Tuesday, September 25, 2018

0 Love for Two Lifetimes Excerpt and 10-Hardcover Mystery Box Giveaway

I'm excited to wish my latest project a happy book birthday today! Love for Two Lifetimes in my first YA book in a while since I've been writing adult fiction, but I love this story so much. It's what I call my "gift book," because it's the only thing I've ever written where it just wrote itself. Izzy's voice popped in my head while I was working on something else, and I sat down and wrote over 10,000 words in one sitting. And most of those words haven't changed at all since I put them down.

The story is loosely based on the idea of Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and Camilla Parker Bowles, except that Izzy's mom is Princess Diana as the glamorous "other woman" in the marriage. I wondered how that would affect the children of the man and the woman he loves but didn't marry, and that's how this story was born. Izzy follows twenty years of unsent love letters to England and walks into a world of glamour and royalty where she falls in love with a young aristocrats--only to discover that insurmountable obstacles may lie between them.

Here's an excerpt. I hope you'll enjoy it! And be sure to scroll down to the bottom for a chance to win a mystery box of young adult hardcover books!

Izzy: The End

This isn’t a story about death or grief. It’s about grabbing love while you can.

     Malcolm and I are in the hospital corridor in front of the cardiac care unit, and the too-familiar alarms, hurrying feet, and acrid scents of disease melt away around us. There are only the answers we don’t have. And the possibility that loving him may, with the speaking of a single word, turn out to be biblically, terrifyingly wrong.

     His hands shake on my arms. His knees bend so we can look straight at each other. I love the sea-ice green of his eyes beneath the dark swoops of brow, the dimple in his chin, the way he concentrates.

     We’re pulled together, our bodies tipping closer, millimeter by millimeter, my skin alive beneath his fingers, our heartbeats echoes of one another.

     In German, there’s a word for a kiss that makes up for kisses that never happened. In case there can never be more between us, that’s exactly what I need: one last kiss to hold all the kisses that might have been, not only mine and Malcolm’s, but all those that were missing from my mother’s life.

Part One

Izzy: Brittle Leaves

The music wakes me. Mom’s piano is a constant in our house. She listens to her compositions while she sleeps, and she plays—even louder—when she’s awake. I love the magic of it, but sometimes I feel as if her music has taken over my heartbeat, my breathing, my life as well as hers. Today, she’s awake too early, which means she hasn’t yet gone to bed.

Text to Elli:

Me: Higher Grounds?

Elli: Twenty minutes!

     I dress in a scowl and the pink Oscar Wilde T-shirt my mother hates. To be fair, Mom hates all my Oscar Wilde T-shirts. She claims there’s no point wearing quotes that advocate independent thought when I insist on going to a public school that seems to discourage thinking altogether. I tell her that just makes the message even more important.

Oscar Wilde T-shirt

     In the shadow of the moon that still clings to the sky outside my window, I make my bed and gather my books together. The envelope that murdered my future lurks on the corner of the desk, and I grab that, too, before I trudge downstairs.

Scene Break


My mother is in the morning room, coffee cups strewn everywhere, sheet music sprawled on the grand piano and the bench beside her. Rough drafts pour from her fingers to the keyboard in ultra-fast arpeggios—wild, tumbling notes like leaves chased by wind. Four dry leaves flutter to rest with a pile of others against the wall, their sienna and burnt umber stark against the sapphire of the Turkish rug.

     I don’t bother checking the closed window where the sheer white curtains hang unmoving. Beyond it, the trees are still and bare, their leaves only now beginning to bud. In the darkness, daffodils glow like yellow stars uncurling among the black mulch in our flower beds. It wasn’t the season that called the leaves into being; it was the magic of my mother’s music.

     I pad across the carpet and stand beside her. She stops playing to scratch something onto a manuscript page, then repeats a passage she has played already. She’s recording the session, too, but she likes the process of setting the notes on paper. That’s the one artistic thing I’ve inherited from her. The words I type on my computer always trickle one at a time from inside my head, while those I write longhand seem to flow through me instead of from me.

     Mom looks up and smiles, her eyes still a little music-drunk. "’Morning, querida."

     "Good night," I say, "considering it’s still dark outside. Waking me up this early is practically child abuse."

     "So report me," my mother counters in her faint Argentinian accent, and her gaze shifts down to take in what I’m wearing. "That T-shirt, Isabelle! Must you?"

     "Definitely. Also, shouldn’t you go to bed?"

     "Soon." Her brows furrow and form a spiderweb of creases on her normally smooth, warm skin. "Are you going to go tell Elli this morning?"

     "I wish I didn’t have to."

     "In that case, I forgive the T-shirt. Temporarily. But in future, write your own subversions instead of relying on someone else’s." She studies me, sharp dark eyes registering all the things I haven’t said. Her features soften. "What do you say we celebrate this weekend, you, me, and Elli? I’m sure you two will work things out, and my Concerto in E-flat Major is nearly finished. We could fly to Paris."

     I smile, because the concerto that Mom’s composing has been "nearly finished" these past two years. By this afternoon, she’ll either be in despair once more or so far down the rabbit hole of creation she won’t remember mentioning Paris.

     "Sure," I tell her, and I’m typing as I turn away.

Text to Elli:

Me: Leaving now.

Elli: Caffeeeeeine!

     "Hey!" Mom calls after me and taps her cheek. "You forgot something."

     I bend down to kiss her. "Make good art, Mom."

     "Make good stories, mija."

     I cross to the door and glance back from the threshold. My mother’s playing again already, immersed so deep in her music that the rest of the world has faded. Another speed-of-light arpeggio rustles through the room, and another brittle leaf shimmers into being above the piano’s gleaming, swooping curves. One more small piece of my mother’s magic.

Scene Break


Elli’s waist-length hair is lavender, which I not-so-secretly envy. She doesn’t have much of it, which I also envy. I have enough hair for three people, which is like wearing a space-heater when it’s hot, and when it’s humid I look like a Q-tip dipped in walnut furniture stain. This means that, thanks to climate change, I’m doomed to a lifetime of hair-suck. Here in Arlington, Virginia, it’s either humid or raining or snowing about 350 days a year. Today being worse than usual, I slink into Higher Grounds wearing a hot-pink beanie to go with my T-shirt, red coat, and purple sneakers, and Elli gives me a bug-eyed grin. Her grins are happy. They stretch from ear to ear.

