Monday, March 31, 2014

13 Giveaway of COLD CALLS by Charles Benoit and THE LAST FOREVER by Deb Caletti plus New YALit Releases 4/1-4/7


Cold Calls
by Charles Benoit
Hardcover Giveaway
Clarion Books
Released 4/1/2014

In the vein of the teen suspense classics I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Face on the Milk Carton, Cold Calls is a chilling thriller, an unsettling mystery, and a provocative exploration of bullying, culpability, and the cost of keeping secrets.

Three high school students-Eric, Shelly, and Fatima-have one thing in common: "I know your secret."
Each one is blackmailed into bullying specifically targeted schoolmates by a mysterious caller who whispers from their cell phones and holds carefully guarded secrets over their heads. But how could anyone have obtained that photo, read those hidden pages, uncovered this buried past? Thrown together, the three teens join forces to find the stranger who threatens them-before time runs out and their shattering secrets are revealed . . .

This suspenseful, pitch-perfect mystery-thriller raises timely questions about privacy, bullying, and culpability.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Cold Calls?

I’m happy that the book stayed as gray as I had hoped it would when I first started writing it. Dealing with a topic like bullying (and extortion, theft, invasion of privacy, immorality and faith) it would be easy to slip into a black and white, “this is right, this is wrong” preachy kind of writing. I worked hard to avoid that kind of stuff because I don’t like reading that kind of stuff. We all know books that were so heavy-handed with their messages that they were almost unreadable*1 and I didn’t want my book falling into that category. In COLD CALLS none of the characters think of themselves as bullies. The bully is always somebody else, right? The truth is each one of us may be somebody’s bully without realizing we’re doing it. Okay, if you’re jacking someone up against a locker you probably know what you’re doing, but it’s the smaller stuff we don’t think about that may be ruining someone’s life.
We’d like to believe we’re good people, but we spend more time in the gray than we’d think. But it’s that ambiguous, slippery, self-deceiving gray area that makes writing—and life—so much more interesting.

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The Last Forever
by Deb Caletti
Simon Pulse
Released 4/1/2014

Endings and beginnings sit so close to each other that it’s sometimes impossible to tell which is which.

Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it’s all she can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, her happiness from slipping away. And then there’s her dad. He’s stuck in his own daze, and it’s so hard to feel like a family when their house no longer seems like a home.

Her father’s solution? An impromptu road trip that lands them in a small coastal town at Tessa’s grandmother’s. Despite all the warmth and beauty there, Tessa can’t help but feel even more lost.

Enter Henry Lark. He understands the relationships that matter. And more importantly, he understands her. A secret stands between them, but Tessa’s willing to do anything to bring them together—because Henry may just be her one chance at forever.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about The Last Forever?

I have several favorite things about THE LAST FOREVER. I like the setting (one of the odd, moody Northwest islands in the San Juans), and I like the fact that most of the characters love books as much as I do. I like the way that a sweet boy, a great girl, and a whole town have a mission together. But it’s the mission itself that’s my favorite part, because the mission involves trying to get to one of the most impossible to reach and fascinating places I know of.


How can this NOT be my favorite part? A vault, hidden away in the farthest corner of the arctic, made for one, singular purpose: to store seeds so that civilization could start again in the event of a catastrophic event? One look at the picture of The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and I knew I had to write about. I hope you, dear readers, will find it as intriguing, mysterious, and captivating as I did!

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Drama Queens in the House
by Julie Williams
Roaring Brook Press
Released 3/25/2014

Winner - Danielle Guzzardi

All of Jessie's world is a stage, and she's determined to become a player, in Drama Queens in the House by Julie Williams.

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Jasper Lewis doesn’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t surrounded by method actors, bright spotlights, and feather boas. Her parents started the Jumble Players Theater together, and theater is the glue that holds her crazy family together. But when she discovers that her father’s cheating on her mother with a man, Jessie feels like her world is toppling over. And on top of everything else, she has to deal with a delusional aunt who is predicting the end of the world. Jessie certainly doesn’t feel ready to be center stage in the production that is her family. But where does she belong in all of this chaos?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Drama Queens in the House?

I’m drawn to Jessie’s wildly crazy theatrical family. I can see why she doesn’t want to go away to college yet. I’m with her. I want to keep hanging out with all those actors and dancers and chefs and singers and costumers and . . . well, you know . . . THEATRICAL folks. As an author, I never know when I begin a story exactly where it’s going to go or how the characters will turn out. Now that DRAMA QUEENS IN THE HOUSE is done, I have to say I like Jessie’s sense of humor, the way her view of the world helps her cope when things get tough. It makes me want to hang out with her at one more rehearsal, one more dance class, one more opening night theatre party.

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
by Leslye Walton
Released 3/25/2014

Winner - Kirsten Wood

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

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by Lindsay Smith
Roaring Brook Press
Released 4/1/2014

From debut author Lindsay Smith comes an espionage thriller with a dash of both history and dystopia.

Yulia’s father always taught her that an empty mind is a safe mind. She has to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia, especially because she seems to be able to read the minds of the people she touches. When she’s captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she’s thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power where she can trust no one.

She certainly can’t trust Rostov, the cruel KGB operative running the psychic program. Or handsome Sergei who encourages her to cooperate with the KGB. Or brooding Valentin who tells her to rebel against them. And not the CIA, who have a psychic so powerful he can erase a person’s mind with his own thoughts. Yulia quickly learns she must rely on her own wits and power to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Sekret?

I loved getting to incorporate a wide variety of music in Sekret! The psychic spies in my book weave music into their thoughts to guard against other psychics’ attempts to read their minds, and the songs they choose reveal a lot about their personalities, I think. Russian classical music—Tchaikovsky, Mussourgsky, Rachmaninoff, et al—is so emotional and evocative and epic in scale, while the Soviet folk ballads and patriotic melodies really add to the other-worldly sense of life in the Soviet Union. My characters also listen to Western jazz and pop records smuggled through the Iron Curtain, which was a common, relatively safe way to subvert the system. The Beatles’ first album also has a special role to play!

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Dear Killer
by Katherine Ewell
Katherine Tegen Books
Released 4/1/2014

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

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Dorothy Must Die
by Danielle Paige
Released 4/1/2014

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

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Learning Not to Drown
by Anna Shinoda
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Released 4/1/2014

Family secrets cut to the bone in this mesmerizing debut novel about a teen whose drug-addicted brother is the prodigal son one time too many.

There is a pecking order to every family. Seventeen-year old Clare is the overprotected baby; Peter is the typical, rebellious middle child; and Luke is the oldest, the can’t-do-wrong favorite. To their mother, they are a normal, happy family.

To Clare, they are a family on the verge of disaster. Clare: the ambitious striver; Peter: the angry ticking time bomb; and Luke: a drug-addicted convicted felon who has been in and out of jail for as long as Clare can remember—and who has always been bailed out by their parents.

Clare loves Luke, but life as his sister hasn’t been easy. And when he comes home (again), she wants to believe this time will be different (again). Yet when the truths behind his arrests begin to surface, everything Clare knows is shaken to its core. And then Luke is arrested. Again.

Except this time is different, because Clare’s mom does the unthinkable on Luke’s behalf, and Clare has to decide whether turning her back on family is a selfish act…or the only way to keep from drowning along with them.

Debut novelist Anna Shinoda's raw, gritty, powerful novel cuts right to the bone and brings to life the skeletons the lurk in the closet.

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Love Letters to the Dead
by Ava Dellaira
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 4/1/2014

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

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by Alexandra Duncan
Greenwillow Books
Released 4/1/2014

Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

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The Ring and the Crown
by Melissa de la Cruz
Released 4/1/2014

Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve?

Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world's only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.

But even with the aid of Emrys' magic, Eleanor's extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen's Guard.

Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie's face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she's always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she's always dreamed of--the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor's court: trust no one.

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The Summer I Wasn't Me
by Jessica Verdi
Sourcebooks Fire
Released 4/1/2014

Lexi has a secret…

Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen-year-old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good.

You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way.

The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi—she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feelings is harder than she thinks. And when she falls heads over heels for one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what.

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Happy reading, everyone and good luck in the giveaway. Have a great week,

Martina, Alyssa, Jan, Clara and Lisa

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

3 Wish I'd Written by Kim Miller

I love reading as much as I love writing. There’s nothing better than reading a book by a new author that amazes me. One of the best reasons to go to Book Expo America is all the great new talent!

The Twilight series is what got me started writing books for teens. I loved the strong emotion, the young love, the uncertainty over which boy was truly right for her. I also loved how, no matter what choice Bella made, she’d be giving something of her old life up. Personally, I was on Team Jacob and would have loved to see her end up with him. But, if that had happened, I honestly believe the books wouldn’t have held that amazing I’d-die-for-him love that made them so popular. Twilight is an older book by now, but I really would have loved to have written that story!

A few recently published books stand out as books I would have loved to write:

SANCTUM by Sarah Fine: When Lela’s best friend commits suicide, she does all she can to try to save her friend from a horrible afterlife she is familiar with—because she attempted suicide in the past and lived. Aware of her friend’s suffering, Lela has the opportunity to help her friend move to a happy resting place—but she goes through Hell to achieve her goal.

Sarah’s “Guards of the Shadowlands” series is a well-written YA series about friendship, love, and death. She especially does an amazing job dealing with the subject of suicide and how others may or may not be able to help. Most of all, I love the main characters she created and the deep emotional connection they develop to each other as they journey through a very dark part of the afterlife together. FRACTURED, the second book in the series, is just as amazing and has me dying to read the final book due out later this year.

THIS IS W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker & Laura Roecker: This is W.A.R. is written in a very interesting way. After a friend is murdered, four girls with four different motives to avenge her get together to make sure the murderer pays for what he’s done. The book is told from four points of view, and as each girl tells her story, the details and events are slowly revealed. I really enjoyed the way this book was written, starting with the murder, then backtracking and digging into the head of each character who wants to avenge her. As each character recalls the events of the night of the murder, we see more of what really happened as opposed to what they reported. We also see a reason each girl feels guilty about the murder. As the story unfolds, we see that not everything is as it seems at first. It's only after reading each section that you get the entire story of what happened the night the girl was murdered. The Roeckers did a great job of using those alternate points of view to keep readers turning the page and to allow us to get into the head of each girl.

About The Author

Kimberly Ann Miller received Bachelor's degrees from Georgian Court University and Rutgers University and a Master's degree from The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She is an avid reader and particularly enjoys true crime and young adult novels. She grew up in New Jersey and currently resides in Monmouth County with her husband and three cats. When she's not writing, she loves to travel to sunny islands where she snorkels by day and stargazes by night. She always takes her Nook with her.

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About The Book

A cruise ship. A beautiful island. Two sexy guys. What could possibly go wrong?In the Bermuda Triangle--a lot.Hoping to leave behind the reminders of her crappy life--her fathers death years ago, her mothers medical problems, and the loser whos practically stalking her--seventeen-year-old Autumn Taylor hops on a ship with her sister for a little distraction. When she wakes up in the Bermuda Triangle, she fears shes gone nuts for more than one reason: that losers suddenly claiming theyre a happy couple... a hot guy is wrapping his arms around her and saying Happy Anniversary... and suddenly, shes full of bruises, losing her hair, and getting IV medication. Autumn visits the ships doctor, hoping for a pill or a shot to make the craziness go away. Instead, shes warned that these alternate realities could become permanent.She just has to ask herself one question--how the hell is she going to get out of this mess?

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Friday, March 28, 2014

3 Craft of Writing: Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet of Creativity by Tonya Hegamin

Tonya Hegamin is the award winning author of picture books, as well as Young Adult lit. Her historical novel, WILLOW hit shelves in February and has been making waves through the YA book community. She has a brilliant background working with teens as a crisis counselor, creative expression group leader, sexual health educator and many more for years. We are so pleased and excited to have Tonya here with us today!

Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet of Creativity by Tonya Hegamin

I think of writing a novel like flying Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet. First of all, WW can’t see it; she has to imagine the very steps to climb into the invisible pilot seat. She has to imagine where all the controls are, and even has to find invisible fuel. She figured out how make her tiara summon it, ‘cause a girl can’t carry a thing like that around in her purse. After all, WW comes from an island where all women live up to their natural potential and your mother is a goddess. She has to believe that it can blast the bad guys and fly to space just like (or better than!) Superman. And while everybody else is like, “Girl, where you think you going in those sassy red boots? You can’t fly without a plane!” Wonder Woman just does what she needs to do; she has faith in her Invisible Jet and so everyone else sees the exquisite outline of her imagination.

In order to create authentically, I believe that you have to have utter and complete faith in the world you have created. Even if you think it’s not what others consider “good”, you have to be able to trust your own vision, even if it’s vague. Clearly that means you have to be very connected to what that vision is from the beginning, usually in an emotional way. I begin most projects because some aspect of history or current events interests me enough to hear a voice or a tone that sparks something in my heart before my imagination. Usually after that I carve out that voice or tone, or sometimes it’s just a mood, into a “what if” story. If I am connected enough to the protagonist’s voice, I will write out the beginnings of a storyline in a few days, usually in a gush of thoughtful adrenaline. It doesn’t matter what I say or think in this stage, I allow myself to put as much of the plot down as I can imagine. It’s amazing how names and details will come together and form new ideas when you allow yourself freedom from self censorship. With Willow, I had been doing research for so long on the time period, and wanted to put the information I had into a full length historical novel, and had been searching for many years for the right angle to approach all of that. I knew I wanted to create a historical world that was faithful to reality yet had the perfect storm of impossibilities that make any story compelling. In my notebook from the first “sketches” of the plot, I originally wrote exclusively in letters from Willow to her mother, which is how the character presented herself to me. I just kept writing those, accepting whatever the muse showed me until that mode outlived the span of the world I wanted to present.

That’s when it comes to the uncomfortable part—changing or adapting your vision when all that beautiful work comes to a crossroads of self-indulgence and strength of purpose, or as others like to call it: structure. I think that Wonder Woman must have had some kind of technology where her jet upgraded according to her needs. No one with superpowers wants to deliberate over roadblocks, they just take action. The writer, on the other hand, may not be so easily adaptable when their original idea needs to be upgraded, so to speak. I got so attached to one way of looking at the world I created, then I had to shake it up and re-vision something even bigger. The structure of the novel is crucial for conveyance to the reader. We recognize story structure as being the spine of our culture, the way that we are able to communicate experiences to strangers. As a novelist, I have to be both mother and master of my imagination. Story structure is what both of those roles rely upon—structure nurtures, protects, rules and drives the raw imagination. Months into working on Willow, the other characters began to want to have voice in different ways that the original epistolary form would not have allowed. Although I was confident in the characters, I had to also have confidence in my ability to tap into my imagination and structure it so that the soft, intangible electric energy of the original idea or the heart of the story (what Turkish author Orhan Pamuk calls “the secret center” of the novel) are bolstered and illuminated. Structure is always what I go back to when I’m feeling panic or insecurity. I acknowledge that being a human writer, I get in my own way a bit. From the perspective of having the actual book in my hand, I can say that those doubts are necessary for growth and creating new ideas. I ran out of gas quite a few times, and creativity juice is just as precious and hard to come by as invisible jet fuel.

This is also the point where projects often will sputter and end up in the graveyards of the imagination. Indeed, my research is often what saves me at these points. Going back to what I already found exciting in some archive or text will often help me to re-vision, or even just looking at my original notes. Of course, there are the moments of pure grace where imagination sparks itself, but those times can’t be counted upon in the long haul. There requires a personal method of organization and sense of purpose at this time, which comes when you are ready to detach yourself from ideas and construct a vision. Everyone has their own way of doing it—I like making mind maps and “soundtracks” for my books that help me organize thoughts and support my creativity through different expressions. Perhaps Wonder Woman had a penchant for ceramics when she wasn’t deflecting bullets with bracelets…

Will my next book follow all of these rules? Will I rely on the same rituals to conjure creativity? Maybe, maybe not. Hopefully each project is unique, and so it seems logical that each process will be, too. Creative writing is a translation of the human imagination; since language is flexible and ever evolving, as a writer I must also bend and change while having faith in what I create. Each book is a new adventure!

About The Author

Tonya Hegamin was born in Westchester, Pennsylvania, and later moved to Rochester, New York. After college, she was heavily involved in social justice work, and she also owned two small businesses for vintage clothes and vegan food. In 2003, she received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School University. She put together a Multicultural Children's Literature conference, where she was introduced through friends to Andrea Davis Pinkney, who bought her first work. Her books include M+O 4EVER, PEMBRA'S SONG: A Ghost Story and MOST LOVED IN ALL THE WORLD: A Story of Freedom.

Website | Goodreads

About The Book

In 1848, an educated slave girl faces an inconceivable choice — between bondage and freedom, family and love.

On one side of the Mason-Dixon Line lives fifteen-year-old Willow, her master’s favorite servant. She’s been taught to read and has learned to write. She believes her master is good to her and fears the rebel slave runaways. On the other side of the line is seventeen-year-old Cato, a black man, free born. It’s his personal mission to sneak as many fugitive slaves to freedom as he can. Willow’s and Cato’s lives are about to intersect, with life-changing consequences for both of them. Tonya Cherie Hegamin’s moving coming-of-age story is a poignant meditation on the many ways a person can be enslaved, and the force of will needed to be truly emancipated.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

6 Inspired Openings: Make Your First Impression Worthy by Laurisa White Reyes

Laurisa Reyes is the popular middle grade author of the Celestine Chronicles books, THE ROCK OF IVANORE and THE LAST ENCHANTER. She is making her YA debut with the Sci/Fi Thriller CONTACT, which will release in June!

