Sunday, September 30, 2018

0 Juleah del Rosario, author of 500 WORDS OR LESS, on incompleteness and white spaces

We're excited to have Juleah del Rosario join us to share more about her latest novel, 500 WORDS OR LESS.

Juleah, what do you hope readers will take away from 500 WORDS OR LESS?

I think for some readers the verse format may be a little uncomfortable. It’s not going to provide a fully fleshed out portrait of characters and scenes in a way that is completely satisfying.

I guess the way I see the world is that our lives are not novels, fully fleshed out, but instead scraps of connected experiences with a lot of white space in between.

We can create fully formed narratives in our heads about our lives and what everything means, filling up the white space, but is it the truth? Is it reality?

Life is filled with incompleteness, with white space, with discomfort and dissatisfaction.

The verse format allows me as an author to explore this sense of incompleteness, of what I want to exist in the white space, all the things in life that go unsaid, the people and experiences we fail to fully understand. For the reader, I want more time to be spent in the white space. Where is the white space in our own lives and reality?

I know that 500 Words or Less may be a quick read for some readers, but I guess I urge readers to slow down with this and any novel written in verse, and really spend time considering the white space.

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?

When I read the ending, some of the last few lines I choke up. Every time. I can open the book and flip to the last few pages and still feel the same way. I am really proud of the words I wrote, how it makes me feel and how I hope it will translate emotionally, on a raw, visceral level, for other readers.

But I’m not proud of how I got there.

I remember writing those words. I remember because I was supposed to be somewhere else at the time, an engagement that was time sensitive, that I was running late for, and actively disappointing someone I cared about.

When I showed up, my friend asked me, “How’d it go?”

“How’d what go?”

“The writing.”

Oh, right.

“I think I have an ending,” I said.

For the longest time I felt that if I hadn’t blown off my friend, hadn’t shown up late again, hadn’t made that decision I made, those words would never be there at the end. Maybe they wouldn’t have.

But what I’ve come to realize is that for much of the process of writing this book, I felt entitled. I felt entitled to be a flake to my friends, to check out of relationships, to half-ass my way through connections with people, because gosh darn it,

I was writing a novel.

I had forgotten that it doesn’t change me from being a person, that I still need to be a living breathing human, and that I was doing a pretty crappy job at human-ness.

But you never get to check out of being a human. You are always human. There is no entitlement in being one human versus another human. You are just you.

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?

No, never. Writing as novel is still hard. Really fricken hard for me. My brain does a better job at recognizing why something isn’t working, if the narrative arc is lacking, if a character is falling flat, but it does not tell me at all how to fix it.

But I’ll go back to my craft books and resources, I’m a huge fan of Lisa Cron’s books, and try to look at my work from a new angle.

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

For a long time I thought the ultimate goal that all writers, including myself, wanted was to quit their jobs and become a full-time author. What could be better than writing?

But then I fell in love with something else, my day job. I get so much personal fulfillment out of the work that I do and the people I connect with. Yes, it’s still a job that you have to go to everyday, and sometimes there’s some office drama, but I really like what I do.

I’m here to give other writers the permission to love, keep, and continue to flourish in their day jobs. You don’t have to be one thing.

Time is definitely a challenge. Time to write, time to have meaningful relationships with friends and family. Time to have fun. Time to work.

But just like you wouldn’t dream of quitting writing, why quit something that you love?


500 Words or Less
by Juleah del Rosario
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


Juleah del Rosario is a librarian at a university thus fulfilling her love of books and leafy green campuses simultaneously. Author in the in between hours. Born & raised in the Seattle area. Now calls Colorado home. According to Teen Vogue out of all the Emmas, she is most like Emma Watson, and according to Seventeen, her prom dress style is classic-preppy. Both results feel spot on.


Have you had a chance to read 500 WORDS OR LESS yet? How do you look at your work from a new angle? Do you love your day job or do you want to write full time? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

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

0 Free 1st 5 Pages Workshop Opens October 6!

Our October workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, October 6th at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Kaitlyn Johnson as our agent mentor and Mary Taranta as our author mentor!

The workshop is designed to help writers struggling to find the right opening for their novel or for those looking to perfect the all important first five pages before submitting for publication. Why the first five pages? Because if these aren't perfect, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is!

Why is the First Five Pages Workshop a GREAT Opportunity?

