Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters GIVEAWAY, and Other Must-Reads

Back in January, I featured this interview with Meredith Zeitlin, author of FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS. To celebrate the book's premiere this week, I'm hosting a giveaway of Meredith's book!

To enter: Become a follower and leave a comment on the blog, or tweet to @WriterLibrarian with the hashtag  #FrYrDisasters and share an embarrasing moment you've had!

Meredith's book is a must-read--her protagonist has sharp, funky voice, and the "unnatural disasters" she encouters are absolutely hysterical!

Below are some other must-reads:

Rachelle Gardner's agent blog is a great one to follow. Her posts, 13 Ways to Impress an Agent, and The Real Reason You're Getting Rejections should be required reading for all aspiring writers.

Also, for you Writer Librarian types (you know who you are!), be sure to check out this month's SCBWI Bulletin--page 8 has the feature Librarians as Authors: A Balancing Act, by Alexis O'Neill, author of The Recess Queen --a book I'm proud to say was part of the children's collection at my last library job.

Looking forward to your entries for Meredith's new book! Also be sure to check out the awesome banner below:

Monday, February 27, 2012

SHADOW BOUND and other fabulous books by Erin Kellison

This week I'm happy to feature Erin Kellison, who brilliantly blends dark fantasy and fairy tale elements into her stories. Her book, SHADOW BOUND, debuted in 2010 and is part of the SHADOW series:

From Goodreads:
Some people will do anything to avoid it. Even trade their immortal souls for endless existence.

Secretly, inexorably, they are infiltrating our world, sucking the essence out of unsuspecting victims with their hideous parody of a kiss.

Adam Thorne founded the Institute to study and destroy his monster of a brother, but the key to its success is held in the pale, slender hand of a woman on the run. There is something hauntingly different about Talia O’Brien, her unknowing sensuality, her uncanny way of slipping into Shadow.

This is the place between life and what comes after - a dark forest of fantasy, filled with beauty, peril, mystery. And Talia is about to open the door.

The above is not only a great example of a compelling story, but also a good, unique pitch.  Click here for an excerpt or view the trailer below:

Erin also collaborated with K.C. Klein and Jessa Slade on HOTTER ON THE EDGE, a science fiction romance anthology, with a novella entitled, "All that Glitters."

"All That Glitters"
Cheated out of a fortune by the Sol royal family, lowborn Simon Miner will do anything to get his revenge, no matter how ruthless. When Princess Mica Sol, a terraforming expert, is shot out of the sky on the way to her sister’s lavish wedding, she fears the worst—scavengers—and flees into an alien jungle to avoid capture. But the man who pursues and captures her is none other than Simon, her former lover. Passions reignite as violence rocks Sol City, and Simon and Mica must fight for love, family, and their world… or lose everything.

And finally, her new book, FIRE KISSED, will debut this July:

 Synopsis, from Goodreads:

Fae Fire
It is Kaye Brand's power to wield. But outcast from her kind, she's been selling herself to the highest bidder—money for her survival in exchange for a magic glimpse into the flames of the future.

Angel Ice
One of the angelic Order, Jack Bastian has no use for a female like Kaye, as provocative and unexpected as her blazing beauty. Yet he has no choice but to hire her to uncover the secrets of his sworn enemy and her former fiancé, Ferrol Grey.

War is inevitable between the defenders of the Order and the mage Houses who threaten to engulf the world in Shadow.
For Jack, mage-born Kaye is off limits, no matter how hot the impossible attraction between them. But in the coming darkness, beset by danger and desire, everything is about to change...

Erin is a great person as well as a skilled author. Here are her answers to some of my questions:

On your website, you mention that you wrote your first dark fantasy adventure in sixth grade. How did your enthusiasm for writing originally develop?

I’d have to credit my family. My mom read to me when I was a kid and my dad always took us to the cool science fiction and fantasy movies. I’ve always loved stories—consuming them and making them up. I asked for a typewriter for Christmas when I was nine. My parents actually got it for me, too!  I think the atmosphere in our home when I was growing up fostered a love for stories. My parents can blame themselves.

It's wonderful when parents (or other helpful influences) can inspire us to explore creativity and storytelling. What a great experience!
I love that you mix unique supernatural elements into your fiction. Where did the idea for the SHADOW series first come from, and why do you think it was successfully able to sell?

SHADOW BOUND, the first book in my Shadow series, began with the idea of using a banshee for my heroine. I loved the idea of a character, both beautiful and frightening, with one foot in this world and one foot in the fae Otherworld. To find out more about her, I wrote how she (Talia) came to be conceived. It was purely a discovery exercise. That writing became the prologue of the book, which you can read here: The prologue informed so much of the world-building that the rest was organic from there. I think Shadow Bound ultimately sold because it was different from what was being published at the time, but evoked the pathos and passions associated with the ever-popular vampires.

It sounds like you've captured some really unique elements-- and it's good to know different genres can still be marketable!
Your next release, FIRE KISSED, comes out this July. How is it different from the SHADOW series, and which aspects were the most exciting to write?

FIRE KISSED is the first book in my Shadow Kissed spin-off series and centers on magekind, a race of people born with magic in their blood, but have no souls. Because Shadow is seeping back into the world, the supernatural powers of the mages are quickening. In antiquity they were kings and gods; now they are scheming to reclaim their power and lead the word into what they call the Dark Age. The passions of the mages are quickened as well, and amidst the great changes wrought on the world, alliances are formed—in the bedroom and out. The first books in my Shadow series focus on characters who recognize magic for what it is—beauty, power, possibilities—and either battle or embrace what comes of it. The Kissed series amps the effects of magic and explores what the world will become. I am having so much fun mixing contemporary life with magic and old world structures. The romance emerges in a clash of wills as my characters struggle with the paradigm shifts.
Definitely a compelling plot, and I can't wait until it debuts in July!
I love the design elements you incorporated into your website and blog. What recommendations do you have for aspiring writers who want to build a web presence?

I do my best in this area, but there is always more to do. It’s easy to get swallowed up by the millions of things available online. Overall, I think the key is accessibility. I recommend a professional-looking website, FB account, twitter account, and goodreads account to start. My presence on these varies according to where I am with my work in progress, but I try. Join in the chatter. Guest blogging is a great way to reach out. I just joined Pinterest and am having fun with the pinboards, and I have a google + account, but I really don’t pressure myself to be everywhere at once, and neither should an aspiring writer. Write first, then hit the rest.

Thank you so much for having me today! HOTTER ON THE EDGE is FREE through February at with download code VJ32F.  Or check out for additional blurbs and excerpts. And you can see our inspirations for our worlds at Pinterest:

Thanks, Erin! Great advice, especially the part about putting writing first. I'll definitely be going to (and all of you should too)!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Blocks to Success: The Five Hindrances

In an attempt to reduce my stress levels, I'm taking an insight meditation class. Though some of the exercises have been a bit over-the-top (contemplating raisins and such), I've gleaned a lot of good information regarding how to be more accepting when life throws unexpected challenges.

Probably the most relevent information I've learned involves the Five Buddhist Hindrances--all of which I've experienced with writing. The analogy is, everyone has a pristine pool within--and the Five Hindrances disrupt that pool. The Hindrances are mentioned in relation to meditation, but they can be applied to most situations.

Hindrance 1: Desire for what you don't have (a colored dye within the pool)
Or, the "if only" syndrome. If only I was a published writer, or if only I was rich, or if only...blah blah blah my life would be better/different/tolerable. The real answer lies in finding satisfaction at what you do throughout your day (whether it be writing or helping someone at your day job), and taking pleasure in these things while striving for something greater. This will then allow you to better enjoy the greater things, when and if they come. I've been trying this within the past week, and already the overall journey seems less arduous.

Hindrance 2: Anger or ill-will (boiling water in the pool)
This involves pushing away unpleasant thoughts by becoming angry (or feeling ill-will toward things out of your control). All this will accomplish is making you frustrated and less approachable if the tides turn in your favor. Anger will inevitably happen, so the quickest way to get past it is to recognize the anger, be with it, and move on.  

Hindrance 3: Sloth/torpor (algae in the pool)
I think this is stops a lot of writers from cranking out material, even when they want to keep writing. It's okay to take breaks, but if one month turns to two without writing, try to find some motivational tools to help you get back in the game. Maybe start small--500 words written by sundown, or something along those lines.

Hindrance 4: Restlessness/worry (wind above the pool)
I'm probably the most guilty of this one. If Hindrance 1 involves "if only", Hindrance 4 is the "what if" syndrome. What if my work isn't good enough? What if I ruined a network connection with another writer (publisher, or agent)? What if I never get published?
There are answers to all of these (or any other what-if questions you have): If you think your work isn't good enough, keep writing and hone your craft. If you botched a network connection, make another one. If you don't get published, write because you love it (self-publishing doesn't have the same stigmas it used to). Letting go of restlessness/worry involves recognizing the things in life beyond our control, and accepting them as they are.

Hindrance 5: Doubt (mud murking up the pool)
This is a big one when querying or submitting your work. Especially when the rejections come in. You might ask yourself if writing is what you should be doing, and whether you should spend your energy elsewhere. (For the record, thinking about where to best spend your energy is something good to consider anyway). With this, remember why you love writing, and why you're compelled to do it.
My questions to you all: What hinders your writing process? How have you overcome your obstacles?

Monday, February 20, 2012

365 Days of the Query: Cutting out Passive Language (Without Cutting out Content)

So we've all heard it before. Active language always trumps passive language, especially in prose. I can almost hear the collective sigh of "duh" coming from everyone.

But it didn't occur to me until I saw today's post on the Angelic Muse blog (you should follow this blog if you don't already) that active language is also more likely to get an agent's attention in a query, synopsis or pitch. That I should be making the same efforts toward active language in those pieces as I am in my manuscripts.

So I am going to take the three different pitch lengths that I've drafted, and try to make them as active as possible. Keep in mind that these are only revisions, and they will probably need more tweaking before I submit them. Also remember: Before you start drafting your own pitches, ask yourself: "What is the main thing my main character wants?"

Logline (the gotcha one-liner):

Original draft:
When fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke is transported to a world called Anderli, where the land is destroyed by floods and a recurrence of famine, it’s up to her to hone the powers she inherited from ancient group of people called Momenta to save the land from Terrsarah, an evil sorceress, before Anderli is destroyed and the universe starts to unravel.

Revised draft:
When Marnie Sayebrooke is transported to the magical realm of Anderli, she must use her ancient powers to save the land before it disappears.

Short Pitch (3-5 sentences max):

Original draft:
In the land of Anderli, the trees are dying, the lake has disintegrated, and the fungus that ravaged the farmlands is showing signs of re-emerging. According to Rags, a beggar with a keen sense of Anderli’s place among other worlds, the land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke, from Spring Oak, California--one of the last known Momenta. Unfortunately, Marnie’s latest claim to fame is colliding with a parked Ford pick-up on her bike. When Marnie is transported to Anderli, she must learn to use her ancient powers to save the land efore it disappears under the corruption of Terrsarah, a sorceress fueled by her hatred of Momenta.

Revised draft:
The land of Anderli is dying, and a recurring fungus is killing everyone’s crops. The land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke, from Spring Oak, California, one of the last known Momenta. Terrsarah, a sorceress fueled by Momentan hatred, drives the dark forces behind the destruction, and Marnie must use her newfound abilities to save Anderli, the place she now calls home, before it disintegrates.

Longer Pitch (to be used in a query):

Original draft:
In the land of Anderli, the trees are dying, the lake has disintegrated, and the fungus that ravaged the farmlands is showing signs of re-emerging. According to Rags, a beggar with a keen sense of Anderli’s place among other worlds, the land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke, from Spring Oak, California. Unfortunately, Marnie’s latest claim to fame is colliding with a parked Ford pick-up on her bike. When Marnie arrives in Anderli by the aid of a Triskeleon, the ancient bracelet linked to her bloodline, she doesn’t believe it's up to her to save Anderli. But she soon discovers abilities to manipulate time and space, skills remnant of ancient people called Momenta. Weatherby, a warlock, has enlisted Quinn, a warlock-in-training, to support her, even though Marnie can’t stop blushing when Quinn shows her defensive tactics. Before Anderli disintegrates, Marnie must locate the impostor who works for Terrsarah, a powerful sorceress fueled by her hatred of Momenta. But it isn’t until she discovers Rags’s true identity that Marnie understands the implications of Terrsarah’s corruption—that if Anderli is destroyed, the universe will start to unravel. 
Revised draft:
The land of Anderli is dying; a recurring fungus is killing everyone’s crops, and men are disappearing. According to Rags, a beggar with a sense of Anderli’s place among worlds, the land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke from Spring Oak, California. Unfortunately, Marnie’s latest claim to fame is colliding with a parked Ford pick-up on her bike. When Marnie is transported to Anderli by way of a Triskeleon, an ancient bracelet linked to her bloodline, she doesn’t believe she can save an entire land. But she soon discovers the skills she inherited from the ancient Momenta; abilities to manipulate time and space. Quinn, a warlock-in-training, offers her support, but Marnie can’t stop blushing when he shows her defensive tactics.  Before Anderli disappears, Marnie must locate the impostor who works for Terrsarah, a powerful sorceress fueled by her hatred of Momenta. When she discovers Rags’s true identity, Marnie realizes that if Anderli is destroyed, she will not only lose the people she loves; the universe will untimately unravel.
The biggest struggle I had when making these revisions was maintaining the uniqueness of my story when I cleaned up the writing. This was especially true with the logline--without an opportunity to describe Marnie's powers and why they were important, it sounds just like any other sci-fi/fantasy story. Another challenge was keeping an acceptable rhythm--and I'm still not sure if the last line of the longer pitch resonates the way I want it to.
What challenges have you run into when tightening your pitches?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

THE DISTANT SHORE, by Mariam Kobras

In honor of Valentine's Day this week, I'm featuring a romance novel, THE DISTANT SHORE, the first in the STONE trilogy, by Mariam Kobras. Mariam is not only a fantastic writer, but a lovely, down-to-earth person. THE DISTANT SHORE has enjoyed a lot of success, and I wish Mariam the very best as she continues her journey as a writer.

Synposis, from Goodreads:

The Distant Shore is a contemporary romance with a light twist of suspense.

There's nothing like finding a letter on your breakfast table informing you have a teenage son you knew nothing about, but that's what happens to international rock star, Jonathon Stone. He drops everything to find the boy, and his mother the girl he loved so many years ago who left him when his rock n roll life became too much for her to bear.

Seeing her is like falling in love all over again, and everything seems perfect, until someone sets out to destroy their idyllic life.

I also had a chance to ask Mariam some questions:
I see from your website that you were involved in theater production. Has this background influenced your writing, and can you tell us more about your journey toward writing full-time?

I used to teach theater and musicals at a local high school, it’s true. Most of our students were challenged in some way, and this was their first contact with any kind of theater or stage work. Some of them, when they started coming to my class, were on the point of being dismissed from school. They learned their own worth while rehearsing for a show. My mantra was always, “If you screw up in class, you have a problem. If you screw up here, the entire group has a problem, and it will be your fault. Think hard before you screw up.” It worked. They took on the responsibility, and learned they were capable of doing more than they thought. I was very proud of my students.

I have to tell you, I loved that job. I loved everything about it, every part of a production: the casting, the early rehearsal work when nothing would work, and then the stage when it all came together. And I really, really loved the show nights with the excitement and backstage drama, and when it was over, the pride in the kids’ faces at what they had achieved. That was the best.

Sadly, with a new administration the work conditions changed for me and I decided to leave.

Around that time, a publisher got in contact with me and offered a book deal. It worked out for me. I had written The Distant Shore during the many hours I spent supervising the detention room at that school, and I signed my contract with Buddhapuss Ink a few weeks after I left the school.

The theater work didn’t influence my writing. Rather, it was a useful experience to work with in my books, as they deal a lot with the stage, music, and theater productions. But not primarily. Primarily they are about people and their relationships.

It's wonderful how you were able to inspire so many students and help them find their worth. The musicals I was involved in did the exact same for me during my teenage years.
 You're quite involved in social networking (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). How has this helped you network as a writer and what do you recommend for aspiring writers seeking an online presence?

I was involved in twitter and Facebook before I ever thought of writing a book, and I made many friends there. Last summer, I spent six weeks visiting some of them in the US, it was a fabulous time!

I also met my publisher on twitter!

Even though I’m the laziest blogger in the world, I think that as a writer you need to have a blog. You need a platform to put your writing out there, and that’s the easiest one to have and maintain.

You also need to spread the word about your writing, and were else would you be able to do it better than on twitter and Facebook!

Only please, when you meet another writer, an editor, agent or publisher on twitter (as you will, eventually), don’t push your novel or story in their faces. Make contact first. They really, really hate it when you are too obvious.

Oh, and don’t lock your twitter account. Don’t make people beg to follow you. Because they won’t, unless you’re Neil Gaiman. Seriously.

That's such a good lesson--writers and agents are people too, and should be treated as such.
THE DISTANT SHORE has been an instant hit. What inspired the story, and can you tell us more about other projects you're working on?

The Distant Shore is the first book in the Stone Trilogy. Book 2, Under the Same Sun, is written and in the publishing process right now. It will be released in September. I’m writing book 3, Song of the Storm, right now. It’s nearly half done, and I’m hoping it will be published in February 2013.

I’ve been discussing future plans with my publisher. I’m quite confident there will be a new book by the end of 2013. It will be a totally new project.

We’re also talking about collecting my haikus and putting them in a small book, together with some art that I love.

Haikus are great, but difficult to write. I'd love to read some of yours!
If you were stuck on a desert island, which two books would you choose to have with you, and why?

Only two? Wow, this is a tough one! Can I skip taking any books and take my MacBook instead, so I can write?

Ok, so you probably want to know my favorite books, right? Here’s a short list, and there are more than two. Yeah, yeah I know, I’m cheating.

Vikram Seth: A Suitable Boy

John Galsworthy: Forsyte Saga

Marcel Proust: In Search of Lost Time

Sean Jeter Naslund: Ahab’s Wife

And of course, Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings

I’ll stop now, before the lists goes on and on and on and on and on...

Thanks, Mariam, for agreeing to be interviewed! Thank you, Karen, the pleasure is all mine!

THE DISTANT SHORE is available now on, and be sure to keep an eye out for the upcomiong books in the STONE trilogy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

365 Days of the Query: Prioritizing, Picking and Choosing

About one month into querying, I haven't been able to keep up with the three queries a week scenario I originally anticipated. Various factors have contributed to this, namely 1) Day job duties 2) Fine-tuning the pitch for current query novel  3) Networking with other writers  4) Revising the new manuscript (different from query novel) 5) Prep for upcoming writers' conferences 6) Blogging, Twittering, etc.

But it's actually turned out for the better. Starting slowly has allowed me learn from my rookie mistakes and prepare for when/if the slush pile gets smaller. I know of an aspiring writer who's waiting until spring to query because, apparently, NaNo WriMo participants shop their novels in Jan/Feb, making for a larger slush pile. Note: It would be interesting to hear from an agent as to whether the slush pile actually ever goes down--above theory could be hogwash for all I know.

I can also honestly say that each query took longer than I'd anticipated. When I was applying to library jobs, a full-day's work would go into each cover letter, updated resume (and updated website), and list of references. And that didn't include jobs that asked for official transcripts!  Drafting queries is a very similar process, with more steps than one might think, and I can easily knock out 2-4 hours (minimum) on just one.

To help save time, I've taken to putting all the necessary submission pieces (query + synopsis + pages, or query + synopsis, depending on what the agency is looking for) into one word document, and copying/pasting it into Notepad, and then email. This has helped some, but if pages from the novel are supposed to be Times New Roman 12pt double-spaced (grr, Gmail), then that means going through the email and and making soft returns on each line. (If anyone has found a short-cut on this, or knows for sure if single-spaced excerpts are permissible, please speak up!).

As a result of the above, time is an ever-shrinking commodity, and I've had to re-prioritize a bit. For one, the revisions on the new novel don't have to happen as quickly as I anticipated (and I can probably knock out more during summer, when life events are less demanding). Two, Twittering/blogging doesn't always have to be first priority (a very valuable post by Angela Ackerman of the Bookshelf Muse offers good advice on this). Finally, I'm not entering every giveaway, contest, or nugget that comes my way, and being more choosy about what I take part in has saved the most time of all. (For those interested in learning more about time management, I highly recommend this useful video from the late Randy Pausch, of LAST LECTURE fame--the video is a tad long, so feel free to skip around to parts you find useful).

So, here are the steps laid out: 

1. Prioritize
Make sure writing comes first and doesn't take a backseat to anything else. Below is an example of a graph that's helped me map out what to focus on and when:

2. Pick
Only pick agents that rep your genre. Eliminating those that don't will save both you and them time. Also, be sure you're only following blogs and Twitter feeds that are relevant to you and your writing.

3. Choose
Only choose activities that are most likely to help you grow as a writer. Just because three different writing contests are happening at the same time doesn't mean you have to participate in them all.

Feel free to comment: What have you learned in the query process? What do you wish you'd done differently? What else can we do to achieve the life balance we all strive for?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

PERIGEE MOON, by Tara Fuller

As a grab myself another box of kleenex and hope this fever goes away, enjoy today's YA book feature, PERIGEE MOON, by Tara Fuller. This book is getting a lot of buzz, so be sure to check it out:

PERIGEE MOON: Synopsis, from Goodreads:

After a horrific fire claims the life of her mother, seventeen year old Rowan Bliss finds herself in the miniscule town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. It’s here that she meets Alex, a deliciously mysterious boy who holds the key to unlocking her family’s dark secret.

As Rowan falls helplessly over the edge for Alex, the secrets that he insists on keeping refuse to be contained, and the truth that she uncovers challenges everything she has ever believed. Alex is a witch. And now he’s awakened something within her she never even knew existed. But out of all of this, the one thing Rowan won’t accept is the fact that Alex is destined to die.

Now Rowan must unearth the buried power she harbors within to escape a deadly prophecy, defy the very laws of time, and prevent the hands of fate from taking yet another person she loves.

Here's the trailer for PERIGEE MOON:

And my interview with Tara, below:

Me: I saw from your website that R.L. Stine was one of your influences. What do you like most about his writing, and what other influences shaped your journey as a writer?

TARA: R.L. Stine was one of my favorite YA authors when I was teen. I also loved Christopher Pike. In both cases I loved the kinds of stories they wrote. They kept me on the edge of my seat and way up past time. I'm a sucker for a story that I can't put down until it's done. Another big influence of my mine was Edgar Allen Poe. I've always been a big fan of poetry and dark stories. I think that comes through with the "lyrical" tone that accompanies my writing and the dark topics that come up in my books.

Me: I'm also a big fan of Poe--there's nothing like a story you can't put down!
I love the premise of PERIGEE MOON. What inspired the story, and what do you want readers to take away from it?

TARA: I had wanted to write a time travel story for a while. I've always been a fan of history too, so one day when I was watching a documentary on the Salem Witch Trials (which yes, is the sort of thing I do for fun, lol) the idea just kind of hit me. Why not combine the two.
As far as what I want readers to take away from the story? Never give up. Sometimes in life things can seem hopeless, like there is no possible way out. But there is. Just when you least expect it, strength you didn't even knew you had can surface and save your life. This was Rowan's case  and I really hope that people that read this take that away. That you are capable of more than you know.

Me: Such a fantastic message, for both readers and writers alike. On your website, you say, "Music has a lot to do with my creative process." How so?

TARA: I write to music. In fact every book I write has it's own soundtrack. Every scene has it's own song. It's a very helpful took when going back to revise, or picking up where you left off.

Me: I see that your next book, INBETWEEN comes out this August. Could you tell us more about it, as well as other projects you're working on?

TARA: INBETWEEN is a project I am so excited about. It is the first in my KISSED BY DEATH series. There will be three books in this series and it follows the after-lives of three grim reapers. Here is the blurb for INBETWEEN:

Since the car crash that took her father’s life three years ago, Emma’s life has been a freaky—and unending—lesson in caution. Surviving countless “accidents” has taken priority over being a normal seventeen-year-old, so Emma spends her days taking pictures of life instead of living it. Falling in love with a boy was never part of the plan. Falling for a reaper who makes her chest ache and her head spin? Not an option.

It’s not easy being dead—especially for a reaper who is in love with a girl fate has put on his hit list not once, but twice. Finn’s fellow reapers give him hell about spending time with Emma, but Finn couldn’t let her die before, and he’s not about to let her die now. He will protect the girl he loves from the evil soul hell bent on stealing her body, even if it means sacrificing the only thing he has left…his soul.

I am currently working on the sequel to INBETWEEN. I also have a secret novel in the works but I'm not ready to give out any details on that one just yet. Top secret. ;)

 Me: INBETWEEN sounds like a very compelling story, and I can't wait to find out more about that secret novel. :)
What would you tell an aspiring writer who wants to write in the paranormal genre? What are some lessons you've learned along the way?

TARA: Don't follow trends. It's very tempting to do so, but always realize that when something is hot, it also means the market is probably saturated with it. Find your voice and a fresh idea and run with it.

Thanks, Tara, for your time, and I can't wait to read more of your books!

Here are some links to find out more about Tara:

And here's a link to if you want to buy PERIGEE MOON!

Monday, February 6, 2012

FRACTURE, by Megan Miranda

The flu I had last November has decided to pay me an unwelcome visit, so I'll leave this week to the two books I'd like to feature.

Today's book is FRACTURE, by Megan Miranda:

Synopsis, from Goodreads:

"Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine-despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?

For fans of best-sellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death."

Here's the trailer for FRACTURE:

And finally, my interview with Megan:

 I see from your website that you have a biology degree from MIT. How have you used your knowledge of science in your writing?

I find that I pull on my science background a lot while writing. I’m inspired a lot by the questions I have about the things that science attempts to explain but isn’t always able to prove. How come some people who are supposed to die, live? If someone’s personality changes after a brain injury, which person are they at the core? The idea for Fracture came from that, and from a lot of questions I had about the way the brain works.

I love the premise of FRACTURE. What do you think is the most important message the book conveys, and what do you want readers to take away after reading it?

Thank you! Honestly, I didn’t think of a “message” when I was writing, but I think Delaney’s journey brings her to a certain realization, which then made me come to a similar realization. If you strip everything else away: the past, the future, people’s expectations of us, our expectations of ourselves, are we doing what we want to be doing? If there’s anything I hope a reader will take away, it is this: seize the day.

I think writers can use that advice too! Can you tell us a bit about your journey from writing the book to finding an audience for it? What are some of the lessons you learned along the way?

It was quite the journey! I wrote the first version in 4 months, but it was… messy. And wrong. And illogical, among other things. I rewrote it, twice, over the course of the next 6 months. Lessons learned: do not fear the delete key; outside eyes on my writing is essential; know where I’m going and what type of book I’m writing. Seems obvious, but it wasn’t for me. I learned a lot about the process of writing a book—and my process, specifically—while writing the many drafts of Fracture.

What are some of the other projects you're working on?

I have another standalone YA set to come out in early 2013. It’s in the same vein as Fracture in that it walks the line a bit between science and paranormal. But it’s also pretty different. It’s a psychological thriller about the fine line between the real and the imagined.

Thanks for having me! And thanks for letting me interview you, Megan!

FRACTURE is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, IndieBound, and Books-A-Million. Be sure to get a copy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WINTERLING, by Sarah Prineas

This week's feature is an MG fantasy epic that involves journeying between worlds: WINTERLING, by Sarah Prineas. Sarah is also known for THE MAGIC THIEF series.

WINTERLING synopsis, from Goodreads: "With her boundless curiosity and wild spirit, Fer has always felt that she doesn’t belong. Not when the forest is calling to her, when the rush of wind through branches feels more real than school or the quiet farms near her house. Then she saves an injured creature—he looks like a boy, but he’s really something else. He knows who Fer truly is, and invites her through the Way, a passage to a strange, dangerous land.

Fer feels an instant attachment to this realm, where magic is real and oaths forge bonds stronger than iron. But a powerful huntress named the Mor rules here, and Fer can sense that the land is perilously out of balance. Fer must unlock the secrets about the parents she never knew and claim her true place before the worlds on both sides of the Way descend into endless winter.

Sarah Prineas captivates in this fantasy-adventure about a girl who must find within herself the power to set right a terrible evil."

Here's the trailer for WINTERLING:

I also interviewed Sarah--here's what she had to say about WINTERLING and writing fantasy novels:

I love the premise of WINTERLING. The Kirkus review of the book said you drew from Celtic and Nordic traditions while writing it. Which traditions were these, and how did they add to your story?

WINTERLING is set partly in our world and partly in a magical world on the other side of a "Way".  In building that other world, I drew on lots of old fairy lore (though the word "fairy" is never used in the book), especially traditions of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Scandinavia for how to deal with fairies.  Here are some of the details I used in WINTERLING: You should never ride on a puck in his horse form, because he'll take you through brambles and buck you off in a lake.  If you turn your clothes inside-out, the fairies won't be able to see you.  A rock with a hole in it can be a seeing-stone--it will show you things as they truly are.

Yet another tradition is that of the Green Man, who becomes more like a goddess in WINTERLING, a Leaf Woman with the power to make the seasons turn.  

Those are really unique world-building elements! I saw on your website that you offer free Skype visits to libraries, book groups and classrooms. As a librarian, I think this is a fabulous idea, especially since it's free! What inspired you to offer this service, and have you found it useful?

In the past two years I've done close to 100 Skype visits with classes and book groups, and I've found it to be an incredibly fun way to connect with kid readers.  I so appreciate the teachers and librarians who make the effort to learn what is often a new technology to bring kid readers and writers together.

I was inspired to try it because a friend mentioned a website with info about authors who Skype (  Last year I participated in World Read Aloud Day and read aloud to nine different classrooms, both in the US and in China. 

You used a boy protagonist in THE MAGIC THIEF series, and a girl in WINTERLING. What makes each of these protagonists unique?

Conn was distinctive because of his voice.  He's got a unique way of looking at the world, shaped partly by the fact that he's been alone for years and isn't used to running his ideas by anybody else.  He sees something that needs to be done and he does it--he's a complete pragmatist.  He's also really good at getting himself into trouble.

Fer is very different.  She's not as driven as Conn is, but she has a strong, quiet sense of what is right.  A reviewer described her as "earnest," which sums her up pretty well.  She's determined to help people (Conn, on the other hand, rarely thinks about how his actions might affect others).  She's also deeply connected to nature and wild creatures. 

Motivation and voice are great elements to use when building characters. What advice would you give to aspiring writers, particularly those wanting to break into the fantasy/adventure genre?

I'm a big fan of the fantasy author JRR Tolkien, who wrote THE LORD OF THE RINGS.  One of the things he says about fantasy is that the fantasy author doesn't just demand "suspension of disbelief" from his readers, he demands "belief."  And I think that's what the fantasy author has to demand of herself--BELIEF.  You have to believe in your characters and your world.  In doing so, you can create a world that will seem real and believable to your readers. 

What other projects are you working on? Will WINTERLING have a sequel?

Last week I turned in a revision to my editor of a companion novel called THE SUMMERKIN.  The plot arc here is about Fer learning to become a true leader, and about her friendship with Rook, which gets pretty fraught because of his loyalty to his brother pucks. 

There is also a fourth MAGIC THIEF book on the way.  It's written; I'll be starting revisions soon with my editor.  I don't know yet about publication date, but hopefully it won't be too long.

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your insight! WINTERLING is on sale now--be sure to pick up a copy!