Wednesday, June 29, 2016

WANDERING WILD by Jessica Taylor

Embarrassingly enough, when I first met Jessica Taylor, I mistook her for someone else. Thankfully, she was extremely nice about it, and when we reconnected a few years later, I was happy to learn that her book WANDERING WILD had made it out into the world:

Raised by Wanderers, sixteen-year-old Tal travels the roads of the southern wild in her Chevy by day and camps in her tent trailer at night. Hustling, conning, and grifting her way into just enough cash to save her fifteen-year-old brother, Wen, from bare-knuckle fighting was once enough to keep her dreams of traveling the whole world at bay. Everything changes when the Wanderers set up camp in a little town called Cedar Falls.

There, Spencer Sway, a boy Tal tried to hustle at a game of billiards, keeps popping up into her life—and worst of all—into her scams. Buttoned-up, starched-and-ironed Spencer talks of places where Tal’s truck can’t take her. His promises of traveling across oceans are almost enough to shatter her love of the Wanderer life.

When a boy shows up at camp, ready to make good on a nearly-forgotten arranged marriage to Tal, Tal and Wen make a pact: No matter the cost, they will use their limitless skills of grift to earn the bride price and buy back her future—even if Spencer Sway gets used along the way.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

In addition to WANDERING WILD, here are some other books Jessica thinks readers will also enjoy:

WHAT'S BROKEN BETWEEN US by Alexis Bass. After Amanda's brother Jonathan kills a classmate while drunk driving, he gives an interview that makes him sound less than apologetic. A year and a half later he's coming home from prison, and Amanda has to deal with the fallout. I'm a huge fan of Alexis Bass's writing, and this is my absolute favorite of her books. Like WANDERING WILD, it deals with learning to accept and forgive a destructive family member.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW by Kim Culbertson. Mara has always been a perfectionist, but when she has an embarrassing outburst in the middle of her calculus exam, she trades her overachieving ways for some time with her laid-back father in Lake Tahoe. Learning to focus on what's best for ourselves is something I love to explore both in my writing and my life (don't we all?). I highly recommend this book!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

OUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee. Mercy Wong is determined to leave behind her life of poverty, so she finesses admittance into an elite San Francisco school. When the historic 1906 earthquake strikes the city, Mercy must survive with her classmates. Mercy is one of my favorite heroines. Like Tal in WANDERING WILD, Mercy is torn between the life she was born into and a destiny of her own making.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

UP TO THIS POINTE by Jennifer Longo. Harper has lived her life with one goal in mind--to become a professional ballerina. When that plan goes south, so does Harper. Literally. She finagles her way into spending the winter in the Antarctic to rediscover herself. Like my next novel, A MAP FOR LOST GIRLS (Dial/Penguin, 2018), UP TO THIS POINTE is a non-linear story, which is one of my favorite story structures. I absolutely devoured this book!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber. Two sisters escape their ruthless father and enter into a dangerous game that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. This is one of most highly anticipated debuts, and I had the absolute privilege to read an early draft. Like A MAP FOR LOST GIRLS, CARAVAL has a strong sister relationship and explores how far the strength of those bonds will make a sister go.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Extraction Series by Stephanie Diaz

When I heard the premise for Stephanie Diaz's Extraction series, I was immediately hooked; I've already read the first, and can't wait to get a hold of the rest. Here's a glimpse:

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.

What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon's lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet's leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don't want her running—they want her subdued.


It's been seven days since Clementine and Logan, along with their allies, retreated into hiding on the Surface. The rebels may have won one battle against Commander Charlie, but the fight is far from finished. He has vowed to find a way to win—no matter the cost. Do the rebels have what it takes to defeat him...and put an end to this war?

As Clementine and Logan enter a desperate race against time to defeat Commander Charlie—and attempt to weaken his power within his own ranks—they find themselves in a terrifying endgame that pits them against a brutal enemy, and each other. With every step, Clementine draws closer to losing Logan...and losing control of herself.


Clementine and Logan’s world is on the brink of destruction. An army of aliens from the distant planet Marden has arrived with a massive fleet of battleships, intent on finally putting an end to an age-old war. With the Alliance headquarters reduced to rubble and one of the rebel leaders close to death, Clementine and her friends have no choice but to retreat to the Core to escape the alien ships attacking the Surface.

But safety in the Core means forming a temporary alliance with their sworn enemy. Though he's a ruthless man they cannot trust, striking a bargain with him—his pardon in exchange for their help defeating the Mardenites—seems the only way the rebels might survive. The only way that Clementine and Logan might finally live in peace. But their hope for peace is short lived as they soon find out that Marden's force is more powerful than anyone anticipated, with weapons and technologies never before seen on Kiel. Unless old feuds can be set aside long enough for a diplomatic solution to be found, all of Kiel's people will be destroyed, and all of Clementine’s sacrifices will mean nothing.

According to your website bio, you landed your first three-book deal at the age of nineteen. What did you learn from your experience, and what are you most thankful for?

I did land a book deal young, but it took years of hard work--8 years, in fact, as I started querying at age eleven. (Can you tell I was an overachiever?) I wrote and queried two books before the Extraction series, trying again and again to get them right. For a long time my goal was to land an agent before I finished high school, but that didn’t happen. When it finally happened before I finished college, and I landed a book deal a few months later, I was incredibly relieved and grateful. It meant I would actually have employment after graduating, AND it was what I’d always wanted to do! I think the biggest thing I learned throughout the whole process was that patience is so important in this industry, and so is taking your time to learn and grow as a writer, to make sure any books you put out into the world are truly the best ones you can write.

Wonderful advice, especially the part about making books the best ones you can write. A recent post from agent website reflects this too. You created such a beautifully complex world in the Extraction series, including some pretty tough choices for Clementine. What do you hope readers will gain from her journey? 

I hope Clementine’s journey inspires strength and fearlessness in readers, and the encouragement to find hope in the midst of hardship and horrors, because it’s always possible. Any mistakes you make along the way do not define you. There is always a better future waiting.

Delightfully reassuring! Or as my cousin says, "Worry is just fear projected in the future." In addition to being an author, you are also a freelance editor. What advice, if any, do you have for people interested in pursing freelance work?

The most important thing is to build your resume and portfolio first—gain experience beta-reading and offering critiques for writers, even land a remote internship with a literary agent if you can. Editing is a very different skill than writing, so make sure you have a solid grasp on how to give insightful criticism. Then start getting the word out there!

Giving insightful criticism is definitely key. What are some of your current projects?

I have been working on several, including a Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired high fantasy, and another high fantasy that’s a Mulan retelling. Hoping I’ll be able to share more about them soon!

I hope so too! Thanks, Stephanie! 

Bio: Twenty-three-year-old Stephanie Diaz lives in San Diego, CA, writing full-time and working as a freelance editor on the side. She graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in film production. She is the author of Extraction, Rebellion, and Evolution. When she isn't lost in other worlds, she can be found singing, marveling at the night sky, or fangirling over TV shows.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

EVERY UGLY WORD by Aimee L. Salter

I first got to know Aimee through a Facebook group for YA authors, and I was especially intrigued by her book, EVERY UGLY WORD, and how it addressed bullying in high schools. Have a look:

When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school bullies taunt and shove her. She can’t go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.

Her older self has been through it all already—she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop.

According to your website bio, you started out as a self-published author. What do you like most about self-publishing, most about traditional publishing, and what have you learned in the process of publishing through both avenues?

Yes, my first release was BREAKABLE, which was acquired by Alloy Entertainment (they do Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, The 100, etc).

The advantage to self-publishing is definitely control. You control cover, design, timeline, everything! No waiting around or debating the merits of changes.

However the downside of self-publishing is also that you control everything. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done. There is a ton of work.  And on top of that, it's only your ideas--or those from people you can afford to pay. There's no such thing as free expertise.

Self-publishing taught me that I can write. But also that I work best as part of a team. I found the isolation of self-publishing very difficult. And the doors that are still not open to unproven indie writers incredibly frustrating. However, I was very proud of what I produced. And it paid off, since the book got picked up.

The thing I love about the traditional model of publishing is how much expertise is on hand, and invested in you as a writer. I'm a midlist author (no big advances, or fancy tours!) yet my covers were handled by design professionals specifically educated and trained in the vagaries of book covers. My editing was done by a woman with almost twenty years experience, who edited some of the most successful YA series in the last decade, and my marketing and distribution are spearheaded by the single largest book retailer in the world.

On a creative level, I couldn't have had a better team around me. And my writing has improved by leaps and bounds because of it. My editor was able to hone in on what I was trying to achieve with my books, cut out the dross, and focus my energies on the scenes and characterizations that would reveal my story best to readers. She's taught me how to plot effectively, how to identify unnecessary words (of which I have always had A LOT), and how to champion my stories. I've learned to trust my creative instincts, while also trusting that those helping me achieve them offer advice for my good--and the good of my characters. I've taken some risks based on my editor's advice. And it's paid off.

I owe a lot to Alloy. They've essentially apprenticed me as a writer.

And your stories are so compelling. EVERY UGLY WORD takes a unique glance at bullying within high schools--and I love how Ashley's twenty-three-year-old self appears in the mirror. What would your twenty-three-year-old self say to your teen self?

Honestly, in terms of advice, the Ashleys at seventeen and twenty-three were based on myself at those ages. Not their personalities, but the things they felt and expressed were very much a picture of the inside of my heart. So I guess the entire book is the answer to that question, ha!

Seriously, though, I put a lot of the insight I'd gained as an adult into the mouth of Older Ashley. And I put the distrust I experienced as a teen in the mind of younger Ashley. The two key pieces of advice or insight that Older Ashley offers which were essentially what drove me to write the book, were:

- You can’t control how other people hurt you, but you can control how you hurt yourself.

- People you love should always be more important than people who judge you.

Wonderful advice, and helpful to people of all ages. Your novel DARK TOUCH deals a great deal with empathy, and the ability to feel the pain of others. What do you hope readers will gain from Tully's journey?

In DARK TOUCH Tully has no control over her emotions being "transmitted" to people she touches. It makes her incredibly vulnerable, especially as she's mainly surrounded by very unhealthy and selfish people.

There's kind of two layers to what I hoped to achieve with that story. Firstly, it's a letter to anyone who has dealt with abuse, exploitation, or an addict in the family. I want them to know I hear them and they aren't alone. Secondly, Tully remains my favorite character I've ever written. She's abrasive, defensive, and fatalistic. But those are walls that developed in defense of her very tender heart. I guess I would hope that people might recognize Tully in those around them and be willing to extend people like her some grace. In real life that kind of hard exterior is often hiding a lot of pain and fear.

I'm glad that Tully offers such a great example, and that people grappling with pain and fear can be inspired by her story. What are some of your current projects?

I'm currently working on two very different YA novels:

I recently completed the (very) rough first draft of HUSH--the story of a girl who blacks out whenever she loses her temper, and wreaks havoc on anything/anyone nearby. (One of these episodes ended in her father's death, so she's dealing with a lot.) January is probably the funniest character I've written, in that snarky, sarcastic way. And she's falling for the coolest guy...

The second project I'm drafting right now is a departure from other books I've had published. It *kind of* falls into the fantasy/sci-fi realm. But really it's just a story about a famous guy, and a homeless girl falling in love--and sticking it to the man. While being hopelessly lost in the culture shock of their vastly different worlds.

Those both sound great! Thanks, Aimee, for putting such great stories out into the world.

To buy your own copies of EVERY UGLY WORD and/or DARK TOUCH, feel free to click the links below:

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


And to find out more about Aimee herself, be sure to check out her website:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

THE CAGED GRAVES by Dianne Salerni

Not only was THE CAGED GRAVES inspired by two real caged graves in an abandoned Pennsylvania cemetery, it contains the perfect blend of historical and fantasy that I always like to see in YA novels. Have a look:

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

You taught fourth and fifth grade for 25 years. In what ways, if any, does this experience inform how you relate to your book audiences? 

For all those years, my daily co-workers were 10 and 11-year-old kids. (I spent a lot more time with them than with my fellow teachers.) I know what they like to read. I know how they talk and how they behave. This really helps me with my middle grade books. Characters like Jax Aubrey, Billy Ramirez, and Dorian Ambrose are based on blends of various students.

That kind of authenticity is definitely needed and appreciated by readers. THE CAGED GRAVES is also a Junior Library Guild selection--congratulations! I love how it was based on real caged graves, and how the plot intertwines both the American Civil War and the Revolutionary War. Did you initially know how the story would play out, or did it grow organically as you went along?

Thank you! I am an incurable “pantster,” so the story definitely evolved as I wrote the first draft. Since THE CAGED GRAVES is a murder mystery, I had the solution to the crime worked out in advance, but I had no idea how my main character was going to figure it out!

I decided to set the story in 1867, fifteen years after the real women in the real caged graves died. This dictated a post-Civil War setting. Then, when I was researching the history of central Pennsylvania I came across some interesting events from the Revolutionary War: a supposed massacre conducted by British troops and their Native American allies. I knew I had to weave that into the mystery! The first draft was a bit of a mess (they always are), but that’s part of my process, and I’ve come to accept it.

As a fellow incurable "pantser," I know exactly what you mean! Your novel, WE HEAR THE DEAD was the inspiration for a short film, The Spirit Game. In what ways did you feel the film encompassed your vision of the story?

Although they aged up my teenage characters to adults, I thought they did a remarkable job of capturing the themes of the book in seven minutes! The personalities of the three sisters are true to my vision: Leah, for whom it was all business, Maggie, who wanted to help people, and Kate, who is wiser than her years. The movie makes it clear that their séances are faked, and yet Kate knows things about her client that she shouldn’t know. How much of it is supernatural talent, and how much of it comes from the laudanum we see her add to her glass? The short film is currently being used as a promotional tool by the producer, who wants to see this as a TV series.

Very exciting! What are some of your current projects? 

As usual, I have several projects in various stages. I’m finishing up agent-requested revisions on a YA manuscript while the first draft of a MG story is “resting” in an awful, messy state, awaiting future revisions. Meanwhile, I’m toying with ideas for a future project and sitting on a first draft of another Eighth Day book while I wait to hear if my publisher will continue the series. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thanks for hosting me today! Thanks for being here, Dianne! 

To grab a copy of THE CAGED GRAVES for yourself, feel free to click the links below:

Buy: ~ BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

And for more about Dianne and her books, you can visit her website:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

MIRAGE by Tracy Clark (plus a re-issue of the Light Key Trilogy!)

Tracy Clark is probably best known for her Light Key trilogy, a lovely romantic fantasy involving auras and Ireland. The books are getting re-issued with new covers at the end of this month, and her newest book, MIRAGE, a contemporary thriller, is due out this July:


Seventeen-year-old Ryan Poitier Sharpe is a gutsy, outgoing girl who spends her summer days hurling herself out of planes at her parents’ skydiving center in the Mojave Desert. Fiercely independent and willing to take risks, she challenges those around her to live life fully. But after a brush with death, Ryan is severely altered—she’s not the same thrill-seeking girl she once was and seems to be teetering on the edge of psychosis. As her relationships crumble and her life unravels, Ryan must fight the girl she’s become—or lose herself forever—in this eerie and atmospheric thriller.

Scintillate, Book 1 in the Light Key trilogy:

Cora Sandoval’s mother disappeared when she was five and they were living in Ireland. Since then, her dad has been more than overprotective and Cora is beginning to chafe under his confines. But even more troubling is the colorful light she suddenly sees around people. Everyone, that is, except herself—instead, she glows a brilliant, sparkling silver.

As she realizes the danger associated with these strange auras, Cora is inexplicably drawn to Finn, a gorgeous Irish exchange student who makes her feel safe. Their attraction is instant, magnetic, and primal—but her father disapproves, and Finn’s mother orders him home to Ireland upon hearing he’s fallen in love. After a fight with her father, Cora flees to Ireland, both to follow Finn and to look for her missing mother.

There she meets another silver-haloed person and discovers the meaning of her newfound powers and their role in a conspiracy spanning centuries—one that could change mankind forever…and end her life.

Tracy also answered some interview questions:

You make homemade marshmallows!? How?

Yes, it’s true! Be forewarned; you can make homemade marshmallows but once you do, you’ll never want the store-bought ones again. They’re so yummy! There is an obscene amount of sugar and corn syrup involved. After all that, you roll them in powdered sugar. The only negative is that when they’re roasted, they’re so hot—like white molten, sweet-tasting lava—that you need to use patience before eating if you want to avoid tongue injury. :) One of my tricks (inspired by a kid-friend of mine) is to add cocoa powder, cinnamon, and cayenne to the powdered sugar at the end for a take on Mexican-chocolate marshmallows. Great—now I want marshmallows.

Me too! Your novel MIRAGE explores a really poignant journey with Ryan, especially when her perceptions change. How did her story shape as you wrote it?

Thank you! I always knew how Ryan's story would end so the challenge was writing her from the person she was to the person she became. This was one of the trickiest character arcs I’ve ever written. In fact, that was what compelled me to write MIRAGE. I wasn’t sure I could. I love a good challenge! I’m so glad I persisted, because I feel the book has so much to say about identity and living life to the fullest.

It certainly does--and I love how unique Ryan's perspective is. Your other series, the Light Key trilogy, comes from a different place--a fantasy that spans centuries. What about it was most enjoyable to write?

The theme of the series is very much about our metaphysical energy—what we give off and what we take on—and that theme was so real and compelling to me that I never tired of exploring it. I do love writing a good kissing scene! But the most enjoyable aspect of the Light Key trilogy was weaving together the Dan Brown-esque, real-life clues into a mythology that would resonate and make you wonder if it was real.

That's definitely one of the things I loved most about it. What are some of your current projects?

I’ve recently completed a YA historical thriller set in 1889 Paris. It was inspired by a real-life, mysterious death of a young woman and the death mask that has since become famous all over the world. Fingers crossed that it finds a home with a fabulous publisher!

I make it a habit to begin a new project as soon as I finish the last and so I’m currently developing a new YA project that’s been percolating in my head for over a year. It’s sci-fi, which is a new genre for me. Can’t wait to get drafting on that! And for the first time ever, I’m thinking seriously of writing an adult romance series. I have what I think is a fantastic idea and it’s a good sign when scene ideas are already floating around in my head. Both will keep me busy!

And us readers are glad for it. Thanks, Tracy!

To find out more about Tracy and her books, you can visit her website:

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

The Light Key trilogy:

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound