Wednesday, September 19, 2018


I first discovered Heidi Lang and her sister, Kati Bartkowski, at this year's YANovCon, when I bought their middle grade book, A DASH OF DRAGON. Heidi Lang also has a contemporary book out now, RULES OF THE RUFF, and the sequel to A DASH OF DRAGON, called A HINT OF HYDRA, also came out recently:

Twelve-year-old Jessie is in for a long summer at her aunt and uncle’s house. Her cousin Ann has a snotty new best friend, which leaves Jessie all alone. But Jessie is industrious, and—not content with being ignored all summer—she convinces Wes, a grouchy neighborhood dog walker, to take her on as his apprentice.

Sure, dog walking turns out to be harder than she expected, but she has Wes’s dog-walking code, the Rules of the Ruff, to guide her, and soon she’s wrangling her very own pack. But when a charismatic rival dog walker moves to town, she quickly snatches up most of Wes’s business—and Jessie decides she isn’t going to take this defeat with her tail between her legs.

A thirteen-year-old master chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, cook the perfect dragon cuisine, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia.

Lailu Loganberry is an expert at hunting dangerous beasts. And she’s even better at cooking them.

For years Lailu has trained to be the best chef in the city. Her specialty? Monster cuisine. When her mentor agrees to open a new restaurant with Lailu as the head chef, she’s never been more excited. But her celebration is cut short when she discovers that her mentor borrowed money from Mr. Boss, a vicious loan shark. If they can’t pay him back, Lailu will not only lose her restaurant—she’ll have to cook for Mr. Boss for the rest of her life.

As Lailu scrambles to raise the money in time, she becomes trapped in a deadly conflict between the king’s cold-blooded assassin, the terrifying elf mafia, and Mr. Boss’ ruthless crew. Worst of all, her only hope in outsmarting Mr. Boss lies with the one person she hates—Greg, the most obnoxious boy in school and her rival in the restaurant business.

But like Lailu always says, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. And she’s determined to succeed, no matter the cost!

Thirteen-year-old chef Lailu Loganberry must stop a war between the elves and scientists in this follow-up to A Dash of Dragon, which Kirkus Reviews calls “a recipe for success.”

It’s the Week of Masks, a festival held to chase away evil spirits. But Lailu doesn’t have time to worry about demons. She has bigger fish to fry—or rather, griffons, now that she’s been asked to prepare a mystical feast for the king’s executioner, Lord Elister.

Unfortunately Lailu’s meal is overshadowed by the scientists’ latest invention: automatons, human-shaped machines that will respond to their masters’ every order. Most people are excited by the possibilities, but the mechanical men leave Lailu with a bad taste in her mouth.

Even worse, the elves still blame the scientists for the attacks on them weeks ago, and Lailu worries that the elves might be cooking up revenge. So when she and her sorta-rival-turned-almost-friend Greg stumble across the body of a scientist, the elves are the prime suspects. With help from Greg, her best friend Hannah, and the sneaky, winking spy Ryon, Lailu has to discover the truth behind the murder, and soon—because hostilities between the elves and the scientists are about to boil over faster than hydra stew.

And just ask any chef: war is bad for business.

You write with your sister, Kati. When did you first realize that you both wanted to write together?

When I realized Kati had a very unique, fun idea, and I wanted in on it. ;) We used to bounce story ideas off each other and work together to brainstorm for our separate projects even before we started writing together, so one day she told me she wanted to write two stories. The first was a girl’s quest to become the greatest master chef in the land. Her specialty? Dragon cuisine. Her second story would be a world where steampunk scientists move in and begin feuding with the resident elven mafia.

I loved both of those ideas, and added my own idea: to combine the two stories so the feud would be the backdrop to the chef’s quest. From there, I got caught up thinking of all these other fun elements Kati could include, so I kept calling her up with ideas and emailing her until I think I eventually wore her down with my relentless enthusiasm, and finally, she asked if I wanted to write it with her. I jumped at the offer, and our partnership was born.

And a great series was born too! I also love your standalone book, RULES OF THE RUFF, in which 12-year-old Jessie deals with a rival dog-walker. What do you hope readers take away from Jessie and her experiences? 

That often it’s not that easy to know the right thing to do, especially when your emotions are involved. And sometimes good people do bad things for reasons they think are good, but which turn out to be selfish. I love Jessie and I think she’s a really good, empathetic person, but she gets so caught up in this world of dogs that she’s able to justify sabotaging another person’s business by deciding it’s actually better for those dogs. It’s not until a certain line is crossed that she realizes she’s not doing the right thing at all.

So really, I’d say the biggest take away from that rivalry is that even if a person makes mistakes, they can figure it out and grow into a better, wiser person down the road. But it will take a certain amount of self reflection and willingness to own up to those mistakes. To me, that moment of self reflection, where a kid realizes that either they are not the person they thought they were, or someone they looked up to is not quite the person they thought, is the moment where that kid starts on the path toward adulthood. Some of us take a little longer to get there than others, but eventually that “coming of age” moment hits all of us.

Indeed it does. A HINT OF HYDRA expands on the world you created in A DASH OF DRAGON by adding a bit of technology to get in Lailu's way. What was the most challenging part of adding to Lailu's story after the first book?  

I’m not going to lie, writing a sequel was much harder than I thought it would be! Kati and I wanted to make sure we weren’t just doing a rehash of book 1. Our goal was to tell a different kind of story—in this case a murder mystery—while still keeping all of the elements that people loved about the first book. It felt like the mental equivalent of rubbing our heads and patting our stomachs at the same time, and it took us a little while to get our writer feet under us. We knew Starling would have her new creepy invention, and we knew the elves would be seeking revenge for the events of book 1; we just had to figure out what those things would look like. Once we had that set, everything fell into place.

Sounds like a challenging process! What are some of your current projects?

Kati and I actually just turned in our first draft of book 3 of the Mystic Cooking Chronicles, which, assuming it doesn’t change, will be called “A Pinch of Phoenix.” I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but let me just say that Lailu’s jerky first crush, Vahn, will get his just desserts. Also…something will happen that changes Lailu’s life forever, and might make our readers a little angry. Hopefully not too angry, though! ;)

I’m also working on another middle grade contemporary set in the same universe as RULES, which I hope to tell you more about soon…

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018


I've been a fan of Jessica Brody for a long time, and I previously featured her here and here. When I found out that she wrote SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL, based on one of my favorite craft books, I knew another feature was in order!

Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 "beats" (plot points) that comprise a successful story--from the opening image to the finale--this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate--and a novel that will sell.

In our last interview, you said that nothing was set in stone, and you were glad that you'd changed careers. What, if anything, would you say to writers who are afraid to take that leap? And what would you say to writers who are interested in writing full time? 

I live by the philosophy: “Leap and the net will appear.” Or the more clich├ęd one, “Do what you love and the money comes later.” But I do realize that’s not necessarily the most practical advice. I mean, you need money to live right? And those bills don’t pay themselves? And kids need to eat! If you are not financially set up to quit your job and wait months—even years—for a writing payday, then obviously I don’t advise you do that. I do believe that being “hungry” can inspire you to write more, but it can also put a financial burden on your creativity which may not be conducive to good writing. My best practical piece of advice for transitioning into a writing career (or any creative career) is to always do what you love first thing every day. If that’s writing, then write first and then go to your day job. If it’s painting, then paint first and then go get that paycheck. What you do first with your day, what you prioritize your life around, is crucial. Not only will you perform that first task better and more creatively and with less distractions, but prioritizing your art first is basically you saying to the universe: “Look, I may not be making money doing this but it’s super important to me. See how I’m making it a priority in my life!” And the universe will eventually respond…when it sees that you’re serious.

Very thoughtful and helpful advice! SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL takes the three-act structure methodology used in screenwriting and applies it to novels. In what ways did you feel that novel writers could benefit from an expansion of Blake Snyder's original?

The three-act structure is a beautiful thing. It’s what almost all books and courses about plotting will teach you. But it’s also, sorry to say, a bit thin. When writing a 300+ page novel it’s simply not enough to say, “Act 1 – Set up your world, Act 2 - Throw some conflict in, Act 3 – Resolve that conflict.” You find yourself sitting there staring numbly at the screen going, “okay, but how do I just throw conflict into 180 pages!? (which is approximately how long Act 2 should be in a 300-page novel). What the Save the Cat! method does is it takes the three-act structure to another level. It breaks the three acts (and all stories, really) into 15 key “story beats” (or plot points). These are the same key beats that are found in every great story ever told.

Basically, if you’re swimming the English channel with no life vest, no support boat, and no help (approximately how it feels to write a 300-page novel), the 15 story beats of the Save the Cat method provides you with little buoys along the way. Rest stops. And shorter distances to swim between them. Getting from key story beat to key story beat breaks the daunting process of writing a novel into smaller, more achievable goals. And helps keep you on target for those goals so you don’t accidentally swim off to Fiji. Which is actually way more important for novelists than it is for screenwriters because, ahem, WE HAVE MORE TO WRITE!

(If you want learn more about the “key story beats” and the Save the Cat! method, download my FREE “Save the Cat! Starter Kit” here.)

We definitely have more to write--one of many reasons why I can't wait for this book to come out. For you, what are the biggest challenges you currently face in your writing process?

It’s always, always letting go of what I envisioned the story to be and letting the story be what it needs to be. I’m a plotter and yes, I like to outline in advance. And while I believe that saves me time in the long run, it also creates another challenge: expectation. When I start out with an outline, especially one I’m totally excited about, it’s sometimes hard for me to let go of plot points or “beats” that are not working. And most of the time you won’t know that they’re not working until you actually get there and write that scene. At which point, you have to rethink that particular beat, or maybe even your entire story! Forcing it just won’t work. I’ve tried it (numerous times). Trust me on this, it’ll only run you around in circles and waste time. When a pesky plot point isn’t working, you have to let it go. Yes, even if it’s your favorite.

I am currently working through this on the second draft of a novel--and didn't figure out it wasn't working until the very end. Yikes! If you were stuck on an island and could only access two fiction books and two nonfiction books, what would they be and why? 

Ha! The dreaded island question. As a decisionally-challenged person, I despise this question. But I’ll answer it anyway, because I love you, Karen!

Fiction: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (because I don’t think I’ll ever get over how beautifully written it is) and then probably something really long like War and Peace or Les Miserables. Because by the time I reach the end, I’ll probably have forgotten the beginning. That should keep me busy for a while.

Non-Fiction: Save the Cat!...obviously! And how about, How to Get Off a Deserted Island When You Have No Survival Skills Whatsoever. That’s a real book right? If not, it should be. I would buy it! Because apparently I’m going to need it!

Pre-order a copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and receive a FREE companion eBook containing bonus beat sheets (plot breakdowns) for 10 popular novels. That’s over 120 pages of extra content to help you plot your own bestseller.
Click Here to Learn More!

About the Author:

Since Jessica Brody started using the Save the Cat! method, she has sold more than 17 novels to major publishers like Simon and Schuster, Random House, and Macmillan. Now, Jessica is the author of several novels for teens, tweens, and adults including The Geography of Lost Things, The Chaos of Standing Still, A Week of Mondays, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, and the Unremembered trilogy. She’s also the author of the Descendants: School of Secrets series, based on the hit Disney Channel original movie, Descendants, and the LEGO Disney Princess Chapter Books. Her first non-fiction book, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, a plotting guide for novelists, releases in October 2018. Jessica’s books have been translated and published in over 23 countries and Unremembered and 52 Reasons to Hate My Father are currently in development as major motion pictures. She lives with her husband and three dogs near Portland, OR.

Visit her online at:, Follow her on Twitter @JessicaBrody, or on Instagram @JessicaBrody

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Looking for Jessica Brody's new and upcoming U.S. book releases? Find them here. 

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday Thought: Finding Your Own Path

As adults, we often have to track our own way. This becomes harder when if, for some of us, we have been told what to decide--or, if a lot of what we did was decided for us when we were younger. Or, we might be used to finding our path--but currently find ourselves in uncharted territory. Regardless, this often forces us to figure out which paths and opportunities will lead to what we want (and sometimes we're afraid of making the wrong choices too). A lot of this also involves figuring out what matters, and what doesn't.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking a path has to be either/or. I'm guilty of this too. We often think, "Well, I'm already doing this, therefore I can't do that." That isn't true. What we tell ourselves is often the determiner of what ultimately limits us.

The trick is though, I think, not necessarily finding the "right" opportunities, but finding the purpose each opportunity has. Here are some examples:

Writing sprints, or the Club 100 (Yahoo Groups): These are there to motivate me to write every day, even when my words and ideas are stymied. Sometimes I barely crank that 100 out. Other days, I can write in the thousands, and don't need the motivator as much. The truth is, I'm writing what I can, when I can. And that is enough.

NaNo WriMo: I often use these "novel writing" sessions in November, April, and July to revise. (NaNo purists will probably tar and feather me for this. But that's okay.) Since I'm still honing my revision process, I'll often measure my progress in hours instead of word count. I was able to finish the second draft of my fifth novel this way.

Querying: This has ultimately helped me trust myself as a writer--something that many writers, published or not, struggle with. Querying and receiving feedback has forced me to look at what I want from my own story, rather than rely on input from others. Frankly, it's partially the motivation for this post.

So, I implore you all: find the path that works for you, despite what the self-help books are saying, despite the hard truths, or sound advice you might be hearing. Because it's your path. You get to make your own story. It's frightening, yes. But also freeing.

Courtesy of Creative Commons 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TYPHOON TIME by Ron Friedman

I first got acquainted with Ron Friedman in relation to WorldCon. When I found out he'd written a novel, as well as short stories, I was interested in asking him about his writing approach. His novel, TYPHOON TIME, is an (Canada) #1 best seller in time travel, and is described as "The Hunt for Red October meets Timeline."

MARTIN RICHTER, a pacifist history professor specializing in pre-WWII Germany, has two passions in his life—history...and opposing nuclear weapons.

ERIC SOBOL, a terminally ill holocaust survivor billionaire, learns of a wormhole that leads back in time to 1938, and he decides to do everything within his power to change the past.

Thanks to their efforts, a modernized Russian Typhoon-class nuclear submarine jumps the time barrier and appears in 1938, manned by 21st century multinational experts and equipped with the best technology money can buy. But when a saboteur steals a nuclear warhead and delivers it to the German navy, all of history is at stake. As the crippled Typhoon is ambushed by a U-boat wolf pack, Hitler contemplates how to use his newly acquired weapon to make all of Europe fall to the Third Reich….

You've been nominated for an Aurora Award for best fan writing and publication. What do you love most about fan writing and why?

 I’m privileged and honored to be nominated for the Aurora, Canada’s premier science fiction and fantasy awards, run by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

 Fan writing is more than writing and sharing free stories based on someone’s else universe. Fan writing encapsulates all non-for-profit writing. In a way, when you, Karen, interview writers, both you and us, the writers, are not being paid for our effort. Therefore, we are Fan writers. Nevertheless, we are happy to write and make this interview a reality. We do so because this is our passion. Because this is our way of sharing our thoughts with the world. It is less important whether we get paid for it (professional writing) or not (fan writing). 

 I’m passionate about science, engineering and about the future of humanity. I believe that for creating a better future, we, humans, need to be less ignorant, more educated, and apply logic into our decision-making process.

One of the best way to help people look more favorably at science, is to incorporate it into storytelling. To encourage people to look more positively at science, science needs to be a more important part of storytelling than what it is today. Just like readers want to read stories with good characterization, plot and setting, readers should demand the science to be accurate in the stories they read.

To help writers improve their science literacy, I started to answer questions on Quora. Most of the questions are about space, but some are on other topics.

My Quora posts have more than 1.7 million views. For that, I was nominated for the 2018 Aurora Awards – Best Fan Publication.

To read more about my Aurora nomination and my Quora post, visit:

Speaking of science in storytelling, TYPHOON TIME explores what happens when weapons from the future get into the wrong hands. What do you hope readers take away from this story?  

The main thought I want the readers of my novel Typhoon Time to explore is:  If you know for certain that something really bad will happen in the future, will you take steps to prevent it? How far will you go? What will you be willing to do? Could there be a scenario where a preemptive strike is morally justified?

This question is critical today more than ever. You just need to watch the news, examine current events, politics and evaluate current trends to understand where we are heading. Will you do something about it?

I used the past as a metaphor, because there are many uncertainties in predicting the future. In contrast, we know with 100% certainty how history would unfold without intervention. When exploring the past, this moral dilemma is clearer.

 WWII was the most devastating war in human history. Approximately 70 million people perished in the war. Many cities in Europe, China and Japan were razed to the ground. The Holocaust was the only genocide in history where industrial methods were used to exterminate ethnic groups. The Nazis designed and built factories dedicated to the extermination of humans.

Clearly, WWII was not the brightest point in human history.

If you had the ability to go back in time and prevent WWII, would you?

People may give you various answers. We are, today, the outcome of a timeline where WWII did happen. Can we be certain that a world without WWII be a better world? This one is a good moral dilemma, isn’t it?

 But the more interesting question is: “If you could go back in time and prevent the war, how far will you go? What will you be willing to do to prevent that evil? Will you create a new holocaust to prevent another?

There is no clear answer to that question.

Indeed there isn't. You've also been published in Galaxy's Edge magazine. What do you like most about writing short fiction?

 I’m not a full-time author. I have a family and a full-time job, which, regrettably, leaves me with little time for writing. When I started my career, I had two options. Write novels, which may take a very long time to complete, or focus, at least at the beginning, on writing short stories.

 If you invest the little time you have writing novels, you will be able to produce very few of them. And when you first start to submit those, you are more likely to get a rejection than an acceptance, and it takes months to even get that rejection. In terms of time investment, I can write perhaps twenty short stories, and have at least 10 in circulation, or have only one novel in circulation.

 I … chose to do both.

 My first short story was published in 2011. My first novel in 2018. Without writing and publishing short stories, I don’t know if I would have had the stamina to continue writing all the way to 2018 without any prior recognition.

 I now have 14 short stories published, and one novel.

 Galaxy’s Edge was a breakthrough, at least for me. The philosophy of the editor, Mike Resnick, was to create a magazine for emerging writers. However, since he also wanted to generate sales, he invited a few well-known big-name authors. The result was a hybrid magazine which mixed new voices with stories by famous authors.

 Can you imagine my excitement when I saw my name published on Galaxy’s Edge, issue 12, January 2015, right beside the great Robert H. Heinlein? WTF.

Thanks to my story Game Not Over, which was selected by Mike Resnick to be included in Galaxy’s Edge, I’m now a member of SFWA.

SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) is a great organization. What are some of your current projects? 

As was discussed earlier in the Fan Writing section, I have a passion for science and space.

Many people are saying we, humanity, should not be confined to one planet. We want to build self-sustained settlements on the Moon, Mars and in other places in space.

Many people advocate the ideas of colonizing space as an insurance policy in case something bad happened on Earth. And trust me, an extinction level event on Earth is only a matter of time. The strategy of putting all your eggs in one basket … um ... I mean one planet … didn’t work very well for the dinosaurs.

Colonizing space to ensure the long-term survival of humanity in case something bad happens here on Earth, is the theme I explored in my short stories collection, Escape Velocity. What would happen if in the future we build colonies on Titan, the Asteroid Belt, and Mars, and then … Earth is destroyed.  A Mad Max scenario, in space.

The project I’m working on now is a novel set in the same universe as my short stories collection, Escape Velocity.

Buy: Bookpassage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes&Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Bookpassage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes&Noble ~ Indiebound

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018


I first met Jeff Giles during a recent author event, and once I learned the premise of THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING, I had to buy it. The prologue of THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING is one of the best I've read, and the second book in the series, THE BRINK OF DARKNESS just debuted. Have a look:

It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father's shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods—only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future.

Things have changed for seventeen-year-old Zoe ever since the otherworldly events that brought her together with the mysterious bounty hunter she calls X. In order to save Zoe and her family, X has done the unthinkable - he's given up his freedom and returned to captivity in the Lowlands.

X is determined to break the lords' hold on him once and for all, but being stripped of his power pushes him toward a darkness he's never experienced and a past he's never known. The secrets that surface could be the key to reuniting X and Zoe... or they could mean the destruction of everything they have been fighting for.

According to your Twitter page, Julia Roberts told you, "I feel no dread when I have to see you." Can you explain?

Thank you for asking-- no one else ever has! I interviewed Julia Roberts a few times when I was a magazine writer. The first time she was very young and almost completely unknown. The second time was right before "Erin Brockovich" came out, when she was probably the most famous actress in the world. Anyway, for the second article, I spent time with her over the course of a few days and she'd been annoyed by another journalist. She was telling me how much she dreaded seeing that guy, and telling me I wasn't so bad. She has a way with compliments!

I'll bet she does--and I'm surprised no one else has asked you about her! I love the beginning of The Edge of Everything. How did you know this was the right beginning for this story?  

Thank you. The first scene started as an image that popped into my head. I pictured a young girl who has to go into the woods, during a blizzard, and sees someone trying to kill a man by drowning him in a hole in a frozen lake. From there, I had to figure who the girl was and what the murder was all about. It had a supernatural tinge in my imagination, so it became the story of a girl who meets a bounty hunter from hell who's sent to capture evil souls.

Fascinating. The sequel to The Edge of Everything, The Brink of Darkness, takes place in the Lowlands. We hear about Second Book Blues a lot--what was the most challenging aspect of expanding Zoe's story, and what was the most rewarding? 

It was a blast to revisit the characters. I just love writing dialogue for them because so many of them are misfits. And of course I loved creating new characters, especially in the underworld sections of the book, because I could invent people from any century I wanted. Yes, second books can incredibly hard but since this was the ending of a duology I knew the ending I was writing toward. The biggest challenge was figuring out if my main character--the bounty hunter from the underworld--could finally escape from hell and, if so, how? I needed the plot to be thrilling, but also plausible. I'm really happy with what I came up with.

I'm glad! What are some of your current projects?

I'll never tell! Okay, I'll say I'm writing a new YA novel about love in the aftermath of a tragedy. It's very different than the "Edge of Everything" books and I'm really swept up in it.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

NIGHTBLOOD, the final installment of the Frostblood Saga, by Elly Blake

I've been delighted to feature the books in Elly Blake's Frostblood saga, both here, and here. The final in the series, NIGHTBLOOD, debuted yesterday, and it looks excellent:

Ruby's world has changed more than she ever could have imagined. She's in love with a powerful Frost King. She's the heir to the Fire Throne. And she may be a Nightblood--the spawn of a vengeful deity hellbent on releasing his wraithlike Minax from their prison. Once freed, these beasts will roam the earth, devouring every last person until he or she is nothing but an empty husk. But Ruby is able to control the Minax to a degree, and now she, her beloved Arcus, and her friend Kai must find a way to bring Frostbloods and Firebloods--sworn enemies--together to make a stand against a foe more deadly than any they've faced.

In this heart-pounding finale of Elly Blake's gorgeously written and action-packed Frostblood Saga, the fate of Frostbloods, Firebloods, and all of humanity is at stake.

In our last interview, you said, "Publishing can be tough, but the writing community is a rewarding one and there’s always so much more to learn, which I find fascinating and energizing!" What is one of the most significant lessons you've learned lately in this regard?

 I think my biggest lesson was to reach out for help from critique partners sooner. After surviving an anxiety-soaked sophomore slump writing the second book, I had hopes that my third book would be easier. Ha! I mean, the first draft wasn’t as hard to write, so I had hopes of a smoother ride. But as it turned out, the draft that I thought was fairly solid didn’t really work. I ended up having to rewrite most of it (which is a thing that happens, and I certainly accept—after all, we all want it to be the best book it can be.) But then the rewrite didn’t quite do the job, either. So, a third draft, which incorporated pieces of the first and second drafts, as well as new material, became the clay that we, my editor and I, molded into a book. In retrospect, some of this angsty process could have been avoided if I had reached out to critique partners before sending the draft off to my editor. I have a tendency to put off sending my work to CPs until late in the game because I hate people—even my friends!—to see my unpolished words. But sometimes sending earlier is better. A critique partner can look at an early draft and give you big picture changes. Those big changes are a lot harder to stomach once you’ve buffed and polished all those darlings. In future, I intend to tidy up my first draft and then send it off for other eyes. Perfectionism be damned! :)

Yes! Better that we collaborate, rather than wither in isolation. NIGHTBLOOD is the finale in the Frostblood Saga. What will you miss most about the world and characters you've created in this series?

 I will absolutely miss these characters and their world so much. I’ll miss the action, the elemental magic, the romance and adventure, but most of all I’ll miss the dialogue and interactions between characters. Ruby, Arcus, Kai, and company still live in my heart. I still find myself daydreaming new interactions, new tender moments, new conflicts, new clashes. I’ll miss Ruby’s quips and comebacks and her high emotions, Arcus’s steadfast devotion and grumpy protectiveness, and Kai’s wry, whimsical, and flirtatious comments. It would be nice to return to this landscape and these characters someday. Fingers crossed.

And toes too! You also wrote a short story, "Dimes Into Lightning," for The Hanging Garden. What do you like most about writing short fiction and why?

 Oh, thank you for asking about that! I’m grateful to The Hanging Garden for giving me the opportunity. This was quite a learning experience for me! I had never written anything short before. My first attempt was to revamp the beginning of a YA sci fi that I started years ago and pass it off as a short story. I sent it off to a critique partner and she liked it, but detailed the reasons why it didn’t quite work. It felt like what it was – the beginning of a long tale instead of a complete short story. So, on my second attempt, I had this image in my head of a traveling show in the early 1900s and rolled with that. I found that I really enjoyed the brief format. There was so much freedom in it! No worrying about continuity or what I was setting up. It was a welcome break from editing and rewriting Nightblood, which was a long process (see above answer. Haha.) I’d like to try my hand at more short pieces in the future.

Sounds lovely. What are some of your current projects?

 To be honest, my next project has been slow in coming to me. Writing the Frostblood trilogy, while incredibly rewarding and wonderful, also took a lot out of me creatively. I’ve been waiting as the well slowly fills up again. Since I’ve been reading a ton of historical romance in the last few years, I’m considering trying my hand at a historical YA fantasy, but that is still very much in question as I do research and ask myself whether this is really something I can do. I do have a germ of an idea about a girl with a special power, but it’s not much more than a spark. Hopefully the story forms in my mind and I have something to share soon!

Thank you for allowing me to contribute to your blog, Karen!

And thank you, readers! Wishing you a good book and a quiet spot to read in! xoxo

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

WISHTREE and THE LAST (ENDLING) by Katherine Applegate

I first became a fan of Katherine Applegate when I was a Youth Services Selector and a colleague recommended The One and Only Ivan. For those unfamiliar, it is a poignant story told from the point of view of a gorilla who was in captivity for 27 years. Ivan was also real (as in an actual gorilla), but Katherine Applegate, in his narrative, made him even more so.

I've been a fan of hers ever since. I first met her at the launch for WISHTREE, another story which involves a subtle yet unique perspective. At the event, I told her how I'd been reading The One and Only Ivan with one of my high school students (a reluctant reader). I managed to get it signed for her:

Here's some more information about WISHTREE:

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

Katherine Applegate also has a new Middle Grade series, the first of which debuted in May:

Byx is the youngest member of her dairne pack. Believed to possess remarkable abilities, her mythical doglike species has been hunted to near extinction in the war-torn kingdom of Nedarra.

After her pack is hunted down and killed, Byx fears she may be the last of her species. The Endling. So Byx sets out to find safe haven, and to see if the legends of other hidden dairnes are true.

Along the way, she meets new allies—both animals and humans alike—who each have their own motivations for joining her quest. And although they begin as strangers, they become their own kind of family—one that will ultimately uncover a secret that may threaten every creature in their world.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer, and what books influenced you growing up?

I always tell kids I became a writer in 4th grade, when I wrote my first story. It was about a pig named Alice. (Even then, I was writing about animals!) After all, you don’t have to be published to be a writer. You just have to tell a good story.

But I took a LONG time to even think about trying to get published. I was in my late thirties before it began to seem like a possibility. I started out as a ghostwriter for packaged series like SWEET VALLEY TWINS and slowly gained confidence after many, many books.

I was quite a reluctant reader when I was young, a fact that seems to both surprise and encourage students. It wasn’t until I found my “best friend” book — the book that seemed to have been written just for me — that I began to see what all the fuss was about. (That book was CHARLOTTE’S WEB. And it’s still my favorite book.)

Charlotte's Web is one of my favorites too. Your book WISHTREE is a beautiful, nuanced story about a neighborhood tree and how it touches the lives of the people around it. Was there anything that surprised you about Red's story as you wrote it?

Thanks for your kind words. WISHTREE was truly a labor of love. I wrote it during the throes of the election, frustrated by all the vitriol and the “othering” of entire groups of people.

I started WISHTREE assuming that Red would be the main focus of the story, but soon realized that a whole community—raccoons, opossums, owls, skunks, a wily crow, and a kind young man — had to be part of the solution. And of course, that echoes the theme of the tale: that we are stronger when we work together as “welcomers.”

Such a wonderful, necessary theme. Published in 2012, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN is still finding its way into the hearts and minds of readers. What is it about Ivan and his story that you think resonates most with people?

I think the fact that the novel was inspired by a true story intrigues young readers.  And the character himself is easy for them to relate to: they worry about Ivan’s vulnerability and appreciate his efforts to help a friend.

I love writing for middle grade students because they care about fairness and kindness. They’re becoming aware of the world around them, beginning to define what it means to be a good citizen and loyal friend.

Indeed. What are some of your current projects?

In May I published the first novel in a new middle grade trilogy, ENDLING. It’s about one of the last members of a doglike species and her search for more of her own kind. I’m working on the rewrites for Book #2, and have outlined Book #3.

This spring I also published SOMETIMES YOU FLY, a picture book illustrated by the inimitable Jennifer Black Reinhardt. It’s about trying and failing and learning and growing, which makes it perfect, I think, for graduations and birthdays and milestones.

I’m also at work on a new middle grade single title, but it’s too soon to talk about it!

BookPassage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Indiebound

BookPassage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Indiebound

BookPassage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Indiebound