     "I knew it was going to be a good day. See? We couldn’t have planned this better." She gestures at her own pink and red outfit, delighted at our color-coordination. Backing up to stand beside me in front of the bakery display that’s lit up to make every crumb of sugar glisten, she aims her phone, angling it down while she draws her cheeks in and pouts her mouth out and does something sparkling with her eyes.

     The hand I raise in front of my face is a half-hearted gesture. My puffy-eyed morning-look doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, and though she be but little, Elli is unstoppably fierce. She wins—as usual—and the photo is up on social media before I’ve even plucked my Caramelized Honey Latte from the counter.

     Carrying the cup to an empty table, I inhale the perfection that is the smell of coffee and absorb the way the music of the grinder and the steam and the water trickling punctuate the indie pop music playing on the sound system. Coffee smells like heaven, but it tastes bitter as heck unless you fill it with de-heckifying additives. Coffee that costs more than the per capita daily income of India is theoretically against my principles. Still. Caramelized. Honey. Latte.

     My principles are a work-in-progress.

     Elli throws herself into a booth, pries the lid off her Macchiato, and blows down into the steam. She picks at her chocolate chunk muffin. About a million calories float toward me across the table and settle onto each of my thighs. Elli eats. I absorb. That’s how our relationship works.

     Between bites, she peers across the table. "You didn’t call me back or text last night, so what’s up with you? Did your mom finish the concerto? Were you celebrating?"

     "Nearly almost."

     I refrain from mentioning Paris and focus on trying to pluck the right explanation out of the useless swirl of thoughts inside my head. For once, words completely fail me. Then again, I don’t need words. Rummaging in my bag, I retrieve the acceptance packet from Princeton that just broke my online waitlist impasse. We’re both silent as I hand it over. Elli’s officially a Princeton reject. One yes and a no should be an automatic pass. That’s what we agreed. But this is Princeton.


     Elli unfolds the letter, runs her thumb over the logo at the top of the page, and reads the first sentence. "Izzy!" Her eyes go moist. "This is fantastic. You have to go."

     I shake my head. "We pinky swore."

     "Pinkies have an unwritten Princeton exception. Also there’s less humidity in New Jersey."

     "I’m not picking a school based on hair-suck. Columbia is great. Or Chicago. And we’re both still waiting at Yale. Anyway, since they rejected you, I have to question Princeton’s judgment. Which makes me question the quality of their education. So, who wants them?"

     "You do. Princeton was your first word out of the womb, just about. And your mom already took the teaching job up there on the presumption that we’d all be together."

     "I’m resilient, and Mom doesn’t have the patience for teaching anyway—and since she’s a literal diva, no one will think less of her for quitting. Really, I’m doing all her would-be students a public service. Think of the fragile young egos I’ll be saving."

     "It’s my parents I blame for this." Elli plops her elbows down on the table and buries her chin in her hands and heaves a dramatic sigh. "If only they did something useful for a living! The Ivies are already drowning in doctor’s kids, which makes me the last thing they need. But you? You have the whole Marcella-Cavalera-as-a-mother thing going for you. You’re a trophy kid. Everyone has to take you."

     "Hey! Watch it!"

     "Oh, fine." Elli’s hands surrender for her. "You know I don’t mean that. You earned Princeton, and I got that stupid C in Freshman English. But seriously, what kind of a fascist teacher hates Toni Morrison? Or trees. Toni Morrison’s trees. It was a darn good essay."

     "It wasn’t a D essay," I concede.

     "Right? A solid B. B- tops." Elli pauses. Leans forward. Looks all serious. "But you know you have to go, don’t you? No arguing, because I’ll never forgive you if you don’t go."

     I’m not sure I will either, but college without Elli was never in the plan. Apart from Mom, Elli’s all the family I’ve ever had. How can I possibly leave her?

Scene Break

Izzy & Elli’s Origin Story Version 3.5

Elli and I met in the hospital nursery eighteen years ago.

     The way the story goes, her dad and my mom were both standing in the hall, staring at us through the glass like we were little aliens they didn’t know what to do with. Dr. Andrew thought baby Elli was impossibly fragile compared to her brothers, who’d both been born looking like future football players. Mom had never held an actual infant and she’d never played with dolls. Even then it was probably obvious a baby was never supposed to be written into her concert program. Dr. A, being no dummy, took inventory of Mom’s hospital gown and robe and asked if one of the babies belonged to her. Mom pointed to me in my pink beanie—baby pink back then, not the hot pink one I wear now—and asked which one was Dr. A’s. He pointed to the bassinet next to mine.

     The way the story goes, Elli and I were already looking at each other, and until the day we went home, we screamed whenever we were separated. I guess we got over that eventually. By then, though, Dr. Andrew and Dr. Eleanor had adopted both me and Mom, and Mom no longer held me like she was afraid to break me.

     Elli and I never needed to adopt each other. We’ve always belonged, the same way Mom and I belong.

     Other friends have come and gone, drifting around our periphery, shuffling with us through the usual series of linoleum-floored, locker-lined school halls and activity-overloaded summer camps. Elli and I are constant. She loves her family, but her messy, turbulent, sports-loving brothers are like alien beings, and she prefers the lack of stinky football cleats and the quiet of my house. I sometimes envy her the messy completeness of having both a mom and dad, not to mention siblings, so I like to borrow them all now and then. I live there, anyway, whenever school schedules don’t let me tag along on Mom’s foreign tours. But it’s Mom and Elli and I who get along the best. Elli can cook carbonado and empanadas better than I can, and we both cook better than Mom, who burns a third of everything she tries to make and is more likely to give us dulce de leche on bread than something involving meat, veg, or actual nutrition.

     The way our story was supposed to go, Elli and I would go off to Princeton in the fall. I would follow in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, and Jonathan Safran Foer, and Elli would try to figure out why any reasonable human being—much less someone who calls themselves a scientist—could still fail to understand the dangers of climate change. Mom was going to drive up once a week to teach a class, and the three of us were all going to live together happily ever after. Or at least for four more years.

"The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft a-gley."

                                        Robert Burns

     So. What am I supposed to choose? Mom and Princeton? Or Elli?

     Man, I hate decisions.

     The thing is, I know how lucky I am to even get to worry about all this. In the grand scheme of things, I have the best kind of problems. I have a mom I love more than Nutella chocolate tarts, a best friend who knows me better than I know myself, and some of the greatest schools in the world who are willing to teach me things. But no matter what I decide, someone I love gets hurt. Someone is going to lose. Something will change, and our three futures will diverge like that Robert Frost poem about the road not taken, which isn’t about asserting individuality so much as it’s about looking back and finding ways to justify the hardest choices. People always get that wrong.

