Wednesday, July 17, 2019


I first featured Aminah Mae Safi here. Her newest book, TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL, debuted in June, and this enemies-to-lovers story should definitely be on your To Be Read list:

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She's the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who's obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she's casting her senior film project, she knows she's found the perfect lead - Sana.

There's only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

In our last interview, you said that girls and women "don’t have to be perfect to take up space in this world, to take up space in the pages of stories." What do you wish for girls and women who have difficulty accepting themselves?   

You've got to believe in yourself. This is something I struggle with. But part of accepting yourself is honestly believing in yourself and trusting yourself. Learning to listen to yourself. Learning to spend time with yourself and your own thoughts. It's all these things we try to actively prevent girls from doing when they're growing up.

There's this quote from the modern remake of the movie Sabrina: “I sat in a cafe, drank coffee and wrote nonsense in a journal, then suddenly it was not nonsense – I went for long walks and I met myself in Paris" and I think that's what I wish for all girls and any marginalized person, particularly if they have trouble accepting themselves. Get to know yourself. Know you're okay. We're all imperfect beings in this life trying to figure out the best way to make a life for ourselves. We all feel that way. Feeling that way doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to believe in yourself. Develop enough of a sense of yourself so that you know how to trust yourself and know how to listen to yourself. I think that’s where belief starts.

It certainly does--though it can be, as you said, challenging to maintain. In TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL, I love how the relationship between Sana and Rachel evolves. Did you know how their story would unfold before you started drafting, or did it develop as you wrote it? 

It's always both, isn't it? I mean, I sold this book on proposal, so I definitely had an outline. But things change as you draft. They always change. Many of the key scenes are as I envisioned them. Some new moments popped in at the last minute and really took hold in the story.

This is a bit metaphysical, but when I think I always know the story, I'm just finding it again. It's like, the real story is always in there-- waiting to be pulled out of whatever I've written. But I've got to get all the words down first— many of them the wrong ones— and then continue to edit and find that true story as I work.

So in the end, it genuinely feels like this was always the story and the romance couldn't have unfolded any other way. But maybe that's just a trick I tell myself so I can easily cut scenes and characters when they're not serving the overall book. But Sana and Rachel turned out exactly as they were meant to and their love story unfolded exactly as it should have.

Lovely. What do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing romantic comedies? 

You've got to be rooting for the characters to get together, almost from the first pages. You've got to establish who the characters are and where they need to go, quickly. There are quite a few rules— mostly unspoken— with rom-coms that you've got to understand and acknowledge, even if you decide to break them along the way. Any kind of genre with structure, you've got to know when to play by the rules, and when to break them. You've got to know which tropes serve your overall story and structure, and which ones will only bog you down.

With a rom-com, you've got to do all of this, while also making it feel fun and effortless to read. Effortlessness is always difficult. Introducing people who are essentially two strangers to your readers and getting them to root for their love story is also difficult.

And it's definitely a lot to think about. If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?

You're going to be alright, kid. Just keep showing up. We don't control a lot in life, but we do control our own thoughts and our own actions. So quit worrying about other people and keep showing up.

Incidentally, I still tell myself this. Works wonders.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

HAPPILY & MADLY by Alexis Bass

I've met Alexis Bass at a few author events, and recently saw her on a conference panel about mystery writing. Her book, HAPPILY & MADLY, is a thrilling story that would appeal to fans of We Were Liars.

Maris Brown has been told two things about her destiny:

1. She will fall happily and madly in love.
2. She could be dead before she turns eighteen.

The summer before that fateful birthday, Maris is in the wealthy beach town of Cross Cove with her estranged father and his new family--and the infamous Duvals. Since the youngest member of the Duval family, Edison, is back from college and back in the arms of Maris's new stepsister, her summer looks to be a long string of lazy days on the Duval's lush beach.

But Edison is hiding something. And the more Maris learns about him, the more she's given signs that she should stay as far away from him as possible. As wrong as it is, Maris is drawn to him. Around Edison, she feels truly alive and she's not willing to give that up. Even if it means a collision course with destiny.

According to your website bio, you are "a huge advocate of long beach vacations." Is this what inspired the setting for HAPPILY & MADLY?

Absolutely! The setting of Happily & Madly was inspired by the many beach vacations I’ve been on over the years—beaches on both coasts as well Hawaii and South America.  Even lake-beaches! Cross Cove is a fictional place so I was able to incorporate the best off all beaches into the setting.

What a beautiful way to capture setting! And even though the backdrop is idyllic, HAPPILY & MADLY offers a plot that hinges on concealed truths. What is the most challenging part about giving necessary information, but not revealing too much? 

It’s definitely challenging to figure out how to divulge information, making it authentic to how the main character would receive it, while at the same time doing service to the story. I rely on a little bit of intuition and also studying how other novels I’ve really enjoyed have parsed out information and measuring if that will work for my particular story.

Going along with the plot, there was a music playlist for HAPPILY & MADLY on the Tor Teen Blog; how do these songs best capture the mood you needed for this story?

The playlist posted on the Tor Teen Blog perfectly captures the mood of the story—the fun of summer and living large, the desire of forbidden love, and the twisted parts of the plot.

Wonderful. What are some of your current projects? 

I can’t yet announce what’s next for me, but I have a Young Adult project in the works that I will hopefully be able to discuss soon. I’ve also been working on and off on a novel written in second-person about a woman accused of murdering her wealthy husband.

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

For Alexis's other books, go here

This post can also be viewed here

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Release Feature: WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

I'm excited to announce that WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power is out today! I featured this book here, and it's already getting plenty of buzz:

It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

STAY THROUGH THE STORM by Joanna Rowland, illustrated by Lorian Tu

Joanna' Rowland's picture books have a way of gently guiding readers through life's challenges, especially her book MEMORY BOX, featured here and ALWAYS MOM, FOREVER DAD, featured here. When composing my monthly newsletter last May, I saw that she had a new picture book--STAY THROUGH THE STORM--and I couldn't wait to feature it.

When a storm approaches, a friend encourages another to stay until it passes, sipping cocoa, building a fort indoors, and sharing memories.

Since our last interview, MEMORY BOX has been translated into different languages. What has been the most rewarding part of seeing this book make its way into the world?

So far, the Memory Box: A Book About Grief has sold Dutch foreign rights. It was read to over 140 families from around the world at St. Jude’s hospital on their Day of Remembrance which is an annual event for bereaved families. What has been special to watch with The Memory Box is to know it has been helpful for some families during one of their most heartbreaking times in their lives. I love reading reviews on Amazon (I know I’m not supposed to read reviews) but hearing from people I’ve never met that the book has touched has been so rewarding.

What a lovely journey the book has taken--and I have no doubt it will touch many more readers. I love how STAY THROUGH THE STORM encourages bravery. In what ways did the story develop as you wrote it?  

 During Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm in January 2017 I was watching snow fall at the cabin and I wrote the word storm down. I knew I wanted to write about a storm, I just didn’t know what the heart of my story was. I’d drive around listening to Imagine Dragons' Thunder and Lightning song and just think. Nine months later on one drive I was thinking about my friend Scott that died by suicide and how I wished he had stayed. Then the metaphor and title hit me – Stay Through The Storm. I knew where the heart of the story was now. It’s really about friendship through a real storm but I hope readers can see that maybe it relates to life storms as well.

And it's also a good reminder of how important it is to weather those storms together. What do you think are the necessary elements of a good story?

For me a good story has to connect to me on some emotional level. Does it make me want to laugh, cry, reminisce? I find the best stories are the ones that linger long after the book is closed.

Beautiful. What topics do you think should be covered more in picture books and why?

My heart is drawn to writing about the harder topics children face such as grief, divorce, and heartbreak. Kids don’t always have the ability to express their emotions during those hard times. Reading a book about other children going through difficult times can help. Books are a beautiful and safe way for children to navigate the world around them and to help open the door to conversation.


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


I first featured Randy Ribay here, and I continually admire his ability to capture an authentic voice that teens can relate to. When I heard about his newest book, PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING, I knew another feature was in order:

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth -- and the part he played in it.

In our last interview, you said, "I always enjoy writing my characters' emotional journeys because I get to experience it with them." Which characters have you most enjoyed writing and why?

Every character gives me the chance to experience something unique, but I think writing Jay and Jun, two of the characters in Patron Saints of Nothing were interesting in that they allowed me to explore my own identity as a Filipino American in a new way. In the story, as Jay’s trying to figure out what happened to his cousin, he’s simultaneously trying to wrestling with the feeling of having a foot in two different worlds but not feeling completely home in either. It’s something I’ve experienced, so writing his emotional arc led me to reflect on my own. Jun is the cousin who has been killed, so uncovering what happened to him in the years since he had fallen out of contact with Jay was interesting in its own way. I can’t say too much about that without giving away spoilers, though!

What a great premise! PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING also offers a glimpse into piecing life together after a loss. What do you hope readers can glean from Jay and his journey? 

I hope they understand that everyone needs the space to mourn in their own way after experiencing grief. To risk sounding like a crotchety old man, society moves at such a breakneck pace these days. As soon as something tragic happens, we rush to fix it and/or to assign blame. But I think it’s vital for our souls to take the time to identify, examine, and process our feelings so we can begin to heal. That’s not to say that we don’t then go and take action. I just think taking action without taking the time to mourn a loss can just be another form of unhealthy repression.

Indeed it can. What do you feel are the necessary parts of a good story?

Of course, the concept of “good” is subjective, but for me, I love stories that can balance it all. I want to feel a plot pulling me along, but I also want to understand the complexity of the characters so I feel invested in what happens to them. Along the way, I want the story to be told beautifully while exploring themes that explore who we are as individuals and as human beings. Also, I want that story to reflect the diverse reality of our world. I no longer have the patience for stories that are cast entirely with straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied people. That’s not what the world I live in has ever looked like, so I’m glad our stories no longer consistently project such a skewed perception.

Absolutely. At this year's YALLWEST, you were on a panel entitled, "That Time I Sucked." What convinced you to be a part of this, and in what ways do you feel this kind of a panel might be helpful for people?

Growing up, I tended to view artists as innately gifted people who sprung from the womb oozing effortless talent and skill. It’s only as I got older and worked towards getting a book published that I saw how much hard work, persistence, and resilience authors put into their writing. Talent will only take you so far. And luck plays a significant role, but you’re more likely to capitalize upon luck if you’ve been putting in the work. Even so, rejection and failure along the way are inevitable. They come with the territory of being a writer or artist, of taking the risk of putting your work out there. People have different tastes and different experiences, so your work is never going to be universally accepted by agents, publishers, readers, reviewers, etc. I think it’s important that we accept this and speak transparently about our own failures to help people understand that. If we only share our successes, we create a false sense of success. And if somebody buys into that, then as soon as they hit a stumbling block, they are going to give up, believing that they’re just not gifted enough.

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

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

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

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

THE BONE CHARMER by Breeana Shields

I found THE BONE CHARMER while wandering in a random Barnes and Noble and as soon as I read the first page, I was hooked. This is a beautifully written YA Fantasy that also offers a bit of humor. It also provides a unique perspective: a protagonist on two simultaneous paths.

In Saskia’s world, bones are the source of all power. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. Each village has a designated seer who performs readings for the townsfolk, and in Midwood, the Bone Charmer is Saskia’s mother.

On the day of her kenning—a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds—Saskia’s worst fears come true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, like her mother, and even worse, a match-making reading that pairs her with Bram—a boy who has suspicious tattoos that hint of violence.

Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones. Broken bones are always bad luck, but this particular set of bones have been infused with extra magic, and so the break has devastating consequences—Saskia’s future has split as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.

What do you love most about board games and why? 

What a great question! My favorite style of board games are Eurogames—things like Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, and Castles of Burgundy. They tend to be well-thought out, beautifully designed, and extremely re-playable. But I think what I love most is the bonding that happens when you play with friends and family. Board games have a way of revealing personality—it’s instantly clear who the cooperators and peace-makers are and who are the cut-throat-win-at-all-costs types. Not that people necessarily approach real life like a board game (I would definitely not still be happily married if that were the case!). But it does expose an approach to problem solving that helps get to know each other on a different level, and that part does translate to the real world! Plus, it’s just a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Indeed it is--I also love the games where everyone has to collaborate together and solve a mystery. THE BONE CHARMER also contains quite a few mysteries, and it's one of the few stories I've seen where the protagonist has their own dual narrative. How did you know this needed to be part of Saskia's journey, and what was the hardest aspect of composing her split narrative? 

I’ve really wanted to tackle a single-protagonist/dual narrative story for a long time! There’s something so fascinating about contemplating how different choices shape someone’s character in fundamental ways, and I loved getting to really play with that in this story. However, it took me a few years of the idea percolating before I finally figured out how to pull it off. (At least I hope I pulled it off!). The hardest part was making sure Saskia’s two timelines were distinct enough that they were equally entertaining and that they each pushed her growth in different directions. I wanted Saskia to feel true to herself in both versions, but for it to still be clear to the reader that she was learning different things and growing in different ways in each timeline.

Not only are both timelines entertaining, but they complement each other very well. You've also mastered pacing with both--when reading, I didn't feel that anything was too hurried, and I was always engaged. I also loved how Saskia has to grapple with choice, and the challenges that come with the freedom she craves. In what ways do you think readers might relate with this struggle, and is this something you've experienced for yourself? 

I think we’ve all been in a situation where our choices come back to bite us, and we wish we could have seen down the path far enough to know we should turn back immediately and make a different decision. However, I think that’s part of life, and one of the things I wanted to explore with Saskia’s story. Our freedom comes at a price—it means we’re going to make some wrong turns along the way. And even if we could see further down the path, we still might not be able accurately predict how things turn out. Besides, our mistakes make us who we are—in both good and bad ways.

Very eloquently put. What are some of your current projects? 

I’m working on finishing up edits for the sequel to The Bone Charmer (currently titled The Bone Thief) and then I’m planning to start a new fantasy in an entirely new world. In a non-writing capacity, my biggest project right now is a huge family move from Washington State to the Washington D.C. area. It’s exciting, but I’m very tired!

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

For Breanna Shields's other books, go here.

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Gretchen McNeil has a skill with writing both comedy and horror, which makes her one of my favorite authors. I featured her back in 2017, and I especially love her new series, starting with #MURDERTRENDING, a sci-fi thriller with a very interesting premise:

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society's most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0. 

When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she's about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn't commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she's innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman's cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

WELCOME TO WHO WANTS TO BE A PANIAC?, the latest reality TV show on the hunt for the next big-hit serial killer. But don’t worry—no one is actually going to murder anyone, as real as the fake gore and pretend murder may appear . . . uh, right?

Seventeen-year-old Becca Martinello is about to find out. When her perfectly normal soccer mom dies in a car crash, a strange girl named Stef appears to let Becca know that her deceased mom was none other than one of Alcatraz 2.0’s most popular serial killers—Molly Mauler. Soon, Becca ends up on Who Wants to Be a Painiac? to learn the truth about her mom’s connection to Molly Mauler, but things turn sinister when people are murdered IRL. Will Becca uncover dark secrets and make it out of the deadly reality show alive? Or will she get cut?

In our last interview, you mentioned that your book #MURDERTRENDING would be a "horror comedy." In what ways are you able to find comedy within the horror genre?

In the same way that salted caramel feels like the combination of two diametrically opposed things, horror and comedy are, in fact, complimentary flavors.  They both represent heightened states of emotional exhibitionism, and in that way, tend to make people uncomfortable.  A belly laugh can so easily turn into a terrified scream!  Plus you can use the one to enhance the other, or as a red herring to obscure a punch line or a horrifying revelation.

What a great analogy--and I'll never look at salted caramel the same way again! I love how #MURDERTRENDING is set in a version of Alcatraz. How did you know that this would offer the best backdrop for the story? 

I love a locked room mystery.  In my novel TEN, I followed Agatha Christie's example and took the locked room to the extreme - an isolated island with no escape.  Instant tension!  When I was looking to create a suburban prison environment, and island seemed like the perfect setting.  I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where Alcatraz looms large.  I remember on a class field trip, learning about how former inmates of Alcatraz reported on that still nights, they could actually hear the sounds of the city drifting into their prison cells.  That totally stuck with me.

But the actual topography of Alcatraz didn't fit with what I wanted to do with this book, which led me to Treasure Island.  It's a real place and so many of the buildings I describe - from the Barracks to Gassy Al's Pavilion to the former Navy yards - are all real.  And there.  You can visit them (if you dare...)

How could you not? The sequel to #MURDERTRENDING, entitled #MURDERFUNDING, is set to debut in August. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet?

So yes, #MURDERFUNDING is very much a sequel, but it has a new main character: Becca, who is trying to find out whether or not her recently deceased mom was actually the Alcatraz 2.0 executioner known as Molly Mauler.  This quest will cross paths with the survivors of #MURDERTRENDING as both are investigating different aspects of the same problem!

I will also add, that while I loved my serial killers from book 1, the thematic "Painiacs" and wannabe Painiacs that I came up with for Book 2 might be some of my favorite characters of all time, like John Carpenter, Actual Carpenter; Princess Slaya; and the blood thirsty folk singing duo Psychoman and Gorefunkel.

Awesome. If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?   

TAKE YOUR TIME.  Publishing is not a race.  It's not like doorbusters on Black Friday where you have to be one of the first people through the door if you want to score that 60" flat screen for $40.  Publishing will always be there.  Book deals will always be there.  Take your time.  Don't rush.  Enjoy the journey.

For Gretchen McNeil's other books, go here.

This post can also be viewed here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

I met Rory Power at YallWest this year, and I was immediately drawn to the premise of her novel, WILDER GIRLS, which debuts on July 9. Have a look:

It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

You recently tweeted about discovering the different ways books can "speak." How did you know when you'd found your own "voice" as an author?

I didn’t really find my own voice until I’d been writing seriously for about a year. I spent a long time trying to emulate the fiction I was reading, and while I think that taught me a lot, it felt like I was only producing a knockoff of somebody else’s work. To find my own, specific voice, I really went back to gut feeling and instinct. When I write now, I think mostly about rhythm, and I know I’ve got it right - I know I’ve made it my own, rather - when the rhythm clicks.

Voice as rhythm--what a great concept! WILDER GIRLS explores the importance of finding the truth. Was Hetty's world fully formed in your mind all along, or did it develop as you wrote it? 

The world of WILDER GIRLS definitely developed as I wrote about it. I knew the basics from the beginning - an island, a school, a quarantine - but the more I wrote, the more I figured out about the people around Hetty and the circumstances of exactly why she and her classmates had been quarantined in the first place. Eventually that involved a lot of working backwards. Now that I’d figured out what the truth was, I had to go back and rework the bits leading up to it so that they were pointed in the right direction.

Further proving that stories have different ways of unraveling. Hetty, Byatt, and Reese aren't run-of-the mill, ordinary female characters. What do you like most about each of them, and what other kinds of characters would you like to see more of in books?

I think my favorite thing about all three of them is how very much like most girls they are - they’re angry and they’re messy and I think a lot of girls feel that way during adolescence. These three girls are very upfront about their flaws, which I hope makes them that much more familiar to people. As far as my favorite thing individually goes, I love Hetty’s tenacity, Byatt’s confidence, and Reese’s depth of feeling. Those things are liabilities as much as they’re assets for the girls, but I think that can be true for the most cherished parts of all of us. As far as what kinds of characters I’d like to see more of, I’m really excited by the increasing breadth of queer characters we’re seeing in books, and I’m eager for that to continue - there are so many great queer titles on the horizon!

Indeed there are! What are some of your current projects?

Right now I’m working on my second book, which will be out in Summer 2020 (title to be revealed). It’s a standalone separate from WILDER GIRLS, and it’s really different, although I think people who enjoy one will enjoy the other. I can’t say too much about it, but in general there’s a lot of corn, a lot of family drama, and, like WILDER GIRLS, some weird science thrown in for fun.

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

This post can also be viewed here

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Henrietta the Dragon Slayer series by Beth Barany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellent tips. What are some of your current projects?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Get notified with Beth releases her books here:

Connect on Social Media:

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed. What are some of your current projects?

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

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

For other books by Brenda Woods, click here.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Release Feature: NELIEM by Clare Di Liscia

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

There’s only one way to keep herself safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me too! What are some of your current projects?

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

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

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Release Feature: LEGEND by Nicole Conway

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

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

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

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

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

The Dragonrider Chronicles

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

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

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

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

The Dragonrider Legacy

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

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

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