Tuesday, October 16, 2018

NOUMENON by Marina J. Lostetter

I've followed Marina J. Lostetter for a long time, and her series, Noumenon, explores what happens when the human experience stretches to its ultimate limits. Have a look:

In 2088, humankind is at last ready to explore beyond Earth’s solar system. But one uncertainty remains: Where do we go?

Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer has an idea. He’s discovered an anomalous star that appears to defy the laws of physics, and proposes the creation of a deep-space mission to find out whether the star is a weird natural phenomenon, or something manufactured.

The journey will take eons. In order to maintain the genetic talent of the original crew, humankind’s greatest ambition—to explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy—is undertaken by clones. But a clone is not a perfect copy, and each new generation has its own quirks, desires, and neuroses. As the centuries fly by, the society living aboard the nine ships (designated “Convoy Seven”) changes and evolves, but their mission remains the same: to reach Reggie’s mysterious star and explore its origins—and implications.

Generations ago, Convoy Seven and I.C.C. left Earth on a mission that would take them far beyond the solar system. Launched by the Planet United Consortium, a global group formed to pursue cooperative Earth-wide interests in deep space, nine ships headed into the unknown to explore a distant star called LQ Pyx.

Eons later, the convoy has returned to LQ Pyx to begin work on the Web, the alien megastructure that covers the star. Is it a Dyson Sphere, designed to power a civilization as everyone believes—or something far more sinister?

Meanwhile, Planet United’s littlest convoy, long thought to be lost, reemerges in a different sector of deep space. What they discover holds the answers to unlocking the Web’s greater purpose.

Each convoy possesses a piece of the Web’s puzzle . . . but they may not be able to bring those pieces together and uncover the structure’s true nature before it’s too late.

According to your website, you are represented by DongWon Song of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. What do you love most about your agent and why? 

 DongWon is an advocate first and foremost, and is very communicative, which is great.  His experience as an editor has been invaluable to me personally, and he is extremely business and marketing savvy. Best of all, he's done a great job connecting his clients to one another, so we kind of have a built-in support system of people who are all going through the same processes.  Go #TeamDongWon!

Support systems are so necessary. It's also interesting how Noumenon explores the realities that come with being born into myriads of different lives. How are the story's characters shaped by this experience, and in what ways, if any, does it impact their empathy? 

 I think, on the outset, it effects the reader's empathy more than the characters'.  The clones know they are clones, but they don't retain memories from the clones that came before them, they really only inherit their genes and their job, so there isn't much that's different for them than for people that aren't clones.  The reader, however, gets a long-term sense of personal connection, even though the characters are technically different people from chapter to chapter.

 But, as time goes on for the convoy, and the generations pile up, people do start to connect more emotionally with their clone ancestors.  I think being able to look back over thousands of years of records and see your face staring back--even if it's not strictly you--would certainly change your relationship with things like existentialism, sense of mortality, and the importance of other people.  I've tried to write most characters in the Noumenon series as exceptionally empathetic--even the AI--so, yes, I do believe the social structure aboard the convoy does have a long-term positive effect on their empathy.

Indeed! What was your experience writing the sequel, Noumenon Infinity, and was there anything that surprised you? 

Noumenon Infinity more or less follows the same structure (a series of vignettes) as Noumenon, but with one exception: it has two alternating storylines that follow two separate deep-space convoys.  Originally, I'd only planned to write about one of those convoys in the sequel, Convoy Twelve.  But my editor, David Pomerico, suggested some edits for book one that really necessitated the continuation of Convoy Seven's story into book two, which I think ultimately made both books much stronger.

What a fantastic way to explore how storylines can further intertwine. What are some of your current projects?

I recently sold a fantasy series to Tor.  The first book is THE MASKS OF ARKENSYRE, in which the enchanted death mask of a mass murder is stolen, effectively raising him from the dead and unleashing his reign of terror once more.  This series is full of magical artifacts, mystery, monsters, and mayhem.  I had a great chat with my editor, Will Hinton, and I'm very eager to dive into revisions.  In the meantime, I've been working on a new sci-fi novel.  The sale hasn't been officially announced yet, but I think fans of Noumenon and Noumenon Infinity will be excited!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

FRAT GIRL by Kiley Roache

I met Kiley Roache at a book event and was immediately enthralled with the premise for FRAT GIRL. Have a look:

Sometimes the F-word can have more than one meaning….

For Cassandra Davis, the F-word is fraternity—specifically Delta Tau Chi, a house on probation and on the verge of being banned from campus. Accused of offensive, sexist behavior, they have one year to clean up their act. For the DTC brothers, the F-word is feminist—the type of person who writes articles in the school paper about why they should lose their home.

With one shot at a scholarship to attend the university of her dreams, Cassie pitches a research project: to pledge Delta Tau Chi and provide proof of their misogynistic behavior. They’re frat boys. She knows exactly what to expect once she gets there. Exposing them should be a piece of cake.

But the boys of Delta Tau Chi have their own agenda, and fellow pledge Jordan Louis is certainly more than the tank top wearing “bro” Cassie expected to find. With her heart and her future tangled in the web of her own making, Cassie is forced to realize that the F-word might not be as simple as she thought after all.

Your first book was published a few months before you graduated college. What was it like finishing college and gearing up for the book's release at the same time, and what strategies, if any, help you find balance when things get hectic? 

 It was challenging, but it was also very exciting to still be at Stanford when the book came out, because I had all my college friends by my side to celebrate this milestone. That being said, I definitely had to practice time management both when I was writing Frat Girl and my second book, The Dating Game, while in college, and when preparing for the launch. One strategy I used was making sure to set aside certain times during the weeks for writing. I put it in my Google calendar and treated it like another class I had to go to. If I just waited until the end of the day to write, I might’ve watched Netflix or gone to sleep instead. But if I set aside 12:30-2:20 between classes to write, I would do it.

Sounds like a good strategy. And I love the voice in FRAT GIRL. What do you think makes a good writing voice? 

I think honesty and authenticity. In my writing, I always try to reflect the way my friends and I speak. My advice is to trust yourself and try to tell it how it is—like you are talking to your best friend. I had an amazing English teacher my sophomore year of high school, Ms. Garcia. She told us that great writing expressed complex ideas in an accessible way. She advised us to aim for that, rather than making our writing needlessly complex with unnecessarily large words or ambiguous phrasing. I have tried to follow that advice in all my writing since.

Such great advice. My English teacher in high school was also a big proponent of EUW (Eliminate Unnecessary Words). Completely changed the way I wrote. You've also written pieces for the SF Gate and the Huffington Post. What do you love most about journalism work? 

 I love meeting new people and hearing new perspectives. Whether it be a light story about a new movie or concert or something more serious, like religion, flooding, or body image, I learn so much every time I talk to a source. It is a great privilege to get to talk to people who have direct experience with something, learn about it, and then write about it.

Indeed. What are some of your current projects?  

 My second book, The Dating Game, will be out March 26! It’s the story of three Warren University freshman, Sara, Robbie and Braden, who create a dating app for a class project. The app becomes wildly successful on campus and beyond and even draws the interest of investors. But as it grows the creators start to question if the platform, which ranks users by desirability, is really a good idea after all. To make matters even more complicated, they also find themselves in romantic entanglements of their own. Think The Social Network, with a romantic twist!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Release Feature and Review: BLANCA & ROJA by Anna-Marie McLemore

Ever since I read an ARC of BLANCA & ROJA, I've shared how much I love it with pretty much anyone who will listen. I'm ecstatic to announce that this beautiful book is out today. It's not only intricately woven, well-written, and crafted, it also confronts issues like identity and colorism.

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.


Swan Lake meets Snow White and Rose Red in this magical realism story that explores how people find their true identity in a world of restrictive paradigms. The setting is rich with literary, symbolic detail, and the characters are not only fully fleshed out, but their journey of self-discovery is one that today’s teens are likely to identify with. The theme of identity is explored in an especially poignant way, both through metaphor (a boy turning in to a bear, girls afraid of turning into swans) and perceptions shaded through different points of view. This is especially true with the character of Page Ashby--a gender fluid individual who discovers that self and beauty have more to do with what you become, than what you are told you are, and that who you are naturally is more beautiful than what people try to mold you into. In another example, though both Blanca and Roja are Chicanx, they deal with very real struggles that come with that distinction. Roja knows that others perceive her has a troublemaker, and has a hard time breaking free of that narrative--especially with her meek sister Blanca. Blanca, meanwhile, only perceives herself as being not quite enough of anything to be distinctive--a burden that a lot of people, especially people of color, often bear. Most importantly, this story shows the importance of exploring the beauty within oneself--finding the values that hold true no matter what the outside world perceives. Many people struggle with what they should be doing, rather than exploring what is authentic within themselves--and this book will offer a necessary mirror into that. The style of the book, like all of Anna-Marie McLemore's other novels, is remnant of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a spark of wit. This book not only deserves its place on the shelf, but in the hands of as many readers as possible.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here

Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday Feature: Author Ashley Blooms

A bit of a funny story...I could have swore that I met Ashley Blooms at WorldCon this year. However, when I emailed her I found out that, no, we had not, in fact, met. However, the premise of her novel, EVERY BONE A PRAYER intrigued me, and I wanted to find out more about Ashley and her writing process.
You signed with your agent, Alexandra Levick, back in July. How did you know she was the right agent for you?

This is a great question, especially since I was so nervous during the querying process. The thing that worried me most was how I would know when I found the right agent. How could I ever be totally sure that I had found the right person to represent my work?

 But then I spoke with Allie on the phone. She called to make a formal offer of representation, but also to talk to me about my novel and her process and her goals as an agent. We talked for about an hour that first time and the more that we spoke, the easier it became. We laughed and joked and talked about why we were in this business as agent and writer. She told me what she loved most about my novel and the things she thought could be strengthened. She seemed to be the perfect balance between passion and practical business savvy. Allie shares my belief that stories are powerful things with enormous potential to do good in the world. She cares deeply about many of the same issues that fuel my work, like the inner lives of women, trauma and violence and how we work through pain toward something hopeful, and a love for language in all its flexibility and beauty.

 When we ended the call that day, I already knew that I wanted to work with Allie. I believed with all my heart that she cared about my book. That she really understood what I was trying to do and wanted to help me make it stronger. I believed that she would fight to find the right home for my novel and would stick by me and support my future projects. I trusted her then and I still do now.

 So all that worrying and confusion turned out to be dispelled by a single phone call with the right agent. I suppose it’s like a lot of scary choices that I’ve made in life—I just had to listen to my gut.

A very important thing to do. You've also published short stories in Shimmer and Strange Horizons. What do you love most about writing short fiction and in what ways, if any, do you feel it's helped you grow as a writer?

 I feel like I appreciate short fiction even more after spending so much of the last year working on my novel. I love that short fiction ends. That it requires brevity and that it can hold so much in a few thousand words. Sometimes the sheer size and scope of the novel could be overwhelming, but with short stories, the moments when I feel lost are more bearable. I’ve learned to appreciate that feeling of wandering, stumbling through the forest unsure of where the path went and then, suddenly, there, a clearing, suddenly, an end.

 Short stories have also taught me to get to the point, which is something I needed to learn, and am learning still. They’ve taught me how to find the heart of my work, how to interrogate what my characters want and make that evident. Short fiction has taught me a lot about structure and holding my reader’s interest and that sometimes what brought me into the story as a writer is not the same thing that will lure my reader into the story.

Those are definitely some helpful lessons! What inspired your book, EVERY BONE A PRAYER, and what did you learn from writing it? 

 The book actually grew out of a short story that I wrote called “Fallow”, which was published in the May 2017 issue of Shimmer. In that story I wanted to explore the repercussions of sexual abuse. As a survivor, it’s a topic that’s very close to me but also deeply complicated.

Once I finished the story I couldn’t stop thinking about Misty. I wanted to write about how she coped with what happened to her and all the many influences and forces that were working to keep her silent. I wanted to write about the relationship between memory and trauma and identity.

 I learned so much about myself as a writer and a person from writing this book. I learned that I often have to write something the wrong way before I realize what it needed all along. I learned how to keep going even when I felt like I’d ruined the whole thing and like I had no idea what I was doing, because I could fix that later, because there’s always revision. I learned how to spot the moments when I flinched away from something that needed to be there—a scene or a description or an interaction. Writing this book helped me come to terms with my own past and my own struggle to understand myself. Misty’s curiosity and compassion was contagious for me and made me take a harder look at the ways in which I could be kinder to myself. I learned there is no easy answer to the way we come to know ourself, and that it’s sticky and circuitous and often contradictory, and that translating that experience into words was often the same.