     I don’t want to look back and have to justify.

Scene Break


Final semester of senior year, not even the teachers care very much. Which explains why we’re watching the travesty that is The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore in AP English.

     The door opens from the hall, admitting the sound of basketballs bouncing from the nearby gym and the hollow slam of a locker down the hall. I don’t bother looking up from the pro/con lists I’m scribbling in my pocket notebook. Not until the rustle of heads turning and bodies unslumping penetrates my Princeton-induced depression.

     For once, Principal Gupta isn’t obnoxiously using the PA system or calling on the phone. Her long braid swings wildly as she duck-walks under the projection screen to Mrs. Murphy’s desk in person. Both she and Mrs. Murphy are dressed in aggressively passive beige, and until this moment, I’ve never considered how similar they are in personality. I wonder if they are friends. Do they sit in the teacher’s lounge together, sipping sludgy coffee and sharing complaints about over-involved or under-involved parents and bemoaning bygone days?

     An imaginary conversation between them writes itself out in my head, but it’s first draft, not even notebook-worthy. Frowning, I dig deeper, try to imagine the secrets they’d be desperate to keep the other from finding out, the secrets they’ve never told to anyone. Secrets are the key to every fictional character. Every interesting one, at least.

     Elli pokes me in the shoulder.

     "What?" I ask.

     She nods toward the front of the room. Reaching over and taking my hand, she squeezes. Hard.

     The whole class has lapsed into a nervous silence, and Mrs. Murphy and Principal Gupta have turned to look at me wearing those horrified, avid expressions that nice people get when something awful happens. I try to think of something I might have done to earn that look, but T-shirts and asking occasionally "challenging" questions are pretty much my main subversions. Neither one rates very high on the scale of offenses that would draw the principal’s attention.

     Still, Mom’s going to say I told you so.

     This is what I’m thinking.

     Then Principal Gupta’s hand is suddenly on my shoulder, and her voice is full of pity, and Elli’s standing up to try to follow me, but Mrs. Murphy’s shaking her head and bending to whisper in Elli’s ear. I’m stumbling out into the hall where there are two police officers waiting, their shirts lumpy over Kevlar vests and their faces serious and sympathetic.


     This is what I’m thinking.

     Because there’s no possible yes in this situation.

     There’s only something horribly awful. There’s only someone hurt.

     And apart from Elli who was sitting beside me a second ago, I really only have one person in the entire world.

     Just one.

     And the police tell me there’s been an accident.

Scene Break


The police turn on the sirens as we drive to the hospital. That’s how bad it is.

     The patrol car stinks of sweat and vomit inadequately masked over with upholstery cleaner and pine-scented air freshener. We pass cars in blurred strands of brake lights.

     Officer Tillman keeps turning to look at me, and I try not to hyperventilate, try not to picture my mother cut out of her car by firemen, hooked up to machines, lying in a hospital bed all alone despite a million doctors and nurses bustling around her.

     Can she hear anything if she’s brain dead?

     She shouldn’t die to the sound of hospital machines.

     I start making a playlist of her favorite pieces on my phone— Liszt’s "La Campanella," Prokofiev’s "Concerto No. 3 in C Major," Beethoven’s "Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major"—because it’s something I can do.

     I will never listen to these pieces again. How could I ever listen to them again? But Mom deserves to go out with what she loves.

     Pausing to dry my phone against my jeans, I ignore the ding of Elli’s zillionth text:

Elli: ???? Izzy! Answer me! Please answer!

Elli: Are you ok? Mom and Dad are coming. We’re all coming.

Elli: What do you need? How’s your mom?

     I can’t answer.

     I can’t type the words.

     I won’t think them.

     I won’t believe them. The universe doesn’t need that out there.

     Mom swears by yoga and meditation. In Sanskrit, intention is called Samkalpa, which literally means what you create in your mind with will or imagination. Karma begins with intention.

     I intend for Mom to be fine.

     I imagine this is all a mistake.

     I will the doctors to be wrong.

Scene Break

Mind Death

My mother is a deflated balloon, lying in the hospital bed. Small and diminishing. Floating away.

     Not awake.

     The doctors insist she won’t wake up, can’t wake up, and they tell me I have to be the one to choose. That’s the downside of being eighteen. As if anyone is ever adult enough to deal with this.

     I don’t want to be adult. I only want my mother.

     She doesn’t look...she doesn’t need this. Her face isn’t damaged. Around the breathing tube, it’s still lovely and almost peaceful.

     I can’t decide. I can’t.

     I place my phone beside her ear on the rough, sterile sheets and start the music playing. Sitting beside her with my knees drawn up on the chair, I rock myself back and forth.

     The music knifes through the air in dazzling notes. I imagine her playing, her fingers skipping and sizzling and gliding and tip-toeing across the keyboard, the music pouring from her heart.

     If I do what the doctors recommend, Mom will never finish her concerto. She’ll never achieve what she’s always worked for. Not the perfect piece. Not any future music. Not any future anything.

     But they tell me that’s over no matter what I choose.

     "Please come back," I whisper, picking up her hand. It’s warm and limp, her and not her. I wait, and wait, and wait. It doesn’t move. It doesn’t change.

     My beautiful, mercurial, passionate mother has played for royalty and performed in the greatest concert halls around the world. She brings audiences to their feet and conductors to their knees. She has never met a batch of cookies she can’t burn or a bill she can’t forget to pay.

     Just last Tuesday, she emerged from her music and threw herself onto my bed, making me bounce where I was studying. "I need a sweet-tooth-ritual," she said. "Pack an overnight bag. Hurry up."

     I gave the usual, token argument. "I can’t go anywhere. I have school tomorrow..."

     "I’ll write the note," she said. "I’ll fawn. I’ll be nice. Please, querida. I need this."

     In the pre-spring lull, Cape Cod was still bitterly cold and quiet. We walked on the empty beach and played Scrabble (which I always win) and chess (which she always wins), and we watched Casablanca for the thousandth time on the hotel cable while eating dessert for appetizers and dessert for dinner and dessert for dessert.

     All that sugar made my stomach hurt, and I groaned and said, "We’re getting too old for sweet-tooth-rituals."

     Mom stole the last of my crème brûlée. "What do I always tell you? You only get one life. You may as well choose to live it brilliantly."

     People who don’t know my mother talk about the blinding speed of her hands, her dexterity, the absolute lack of a dominant side in her playing. She laughs at that. She says it isn’t her hands she’s training with all the practice.

     Studies prove the mind of a pianist is wired differently, that it communicates in syntax instead of words. Pianists multitask. They make decisions at the speed of light. My mother’s mind is what allows—allowed—her to make choices that communicate pure emotion. Choices that make people feel.

     Brain dead. That’s what the doctors call it. Mind death.

     The other driver was texting.

     A scream builds in my chest, squeezing out the air. A scream that has no sound. A scream that has no relief.

     This can’t be real.

     What kind of a text was worth my mother’s life?

Scene Break

Letting Go

I sit on the floor with my hands wrapped around my knees and Elli’s arm wrapped around my shoulders. I’m sobbing so hard I can’t hear what Elli’s parents are saying, shaking so hard my teeth chatter. I understand there are people Mom can help, that she wanted to be an organ donor. I understand I have to decide, even if the thought of life without my mother is impossible.

     I’m supposed to trust what the machines and the doctors and Elli’s parents tell me, that Mom will never breathe or move on her own again. Never think on her own again. I’m supposed to believe she will never be Mom again. She will never see me graduate from high school, or walk me down the aisle at my wedding like she promised.

     Why did I run out this morning to meet Elli at Higher Grounds? That’s an extra hour I could have had, listening to Mom, watching her. Being with her. It never occurred to me that the time I gave up might have been all the time I would ever have.

     I don’t want to let go. I don’t want to, but I can’t be selfish. Mom wouldn’t want life without her mind, without her music. She’d want me to fight for what she wanted, the way she has always fought for me.

     This isn’t about what I want.

     I have to choose for my mother because she can’t choose for herself.

Malcolm: Paper Butterflies

The Duchess of Northumberland created an entire poison garden at Alnwick Castle, and the only ideas I’ve come up with for Halford Hall are a murder tour and paper butterflies. Butterflies. It’s bloody emasculating, that’s what it is. I try to tell myself I’m evolved enough not to mind that I’m spending Friday night hiding insects for the amusement of sugar-sozzled children. Still, I can’t help a Neanderthal knee-jerk reaction that makes me long for a pint and a nice, bruising game of rugby. Not necessarily in that order.

     Percy, my best mate, does little to hide his amusement as I get down on all fours to tack a Large Blue butterfly—only recently brought back from extinction locally—to a life-sized portrait of the eighth Countess of Mortimer. "I should snap a few photos of you doing that," he says, "and hold them in reserve for appropriate blackmail opportunities."

     "Only if you have a death wish."

     "You used to be more fun, you know, once upon a time. Right, so how many Maculinea arion are we up to now? Ninety-five?" He marks this latest butterfly on the tourist map of Halford’s public rooms.

     I knock the eighth countess’s portrait as I scramble to my feet, and she chides me from her gilded frame. She’s the one who introduced dark, arched eyebrows into the Halford gene pool sometime in the fifteenth century, and the way they draw together even when her lips are smiling makes her appear perpetually worried. But she lived here long before having a stately pile in the British countryside required tours, destination wedding weekends, community hearts and minds campaigns, and treasure hunts for children featuring paper insects, maps, and prizes. I doubt my own expression looks any happier.

     "It’s ninety-eight butterflies, not ninety-five," I say. "Don’t tell me you’ve lost track?"

     "Are you quite sure?" Percy’s own blond eyebrows bristle like a pair of caterpillars.

     "Of course I’m sure. But you’re the one meant to be reading Maths at Oxford. I assumed you could count." With a sigh, I amble over, and we both frown at the map.

     Percy’s windblown complexion grows even redder as I take the pencil and mark the missing butterflies for him. His attention shifts strategically to the ceiling. "I’m thinking of changing over to Politics instead, actually," he says. "Which you’d know if you ever showed up for meals or anything remotely social."

     That’s about as close to admitting hurt as Percy’d ever get, and he covers it with a grin and a shake of his head. "The good news is," he continues, "starting out in Maths and Philosophy, I’ve done most of the core for Philosophy, Politics & Economics. I’ll only need to make up a handful of courses."

     I take in his pinched smile, his unaccustomedly rumpled shirt, the mop of hair that’s untidier than usual, and the pallor beneath the ruddy cheeks he gets from rowing. Clearly, I’ve been a rubbish mate. I never twigged that offering to help me set up the butterfly hunt was a pretext for needing a sounding board. And when am I ever around for him to talk to? I’m down here every weekend now that Dad’s seemingly chucked in half his responsibilities.

     Which is no excuse. Friendship doesn’t deserve excuses. I should have noticed Percy struggling.

     "Look, I’m the last person to tell you to stick it out in Maths," I manage to say quite evenly, "but I wonder if it’s escaped your notice that Economics isn’t any better. And also, the PPE-ists are all first-rate dickheads. I can’t see you swanning around college in a suit and planning clandestine coup d’états of the Doctor Who society en route to ultimately taking over Parliament. It’s not your style."

     Percy’s shoulders curl, and his finger twitches on the pencil. "I haven’t got many other options, have I? I revise until my eyes bleed and my grades are still disastrous. Face it, I’m useless at anything to do with science or technology or management. History is soporific—no offense—and I’ve never had your dedication to keeping the family pile afloat. I can’t see myself spending the next six decades of my life supervising meaningful community employment at Malming Abbey and researching the hidden history of long-dead blacksmiths. In which case, I might as well embrace the family tradition and wade into the swamps of government. Honestly, the thought of it wouldn’t be half so bad if I didn’t know it would put a smile on the old man’s face."

     The half-hearted grins we exchange at that are a show of solidarity. Our friendship, Percy’s and mine, was forged in the crucible of admiration for the Leicester City Football Club and a mutual hatred of our paternal members. The reasons may be different—Percy blames his father for destroying the country and mine was only responsible for destroying my mother—but the intensity of feeling brought us together and bonds us still.

     We duck into the state dining room, and I affix another paper butterfly to a sign about Grinling Gibbons, the man who carved the seventeenth-century wall paneling. The last of the hundred >Maculinea goes in a corner of the corridor outside. Then, thank God, we’re done. Technically, I suppose, setting up the new endangered butterfly hunt is one of the things the tour staff could have handled. They’re already overworked, though, since Dad’s too depressed to care about what goes on these days. In the grand scheme of things, my butterfly hunt may not do much to increase the number of mums and dads willing to plonk down hard-earned cash to force march their offspring through Halford’s gardens and twenty-six public rooms. But it’s almost free to implement, and it can’t do any harm.

     "That’s it? Obligation discharged?" Percy marks the final butterfly on the map and checks his watch. "Because it occurs to me I could be convinced to forgo Mrs. Danvers’ roast beef and Yorkshire pud in favor of LiveFriday at the Asmolean followed by an irresponsible night of drinking. We could still make it back to Oxford with time to spare. And in case you need more incentive, that red-haired Catherine was asking if you were coming."

     I’ve no interest in any girl who’s more enamored with an aristocratic title than the person it belongs to, but I refrain from mentioning that. "You swore you’d see me through the weekly dinner," I remind him instead, "and please don’t call Anna ‘Mrs. Danvers.’ First, she’s nothing like that, and second, her hearing is supernatural and her umbrages are legendary."

     "All the more reason to get out whilst we can. You may love her, but your housekeeper very nearly gives me fond feelings about my own family dinners. At least until I remember I’d rather have my teeth drilled out than attend another one. You’ve no idea how good you actually have it with your father."

     "You only say that because you haven’t had to live with him. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you’re trying to change the subject."

     "I changed that five minutes ago. Do keep up, Mal. The point is, I’m bound to be sucked into government sooner or later. I might as well embrace my fate as not."

     "The whole purpose of fate is to give us something to rebel against."

     "Nietzsche would argue that one."

     "True, but embracing life isn’t the same thing as embracing fate, is it?"

     "All the more reason we should take time out to embrace LiveFriday and red-haired Catherine."

     Though Percy’s tone is light, his eyes tell a different story. I can’t help giving in. Anna’ll be disappointed, but I doubt Dad will even notice so long as I’m back in the morning before the tourists.

     Percy and I cut through the book hall and the library, then stop in the office to drop off the annotated butterfly map. Tours are finished for the day and the guests for Sunday’s wedding won’t start trickling in until tomorrow. For the moment, the house is still: ninety-eight cavernous rooms that have witnessed rebellions, treachery, treason, war, wealth, poverty, and everything in between. For me, it’s a comfortable stillness, though, like the pensive quiet of an old married couple who know all each other’s secrets.

     The fight to save Halford is the one and only thing my father and I still have in common. He singlehandedly kept it from being turned into a hotel when he was little more than my age, and if he was able to do that, I can’t see it gutted and sold off piece by piece on my watch.

     Whatever daft schemes and ridiculous stunts I need to concoct, however many children’s tours and community events I’ll have to devise, I won’t let Halford slip away.


Love for Two Lifetimes
by Martina Boone
Mayfair Publishing
Released 9/25/2018

Two generations, two great loves, one impossible choice . . .

When Izzy unexpectedly loses her mother in a car accident, her world shatters. Their relationship has always been so close that Izzy can't imagine life without her. Nor can she begin to understand when she finds a secret box of love letters that her mother wrote but never sent. The idea of her mother hiding such intense feelings for more than twenty years without so much as a hint makes Izzy question everything she thought she knew--including the identity of her father.

Following a trail of clues overseas, Izzy steps into a world of glamour and English royalty, one which years ago forced her mother to choose between her obligation to her musical gift and her lover's obligations to his family, title, and estate. It's a world of secrets and masquerades, of heartache and betrayal. And in the midst of this world, Izzy finds a young man who feels as broken as she does herself. The two are drawn to each other--only to find that their parents' lies may present an insurmountable obstacle between them.

Thrown together on a coming of age journey of discovery that spans two lifetimes and takes them from a grand estate in the Cotswolds to a hospital bedside in India and ultimately to the Taj Mahal, Izzy and Malcolm try desperately not to fall in love. But some things are impossible...

And some loves are worth any sacrifice...

Uplifting, funny, tragic, and unforgettably romantic, Love for Two Lifetimes is a tale of two generations of romance, a lifetime of friendship, a history of good intentions, and one last, heartbreaking and hopeful choice revealed in prose, texts, and love letters. If you enjoy the fairy tale royal weddings or the intense emotion of any story by John Green or Nicholas Sparks, Love for Two Lifetimes will have you turning pages late into the night.

"Heartwarming, lyrical, soulful, and with just the right amount of humor: this book sparkles with authentic, layered characters and beautiful, thoughtful prose." -- Jodi Meadows, NYT bestselling co-author of My Lady Jane and My Plain Jane

Order Love for Two Lifetimes Now

Love for Two Lifetimes is available now in hardcover, paperback, and digital. There's a special early order campaign with exclusive goodies for anyone who orders the book before November 1st. Additional incentives are available if you order from One More Page Books, Martina's local indie.

See here for additional details.

Or order directly from your favorite retailer:


Purchase with Swag at One More Page
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Mystery Box Giveaway

Self-explanatory! Some lucky winner will get ten hardcover YA books in a mix of contemporary, fantasy, and all things in between, along with a set of Love For Two Lifetimes special swag that's in addition to the early order incentives! (Think velvet bookmarks with charms. :))

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Monday, September 24, 2018

9 New Releases this week 09/24 - 09/30 Plus 4 Giveaways

Happy Monday! For the last week of September, we have a lot of giveaways and so many good books to feature! Don't forget to check out all the books coming out this week below and enter to win.

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Halli, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Kelly, Laura, Emily, Anisaa, and Lori Ann


* * * *

500 Words or Less
by Juleah del Rosario
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Simon Pulse
Released 9/25/2018

Nic Chen refuses to spend her senior year branded as the girl who cheated on her charismatic and lovable boyfriend. To redefine her reputation among her Ivy League–obsessed classmates, Nic begins writing their college admissions essays.

But the more essays Nic writes for other people, the less sure she becomes of herself, the kind of person she is, and whether her moral compass even points north anymore.

Purchase 500 Words or Less at Amazon
Purchase 500 Words or Less at IndieBound
View 500 Words or Less on Goodreads

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Give the Dark My Love
by Beth Revis
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Released 9/25/2018

Seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy with only one goal in mind: master the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island's wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn't quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen.

Until she meets Greggori "Grey" Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that's for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the north, and it's making its way toward the cities. With her family's life--and the lives of all of Lunar Island's citizens--on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague.

Grey and Nedra grow close, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy's most dangerous corners--and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Give the Dark My Love?

My favorite thing about this dark fantasy is the heroine (although many would argue she's actually the villain). Nedra Brysstain starts her life in a way very similar to my own--she's from a humble family in a rural, remote area, and has been raised to be resourceful and respectful. But she finds a strength within the desperate times she faces, and she becomes the type of person I've always admired--someone who takes what she needs and what she wants, without question or remorse. Someone who takes power and faces that world with her power, without hiding. She's the opposite of meek and simpering, and she has a resilience that I, frankly, envy.

