Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I met Chelsea at this year's NCIBA Fall Discovery Show, and I was immediately intrigued by the book cover and premise of THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT. The book doesn't come out until January, but here's a sneak peek:

A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn't mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie's life. That includes taking her job... and her boyfriend. It's a huge risk — but it's just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world.

In your website bio, you said, "I rock climb, even though I’m afraid of heights." In what ways do you overcome your fear to climb?

I should probably start by admitting I boulder, and don’t do vertical climbing. With bouldering you don’t use a rope or harness… but you also never get more than six feet off the ground.

But, but, for someone who’s afraid of heights, that’s still plenty daunting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached the top of a route and had a meltdown. And when you’re hanging upside down in the air, you really don’t want to get shaky. I wouldn’t die if I fell, but it wouldn’t be pleasant either.

The thing is, I love climbing. It’s ridiculously fun. I can’t change my fear of heights, but I don’t want it to keep me from doing something I enjoy.

The same goes for other things in my life. (Sometimes I think I have an excessive number of fears.) I’m terrified of airplanes, but I don’t want that to prevent me from traveling. I get nervous in large crowds, but I don’t want that to prevent me from having new experiences.

I’m envious of fearless, daredevil types. I wish I was braver. But I have a friend who once pointed out that being brave doesn’t mean you’re never afraid. Bravery is being afraid of something and doing it anyway.

That’s how I try to live my life. It’s okay to be a huge baby sometimes. It’s okay to get scared of silly things that no one else seems bothered by. But if I can push through that fear, and not let it control me, I think I’m doing pretty alright.

Indeed you are--and finding ways to be comfortable within uncertainty is something we can all strive for. Speaking of uncertainty, I love Hawthorn's voice--especially its stream-of-consciousness nature. In what ways did she speak to you while you wrote her story, and were there moments where she surprised you?

First of all, thank you for the compliment! Writing Hawthorn was a blast—and in a way, everything about her surprised me.

When I sat down to begin The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, I knew Hawthorn’s story, but I didn’t really know her. Then I wrote the first line:

The first thing that happened was Lizzie Lovett disappeared and everyone was all, “How can someone like Lizzie be missing?” and I was like, “Who cares?”

And that line set the tone for the rest of the book. Before I knew it, I had an entire chapter of Hawthorn’s off-the-wall, wandery, musings. Then another chapter, then another.

I never intended for Hawthorn to be quite so odd. Or funny, for that matter. In a way, she told me who she was supposed to be, not the other way around. And it was thrilling to uncover her personality along the way.

It's wonderful when characters speak on their own--and I love Hawthorn the way she is. I also love the layout of your website! What were some of your main priorities in building an online platform?

Ah, the online platform. So necessary today, yet to mysterious. (To me, anyway.)

As someone who’s very shy, connecting with people in general is hard for me. I know other people with social anxiety, and a lot of them prefer online interactions to in-person. It makes sense that it should be easier to be outgoing online. Yet, for me, it’s just as difficult.

Example: I’ll be about to press “publish” on a blog post and have a rush of fear about how terribly written it is, or how anyone who reads it will think I’m strange, or how I have no interesting things to say. Has anyone ever actually made me feel that way? No. Yet, I can’t prevent those thoughts from running through my mind.

As you can imagine, this makes building an online platform a little complicated.

My main priority has been putting myself out there. Pushing through the fear, like I mentioned earlier. I try to make myself accessible through my website or on social media, and always get excited when someone starts a conversation with me. And even though blogging or Tweeting or posting to Instagram might make me nervous, I try to suck it up and do it anyway.

Does this mean I have the greatest online platform? Of course not. There are so many authors who do it better than me. But I’m trying, and I’ll continue to.

So, I guess my biggest priority, is simply to be present.

Definitely a priority for us all. What are some of your current projects?

I’m currently revising my second book. I don’t want to give too much away yet. But briefly: It’s about a strange town in the Nevada desert, a very broken boy who lives there, and… wishes. A lot of wishes.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book/Movie Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (Warning! Spoilers Ahead!)

I'll admit, I've been a little more than excited about seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and while I left the movie relatively satisfied, I definitely have some minor critiques, especially now that I've also read the screenplay.