Make Your First Impression Worthy by Laurisa White Reyes

I’ve always been intrigued by opening lines of books. As the editor-in-chief of Middle Shelf Magazine, a digital magazine that reviews and spotlights books for middle grade readers, I quite literally read the first lines of dozens of books, fifty or more, each month. I only have time to read a handful of these books all the way through, so those first lines can mean the difference between landing a prized promo spot in our magazine and ending up in the pass pile.

You’ve probably heard the saying attributed to Will Rogers: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Nowhere is that more true than in books. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard is to start a book with a bang. That doesn’t necessarily mean an author has to open with a literal explosion or even with action at all. It means finding the most effective moment to introduce readers to your story. Those first sentences carry a heavy burden. They must inform the reader about the story’s genre, mood, pace and sometimes even the setting and protagonist. Think of that opening line as a doorway through which your reader steps out of his/her world and into yours.

So, where is that sweet spot in the story that will entice your reader to step through that door? The answer varies from writer to writer and story to story. Let’s first look at where not to start a story. Martha Alderson, author of The Plot Whisperer, encourages writers to avoid starting off with flashbacks or memories. “Don’t tease the reader,” she says. “Writers, especially beginning writers, often find themselves wanting to blurt out everything up front. This often shows up as a flashback early on in the story to show the back story or event that first sent the protagonist off kilter. Don't...” (“Creating Curiosity,” The Plot Whisperer blog post 23 May 2009)

This isn’t to say opening with a flashback can’t ever be used effectively. One of my favorite books ever, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, begins toward the end of the actual story. British secret agent Verity has been captured by the Nazis and is forced to write her confession, which becomes the story of how she became an agent and ended up in occupied France during World War II. Most of the novel is a flashback, two actually. But it really works for Wein because she is a highly experienced author and knows how to pull it off. But it’s something I wouldn’t attempt and would discourage other authors from trying.

Another place not to start a novel is too far before or too long after something really important occurs. However, beginning a story just before or just after a traumatic event creates a feeling of immediacy for the reader. In Tracy Holczer’s The Secret Hum of a Daisy, twelve-year-old Grace’s mother has recently been found drowned in a river. Caitlin, in Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, has just lost her older brother in a school shooting. Megan Miranda’s Vengeance opens as Carson, a teen volunteer at a convalescent hospital, witnesses the death of elderly patient.
I carefully considered this sort of situation when writing my upcoming young adult sci-fi thriller, Contact. My protagonist, Mira, is a suicidal teenager who does everything she can to avoid touching other people. In an early draft, I started the story describing a suicide attempt, but then I realized the opening would have a greater impact if it began shortly afterwards. The opening lines became:

I’m alive.
Still alive. . .

Just five simple words, yet they reveal so much. From these we know right off the bat that this story will be told in first person present tense. The protagonist has just had a near death experience (whether suicide or something else, we will find out soon enough). And we know that this is not the first time it has happened. Most importantly, these words leave the reader wanting to know more.
Here are the opening lines to the books mentioned above. In my opinion, they really pack a punch:

“I am a coward.” – Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein

“Back when everyone believed Delaney was going to die, I made a bargain with God. Correction: I made a bargain.” – Vengeance, Megan Miranda

“It looks like a one-winged bird crouching in the corner of our livingroom. Hurt. Trying to fly. . .” – Mockingbird, Kathryn Erskine

“All I had to do was walk up to the coffin. That was all.” – The Secret Hum of a Daisy, Tracy Holczer

About The Author

After earning her B.A. in English in 1995, Laurisa White Reyes spent many years writing for newspapers and magazines before gathering enough courage to live her dream of writing novels. Contact is her third published book. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in creative writing, is a book editor for Hamilton Springs/Xchyler Press, and is the Editor-in-chief of Middle Shelf Magazine. She lives in Southern California with her husband and five children.

Webiste | Twitter | Goodreads | http://laurisareyes.blogspot.comBlog

About The Book

It takes only half a second…

…Like those commercials where a crash test dummy rockets forward at high speed and slams into a wall.
…In that instant, every thought in Emma Lynn Walsh’s head collides with mine—every thought, memory, hope, disappointment and dream.
…I open my eyes to see Dr. Walsh peering at me, a puzzled expression on her face.

“Let—go—of—me,” I order though clenched teeth.

Mira wants to die. She’s attempted suicide twice already, and failed. Every time she comes in contact with another person, skin to skin, that person’s psyche uploads into hers. While her psychologist considers this a gift, for Mira, it’s a curse from which she cannot escape.

To make matters worse, Mira’s father is being investigated in the deaths of several volunteer test subjects of a miracle drug. Shortly after Mira’s mother starts asking questions, she ends up in a coma. Although her father claims it was an accident, thanks to her “condition” Mira knows the truth…but proving it just might get her killed!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

18 Writing Factions, Divergence, and Following the Spark of Creativity -- The Writing Process Blog Tour

Yes, that's a Georgetown Cupcakes, cupcake. Yum!

Today is my first WOW Wednesday in a long time. I was going to write about fear, something with which I've become intimately acquainted. Then the lovely Erin Cashman tagged me to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour, which was perfect timing because my writing process is what actually got me out of the paralyzing fear that had my current WIP at a standstill. 

What Am I Working On?

I'm feverishly working on book two of the Heirs of Watson Island series, and my deadline is looming.  Writing to deadline, writing for a new editor, writing a sequel is all a little overwhelming. Three weeks ago, I was a weeping mess every time I stared at the paltry few words I was managing to add to book two. 

For those who haven't tried it, writing a sequel is hard. HARD I tell you. You have to remind readers what happened in book one, and also what happened between book one and book two. That's a lot of backstory to weigh down a beginning! (And lest we forget, backstory and telling are no-no's.) I tried so hard to avoid the dreaded telling that I ended up having forty pages of aftermath "events" and reaction "scenes" before I ever got to the story question. 


Forty pages. 


And there I was, staring at a blank page all over again, still with the same old problem: I needed to set up a very complex new story while simultaneously refreshing the reader about an already very complex backstory. 


Unique Mythology and Challenges (What makes the series different?)

Compulsion is a Southern Gothic. That means it comes with the requisite supporting cast of quirky characters, including a woman who has never left her house, a maternal drag queen in size fourteen Louboutins, a modern-day Scarlett O'Hara, a gorgeous, dyslexic baseball player, and of course, the innocent heroine who not so innocently charges into trouble. Each of these characters has their own reason (backstory) for being quirky. There is also Watson Island, the setting, which becomes a character in its own right, complete with a town and three individual picturesque plantations near Charleston, SC. Add to that a blend of magical realism, paranormal elements, and a mythology that I'm building toward across all three books, plus several active mysteries, two wishes, a curse, a lost Civil War treasure, assorted nefarious doings, a tale of forbidden and ill-fated love, a three-hundred-year old family feud, a sense of historical continuity and family obligation, and a sizzling romance. Whew. I like to think that all these things set Compulsion apart a bit, but truly, I think it's the way they work together to drive the story that makes the series unique. 

I love that there are so many different layers. But all of that takes page time to set up.

Thinking about how to weave it all into place succinctly for the start of the second book, and how to take the story in unexpected new directions is what made me cringe. I'm also facing the added pressure of a deadline and people counting on me, people who have invested their own time and effort and money into believing in this series.

Bottom line? I froze

For weeks.

Following the Characters -- (Why Do I Write What I Do?)

Part of what got me past the paralysis is that I simply love having the opportunity to do what I do. I love reading books with layers and with characters that live beyond the page. I love settings that make me want to dive in and move in, and books with new twists on mythology or familiar themes. I love reading books like that, so I'm beyond honored and thrilled that someone is paying me to actually write books like this. What frightened me was the sheer enormity of the task.  

And I realized something. Any task can be broken down into pieces.

With book two, I'm not starting from scratch. I already have a discovery draft of the book. I have the background from book one that was giving me fits, but that also provides a foundation. And I have the tools that I had accumulated in my writer's toolbox as I learned my craft. 

In short, I have a writing process, my writing process. I learned something en route to selling this trilogy, so all I had to do to write this sequel was trust myself and fall back on that knowledge.

Easier said than done, of course, but the realization was both liberating and reassuring. It made me realize I'm not going into wholly uncharted territory.

My Writing Process and the Writing Factions

If you've been around other writers or the online community for any length of time, you'll have discovered that we like to identify ourselves as one of two main writing factions, to use the word-of-the-moment. 

Plotters: These are the writers who take the time to figure out the beginning, middle, and end of their book before sitting down to write it. Their actual processes are many and varied, including countless daunting things like outlines, beatsheets, worksheets, character bios and journals, and so on. The advantages of doing these things is that at the end there's a direction, a blueprint, that provides the structure for the novel and gives the writer confidence that there will be a cohesive story at the end of all those words. But it's not a lot of fun doing worksheets, and the structure can feel like a noose, blocking the joy that comes from the unexpectedness of creation.

Pantsers: These are the writers who wallow in the unexpectedness. They wing it. They sit down every day, and guided by nothing save the voices in their heads, create a story a word at a time that they must then shape into a cohesive story. There's a certain beauty in that, a wild, joyful freedom. But then to get the book into publishable condition, there's also a lot of revision, a heartbreaking amount of beautiful words and ideas that cannot help but be thrown away.

Recognize these two factions? Which one are you in?

Are YOU Divergent? 

Divergent writers do exist. We're the ones who, when pressed, will call ourselves Plotsers, or Plantsers, or any number of other creative variations. We do a little planning, a little free writing, a lot of rewriting, and I suspect, a lot of butt-in-chairing.

Don't get me wrong. I arrived at being divergent by trying every worksheet and outlining system I could find. Heck, I created plenty of my own. And I still use many of them. I've also written one book without any of those structural tools. And then spent years making changes trying to get that book "right." 

What I've found when it comes to process is that the various writing factions aren't so different. No matter how a writer gets there, a successful story requires certain steps. The difference is in how we writers internalize those steps and the order in which we take them.

The Writer's Toolbox

Prewriting: Whether we formalize the process by brainstorming and jotting notes, creating outlines, completing worksheets, talking it through with a writing partner, or keeping it entirely in our heads, there's a level of planning that goes into writing a book. The refining of the story question and concept, the development of symbols to underscore themes, the building of the world, the creation of a story bible of names, characteristics, timelines--all of that is necessary unless you have a phenomenal memory. 

Many writers formalize the pre-writing planning after the first draft is written. Some do it as they go along. I need to do quite a bit at the beginning to discover a sense of place and of people, and I've learned the hard way that I need to begin with characters before I try to formulate a plot or the plot, however cool and intriguing, ends up feeling cardboard and disconnected from the reader.

Before I write, at the very least I have to know:
  • who my characters are, 
  • what each of them wants most in the world,
  • what each of them is most afraid to lose,
  • what wound or internal fear is going to hold them back,
  • and how what each character wants and is afraid to lose is going to conflict with what the others want and are afraid to lose.
Writing: The joyful part of the process, where we have to immerse ourselves in the story world and think about nothing except how the characters react to each other and to events, and how those events inspire additional events. I used to call my first stab at a book an "outline" -- but since I've yet to write one of those under 30,000 words or one that doesn't contain dialogue to help me work out what happens next, I've decided I write a discovery draft. In other words, I really am winging it, more or less.

Between discovery and the first full draft, the one I'm tackling now, there's a lot of subconscious thinking that goes on, a lot of percolating, but I don't necessarily do a lot of formal analyzing.

But to stay on track, to give the writing purpose, whether I do it before, during, or after the first full draft, I need to know some basic information about every scene:
  • where and when the scene takes place and the action going on around the dialogue,
  • the emotional tone of the scene and how that differs from the previous scene,
  • the goal of each character in the scene, especially the MC, and how some element or opposition  in the scene keeps her from getting it,
  • whether the MC simply failed to achieve her goal, achieved it but was presented with another new and compelling objective, or failed spectacularly and on top of that was set with a new reason (stakes) that made her goal even more important, and finally,
  • how the scene changes the main character's situation and overall goal.
Revision: Knowing that every scene in the story has to change the story, and knowing the tools through which I can identify the changes that I need to make makes it relatively painless to think of making the "big picture" changes that fall into the revision process. 

I had a great conversation with my editor last week about book two, and she's on board with everything I'm doing so far. That's enormously energizing. But the other thing that she said that lifted a giant weight from my shoulders was that she wants to see my first draft.

On the one hand, that's a terrifying thought. My first drafts are UGLY. But it's also freeing, because it means I won't have spent hours and days crafting and polishing words and sentences that will eventually need to be cut because they don't serve the story.

I realized that part of what was holding me back from writing was the sense that I needed to turn in something perfect.

If I've learned one thing that I wish I'd learned sooner, it's that there isn't any point editing before you've finished revising!

Editing: For me, this is the slowest, most arduous part of the process. I've been putting words together all my life, but I still have a hard time doing it well. My writing sins are many, but I did learn a few things during the editorial process with Compulsion. Before focusing merely on the sound and feel of the words, the critical elements in every sentence include:
  • Clarity--Can every reader understand and visualize what the sentence means?
  • Specificity--How are the details in the sentence unique to the character and the story?
  • Conciseness--Are there words or ideas that don't add value?
  • Lack of Repetition--Are there words or ideas that you've used before?
  • Flow--Does each sentence flow naturally into the next and create a sense of forward momentum, or does the narrative jump back and forth?
  • Appropriate Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation--Within the context of the voice and characters, is the language correct?

Following the Spark of Creativity

I'm not stuck at the beginning of book two anymore. I'm not paralyzed by fear.  I'm more than a quarter through. The characters have taken over, and there is joy in the process again.

Thinking about the structure of the writing process made me realize that I already have all the tools I need to fix anything that goes amiss in this draft. But I'm not going to fix it now. I'm going to just keep writing.

Knowing there's a structure to the writing process gave me permission to follow the spark of creativity and take joy in discovering the unexpected again. And those are my favorite moments, the ones where I realize why something happened, or how it connects to something else in a way I didn't anticipate.

Which Faction Are You?

Are you a plotter, a pantser, or a divergent? What's your favorite part of the writing process? How do you get through the fear?

Previous Stop on the Tour

For more tips and insight into writing process check out Erin Cashman's post for the My Writing Process Blog Tour last week:

Erin is one of our fabulous First Five Pages Workshop Mentors, one of my fellow members at The Enchanted Inkpot, and the author of THE EXCEPTIONALS, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year!

The Exceptionals
by Erin Cashman
Hardcover, 2/1/2012
Holiday House

Born into a famous family of exceptionally talented people, fifteen-year-old Claire Walker has deliberately chosen to live an average life. But everything changes the night of the Spring Fling, when her parents decide it's high time she transferred to Cambial Academy--the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities.

Despite her attempts to blend in, Claire stands out at Cambial simply because she is normal. But unbeknownst to her new friends, she has a powerful gift she considers too lame to admit. Suddenly, the most talented students in school the Exceptionals begin to disappear. In an attempt to find out what happened to them, Claire comes across a prophecy foretelling a mysterious girl who will use her ability to save Cambial students from a dire fate. Could she be that girl? Claire decides there is only one way to find out: she must embrace her ability once and for all.

Purchase on IndieBound | Purchase on Amazon | Add to Goodreads

Next on the Tour

As instructed (shocker, yes, I know--I'm following directions!) I've tagged a couple of author friends to be the next stops on The Writing Process Blog Tour:

Tracy Clark, the author of the metaphysical fantasy SCINTILLATE, just out from Entangled Teen and recently sold for foreign rights in multiple languages, will be posting on 3/28 on her blog:

by Tracy Clark
Paperback, 2/4/14
Entangled Teen

A mighty flame follows a tiny spark.

Cora Sandoval’s mother disappeared when she was five and they were living in Ireland. Since then, her dad has been more than overprotective, and Cora is beginning to chafe under his confines. But even more troubling is the colorful light she suddenly sees around people. Everyone, that is, except herself—instead, she glows a brilliant, sparkling silver.

As she realizes the danger associated with these strange auras, Cora is inexplicably drawn to Finn, a gorgeous Irish exchange student who makes her feel safe. Their attraction is instant, magnetic, and primal—but her father disapproves, and Finn’s mother orders him home to Ireland upon hearing he’s fallen in love. After a fight with her father, Cora flees to Ireland, both to follow Finn and to look for her missing mother.

There she meets another silver-haloed person and discovers the meaning of her newfound powers and their role in a conspiracy spanning centuries—one that could change mankind forever…and end her life.

Scintillate is the first book in this lush and exciting new trilogy, full of romance, adventure and metaphysical mystery.

* * * * 

Sara Raasch, the author of the upcoming and very exciting SNOW LIKE ASHES fantasy from Balzer and Bray, will be posting on 4/7 on her blog: 

by Sara Raasch
Hardcover, 10/14/14
Balzer & Bray

heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Sara Raasch’s debut fantasy is a lightning-fast tale of loyalty, love, and finding one’s destiny.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

45 The Divergent Movie, Gender Equality, and a Girl's Right to Say 'No' -- plus HALF BAD by Sally Green Giveaway


I saw Divergent on Sunday, along with a whole lot of other people. It grossed $56 million this weekend, but in case you weren't one of the many who flocked to see it and you need a primer, here's an excellent one on Hypable. (Prepare to laugh.)

My verdict? I LOVED it. LOVED. Then I read some reviews on Wired and elsewhere that made me want to scream. Do you feel like that? I am so sad when I see a book I love turned into a bad film. And when I see a book I loved turn into a GREAT film? I want to hug the world. GoGoGo YALit! In case you missed my point, Divergent is fabulous! Terrific acting, lots of action, true to the book in most ways, fears, factions, plot. Oh, and a great Four. I also really liked Shailene Woodley. I loved that she wasn't like every other Dauntless. She wasn't supposed to be.

I left the theater talking about fears and which faction we would have belonged to with my husband, so the movie not only entertained, it also got us reflecting about ourselves and each other. But hopefully, it did more than that. Hopefully, it finally opens the door for a real discussion on rape-culture and permits girls to feel a real sense of empowerment over themselves and their bodies. Hopefully, it finally sends a very public signal to boys that when a girl says 'no' it's 'cool' to back off. It reinforces the message that girls have a right to say 'no,' for whatever reason, real or imagined, and shows that a strong and loving relationship can still have limits.

The film hits the theme of gender empowerment over and over, not just in the scene where Tris faces her greatest fears. At the beginning, Four tells her that she is weak, but that she can compensate by hitting a stronger (male) opponent first. He tells her how to hit, and he tells her she can win. Not to mention that from the very premise to every facet of the film, we see gender equality in action. Women are not only in top leadership positions, it's not even a question. Boys and girls sleep in the same room and use the same bathroom facilities without that devolving into sexual tension. Self-control and sexual equality are simply a fact of life.

There's a great post below in the BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS section that talks about why the sexual assault scene in Divergent is important, so I won't get into that. READ IT! But I do want to say that one of the brilliant things about Divergent is that the theme of sexual and gender equality is not an add on. It's not thrown it. It's integral to the film without being in-your-face. The Divergent movie deserves a standing ovation for that alone. And yet, and yet, both as a film and a book, Divergent contains enough action and other strong themes and ideas that some dismiss the book and the film as social commentary for simpletons, ignoring the fact that by virtue of its enormous platform, one that appeals equally to a wide-cross section of the public, it serves as a launch medium for a variety of important social conversations.

I'm seeing that people are appalled by the sexual assault scene, asking why Tris should fear being assaulted by Four, why that's her greatest fear. I admit there's a bit of disconnect between the film's message of gender equality and that being her greatest fear. But I'll forgive it because it is a fear--the fear--for so many girls and women. We do live in a culture where a sexual assault occurs every two minutes, and where two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. Forty percent of victims are under age eighteen.

Want to know why this is important? Watch this video about one teen's reactions and the current sexual abuse scandal on YouTube: It's a must-see.

The Divergent movie shows an example of a girl saying 'no' and a boy backing off. Bravo.

Go Divergent, that's all I can say. Go YA Lit. Go girls and the boys who respect them.

Have you seen the movie? Read the book? What do you think?


Along with this weeks book, which I'm providing, I've got a NoVA Teen Festival t-shirt courtesy of One More Page Books in Arlington, VA. What is the NoVA Teen Festival you ask? I volunteered there the day before I left for vacation, and it was fabulous. I'm hoping BIG things for this brand new festival put on by the Arlington Public Library and One More Page Books, as in YALLFEST-sized things. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

The festival was attended by a glittering array of authors, including Marie Lu, Victoria Schwab, Claudia Gray, Jessica Spotswood, Diane Peterfreund, and many, many more. Here's a round-up from Andye at, who I loved meeting in person at the event! And here's a photoessay from Publishers Weekly!

The T-shirt is one of the red ones like Patricia Riley from Spencer Hill Contemporary is wearing in the PW photo. :)

Half Bad
by Sally Green
Viking Juvenile
Released 3/4/2014

A stunning, magical debut. An international sensation.

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

Purchase Half Bad at Amazon
Purchase Half Bad at IndieBound
View Half Bad on Goodreads

As always, there are lots more giveaways going on at Adventures. You can find the full list here. And if you haven't entered all of my Compulsion cover reveal giveaways, including books and full series signed by Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Claudia Gray, Kat Zhang, Megan Shepherd, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Stephanie Kuehn, Meagan Spooner & Amie Kaufman, Kendare Blake, Veronica Roth and more, get the full list here. There's just one week left!



by Lauren Oliver
Released 3/4/2014

WINNER: Lisa Basso

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

What is your favourite thing about PANIC?

That's a difficult question to answer. Of course, I love the characters and the way that their stories intersect, and I'm particularly proud of the dual narrative perspective, particularly because it gave me the chance to write from a male point of view. I also like the way that the town of Carp itself becomes a kind of character; it was fun to really conceive of the town as a whole and think about what growing up there would have felt like. But my absolute FAVORITE thing about PANIC? One word, man: tigers!

Purchase Panic at Amazon
Purchase Panic at IndieBound
View Panic on Goodreads

* * * *

The Winner's Curse
by Marie Rutkoski
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released 3/4/2014


Winning what you want may cost you everything you love As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Purchase The Winner's Curse at Amazon
Purchase The Winner's Curse at IndieBound
View The Winner's Curse on Goodreads


First, before I get into the news, let me give a shout out to the delightful Carol Riggs, whose THE BODY INSTITUTE was just picked up by Strange Chemistry. Congrats, Carol! I'm SO thrilled. And I have to say, the book sounds a-ma-zing!

Thanks to Alyssa Hamilton for helping me compile these links. Check out her reviews at Swept Away By Books.


Great Post via Next Steps Editing

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Monday, March 24, 2014



The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
by Leslye Walton
Hardcover Giveaway
Released 3/25/2014

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

* * * *

Drama Queens in the House
by Julie Williams
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
Roaring Brook Press
Released 3/25/2014

All of Jessie's world is a stage, and she's determined to become a player, in Drama Queens in the House by Julie Williams.

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Jasper Lewis doesn’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t surrounded by method actors, bright spotlights, and feather boas. Her parents started the Jumble Players Theater together, and theater is the glue that holds her crazy family together. But when she discovers that her father’s cheating on her mother with a man, Jessie feels like her world is toppling over. And on top of everything else, she has to deal with a delusional aunt who is predicting the end of the world. Jessie certainly doesn’t feel ready to be center stage in the production that is her family. But where does she belong in all of this chaos?

