Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Guest Post! Anna Staniszewski: Finding the Emotion in Your Story Idea

I've been fortunate enough to feature Anna Staniszewski on a variety of occasions, including here, here, and here. I'm also excited about her newest book, ONCE UPON A CRUISE.

Ainsley never wanted to spend her summer on a fairy tale cruise--especially since, instead of lounging by the pool, she's running around the ship doing favor after favor for her cruise director mom.

Things aren't all bad--it's good to see her mom acting confident again after the divorce, and she's learning a lot about obscure German fairy tales and how to fold towels into entertaining shapes for little kids (um, yay?). There's also a guy who's super cute, even in a dorky dwarf costume--if only Ainsley could get Prince Handsome to stop babbling about himself long enough for her to say more than 'hi' to the cute dwarf!

But once the cruise starts, things start to go wrong: the laundry turns pink, the kitchen runs out of food, the guy playing the Pig King is always in Ainsley's hair, and her mom expects her to be in a hundred places all at once. Is this fairy tale cruise under a wicked curse? Or can Ainsley stand up for herself and make the cruise end happily ever after?

Today, Anna offers us a guest post about finding emotion within story:

Finding the Emotion In Your Story Idea

If there’s one thing I’m never short on, it’s story ideas. So when my editor approached me with an idea for a book, I had to ask myself: Do I really need something else to work on? Then I read the premise—a girl spends the summer working with her mom on a fairy tale cruise—and it was so perfect for me that I had to say yes.

Once I dove into actually writing the book, I was in uncharted waters. Even though I loved the premise, I had to figure out how to make it my own. After some brief panicking, I decided to do what I always do when I start a new project: figure out the character’s emotional journey.

My editor had given me the basic plot—things on the cruise start to go awry and the protagonist, Ainsley, has to try to fix them—but I didn’t know why Ainsley felt the need to take on all these problems by herself. When I mulled it over, I realized it’s because she can’t say no to things, a character flaw I certainly know a little something about!

If a girl who can’t say no is stuck in the middle of the ocean with people who keep asking her for favors, she’s going to get seriously out of her depth in no time. Add the fear of disappointing her mom, and voila—we have plenty of material for an interesting emotional journey. Will Ainsley ever learn to stand up for herself? What will push her to finally say no?

Her emotional journey also gave me some insight into the romance plot that had been mentioned in my editor’s synopsis. If everyone is always asking Ainsley for favors then perhaps the love interest is the one person who doesn’t. That will show us just how good of a pair they really are and add another layer to the story.

I always knew that figuring out how a character changes emotionally from beginning to end made for a more interesting story, but I never realized how useful it could be in making someone else’s story idea your own.

So if you’re having trouble getting into a project, I’d suggest doing a little brainstorming to figure out what your character’s major character flaw is and how that character will be forced to confront it over the course of the story. Then look at how your romantic or other subplots might tie into that thread. It might be just what you need to sail off into the sunset with your new book.

Anna Staniszewski is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, the Dirt Diary series, and the Switched at First Kiss series—all published by Sourcebooks—as well as the picture book POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT. Her latest tween novel, ONCE UPON A CRUISE, was released by Scholastic in September. Anna was a Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a recipient of the PEN New England Discovery Award, and she currently teaches in the MFA Writing for Children Program at Simmons College. You can find out more about Anna and her books at

 Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, October 17, 2016

Excerpt: The Shadow Series by Lila Bowen

Last year, the Lila Bowen's first book in The Shadow series, WAKE OF VULTURES, received starred reviews from Kirkus and RT. The sequel, CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS, came out last week, and is already getting buzz. (Incidentally, Lila Bowen is also Delilah S. Dawson, whose books were featured here, here and here. Oh, and there's also this really cool Star Wars thing she's doing.)

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She's a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don't call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound sight is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn't understand what's under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding -- at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin... if the monsters along the way don't kill her first.

Nettie Lonesome made a leap -- not knowing what she'd become. But now the destiny of the Shadow is calling.

A powerful alchemist is leaving a trail of dead across the prairie. And the Shadow must face the ultimate challenge: side with her friends and the badge on her chest or take off alone on the dangerous mission pulling her inexorably toward the fight of her life.

When it comes to monsters and men, the world isn't black and white. What good are two wings and a gun when your enemy can command a conspiracy of ravens?

You can read an excerpt from Wake of Vultures on the Hachette website.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

TATTOO ATLAS by Tim Floreen

Last year, I featured Tim Floreen's first book, WILLFUL MACHINES, and loved it. His new book, TATTOO ATLAS, debuts next week, and it has a great premise. Have a look:

A year ago, Rem Braithwaite watched his classmate Franklin Kettle commit a horrific crime.

Now, apart from the nightmares, life has gone back to normal for Rem. Franklin was caught, convicted, and put away in juvenile detention for what he did. The ordeal seems to be over.

Until Rem’s mother selects Franklin as a test subject for an experimental brain procedure intended to “cure” him of his cruel and violent impulses. Suddenly Rem’s memories of that day start coming back to the surface. His nightmares become worse than ever. Plus he has serious doubts about whether his mother’s procedure will even work. Can evil really just be turned off?

Then, as part of Franklin’s follow-up testing, he and Rem are brought face to face, and Rem discovers…Franklin does seem different. Despite everything, Rem finds himself becoming friends with Franklin. Maybe even something more than friends.

But when another of their classmates turns up dead, Rem’s world turns upside-down yet again. Franklin insists that he’s innocent, that he’s cured, but Rem doesn’t know what to believe. Is someone else responsible for this new murder, or is Franklin fated to stay a monster forever? And can Rem find out the answer to this question before the killer, whoever it is, comes after him too?

In our last interview, you said that while in graduate school, you learned how to separate yourself from your writing and not take it personally when someone else pointed out something that wasn’t working. In what ways, if any, has this translated into your professional writing life?

SO MANY WAYS! When you get a novel published, not taking things personally becomes about as important to your health as eating and sleeping. First of all, you’ve got your editor at the publishing house, whose literal job is to tell you what’s not working in your book. Then once the book gets out in the world, you’ve got critics and book bloggers and Amazon reviewers and tweeters all sharing their opinions, and you have to learn how to take in the constructive criticism while accepting the fact that your book can’t possibly appeal to every reader.

A good thing to remember, but rest assured, your books have plenty of appeal. TATTOO ATLAS follows a teen sociopath who receives an experimental brain surgery that gives him a conscience. Which part of this was most fun to write about, and what kinds of moral issues are connected with manufacturing a cure for evil?

To prepare for writing this book, I did a lot of research into the relationship between mental illness and crime, and I found it FASCINATING. I discovered there’s a huge amount of controversy surrounding the subject. Should we exonerate people who break the law if they suffer from a form of mental illness that makes them more violent, for example, or less able to feel empathy? If so, where do we draw the line? How severe does the illness have to be? If we really were to develop a cure for these kinds of mental illnesses (and believe me, the technology in my book is VERY CLOSE to becoming a reality), would that also take away a person’s guilt? These are tough questions with no easy answers.

And I'm glad TATTOO ATLAS explores them. I also love the TATTOO ATLAS tattoos. Where did you get the idea for this, and how can readers get a hold of them?

I love the tattoos too! When I was trying to think of ways to promote TATTOO ATLAS, the idea of temporary tattoos seemed so obvious I couldn’t NOT do it! To get some, just preorder TATTOO ATLAS before release day (October 18) and DM me on Twitter (@timfloreen) or email me via my website ( with a screenshot of the proof of purchase and your address. I’ll send a bunch of tattoos right away!

Wonderful! What are some of your current projects?

I’m currently working on a novel—another YA sci-fi thriller—that I hope to finish very soon. I can’t say too much about it yet, except that it’s set in San Francisco (my home town!) and Tic Tacs play a very important role. I’m also contributing to a “collaborative novel” project called FERAL YOUTH. It comes out in fall of 2017 and is being edited by the amazing Shaun Hutchinson. I love the concept: The book will focus on a group of ten kids at a wilderness camp for troubled teens who hold a contest to see who can tell the best story. Each author is responsible for creating one of the characters and writing the story that character tells. I had a blast writing my chapter.


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, October 10, 2016

Cover Reveal: FRAUD, by Casey L. Bond

I met Casey L. Bond at UtopiaCon, and I'm so excited to reveal the beautiful cover of her brand new book: 

Title: Fraud
Author: Casey L Bond
Genre: NA Paranormal
Cover Model: Ashley Caruso
Cover Designer: Cover Me Darling
Cover Photography: Nadege Richards of Vellum and Wing Photography
Editor: Stacy Sanford
Expected Release Date: Oct. 31, 2016
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Every curse has a beginning.
Every curse has an end.
But no curse is fulfilled without sacrifice.
Someone has been lying to Porschia Grant—someone she loves. And the secrets withheld might spell disaster for her and the world.  Much like curses, lies can hurt. They can ruin everything.
When everything falls apart, is happily ever after even a possibility?
Hunger is deceitful.
Award-winning author Casey L. Bond resides in Milton, West Virginia with her husband and their two beautiful daughters. When she’s not busy being a domestic goddess and chasing her baby girls, she loves to write young adult and new adult fiction. You can find more information about Bond’s books via the following links: 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Crystal Frost Series by Alicia Rades

I met Alicia at UtopiaCon this year. She's the author of the Crystal Frost series, and she has a new book, Distant Dreams, coming out October 12. Not only does she write excellent books, but she also has her own freelance writing business. Have a look at her amazing work (especially those book covers!):

The Crystal Frost series:

Crystal Frost tells herself she isn't crazy, but sane people don't see ghosts. As her psychic abilities manifest, Crystal discovers there's a much bigger story behind her mother's Halloween-themed shop than she ever realized. Now blessed with the ability to see into the future, witness the past, and speak with the dead, Crystal must use these tools to save those who have come to her for help.

But that's not an easy task between learning how to use her abilities, trying to hide them, and uncovering the secrets her loved ones have been keeping from her. Add blackmail to the list of things Crystal never thought would happen to her, and you basically have her sophomore year covered. Will she learn to control her abilities in time, or will the whole school learn of her secret before she's ready to reveal it?

Crystal Frost recently discovered she can see ghosts and predict the future, yet the mystery of Hope Ross's abduction still haunts her dreams. While traveling to Florida for Thanksgiving, Crystal's visions of Hope only grow stronger. She enlists the help of her soon-to-be step-cousin Robin, a decision that complicates the entire picture—and her feelings. Can she figure out what happened to Hope and learn why Robin is so guarded, or will her newfound abilities fail her?

Crystal Frost has grown accustomed to the supernatural, but months of passive paranormal activity have left her believing her mother’s wedding will be a breeze. That changes when a ghost named Melissa shows up in Crystal’s dressing room while she’s picking out her maid of honor dress. Crystal takes on this new psychic mission without question, immediately determined to save Sage, the girl Melissa warned her about. But how do you save a girl from a deadly fate when you don’t know how she’s going to die?

In addition to writing fiction, you are a professional blog writer and freelancer. What do you find most enjoyable about each?

With freelance writing, I have the chance to make money doing what I love: writing! But fiction writing allows me to be more creative. What I love about both is the sense of accomplishment I get after I finish a project. Each blog post that gets published or book that I finally get to hold in my hands is a huge accomplishment to me. Plus, I love the flexibility I get out of all of it.

Flexibility is good! FIRE IN FROST is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree and was named one of the top 50 indie books of 2015 by Congratulations! What about ghost stories do you love the most, and what about FIRE IN FROST was the most fun to write?

This is a tough question! I guess I love ghost stories because there's always something mysterious about them. I also find the paranormal interesting because it's not something you experience every day (at least I haven't had any paranormal encounters!), so it puts you into a world that's familiar but also different and magical.

I think the funnest part about Fire in Frost was discovering Crystal's character. Throughout my rewrites, she turned into a different person, who I liked better than the way I originally wrote her, and that set the stage for the rest of the series.

It's great when characters develop that way! And I love the design of your websites. What advice, if any, would you give to authors interested in making a portfolio page?

Put money into it. I see a lot of authors use free websites, and it ends up looking similar to all the other free websites out there. You don't get as many tools and flexibility as you do if you self-host your site and buy premium themes. However, I realize that not everyone has the money to invest in their site, and not everyone has the skills to build a website. At the very least, buy your own domain name to give your site a more credible appeal.

Wonderful advice. What are some of your other projects? Are you working on any more books?

Of course! Distant Dreams is my next book. It's a standalone YA paranormal coming out October 12. I'm also working on the fourth and final Crystal Frost book, and I'm writing a short story that will combine the characters from the Crystal Frost series and Distant Dreams. I also have the first draft of a YA paranormal called Split done that I hope to release sometime in 2017. And of course, there are always new ideas swimming around in my head.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, October 3, 2016

Book Review: SUNKISSED by Jenny McLachlan

I first heard about Jenny McLachlan from an associate publicist at MacMillan Publishers, and I'm so glad I read this book! Every good story has a great first line, and SUNKISSED is no exception: "I'm hiding in my bedroom wardrobe with my sister's ex-boyfriend."  This series did well in the U.K., and I'm really hoping it gains traction here too. It doesn't come out until 2017, but it is completely worth grabbing a hold of--and all four books are currently available in the U.K.

Kat can't believe her family are sending her to Sweden for the summer. But without her friends, or even a phone signal, can Kat make it on her own?

In a land of saunas, nudity and summer sun, Kat soon realizes she has nowhere to hide. It's time to embrace who she really is, underneath what she's been thinking people want her to be. Especially if she's going to win the heart of mega fit Swede Leo! Can Kat find her inner strength and prove she's got what it takes?

Kat soon finds that when you're surrounded by phosphorescence and wonder it's easy to sparkle. Or maybe that's what happens when you fall in love . Or maybe you only shine when you're true to yourself.


Even though I was introduced to the third book in the series, it didn't depend on the first two, which means readers can start anywhere, with any character, and still enjoy an engaging and unique story. It kind of reminded me of a more modern version of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (without the pants). The biting humor is spot on, and Kat is engaging from the start. And even though I had a bit of trouble sympathizing with her at first, the character growth she demonstrated during the course of the novel was excellent. It helps that she gets a change of scenery--a remote island off the coast of Sweden--to help her grow as well. There was a love triangle too, but it resolved in a way that was not only unexpected but refreshing to read. Even more importantly for books at this level, the story's pacing was spot on--there was never a point where I wasn't motivated to read more of Kat's voice. Even more importantly, her story offers a great example to young girls for finding happiness within. This is a great choice for both bookstores and libraries, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

To grab a copy of SUNKISSED  for yourself, feel free to click the links below:

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

And here are the other books in the Ladybirds series that are currently available in the U.S.:

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

RIDING CHANCE by Christine Kendall

I had to feature Christine's Kendall's upcoming debut--it's beautiful, and it has horses! I really hope all libraries get a hold of this one, and that plenty of teens, particularly in urban areas, get to read it. It releases on October 11:

Troy is a kid with a passion. And dreams. And wanting to do the right thing. But after taking a wrong turn, he's forced to endure something that's worse than any juvenile detention he can imagine-he's "sentenced" to the local city stables where he's made to take care of horses. The greatest punishment has been trying to make sense of things since his mom died but, through his work with the horses, he discovers a sport totally unknown to him-polo. Troy's has to figure out which friends have his back, which kids to cut loose, and whether he and Alisha have a true connection. Laced with humor and beating with heartache, this novel will grip readers, pull them in quickly, and take them on an unforgettable ride. Set in present day Christine Kendall's stunning debut lets us come face-to-face with the challenges of a loving family that turn hardships into triumphs.

According to your website bio, you studied music growing up. In what ways, if any, has music influenced your creative process?

Listening to music is a part of my daily life. Many writers prefer to work in silence but music helps me bridge the gap between the real and fictive worlds. I sometimes listen to a favorite tune as a warm-up to a writing session but, more often, I have music in the background as I write. 

It's a great way to renew creativity too. RIDING CHANCE has been described as a "heartwarming tale of redemption and second chances." Why, in your opinion, is it important for readers to see hope within the stories they read?
Stories are a reflection of our lives and their many challenges. Hope is what enables us to keep moving forward and to remain optimistic during tough times. It's something characters, both real and imaginary, must have in order to thrive. 

I couldn't agree more. I love how Troy finds solace in horseback riding. What do you hope readers will gain from his story, and what about it was the most fun to write?

I hope readers will develop a greater appreciation of the powerful bond between humans and animals. In the book, Troy struggles to be himself until he lets Chance into his life. What happens after that—the love and respect they share—seems magical, but anyone who has spent time with animals knows how deep the relationships can be. Writing about the link between the young man and his horse was the really fun part. I did a lot of research on horses but recalling my experiences with my first cat, Lhasa, was also delightful.

Animals are such wonderful creatures, and I'll bet Lhasa was a great cat! What are some of your current projects?

It's coincidental that Riding Chance has a male protagonist but I'm working on another coming of age story with a female leading character. I'm also continuing to develop a collection of short stories.