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt's fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…

Review: I was very intrigued by the American side of the Wizarding World, and I thought most of the developments made sense. For example, it's quite plausible that wizards in America would have much stricter regulations, especially after what happened in Salem. I also enjoyed the tie-ins to the British Wizarding World, particularly the banter regarding whether Ilvermorny, the American Wizarding School, was better than Hogwarts. The Niffler, also alluded to in the Harry Potter universe, was portrayed well, and was endearing despite its kleptomaniac tendencies. Two of the characters that I was wholly unfamiliar with, Jacob Kowalski, the American No-Maj (Muggle), and Queenie, a sweet and unassuming Legilimens, were perhaps the most engaging. If anything, they seemed more fleshed out than the main characters (Newt Schmander, and Auror Tina Goldstein). Granted, Newt was very charming when it came to his pets, and I loved that his manuscript, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, eventually made it into the Hogwarts textbook canon. But I definitely think Tina's motivations could have been fleshed out a lot more, and that her interactions with Percival Graves could have used more depth and explaining. Perhaps the character that was my least favorite was Seraphina Picquery, the President of MACUSA, the American equivalent of the Ministry of Magic. Not only was she terribly one-dimensional, she seemed to forget events that had transpired the previous day. For example, when she accused Tina of knowing about an outbreak of beasts in New York for 24 hours and not telling her, she'd completely forgotten that Tina had tried to tell her the day before--only to get kicked out of the exclusive Auror meeting. There were also a few places that I felt were a bit "deus ex machina," such as the real villain's reveal and Newt's suitcase (why did some of the beasts need to leave when their habitats were both enormous and enchanting?). Overall, though, the story was extremely compelling to watch, and to read--this is a solid effort for J.K. Rowling's first screenplay. I especially like the concept of the Obscurus, and hope to see it in later films.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

THE BOY WITH 17 SENSES, by Sheila Grau

I had the pleasure of meeting Sheila Grau at this year's NCIBA Fall Discovery Show. Her book is not only intriguing because it takes place on a very interesting planet, but it also reflects a very real condition--synesthesia, which I first learned about when I was helping a Linguistics graduate student with her dissertation research. The book also got a great review from School Library Journal: "Cleverly told, this original take on a classic tale uses an unconventional setting to explore universal emotions. Hand this to fans of whimsical retellings."

Every resident of the planet Yipsmix has synesthesia—they don’t just hear sounds; they see and taste them, too. On this unusual planet, poor Jaq Rollop must save his family’s farm. To do so, Jaq is forced to sell his beloved pet and only friend. Trusting and, Jaq gets swindled into trading his pet for a seemingly worthless key. But then something very strange happens. The key leads Jaq through a wormhole to a terrifying and magical land full of riches, overwhelming sensations, and giants. The name of this frightening land? Earth.

According to your website bio, you grew up in an old house that had a secret closet nestled behind bookshelves. Who were some of the authors that you enjoyed reading, and could you tell us more about your journey toward publication?

I remember sitting in that closet with an illustrated copy of The Jungle Book. The idea that a kid could grow up in the jungle, raised by wolves, and have friends like a black panther and a bear, just enthralled me. I loved the fantasy and adventure of that story.

But the truth is, I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. I thought reading was a chore. Sadly, I wasn’t cured of this disability until high school, when we were assigned to read Jack London’s The Sea Wolf. It was such a new experience for me, to actually enjoy a reading assignment.

As a result of this unfortunate upbringing, I missed out on a LOT of fantastic middle grade books. It took having kids of my own to discover them. As a parent, I knew how important it is to encourage a love of reading in children. Not just so they could do better in school, but because it helps kids grow into imaginative, creative, curious and empathetic people. Reading is the key to everything. It opens minds, and doors.

So I read to my kids all the time, and I fell in love with middle grade books. I followed children’s literature blogs for book recommendations, and discovered hundreds of fabulous books. Eventually I decided to try and write one myself. I had no ambitions of publication. My goal was simply to see if I could write a complete story, one with a beginning, middle and end. I did, and it gave me a great feeling of accomplishment, which lasted a few seconds before a new thought crept in: I could do better. So I wrote another one. And another. I read every writing book I could get my hands on. I joined a critique group.

Eventually I worked up the courage to query some agents with one of my stories. And then, a mere 15,000 rejections later (it felt like), I hit the jackpot. Persistence is everything in the publishing game.

Indeed it is! Even though THE BOY WITH 17 SENSES takes place on planet Yipsmix, the planet's inhabitants experience synesthesia, which is a very real condition. What do you want your readers to know about synesthesia, and in what ways, if any, did it shape Jaq's story?

Synesthesia, for those who are unfamiliar, is a neurological condition where people experience more than one sense at a time. While I just hear music, someone with synesthesia might also see music as swishes of color, or taste it, or even feel it as a physical sensation.

