children’s book authors that are luminaries in the field. And then she got a bunch of authors together and said, “We need to start a hashtag about why we need diverse books,” and it went viral. And then we decided to make it into a nonprofit so that we could try to target the different areas of publishing to help. And try to get at the problem from many different vantage points.

In light of what’s happened since the election, what can we do as writers to help WNDB?

We need diverse books more than ever. Stories save lives. And right now we’re going into a time in our country where people’s lives are at risk, and so we have to retreat to art. So writers need to write. Artists need to create. That’s all we can do. And that’s the only way that we can change and have actual change.

What can non-writers do to help WNDB?

You can do lots of things. You can donate. You can also request diverse books at your library. You can book talk diverse books. Give recommendations. Those are the things that help because we have to get more people reading widely and diversely so they can walk a mile in other people’s shoes. That’s the problem that we have right now in this country. They don’t know each other. We are the same. We need to figure that out. We want the same things. So we need to be able to read about each other, even if we’re not in each other’s communities, so we can treat each other with respect.

To find lists of diverse books to read and recommend, go here.

Thank you, Dhonielle, for taking the time to chat with me!

As we wait for THE BELLES, make sure you've read her latest, SHINY BROKEN PIECES.


Shiny Broken Pieces
by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Released 7/12/2016

Featuring a diverse cast of characters, plenty of gossip, lies, and scandal, Shiny Broken Pieces continues with the soapy drama readers loved in Tiny Pretty Things.

June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose…and no one is playing nice.

June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.

After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?

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Born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Dhonielle J. Clayton spent much of her childhood hiding beneath her grandmother's dining table with a stack of books. As an English teacher at a ballet academy, Clayton rediscovered her passion for children's and young adult literature. To ground herself in the canon, she pursued her Masters in Children's Literature from Hollins University before receiving her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. An avid traveler, Dhonielle's lived in several foreign countries, but she's now settled in Harlem, where you'll find her writing late into the night, lurking in libraries, and hunting for the best slice of New York pizza.


Which of Dhonielle's books have you read? Have you ever written with a co-author? Have you thought about starting your own boutique book development company? Have you requested diverse books at your library? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,


Thursday, December 1, 2016

0 Red Light/Green Light Final Winner!

After a number of weeks, it is my great pleasure to announce the final winner of Red Light/Green Light. We had some brilliant entries, and I sincerely hope you all go on to query your work--we've loved the opportunity to read your words, which show a great deal of promise.

Our winner is...

by Kelly Barina

Seventeen-year-old Vael meets his long-lost brother, Mordred, for the first time, only to discover that they’re destined to become enemies.

After years with only swords and tomes as companions, Prince Vael finds his first true friendship with the arrival of his surly half-brother, Mordred—a boy even more familiar with rejection and loneliness than Vael. However, an ancient prophecy haunts Mordred’s footsteps―he is destined to kill their father, King Arthur, in a battle that will destroy Britain. Vael may not believe in fate’s power, but that means little to the superstitious kingdom that wants his older brother dead.

When Mordred’s sorceress mother builds an army against Camelot and plots to use him as her pawn, Vael vows to show Mordred that destinies can be chosen, even if it means challenging the fearsome sorceress himself. If Vael cannot free Mordred from the sorceress’ twisted grasp, he will have to watch his father and Camelot fall or kill the only friend he’s ever had—his brother.


Congratulations, Kelly! Our judging agent, Marisa Corvisiero, has requested that you send in your full manuscript. We'll be in touch shortly with submission instructions!