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Drama Queens in the House?

I’m drawn to Jessie’s wildly crazy theatrical family. I can see why she doesn’t want to go away to college yet. I’m with her. I want to keep hanging out with all those actors and dancers and chefs and singers and costumers and . . . well, you know . . . THEATRICAL folks. As an author, I never know when I begin a story exactly where it’s going to go or how the characters will turn out. Now that DRAMA QUEENS IN THE HOUSE is done, I have to say I like Jessie’s sense of humor, the way her view of the world helps her cope when things get tough. It makes me want to hang out with her at one more rehearsal, one more dance class, one more opening night theatre party.

Purchase Drama Queens in the House at Amazon
Purchase Drama Queens in the House at IndieBound
View Drama Queens in the House on Goodreads


The Edge of Falling
by Rebecca Serle
Simon Pulse
Released 3/18/2014

WINNER: Michelle Lee

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

Purchase The Edge of Falling at Amazon
Purchase The Edge of Falling at IndieBound
View The Edge of Falling on Goodreads


by D.J. MacHale
Released 3/25/2014

From #1 New York Times bestselling author D.J. MacHale comes
—the exhilarating, action-packed sequel to

"Absolutely un-put-downable, more exciting than an X-box and roller coaster combined."—Kirkus, starred review

"With this extremely high-octane story that's the equivalent to a summer movie blockbuster, MacHale kicks off an apocalyptic trilogy sure to leave readers demanding the next installment."—Booklist

"An entertaining and creepy tale."—Publishers Weekly

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Storm?

It's hard to say something specific about STORM without putting it in the context of the overall trilogy. Though each book in The SYLO Chronicles trilogy holds a unique story with its own rhythm, each book is also one part of the larger whole. So I’ll offer two answers. My favorite thing about the entire trilogy is that it presents a slowly unfolding mystery that (I hope) will keep readers guessing as they try to solve it. As to STORM in particular, I like how all of the characters evolve (especially Tucker) as they are not only forced to cope with life and death challenges, but also with each other. (I also like the action scenes. They rock)

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Nearly Gone
by Elle Cosimano
Kathy Dawson Books
Released 3/25/2014

Bones meets Fringe in a big, dark, scary, brilliantly-plotted urban thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end.

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon—she'll be next.

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* * * *

by Chris Wooding
Scholastic Press
Released 3/25/2014

The final exam is survival.

Paul is the new kid at Mortingham Boarding Academy, and he has a dark secret.
Caitlyn admires Paul from afar and resents that he only has eyes for Erika.
Erika thinks that she and Caitlyn are best friends, but she's wrong.
Adam is a bully with a major chip on his shoulder.
Mark is outgrowing his old friends but doesn't know how to make new ones.

In a few short hours, none of this will matter. Without warning, a horrifying infection will spread across the school grounds, and a group of students with little in common will find themselves barricaded in a classroom, fighting for their lives. Some will live. Some will die. And then it will get even worse.

Fast-paced and frightening, Silver is a tale set on the fringes of science and horror - a story about the struggle to survive in the face of impossible odds.

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* * * *

The Cracks in the Kingdom
by Jaclyn Moriarty
Arthur A. Levine Books
Released 3/25/2014

The second in Jaclyn Moriarty's brilliant, acclaimed fantasy trilogy, THE COLORS OF MADELEINE!

Princess Ko's been bluffing about the mysterious absence of her father, desperately trying to keep the government running on her own. But if she can't get him back in a matter of weeks, the consequence may be a devastating war. So under the guise of a publicity stunt she gathers a group of teens -- each with a special ability -- from across the kingdom to crack the unsolvable case of the missing royals of Cello.

Chief among these is farm-boy heartthrob Elliot Baranski, more determined than ever to find his own father. And with the royal family trapped in the World with no memory of their former lives, Elliot's value to the Alliance is clear: He's the only one with a connection to the World, through his forbidden communications with Madeleine.

Through notes, letters, and late nights, Elliot and Madeleine must find a way to travel across worlds and bring missing loved ones home. The stakes are high, and the writing by turns hilarious and suspenseful, as only Jaclyn Moriarty can be.

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* * * *

by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan
Released 3/25/2014

The Emmy Award-nominee and Edgar Award-winning duo bring readers back to the Wasteland in this thrilling sequel.

Karin Slaughter, bestselling author of Criminal, called Wasteland, "A Lord of the Flies for future generations. An irresistible page-turner."

The former citizens of Prin are running out of time. The Source has been destroyed, so food is scarcer than ever. Tensions are rising…and then an earthquake hits.

So Esther and Caleb hit the road, leading a ragtag caravan. Their destination? A mythical city where they hope to find food and shelter-not to mention a way to make it past age nineteen.

On the way, alliances and romances blossom and fracture. Esther must rally to take charge with the help of a blind guide, Aras. He seems unbelievably cruel, but not everything is as it seems in the Wasteland.…

In this sequel to Wasteland, the stakes are even higher for Esther, Caleb, and the rest of their clan. They're pinning all their hopes on the road...but what if it's the most dangerous place of all?

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* * * *

Where the Rock Splits the Sky
by Philip Webb
Chicken House
Released 3/25/2014

The moon has been split, and the Visitors have Earth in their alien grip. But the captive planet? That's not her problem. Megan just wants to track down her missing dad...

The world stopped turning long before Megan was born. Ever since the Visitors split the moon and stilled the Earth, permanent sunset is all anyone has known. But now, riding her trusty steed Cisco, joined by her posse, Kelly and Luis, Megan is on the run from her Texas hometown, journeying across the vast, dystopic American West to hunt down her father. To find him, she must face the Zone, a notorious landscape where the laws of nature do not apply. The desert can play deadly tricks on the mind, and the quest will push Megan past her limits. But to solve the mystery of not just her missing father but of the paralyzed planet itself, she must survive it--and an alien showdown.

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