I was initially drawn to the creative aspect of synesthesia. I found myself fascinated by the idea that words could have flavor, or that numbers could have personalities. After all, combining unrelated things is what gives us metaphors. Some synesthetic metaphors are so memorable that they’ve become clich├ęs – like when people describe a “loud shirt” – which combines the senses of hearing and sight. Or when Shakespeare described that “bitter cold.”

As for Jaq’s story, I wanted his synesthesia to be a super-power, not a handicap. Since I write for young kids, I thought synesthesia might be a fun way to introduce the concept of neurodiversity, the idea that our brains sometimes work differently from each other. Synesthesia is a neurological condition, but it’s not a disability for most, so there’s no stigma surrounding it. If a brain with synesthesia can exist without the stigma of mental illness, then why not other brain differences, like dyslexia, OCD, anxiety, etc?

Definitely a question worth exploring. Your other series, Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions, was described in School Library Journal as, "...a contemporary fantasy that is a perfect blend of Hogwarts and Monsters University." What was the most fun about writing this series?

So many things! The School for Minions series follows a somewhat gullible kid who goes to a school filled with monsters. The school is in near constant peril, mostly from a rival school, and it’s often up to my main character to save it. There are elements of mystery, humor, and fantasy, which are all things I love. And monsters!

If I had to pick out the most fun thing . . . hmm . . . it’s probably writing the headings for each chapter. I had a lot of fun taking familiar quotations and adapting them to my minion world:

“Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Give a man a minion, and the minion will fish for him.”

Or sometimes I use them to expand on the world-building:

“It’s always darkest before the dawn, or if you’re in Fraze Coldheart’s dungeon.”

I love to think of things from a monster’s perspective. For instance, “I left my heart in San Francisco” is a song that might take on a more literal meaning if sung by a skeleton.

Yes, and it would have a great set of lyrics too! What are some of your current projects?

My main focus now is on writing the next book in the School for Minions series. I’m also working on a speculative fiction story with a sibling rivalry component. I like to have more than one work in progress at a time, so if I get stuck on one, I can switch my focus for a bit and then return to the stuck project with a fresh perspective.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: SNOWBIRDS by Crissa-Jean Chappell

A few years back, I interviewed Crissa-Jean Chappell about her groundbreaking book NARC. She has a new book out called SNOWBIRDS, a great innocence to experience story about a Mennonite girl trying to find her place in the world. Have a look:

Every year, Lucy waits eagerly for the arrival of the “snowbirds,” the Old Order Amish who come trundling into Florida on buses from the north, bringing Lucy’s best friend Alice, with whom she’s spent every winter she can remember. This winter is different. At sixteen, Alice is in the middle of “Rumspringa,” a season in which Amish teens try out forbidden temptations, in order to get them out of their system. Lucy is part of a different sect, in which teens aren’t allowed such bold experimentation, and she’s fighting to keep up as Alice races from one wild party to the next. Then, one night after just such a party, Alice vanishes. Wracked by guilt, Lucy knows that she should have been watching out for Alice, but instead, she was kissing Faron, an Older Order boy shunned by his society. Now, Lucy plunges into a search for her best friend—while also hiding her own secret, which could put her in even more danger.

Review: SNOWBIRDS is filled with layers of description that breathe life into Lucy's story. "I can't listen to Alice anymore. Her head is full of dreams. I've got big dreams too. I want to go to college and learn about the ocean. Swim with dolphins and sharks. Watch loggerhead turtles lay eggs under the full moon. The world is a living thing that changes and grows. Try explaining that to Dad" (26). This and other sections really gave an intimate view into Lucy's aspirations and experience, and helped me follow her journey to find Alice throughout the novel. Her relationship with Old Order outcast Faron also had wonderful details, and I found him both endearing and sympathetic. There were a few characters who came and went suddenly, and a few story spots that could have been fleshed out, but the ending was very satisfying and unexpected, and I left with a fulfilled sense of what Lucy's next steps would be after the ending pages. Overall, this was a very engaging story, and a great selection for teen readers looking to understand the importance of defining themselves on their terms.

Buy: BookPassage ~ ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Thursday, November 17, 2016

SOUND OF SIRENS by Jennifer Malone Wright

Title: Sound of Sirens
Author: Jennifer Malone Wright
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Who can resist the sound of Sirens?
The Hunters are still in Greece, continuing their pursuit of the original vampire, Pavlos.
The goddess Sostrate has warned them that they will encounter creatures they have never fought before … creatures they did not even know existed.
While the search has come to a standstill and they are only left with research, Oscar finally meets his family. The Sirens have been watching the Hunters and waiting to show themselves. The group, especially Oscar, have mixed feelings about trusting the Siren Clan.
But not only do the Sirens have information about Pavlos and what they might be up against, they also hold the secrets of Oscar’s past that his mother never told him about.
Jennifer Malone Wright is best known for her short story series, The Vampire Hunter's Daughter. Other works include the follow up to The Vampire Hunter's Daughter series called The Arcadia Falls Chronicles, The Graveyard Guardians series, and her vampire novel called Savior. Jennifer also co-authors a series called Once Upon A Zombie Apocalypse as well the Beary Tales series. She resides in the beautiful mountains of northern Idaho with her husband and five children where she practices preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Just kidding! But seriously, between the craziness of taking care of her children, Jennifer has little time left for herself. The time she does have left, usually leading far into the night, is spent working on her beloved fiction or chatting with her equally crazy friends. Jennifer also loves coffee, has a passionate affair with red bull, wishes the sushi were better where she lives and dances while she cleans.
Author Links: Website:
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Love on the Edge series by Molly E. Lee

I met Molly at Utopiacon this year, and her books immediately caught my eye. Her descriptions are off the charts, and her characters jump right off the page, especially in her Love on the Edge series. Have a look:

Blake Caster has been in an emotionally abusive relationship with Justin for so long, she can’t tell what is normal anymore, and so she clings to the one thing that is solidly hers—her passion for extreme weather.

Three years into her Meteorology degree, Blake meets professional storm chaser, Dash Lexington, who is as gorgeous as he is daring. Instantly recognizing her passion and skills in analyzing weather data, he makes a spot for her on his tight-knit storm chasing team. Dash and Blake form a fast friendship and it forces her to realize just how toxic her relationship with Justin is. She can’t deny the lightning-worthy chemistry she has with Dash or how her heart stalls every time he gets too close to a tornado.

With each chase and the cherished moments with Dash, Blake discovers her own self-worth and gains the strength to end things with Justin for good. But he won’t go easily. As Blake tries to sever ties with one man, she fears she’ll lose the other to his dangerous obsession—and she doesn't know if she’ll be enough to save him from the impending storm that could end them all.

Easton Wells has spent years burying his guilt by digging up some of the world’s most renowned treasures while surviving the dangerous terrains in which they’re located—all captured for television. When his producers threaten to axe the show, he has no choice but to turn to the last person he still trusts—the girl he left behind.

Rain Walker has made a name for herself documenting wild and endangered animals, and the last voice she expects to hear while shooting in South Africa is Easton’s. He’s more gorgeous than she remembers, but the pain in her heart is as fresh as ever. They’d once planned on spending the rest of their lives together, but after her father’s tragic death while on expedition in Israel with him, Easton bailed on their future together without an explanation. It’s been nine years, and yet the intense love they shared seems only a moment ago.

When he asks her to film his latest treasure hunt, Rain wants to turn him down instantly. But when he explains it’s to the same cave that swallowed her father, she can’t say no. She wants to experience the last place her father was alive, and she’s beyond curious about what happened to the boy she used to love.

They’ve got two weeks to locate a treasure that’s been lost for centuries, or Easton will lose the one thing in his life he’s come to depend on. As their old passion is reignited—and dark secrets uncovered—they face the extreme terrain of the mountain range that threatens them at every turn. As more than the wildlife and sharp drop-offs tries to kill them, Rain starts to question if the legendary treasure they seek—the same one her father had died trying to unearth—is truly meant to be found, or if some things, including their feelings for each other, are better left buried.

According to your website bio, you write both New Adult Contemporary and Young Adult Urban Fantasy novels. What do you like most about each genre and why?

 There are many aspects that appeal to me about both genres. With NA Contemporary there is more freedom to push the boundaries with the romance and emotional content because the characters are adults but they are still trying to figure themselves out. And with YA Urban Fantasy I love the endless possibilities with world building and stakes. With young adults, the stakes are always different than they would be for an adult novel, and it’s wonderful to be able to explore all the “firsts” you get with teenage characters.

In EAST OF REDEMPTION, Easton Wells and Rain Walker are definitely trying to figure themselves out--and I love them both because of it. Did they come to you fully fleshed or did they develop as you wrote them? Did they surprise you in any way?

 Thanks so much! I’m so glad you liked them!