 I think the next novel I write will be infinitely better because I wrote this one and I know that I’m a better person for it.

Indeed. What are some of your current projects?

 I’ve been working on short stories for a few weeks now and dabbling with essays, but I think I’ll be diving into a new novel soon. I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment.

Ashley Blooms was born and raised in Cutshin, Kentucky. She received her MFA as a John and Renee Grisham Fellow at the University of Mississippi. She’s been awarded scholarships from the Clarion Writer’s Workshop and Appalachian Writer’s Workshop, served as fiction editor for the Yalobusha Review, and worked as an editorial intern and first reader for Tor.com. Her stories have appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and Shimmer, among others. Her nonfiction has appeared in the Oxford American.

She currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi with her husband and their dog, Alfie. She’s at work on a novel & collection of essays.

You can find her online at Twitter.

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

THE MEGAROTHKE by Robert Ashcroft

I got to know Robert Ashcroft at this year's WorldCon, and his insights were extremely helpful. His book, THE MEGAROTHKE, is a gripping sci-fi/horror:

Seven years after the limitless depths of the Hollow War decimated Earth, leaving only 50,000 humans to fight for survival in Los Angeles, Theo Abrams is sent on a mission to destroy the enigmatic being that initiated this apocalypse, confronting the fact that humanity's yearning to transcend reality caused its downfall . . .

According to your website bio, you are trained as cryptologic linguist. Can you explain?

 A cryptologic linguist is someone who listens to enemy communications in a foreign language. While I can't talk a lot about my experiences, I can say that I was qualified in Korean and Spanish. A big part of what influenced The Megarothke came from simply living in an active duty environment. It's a foreign culture to most Americans, but unlike traveling, it's a culture that demands immediate assimilation and obedience.

Imagine, for example, if you had to go to boot camp before flying to Tokyo or Paris. A French waiter might refuse to serve you, but they aren’t going to scream at you and make your whole family do push-ups. We trample over other etiquettes while on vacation, but in uniform, you can't walk inside a building without taking off your hat. There is a joke that you have to use sunscreen because a sunburn would constitute damage to government property. This mentality runs very deep.

While serving, you also don't have to think about a lot of societal problems. You don't have to shop or worry about being laid off. But on the other hand, you feel responsible for what's happening, even when it's not you, and the army doesn't have a perfect track record. What's also amazing to me about our military situation is the lack of any nuanced scrutiny by the American public. We're either faultless heroes or high school drop-outs/criminals. The cultural divide is huge, and there really isn't enough productive discussion around our greater, global foreign policy.

That being said, I understand. We're busy. We're trying to get by. We don't have a lot of access to where the decisions are being made. This sense of frustration is what I wanted to articulate with Theo, the main character. He is not someone that is in place to make a difference, even when he sees things he knows need to change. All he can really do is press forward and try to protect his friends and family.

Indeed. THE MEGAROTHKE explores the horrors of war, and how people try to rebuild after it. What do you hope readers gain from Theo and his experiences?

 Oh shoot. I may have answered a lot of this in the previous question. I want people to stop and consider where our money and energy goes as a culture. Self-gratification and violence are over-budgeted, in my opinion.

On another note, I do think that in the stages of post-apocalyptic rebuilding, most cities would be authoritarian. Democracy is a lot of work and very hard to maintain. Anyone who doesn’t believe that humans like authoritarian regimes has never paid $65 a month to an HOA just to receive passive aggressive snail mail about their garbage can being out on the curb. That might be over-sharing.

No such thing. In your interview with Bookpeople, you said the hardest thing about writing is, "Protecting the time and space necessary to let yourself―and sometimes force yourself―to do good work." In what ways have you found this necessary time and space?

I recently canceled my home internet. I have unlimited data on my cell phone, and can do a WiFi hotspot, so I'm not 100 percent cut off from the world. But overall, it's helped me focus to remove two devices (the television and laptop) from my list of distractions. Before that, it was so easy to bounce between all three devices. We spend our lives staring at screens connected to the internet. Within 24 hours of cutting it off, I had located solitaire. That was a big realization for me. I even searched for Space Cadet, that pinball game, but it doesn't come pre-installed.

Robert's art studio.
Apparently, we thrive on distractions! What are some of your current projects?

 I'm sort of in a short story renaissance. I also recently bought a whole bunch of paint supplies and started learning how to work with acrylics. I made a little studio in my house. My goal is to get good enough to eventually do my own artwork someday, but that’s a long way off. If anyone reading this has any tips, feel free to send them along! Plus, it's just really fun and rewarding!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

HEART OF THORNS by Bree Barton

I first learned about HEART OF THORNS and Bree Barton when I was unable to make it to her book event in Palo Alto. Boy, did I miss out. HEART OF THORNS is a story that explores what happens when we're forced to examine the darker parts of ourselves, and it is a necessary read for anyone who loves YA Fantasy:

Mia Rose wants only one thing: revenge against the Gwyrach—feared, reviled, and magical women—who killed her mother. After years training under her father’s infamous Hunters, Mia is ready. She will scour the four kingdoms, find her mother’s murderer, and enact the Hunters’ Creed: heart for a heart, life for a life.

But when Mia is thrust into the last role she ever wanted—promised wife to the future king—she plots a daring escape. On her wedding night, Mia discovers something she never imagined: She may be a Huntress, but she’s also a Gwyrach. As the truth comes to light, Mia must untangle the secrets of her own past. Now if she wants to survive, Mia must learn to trust her heart . . . even if it kills her.

I love your YouTube channel. What led to it, and what you do love most about putting videos together?  

I’m so glad you enjoy my videos! Thank you for watching. As you’ve probably seen, YouTube is a great outlet for my sillier side, which doesn’t always get full expression in my fantasy. I mean, I hope there’s humor in HoT—if I ever write something with zero humor, please revoke my writer’s license—but I’m writing about misogyny, abuse of power, and severed hands. Not exactly a laugh riot, you know?

When I’m not writing dark and horrific things, I’m a pretty goofy person. The YouTube videos are a chance for me to play. I was a theater nerd all throughout high school and college, and when I first moved to LA, I did a couple of commercials and short films, as well as improv comedy shows every week. So when I made my little “Meet Bree Barton” author video last year, I realized how much I missed it. I did a new video each day for BookTubeAThon 2017 and was totally hooked. Over the coming months, the videos were a way for me to goof off, blow off steam, and talk honestly about my triumphs/struggles/fears as a writer.

What I love most is when the unexpected happens and I catch it on film—like when my dog punched me in the face. Definitely NOT planned. I’m also a sucker for costumes. One of my all-time favorite videos is when I dressed up as a vampire—and those damn teeth kept falling out of my mouth! Since I am a lover of costumes, I also force my dog to wear them. To date he has played Harry Potter, Juliet, Romeo, and Sidewalk Face Puncher. Unlike me, he does not enjoy the cinematic arts.

There's nothing like the unexpected! HEART OF THORNS confronts the inner conflict that happens when we discover parts of ourselves that we don't like. How did you know that this was something Mia needed to grapple with? 

What a brilliant question. You’ve inspired me to be bold—and vulnerable—in my answer. Here goes.

As I’ve said at many of my book events: Mia is a bad feminist. And not the Roxane Gay variety! Sometimes I’m a bad feminist, too. No matter how evolved we think we are, we are all products of our culture, and we can’t escape the influence of these long held and deeply engrained beliefs. I don’t like acknowledging the places where I am inadvertently sexist and misogynist—but as I wrote the character of Mia, I had to. I had to confront my own feelings toward my female friends who have chosen the marriage/motherhood path when I’ve chosen my career. Both of those paths are great! It’s my judgment of another woman’s choice that’s the problem.

Recently I turned on the radio and listened to a woman vehemently calling a man to account. After almost ten minutes of her talking and cutting the man off every time he tried to speak, I had the thought: “Why is she harping on? I wish she’d just be quiet.” I was immediately ashamed. I still am. I couldn’t believe that was my knee-jerk response to a powerful woman strongly and passionately expressing her beliefs. A U.S. Senator, no less: I was listening to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

I think it’s important that we face these moments rather than bury them. Hence why I’m confessing it here. Shame can be a tool for learning—but not unless we shine light on it, and try in earnest to source where these words and the underlying belief systems came from. One of the ways I have interrogated my own failures as a feminist is to have Mia embody similar ones, then send her on a journey to unravel the truth from the lies. She has to grapple with these deeply problematic parts of herself to become a better, wiser, kinder person. So do I.

Me too. Your op-ed piece for Tiny Buddha, "The Greatest Lesson We Learn When Someone Is Unkind" talks about how to navigate a world filled with unkindness. What is your favorite way to show kindness to others? 

Thank you for digging up that piece from the eternal re-occurrence of the internet! More than five years later, I still feel proud of it—and I still have that blue dress hanging in my closet.

I think my favorite way of showing kindness is by sharing the things I love. Books, obviously—I’ve given away a couple dozen YA books this year through my monthly author newsletter, many written by my dear friends. I love doing that! Dancing and writing have both been really important to me, especially having lived with depression for 20+ years, so launching my free Rock ’n’ Write classes has been my attempt to make kindness a weekly gig. Getting to dance, write, and connect with a roomful of brilliant, talented, honest teen girls is a kindness to ME!

I also like writing personalized letters/thank you cards whenever I can. One year my New Year’s Resolution was to spend every day in January meditating on one person I’m grateful for, then writing them a letter or card (sometimes an email!) to tell them what I love about them. I should probably do that again.

Here’s a related story, which also ties in to the last question. There was a woman I met more than a decade ago, a friend I hung out with for a few months.  I liked her but didn’t know her all that well; we went separate ways and haven’t seen each other since. After my sister was sexually assaulted earlier this year, I replayed some of my interactions with this woman and regretted that I had not been a better friend and ally while she was going through a tough time. I let my own selfishness and judgment get in the way.

Twelve years after the fact, I sent her an apology letter, telling her I was sorry I didn’t have her back when I should have. That I thought she was so lovely and smart and fun and strong, and I wished I could go back and do things differently. I told her she never had to respond to my email, but I needed her to know I would always regret not being a better friend.

She did write back—six months later, to tell me my email came at exactly the right time. That she stopped breathing when she read it, because something clicked about her prior relationships…and her current one. That one month to the day after reading my email, she walked out of her violent marriage—and never went back. She wrote to tell me she was finally safe, as were her children. That she hoped I didn’t live with regret, because no matter how much I felt like I had failed her all those years ago, I had helped save her twelve years later.

I still cry when I talk about it. It makes me want to tell anyone and everyone: if there are things you need to say to people, things you wonder if you should apologize for, say them. Write that apology letter. Reach out and tell people what they mean to you. You never know when your words might arrive at exactly the right time.

What an amazing and powerful story! And it's true; we can often help other people in more ways than we realize. The second book in the trilogy, TEARS OF FROST, will debut sometime next year. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet? 

Yes, the title was just announced! I'm a sucker for a good acronym. If book1 was HoT, I couldn’t resist book2 being ToF. A hot tough trilogy, amirite?

The majority of TEARS OF FROST takes place in the snow kingdom, a land of witches and ogres, mystical smoke-swathed lagoons, and messages etched in light across the night sky. The book also draws on some very twisty Yuletide myths I dug up on a research trip to Iceland, which is why I’m extra excited the book will come out in November 2019: just in time for the holidays! It’s a darker book in many ways, but there’s a new character who adds [*THEIR, no spoilers] own dash of irreverent humor, and a very different voice than Mia’s verbose, introspective style. Also, I just saw the cover, and it’s the stuff dreams are made of. Or should I say, nightmares…

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.

Release Feature: RABBIT & ROBOT by Andrew Smith

Back in June, Andrew Smith answered some questions about RABBIT & ROBOT, which, I'm excited to announce, was just released into the world:

Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly insane and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys have to wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.

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…

This post can also be viewed here

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: JessicaBrody.com, Follow her on Twitter @JessicaBrody, or on Instagram @JessicaBrody

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For more ordering links, click here.

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

This post can also be viewed here.

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 Amazon.ca (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

This post can also be viewed here.

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 ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com 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 ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.