Wednesday, May 15, 2019

NOT EVEN BONES and ONLY ASHES REMAIN by Rebecca Schaeffer

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

JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY'S ANKH by Malayna Evans

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





Wednesday, May 1, 2019

FOCUSED by Alyson Gerber

As soon as I saw the premise for FOCUSED, I immediately contacted Alyson Gerber for an interview. FOCUSED received a starred review from Booklist, and it provides a necessary look into what life is like with ADHD. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 17, and it completely changed my life for the better. I have no doubts that Alyson's book will help a lot of readers.

Clea can't control her thoughts. She knows she has to do her homework . . . but she gets distracted. She knows she can't just say whatever thought comes into her head . . . but sometimes she can't help herself. She know she needs to focus . . . but how can she do that when the people around her are always chewing gum loudly or making other annoying noises?

It's starting to be a problem—not just in school, but when Clea's playing chess or just hanging out with her best friend. Other kids are starting to notice. When Clea fails one too many tests, her parents take her to be tested, and she finds out that she has ADHD, which means her attention is all over the place instead of where it needs to be.

Clea knows life can't continue the way it's been going. She's just not sure how you can fix a problem that's all in your head. But that's what she's going to have to do, to find a way to focus.

According to your website bio, you graduated from The New School with an MFA in Writing for Children. What was your most significant learning experience while getting an MFA?

When I started the MFA program at The New School, I thought I wanted to write contemporary YA. I had an almost-finished manuscript, and I was eager to get an agent, publish a book, and prove myself. But I didn’t know who I was as a reader or a writer or frankly as a person. I grew a lot during graduate school. The most significant learning experience happened during Susan Van Metre's course on middle grade novels. We were given short writing prompts during each class. The assignments helped me realize that writing from the perspective of someone in middle school came very naturally to me, and I found that was a strength I could use to guide my storytelling.

Excellent. FOCUSED centers on Clea, a girl grappling with ADHD. What is something about ADHD that you wish more people knew?

There are so many things! If I have to pick one: I wish everyone knew that people with ADHD can focus. We can be amazing at focusing when we’re interested and excited about something, but we have a difficult time regulating and controlling our attention and also our emotions.

It's true; sometimes I have to keep myself from focusing too much! Your debut novel, BRACED, is derived from your experience with scoliosis. How did you know this was a book you needed to write? 

I don’t think it was possible for me to start with a different book. I really tried to avoid writing BRACED. I didn’t want scoliosis to define me as a writer or as a person, but in so many ways that was unavoidable. My experiences being treated for scoliosis, wearing a back brace through middle school, and having my treatment pale in comparison to my mom’s treatment, had trapped me in middle school, in my brace. And what I didn’t realize until I finally started writing BRACED was that the only way out of that was to confront my pain.

I'm sure it will also reach people who understand that pain. What are some of your current projects?

I have another contemporary middle grade novel in the works! It will be published by Scholastic, and it’s definitely for fans of BRACED and FOCUSED. You will be the first to know when I can share more information!



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

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH by Andrew Smith

Out of all the authors I feature, Andrew Smith is one of my favorites. (Check out what he had to say about rival candy sellers in Ghent.) When I found out that his new Middle Grade book, THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH, was a tie-in to the Winger series, I knew another feature was in order:

When he was four years old, Sam Abernathy was trapped at the bottom of a well for three days, where he was teased by a smart-aleck armadillo named Bartleby. Since then, his parents plan every move he makes.

But Sam doesn’t like their plans. He doesn’t want to go to MIT. And he doesn’t want to skip two grades, being stuck in the eighth grade as an eleven-year-old with James Jenkins, the boy he’s sure pushed him into the well in the first place. He wants to be a chef. And he’s going to start by entering the first annual Blue Creek Days Colonel Jenkins Macaroni and Cheese Cook-Off.

That is, if he can survive eighth grade, and figure out the size of the truth that has slipped Sam’s memory for seven years.


Sam Abernathy originally appeared in STAND OFF, the second in the Winger series. How did you know that Sam needed his own story in THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH?

There have been more than a few supporting characters in my books for whom readers have begged for stories of their own, most notably Cade Hernandez from 100 SIDEWAYS MILES, Sam Abernathy from STAND-OFF, and even now James Jenkins from Sam's story in THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH. So I guess I didn't really "know" that Sam needed his own story, but he was a compelling character and I thought filling in all those blanks in Sam's life would be fun. It was, by the way.

I'll bet! THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH also discusses confronting fear. What do you feel is the most driving force behind most fears, and in writing Sam's story, did you learn anything about your own journey with fear?

In this case, I think Sam's and James' biggest fears in THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH are based most strongly in their not wanting to let their fathers down. That fear of disappointing others can really mess with a person's head and make them persevere at pursuits that cause anxiety. I think that's been a recurring challenge in my life--always worrying about letting someone else down.

It's a worry that a lot of people share--and what you've said beautifully illustrates why we should feel okay about putting ourselves first. And even when we are at our best, doing everything perfectly, disappointment from others is something we cannot control. What do you think makes THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH an inherently Middle Grade story, and, in your opinion, how is writing Middle Grade different than writing Young Adult? 

Well, the fact that THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH has no swears in it or "adult" content is not necessarily what makes the book Middle Grade. As someone who's worked with kids for the majority of my life, I think one difference between kids in the "MG" phase of life differ from kids in the "YA" phase in that they tend to be more in awe of the wonder and size of everything that's out there, and aren't necessarily trying to assemble any kind of construct of truth from their experience. Kids in the middle grade of their life tend to be relentlessly optimistic, and kids in the young adult section of their life often have accumulated a much wider range of experiences, which can ground them and occasionally turn them away from hope and optimism, or at least temper their views on just about everything.


Makes sense. In our last interview, you said, "The purest kind of writing you can do, what will give you the greatest sense of satisfaction, is the writing that you do for yourself." Now that you're also writing for an audience, in what ways do you still find satisfaction from it? 

I think I've held onto that philosophy as far as my writing is concerned--that I do not think about an audience of more than myself when I write. To me, this keeps me engaged with the story and makes the task of writing more rewarding. That said, I do truly appreciate all the people who read my stories, and I am quite pleased by the fact that the audiences for my work are incredibly diverse in every aspect--including age. I would hate it if I ever wrote a young adult novel that was only read by 14- to 18-year-olds, or a middle grade book that was only read by fourth- through eighth-graders, and nobody else. That would be terrible! And I do sincerely hope that kids get their parents to read THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH, because there are definitely some pretty big truths about being a parent in there.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

NELIEM by Clare Di Liscia

I first fell in love with the premise and cover of Clare Di Liscia's upcoming book, NELIEM, set to release on May 21, 2019. Judging from the interviews she's done online, she's also a wealth of knowledge about writing. Have a look:

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.

In your interview with Author Turf, you talked about the dangers of works that are "dismissed as derivative." Can you explain what it means to be derivative, and what, if anything, that writers can do about it?

Early on, one thing I kept hearing was that my work was original with a distinct voice. It was what made me stand out. What had editors coming up to me after a reading at the conference. Regardless of the initial pass, my work always earned me a follow-up, 'please send further works when ready.' I encourage my fellow writers, whether it’s your first query, or third agent, to always use your unique experiences and voice to tell your story. Trying to write the next TWILIGHT or HUNGER GAMES is a waste of time. The world doesn’t need another Stephanie Meyer or Suzanne Collins, they need you. Your heart, your fears, likes, pain and joy. Put yourself in the story.

Ask yourself this question: What is the story I’m too scared to write because it’s too personal? The story that’s just for me. The story that changed my life?

That’s the story agents and editors are dying to read.

Excellent advice. NELIEM deals with the deceptive nature of perfection. How did you know this needed to be a part of Oriana's story?  

In Oriana’s world there are two classes: The people who rule, who seem perfect, and those who are ruled, scattered people who have persevered, only to live in destitute. Oriana falls into the later category. Her people's lives are controlled, their futures pre-selected. While she’s forging for her food, her rulers are wasteful, taking for granted their elevated position. Because of this, she views everything as the glass empty, envying and hateful towards her oppressors.

But as the story unravels, her vision starts clearing. She begins to understand the truth behind the fake smiles and pretty dresses. How many of them are merely broken pawns. And their beauty but a mask. And that she has more in common with people she regarded as enemies, who also have suffered unspeakable horrors. With her newfound empathy, she’s able to do what she previously thought impossible: rise above her circumstances to become the person she was always meant to be.

Such a great story. And I love NELIEM's cover! What do you think are the necessary elements of a good book cover?

A great cover captures the essence of the book, drawing you in. It’s as if you’re compelled to pick up the book and read the first page. Luckily for me, my publisher Georgia McBride, knew exactly who could combine the elements of fantasy, girl-empowerment, and intrigue to draw in my readers.

Wonderful. What are some of your current projects? 

Currently, I’m finishing the 4th draft of an older contemporary YA romance. It deals with themes of self-worth and prejudice, telling the story of a girl who’s recently escaped abuse to accidentally find true love. It’s nearly done. I also have a finished MG modern day version of Huck Finn. Both have been workshopped with positive feedback, so hopefully soon they'll find the right editors.


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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Happy Release Day to BEYOND THE WILD WOOD, the final book in the OF THE TREES series by E.M. Fitch

Recently, I featured E.M. Fitch and her fascinating shape-shifter series. The final book, BEYOND THE WILD WOOD, is out now!

The faery queen has forbidden Aidan from stalking his prey, but Cassie should have known that nothing would keep him from what he wants: to steal her away forever into the realm of the Fae.

Cassie struggles to pick up what’s left of her life, keeping true to her promise to watch over her best friend’s son. But despite the faery queen’s promise of safety, the shadow of Aidan is ever present in her mind, haunting her dreams and turning forest shadows into nightmares. The rest of her friends are getting ready for college, but not her. The Fae haven’t left yet. Cassie knows because Laney lingers still, drawn to the son she gave up, the foliage at his window sill bright green and flourishing at her touch.

Laney’s son is safe in the arms of his adoptive parents, and the babe has Cassie to watch over him from afar. That should have been enough for the new faery, but it wasn’t. She couldn’t let her son go. Laney watches him from afar, motionless, ageless, addicted to his tiny movements and contented sighs. The thought of leaving him is unbearable, even if she knows leaving is the only way to keep her best friend safe from Aidan’s grasp.

When the faery queen’s threat of departure becomes all too real, Aidan takes matters into his own hands, throwing the Fae into a battle that risks their very existence. His action impels Laney to choose which side she really belongs on—human or faery—and forces Cassie to decide just who she can trust, at last, with the truth.


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



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Dragonrider Legacy series and the Dragonrider Chronicles series by Nicole Conway

I am a sucker for dragons. In anything. So, suffice to say, when I found out about Nicole Conway's The Dragonrider Chronicles series (by way of The Dragonrider Legacy series), I was done for.

The Dragonrider Chronicles:

Jaevid Broadfeather has grown up as a wartime refugee, hiding from the world because of his mixed racial heritage. He feels his future is hopeless, until a chance encounter with a wild dragon lands him in Blybrig Academy—a place usually forbidden to anyone but the rich and royal. But Jaevid’s case is special; no dragon has voluntarily chosen a rider in decades, so the proud riders of Blybrig must begrudgingly let him join their brotherhood despite his bloodline. Lieutenant Sile Derrick, a sternly tempered man with a mysterious past, becomes his instructor and immediately takes a peculiar interest in Jaevid’s future.

While struggling through the rigorous physical demands of training, things begin to go awry. Jaevid witnesses the king’s private guards kidnapping Sile in the dead of night. When none of the elder riders are willing to help him, Jaevid begins a dangerous adventure to save his instructor.


Jaevid wants to pass his Avian year of training . . . but will he even survive it?

What kind of power is lurking inside him? After a year of training to become a dragonrider, Jaevid Broadfeather has been sent home to rest during a three-month interlude. But when he returns to find the king drake has chosen Beckah Derrick as his new rider, Jaevid realizes something big is about to happen. Every fiber of his being is pushed to the breaking point as Jaevid battles through his avian year, preparing for the final graduation test of the battle scenario. But there is more standing in his way than a few pushups and fancy sword moves. Jaevid must face a new fear as he is tormented by a gruesome nightmare of a mysterious gray elf warrior murdering the royal family of Maldobar. It seems obvious to him that this is some kind of message about how the war started long ago—until Felix assures him the king is very much alive. With his strange powers growing stronger by the day, and that violent dream replaying in his mind every night, Jaevid no longer wonders if he will pass his avian year or not—he wonders if he will even survive it.

The truth will soon be set loose.


Can anyone survive being lost in Luntharda?

No amount of training has prepared Jaevid Broadfeather for the frontlines of battle. Now facing the true horrors of war, with Luntharda looming on the horizon, Jaevid has begun to question everything he thought about his heritage. The only thing keeping him going is his oath to protect his dragonrider brothers. But in an instant, even that slips through Jaevid’s fingers as he steps from the safety of his dragon’s saddle into the depths of his mother’s wild homeland—the kingdom of the gray elves.

Stranded in Luntharda with his partner, Lieutenant Jace Rordin, Jaevid must finally confront the demons of his own past as he uncovers the truth about a war that began before he was ever born. Armed with a new appreciation for destiny, and flanked by his trusted friends, Jaevid moves to make the final strike against an enemy that has hidden in plain sight for far too long.

One kingdom’s traitor will become the world’s last hope.


Destiny has called.

With Jaevid Broadfeather forever lost to the depths of Luntharda, Felix Farrow struggles to stand on his own. He begins a violent downward spiral which causes him to abandon his post as a dragonrider, hiding in the halls of his family estate. His one hope for redemption lies within the heart of someone from his past—and the very last person he ever wanted to see again.

And now the time has finally come.

Hovrid, who has ruled Maldobar as a tyrannical imposter, is preparing to make a decisive assault against Luntharda that will destroy what remains of the elven race. Only Jaevid, Felix, and their trusted friends are able to stand in his way. They have only one chance to end the war, and only one hope to absolve the curse that threatens to destroy their world. The stage is set. The plan is in motion.

What began as one boy’s adventure will now end in blood.



The Dragonrider Legacy:

Never send a hero to do a monster’s job.

Forty years have passed since Jaevid Broadfeather brought peace to Maldobar and Luntharda. But that fragile truce will be tested as darkness gathers on the horizon. The vicious armies of the Tibran Empire have crossed the far seas and are threatening to destroy Maldobar completely. Not even the dragonriders can match the Tibran war machines. And after an attempt to awaken Jaevid from his divine sleep fails, the fate of Maldobar is looking grim.

Reigh has never known what it means to be a normal human. Raised amongst the gray elves in the wild jungle of Luntharda, he’s tried everything to fit in. But the dark power within him is bursting at the seams—refusing to be silenced. And while his adoptive father, Kiran, insists this power must be kept secret, Reigh knows he’s running out of time.

As Maldobar burns, the world is desperate for a new hero. Destiny has called, and one boy will rise to answer.



Victory is written in the blood of the brave.

As the armies of the Tibran Empire continue to march across Maldobar, a path of scorched destruction and despair is left in their wake. Even with the formidable princess, Jenna Farrow, leading the charge, the strength of the dragonriders is waning. Tibran victory appears inevitable — especially after Princess Jenna and Prince Aubren are taken hostage by the infamous Lord Argonox. Separated from her brother and tortured for information, Princess Jenna refuses to bend to the iron will of Argonox. But her strength and resolve may only last so long.Held prisoner in his dark tower, it would take a miracle to set her free — or perhaps a pair of demigods and their dragons.

With revived dragonrider legend, Jaevid Broadfeather, at his side, Reigh must now make a choice: face the truth about the origin of his dark powers,or turn his back on world in need. But throwing off a lifetime of shame and self-doubt is not so easily done — especially when the cost of failure means the destruction of the world. The long-awaited hero has awakened. The ancient spirits are stirring. The dark goddess has chosen her champion. But is he ready to embrace that rite and become the Harbinger Maldobar needs him to be?



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?

According to your website bio, you are represented by Frances Black of Literary Counsel. How did you know that Fran was the right agent for you?

Fran and I wound up together sort of by accident. I was working with another agent within the agency previously, but that agent quit very suddenly and intended to drop her entire client list. Fran approached me and wanted me to continue to work with her instead, and I agreed. Turns out, we get along and work together much better than I ever did with my previous agent! We are kindred souls in that we are both enthusiastic, driven, and a little bit stubborn. I truly appreciate Fran’s honesty. She will tell me when I can do better with a story, and pushes me to be a better writer. In my opinion, that’s what makes a good agent great — not just wanting to snag new contracts but also working to shape their client into a better author with each new story.

Well said! LEGEND, the third book in The Dragonrider Legacy series, is set to release on May 7, 2019. How did you know that there was more of this world to expand on after The Dragonrider Chronicles finished?

In my head, Jaevid’s story had always continued past Chronicles. I just wasn’t sure I’d ever get to tell it. But thanks to the continued support from Georgia McBride and the lovely folks at Month9Books, I have gotten the opportunity to finish out his tale through the Dragonrider Legacy and now through Dragonrider Trials and give him the ending he deserves. It’s been a blast from beginning to end, and it will be super hard to say goodbye.

I bet it will! I love how you offer additional activities and materials for students on your website. How did this idea originate? 

I come from a background of educators and homeschooling, and I also get to meet a lot of parents, teachers, and librarians during signings and tours. They are always hungry for a way to make reading fun and also educational. I agree with them wholeheartedly and love to support the public, private, and homeschooling communities any way I can. Providing discussion questions, puzzles, and activities a way to get students and young readers thinking about the story in new ways.

It's helpful for us part-time tutors too! What are some of your current projects?

Oh dear. So I am notorious for having a million irons in the fire when it comes to writing. Currently, I’m finishing up the second in my Spirits of Chaos series, have just handed in the second in my Mad Magic series, am doing edits on the first Dragonrider Trials book, drafting a new fantasy series, and writing a fun teen scifi adventure! One of these days, maybe I’ll learn to scale it back a little haha!

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

This post can also be viewed here.







Wednesday, April 3, 2019

BEYOND THE WILD WOOD, the final book in the OF THE TREES series by E.M. Fitch

When I saw the cover for BEYOND THE WILD WOOD by E.M. Fitch, set to release on April 16, 2019, I knew I had to feature it. I even found out that it's the final book in an amazing series which offers an interesting twist on shape-shifters:

Cassie and Laney fancy themselves amateur ghost hunters. When a carnival comes to town, Cassie embraces the chance to try something new.

Carnival workers watch the girls with a collective gaze that ignites in Laney a dark and dangerous fascination, leaving Cassie unnerved.

It's not just their age or the unsettling way they stare. There is something in the shifting of their skin and the way their features seem to change in the shadows.

Cassie can't shake this sickening feeling that there's more to the carnival than meets the eye.

When townspeople suddenly start dying and bloody warnings appear around town, Cassie is lured into a nightmare where trees whisper and strange, shape-shifting men haunt the backwoods she once hunted for ghosts with her best friend.

Then Laney goes missing, and only Cassie can get her back. But the creatures of the trees aren't simply going to hand Laney over to Cassie without getting something in return.

It’s only a matter of time before he gets what he’s come for.


Cassie Harris has turned her back on best friend Laney Blake. She had no other choice. Laney is one of them now, a creature of the trees. As Cassie’s senior year wears on, the woods grow quiet, snow blankets the ground, and the murderous beings who once taunted her have drifted away like the brittle leaves of Fall. Though the woods no longer stir with rushed whispers and wind-blown laughter, the fear remains.

No one understands this fear better than Cassie. She wishes she could tell them not to worry. After all, the shape-shifting men of the trees and the women who travel with them, seeking out girls to abduct from carnivals, are gone. And the one that stayed behind? He isn’t interested in anyone but her.

Now, Aidan’s interest in Cassie is a chilling reminder of the what lurks at woods edge. He stalks her home, her school, her bedroom. He won’t stop until he can find a way to lure Cassie into the forest to become one with him forever.



The faery queen has forbidden Aidan from stalking his prey, but Cassie should have known that nothing would keep him from what he wants: to steal her away forever into the realm of the Fae.

Cassie struggles to pick up what’s left of her life, keeping true to her promise to watch over her best friend’s son. But despite the faery queen’s promise of safety, the shadow of Aidan is ever present in her mind, haunting her dreams and turning forest shadows into nightmares. The rest of her friends are getting ready for college, but not her. The Fae haven’t left yet. Cassie knows because Laney lingers still, drawn to the son she gave up, the foliage at his window sill bright green and flourishing at her touch.

Laney’s son is safe in the arms of his adoptive parents, and the babe has Cassie to watch over him from afar. That should have been enough for the new faery, but it wasn’t. She couldn’t let her son go. Laney watches him from afar, motionless, ageless, addicted to his tiny movements and contented sighs. The thought of leaving him is unbearable, even if she knows leaving is the only way to keep her best friend safe from Aidan’s grasp.

When the faery queen’s threat of departure becomes all too real, Aidan takes matters into his own hands, throwing the Fae into a battle that risks their very existence. His action impels Laney to choose which side she really belongs on—human or faery—and forces Cassie to decide just who she can trust, at last, with the truth.

Where did your fascination with zombies begin? 

I can’t remember a time in which I wasn’t fascinated with zombies! What I love most about the zombie genre is how both writers and readers can explore moral and ethical dilemmas in a black and white world. Everyone is pretty much on board that it’s totally fine to kill a zombie! (Me included.) So creating a world in which this is questioned, or a world in which you can use that assumption to explore dark themes is, for me, pure fun.

I can't argue with that! BEYOND THE WILD WOOD is the final installment of the Of The Trees Series. In what ways, if any, did Cassie's journey develop in ways you didn't expect? 

Cassie surprised me toward the end of this series. She became way more badass than I ever thought she would. I began this journey with a terrified teen, and in the end, she became a young adult—full of doubt and fear and uncertainty—but owning her actions and thriving in the face of her fears. I’m so proud of Cassie, and I’m proud of her best friend, Laney, too. Sometimes the journey is about letting go, about knowing when it’s time to move on, and about realizing at the same time that those we love can never truly be lost. These are hard lessons, and both girls came full circle in a way that surprised and delighted me. These characters will forever hold a fond place in my heart.

And it proves that hard lessons can often be the best ones. You've also published short stories. What do you like most about writing shorter fiction, and what do you like least about it? 

Publishing short fiction is hard! I truly believe that the shorter something has to be (like a blurb or a title) the harder it is to write. Short fiction is a wonderful outlet for the strange thoughts that filter through my brain, and they take a lot of dedication to get out and onto that paper. I love writing short fiction. But novel writing is my favorite. I love breathing life into these bizarre worlds I find myself in, and I love having the space of a novel to do so.

Indeed! What are some of your current projects? 

I’m working on several projects, but I’m most excited about my novel tentatively titled The Monsters We Hide. It’s a Dark Fantasy YA novel that explores the topic of suicide, depression, and the feelings of worthlessness that can unfortunately overwhelm a person. Mental Health Awareness is a passion of mine. I feel it’s so important to feel seen, really seen, and complex books and characters can do that for a reader. For me, good books make me feel less alone.


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, March 27, 2019

The MRS. SMITH'S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS series by Beth McMullen

I had the pleasure of meeting Beth McMullen at Kepler's Bookstore last fall for their "Mighty Middle Grade" event. I love stories that take place in boarding schools, and the voice in this story is extremely engaging. I was sucked right in!


After a botched escape plan from her boarding school, Abigail is stunned to discover the school is actually a cover for an elite spy ring called The Center, along with being training grounds for future spies. Even more shocking? Abigail’s mother is a top agent for The Center and she has gone MIA, with valuable information that many people would like to have—at any cost. Along with a former nemesis and charming boy from her grade, Abigail goes through a crash course in Spy Training 101, often with hilarious—and sometimes painful—results. But Abigail realizes she might be a better spy-in-training than she thought—and the answers to her mother’s whereabouts are a lot closer than she thinks…




Abby and the rest of her friends go international as they embark on their first “official” Center mission in this second book in the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series.

After discovering the truth about her spy school/boarding school—and her super-spy mom—Abby Hunter is ready for her next adventure, but what’s about to happen is something she never would have guessed…

Everyone at The Smith School is obsessed with Monster Mayhem, the latest reality video game craze. But when Drexel Caine, the mastermind behind the game is suddenly kidnapped, it becomes clear that the kidnappers are playing for more than just special badges.

After Drexel’s son—who is Abby’s friend, Toby—receives a cryptic message, Abby and her friends discover the kidnapping is part of a bigger scheme that could take down The Center for good.

With the help of Abby’s frenemy (and reluctant mentor), Veronica Brooks, the group tackles their first official Center Mission. They tangle with the world’s most notorious hacker, get in trouble for the possible theft of the Mona Lisa, and prepare for the ultimate showdown in London. But not before they have to contend with one more hurdle: the agonizing Smith School Spring Formal. Along the way, they discover they are much stronger as a team they can ever be alone.

And with a little luck, they might just save the world.


Coming August 6, 2019!

Abby and her classmates have all been invited to Briar Academy to participate in The Challenge, a prep school competition where teams compete for prizes and the glory of being the best of the best. While there, they figure out their nemesis, The Ghost, is using Briar as headquarters to plan a devastating attack on his enemies (a.k.a.: pretty much everyone) using a brand-new invention Toby developed. And this time, The Center and Mrs. Smith will be of no help as Abby suspects there is someone working for The Ghost on the inside—and they can trust no one.




You have a parakeet named Zeus. (What a great name for a bird!). How did you end up with a parakeet for a pet? 

We had just lost our 20 year old cat and everyone was really missing her. My son had seen the parakeets in PetCo as a little kid and always wanted one. We were pet free so I figured why not? My son’s best friend had Poseidon so naturally…Zeus. Zeus is the loudest 2 ounce creature on the planet. He hates action movies so much we have to cover his cage in order to hear. About six months after we got Zeus, we somehow ended up with 2 kittens. Cats and birds living together. Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds.

Ha! Somehow I'm reminded of that Bill Murray line from Ghostbusters. In MRS. SMITH'S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, Abigail is faced with some difficult choices. Did her story come to you right away, or did it gradually shape itself? 

I went to boarding school as a kid and I always loved the idea of using that setting in a book but I couldn’t figure out how. I tried with an adult thriller but it was awful and I ditched it. Later, I made another pass with something more YA but that too was missing something. It wasn’t until I brought the age of the main character way down to twelve, which was completely new terrain for me, that the story started to work. I wrote a draft of that and let it sit for more than a year because I wasn’t sure what I was doing writing middle grade fiction. When I eventually came back to it, I was surprised that it wasn’t terrible. A few drafts later and I managed to sell it as a series.

That makes sense. I've also heard that it's tough to get an authentic voice in Middle Grade. In what ways did Abigail's voice feel right to you?  

I like to describe Abby as the kid I wish I had been. She is bold, fearless, a little reckless, loyal and smart. She will run straight at trouble and figure how how to manage it when she gets there. I think the key to writing authentic middle grade characters is not to dumb them down or try to force them to sound young. Abby and her friends sound not unlike adults but the subject matter and the situations are different. It’s also important to find a way to listen to actual kids. When my teenaged kids have friends over, I blatantly eavesdrop, just to pick up the cadence of their speech and what topics have got their attention!

Sounds like a great method, as long as your kids don't mind! What are some of your current projects?  

Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls wraps up this summer, when DOUBLE CROSS comes out on August 6th. I’m also working on How to Find Lost Things, a new Middle Grade series from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, coming summer 2020. In it, twelve year old Lola Benko is desperate to find her missing father, a famous archaeologist who was last seen in hot pursuit of the magical Stone of Istenanya, which is not supposed to exist. But Lola quickly discovers finding a missing person is no easy thing. She will have to go to extraordinary lengths if she ever wants to see her father again and accept things she never thought possible. Like Mrs. Smith’s, this series has action, adventure, friendship and humor.


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