  • You are mentored by at the guest author as well as least one and usually two traditionally-published published or agented authors from among our permanent mentors for the duration of the workshop. These authors have been through the trenches and know what it takes to get a book deal, solid reviews, and sales.
  • In addition, you receive feedback from the four other workshop participants.
  • Feedback is given not just on your initial submission, but on two subsequent opportunities to revise your manuscript based on the previous feedback so that you know you've got it right!
  • The final revision will also be reviewed by a literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the one that may eventually become your query letter or cover copy.
  • The best entry from among the workshop participants will receive a critique of the full first chapter or first ten pages from the mentoring agent, which may, in some cases, lead to requests for additional material.

How It Works:
Please see the complete rules before entering the workshop, but in a nutshell, we'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) Click here to get the rules. We will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman@MelissWritesNow@charlotteclg ), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to the rotating team of our wonderful permanent author mentors, the final entry for each workshop participant will be critiqued by our agent mentor.

October Guest Literary Agent Mentor: Kaitlyn Johnson 

After receiving a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, Kaitlyn refused to leave the concept of nightly homework behind. As well as being a junior agent for Corvisiero Literary Agency, she is also a freelance editor at her own company, K. Johnson Editorial, and has worked as a copyeditor for academic publisher codeMantra, a YA editor for Accent Press, and a Conference Assistant for GrubStreet, Boston. She has written various articles for Writer's Digest and has had a flash fiction story published in the anthology A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed.

​- YA, NA, and A are her main interests. She mostly drools for fantasy, time travel, select dystopian, romance and historical fiction if it is anything other than Henry VIII.
- Contemporary can grab her attention only if the concept is unique enough and executed well. Overplayed tropes/characters make her cringe. Same goes for upper MG.
- LGBT (as well as characters questioning their sexuality) welcome in all genres accepted above.

When querying, please follow submission guidelines.

September Guest Literary Author Mentor: Mary Taranta

Mary Taranta grew up notoriously quiet but secretly wild, playacting her favorite stories and writing some of her own in the woods behind her family's farmhouse. Her first book, SHIMMER AND BURN was released in August of 2017, with the second book in the series, SPLENDOR AND SPARK due out in November, 2018. 

She is originally from a small town in Ohio but now lives in Orlando with her family and two cats.

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers.  With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.

Where to Buy: 

Add it on GOODREADS! 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

0 Martina Boone, author of LOVE FOR TWO LIFETIMES, on an insistent itch to write

Here at AYAP, we're always excited when our founder Martina Boone releases a new book. So we're thrilled to have her with us today to share more about her latest novel, LOVE FOR TWO LIFETIMES.

Martina, what was your inspiration for writing LOVE FOR TWO LIFETIMES?

I’ve called this book my “gift book” from the moment I started working on it. I was in the middle of revisions on something else, but the inspiration for this came to me in the form of Izzy’s voice and an insistent itch to write. I started writing after ten o’clock in the evening, just wanting to get that snippet of voice down. The next thing I knew, it was three in the morning and I’d written over ten thousand words. I’ve never done that before or since. And most of those words are still exactly the same as when I first set them down. At its heart, this book is a story about love and friendships, and it’s an ode to my love of the tragedy of Princess Diana and an ode to two of my favorite places in the world—India and England. It’s meant to be a love story as epic as the story of the Taj Mahal, but it’s basically a reverse of the Charles and Diana story. I simply imagined it as if Princess Diana was the unforgettable other woman and wrote a story exploring how their children would feel about all that if they accidentally found out as they were falling in love with each other themselves.

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?

A lot of these scenes are hard. Without any spoilers, there’s grief, love, longing, tension, fear, laughter, and hope. And just about everything in between. I honestly can’t think of a single early reader who hasn’t mentioned tears while reading. But good tears, mostly.

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

This is kind of Everything, Everything meets a Nicholas Sparks film about a young royal romance meets a John Greene book.

What do you hope readers will take away from LOVE FOR TWO LIFETIMES?

Love is hard and sometimes it requires sacrifice. But when you have the chance to love someone with all your heart—a significant other, a best friend, a parent—jump in with both feet and grab love while you can.

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

Read something every day, write something (even if it’s a note to yourself) every day, and learn something every day. You never know when you’ll find yourself drawing on odd bits of inspiration!


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

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

Clearing out after her famous mother's death, Izzy finds twenty years of unsent love letters that leave her questioning who she is and what her mother sacrificed to become a world-class pianist. Following a trail of clues to Halford Hall in England, Izzy steps into a world of royalty in search of her father--and meets a young aristocrat who's as troubled as he is fascinating. Recognizing the brokenness in each other, the two become inseparable only to discover that insurmountable obstacles may lie between them.

Thrown together on a 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, Malcolm and Izzy try not to fall in love. But some things are impossible.

And some sacrifices are inevitable.

Uplifting, funny, tragic, and unforgettably romantic, Love for Two Lifetimes is a tale of two generations of love, a lifetime of friendship, a history of sacrifice, and ultimately one last, heartbreaking and hopeful choice revealed in prose, texts, and love letters. If you enjoy Everything, Everything or any story by Nicholas Sparks, this spellbinding story 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
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View Love for Two Lifetimes on Goodreads


Martina Boone is the award-winning author of Love for Two Lifetimes and the romantic Southern Gothic Heirs of Watson Island series, including Compulsion, Persuasion, and Illusion, for young adults as well as romantic fiction for adult readers starting with Lake of Destiny. She’s also the founder of, a three-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She’s on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.

She lives in Virginia with her husband, children, Shetland Sheepdog, and a lopsided cat, and she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she loves to visit. When she isn’t writing, she’s addicted to travel, horses, skiing, chocolate-flavored tea, and anything with Nutella on it.


Have you had a chance to read LOVE FOR TWO LIFETIMES yet? Have you ever had a voice come to you and insist you start writing? Are you striving to learn something every day? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

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

0 S. A. Bodeen, author of THE TOMB, on dealing with doubt

We're delighted to have S. A. Bodeen join us to chat about her latest novel, THE TOMB.

S. A., how long did you work on THE TOMB?

I drafted the book in about 30 days. I know that first draft is going to be awful, so I’d prefer to get it over as quickly as possible. Then I can change hats and revise, which is what I really love, and feel that I’m good at. That took several weeks, then it went to my editor and we did a couple rounds of editorial revisions. All told, I probably spent several months on it, not including the weeks of outlining to figure the story out…

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

The Tomb is my tenth published novel, which is hard to believe. But the road was rough before my first one. I wrote nine novels before I sold The Compound, and none of those will ever be published. And I still get rejections, trust me. I currently have six completed YA novels that have not found homes. Maybe they never will. But each one made me a better writer.

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

For me, the only constant in this business is the doubt. I deal with it every single day. So finding a way to live with that, to push past it and believe that what you are writing will someday find an audience, that is key. Just don’t give up. That’s my best advice.


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.

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


S.A. Bodeen grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She graduated from UW-River Falls with a degree in Secondary Ed., then joined the Peace Corps with her husband and went to Tanzania, East Africa. Her first picture book, Elizabeti's Doll (written as Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen) was published in 1998, followed by six other picture books.Her first YA novel written as S.A. Bodeen, the award-winning The Compound, came out from Feiwel and Friends in 2008. The novel count is up to nine, with the tenth releasing in 2018. She has lived in eight states, two African countries, and an insular possession. Currently, she lives in the Midwest with her husband and two daughters.


Have you had a chance to read THE TOMB yet? Do you prefer drafting or revising? How do you deal with doubt? 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 28, 2018

0 Heidi Heilig, author of FOR A MUSE OF FIRE, on cutting scenes you love

We're delighted to have Heidi Heilig join us to share more about her latest novel, FOR A MUSE OF FIRE.

Heidi, what was your inspiration for writing FOR A MUSE OF FIRE?

My inspirations for novels always come from my obsessions at the time, and this one was no different. I was angry at our country's endless wars. I had fallen in with a bunch of burlesque dancing friends. I grew up hiking the lush valleys and rainforests of Hawaii, so the jungle is always in my heart. I'm an animist. And of course I have a recent past as a musical theatre writer. These things came together like a mental stone soup. Something like Apocalypse Now meets Moulin Rouge with mental illness and necromancy.

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 wrote a scene about building a leather shadow puppet, which I absolutely loved. The smoothing and cutting of the hide, the riveting of the joints, the colors of the paint, the smells of the tanins. I ran it by a Cambodian puppeteer for accuracy, made the minor corrections, and polished it up. Then I cut the whole thing.

I'm proud of all of that, though. Even the cutting. Because including the scene would have made the book less than what it is now. But I still love the scene.

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

Don't be afraid to rewrite. I rewrote the entire book after first round edits. I think there are about 30 pages total from my first version that made it into my second. Sometimes you have to throw out your first effort. Kind of like pancakes. Likewise, though, don't rewrite endlessly. There comes a point where you have to let go. If you have tips on how to do that, please hit me up.


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.

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


Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko'olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she’s written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and sons. They do not own a cat.


Have you had a chance to read FOR A MUSE OF FIRE yet? Are you inspired by your obsessions? Are you able to find the balance between rewriting everything and rewriting endlessly? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

0 Amy Lukavics, author of NIGHTINGALE, on being grateful to unpublished novels

We're delighted to have Amy Lukavics swing by to tell us more about her latest novel, NIGHTINGALE.

Amy, what do you hope readers will take away from NIGHTINGALE?

I most hope that readers will take away that you don't have to be defined by your trauma. For me personally, I realized there was real strength and power to be found in redefining the narrative around my own trauma, in ways that emphasized a resilience that I may not have been able to appreciate before. That was really the heart of this story for me.

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's been a long, hard road for sure, but I've been really fortunate compared to so many other writers. I wrote four books before selling my debut novel, Daughters Unto Devils. Out of the four books I wrote that were never published, I'm interested in revisiting exactly zero of them, haha. They did what they were supposed to do—teach me how to execute plots and develop characters, teach me how to revise properly, and teach me perseverance. I'll always be grateful to them for that.

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 never written in public! I really hate the idea of anyone reading over my shoulder, and I feel like a coffee shop might have too many distractions for me. I have my best writing sessions from my home desk, listening to creepy soundtracks on Spotify with headphones. Things that drastically improve the situation but are not required: aromatherapy hand cream for focus and relaxation, lit candles, and, oddly enough...bubble gum. I can't imagine it'd be a pretty thing to witness from the outside, though. I'm sure the smacking and popping sounds from the gum would drive any bystanders mad, but damn if it doesn't improve my focus.


by Amy Lukavics
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


Ever since she was little, Amy was especially intrigued by horror books and movies. Raised in Northern Arizona, she sustained herself on a steady diet of Goosebumps, Fear Street, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books before discovering Stephen King in her mother's bookshelf.

When Amy isn't reading or writing, she enjoys playing roller derby, cooking, crafting, and playing games across many platforms.

Her novel The Ravenous was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in the Superior Achievement in a YA Novel category, and Daughters unto Devils was a YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers 2017.

Have you had a chance to read NIGHTINGALE yet? Do you plan to revisit novels you previously wrote that have not been published yet? Have you tried chewing bubble gum for improving your focus? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

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

0 Tyler James Smith, author of UNSTOPPABLE MOSES, on loving the whole weird process

We're excited to have Tyler James Smith join us to talk about his debut novel, UNSTOPPABLE MOSES.

Tyler, what was your inspiration for writing UNSTOPPABLE MOSES?

Mostly it was the friendships I had when I was a kid that didn’t last like I thought they would. The inspiration was looking at these relationships that fell apart seemingly overnight and wanting to know why I was still thinking about them years and years later.

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

This book taught me about the talismanic power of writing. And not in the boring, garbage-filled, whimsical way you tend to hear—nothing about putting your soul to ink or bleeding at the keyboard. Instead, writing is an incredible way to unpack all of the things that you don’t understand about yourself. This book taught me that writing and therapy can look awfully similar.

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

That publishing—and writing, in general—isn’t half as romantic as movies make it out to be. Chances are you aren’t going to be a tortured genius with attractively disheveled hair bashing away at a typewriter while the muse whispers to you from the air vents. Real life is grimier and slower-moving and more often it’s you writing when you can find time. Real life is endlessly checking your email and working a day job because you can’t just crank out a first draft and punch it into a big envelope and expect your editor to wire you six figures.

But that’s what makes the whole thing so fulfilling. The process--all of the blood and dirt and rejection letters—makes the whole thing worthwhile. Gotta love those battlescars.

How long did you work on UNSTOPPABLE MOSES?

On and off for close to two years.

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 was brutal! I got The Call from my agent (the amazing and indefatigable Molly Ker Hawn) while I was working as a mail carrier back in February 2015 and we spent the next year, year-and-a-half editing. Went out on submission, got an offer about three months later from the brilliant Sarah Barley at Flatiron—an imprint of Macmillan. The path was long and uneven, but IT WAS SO EXCITING. I wouldn’t have had it any other way—everybody’s road is different.

Unstoppable Moses was my…third?...finished book. I wrote half of a terrible zombie book very early in college, then a complete NaNoWriMo book a little bit thereafter, then another half NaNo book the year after, followed by another half finished horror story, then my first YA, THEN I wrote Unstoppable Moses. By the time we sold it, I’d written another YA and started in on another.

Final Score for Unstoppable Moses: 3rd book out of 4 and 4-halves.

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?

Nope. I’ve got a book deal and we’re working on future projects, but I’m still figuring out how to do it. Maybe that’s the secret, though: not looking for the key or the magic combination of words and just sort of loving the whole weird process.

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

When I’ve got time off (I work in the schools, so: weekends and big, beautiful admin-mandated vacations), I drink a lot of caffeine then dive into my project. This started in college and my theory was that I could train my brain like Pavlov’s dogs to associate caffeine-Nirvana with writing. That method probably gets a 3 out of 5 stars.

During the school year and during the week, I try to get a thousand words written at lunch.

I get more work done when I’m not at home and listening to music that doesn’t have lyrics (jazz, classical, orchestral, synthwave, etc.), though hip hop and classic rock are a great way to get amped up. Oh, and the Hamilton soundtrack.

What do you hope readers will take away from UNSTOPPABLE MOSES?

That it’s okay to grieve and hurt in a way that is completely unique to you.

What are you working on now?

Guhh, I’ve a million different fingers in a million different fires. There’s The Story About The Accident, The Bug-World Story, The SIMON VS The HOMOSAPIEN AGENDA Meets THE FACULTY Story, there’s The Story About The Underground Tunnels Behind The Bar, there’s The Chicago Story, there’s The Graphic Novel, and on and on forever.


Unstoppable Moses: A Novel
by Tyler James Smith
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.

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


Tyler James Smith attended Western Michigan University and after a stint as a mailman, is now an aide in a therapeutic school. He still uses AOL. Unstoppable Moses is his debut novel.


Have you had a chance to read UNSTOPPABLE MOSES yet? Does writing help you unpack all of the things that you don’t understand about yourself? Have you found writing to be less romantic than you thought it would be? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

1 Beth Revis, author of GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE, on being inspired by three different forms of stories

We're thrilled to have Beth Revis stop by to chat about her latest novel, GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE.

Beth, what was your inspiration for writing GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE?

I wrote about my inspiration in more depth here (, but in short, three different forms of stories inspired my own. It started with the anime Fullmetal Alchemist--the description of alchemy and the costs and consequences of it took root in my brain more than a decade ago. Much, much later, when I saw Snow White and the Huntsman, the character of the evil queen as portrayed by the brilliant Charlize Theron really inspired me. I had a magic system I wanted, and a heroine to use it...but the story itself didn't really "click" until the Hamilton soundtrack wormed its way into my head, and suddenly the world and the character had a plot.

(This, of course, is not to say that I copied these works, just that they inspired my own.)

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

The books I turn to when I want a deliciously dark tale are the same ones I think other readers who like Give the Dark My Love will appreciate. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is one of the most brilliant books written, and I'm actively envious that I didn't write it first. Same with Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns. What a premise! I also think Julie Dao's Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and CJ Redwine's The Shadow Queen hit the perfect notes for those who, like me, are more interested in the villain's tale than the hero's. Kerri Maniscalco's Stalking Jack the Ripper and Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth are full of the horror and macabre that come with the dark. And all fantasy fans should read Cinda Chima!

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?

This happened to me three times.

In the first draft, my hero is sent to kill the heroine. He believes he's killing someone who's monstrous and that it's for the good of everyone but... there's really no way to build romance with your would-be murderer, no matter how you try to spin it. So that plot line had to go, and with it, the whole draft I'd built around it.

The next thing I realized I had to change was a particular scene that currently happens in the middle of the book. I had previously had it happen in the past, and it was only mentioned briefly. But that scene is a primary motivation for my main character's actions. It basically defines who she becomes. In talking about it with fellow writer Carrie Ryan, I realized that I couldn't have this scene be a vague memory--I had to show it on the page for the readers to experiences, so that they could understand my character.

The last major moment came through a LOT of angst. I'd originally envisioned my story to be one that takes place a year after some major events happened. It was about the fall out of tragedy, not the tragedy itself. But because of that, I found that I kept having to rely on flashbacks and memories. If I wanted to tell the story of the fall out of tragedy, I had to actually show the tragedy. This meant moving my timeline significantly back--what was previously Chapter 1 became Chapter 65 (and the sixty-four chapters before that became all new material). On the bright side, I had a lot of stuff already written for the sequel...

What are you working on now?

In addition to the sequel to Give the Dark My Love, I've also been working on two new YA titles and one adult book. They're all twisty and dark and weird and I love them.


Give the Dark My Love
by Beth Revis
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.

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


Beth Revis is a NY Times bestselling author with books available in more than 20 languages. Her next title, Give the Dark my Love, is a dark fantasy about love and death. It will be available this fall. Beth’s other books include the bestselling science fiction trilogy, Across the Universe, and a novel in the Star Wars universe entitled Rebel Rising. She’s the author of two additional novels, numerous short stories, and the nonfiction Paper Hearts series, which aids aspiring writers. A native of North Carolina, Beth is currently working on a new novel for teens. She lives in rural NC with her boys: one husband, one son, and two massive dogs.


Have you had a chance to read GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE yet? Do other works inspire pieces of your novels? How do you handle the need for flashbacks and memories? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

3 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.

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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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