Purchase Give the Dark My Love at Amazon
Purchase Give the Dark My Love at IndieBound
View Give the Dark My Love on Goodreads

* * * *

Unstoppable Moses: A Novel
by Tyler James Smith
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Flatiron Books
Released 9/25/2018

Moses and his cousin Charlie were best friends, wisecracking pranksters, unstoppable forces of teenage energy―until the night they became accidental arsonists and set in motion a chain of events that left Moses alone, guilt-stricken, and most likely trapped in his dead-end town.

Then Moses gets a lucky break: the chance to volunteer as a camp counselor for week and prove that the incident at the bowling alley should be expunged from his record. And since a criminal record and enrollment at Duke are mutually exclusive, he’s determined to get through his community service and get on with his life. But tragedy seems to follow him wherever he goes, and this time, it might just stop him in his tracks.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Unstoppable Moses: A Novel?

I absolutely love the cover, designed by Keith Hayes. Not only is the whole thing thematically on point and metaphorically resonant, BUT IT GLOWS IN THE DARK. I mean, I love the book, too—I got to spend time with these characters and get in their heads and give them jokes that made me laugh, but I’m glad I didn’t have to design the cover because it would've been a morgue-fire compared to what Keith Hayes came up with.

Purchase Unstoppable Moses: A Novel at Amazon
Purchase Unstoppable Moses: A Novel at IndieBound
View Unstoppable Moses: A Novel on Goodreads

* * * *

by Amy Lukavics
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

Harlequin Teen; Original edition
Released 9/25/2018

At seventeen, June Hardie is everything a young woman in 1951 shouldn’t be—independent, rebellious, a dreamer. June longs to travel, to attend college and to write the dark science fiction stories that consume her waking hours. But her parents only care about making June a better young woman. Her mother grooms her to be a perfect little homemaker while her father pushes her to marry his business partner’s domineering son. When June resists, her whole world is shattered—suburbia isn’t the only prison for different women…

June’s parents commit her to Burrow Place Asylum, aka the Institution. With its sickening conditions, terrifying staff and brutal “medical treatments,” the Institution preys on June’s darkest secrets and deepest fears. And she’s not alone. The Institution terrorizes June’s fragile roommate, Eleanor, and the other women locked away within its crumbling walls. Those who dare speak up disappear…or worse. Trapped between a gruesome reality and increasingly sinister hallucinations, June isn’t sure where her nightmares end and real life begins. But she does know one thing: in order to survive, she must destroy the Institution before it finally claims them all.

Purchase Nightingale at Amazon
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View Nightingale on Goodreads


The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo: Mary H.
The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest: Kelly M.
What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra: Stephanie T.


* * * *

Black Wings Beating
by Alex London
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 9/25/2018

The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great falconer―while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.

Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he's long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother's future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Black Wings Beating?

I really wrote the book of my heart. I love the world I created centered around killer birds and I love the two main characters, a brother and sister struggling to overcome trauma, each in their own unique way. The relationship is complex, loving, and painful, and the quest they go on stirs all of it up. I hope readers love it...but my favorite thing about BLACK WINGS BEATING is something I had no control over: I'm totally in love with the cover that Elizabeth Clark designed. I nearly swoon every time I see it! And the final version is printed with silver ink! How cool is that?

Purchase Black Wings Beating at Amazon
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View Black Wings Beating on Goodreads

* * * *

For a Muse of Fire
by Heidi Heilig
Greenwillow Books
Released 9/25/2018

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood.

But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad Emperor has a spring that cures his ills—and could cure Jetta’s, too. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues her.

But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about For a Muse of Fire?

How do I decide my favorite thing? Do I have to pick just one? Well. It took me a while to come up with the answer, because FOR A MUSE OF FIRE is such an eclectic mix of so many things I love. The magic of theatre, the mystery of the jungle, the dangerous thrill of necromancy, the saucy camaraderie of self-determined sex workers. But more than any of this, I think I'm proudest of the fact that I've written a character struggling to find a treatment for her mental illness. As a fan of high fantasy, I rarely saw these "real life" issues on the page when I was a very young reader, so it was both a challenge and a joy to weave them into a story set in a world of mad kings and beautiful princesses and strange gods.

Purchase For a Muse of Fire at Amazon
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View For a Muse of Fire on Goodreads

* * * *

The Tomb: A Novel
by S. A. Bodeen
Feiwel & Friends
Released 9/25/2018

Nothing is as it seems.

These are the first words Kiva's best friend Seth says, after three years of silence.

Kiva thought she was growing up in ancient Alexandria. That's what she and all her classmates had been led to believe by their parents. It turns out she was living in virtual reality, in a sleep chamber in deep space, and three years ago, Seth woke up. Now it's her turn to join him.

Together, Kiva and Seth must take an escape shuttle to search for the engine part their home ship needs to keep running. But it's been a long time since the Krakatoa has communicated with any of the other three ships harboring human civilization. Kiva and Seth are not sure what they'll find if and when they finally make contact.

Danger, romance and twists you'll never see coming abound in this high-stakes science fiction adventure.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Tomb: A Novel?

My favorite thing about this novel is that it is set in space. I’m a huge sci-fi geek, love stories set in space, and am so excited that I finally got to write one. I had fun exploring aspects of space travel and life, not to mention figuring out some harrowing things that the characters could encounter. I hope readers will enjoy reading what I came up with.

Purchase The Tomb: A Novel at Amazon
Purchase The Tomb: A Novel at IndieBound
View The Tomb: A Novel on Goodreads


* * * *

A Blade So Black
by L.L. McKinney
Released 9/25/2018

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she's trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn't always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice's handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she'll need to use everything she's learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

Purchase A Blade So Black at Amazon
Purchase A Blade So Black at IndieBound
View A Blade So Black on Goodreads

* * * *

Love for Two Lifetimes
by Martina Boone
Mayfair Publishing
Released 9/25/2018

Two generations, two great loves, one impossible choice . . .

When Izzy unexpectedly loses her mother in a car accident, her world shatters. Their relationship has always been so close that Izzy can't imagine life without her. Nor can she begin to understand when she finds a secret box of love letters that her mother wrote but never sent. The idea of her mother hiding such intense feelings for more than twenty years without so much as a hint makes Izzy question everything she thought she knew--including the identity of her father.

Following a trail of clues overseas, Izzy steps into a world of glamour and English royalty, one which years ago forced her mother to choose between her obligation to her musical gift and her lover's obligations to his family, title, and estate. It's a world of secrets and masquerades, of heartache and betrayal. And in the midst of this world, Izzy finds a young man who feels as broken as she does herself. The two are drawn to each other--only to find that their parents' lies may present an insurmountable obstacle between them.

Thrown together on a coming of age journey of discovery that spans two lifetimes and takes them from a grand estate in the Cotswolds to a hospital bedside in India and ultimately to the Taj Mahal, Izzy and Malcolm try desperately not to fall in love. But some things are impossible...

And some loves are worth any sacrifice...

Uplifting, funny, tragic, and unforgettably romantic, Love for Two Lifetimes is a tale of two generations of romance, a lifetime of friendship, a history of good intentions, and one last, heartbreaking and hopeful choice revealed in prose, texts, and love letters. If you enjoy the fairy tale royal weddings or the intense emotion of any story by John Greene or Nicholas Sparks, Love for Two Lifetimes will have you turning pages late into the night.

"Heartwarming, lyrical, soulful, and with just the right amount of humor: this book sparkles with authentic, layered characters and beautiful, thoughtful prose." -- Jodi Meadows, NYT bestselling co-author of My Lady Jane and My Plain Jane

Purchase Love for Two Lifetimes at Amazon
Purchase Love for Two Lifetimes at IndieBound
View Love for Two Lifetimes on Goodreads

* * * *

Rabbit & Robot
by Andrew Smith
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 9/25/2018

Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly insane and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys have to wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.

Purchase Rabbit & Robot at Amazon
Purchase Rabbit & Robot at IndieBound
View Rabbit & Robot on Goodreads

* * * *

Sex Plus: Learning, Loving, and Enjoying Your Body
by Laci Green
Released 9/25/2018

This groundbreaking book from sex educator and YouTube phenomenon Laci Green has everything you’ve ever wanted to know about sex, sexuality, pleasure, and your body.

Let’s be honest: most of us think about sex A LOT, and we have plenty of unanswered questions: What’s the best way to talk to my partner about what I want? How do I figure out my sexuality? How do I have sex safely? What does an orgasm actually feel like?

Laci Green—a sex educator and YouTuber who’s been hailed by Time magazine as the millennial Dr. Ruth—has built a platform of millions of followers by answering sex-related questions frankly, nonjudgmentally, and hilariously.

Now Laci brings her signature style and voice to a comprehensive book about the multitude of issues and concerns that go along with sexuality: anatomy, consent, LGBTQ issues, STI and pregnancy prevention, sexual empowerment, healthy relationships, myth-busting, and more.

Sex Plus is the first book of its kind: empowering, sex-positive, and cool. Comprehensive, honest, and vetted by a range of medical experts, this book will help you take control of your sex life.

After all, knowledge is pleasure.

Purchase Sex Plus: Learning, Loving, and Enjoying Your Body at Amazon
Purchase Sex Plus: Learning, Loving, and Enjoying Your Body at IndieBound
View Sex Plus: Learning, Loving, and Enjoying Your Body on Goodreads

* * * *

The Caged Queen
by Kristen Ciccarelli
Released 9/25/2018

Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. Roa and Essie called it the hum. It was a magic they cherished—until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.

Dax—the heir to Firgaard’s throne—was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered.

Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen. Only as queen could she save her people from Firgaard’s rule.

Then a chance arises to right every wrong—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa discovers she can reclaim her sister for good.

All she has to do is kill the king.

Purchase The Caged Queen at Amazon
Purchase The Caged Queen at IndieBound
View The Caged Queen on Goodreads

* * * *

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
by Kiersten White
Delacorte Press
Released 9/25/2018

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn't had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her "caregiver," and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything--except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable--and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth's survival depends on managing Victor's dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

Purchase The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein at Amazon
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View The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein on Goodreads

Saturday, September 22, 2018

1 Jen Doll, author of UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE, on going back to the page

We're delighted to have Jen Doll swing by to chat about her latest novel, UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE.

Jen, what was your inspiration for writing UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE?

I moved from the suburbs of Chicago to Decatur, Alabama, in fifth grade. It was a massive cultural shift! Suddenly I had to learn to talk differently (using the word “y’all” instead of “you guys,” for a start), I had to make totally new friends, I had to navigate this new ecosystem I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know. We moved for my dad’s job, and I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Honestly, it wasn’t great at first. But slowly I started to fit in and find my place. I met my best-best-best friend, who is still my Best X3 friend, in 7th grade, and everything began to change. The heart of Unclaimed Baggage is the transformative power of friendship, and how finding your people is so, so important.

But also, the town I moved to had a store called Unclaimed Baggage! It’s a real thing, a store where airlines send luggage that’s never claimed, and it gets unpacked and resold to new people. (The one that was in my town has since closed, but the flagship store in Scottsboro, Alabama, still exists.) The idea of this store where lost things go to be found was a huge inspiration. Just think about all of those stories!

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 are a couple of scenes in the book (I don’t want to spoil them, so you’ll have to read to find out) where really bad things happen to good people. I wanted to get those right, and it took a while to do that — several revisions, thoughts from my editor and close reader friends, reworking them over and over. I really hate it when bad things happen to my beloved characters! I want everyone to be happy and fine! But there’s hope in writing scenes like those that you’re helping readers who may have gone through similar things, and also doing something to try to make the world around you a little better.

I really love the opening when Doris is surrounded by all of these items in the store, narrating what it’s like to work there. And really all the store scenes, where the wildest things get found. Doris, Nell, and Grant discover something quite startling in a suitcase that turns them on the path of friendship. I love that one!

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

Some YA favorites: Eleanor & Park (I mean, honestly, everything Rainbow Rowell writes!), Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Leila Sales’ excellent novels, Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. I think what they have common is they’re all contemporary realism with sweetness and heart and great characters, but they’ll also challenge you to think about some bigger issues. Or at least that’s how I’d like people to think of my book!

How long did you work on UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE?

I think it was about 2 years from start to finish, maybe a little more, and it really changed a lot in that process. Books take some time to simmer before you get them right.

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

Be patient! Trying to get something done fast doesn’t make it better. And also, wow, there were some dark times when I didn’t think it could happen, I didn’t know why anyone had bought a book from me. But if you keep going back to the page, you’ll make it happen.

What do you hope readers will take away from UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE?

It’s OK to have “baggage.” We all do! Don’t believe anyone who tells you differently. But to extend the metaphor, you’ve kind of got to claim it. That’s when things start to change.

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

Hmm, I think I’m two for two right now. I wrote a novel for adults ages ago that never really went anywhere (it’s about a con artist who is himself conned, and there’s an Elvis impersonator, so make of that what you will). I’ve written another YA novel that’s still IN THE WORKS-slash-I’ve set aside for the time being.

I can only compare my road to publication to my own self, and I’d say it was hard, but I was lucky. As a writer for The Village Voice and The Atlantic (I’m still a working journalist), my name was out there in the world, and I found an agent, or he found me, pretty easily. My first book, Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest, was published in 2014 and it was one of those books that sort of “wrote itself,” maybe because it was true!? But publishing is always challenging, and I’ve been rejected so many times, in numerous ways, whether we’re talking books or articles or other projects. The only thing to do is keep doing.

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?

Hahahahah, no! I still don’t know what the key is. Ask me after my next one. :)

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

I have a pretty erratic schedule where I’m always working on several projects, freelance writing and books and even some editing, all at once. I mostly respond to deadlines. What has to get done immediately? Except I also hate rules and structure so I might work on the thing that’s due LAST, just because I feel like it. I like to have lots of things in the works; you build up energy for whatever you’re not working on that way.

I will occasionally vow to get up at 6 a.m. and work for 3 hours before the rest of the world wakes up, but that generally goes on for a day or two and then I fit in writing, as I fit in everything, when I can. I’m pretty much always working. But I love it, so that’s a success story, I think. Oh yeah, and I work from home, mostly, wearing my robe. Another success story? LOL.

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

I say this all the time, but the only way NOT to write a book or essay or article is not to write it. Open your computer, open the document, type on your keyboard, write in your journal, and something will start to come out. And from that, you make it better.

What are you working on now?

I have a 2-book deal with Macmillan, and I’ve started on that second book, which is about, thematically, how what you see is definitely not always what you get.


Unclaimed Baggage
by Jen Doll
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 9/18/2018

Doris―a lone liberal in a conservative small town―has mostly kept to herself since the terrible waterslide incident a few years ago. Nell had to leave behind her best friends, perfect life, and too-good-to-be-true boyfriend in Chicago to move to Alabama. Grant was the star quarterback and epitome of "Mr. Popular" whose drinking problem has all but destroyed his life. What do these three have in common? A summer job working in a store called Unclaimed Baggage cataloging and selling other people's lost luggage. Together they find that through friendship, they can unpack some of their own emotional baggage and move on into the future.

Purchase Unclaimed Baggage at Amazon
Purchase Unclaimed Baggage at IndieBound
View Unclaimed Baggage on Goodreads


Jen Doll is the author of the debut young adult novel, Unclaimed Baggage and the memoir Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest. She's written for The Atlantic, Elle, Esquire, Glamour, GQ, New York Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Vice, The Village Voice, The Week, and many other publications. She grew up in Alabama and lives in Brooklyn.


Have you had a chance to read UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE yet? Are you able to be patient to make sure it's done better rather than fast? If you're stuck do you just start writing anything to make the words flow? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Friday, September 21, 2018

1 Miranda Asebedo, author of THE DEEPEST ROOTS, on putting value on your writing time

We're excited to have Miranda Asebedo here to chat about her debut novel, THE DEEPEST ROOTS.

Miranda, 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?

Okay, so this is a little spoiler-y, so don't read this if you don't want spoilers! But there's a scene in the book where Rome finds Lux after Lux has been attacked by her abusive stepfather. Rome's talent is Fixing things, so the first thing that trips her trigger as to something being off is all the broken things she feels on the other side of the door at Lux's house. This is when Rome knows that she has to call the police and report what's happening in Lux's family, even though Lux has forbidden Rome to tell anyone. It's a moment when Rome has to decide if she's willing to fracture her relationship with one of her very best friends in order to save Lux from harm. The scene where Rome finds Lux just rips my guts out every time I read it. I cried when I wrote it, and I still get teary when I read it.

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

I originally pitched the THE DEEPEST ROOTS as "The curse of Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS meets the strong female relationships of television's GILMORE GIRLS." There are curses and magic and a ghost(!) but also really strong female relationships, not only between the three best friends, Rome, Lux, and Mercy, but with mothers and neighbors in the community of Cottonwood Hollow. However, after reviews came out, the most common book THE DEEPEST ROOTS was compared to was Ann Brashares' THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS. And I loved that book, and the movie, so of course I was really honored to be compared to it!

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

The advice I would most want to pass along to other writers is to put value on your writing time. We're conditioned to believe that unless there's a dollar sign on every hour, like a day job, that our time isn't worth anything. But it is! And if you're serious about being a writer, you've got to see the worth in the time you can set aside for writing. And it's also really important for those around you see the value in your writing time as well, and understand that the time for writing is a necessity, not a luxury. I am very lucky to have a supportive family. When I was drafting and revising THE DEEPEST ROOTS (and later drafting my second novel, A CONSTELLATION OF ROSES out 2019 from HarperTeen), my husband would order Chinese food from our local take out place, herd our small humans, and let me lock myself up in my writing office for huge chunks of time on the weekends. He would actually sit in a chair outside my office and warn away anyone (or any dog) who wanted to come in and say hi while I was writing.


The Deepest Roots
by Miranda Asebedo
Released 9/18/2018

Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, is a strange place. For the past century, every girl has been born with a special talent, like the ability to Fix any object, Heal any wound, or Find what is missing.

To best friends Rome, Lux, and Mercy, their abilities often feel more like a curse. Rome may be able to Fix anything she touches, but that won’t help her mom pay rent. Lux’s ability to attract any man with a smile has always meant danger. And although Mercy can make Enough of whatever is needed, even that won’t help when her friendship with Rome and Lux is tested.

Follow three best friends in this enchanting debut novel as they discover that friendship is stronger than curses, that trust is worth the risk, and sometimes, what you’ve been looking for has been under your feet the whole time.

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Miranda Asebedo was born and raised in rural Kansas with a love of fast cars, open skies, and books. She carried that love of books to college, where she got her B.A. and M.A. in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Literature. A Seaton Fellowship recipient, her short fiction has appeared in Kansas Voices, Touchstone, and Midway Journal.

Miranda still lives on the prairie today with her husband, two kids, and two majestic bulldogs named Princess Jellybean and Captain Jack Wobbles. If Miranda's not writing or reading, she's most likely convinced everyone to load up in the family muscle car and hit the road.


Have you had a chance to read THE DEEPEST ROOTS yet? Are you able to see the worth in the time you put aside for writing? Do the people around you value your writing time? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann