Wednesday, June 21, 2017

THE READER: Book One of The Sea of Ink and Gold, by Traci Chee

I've wanted to feature Traci Chee ever since I first saw the cover for THE READER. This kind of fiction is my favorite, because its imagination knows no bounds. This series also demonstrates the importance of story, and how it can shape destinies. The second book in the series, THE SPEAKER, comes out this November.

Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.

Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.

Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.



Having barely escaped the clutches of the Guard, Sefia and Archer are back on the run, slipping into the safety of the forest to tend to their wounds and plan their next move. Haunted by painful memories, Archer struggles to overcome the trauma of his past with the impressors, whose cruelty plagues him whenever he closes his eyes. But when Sefia and Archer happen upon a crew of impressors in the wilderness, Archer finally finds a way to combat his nightmares: by hunting impressors and freeing the boys they hold captive.

With Sefia’s help, Archer travels across the kingdom of Deliene rescuing boys while she continues to investigate the mysterious Book and secrets it contains. But the more battles they fight, the more fights Archer craves, until his thirst for violence threatens to transform him from the gentle boy Sefia knows to a grim warrior with a cruel destiny. As Sefia begins to unravel the threads that connect Archer’s fate to her parents’ betrayal of the Guard so long ago, she and Archer must figure out a way to subvert the Guard’s plans before they are ensnared in a war that will pit kingdom against kingdom, leaving their future and the safety of the entire world hanging in the balance

According to your website bio, you feel most at home in the mountains. What about the outdoors resonates with you most?

There’s a lot I love about the outdoors--the smell of the trees, the feeling of looking out over vast spaces, the challenge of “I bet I can climb that”--but my favorite by far is the feeling of discovery, walking paths you haven’t yet walked, seeing vistas you haven’t yet seen. I love guessing what’s beyond the next bend in the trail and finding hidden pockets of beauty in unexpected places. The outdoors are full of wonders, and I love happening upon them.

That feeling of discovery is something everyone, including writers, can appreciate. And I love how THE READER explores layers of story and how books can reveal different mysteries. What is your favorite part of the world you've built?

Thank you! I’m really fond of the outlaws, the cowboy-pirates for whom the seas are the wild frontier, and I do love the characters, Sefia, Archer, Reed, even Tanin and beautiful, empty-headed Haldon Lac, but I think my favorite part of the world are the legendary objects secreted here and there. We’ve got Sefia’s book, of course, but there are also swords that drink blood, cursed guns, a gong that summons storms, a diamond necklace that takes as much as it gives… Part of what I love about THE READER is that the legendary and the magical are all sort of woven into the everyday fabric of the world, so you might find them anywhere.

The sprinkling of unexpected detail is something I love too. Plus, THE READER's cover is amazing, and I'm sure you've received many compliments on it. What, in your opinion, are the necessary elements of a book cover?

I’m also in love with the cover of THE READER, the glory of which is due entirely to the talents of designer Kristin Smith and illustrator Yohey Horishita. I couldn’t tell you what makes a good book cover, but in the case of THE READER, one of the things I love about it is that it feels like the book: The illustrations have this sweeping, almost overwhelming sense of magic to them, and you can tell from the way each of the settings all unfold from these gold pages that it’s an involved, multi-layered story. Then, of course, there’s the girl, who sometimes looks sorrowful, sometimes determined, sometimes “I’m out for revenge and death to anyone who gets in my way.”

Breathtaking. The sequel to THE READER, entitled THE SPEAKER, comes out this November. What are you able to tell us about it so far, if anything?

Without spoiling anything, I can say that the end of THE READER creates some deep fissures in what Sefia thought she knew about her world, and THE SPEAKER is all about cracking those fissures open and delving deeper into the mysteries about the book, the secret society that wants it, and Sefia’s connections to both of them. We also get an intense look at Archer--who he was and who he’s becoming--as he and Sefia try to figure out who they are to each other now that the truth is out. THE READER was essentially a small story about the two of them, and in THE SPEAKER their world is opening up… and not without some dire consequences. We learn more about Captain Reed’s quest for treasure and immortality, meet new characters (like a king and the best friend/love interest who is duty-bound to betray him), and watch as Sefia and Archer blunder toward destiny even as they try desperately to avoid it.



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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

THE CROWN'S GAME and THE CROWN'S FATE by Evelyn Skye

I first met Evelyn Skye at the Bay Area Book Festival last year, and I've been a fan of hers ever since. Her first book, THE CROWN'S GAME, involves magical duels in an alternate imperial Russia, and the sequel, THE CROWN'S FATE, debuted this past May. For those who enjoy Sabaa Tahir, Victoria Aveyard, and Stephanie Garber, this unique fantasy series is a must.

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.



Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

If you could only choose one, would you pick pizza or cookies? 

Oh my God, why are you so mean to me? Um.... pizookie!


Ooh, get me one of those! THE CROWN'S FATE builds on the intricate world you created in THE CROWN'S GAME. In what ways has Vika's journey changed her, and has she surprised you at all? 

I always knew that Vika would be a badass heroine who could save herself, but as I wrote her, her compassion kept growing and revealing more of itself. It's not that I didn't know she was kind. I just didn't understand the depth of it and how much it would drive her. I think part of that is that the Crown's Game itself changed her. So much happened to Vika during the course of Book 1 that forced her to become more than just a fierce girl who wanted to become Imperial Enchanter.


And it definitely adds depth to her character! I love your website--especially the home page. What have you found most helpful in building an online presence?

Thank you! Hafsah Faizal at Icey Designs is the talent behind the website layout and design. In terms of building on online presence, it's really about being genuine. I became friends with a lot of writers before I was ever published, and we all try to help each other out, promoting each other's books, giving advice, mentoring up-and-coming authors, that sort of thing. I think that if you put a piece of yourself out there and it's real, people will recognize that and want to be real with you, too.


Definitely. What are some of your current projects?

I am currently working on a secret new project, which is also a YA fantasy. Different world, different characters, different everything. I'm not allowed to say anything more at this point, but hopefully I'll be able to announce more details later this summer or in the fall!

As always, the Tsar's Guard (my fan club) will be the first to know. (If you haven't signed up yet, join us! It's super easy: www.evelynskye.com/the-tsars-guard.)


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


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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

RADICAL NEW ME by P.K. Hrezo

I first fell in love with PK's Hrezo time travel series when I featured her here. I'm excited to announce that her new book, RADICAL NEW ME, is now out, and the premise looks amazing.

 Title: Radical New Me Author: PK Hrezo Release Date: May 10th, 2017 Tour Dates: June 6th – 10th, 2017 Genre: Women’s Fiction

This post can also be viewed here

 
Callie Cow: Where is She Now? That's what Calliope Crown's old high school classmates want to know. Now it's five years later and Calliope's gone from fat to fit in a year-long transformation with a world-renowned self-help guru. When funds she's always counted on fall through, she moves to ritzy Boca Raton to work for her snobby aunt's beachside bakery and face the same temptation that put her in the body she so desperately wants to forget. Calliope may be armed with a new identity, but old self-images don't die fast, and true self-esteem isn't something you can buy online with a credit card, even though her guru would suggest otherwise with the prices of his webinar course and weekly regimen. Enter one cute and dedicated handyman and Calliope begins to see the world in a new light. Connecting with him, as well as new friends and Internet followers may just prove that life's detours can sometimes reveal our truest identities in the most unexpected of ways.
  AmazonUS | AmazonUK | AmazonAU | AmazonCA

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TRUE STORIES AT THE SMOKY VIEW by Jill McCroskey Coupe

When I found out that TRUE STORIES AT THE SMOKY VIEW was about a librarian, by a librarian, I had to feature it. It also earned a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards this year. Have a look:

Although Vrai (short for Vraiment), an art history librarian in Baltimore, has not spoken to her friend Skip for over a year, after his sudden death she dutifully takes his ashes and his dog home to his mother in Knoxville, Tennessee. Vrai has no idea why Skip stepped into traffic in Baltimore with his hands over his eyes, or why he so abruptly ended their longtime friendship.

After Skip’s funeral, Vrai rescues ten-year-old Jonathan, who has been abandoned in the funeral home parking lot. The Blizzard of 1993 soon strands this unlikely duo at the Smoky View Motel, where Jonathan, whose parents were assassinated by Pinochet’s henchmen, comes across short stories (fiction) hinting at the truth about Skip’s death.

By the end of this story of mutual rescue, the lives of Vrai and Jonathan have been changed forever.


While a librarian at Johns Hopkins University, you earned an MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College. What led you to pursue writing, and what do you love most about it?

I have always wanted to write, and when I was considering going to graduate school, I was torn between a graduate degree in psychology (my undergraduate major) and an MFA in fiction. I discovered that the MLS program at the University of Maryland would allow me, on a small scale, to do both. I could apply credits earned in other university departments toward a very practical degree in library science. Feeling as though I’d won the jackpot, I received an MLS which included two creative writing classes and three graduate psychology courses.

During my thirteen years at Johns Hopkins, which was my third library job after receiving my MLS, I served as library liaison for the Psychology Department and also for The Writing Seminars. I kept writing fiction, which is, for me, a way to try to make sense of this crazy world we inhabit. Encouraged by some of The Writing Seminars faculty, I applied to Warren Wilson’s low-residency MFA Program, which would allow me to continue working full-time.

Writing is definitely a great way to make sense of our crazy world. TRUE STORIES AT THE SMOKY VIEW has been praised for its great characters and storytelling. What about the book are you most proud of and why?

I began writing the novel when my life was in turmoil. This is not an approach I would recommend. I had almost all my characters from the very beginning, but it took me a while – years, in fact – to discover what their story was. At one point I put the novel aside and wrote another one, which I took to a workshop taught by John Dufresne at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Feedback I received there and elsewhere was invaluable when I finally returned to the first novel. So I suppose I’m proudest of having learned to be a little more patient in my writing. Turmoil can be a good source of ideas, but it’s best to wait till the dust has settled before forging ahead.

I’m also proud of, and a little amazed by, the way some of the characters in the novel developed. Rupert Brill, chair of the Art History department at the university where my protagonist Vrai (short for Vraiment) is the art history librarian, was at first nothing more than a seemingly apt name for an arrogant professor. But Dr. Brill surprised me by emerging as a complex human being with good moral instincts, and he played a crucial role in a climactic scene toward the end. What would I ever have done without him?

Jonathan Santiago, the young boy whose parents were assassinated by Pinochet’s henchmen, also came to life in surprising ways. Friends have asked me if Jonathan is based on my son. He is not. When I think of Jonathan, I see someone very different; he’s completely fictional but also very real to me.

The best characters are. You are currently published with She Writes Press. How did you know this was the right publisher for you?

Having joined She Writes, a huge online community of women writers, I began keeping an eye on its publishing arm, She Writes Press. Soon after Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly agreed to begin publishing reviews of She Writes Press books, the press and She Writes merged with SparkPoint Studio. This was around the time I finished revising True Stories at the Smoky View and began looking for a publisher. As a former librarian, I knew I wanted the opportunity to have my book in libraries nationwide. So I submitted my novel to She Writes Press, and here I am with reviews in both Library Journal and Booklist and, as of May 30, a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Wonderful! What are some of your current projects?

I’m working on a “novel in stories” about an interracial friendship which begins in the segregated South and continues for over fifty years. Although the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference recently ceased to exist, John Dufresne, bless his heart, is holding his workshop in Taos this summer as usual. So I’ll receive feedback on my manuscript from him and from the five other workshop participants, three of whom were also in the workshop at which True Stories at the Smoky View was discussed.

A week or so ago, I surprised myself by starting work on something brand new. I already have a brief outline and possibly even a title. It’s too soon to know whether or not this will turn into a full-length novel. I’m reminding myself not to rush – to allow the story to develop on its own. Here’s hoping I can take my own advice.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER, and other books by Grace Lin

I was fortunate to hear Grace Lin give the keynote at this year's SCBWI Spring Spirit conference, and she gave a terrific lens into what makes a story meaningful. Her newest book, WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER, is a companion to her novel WHEN THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, a National Book Award finalist, and STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY. A Newbery honor author, Grace also writes the Ling & Ting series for beginning readers, the Pacy Lin series for middle readers, and countless other picture books. This post can also be viewed here.


Pinmei's gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.

Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide.

Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei's grandmother--before it's too late.





In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.








The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can't help but notice the village's peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper's son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?

But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.


You gave a TEDx talk entitled, "The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child's Bookshelf." In it, you talk about how artists share their vision of the world. In what ways do you think it's important for both mirrors and windows to comprise an artist's vision?

Like I said in my TEDx talk, one shouldn’t be an artist because you want praise—one should be an artist because you have a vision to share with the world—and to share it with the world, you have to see outside yourself. But to create a vision worth sharing, I also believe you have to look inside of yourself as well. You need to know yourself before you can take what you observe and make it into art, there’s a reason why so many define art as self-expression. Without your own experiences shaping what you create, you might as well just be a Xerox machine.


A beautifully illustrated point. WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON has been described as reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. In what ways is this significant to you as its author? 

I’ve heard that Baum considered The Wizard of Oz to be a true American fairytale, so I’m always a little tickled to hear the comparisons. It was a struggle for me to accept the “multicultural” author label, for a long time I just assumed that meant my books were doomed for the sidelines and that for a niche audience; so when people liken it to a mainstream classic it makes me think maybe my work isn’t so niche after all.

That said, I honestly wasn’t thinking of The Wizard of Oz when I wrote Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I was modeling an old Chinese folktale called “Olive Lake.”


Further proof of how storytelling is not only timeless, it can be both intimate and universal for everyone. WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER, the companion story to WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, has a beautiful beginning that weaves together elements of winter. When you compose a book, do the words come first, or the illustrations? Or both?

I might have one or two images in my head when I start the story, but those images almost always change as I write the story. The story always dictates where the images go, so the writing is usually first. I think it’s from the way we were trained as illustrators in art school—we received a story and then drew from there. Here, I just happen to be the one writing the story, too.


And I love the way you weave story and illustrations together. What are some of your current projects?

I’m making a return to picturebooks. My daughter has just turned five and for the last few years my reading world has been filled with them—and I’ve rediscovered their magic. I haven’t created a picturebook in 8 years, I’ll have one coming out in August 2018. It’s called “A Mooncake for Little Star” and I’m really excited about it. I’m changing up my art style for it, so I hope people like it as much as I do!

When the Sea Turned to Silver



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When the Mountain Meets the Moon



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Starry River of the Sky



Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble



Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather




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Dumpling Days (A Pacy Lin Novel)



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The Ugly Vegetables


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Friday, May 19, 2017

Cover Reveal: COUNTING ON YOU by J.C. Reed and Jackie Steele

COVER REVEAL

COUNTING ON YOU by J.C. Reed and Jackie Steele
Release Date: June 5th, 2017
Full length, 550pp
From New York Times Bestselling Author, J.C. Reed, and USA Today Bestselling Author, Jackie Steele, comes a new standalone novel.
Kaiden Wright and I were never supposed to be roommates.
I was clingy, he was a manwhore. I lived to love, and he lived to play. I dreamed of a white picket fence, and he strived for success.
We couldn’t be more different. Me, a normal nurse, he a successful CEO. I wanted to love while he wanted to run. Yet, despite all our differences, we had one thing in common. We both fought hard for what we wanted.
Kaiden Wright wasn’t my future, and I wasn’t his past, but we had moments. Moments that defined us. Moments that felt as though the present was ours and ours only.
Maybe it wasn’t about ending up together.
Maybe it wasn’t about loving someone so deeply you would do anything for them without expecting anything in return.
We were pulled into each other’s lives like magnets, close enough to kiss, close enough to touch. Stolen secret moments that changed our lives forever.
What will happen when our borrowed time is over?
Author’s note – Counting On You is a full-length, standalone novel with no cliffhanger.
Preorder it now for $2.99 (changing to $4.99 after release)
(get notified when it's available)
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$50 AMAZON GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY
AUTHOR INFO

J.C. Reed is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. She writes steamy contemporary romance with a touch of mystery and suspense. When she's not typing away on her keyboard, forgetting the world around her, you can find her chatting with her readers on Facebook.
CONTACT JESSICA:

Author JACKIE STEELE

$50 AMAZON GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY 

(open internationally)


COUNTING ON YOU by J.C. Reed and JACKIE STEELE will go live on June 5th, 2017.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

DARKLING by K.M. Rice

I met K.M. Rice after an exquisite panel where she spoke about publishing. Check out her book, DARKLING, as well as her contribution to the upcoming book, MIDDLE EARTH: FROM SCRIPT TO SCREEN, set to debut this fall.

How far would you go to save your family?

Midsummer used to be a day of feasts and bonfires. A day when cares were set aside for the joy of grass between our toes, warm hands in our palms, laughter in our hearts. Our celebrations dimmed with the light. Something upset the balance of our woods. Something so deep that even our bonfires can't lure the sun back. And he has something to do with it. Of that we're sure, which is why I'm being given to him.

DARKLING is K.M. Rice's suspenseful debut novel about a young woman's sacrifice to save her village and the unexpected strength that comes from first love.






For the first time ever, the epic, in-depth story of the creation of one of the most famous fantasy worlds ever imagined--an illustrious compendium that reveals the breathtaking craftsmanship, artistry, and technology behind the magical Middle-earth of the blockbuster film franchises, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson.

Richly illustrated with thousands of film frames, concept art and behind-the-scenes imagery, many previously unseen, Middle-earth: From Script to Screen follows in the footsteps of the Fellowship of the Ring and the Company of Thorin Oakenshield, visiting the realms and landscapes of Middle-earth and uncovering their secrets. Accompanying this stunning gallery, cast and crew reflect upon their experiences, share brand-new stories and insights into how the wildernesses and soundstages of New Zealand were transformed into a magical world of hobbits, Dwarves and Elves, resulting in one of the most spectacular achievements in cinematic history.

With foreword by Sir Peter Jackson and additional writing by K.M. Rice; illustrated with final film imagery, behind-the-scenes pictures and conceptual artwork, including places not seen in the final films, this monumental compilation offers unique and far-reaching insights into the creation of the world we know and love as Middle-earth.




In addition to writing, you have also been involved with TheOneRing.net. What has this experience meant to you?

TheOneRing.net has enriched my life in so many different ways. I started off as a fan, obsessively checking the site for updates once the Hobbit films were announced. For a lot of us, TheOneRing has been the resourced for Tolkien-related news for years. An opportunity arose to help out the staff at San Diego Comic Con (a nerd’s dream come true, right?!) so my little sister, Alex, and I leapt at the opportunity and are so happy that we did. It was such a joy to be surrounded by other Middle-earth fans, and we quickly found a way to contribute to the site and officially become staff by launching our very own webseries called Happy Hobbit. You can find the show on YouTube, and each episode strives to bring Middle-earth into your daily life.

Happy Hobbit: https://www.youtube.com/user/TORnHappyHobbit

Happy Hobbit has made me a very happy hobbit! Other than the joy of connecting with other fans around the world, our little show caught the attention of Sir Peter Jackson in the summer of 2013. He shared a video of us reacting to the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on his social media, then filmed his cast reacting to our reaction! That not only made Happy Hobbit go viral and appear in international news, but it also made us recognizable to the cast and crew.

Video Montage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olsE11ewUss

As such, TheOneRing asked us to be press on the black carpet for the Hollywood premieres of The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies. We even got to meet our namesakes, Fili and Kili, for that is what we’re called in Happy Hobbit. It truly was a Middle-earth fan’s dream come true.

But amazing as it was to a part of the action on those memorable nights, the greatest reward from TheOneRing.net and Happy Hobbit has been the incredible friendships we have made along the way, and getting the opportunities to go on adventures with my sister, who is my other half, and our mom, who loves to travel and tag along! In about two years, I went from someone who had always wanted to go to a convention to being on a panel at San Diego Comic Con!

Breathtaking! Your first novel, DARKLING, explores the connections between people and nature. How did this story come to you, and what do you hope readers take away from it? 

That’s a very astute observation. I don’t immediately think of Darkling as focusing on the relationship between people and nature, but of course, that is the crux of the plot.

Darkling was actually the third book I had ever written, and the main story came to me in a dream that most would consider to be a nightmare. I was the main character, Willow, and the emotions and setting felt so vivid that the dream lingered with me long after. I write in a rather manic manner. Once a fancy takes ahold of me, it is difficult for me to stop. I don’t outline, so I often think that I am writing quickly because I am entertaining myself with the story as I skip along!

Though the dream lingered in my mind, I didn’t have a world for it until an eerie piece of music unlocked some sort of door in my subconscious, and the words then vomited onto the page, for lack of a better description. “The woods are dark” was typed onto a blank page, and within twenty days, I had my third novel. I also actually only wrote on 15 of those days, so this is why I used the gross idea of retching up words. When they come, they come!

I hope that readers can, firstly, forgive me for being so gross up above! But in all fairness, Darkling can get quite gross at times. I have a friend who teaches it to his college students as an example of Gothic literature, but it is an odd mixture: part Gothic, part Victorian, Dark Fantasy, with a healthy dose of Romance and Feminism. I am somewhat allergic to writing damsels in any form.

So I hope that my readers are not only entertained, but inspired. While the story is fast-paced, the subtext is about recovering from loss, which is something we have all been through in some form. I have looked into the darkness. I have felt its all-encompassing pull. I have heard the whispers that tell me to give in to fear and to push people away for fear of being hurt. Darkling is about traversing this grief and stepping out on the other side, all the stronger for it. I hope that readers can vicariously experience this change through the story and that it may bolster their own radiance.

Life isn’t about the goodbyes. It is about the hellos.

It is indeed. You are also crowdfunding an effort to turn DARKLING into an audiobook. How did this come about?

Some time ago, I was approached by the voice artist Gail Shalan. She had come across Darkling and thought it was the perfect material for her, and after she sent me a sample of her reading the first chapter, I couldn’t agree more! Gail is incredibly talented and has the warm, youthful tones needed to convey the heart and soul of Willow.

This project needed to happen, but since I am an independent author, I would have to pay Gail out of pocket, which I simply couldn’t afford to do. She and I kicked around various ideas and eventually settled on crowdfunding to raise the money. It was tempting to just slap something up online and hope that people would start chucking money at us, but we both knew that would not be the case. So we waited, and I brainstormed.

I spent the end of 2015 working in Wellington, NZ., at Weta Workshop. Weta is the special effects and props company that helped bring to life Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia, and many other beloved films. In fact, I was there assisting author Daniel Falconer by doing additional writing and research on a brand new book out this fall called Middle-earth: From Script to Screen, which is available now for pre-order. Helping him write this book goes back to your first question: my geek life and my professional life came full circle! While working on this epic of a book, I started chatting with my friends there about my crowdfund, asking if any of them would be willing to donate an art piece for me to use. After all, these are Oscar-winning concept artists!

Lindsey Crummett, who I have had the pleasure of knowing for a few years now, had read Darkling when it first came out. Loving a good ghost story, she offered to make me an illustration. Nearly two years later, here we are! Lindsey was a concept designer on both The Hobbit and Avatar, and her illustration of Willow is now available through my crowdfund as both an art print and as the cover for the limited edition. Gail and I really would not have been able to do this without Lindsey’s generosity, kindness, and incredible talent, so we are so very thankful.

Wonderful! What are some of your current projects?

I’ve already mentioned Middle-earth: From Script to Screen, but it bears being mentioned again.

I also set out to write new content for the limited edition of Darkling and got carried away. What was meant to be a short story accidentally birthed a novel (you should always use protection when writing short stories or else this may happen to you!). This new book is a companion piece to Darkling and is called The Watcher. I’m really excited for Darkling fans to sink their teeth into it, for it provides much more depth to the story and I have been asked to write more in that world ever since Darkling’s release in 2013.

My true book child, however, is a four-book series called Afterworld. All the books have been finished for some time, but Afterworld Book 1: Ophelia is a bit late out the gate because I am fulfilling the demands of my friends who read it and making sure that I give any interested publishers a chance to have a look at the manuscript before I launch the series by publishing it independently. I am happy to wait so that I can put my best foot forward, however, I am very much chomping at the bit. Readers often ask me for updates on its release and as I said, the Afterworld books are truly my “book children.” I have invested so much in the characters and the story. I am as delighted as I am terrified to let these children out into the world.

I also have my author vlog which I film somewhat regularly, so if you feel the need for some writing advice, please check it out on YouTube.

Author Vlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSrQxIyUSHw

To keep up with my upcoming releases and news, I always encourage people to not only follow me on social media, but to also subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Wildling Adventures. I call my readers and community “wildlings” because we all have the wildish nature to create inside. We just have to unleash it. Overall, that is what I hope my stories can do for people: unleash their wildish nature.

Website: www.kmrice.com
Facebook: facebook.com/KMRiceAuthor
Twitter & Instagram: @KMRiceAuthor
Newsletter Signup: http://kmrice.us13.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=7c4091eedbdafbe52c7094e26&id=9f7148cd75

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

TO THE STARS THROUGH DIFFICULTIES by Romalyn Tilghman

When I found out Romalyn Tilghman's book was inspired by Carnegie libraries, I had to feature it. For the curious, here's some background on Carnegie libraries.

Andrew Carnegie funded fifty-nine public libraries in Kansas in the early 20th century but it was frontier women who organized waffle suppers, minstrel shows, and women's baseball games to buy books to fill them.

Now, a century later, Angelina returns to her father's hometown of New Hope to complete her dissertation on the Carnegie libraries, just as Traci and Gayle arrive in town - Traci as an artist-in-residence at the renovated Carnegie Arts Center and Gayle as a refugee whose neighboring town, Prairie Hill, has just been destroyed by a tornado.

The discovery of an old journal inspires the women to create a library and arts center as the first act of rebuilding Prairie Hill after the tornado. As they work together to raise money for the center, Traci reveals her enormous heart, Angelina discovers that problem-solving is more valuable than her PhD, and Gayle demonstrates that courage is not about waiting out a storm but building a future.

Can you tell us more about your time with the National Endowment for the Arts? In what ways do you feel the arts benefit people in their daily lives?

My time with the National Endowment for the Arts was beyond fabulous, maybe the best job that ever existed. I served as a liaison between the chairman's office and the field. First, I was based in the Midwest, serving a region from Minnesota to Texas; then I moved West to serve on the Pacific Rim, including Hawaii and Alaska as well as California, Washington, and Oregon. I spent my life meeting regional artists and those supporting them. I made frequent trips to DC, sat in on discipline panel and National Council meetings with some of the most extraordinary, committed, and articulate artists in the world.

Behind the glamour was hard work and a wicked travel schedule as we tried to figure out how to stretch limited federal dollars to do the most good. (The NEA has never cost the individual taxpayer more than the price of a postage stamp.) One of the things its critics don't realize is that the NEA is about ACCESS to the arts as much as it is about creation. Throughout this country, you'll see artists in schools, murals in neighborhoods, new plays being produced in small theaters, thanks to the NEA. Fifty years from now, I think the NEA will be lauded for the support it gave to diverse voices of a variety of ethnicity, geography, and sexual preferences, further defining the essence of our great country. Its work has permeated our rural towns and inner city neighborhoods, stretching our imaginations. A life without music or dance or literature or a photograph of beauty is a drab life indeed.

Indeed it is. What great work you've done to spread creativity. You also have a long history with and love of Carnegie libraries. What was your process of building the story of TO THE STARS THROUGH DIFFICULTIES around these libraries?

I grew up in the Carnegie library in Manhattan, KS. I started going before I learned to read and kept going until I graduated from high school. When I started working for the Association of Community Arts Councils of Kansas, I noticed Carnegie libraries sprinkled across the state, some of them being converted into arts centers. Early on, I began to see similarities between the (mostly) women I was working with and the pioneer women who'd taken the initiative to get a library into their towns. For over 30 years, I kept notes on the two eras, not sure how I would use them, but knowing the story would be of the women, their efforts, and their discovery of their own power and self-esteem in the process. Because the libraries were central, I needed Angelina, a library science PhD candidate, to provide a lot of facts. Because I wanted to show the re-purposing as an arts center, I developed Traci, the artist-in-residence. And because I wanted the issues to be as immediate as possible, I created a tornado survivor who had to start from scratch and prioritize.

The way these three characters connect definitely makes for an uplifting story. If there was anything you could tell your former writer self, what would it be and why?

Not to be afraid. Does every writer say that? I don't regret the fulfilling career I have had, and I'm not sorry I tore up my homework and withdrew from my freshman creative writing class, because I would have missed many adventures between then and now. I have no illusions that my life would have been more glamorous or fulfilling had I spent it writing, because I know how hard the work is.  But I find myself trying to remember all the truisms I've preached to artists all these years. "Anything worth doing never should've been attempted in the first place." "The hardest time isn't when you're doing the work, nor when you've adjusted your marketing, but when you've done everything right, and the payoff hasn't come. Persistence is what separates artists from the 'wannabes'."

Very true! What are some of your current projects? 

My life is full of promoting the book right now. I want to stay focused enough to help it find its place in the world and to create book events that encourage people to read my book and to take their own actions in their communities. That said, I'm getting such positive reinforcement, my brain continues to play around with ideas for the next book, which may very well feature some of the same characters.


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

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sim

I met Tara Sim during the release of V.E. Schwab's A Conjuring of Light, and saw her again last weekend at YallWest. TIMEKEEPER takes a look at how time can twist fates, and is great for those looking for a page-turning mind bender.

Two o’clock was missing.

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

What is something people would not expect to learn about you?

This is something a lot of people probably know already, but I'll say it anyway: I'm half-Indian, though I don't look like it. It tends to cause double takes and follow up questions. Since I grew up very close to that culture, it's definitely inspired my writing and what sort of characters/settings I like to write about.

I'll bet it has. And I love the idea that hours can go missing. How does this drive TIMEKEEPER's story, and in what ways does it affect the characters' relationships with time?

Time, obviously, is the central theme of the trilogy--how it moves us forward, how finicky it can be, and what might happen if forces beyond our ken mess with it. TIMEKEEPER opens up with a scene where two o'clock is literally missing, and that's because I wanted to throw the reader into the world asking questions that gradually get answered as the book goes on. Time is already a strange concept to us IRL, and it's even more so for my characters, who perceive it as a sort of magic that only a few can tap into. Danny's relationship with time, for example, is complicated; he loves being a clock mechanic, but a recent accident in a clock tower makes it difficult for him to be completely at ease anymore. Then he meets Colton, who is basically time personified, and it gets even more complicated when he starts to fall for him. Essentially, I wanted to write a story that kinda taps into our fascination with time and give it a magical twist.

You've definitely woven together a fantastic plot, heightened by beautifully written prose. The beginning of TIMEKEEPER also has a quote from William Blake. Why did you choose this quote, and what do you hope readers will glean from it?

I chose this quote because it felt right for the story. Time is a rather poetic theory to me, so using Blake's poetry to kickstart the book seemed fitting. I hope readers will see the connection between Blake's words--"infinity in the palm of your hand" and "eternity in an hour"--and how Danny personally relates to the time magic used in TIMEKEEPER.

If only we could all have "eternity in an hour." What are some of your current projects?

Right now I'm working on a couple of short stories, which is odd for me, since I tend to avoid them! But I also have a WIP that I like to say is Avatar: the Last Airbender meets Pirates of the Caribbean, and I'm brainstorming another WIP that's THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA meets A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC.


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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL by Gretchen McNeil

I met Gretchen McNeil at YANovCon, and after hearing her speak on a panel, I had to feature her and her books. Check out her latest, I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL:


Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She's starting senior year at the top of her class, she’s a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she’s got a new boyfriend she’s crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying.

So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend Jesse dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it's time to use The Formula for herself. She'll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win Jesse back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game.

Unfortunately, being a manic pixie dream girl isn't all it's cracked up to be, and “Trixie” is causing unexpected consequences for her friends. As The Formula begins to break down, can Bea find a way to reclaim her true identity and fix everything she's messed up? Or will the casualties of her manic pixie experiment go far deeper than she could possibly imagine?

According to your website bio, you are a a former coloratura soprano. What is a coloratura soprano, and in what ways, if any, has music influenced your writing?

In classical music, voice types are called "fachs" and different roles are categorized by a singer's voice type.  A coloratura soprano is a fach, characterized by elaborate ornamentation and an extremely high range.  Think The Queen of the Night from Mozart's "The Magic Flute" or Zerbinetta from Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos."

Unfortunately, I wasn't a very good coloratura soprano.  Or at least, not good enough.  But the lessons I learned about storytelling on stage have absolutely influenced my storytelling on the page.  I actually teach workshops to show writers how to use acting methods, specifically the Stanislavski Technique, to help plot story.

What a wonderful way to teach writing!  I love how you weave mathematics into Beatrice's story. In what ways do you hope readers can see themselves in her experiences? 

I love writing about STEM girls in my books (3:59, GET EVEN and GET DIRTY all feature girls who love math and science) and my goal is to destigmatize these disciplines which for so long have been considered "for boys."  You can be a normal, fun, functional member of high school society AND be into STEM fields without morphing into a The Big Bang Theory stereotype.

True that. I love the design of your website, as well as its usability. What recommendations, if any, do you have for authors looking to build and/or update their online platforms?

Branding is important.  Website, Twitter, Official Facebook Page - they should all have the same look, the same content, and the same voice.  That way, fans know they've found the real you immediately.  You want a clean man page for your website where users can easily find what they're looking for: bio, info about your books, upcoming events.  And if you have a newsletter, make sure the sign up page is right there front and center!

And a quick word about your bio: I have three versions on my website - long, short, and mini.  When you're doing events, organizers and moderators are going to go to your website to find a bio to read. Give them options!  Sometimes, they'll want to read the whole long shebang (if you're a keynote speaker, or a guest of honor, etc.) as an introduction, and other times, a short version will do (like if you're on a panel with four other authors).  Make your bio easy to find, easy to download, and keep them updated!

Great bio tips! What are some of your current projects?

My next book comes out in the spring of 2018 with Disney/Freeform.  It's called #MURDERTRENDING and it's set fifteen minutes in the future where a reality TV "star" turned President of the United States has sold the criminal justice system to a Hollywood producer and turned San Francisco's Treasure Island into Alcatraz 2.0, a penal colony where criminals are sent to live in a faux suburban environment and are hunted down by serial killers.  Their deaths are filmed and streamed live on an app for people's phones and tablets.  When a seventeen-year-old is falsley convicted of killing her stepsister and sentences to Alcatraz 2.0, she must stay alive long enough to figure out who framed her and why.

Did I mention it's a comedy?  Well, a horror comedy.  :)


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

For Gretchen McNeil's other books, go here.

Gretchen McNeil is the author of several young adult horror/suspense novels for Balzer + Bray including POSSESS, 3:59, RELIC, GET EVEN, GET DIRTY, and the award-winning TEN. In 2016, Gretchen published her first YA comedy I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL, and her next novel will be the horror-comedy #MURDERTRENDING for Disney/Freeform.  The film adaptation of TEN starring China Anne McClain (Descendants 2, Black Lightning) and Rome Flynn (The Bold and the Beautiful) premieres later this year.

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