Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Henrietta the Dragon Slayer series by Beth Barany

Beth Barany was one of my first author interviews back in 2012. I happened to meet her at a local event recently, where I found out the book I featured, HENRIETTA THE DRAGON SLAYER, is now a completed trilogy. Have a look:

Henrietta, the legendary Dragon Slayer of the Kingdom of Bleuve, can't stomach the thought of one more kill. Yet, in order to save her dying mentor, she must go on one last quest. But will misfit companions, seasickness, and an ego maniacal king derail the quest for the healing stone? And will she be able to cut past her conscience and kill the dragon?

What if everyone you loved was threatened by a force you couldn't see or fight?

Henrietta the legendary dragon slayer wants to return to her village for a heroes’ welcome. But an unknown sorcerer rides after her and her Dragon Stone and aims to destroy everyone she cares about. Can she claim her newfound powers sparked by the Dragon Stone and keep her loved ones safe, or will the sorcerer destroy everyone and everything she loves?

Franc will follow Henrietta anywhere. But on a mission to find allies among the Horse People, he is kidnapped and taken to the worst place possible -- the stronghold of the evil sorcerer Eyvindir. Will he find the strength and courage to survive, and fight again at Henrietta's side?

Paulette, the young fire witch, must stand trial for a murder committed out of desperation. In despair at her imprisonment and betrayal by her dearest friend, Jaxter, she escapes and flees to the frigid, forbidden land of Varangia to find a witch powerful enough to help her finally master fire. But what must she give up to gain the power to aid her friends?

Jaxter, now a king, must come to terms with the heavy responsibilities of ruling the Oro Islands, newly emerged from over 75 years of evil rule. This means doing right, even when it's as difficult as placing someone he loves in a prison cell. Worse, the marauding Varangians press at his borders. He must find a way to defend his home, or none of them will survive.

Will Henrietta and her friends be able to stop the ruthless sorcerer from obliterating her, claiming the Dragon Stone, and ruling over the Five Kingdoms?

In our last interview (from 2012), you said you were working on a contemporary paranormal story for teens set at Sonoma Valley High. What, if anything, became of this story? 

I finished the story and sent the first three chapters to my critique group. They poked a lot of holes in it, making many good points. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to resolve the problems they pointed out, so I set this book aside. It’s been waiting on the back burner ever since while I work on other projects that are more ready to be born. I’m not sure when I’ll go back to it, but I will someday. It’s still a project near to my heart.

Mine too. I'm sure every book is meant to come in its own time. HENRIETTA AND THE BATTLE OF THE HORSE MESA is the final book in the Henrietta the Dragon Slayer series. How did Henrietta's story develop in ways you didn't expect? 

When I started the Henrietta the Dragon Slayer series, I had no idea how it would develop. I only knew I wanted to create a wonderful adventure with a strong woman as the main character. What I didn’t expect was how Henrietta would grow from being a loner to being part of a group of people she cares very much about. I also didn’t expect the trilogy to take 13 years to write and publish. I had no idea how long it would take! Lastly, I didn’t expect that more Henrietta stories would want to burst forth, even today. You can read the first chapter of the award-winning first book in the series, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer here:

Sounds like Henrietta went on The Heroine's Journey! You've also said that it is important to give (and receive) critique that both encourages writers to trust their instincts while allowing them to pay close attention to the craft of writing. Is this still true, and in what ways, if any, can it be difficult for writers to maintain this kind of balanced mindset?

Yes, I think it’s still true that it is important to give and receive critique that both encourages writers to trust their instincts while allowing them to play close attention to the craft of writing.

It can be difficult for writers to maintain this kind of balanced mindset. As to what ways, if any, it be difficult for writers to maintain this kind of balanced mindset… It’s easy to take critiques as a deep jab to the soul and feel that you’re a bad writer, therefore a bad person. If you fall into that abyss, it’s easy to stop writing because you think, Why bother? What’s the point? Some writers get lost here, give up on writing, and never recover. Other writers get stuck on trying to write the way their critique partners suggest, thinking that those people’s feedback is gospel, and most be followed to the letter, even if the feedback is contradictory. I go deep into more ways in which writers twist themselves up in knots in this two-part series here:

 I think the first step to finding balance is to think deeply about what emotional impact you want your story to have on your reader. That is what we write toward.

It’s up to the author to think about the desired emotional impact they want each scene and the overall story to have. With that feeling state in mind, you can make character, story, and craft choices. And if you’re not sure if your choices in writing craft generate the impact you want, then you test your work on trusted readers and writing partners.

Sometimes creating the emotional effect you want means you break writing rules or sentence structure rules or grammar rules. If your choices serve the overall emotional impact, it’s our job as creative writers is to break those rules in the service of telling an awesome story.

As a writing coach and teacher, I help you find your voice and your creative process, all in service of creating fabulous stories for your readers. To that end, I offer classes, workshops, and other resources for novelists here:

Excellent tips. What are some of your current projects?

Currently I’m working on a four-book science-fiction mystery series. I wrote the books a few years ago and have been revising them ever since so that I can release the series in quick succession. I’m still working out the specific release dates. More details here:

As a passion project I am also writing TV scripts for Henrietta Dragon Slayer series continuing adventures. I wrote one script last year and plan to write another this year. My daydream is to produce these myself. Since it’s a passion project, I’m taking my time with it.

I’ve also been planning my next Christmas elf paranormal romance story in my Touchstone series. There are already five books in the series of magical tales of romance. More details here:

Lastly, on the back burner I’ve been doing research into a paranormal romantic suspense series where I’m devising my own goddess religion and retelling of how the goddess-oriented societies got squashed in ancient human history. I have the first book in that series written and I am planning out nine more. (Two of the current Touchstone books are prequels to this series: Touchstone of Love and Labyrinth of Love and Roses.


Award winning author, Beth Barany writes in several genres including young adult adventure fantasy, paranormal romance, and soon science fiction mysteries. Inspired by living abroad in France and Quebec, she loves creating magical tales of romance, mystery, and adventure that empower women and girls to be the heroes of their own lives.

For fun, Beth enjoys walking her neighborhood, gardening on her patio, and watching movies and traveling with her husband, author Ezra Barany. They live in Oakland, California with a piano, their cats, and over 1,000 books.

When not writing or playing, Beth runs her own company helping novelists as a book coach, speaker, and teacher to help them write, market, and publish their books to the delight of their readers.

Get notified with Beth releases her books here:

Connect on Social Media:

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019


When I first saw THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA on, I knew I had to feature it. It's a beautiful story about friendship, redemption, and justice by Brenda Woods, a Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author.

On Gabriel's twelfth birthday, he gets a new bike--and is so excited that he accidentally rides it right into the path of a car. Fortunately, a Black man named Meriwether pushes him out of the way just in time, and fixes his damaged bike. As a thank you, Gabriel gets him a job at his dad's auto shop. Gabriel's dad hires him with some hesitation, however, anticipating trouble with the other mechanic, who makes no secret of his racist opinions.

Gabriel and Meriwether become friends, and Gabriel learns that Meriwether drove a tank in the Army's all-Black 761st Tank Battalion in WWII. Meriwether is proud of his service, but has to keep it a secret because talking about it could be dangerous. Sadly, danger finds Meriwether, anyway, when his family receives a frightening threat. The South being the way it is, there's no guarantee that the police will help--and Gabriel doesn't know what will happen if Meriwether feels forced to take the law into his own hands.

According to your website bio, you were stung by a nest of hornets at the age of three. How did this come about, and what do you remember about it? 

I remember it vividly as it was pretty traumatic.  We were living in Ohio and had gone to visit friends who lived in a rural area.  I trailed behind my older brother and another boy about his age into the woods.  My brother and the other kid found a hornet’s nest and decided to disturb it by throwing rocks.  The last thing my brother said to me was, “RUN!”  Of course, my brother and the other boy out ran me and made it to the house but the hornets overtook me.  The estimate at the hospital was 75 to 100 stings.  For many months after the attack anything that flew, even a fly, would terrify me.  I can remember having nightmares where it was happening all over again.  I’ve been told I was lucky to survive.

Wow! What a terrifying experience. In THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA, I love the friendship that buds between Gabriel and Meriwether. What about their relationship mattered most to you while writing it?

What mattered most was that the friendship be plausible…that people would believe that this was a genuine relationship that transcended age and skin color.  I also wanted the friendship to be mutually beneficial…symbiotic…as most good friendships are.  I hope I succeeded.

You definitely have. You've also said, "The beauty of our language cannot be dismissed." What about language do you find most beautiful and why? 

What I find most beautiful about language is its ability to have a sometimes astounding and intoxicating effect.  A beautifully written paragraph or novel has the ability to draw us back to it to read it again and again in much the same way a beautiful or ingenious painting or photograph forces us to stare, ponder and take pleasure.  And…each time we discover something different…more depth, a new dimension...and receive another dose of beauty.

Indeed. What are some of your current projects?

I am currently working on a middle grade novel set in 1965.  Also, I always have a painting or collage in progress.

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

For other books by Brenda Woods, click here.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Release Feature: NELIEM by Clare Di Liscia

I'm excited to announce that NELIEM by Clare Di Liscia is now available for purchase. I originally featured the book here.

Half the population of the island of Madera are dead, killed by an unforgiving and indiscriminate plague. Oriana dreams of escaping her life of ruthless cruelty from the people who now rule over those who remain. No telling whom the plague will strike next, Oriana means to find freedom for herself and her people. Drawing strength from ancient tales of her enemy, young Oriana transforms herself from victim to warrior with the help of a mysterious and powerful dagger given to her by a kind and dying boy.

Years later, during her enemy’s betrothal ritual, Ezra, a boy she has never before seen, selects her as his mate. With servitude her only option, Oriana accepts the offer. Whisked away to a seemingly perfect world, Oriana discovers sinister secrets at every turn, including the identity of Tristan, a boy with whom she shares an undeniable but impossible connection.

Why would a boy she doesn’t know wish her to be his betrothed? Why does she feel such a strong pull toward a stranger? Someone in Ezra’s family not only knows the answer to both those questions, but also about the dagger Oriana possesses. He will do anything to stop the union. Now, with everything on the line, Oriana turns inward to find the strength she needs to seize the full power of the dagger so that she may protect herself and save her people.

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Ever since I snagged an ARC of NOT EVEN BONES, the first in Rebecca Schaeffer's Market of Monsters series, I've been excited to spread word about it. I've even more ecstatic to announce that the sequel, ONLY ASHES REMAIN, is set to debut on September 3, 2019. Check it out:

Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” But when her mom brings home a live specimen, Nita decides she wants out — dissecting living people is a step too far.

But when she tries to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold on the black market in his place — because Nita herself is a supernatural being. Now Nita is on the other side of the bars, and there is no line she won’t cross to escape and make sure no one can ever capture her again.

Nita did a good deed, and it cost her everything. Now she’s going to do a lot of bad deeds to get it all back.

After escaping her kidnappers and destroying the black market where she was held captive, all Nita wants is to find a way to live her life without looking over her shoulder. But with a video of her ability to self-heal all over the dark web, Nita knows she’s still a prime target on the black market.

There’s only one way to keep herself safe.

Nita must make herself so feared that no one would ever dare come after her again. And the best way to start building her reputation? Take her revenge on Fabricio, the boy who sold Nita to her kidnappers. But killing Fabricio is harder than Nita thought it would be, even with Kovit by her side. Now caught in a game of kill or be killed, Nita will do whatever it takes to win.

What is your favorite place to travel to in the world and why?

Probably Tokyo. I did part of my university degree there, and it holds a special place in my heart, not just because it's a vibrant, wonderful city full of things to do, but because of how formative the time I spent living there was for me.

Formative experiences can influence writing, too. I love how NOT EVEN BONES deals with the complexities of morality. How did you know this would be a part of Nita's story?

I've always deeply disliked book characters that are altruistic and 'heroic' because often times their motives feel unrealistic and unrelatable. Nita was my reaction to some of those 'too good to believe' heroines. She was the antithesis of them--I wanted to write a flawed, real character who was the opposite of altruistic, but who voiced all the thoughts people don't like to admit they have.

Those are my favorite kinds of characters to read. And I love your website! What advice, if any, do you have for authors wanting to build (or expand) their online presence?

Thank you! The website is just me playing with squarespace a bit. I think the advice I'd give authors is don't dive in the deep end immediately. Sit back, absorb the various types of social media until you have a solid understanding of them before you go posting. You'll be better able to figure out what kinds of social media you like and want to do, as well as build your followers faster when you start posting because you'll understand what content people on that platform are looking for.

Great advice! The second in the Market of Monsters series, ONLY ASHES REMAIN, is due out in September 2019. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet?  

Oooooh, I can't say much, but I can promise we learn a lot more about Kovit in the second book, and we get to see Nita take her first steps into power, with... interesting.... consequences. 😈

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Working on my own Middle Grade project has inspired me to read more Middle Grade books. Month9Books has plenty of great selections, including JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY'S ANKH by Malayna Evans. This book looks like a great selection for public and school libraries alike.

Jagger Jones is a whiz kid from Chicago's South Side. Ask him anything about Ancient Egypt, and Jagger can fill hours describing all that he knows. But when he and his precocious little sister Aria fall more than three thousand years back in time to the court of Amarna, Egypt, Jagger discovers a truth that rocks his world: books don’t teach you everything there is to know.

Mummies, pyramids, and cool hieroglyphics make awesome movie props, but the ancient court of Amarna is full of over-sized scorpions, magical amulets, and evil deities determined to scare unwanted visitors away. If Jagger and Aria are to return safely home, they must find nine soul-infested gemstones, defeat an evil general, save the royal family, and figure out how to rescue themselves!

Armed only with Jagger’s knowledge of history and a few modern objects mined from his pockets and Aria’s sparkly purse, the siblings have exactly one week to solve supernatural riddles and rescue the royal family. If they can pull it off, Jagger Jones just might return to Chicago a hero.

According to your author bio, you are an Egyptologist. What led to your interest in this field of work?

Honestly, I sort of zig-zagged my way into it. When I was in middle school, I spent every free hour consuming SciFi books—Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony, Madeine L’Engle. Those fantastical worlds took me out of my small town and into universes full of magic and dragons and goddesses. Eventually, after a few twists and turns, this interest led me to ancient history. Ancient Egypt is my true love, but I definitely dated Rome, Greece and Mesopotamia before committing.

Ha, I love that analogy! In JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY'S ANKH, Jagger discovers an Ancient Egypt that allows for magic. In what ways did you build and expand on this world?

That’s a great question. As an Egyptologist, I wanted to stay true to ancient notions of magic, so many of the artifacts, beliefs, even spells are loosely based on historical evidence. Sympathetic magic and amulets, for example, were key then, so they’re key in my story. But I built on what we know about ancient Egyptian magic in several ways. For example, one thing that stands out when you study ancient Egypt is how important the sense of smell was. References to how things smell are common in stories, poetry and art. Adding scents, like a whiff of lotus blossoms or herbs, to magic spells was a way for me to expand on the world while also incorporating an important detail of the culture—a detail we can’t easily recapture.

How interesting. As a historian, aside from Egypt, do you have a favorite time period in history you'd like to visit? 

Ooooh, that’s a hard one! There are so many to choose from. I suppose if I had to choose just one, and it couldn’t be Egypt, I’d transport myself back to classical Athens (perhaps with a gender change – it wasn’t the best place to be a woman). I’d love to watch Socrates lecture, democracy debated, and goddesses like Athena worshipped.

Me too! What are some of your current projects?

Book two is fleshed out but there are loads of edits in my future. I’m working on book three now, and also playing with a new middle grade project that explores democracy—how it works, the structures that keep it in place, when and how it fails—into a light hearted story about a genie girl. Oh and I have a YA project about the only daughter of Egypt’s most successful female pharaoh. I find that I can edit a story better when I come back to it from a totally different world. It helps me see with fresh eyes. So I’m quick to start projects—some I fall in love with and some I kick to the curb quickly, but the next stages of Jagger and Aria’s story are definitely top priority.

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Release Feature: LEGEND by Nicole Conway

Happy release day to LEGEND by Nicole Conway! I first featured this series here. Be sure to get all the books in the Dragonrider Chronicles and the Dragonrider Legacy!

In a war of gods and tyrants, the will of the dragonrider must never falter.

Captured and tortured by the brutal tyrant, Argonox, Reigh’s worst fears have now been realized. Argonox has successfully twisted his mysterious dark power for a truly evil purpose—reanimating the long-deceased legendary dragonrider, Beckah Derrick, and her monstrous king drake. But Argonox’s cruelty won’t end there, and Reigh fears the worst is yet to come. Rescue is unlikely as the Tibrans prepare to make their final strike, poised to break Maldobar’s ranks of proud dragonriders once and for all.

With many of its cities already captured by the Tibran Empire, all hope now rests with Jaevid, Princess Jenna, Phillip, and their mismatched band of dragonrider allies to lead the last stand and save their kingdom. Even in such frightful times, Jaevid may find he still has a few old friends ready to take up their weapons and stand at his side again. But facing down Beckah is perhaps the one thing that might break Jaevid’s resolve. Can he really strike down the woman he used to love in order to save the kingdom?

One final battle will decide the fate of our heroes. Can the strength dragonrider prevail once again? Or will the Tibran Empire become Maldobar’s new legacy?

The Dragonrider Chronicles

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

The Dragonrider Legacy

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

FOCUSED by Alyson Gerber

As soon as I saw the premise for FOCUSED, I immediately contacted Alyson Gerber for an interview. FOCUSED received a starred review from Booklist, and it provides a necessary look into what life is like with ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 17, and it completely changed my life for the better. I have no doubts that Alyson's book will help a lot of readers.

Clea can't control her thoughts. She knows she has to do her homework . . . but she gets distracted. She knows she can't just say whatever thought comes into her head . . . but sometimes she can't help herself. She know she needs to focus . . . but how can she do that when the people around her are always chewing gum loudly or making other annoying noises?

It's starting to be a problem—not just in school, but when Clea's playing chess or just hanging out with her best friend. Other kids are starting to notice. When Clea fails one too many tests, her parents take her to be tested, and she finds out that she has ADHD, which means her attention is all over the place instead of where it needs to be.

Clea knows life can't continue the way it's been going. She's just not sure how you can fix a problem that's all in your head. But that's what she's going to have to do, to find a way to focus.

According to your website bio, you graduated from The New School with an MFA in Writing for Children. What was your most significant learning experience while getting an MFA?

When I started the MFA program at The New School, I thought I wanted to write contemporary YA. I had an almost-finished manuscript, and I was eager to get an agent, publish a book, and prove myself. But I didn’t know who I was as a reader or a writer or frankly as a person. I grew a lot during graduate school. The most significant learning experience happened during Susan Van Metre's course on middle grade novels. We were given short writing prompts during each class. The assignments helped me realize that writing from the perspective of someone in middle school came very naturally to me, and I found that was a strength I could use to guide my storytelling.

Excellent. FOCUSED centers on Clea, a girl grappling with ADHD. What is something about ADHD that you wish more people knew?

There are so many things! If I have to pick one: I wish everyone knew that people with ADHD can focus. We can be amazing at focusing when we’re interested and excited about something, but we have a difficult time regulating and controlling our attention and also our emotions.

It's true; sometimes I have to keep myself from focusing too much! Your debut novel, BRACED, is derived from your experience with scoliosis. How did you know this was a book you needed to write? 

I don’t think it was possible for me to start with a different book. I really tried to avoid writing BRACED. I didn’t want scoliosis to define me as a writer or as a person, but in so many ways that was unavoidable. My experiences being treated for scoliosis, wearing a back brace through middle school, and having my treatment pale in comparison to my mom’s treatment, had trapped me in middle school, in my brace. And what I didn’t realize until I finally started writing BRACED was that the only way out of that was to confront my pain.

I'm sure it will also reach people who understand that pain. What are some of your current projects?

I have another contemporary middle grade novel in the works! It will be published by Scholastic, and it’s definitely for fans of BRACED and FOCUSED. You will be the first to know when I can share more information!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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