Easton is one of my favorite characters and he came to me almost completely as you see him in East of Redemption! I loved writing him because he was a complex man carrying around such a heavy pain inside of him and yet he held on to it because he didn’t see any other way to live. Rain surprised me throughout the book with how forgiving she was of Easton’s faults…something that would be hard to do but it came naturally for her and I really enjoyed that characteristic. She was a strong woman who was confident in who she was and that made forgiving Easton as often as she did easier.

It's great when characters redeem one another. Your other book, EDGE OF CHAOS, deals with emotionally abusive relationships. What would you like readers to take away after reading Blake Caster's experience?

This is a popular question for those that have read Edge of Chaos. And when I sat down to write the novel, I didn’t have an agenda in mind…it was just how Blake’s story unfolded. The emotional abuse that takes place in the novel is very real and if I wanted anything out of it it was to show women or men in similar situations that they are not alone. There are so many people (unfortunately) that are experiencing this lesser known form of abuse and it can be very isolating. Often it can feel like no one will ever understand the situation because it’s hard to explain the type of abuse that doesn’t leave physical scars…so I hoped that people reading this book would be able to connect and hopefully find the strength they needed to get help. It’s been a wonderful experience to hear from readers who found strength from the book and shared their own stories with me and it means more to me than anyone will ever know.

I'm glad your stories have reached the people who need them! What are some of your current projects?

Currently I’m working on the continuation of Blake and Dash’s story! I had to give them another book because their relationship started so late in Edge of Chaos and their story just wasn’t finished yet. So, I’m in edits on that novel and will hope to have a release date to announce soon!

Buy: BookPassage  ~ IndieBound


Monday, November 14, 2016

Westworld: The Colors of Humanity

I've been watching HBO's new sci-fi show, Westworld, loosely based on a screenplay by Michael Crichton. I like Crichton, and even though he's usually too left-brained for me, this series brings some surprising nuances. It's like Jurassic Park...but with human robots called hosts. Have a look:

Westworld defines what constitutes humanity. This is extremely important, particularly when this election's dialogues and fallout have proven capable of eliminating what makes us human. Thandie Newton, a star of Westworld, not only epitomizes this in an interview, her character in Westworld demonstrates the dangers of taking out the elements of humanity when she, as a host, is tired of being treated like a robot.

I love that Thandie Newton talks about empathy and compassion, because it epitomizes how writers can make a difference. All books and their stories reveal the colors of humanity in different ways. It's probably why people who read literary fiction have been shown to have more empathy than those who don't. 

But I'd also argue that people who read in general tend to have more empathy too. And, as writers, going forward, it is up to us to show humanity in all its forms, especially when others insist on denying its nuances.

There are books I'm reading right now that are doing this. Here are some excerpts of a few that are taking words to unseen levels.

SNOWBIRDS by Crissa-Jean Chappell

Crissa-Jean Chappell's book about a Mennonite girl searching for truth is filled with layers of description that breathe life into her story. Chappell is also known for her book NARC, which received critical acclaim.

"I can't listen to Alice anymore. Her head is full of dreams. I've got big dreams too. I want to go to college and learn about the ocean. Swim with dolphins and sharks. Watch loggerhead turtles lay eggs under the full moon. The world is a living thing that changes and grows."


This is the sequel to AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, which completely blew me away when I read it. Laia is trying to make sense of where she stands in a broken world, and Tahir's descriptions are nothing short of breathtaking.

"She wears tattered clothing. Her hand is pressed to a leaking wound in her side. She has the fine features of a Scholar, but when I try to see her eyes, she drops her head, dark hair falling into her face. Poor thing. Tears mark a path down her dirt-streaked cheeks."

WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS by Anna-Marie McLemore

I first fell in love with Anna-Marie McLemore's words in her beautiful book, THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a magical realism story that put me in mind of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. Her new book is gorgeous in its illumination of both love and identity.

"They'd touched each other every day since they were small. She'd put her palm to his forehead when she thought he had a fever. He'd set tiny gold star stickers on her skin on summer days, and at night had peeled them off, leaving pale constellations on her sun-darkened body."

Overall, try to find your humanity today, if you can. Lean toward what makes you thrive, even if other people are telling you not to.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Friday, November 11, 2016

At Least We Still Have Lin-Manuel Miranda...

It's been a rough week for a lot of people, me included. I can think of no other way to end this week other than a splash of Lin-Manuel Miranda offering the motivation to keep going. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


HOW TO BE BRAVE passed my desk long ago as an ARC, and I was immediately intrigued by it. I think we can agree, given what's happened this week, that these book titles offer much needed inspiration. Have a look:

Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

AP Exams – check
SAT test – check
College Application – check
Date the wrong guy and ruin everything you’ve spent your whole life working for– check

Ultra-high-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has always had a plan—and no room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection comes to a screeching halt when her boyfriend leaks racy pictures of her to the entire school. Making matters worse, her parents are getting divorced and now her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Viv feels like a complete and utter failure.

Then she gets a job working at the community pool, where she meets a new group of friends who know nothing about her past. That includes Evan, a gorgeous guy who makes her want to do something she never thought she’d do again: trust. For the first time in her life, Viv realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that? While she tries to figure it out, she learns something they never covered in her AP courses: that it’s okay to be less than perfect, because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.

According to your website bio, you are interested in "the stories we tell, the stories we are given, and the ways we can redefine our worlds by discovering which stories are true." In what ways, if any, has this enhanced your experience as a writer? 

At the core of story is character, and – both as a reader and as a writer - I am most interested in characters who are flawed and who make mistakes, characters who begin with a particular understanding of their world and whose journeys lead them to having those assumptions shattered. As a writer, I continually have to redefine my world, as each new character offers questions that I may not hold the answer to when I begin writing. Even though I’ve been writing for years, it doesn’t mean I have it figured out. Each new story is a new question. Each book is a puzzle. I love the feeling of discovery that writing offers. Sometimes I find answers to my many questions about the world; sometimes I merely uncover many more questions. Either way, I love the process, and it’s that experience of inquiry and discovery that keeps me writing.

Well said. It is my hope that those questions will keep coming--and that we can discover the meaning in their answers. I was instantly drawn into HOW TO BE BRAVE, especially with the list Georgia made for herself. In what ways do you think fear prevents people from becoming their full selves? 

Thank you! My debut novel, HOW TO BE BRAVE, is about a girl named Georgia who has lived her life in fear and who sets out to try new things, despite her insecurities. Before her death, her mom commanded Georgia to live differently—to try everything at least once and to never be ruled by fear.

Ever since the announcement of my book title, HOW TO BE BRAVE, friends, family, and strangers have all responded one of two ways: that they LOVE the title (hooray!) and then, often, they ask, “So, what’s the answer?” In fact, many would whisper in all seriousness, “Please tell me. I’m desperate to know the answer.” At first, I didn’t know how to respond. So, I would laugh nervously and say something like, “If only I knew!”

However, I’ve come to love these questions, for the mere fact that the question of how to live life courageously is something we all ask. I’ve discovered that, yes, many people live in fear – (I still do!) and that yes, this fear prevents people from becoming their full selves. But I also know that people are braver than they give themselves credit for.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be brave, and how there are many different ways to live a life of courage. I have come to understand that being brave does not equate to being fearless. Fear is okay. Fear is good.

I’ve started saying that there’s an invisible question mark at the end of the title and that I think the answer to the question of “how to be brave” lies inside the question itself. It’s in the constant questioning.

The epigraph of HOW TO BE BRAVE is this quote by Georgia O’Keefe: “I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

I think that if we’re asking ourselves questions about how we can move past the fear and try to live our dreams, then we are more brave than we know.

Thank goodness. And in our bravery, we can work together with others to conquer our fears. In your novel, THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER, you explore the pressures teens face, particularly the constant need for perfection. What do you hope readers will take away from Viviana's experience?

Many writers talk about books that are the “stories of their hearts.” My first book, HOW TO BE BRAVE, was most definitely that since it is told through the eyes of Georgia, a Greek-American teenager whose mother passes away. I am half-Greek, and my father died when I was seventeen, so much of the story, in terms of its exploration of grief and loss, identity and love, came directly from my heart and my life.

My second book, THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER, is equally the story of my heart. Viviana is a driven honors student and the daughter of a Russian-Jewish immigrant mom and an American engineer dad who have extremely high academic expectations for her. As a result of both these expectations and an exposing mistake Viviana made in sharing a nude photo with her boyfriend (who proceeded to send it to the entire school), Viviana suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks.

I am both first- and second- generation American (my father immigrated from Greece in 1952; my mother’s parents immigrated from Russia in 1913), so I am always interested in the unique pressures of being the child of immigrants, as many of my students are, and as Viviana is.

Furthermore, when I was in high school and college, I was in honors classes, including AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (the International Baccalaureate program). While some of the pressure to succeed came from my parents, much of it was simply part of the system. I continuously and secretly suffered from anxiety and paralyzing panic attacks through my twenties, both from the grief of losing my father and from the pressures of success. The thing is, I didn’t really know what was happening – that it was called GAD (general anxiety disorder) or panic attacks, or that it was something I should seek help for. In fact, I’d been told that if I ever sought psychological help via a therapist or group support, I should not use my own medical insurance for fear that my employers would find out that I was “unstable” and I might therefore lose my job. It took me many years to finally seek support and understand my own mind.

As a teacher at both the high school and community college levels, I’ve met many students who also feel the intense pressures of success, both from their families and from the mere need for financial survival, and who as a result, suffer from severe (and often secret) anxiety. I teach English where we focus on creative expression and the makings of an examined life, so students often want to share their inner lives with me, both in writing and in conversation, including their mental health. I remind them that I am not a psychologist or counselor, and I also direct them towards our free psychological services, but many students respond that their parents would – and I quote – “kill” them if they knew they had sought psychological help. Every time I hear this, my heart breaks. There is a stigma attached to the very real experience of GAD and panic attacks, as well as to psychological counseling. I wrote THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER for both myself when I was a teenager, and most certainly for my students and readers who are like my students, so that they can see their experience represented and also find that there does not have to be that stigma, that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of self-care and beautiful strength.

And by doing that, you will also reach those who feel like they are invisible. If there's anything you wished you'd known before you became a published writer, what would it be? 

I didn’t realize how many wonderful friends I’d make during the process, and that includes my agent and editor. Everyone is incredibly supportive, and everyone is cheering for your writing. I love meeting readers and hearing from fans. Last week, I responded to a blogger’s lovely post on THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER by saying, “Thank you for reading!” Her simple response was: “Thank you for writing!” and it made me cry. It also made me want to get back to my current manuscript. Publishing itself is a crazy business, but at its core, writing books is about connecting with other people. That’s why I read, and that’s why I write. I’m grateful to have been published and to have the opportunity to connect with so many readers. It’s an amazing journey, for sure.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sounds of Sirens: Pre-order Blitz

Title: Sound of Sirens
Author: Jennifer Malone Wright
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Expected Release Date: Nov. 17, 2016
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Who can resist the sound of Sirens?
The Hunters are still in Greece, continuing their pursuit of the original vampire, Pavlos.
The goddess Sostrate has warned them that they will encounter creatures they have never fought before … creatures they did not even know existed.
While the search has come to a standstill and they are only left with research, Oscar finally meets his family. The Sirens have been watching the Hunters and waiting to show themselves. The group, especially Oscar, have mixed feelings about trusting the Siren Clan.
But not only do the Sirens have information about Pavlos and what they might be up against, they also hold the secrets of Oscar’s past that his mother never told him about.
Jennifer Malone Wright is best known for her short story series, The Vampire Hunter's Daughter. Other works include the follow up to The Vampire Hunter's Daughter series called The Arcadia Falls Chronicles, The Graveyard Guardians series, and her vampire novel called Savior. Jennifer also co-authors a series called Once Upon A Zombie Apocalypse as well the Beary Tales series. She resides in the beautiful mountains of northern Idaho with her husband and five children where she practices preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Just kidding! But seriously, between the craziness of taking care of her children, Jennifer has little time left for herself. The time she does have left, usually leading far into the night, is spent working on her beloved fiction or chatting with her equally crazy friends. Jennifer also loves coffee, has a passionate affair with red bull, wishes the sushi were better where she lives and dances while she cleans.
Author Links: Website:
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Monday, November 7, 2016

Doctor Strange: It's All About Persistence

For those who haven't seen Doctor Strange yet, it's a worth a watch. I wasn't wild about everything in the script (the dialogue they gave Benedict Cumberbatch could have used some tweaking) but one of the major themes that I really appreciated was that of persistence.

The only allusion to persistence seen in the trailer is what happens to Strange's hands, but without giving away a bunch of spoilers, I can attest that a lot of the movie, especially the final scenes, are an ode to the necessities of persistence--and how it can pay off. Especially when the word NO feels like this:


There's a quote I heard recently, one that I'll paraphrase the best I can. Instead of seeing rejections as negative roadblocks, think of them as necessary hurdles of no's before you get to the finish line of yes.

And be prepared. Even after the finish line, the yes might not come. Maybe it's because the yes is found down a different path. Or the yes might be revealed in a form you didn't expect.

Regardless, you're more likely to get a yes if you can convince whoever is telling you no that a yes is more worth their while. Because regardless of what society teaches us, rejection has more to do with the rejector than it does with the rejectee. And just because it's not within your control doesn't mean it's a reflection on you. If anything, it's the opposite:

So keep persisting. And if you need a bit of motivation, Doctor Strange can help.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

REGRESS by SF Benson

I had the fortune of winning REGRESS as part of a Facebook event, and I'm loving it so far. I also met SF Benson at UTOPiAcon, and she is one of my favorite people. Have a look at this amazing premise:

The United States has fallen.
Creativity is banned.
A government-mandated vaccine which totally blocks creativity.
It’s 2025 and the country is run by a group of scientists and technologists.
Tru Shepard, a soon-to-be seventeen-year-old, wants to avoid the vaccine. Without self-expression, Tru would rather die.
Zared Aoki has his own secrets. He wants Tru’s help exposing the plans of a corrupt, domineering government. In exchange, he’ll help her avoid the vaccine.
Failure is not an option. Tru refuses to live a colorless, dull existence.
10 days.
That’s all the time Tru has.
Lies and secrets make up her world. Is she ready to learn the truth?

What led you to writing in the first place, and what have you learned from your publishing journey so far?

Good question. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but was too scared to actively pursue it. Back in those days (the dark ages), self-publishing was unheard of. So you needed an agent and a publisher. Bottom line—I didn’t think I was good enough.

Two years ago I was floundering trying to move forward in life. I’d spent nearly eight years working with animals as either a vet assistant or in customer service. Rewarding work but not creative in the least bit. So I quit my job and decided to find a new career path. Things weren’t gelling for me. I learned about NaNoWriMo and told my husband. He said that if I wanted to pursue it, I should go at it 110%. I’d just read Veronica Roth’s books and was inspired to write Young Adult. Then I had a dream about a girl trying to uncover a conspiracy about clones. The rest is history. LOL!

What I’ve learned about publishing? Man, there’s so much and I don’t think you ever stop learning. I guess the biggest lesson has been do your best and when you think you’ve reached that point push harder. Another lesson has been you can’t please everyone. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your books. That’s life. You have to have a thick skin and you have to write for YOU first. I think remembering that is the battle all authors face at some point. When you no longer care about what you write it’s a clear signal to stop and move on.

A good lesson for us all. And I love the premise for REGRESS. What do you think is most damaging about suppressing creativity? 

As Tru Shepard put it… “Imagine not being able to describe a golden sunset, a blustery fall day, nor the new birth of spring. Imagine never experiencing Beethoven’s intense and funereal “Moonlight Sonata” or Tchaikovsky’s spirited “Violin Concerto in D Major.”

A world without creativity would be dull. It’s art and music and words which allow us to escape and renew ourselves. Without these things we run the risk of becoming automatons moving hopelessly through life. Suppressing creativity suppresses hope. Who would want to live in that world?

I certainly wouldn't! What are some of your current projects?

Let’s see… I just finished working on Release (the prequel for the Alliance Chronicles). It’s in its last stages of revision before going to beta readers and then editing. I also just finished the rough draft for book three, Rebel.

I’ll be drafting book four of the Alliance Chronicles (Restore) for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve also started planning the last novella of the series, Renegade.

Currently, I’m working on the rough draft for Cursed Hearts. It was previously a short story published by the Debut Collective (Against All Odds). I’m planning a two book series, Cursed Hearts and Blessed Hearts. The first book expands the story of Kelsie and Victor (a teenage succubus and a vampire looking for love). The second book is dedicated to Kelsie’s brother, Cash. He’s an incubus who doesn’t believe in love. He didn’t think love would find him.

I’m also working on a couple of short stories for inclusion in two different anthologies, one horror and one an alien story.

Finally, I’m working on a new brand. I’ll be writing paranormal romance under the name Nadirah Foxx. The first book, Delivering Sin, is scheduled for August 2017.

Regress Buy Links:

Rescue Buy Links:

Against All Odds Buy Links:

Social Media

Facebook Alliance Chronicles page:
Instagram: @authorsfbenson

SF Benson, a Michigan native, resides in Georgia with her husband and daughter. She has always wanted to be a writer, but she’s had a variety of positions ‘feeding’ her creative brain. SF is an avid bookworm who appreciates a well-written book regardless of genre. She writes stories that explore ‘what if’. Her stories tend to feature strong, diverse protagonists in dystopian, science fiction or paranormal worlds.
For more information, visit her site at: