Wednesday, May 27, 2015

THE CLOUDED SKY by Megan Crewe

I'm a huge fan of sci-fi, especially in YA. So when I found out about Megan's books, I couldn't wait to feature them. Have a look for yourself:

When seventeen-year-old Skylar escapes the time-bending Enforcers who secretly control Earth, her troubles have just begun. She and her friend Win take refuge on Win’s home space station with his fellow rebels, but the fate of Skylar’s planet still spins out of her control.

To avoid detection, Skylar poses as the Earthling “pet” of Win’s rival, an arrogant boy named Jule. Homesick and faced with a cool reception from the other rebels, she throws herself into the group’s mission: assembling a weapon to disable Earth’s restrictive time field. Gradually, Skylar’s skill for detail gains respect—even from Jule, who is more vulnerable than he lets on.

Yet challenges spring from every side. Not only must Sky navigate the muddy waters of romance, but suspicions of betrayal grow among the rebels as their work narrowly misses sabotage.

In the latest in Megan Crewe’s Earth & Sky series, can Skylar expose the traitor before time runs out and Earth is destroyed?


Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives with her husband, son, and three cats in Toronto, Canada (and does on occasion say "eh"), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she can't look at the night sky without speculating about who else might be out there. Her books for teens include the science fiction Earth & Sky trilogy, the post-apocalyptic Fallen World trilogy, and the paranormal Give Up the Ghost. You can find her online at

Megan was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:

Before publishing novels, you wrote short stories for ezines, print magazines, and anthologies. In what ways does the short story process differ from writing a novel, and what do you like about each?

To be honest, the main reason I wrote short stories was that I didn't always know I was going to be a YA writer, and publishing short fiction was considered the standard way to get your foot in the publishing door as an adult speculative fiction author. I'm very much a long form writer and struggled to keep my short stories at an appropriate length--I like to joke that I was usually trying to fit a novel-sized idea into a short story container, which is reasonably accurate.  ;)  But one thing I did enjoy about writing short stories is the feedback cycle is much shorter. You get to feel the accomplishment of finishing a story, or finishing a revision, much faster than with a novel, and you can share that story with readers and find out how it's coming across much sooner after you start. It can be a little unnerving working away at a novel for months not having any clue yet whether anyone's going to enjoy what you're writing! That trade-off is worth it because novels allow me to explore the characters and scenarios I've become invested in with much more depth and complexity.

And I love the scenarios you've established. THE CLOUDED SKY is the second in the Earth & Sky series. How did the idea come to you, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading?

With THE CLOUDED SKY, I wanted to take the situation I'd set up in the first book of the series and push it farther. In this case, that meant sending the main character, Skylar, right off Earth to directly experience the alien society that's been experimenting with our history. I came up with the idea of making the story something of a spy thriller (in space!) while trying to figure out how Skylar could actively be helping the rebels' mission to free Earth at the same time as she had to keep her existence a secret. In the restricted atmosphere of the alien space station amid all the subterfuge, it felt like a natural fit.

With this story I mainly want to leave the readers shocked and eager for the final book. I decided how I wanted to end book 2 before I even started writing the first (with a glee that often came with an evil grin) and it's been great seeing how that twist has affected readers so far.

Sounds fantastic! The Fallen World trilogy involves a deadly virus on an isolated island. How did the story develop as you wrote it, and what advice, if any, do you have for people who want to write a series?

With the Fallen World trilogy, I started off just knowing I wanted to write a YA novel about an epidemic. The other details emerged by letting the story simmer as I worked on other things and noting down ideas as they came to me, through researching viruses and epidemics in history and the modern day, and through reading other novels involving epidemics to get an idea of what's already been done and what areas I might explore. I usually have a pretty good idea of all the important stuff in a book before I get down to the actual writing. One thing that did evolve as I wrote were the characters and their relationships. I find it's difficult to get a solid handle on my fictional people until I'm committing them to prose, and then I discover new things about them, their interests and motivations, which I adjust the story around.

For advice on writing a series, I think a lot of it depends on what sort of writer you are in general. As a plotter, my advice to fellow plotters is to figure out the most important points of the later books ahead of time. You don't need a full outline (and it's probably best not to have one, since the first book will evolve through edits and affect how the second book needs to be told), but it was really helpful to me to have a general idea of where I intended to take my characters, where I saw them ending up, and what their biggest struggles were going to be. It made me feel more confident when I started outlining and writing the later books, and reassured me that I did have that much more story to tell, and it also informed me on details I should make sure to include in the first book to set up later scenarios.

I think it's also a good idea of have what's often called a "series bible" where you note down all the details about the characters, the settings, etc., although I have to admit I'm not very good at keeping up on these myself and often end up just searching the earlier books to make sure I'm keeping proper continuity.

Great plotting advice! What are some of your current projects?

I don't have any I can talk about in much detail at the moment, but I can say I have a couple of standalones and the beginning of a new trilogy at various stages of completion, all YA, various types of speculative fiction. I hope to have more news to share soon!

We look forward to it! Thanks for such a great interview.

To grab THE CLOUDED SKY and the first book in the series, EARTH & SKY for yourself, feel free to click the Amazon icons below:

And here's the Fallen World trilogy too:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

HIT, by Delilah S. Dawson

I've featured Delilah twice before, with her excellent Blud series and her YA book Servants of the Storm. So when I found out about her newest YA novel, HIT, I got super excited. See for yourself:


The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that we were bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of anarchy across the country.

Patsy didn’t have much of a choice. When the suits showed up at her house threatening to kill her mother then and there for outstanding debt unless Patsy agreed to be an indentured assassin, what was she supposed to do? Let her own mother die?

Patsy is forced to take on a five-day mission to complete a hit list of ten names. Each name on Patsy's list has only three choices: pay the debt on the spot, agree to work as a bounty hunter, or die. And Patsy has to kill them personally, or else her mom takes a bullet of her own.

Since yarn bombing is the only rebellion in Patsy's past, she’s horrified and overwhelmed, especially as she realizes that most of the ten people on her list aren't strangers. Things get even more complicated when a moment of mercy lands her with a sidekick: a hot rich kid named Wyatt whose brother is the last name on Patsy's list. The two share an intense chemistry even as every tick of the clock draws them closer to an impossible choice.

Delilah was also willing to share 5 books she'd recommend to readers. 
Take it away, Delilah!

5 Books I'd Recommend (Besides my own, of course)

1. Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
Cherie sums it up as "Lizzie Borden fighting Cthulhu." This book swept me away with gothic historical fiction... plus horror. And now we know what really happened with that axe.

Why HIT fans might dig it: It's about a normal woman swept up by violence she doesn't want and can't stop... but who manages to survive.

2. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Two children live alone in an old house on the beach, and everything is normal until... a strange boy named River shows up. I loved the atmosphere of the story, and how it had a new sort of magic I wasn't expecting. There's a sequel, too.

Why HIT fans might dig it: You think you've got your life figured out... but then a boy shows up. Also, parents are nowhere to be found.

3. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
In Mac's world, the souls of the dead must be captured and safely stored in books. But that doesn't always go the way you want it to.

Why HIT fans might dig it: My Patsy and Victoria's Mac are scrappers, fighters who sometimes run at the violence instead of away from it if it's part of their job. They also miss their fathers horribly.

4. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Austin and his best friend Robby are just hanging around... when the apocalypse is released in the form of giant mantises. This book reads like Vonnegut killing John Green with a tire iron.

Why HIT fans might dig it: If you want to see the first day of the end of the world, keep reading.

5. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
What are the chances that you'll defy the odds and find your match in an insane way? Lily leaves a book of challenges on the shelf, and Dash jut so happens to pick it up. Is that a disaster--or a blessing?

Why HIT fans might dig it: Similarly, what are the chances that Patsy would meet a guy wearing her favorite band's t-shirt on the same day she commits her first murder? I like the idea that random happenings can bring unexpected possibilities.

To grab HIT for yourself, feel free to click the Amazon icon below:

Or you can buy Delilah's other books:

Or you can get the books Delilah recommended (I just bought Dash and Lily's Book of Dares!):

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

CROW'S REST by Angelica R. Jackson

Last year, I featured a preview of CROW'S REST--and I'm happy to report it's now available for purchase!

Angelica has also shared a scene from CROW'S REST where the main character, Avery, has an eerie experience in Preston Castle. Check out the scene below (and check out all the giveaway stuff too): 

Title: Crow's Rest
Author: Angelica R. Jackson
Published: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Isbn: 9781633920040
Pages: 288
Retail: $9.95
Buy Links: BN | Amazon | BookDepository
Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.
But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers—and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.
Her quest to find the real Daniel—and get him back—plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.
About the author:
In keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, Angelica R. Jackson has far too many interests to list here.
She has an obsession with creating more writing nooks in the home she shares with her husband and two corpulent cats in California's Gold Country. Fortunately, the writing nooks serve for reading and cat cuddling too.
Other pastimes include cooking for food allergies (not necessarily by choice, but she’s come to terms with it), photography, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary.
Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  Photo Galleries  |  Blog  |  Website

Avery's experience:

click image to enlarge
*US entrants only
*Must be 13 years of age or older (or have parents permission)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

THE FALSE PRINCE and MARK OF THE THIEF, by Jennifer A. Nielsen

When I met Jennifer Nielsen at the Tucson Festival of Books, I knew I had to read her stuff, and I immediately bought THE FALSE PRINCE (first in the Ascendance trilogy).

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

Another of Jennifer's books, MARK OF THE THIEF, was published last February:

When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods -- magic some Romans would kill for.

Now, with the deadly power of the bulla pulsing through his veins, Nic is determined to become free. But instead, he finds himself at the center of a ruthless conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and spark the Praetor War, a battle to destroy Rome from within. Traitors and spies lurk at every turn, each more desperate than the next to use Nic's newfound powers for their own dark purposes.

In a quest to stop the rebellion, save Rome, and secure his own freedom, Nic must harness the magic within himself and defeat the empire's most powerful and savage leaders.

Jennifer was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:

According to your website bio, your favorite books as a child were The Hardy Boys, the Encyclopedia Brown series and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. What drew you to these books above others, and in what ways (if any) did they influence your writing?

For The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (and to some extent, The Hardy Boys), I was definitely drawn to the danger. Those were the scenes I re-read and re-enacted in my imagination. For The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown, it was the mystery. I’ve always loved a great mystery, though I have a confession: I reread the Encyclopedia Brown books so often that I knew how all of the stories were solved. There was a boy in our neighborhood who I was always trying to get the better of, and I used to pull out an Encyclopedia Brown book and we’d read the story together, as if it was the first time for me. Then I’d immediately say, “I know how it’s solved.” Yeah, I never solved them. But this boy thought I was brilliant!

These books had a definite impact on my writing. All of my stories involve strong elements of danger, and in many ways, no matter the genre, they all have a mystery involved. Not always a whodunit, but there is usually something unknown for my heroes to discover, and clues left throughout the story for clever readers to find.

An even better reason to read your books! I love the premise of MARK OF THE THIEF. How did the idea grab you, and what do you want readers to take away from the story?

Mark of the Thief started with the object on the cover, a bulla, which Roman boys used to wear as amulets of good luck. The second fact was about the emperor Julius Caesar, who used to claim that he was the literal descendant of the Goddess Venus. I thought, what if Caesar was telling the truth? Because if he was, then he would have been a demigod. And what if the magic of the Gods was stored in his bulla, which became lost after his death?

One of the things I think readers might take away from this story, or really, any of my stories, is the value of courage. In nearly everything I write, the characters readily admit they are afraid, but they accept the challenge anyway. I know many readers face difficult things in their lives, things that perhaps make them afraid too. I hope they might take inspiration from my characters and find courage in their own challenges.

I know I have. At a Tucson Festival of Books workshop, you and a few other authors improvised a story using characters and plot elements offered by the audience. How was this exercise helpful to you as an author, and what did you enjoy most about it?

That was a great workshop! It was fun to take the contribution from one author and then see how it created a new spin on the story’s direction, then to see if I could keep up and provide my own new spin. I was most interested in comparing my thought processes with those of the other authors, and how our genres influence our plotting. I felt that my style was most in common with Ally Carter, perhaps because although she tends to write thrillers, and I tend to write fantasy, we’re both seeking stories with danger, plot twists, and page-turning action.

I've read Ally's books too--you both are adept at hooking readers from the get-go. Your first book, THE FALSE PRINCE (which I've loved) might get a possible movie deal. What advice (if any) would you give to other authors regarding this process?

Oh goodness! For authors seeking a deal with Hollywood, I definitely agree that it is exciting and full of anticipation. However, there are a few tips to keep in mind. First is that if an author thinks the publishing industry moves slowly, then that is nothing compared to the movie industry, especially when working with the major studios. Unless the book is an epic bestseller, then it just has to go through a long, slow process, so the author needs to be patient (hardly my favorite virtue, but in this case, I’ve been forced into it). Second is the author must understand that movies and books are completely different formats. Not only because a two-hour movie cannot possibly include everything in a 300-page book, but because a movie is a visual representation of the story, viewed from the perspective of the audience. Books aren’t limited in that way, and that will necessarily change some of the story. To some extent, authors need to let go of the idea that the movie will be just like the book (though a talented screenwriter will keep the two as close as possible), understanding that the movie will enrich other aspects of their story. And third is that in Hollywood, all you ever have is the thing you have. Many books are optioned that never get made into movies, there are movies that get approved then dumped because the studio has to make up budget from a box office bomb, or the movie is made and then sits on shelves indefinitely or is quietly released direct to DVD. So while it’s an exciting process, it’s important to never get ahead of the process. Appreciate the thing you have and then celebrate each new development as it comes, and only when it comes.

Sounds like good advice for us all! What are some of your current projects?

My next release is coming up on August 25th of this year, and it’s my first historical. A NIGHT DIVIDED takes place in 1965 East Berlin, and tells the story of a courageous girl whose family was divided on the night the Berlin Wall went up, and what she will attempt in order to reunite them. I am very proud of this book, and hope it will serve as a conversation piece for the price of freedom, and the dangers of history ever repeating itself.

I’ve also recently completed copyedits for the second book of the MARK OF THE THIEF series, am writing a standalone fantasy for fall of 2016, and I’ve just begun plotting out a proposal for the trilogy to follow MARK OF THE THIEF. Phew! Thinking about all of that makes me tired!

Can't wait for A NIGHT DIVIDED! Thanks for a wonderful interview, and for all your compelling and intricate plots!

To grab MARK OF THE THIEF for yourself, feel free to click the Amazon icon below.

You can also get THE FALSE PRINCE and the rest of the books in the Ascendance trilogy!