Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Feature: CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber

I first heard about Stephanie Garber's CARAVAL at last year's SCBWI Spring Spirit conference. Not only did Stephanie have a great workshop on building a cast of characters, but CARAVAL promises an interesting world, too. It debuts tomorrow, January 31, and I just got my copy in the mail!

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Zodiac Series by Romina Russell

When I first saw the cover of BLACK MOON, the latest in Romina Russell's Zodiac series, I had to feature it. BLACK MOON debuted in December, and the fourth book, THIRTEEN RISING, comes out this August. The series has a great premise; I even recommended it to fellow readers when I saw it on the shelf at a Barnes and Noble. I mean, look at all the pretty covers:

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Orphaned, disgraced, and stripped of her title, Rho is ready to live life quietly, as an aid worker in the Cancrian refugee camp on House Capricorn.

But news has spread that the Marad--an unbalanced terrorist group determined to overturn harmony in the Galaxy--could strike any House at any moment.

Then, unwelcome nightmare that he is, Ochus appears to Rho, bearing a cryptic message that leaves her with no choice but to fight.

Now Rho must embark on a high-stakes journey through an all-new set of Houses, where she discovers that there's much more to her Galaxy--and to herself--than she could have ever imagined.

One final secret stands between Rho and the enemy. But will the devastating truth be enough to destroy her first?

Rho, the courageous visionary from House Cancer, lost nearly everything when she exposed and fought against the Marad, a mysterious terrorist group bent on destroying balance in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now, the Marad has disappeared without a trace, and an uneasy peace has been declared.

But Rho is suspicious. She believes the Master is still out there in some other form. And looming over all are the eerie visions of her mother, who died many years ago, but is now appearing to Rho in the stars.

When news of a stylish new political party supported by her best friend, Nishi, sends Rho on another journey across the galaxy, she uses it as an opportunity to hunt the hidden master and seek out information about her mother. And what she uncovers sheds light on the truth–but casts darkness upon the entire Zodiac world.

THIRTEEN RISING: Debuts on August 29, 2017

The master has been unmasked. Rho’s world has been turned upside down. With her loved ones in peril and all the stars set against her, can the young Guardian from House Cancer muster the strength to keep fighting? Or has she finally found her match in a master whose ambition to rule knows no limits?

According to your website bio, your first writing gig was a weekly column for the Miami Herald. What inspired this column, and how did it shape your writing journey?

I was interning at the Miami Herald when I was 17, the summer before heading off to college, and it was right around the time when newspapers were realizing that young people weren't subscribing to their local papers, and they feared the whole industry would die out with the Baby Boomers. So I went into the then-Executive Editor's office and told him that maybe they would attract younger readers if they had a younger voice that addressed them directly. I pitched the idea that eventually became "College She Wrote"--a weekly Sunday column I penned from Harvard about my college adventures that was nationally syndicated after its first year.

I can't say enough good things about that experience. It helped me shape my voice and discover my audience--once I started writing for teens, I knew I would never stop.

I'm so glad you haven't! I love the universe where the Zodiac series takes place. What do you enjoy most about building different worlds, and what tips, if any, do you have for authors looking to improve their worldbuilding skills?

Thank you so much! I love building worlds because I'm such a controlling and detail-oriented person--which is part of my Virgoness--so the more I can create, the more something feels fully mine.

When writing, I tend to follow this general formula: #1: Build the Setting, #2: Birth the Characters from that specific world's soil, #3: Let the Plot unfold from Characters' choices.

In the case of ZODIAC, the first thing I did was create a "galaxy guidebook" of sorts that outlined every detail about all 12 (ahem, 13?) Houses; info like the planets' compositions, the physical and personality traits of each population, every House's government, culture, religion, technology, transportation, entertainment, food, and so on. I like to begin my books with Setting because of something Alan Watts once said: we're not born into this world, we're born from it.

In other words, the world must exist before the character can be born.

After I have my world(s) figured out, I flesh out my characters with an eye toward trying to ensure they're true representations of their unique upbringings (and not my own). Once I feel like I fully know my cast, I begin outlining the story, and I try to let the dance between the protagonist and the antagonist chart the trajectory of the plot. Each character's greatest strength and weakness will determine their decisions and reactions, and that choreography becomes the backbone of my novels.

The better you brainstorm your universe, the better you'll understand it, and that kind of confidence will usually shine through in the writing.

Such wonderful (and needed!) step-by-step advice regarding both world and character building. And I love the cover for BLACK MOON, especially how it represents Rho's next adventure.  What are you hoping readers will take away from this newest installment?

Thank you so much! I think Rho's greatest conflict in BLACK MOON is herself. This is the book when she finally faces her heart and her past, and I hope readers will enjoy the new worlds that are introduced and consider the messages of diversity and unity that pervade every page of this installment.

I'm sure everyone will! The next book in the Zodiac series, THIRTEEN RISING, comes out later this year. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet?

It comes out August 29th! The publisher moved up the release date, which is good for readers but proved problematic for me, LOL! I had to originally turn it in the first week of December, which was right around BLACK MOON's release date, and it was just too much--so I wound up taking an extra month with it, and I'm so glad I did, because it's absolutely my FAVORITE of the four books. I love it, and I honestly have no way to prepare any of you for what's coming! Hahahahaha. <3

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Pre-order: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: FIVE GUNS BLAZING: A PIRATE NOVEL by Emma Rose Millar and Kevin Allen

This week, my review of the book Five Guns Blazing appeared on the Chanticleer website.
Click here to have a look!


Convict’s daughter, Laetitia Beedham, is set on an epic journey from the back streets of London, through transportation to Barbados and gruelling plantation life, into the clutches of notorious pirates John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, Mary Read and the treacherous Anne Bonny.

In a world of villainy and deceit, where black men are kept in chains and a woman will sell her daughter for a few gold coins, Laetitia can find no one in whom to place her trust.

As the King’s men close in on the pirates and the noose begins to tighten around their necks, who will win her loyalty and her heart?


This post can also be viewed here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Title: Forever Frenzy
Author: Casey L Bond
Genre: YA Horror
Editor: Stacy Sanford
Cover Design by Cover Me Darling
Cover Photography by Pink Ink Designs
Cover Models: Daniel Wells and Becca Bryant
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Everything in Porschia Grant’s world was finally normal; the daily routine peppered with moments of happiness, sadness, and monotony. She longs for those moments now, because her entire world has been wrecked, and she didn’t even see it coming.
An evil escaped the underworld, killing someone she loves. It has to die, and she wants to be the one to end it.
But can Porschia live with herself if she takes on the curse she once hated? Will the consequences of her choice crush her?
How will she feel when someone from her past, someone she loved so deeply, enters her life again?
Tage has been guiding his son from the afterlife. He’s always been a part of Seth’s life, even if Porschia didn’t know the extent of his involvement. He’s watched over both of them from afar. Close, but never close enough.
Now they need him, and he’s about to risk everything to show her how much she still means to him.
For some, love never ends and frenzy is forever.
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: 
Forever Frenzy:
Keep reading for a sneak snippet of one very angry Porschia Grant ...
Surprise lifted her brows.
“I didn’t expect—”
I was in front of her in an instant, backhanding her to the side. She stumbled, grabbing her bleeding lip and staring at me with contempt.
“You didn’t expect me to do what? Protect my family? That was your first mistake.”
She scoffed.
“The second was underestimating me.”
- Copyright Casey L. Bond

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE by Shaun David Hutchinson

I've been a fan of Shaun's ever since WE ARE THE ANTS, and I was glad to interview him about it, as well his anthology, VIOLENT ENDS. In his gorgeous, humorous, and poignant writing, he always finds a way to introduce concepts that are intriguing to explore. His newest book, AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE, will be out on February 7. Have a look:

Tommy and Ozzie have been best friends since second grade, and boyfriends since eighth. They spent countless days dreaming of escaping their small town—and then Tommy vanished.

More accurately, he ceased to exist, erased from the minds and memories of everyone who knew him. Everyone except Ozzie.

Ozzie doesn’t know how to navigate life without Tommy, and soon suspects that something else is going on: that the universe is shrinking.

When Ozzie is paired up with new student Calvin on a physics project, he begins to wonder if Calvin could somehow be involved. But the more time they spend together, the harder it is for him to deny the feelings developing between them, even if he still loves Tommy.

But Ozzie knows there isn’t much time left to find Tommy–that once the door closes, it can’t be opened again. And he’s determined to keep it open as long as possible.

In our last interview, you said, "We may be meaningless in the grand scheme of the universe, but we matter to someone, and that’s what’s important." In what ways do you feel that this is true, and how might these connections be conveyed through story? 

My personal feeling is that life is made up of the little moments and not the big ones.  Most of us aren’t going to save the world. Most of us won’t wind up being written about in history books twenty, fifty, or even 100 years from now.  That that doesn’t mean we’re not important.  My second grade teacher will always be important to me because she taught me to read when it felt like others had given up on me.  My mom is never going to invent the cure for cancer, but she was there for me and is one of the most important people in my life and in the lives of all the people she comes into contact with.  The universe is a faceless, non-entity, but it’s populated by a web of people, all of whom are interconnected.  So while we may not be able to make an impact in the larger scheme of things, we can make smaller impacts in the lives of those around us, and those impacts will ripple out in beautiful and unexpected ways.  I’m not a big believer in fate, but I do love the domino theory of interconnectedness.  The idea that each action has consequences that spread outward so that one small, unrelated action can have an impact on someone far away.  I slow down to let someone in front of me in traffic, and they then decide they have extra time to stop for coffee where they buy someone who’s forgotten their wallet a cup of coffee.  That person goes to work and sees someone struggling, someone they might not have noticed if they’d been pissed off because they’d lost their wallet and couldn’t get their coffee, and stops to talk to them.  And it goes on and on.  Our actions matter to people who may not even be aware of them.

And your books have not only shown that interconnectedness, they also offer an opportunity for readers to connect with the worlds you've created. I love the way you explore memory in AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE. How might a shrinking memory relate to a shrinking universe, and what might be the consequences because of it?

Memory, and how it affects who we are is one of those things I love to explore.  Shows like Westworld and the BBC’s Humans and Fox’s Dollhouse are all shows that explore how connected our humanity is to our memories.  Some, like Westworld, take the view that we are our memories, while others like Dollhouse seem to posit that there is a core to ourselves that exists independent of memory.  I have kind of a different take. I sometimes tell people that all of my first-person narrators are unreliable because memory is unreliable.  We often remember things the way we need to remember them rather than the way they actually happened.  Is something any less true to us if it didn’t actually happen exactly the way we remember it happening?  I’m not sure it is.  It might not be objectively true, but it’s true to us, and therefore it will still have the same impact as if it were.  Without giving anything away, the shrinking universe comes in and begins stripping everything away from Ozzie’s life.  It rewrites his personal history (and the history of the world), but it doesn’t and can’t change the things that Ozzie believes are true.  It was interesting for me to watch Ozzie cling to the things he knew to be true in the face of everyone else telling him they weren’t.  It’s also interesting to me how memory and truth work in the real world.  We’ve gotten to see first hand throughout the election that just happened how truth is less important than what people believe.  And while our universe isn’t shrinking, the internet has made it smaller.

It definitely has--and it makes the interconnectedness you touched on earlier all the more important. AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE also has one of the best beginnings I've ever read. What do you find most challenging about writing the beginning of a story, and what is the most rewarding?

It’s so funny you mention the beginning.  I wrote that beginning first and sent the draft to my agent.  We talked over some problems with the manuscript, and when I sent it back to her, I’d cut the opening.  She strongly suggested I put it back in, so I did.  For me, openings are challenging for two reasons.  The first is that, especially because of the stories I write, I need to convey what the weird thing is in my story without massive info dumps.  The opening has to be dynamic and snare the reader from the first word.  I love writing openings.  If I could make a career out of them, I totally would.  The second challenge, and probably the more difficult one, is carrying the promise of the opening through the rest of the book. The opening is where you essentially make a pact with the reader. You promise the reader that this is what the story is going to be about. This is what the tone is going to be. This is the character you’re going to become emotionally invested in. Stories that begin one way and then abandon their premise drive me batty.  Sometimes it’s in a good way (like with the movie Arrival, which turns out to be nothing like what we’re promised in the beginning), but sometimes it’s not in a good way.  My challenge is always making sure not to betray the premise and promise of the opening chapter without good reason. And it’s something that I struggle with all the time because my stories are rarely plot driven.  The weird scenarios I throw at characters are nearly always a way for me to explore the more mundane aspects of my narrators' internal emotional lives.

Which is why, in my opinion, you've certainly mastered that pact. As an author, what is something new you'd like to try in your writing? 

Everything?  I struggle with the idea that readers have come to expect a certain something from me as a writer. They expect a certain type of story and a certain type of writing, and I want to give that to them while still surprising them.  I also struggle with boredom.  I don’t know if it’s a function of my ADHD or just a quirk of who I am, but I get bored very easily, so I’m always looking to try new things and challenge myself.  I keep saying I’d love to try third person, but there’s something so real about the first person narrative I can’t seem to leave behind.  Mostly I really want to keep experimenting with narrative structure.  Using time and memory and reader expectations to shake things up.  I want to tell familiar stories in unfamiliar ways. I want to challenge the concept of what a story is and what a story can be.  One of my favorite books of 2016 was Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse because of the way it experimented with structure and time, and I think more books like that would make YA a richer landscape.

More than anything, though, I want to write a villain.  A really compelling villain.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that none of my books actually have a clear cut antagonist.  Even Marcus from We Are the Ants exists in this gray area that makes it difficult to really call him a villain, and it’s one of those things I really, really want to do. I just have to find the right story and the right character to do it with.


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound


Buy:  BookPassage ~ ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound

***This post can also be viewed here.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

NAME YOUR DEMON Box Set, including ROMANCING THE NULL by Tina Gower


Name Your Demon - Box Set
NAME YOUR DEMON is an urban fantasy and paranormal romance collection showcasing 15 first-in-series reads from New York Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling Authors. Many of the works have never been seen in a boxed set before, and one written especially for the set!
It has something for everyone—mind readers, vampires, werewolves, soul hunters, angels, demons, sorcerers, Loki, witches, and oracles.
…Just name your demon.

Pre-Order Links:

Award-Winning Author
There are three kinds of lies. Lies the fates spin as half truths. Lies of destined love. And statistics.

As a fateless, Kate Hale is immune to the first two, but the third kind of lie is her profession. After spending years as an actuary for the Traffic Department, Kate is promoted to Accidental Death Predictions. It’s all she’s worked toward, and her career is finally on track. But when an oracle delivers an impossible death prediction and insists on her help to solve the case, she might lose any chance of impressing the brass.

Her only hope comes in the form of the police liaison assigned to her department, latent werewolf Ian Becker. Becker can grant her the clearance to find answers, but he’s a wild card with a shady past who doesn’t play well with others.

Every prediction has a loophole, but if Kate can’t solve the case before the crime is fated to occur she won’t just lose her job–she’ll have the blood of an oracle on her hands.

Romancing the Null is the first book in an exciting new urban fantasy romance series. Fans of Mercy Thompson, Charley Davidson, or The Dresden Files will likely enjoy this series.

The Outlier Prophecy Series:
Romancing the Null (book one) Big Bad Becker (Novella) Conditional Probability of Attraction (book two) The Werewolf Coefficient (book three) Standard Deviation of Death (book four) Shifter Variance (book five ~ fall 2016)
~ ~ ~
About Tina Gower
 Tina Gower grew up in a small community in Northern California that proudly boasts of having more cows than people. She raised guide dogs for the blind, is dyslexic, and can shoot a gun or bow and miraculously never hit the target (which at some point becomes a statistical improbability). Tina also won the Writers of the Future, the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense (paranormal category), and was nominated for the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart (writing as Alice Faris). She has professionally published several short stories in a variety of magazines. Tina is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DeFiore and Company.
~ ~ ~

Full Box Set Includes: 
1.THE THOUGHT READERS by Dima Zales, New York Times Bestselling Author
2.VENGEANCE BE MINE by Louisa Lo, First Time Featured in a Box Set
3.SECRETS OF THE HOLLOWS by Nicole Morgan, Brand NEW Story
4.DISCERN by Andrea Pearson, First Time Featured in a Box Set
5.WINGS OF HOPE by Pippa DaCosta, First Time Featured in a Box Set
6.ANGEL VINDICATED by Viola Estrella, First Time Featured in a Box Set
7.TAKEN by Laxmi Hariharan, New York Times Bestselling Author
8.TUTORING THE WOLF by Jacqueline Sweet, USA Today Bestselling Author
9.WOLVES: I BRING THE FIRE PART 1 by C. Gockel, USA Today Bestselling Author
10.SOUL TIES by LJ Swallow, USA Today Bestselling Author
11.ROMANCING THE NULL by Tina Gower, Award-Winning Author
12.CRIMSON SHADOW: NOIR by Nathan Squiers, International Bestselling and Award-Winning Author
13.A TOUCH OF DARKNESS by Yelena Casale & Tina Moss, Award-Winning Authors
14.SEE YOU IN HELL by Demelza Carlton, International Bestselling and Award-Winning Author

A captivating fantasy by Dima Zales, New York Times Bestselling Author

Friday, January 13, 2017


So excited to feature this Scottsdale author! 

Title: Turn Towards the Sun
Author: Jennifer Domenico
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
This book is the first in a trilogy. It contains adult language and content.
Ava Bradshaw is stuck in mid-flight. On the edge of her thirtieth birthday, she finally ends a devastatingly bad relationship that left her wounded and insecure. With a plane ticket in her hand, she sets out to make a life for herself in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.
What she didn’t plan on was meeting the intense Italian architect Enzo Milano, a local celebrity in Phoenix. The handsome and commanding Enzo sweeps the passionate and vibrant Ava into his world of galas, prestige, luxury, and money.
Enzo is charming, breathtakingly gorgeous, and a self-made American success story. He’s also a seasoned womanizer who has zero interest in relationships. Still, he can’t deny there is something special about Ava and considers trying an old-fashioned romance.
Sexy, humorous, and touching, Turn Towards the Sun will resonate with any woman whose life didn’t quite work out as she planned.
One day, many months ago, Jennifer Domenico went to sleep and a beautiful love story played out in her dreams.
When she awoke, she felt compelled to write it down. So she did. The result was her first novel, Turn Towards the Sun and a writing career was born.
Ms. Domenico lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her very Italian husband, a dog that adores her, two cats that tolerate her, and a wicked sweet tooth.

Author Links:
Instagram: jendomenicowords
Buy Links:
~Book One: Turn Towards the Sun -
~Book Two: After the Rain -
~Book Three: Forever in Bloom -
Other books by Jennifer Domenico:
Have my Heart- A Novella -
Beautifully Twisted -
Chasing Desire -
Londyn Falls -
Break Me Down -
If I Told You -
At First Glance -
When I Found You -

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


I met Jill Diamond at last year's CLA conference, and was immediately struck by her imaginative writing and refreshing main characters. This book is the first in the Lou Lou and Pea series, and I look forward to many more. Readers (especially librarians!) should snatch this series up if they haven't already.

1. Pea is proper, Lou Lou is not!
2. Lou Lou loves gardening, Pea prefers art.
3. But neither can turn down an adventure...

On Friday afternoons, the girls get together in Lou Lou's backyard garden for their PSPP (post-school pre-parents) tea parties. They chat about the school week, discuss Pea's latest fashions, and plot the weekend's activities.

But all plans go out the window when a series of small crimes crop up around El Corazón, their quirky neighborhood, right before the Día de los Muertos procession. First, Pea's cousin's quinceañera dress is tragically ruined. Then Lou Lou's beloved camellia bush, Pinky, suffers a serious blow. When clues start to appear in the painted murals around their community, these best friends must join forces - both floral expertise and artistic genius - to solve the mysteries.

In addition to your author career, you also practice law. In what ways, if any, do you find balance in these careers, and how do you refill your creative well?

In my law career, what I do most frequently - and the part of being an attorney that I enjoy the most - is legal writing. Middle grade fiction, at least the kind I write, and legal writing couldn't be more different. One is creative and whimsical, the other is highly logical and subject to many rules (I think you can guess which is which). It's really fun for me to be able to do both in an alternating left brain/right brain sort of way. When I'm maxed out on legal writing, middle grade feels like a mini vacation and, to a certain extent, vice versa.

One of the ways in which I refill my creative well is by reading. I read a lot of picture books to my son and I try to read as many other books as possible (though, I'm admittedly a slow reader). I also love being out and about in my city, San Francisco. Lou Lou and Pea's neighborhood, El Corazón, is inspired by San Francisco's Mission District, so spending time in the Mission - even if it just means going for a casual stroll - is always creativity-boosting!

Ooh, I love San Francisco's Mission District, and the city is one of my favorite places to visit. I also love that Lou Lou and Pea have their meetings in a garden, and that they have a tea party. What inspired this, and if you could have tea with Lou Lou and Pea, what kind of food and drink would you prefer? 

I love mint tea! I'm also addicted to spicy chai with almond milk from a café in the Mission. For nibbles, I'd go for blueberry scones (because I'm originally a Maine girl). If we were branching out to cookies, I'd gobble up some gingersnaps or alfajores.

Just googled alfajores and I want to try them (and sugar skulls!) immediately. Speaking of sugar skulls, I love your website. What do you recommend to authors interested in building an online platform?

Thank you! I did it all on my own, so that's great to hear. My advice about websites is to make it easy on yourself, particularly if you are the one building/designing it. Use an online platform like Wix or Squarespace (I used Wix) that does the behind-the-scenes work for you and makes the website easy to edit and manage. Second, make the website reflect who you are as an author. I was told that websites should have lots of white space in order to look professional and be user-friendly. I ignored that advice and used a lot of color instead because that's more me and my books. Third, make sure your website includes basic relevant information - a summary and purchase links for your book(s), a contact form, author bio, events and news, etc. And fourth, a website is not the only component to building an online platform. It helps A LOT to be active on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Goodreads and probably other social media sites that I've never even heard of. A lot of authors are much better at this than I am, but I do what I can!

Wonderful advice--and I'm sure you're doing more than you think! What are some of your current projects?

I'm working on the second LOU LOU AND PEA book. I can't reveal too much, but it involves a two-hundredth birthday celebration, Pea's Abuela Josie, who is also a stunt riding vaquera, gazebos, a plethora of hats, and a lot of argyle print! I'm also writing two other middle grade novels: a serious story about a boy and his family's legacy and a not-so-serious story involving animals and magic!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, January 9, 2017

Manic Monday, Writer's Block, and Kitchen Timers

I've had a hard time getting motivated this morning. Maybe it's because the novelty of the holidays is over and now it's time to get back to work, do all the running around, etc. Cue the Bangles:

In the midst of this, I'm attempting to re-plot a short story so I can resubmit it, and I have nada. Less than nada. So to help with this Monday business, I've decided include a link to help with motivation and writer's block. In searching for Dan Roos and his kitchen timer method (which I read about in Lauren Graham's Talking as Fast As I Can), I stumbled upon this beating writer's block handout from Your Screenplay Sucks. I found this quote from E.B. White particularly fitting:

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." ~ E.B. White

Today, I'm voting to improve the world, which means yes, I will be cuing up the kitchen timer pretty much right after I've finished editing this blog post, and seeing if I can eke a plot twist out of this limp short story. (Seriously, scroll down to the kitchen timer part. Definitely worth your time.)

So happy Manic Monday, everyone. Whether you are improving the world, enjoying the world (or both), I hope this post finds you happy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IMPYRIUM by Henry H. Neff

I met Henry Neff at last year's NCIBA Fall Discovery show, where I not only learned about his Tapestry series, but I found out about IMPYRIUM, the first book in his new MG fantasy series. Anyone who loves intricate world-building should be sure to pick this one up:

For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faereginese are ripe to fall.

Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the Empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the outer realms, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them.

One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.

You are an artist as well as an author. What do you love about both mediums?

For me, they really work hand in glove. Writing involves sequence and structure, the plotting of character and story arcs that stretch across many pages and trials. I love language, its sound and cadence and that jolt of triumph I experience when the right word pops into my brain. It's hard to express the sense of pride and satisfaction I feel when I've completed a chapter and know that its bones are solid. But when I reach the end of a hefty manuscript like IMPYRIUM, I’m ready for a break from the intense focus that writing requires. I’m ready to use some different muscles and tap into a different part of my brain. I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to hold a crayon and find that it's invaluable to my process. My visual imagination shapes my story, which in turn informs the illustrations. It’s a virtuous cycle, and one that lets me recharge my creative batteries. It’s strange, but I no longer view writing and drawing as discrete pursuits. For me, they’ve become two sides of a single coin. Together, they allow me to paint whole worlds with words and images. Pursuing both isn’t just fun, it’s a compulsion that makes for better work.

And I love the world you've created. IMPYRIUM has wonderful humor and great voice. What would you say was the most enjoyable thing about writing IMPYRIUM and what was the most difficult?

I'm glad you touched upon the humor. My books tend to have big stakes and dramatic moments, and if one isn't careful that can veer into territory that's too dark and self-serious. Humor is the perfect antidote. I've found that readers are willing to go a lot further with an author if they know there will be some laughs along the way. When it comes to the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of writing IMPYRIUM, I'd say they involve the world building. It's so much fun to create a world, to brainstorm all these little aspects of its geography and politics, social classes and creatures. It's a treat, but it can also be a trap if the writer isn't discriminating about what they choose to share with the reader. Authors intent on explaining every aspect of their world—even details that aren't central to the story—can quickly become Tour Guides from Hell. I certainly didn't want to be one of those and relied on my editor's wisdom to strike the appropriate balance.

It shows. I've gotten stuck in some of those Tour Guides from Hell--I love Tolkien, but once I got into Moria, I couldn't get out again. Your other series, The Tapestry, follows the adventures of Max McDaniels. In what ways did Max's world develop, and what would you say influenced his story the most? 

IMPYRIUM is built on The Tapestry's world but takes place 3,000 years after Max's tale concluded. Those familiar with The Tapestry know that our world changes dramatically over the course of that story's five books. My goal in that series was to deconstruct the world we know and build a fantasy setting upon its foundations; to combine the familiar with the new and strange. When The Tapestry concluded, mankind is entering a fundamentally new age — an age where magic is no longer confined to the fringes and humans will have to share this world with other intelligent beings. As far as what influenced Max's tale, it's really a combination of Irish mythology (Max is a modern incarnation of the hero/demigod Cúchulain) with some philosophical questions regarding identity and the use/temptations of power. SPOILER ALERT: As the Dàme Rascha says in IMPYRIUM, The Hound's greatest act was not slaying Astaroth but leaving this world before he became its master...

I love the Irish mythology connections! The sequel to IMPYRIUM doesn't have a title yet, but is there anything you can tell us about it?

I don’t want to give away too much, but rest assured there are political upheavals, an ancient sect of demons, a machine that can dispel magic, and two friends trying to keep the realm from splitting at the seams. We might even visit another world. In my biased opinion, Book Two is a really fun blend of fantasy, horror, and even humor. Several chapters are written from the villain’s perspective and I’ll only say that necromancers have a dark but surprisingly funny take on the absurd situations that can arise in their profession. It can be rather awkward to forget whose identity you’ve stolen...

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday Feature: THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT by Chelsea Sedoti

Happy New Year to all! Tomorrow, on January 3, THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT will hit the pavement! I featured it back in November, and I can't wait for this story to get into the hands of readers:

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.

Get yours now: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound