Wednesday, September 20, 2017

THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING by Alexandra Bracken

I first saw Alexandra Bracken's book PASSENGER as an ARC, and I immediately fell in love with her intricate world-building and compelling characters. Her newest book, THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING, is a middle grade novel that came out on September 5. Have a look:

"I would say it's a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly, I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness."

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper's great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn't exactly the forgiving type.

The fiend has reawakened with one purpose — to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.

Little does Prosper know, the malefactor's control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there's a lot Alastor isn't telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host.

The Passenger series:

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.



Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.


According to your website bio, Star Wars offered a significant spark of imagination for you growing up. What about the story resonates most with you?

My dad was a collector of Star Wars memorabilia from the time I was in first grade until he passed away in 2012, so I spent so much of my childhood and teenage years going to conventions, reading all of the tie-in novels, and rewatching all of the movies. It was, shall we say, a not-so-casual obsession--I made sure to memorize all of the answers to Star Wars Trivial Pursuit so no one would ever be able to beat me. So I think, in many ways, I ended up absorbing an understanding about storytelling, specifically how the traditional Hero's Journey is framed and how archetypes play into it, just by being constantly surrounded by that universe.

What I've always loved best about Star Wars is its cast of characters. The films taught me from a young age that audiences and readers will follow a story anywhere if they love the characters--something I keep in mind while working on my own stories. If a character's motivations aren't strong enough, or if they're not interesting enough, it can sink a whole story. Luke's journey in particular is deeply moving to me because it's such a big arc, and I'm so curious about where they're going to take him next. I framed the narrative of my A New Hope retelling, The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy, to be split between Han, Luke, and Leia's point of views so I could dig in deep to who they are as people and really explore their motivations, their hopes, and their fears.

Those are the kinds of invisible internal forces that really drive a story forward--and add extra meaning to what happens. In addition, THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING explores inner demons and sadness. What, in your opinion, is the key to happiness, and why?

One of the really interesting things about writing is that you sometimes don't actually understand what your story is about until you have a finished draft of it. That was very much the case with this book--I set out to write the kind of darkly humorous book I would have loved at Prosper's age, only to realize that its emotional core is largely centered on the doubts and fears that inwardly plague us. Alastor is that ugly voice inside of our head telling us that we can't do it, that we're stupid for wanting, that something is never going to happen, that we're not good enough--times, like, a hundred.

I'm not sure there's any one key to happiness, but I've definitely figured out a few things over the last few years. For me, the key to happiness has been finding ways to express love. It's telling others how much you appreciate them, it's taking a moment to stop and be grateful for the things you have, it's taking care of another person who needs help, it's finding a hobby to sink your enthusiastic energy into and enjoy, and so on.

Excellent advice. I love the premise of both PASSENGER and WAYFARER, and you have a real talent with voice. Do characters come to you fully fleshed or do they develop as you write them? Or both? 

Thank you so much! I usually can't start a story until I have a good grasp of the main characters. I tend to hear their voices in my head before I develop a sense of what they look like, actually. Passenger and Wayfarer were a challenge for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I had to find ways to differentiate the two close third person narrative voices. Etta is a modern teen, so her chapters tend to be a lot more relaxed in terms of language. Nicholas, however, is a young man of the 18th century. He has a more formal way of expressing himself verbally and in his own thoughts. If I used an anachronistic word or expression in his section (and believe me, I was constantly checking the Oxford English Dictionary to see if words were in use in the 18th century,or if their meaning had changed since his time period), it was 1) because I thought the meaning wouldn't be clear to the reader otherwise or 2) I thought he could figure out the meaning based on context, or had encountered it in his time travel.

I'm working on a new project right now and developing out the characters--really getting to know them inside and out. It's crucial that I take the time to do this before I sit down to start writing, because it also helps me locate the emotional center of the book. Sometimes I get really lucky and the characters come fully formed in one big rush (which happened with The Darkest Minds), but, most of the time, I have to sit down with a notebook and suss out their motivations and backstories. They do sometimes surprise me while I'm in the middle of drafting, though!

I'll bet they do! And that's great advice for character development.  THE DARKEST MINDS also explores the strains between ability and control. What do you hope readers can gain from Ruby's story? 

I really wanted Ruby to have a big arc over the course of the trilogy. Despite her incredible ability, she starts in a position of powerlessness because she doesn't know how to control said ability and is essentially a prisoner, both in the world and inside of her own mind. When it comes down to it, she's deeply traumatized and afraid, and, realistically, suffers setbacks in her confidence and slips in her moral code along the way. But her story is one of her first accepting herself, then learning how to master the potential of her innate power, and, finally, harnessing it to change the world around her--something that we can all do, even if we don't have powers of the mind.

A great reminder for us all. What are some of your current projects?

I just finished the first draft of The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding's sequel (hooray!) and am waiting on those edits. I just wrote three not-so-short stories set in the world of The Darkest Minds for the new special editions we're releasing in January, too! But my main focus over the next few months is a new YA that I sadly cannot tell you anything about yet!

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding: 



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





Passenger series: 


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





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




The Darkest Minds: 


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


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Thursday, September 14, 2017

TREASURED BY A TIGER Book Tour







Felicity Heaton

Despised by his tiger shifter pride as an abomination, Grey has ventured far from home, deep into the bowels of Hell in search of answers about the machinations of Archangel, the mortal hunter organisation who held his twin captive. With no knowledge of the realm, and little skill with the local languages, he quickly finds himself at a dead end—until he crosses paths with a beautiful hellcat female who rouses his darkest most dangerous instincts.

Lyra has been a fool, falling for the charms of a male whose only desire was to make a fast buck by selling her. Shackled and collared, her strength muted by magic, she awaits her time on the stage at a black-market auction, but before it can come, all hell breaks loose and she seizes a chance to escape—and runs straight into a majestic warrior who steals her breath away and tempts her like no other as he battles alone to free everyone.

When Lyra offers her services as a translator to repay Grey for saving her, will he be strong enough to resist the needs she awakens in him and spare himself the pain of her inevitable rejection when she discovers the truth about him? And when the powerful male in charge of the slave ring starts a bloody hunt for Lyra, can she escape another collar and find the courage to trust the tiger who is capturing her heart?









Enter the grand tour-wide giveaway to win a $25, $50 or $75 Amazon Gift Card at the Treasured by a Tiger book page. This giveaway is international and open to everyone, and ends at midnight on September 24th.
Enter now: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/treasured-by-a-tiger-shapeshifter-romance-book.php






It was almost her turn on the stage.
Sickness brewed in Lyra’s stomach and her legs trembled beneath her weight, but she refused to let fear overcome her. She tugged at the heavy metal collar around her neck, rattling the chain attached to it, and cursed. Her heart thundered at a dizzying pace that made it difficult to breathe.
Gods.
She needed to get away.
It was pointless though. There was a huge gulf between what she needed and what she knew was going to happen. She needed to be realistic, and not allow her fear to consume her. She had to keep her head.
Even if she did manage to get the collar off, and the shackles that bound her wrists, she wouldn’t be free. She would still be locked in a cage built of the strongest metal in Hell.
Lyra paced the small space, struggling to breathe through the panic as it started to sink its claws into her heart and her mind, conjuring vile images of her future, visions that tore at her strength, making it easier for the fear to take hold.
To strip away her control.
She sucked down another trembling breath.
She needed to be strong.
It was hard when she was falling apart inside.
The number of eyes on her grew, pushing at her fragile restraint, making her want to lash out at the other captives as they watched her.
She hated the sense of expectation that laced the warm air and pressed down on her.
These people expected her to be strong. Fearless.
She might be a hellcat, one of the most powerful and vicious of the shifter species that called Hell their home, but she still had a heart.
She still experienced fear.
The thought of what was about to happen to her was terrifying.
She clawed at her cuffs and her collar, her throat growing tight and her strength wavering for a heartbeat before she snatched hold of it and clung to it again, not letting it bleed from her.
She cursed the collar.
The magic in it sapped her strength, making it impossible for her to break free of her bonds, the drain it caused far stronger and more devastating than the one she felt from the shackles around her wrists. Those were just the back-up plan, a last resort in case she broke her collar somehow. They would inhibit her enough that she wouldn’t be able to break them open, but they wouldn’t stop her from snapping the chain and gaining enough freedom to sink fangs and claws into every male present.
Everyone responsible for what had happened to her.
She tugged at the ring of cold steel around her neck and growled.
Damn collar.
She let her left hand hang from it, her fingers looped over the top of the ring, and fought for the strength to push back against the feelings welling up inside her, the despair that would allow weakness to invade her heart and her body.
It would break her.
She closed her eyes and cursed again.
Aiming it at herself this time.
Gods, if she hadn’t been such a fool, none of this would have happened to her. She would be home, living the life she loved. Her need to track down others of her species had been a moment of weakness, brought on by loneliness, and she should have weathered it as she had every other time it had swept over her. She should have stayed far away from Hell.
Hindsight was a bitch.
She had longed for company, and now she longed for the solitary life she had left behind.
Her moment of weakness had only proven that she was better off alone.
Lesson learned.
Never trust another hellcat.
Lyra tugged at the collar, her strength flowing from her again, despair swift to roll in to take its place, eating away at her.
A collar a male hellcat had placed on her.
She shouldn’t have trusted him. Her mother would roll in her grave if she could see her now. Her aunt would roll right along with her. They had raised her better than that. She had been such an idiot, believing herself stronger than both of them, thinking that what had happened to them wouldn’t happen to her because she was more intelligent, had learned from their history and seeing the scars that ringed their necks every day of her life.
She had been a damned fool.
All males of her kind were the same.
They wanted to collar any female they met, using it to force them to become their ‘mate’. It was the reason most females of her species despised their male counterparts and had long ago decided to do without them, to find their fated ones instead of allowing a male to collar them.
So, the males of her species had grown vicious, driven to dominate the females in response to the rejection, determined to claim what they viewed as rightfully theirs.
She opened her eyes and looked towards the glow that filled the air in the distance to her left, where the stage had been set up and a low hum of chatter drove back the silence of Hell.
Was there a male of her kind in the audience, waiting to bid on her?
Eager to have her at his mercy?
Was she about to face the same dark fate as her mother and aunt had?
She shuddered at the thought of any male having that sort of power over her.
Owning her.
“You.” The deep voice sent a tremor through her and she whipped her head around and bared her fangs at the huge bare-chested male.
The demon smirked at her, his broken pale horns flaring a little from behind his ears, pushing through his shaggy mane of sandy hair. He always got off on her threatening him. The sick bastard enjoyed taunting her.
The dark-haired demon next to him just stalked forwards, keys jangling in his hands as he searched for the one that would unlock her cage.
Her heart kicked into overdrive again, pulse slamming hard.
She backed away.
Her bottom hit the back of the cage, the metal bars cold against her bare flesh, and she bared her fangs again, hissed through them at the two males, warning them away.
The brunet demon ignored her and unlocked her cage.
The blond flicked his wrist, extending the baton he held. “Be nice now.”
He grinned at her, revealing short fangs, a glimmer of arousal in his pale eyes. He wanted her to do the opposite to his words. He wanted her to fight him.
Gods, she wanted it too, but she wasn’t about to give the bastard the satisfaction of fighting with her.
A loud roar sent silence sweeping across the black lands.
And a shiver down her spine.
It wasn’t one of her kind.
But there was such anger in that roar, such strength and power, and it lit a fuse inside her.
She exploded from the cage, launching at the two males, everything she had held bottled up inside her blasting through her, driving her into a rage.
She was on the brunet demon before he was even aware she had moved, her bare body slamming into his. Her left foot skidded on the loose dirt as she drove forwards, putting all her remaining strength into shoving him backwards and off balance.
As she landed on his chest, the captives in the cages around her began shouting, some of them calling to her to free them while others screamed for the guards, their fear of being punished because of something she had done driving them to alert the bastards who held them in chains in the hope they would avoid a beating.
Lyra sank her claws into the demon’s shoulders and struck hard with her fangs, lodging them deep in the side of his throat. He roared and bucked up, but she held on, refusing to release him as he tried to shake her off him. She snarled, a red rage pouring through her, controlling her actions.
She didn’t feel it when the sandy-haired demon struck her across the back with his baton. She didn’t feel it when he sank his own claws into her arm and pulled. Didn’t feel it when the male beneath her managed to shove his fist hard into her stomach.
She felt only the high of battle, the roar of victory in her ears, and the sheer elation that came with the taste of blood on her tongue.
The pale-horned demon finally managed to yank her off his colleague.
To his detriment.
Her fangs ripped through the side of his neck, gouging a deep hole in his flesh. Blood spurted across the black ground, and the male fumbled, desperately seeking the strength to cover the wound. The blond tossed her through the air and she shrieked as she hit the cage, the top bar of it slamming hard into her lower back, sending pain ricocheting through her.
By the time she had hit the ground, the dark-haired demon was still, his eyes staring blankly into the dark beyond.
The blond turned towards her, a growl on his lips.
Lyra roared and sprang at him, hitting him square in the chest with all of her weight. He didn’t fall. He grabbed her right arm and spun with her, flung her across the clearing and into the side of another cage. The occupant screamed and shoved at her, pushing her away.
She scowled at the female and spat blood on the floor.
Foolish bitch.
There was no currying favour with their captors now.
Not if the unholy cacophony she could hear coming from the direction of the stage was anything to go by.
Someone was ripping through the crowd, and most likely their captors. Someone who wanted blood on their hands as badly as she did.
She hunkered down and growled low, and the demon backed off as blue flames flickered over her hands.
The need to shift was strong, driving her to obey it, but she couldn’t, not with the collar on.
The male knew it. She saw it the moment he remembered, saw all that fear that had been building in his eyes drain right back out of them again as he cockily smiled at her.
Lyra wiped that smile right off his face.
In a lightning fast move, she closed the gap between her and the dead demon, and snatched the baton from his belt. She flicked her right hand out, extending the weapon, and roared as she swept it up in a fast, hard arc aimed at the blond’s head.
He growled and dodged backwards, her baton cutting harmlessly through the air a few inches in front of his face.
She strafed left when he swung at her with his own baton, coming close to striking her with it, and threw herself into a roll when he struck again, diving beneath his blow. She came to her feet behind him in a crouch and sprang forwards, leaping high into the air. He turned, a frown on his face as he looked at the ground where she had been.
Lyra grinned as she came down on the bastard’s head.
She brought the baton down, a sliver of satisfaction rolling through her when it struck hard enough to crack his skull, and he grunted and dropped to his knees. She kicked off him and pirouetted, coming back around to face him.
He shook his head, his eyes widened as he spotted her baton coming at him again, and he swiftly brought his arm up to shield his face. Another satisfying crack sounded as she connected with his wrist.
How many times had he beaten her with his baton?
How many times had he smiled as he did it, taking satisfaction from hurting her?
Gods, that left her cold. She was no better than he was.
It didn’t stop her though. She could hate herself later, when she was free, and this male was dead.
She pressed her left hand against the tip of the baton and drove forwards, into the male’s arm, shoving him sideways. He lashed out at her again, his baton striking her thigh and then her knee. Heat swept through her, numb at first but then fiery hot, blazing along her bones.
“Fucker,” she snarled and grabbed his baton before he could strike her with it again.
She wrestled with him as he tried to twist it free of her grip, his face contorting into vicious lines as he growled at her, flashing his fangs. His busted horns curled further, a flare of aggression, and his eyes brightened, glowing gold around his pupils.
He yanked his arm backwards, and she went forwards with it, refusing to release his weapon. She slammed into him, her bare breasts pressing against his chest, and pulled her arm back, trying to get the damned baton off him. She was going to kill him with the fucking thing. It would be a fitting end for him. Dying by his own weapon.
She was so focused on getting the baton off him that she didn’t notice his other fist coming at her face until it was too late. Pain splintered across her nose and blood poured from it, hot as it ran over her lips. She growled, grabbed his arm and twisted it hard.
He roared as the bone snapped.
Lyra grabbed her baton with both hands, shoved it against the front of his throat and pressed forwards, driving him down into the dirt. She settled all her weight on his chest, her knees pinning his shoulders, and pushed downwards on the baton. His eyes grew wild as he struggled beneath her, kicking his legs and growling.
His baton smacked her hard in the side.
She snarled, grabbed it and twisted it free of his grip.
And brought it down hard.






Book 1: Kissed by a Dark Prince (FREE AT SELECTED RETAILERS)
Book 2: Claimed by a Demon King
Book 3: Tempted by a Rogue Prince
Book 4: Hunted by a Jaguar
Book 5: Craved by an Alpha
Book 6: Bitten by a Hellcat
Book 7: Taken by a Dragon
Book 8: Marked by an Assassin
Book 9: Possessed by a Dark Warrior
Book 10: Awakened by a Demoness
Book 11: Haunted by the King of Death
Book 12: Turned by a Tiger
Book 13: Tamed by a Tiger
Book 14: Treasured by a Tiger




Felicity Heaton is a New York Times and USA Today international best-selling author writing passionate paranormal romance books. In her books, she creates detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons! If you’re a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy her books too.
If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, the best-selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series or any of her stand-alone vampire romance books. If you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try the best-selling Vampire Erotic Theatre series. Or if you prefer huge detailed worlds filled with hot-blooded alpha males in every species, from elves to demons to dragons to shifters and angels, then take a look at the new Eternal Mates series.
If you want to know more about Felicity, or want to get in touch, you can find her at the following places:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Mer Chronicles series by Tobie Easton

I first met Tobie Easton at YALLWest, and I was immediately intrigued by her Mer Chronicles series. The second in the series, SUBMERGE, debuted yesterday. Have a look at the beautiful world she's created:



Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she’s never lived in the ocean. Ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality, war has ravaged the Seven Seas. Now Lia lives in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions and attends high school with humans. To protect everyone around her, she must limit her contact with non-Mer. No exceptions. But when the new girl sets her sights on Lia's crush, she will risk exposing her deadly secret to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.






Now that Lia and Clay’s love has broken the Little Mermaid’s curse, everything has changed. Will Lia’s family remain on land, leading the only life she and her sisters have ever known, or will they move below the waves, to the sparkling new capital city? Lia is adamant about staying on land with Clay for her senior year. But at Melusine and her father’s trial, new revelations threaten what Lia holds most dear.

The verdict will shake Lia’s whole world, calling into question her future with Clay, her feelings for Caspian, and the fate of all Merkind. As she wonders who to trust, Lia sets out on a treacherous path that will lead her away from her sheltered Malibu home to a remote and mysterious school for Mermaids—Mermaids who may hold the secret to ancient magic Lia can use to either get back all she’s lost or to embark on a thrilling and dangerous journey.



According to your website bio, you host book clubs for teens and tweens. What is the most enjoyable part of this kind of work? 

Book clubs are such a wonderful way to foster discussion about the themes of a book, and to get everyone—myself included—considering the story and characters more deeply.  My favorite part is probably when there are divergent opinions within the group, which often spark new ideas.

Indeed they do. In SUBMERGE, Lia is forced to face some challenging choices. What do you hope readers will gain from her experience?

This has always been a series about gray area, because learning to cope with gray area is such an essential part of growing up.  Lia’s choices are often morally ambiguous for that reason, which I hope will spur readers to question what they themselves would do and why.

That also demonstrates why the character development within your series is so interesting and complex. I love your website! What advice do you have for writers interested in building an online presence?

Thanks so much!  I’d say, start simple.  Think about what information readers and press will want access to and make sure that information is easy to find on your page.  As for design, I aimed for something that fit both my personality and my books.  Apart from your website, try out each social media platform (especially the one that scares you—it may surprise you!), then choose the one or two you genuinely enjoy and focus on those so that you can engage in an authentic way.

Excellent advice. What are some of your current projects?

In addition to a few secret projects that it’s too early to talk about, I’m hard at work on Immerse (Book 3 in the Mer Chronicles series). Since the series was always meant to be a trilogy, it’s exciting to finally get to write storylines I’ve been planning for these characters for several years.  So far, I’d describe Immerse as intriguing with unexpected romance and even more unexpected magic.



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





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


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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

CHASING SECRETS by Gennifer Choldenko

I was first introduced to CHASING SECRETS when I encountered it on a mock Newbery panel, and was amazed how Gennifer brilliantly revealed a small known part of San Francisco history within her beautifully crafted fiction.  I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.


San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.
   The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.


According to your website bio, you drafted your first novel after graduating the Rhode Island School of Design. How did you know that writing fiction was the next step for you? 

Honestly, I didn’t think writing fiction was the next step for me.  I was just going to write that one novel and then get busy on my illustration portfolio.  But the more I wrote, the clearer it became that I was a writer, not an illustrator.

Deep down, I always knew that.  I just didn’t want to admit it to myself because there is a legacy of unpublished writers in my family tree and I didn’t want to be one of them.

And you're proof that family tree legacies can be changed. In CHASING SECRETS, you offer a lens into a rarely discussed historical event--the San Francisco plague of 1900-1904. What inspired you to shine a light on this epidemic?

I’ve lived in the SF Bay area for most of my adult life, but I had never heard of the plague outbreak. That seemed strange to me.  And the more I read about the outbreak, the more horrifying the events seemed. I was shocked by the bigotry toward the Chinese.  Of course I knew the Chinese were treated terribly in 1900, but the plague story gave a clear window on just how widespread the anti-Chinese sentiment was.  And then there was the issue of vaccinations, which has chilling echoes in today’s world.  Honestly, the truth in that novel is so relevant today.  

Indeed it is. Another of your novels, AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS, is a Newbery Honor book. Which parts of the story have you found resonate most with readers?  

 People love the ending of course but what is the most striking to me is the number of letters from siblings and parents of kids with autism or other issues. When I wrote the book, there were no middle grade novels for kids with siblings with autism.  Thankfully now — thirteen years later — there are many.  When I was a kid, hardly anyone had ever heard of autism.  And having a sister with autism was really unusual.  I wrote the book I needed to read when I was eleven.  It turns out a lot of other people needed to read it too.   That said, though, the majority of letters I receive are from kids with neurotypical siblings.  People love Moose and they are utterly fascianted with Alcatraz #105.

I'm glad the series has made a lasting impact on so many readers! What are some of your current projects?

In May 2018, AL CAPONE THROW ME A CURVE will be out.  In 2019 an illustrated novel for younger middle grade readers: ONE THIRD NERD will launch.  Right now I’m working on the companion novel to ONE THIRD NERD and a new historical novel.  I am having a blast!!!



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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Abyss Surrounds Us, a series by Emily Skrutskie

I first met Emily Skrutskie at this year's YALLWEST, and the premise of The Abyss Surrounds Us series was too fascinating to pass up. Have a look for yourself:


Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.




Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart.

But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers that Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect?

Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?


According to your website bio, you dabble in film as well as writing. What do you love most about both mediums?

I love shared experiences. I love going to a theater and watching something—and for two hours, everyone in that room with me is watching the exact same thing, bringing their own selves and their thoughts and opinions and emotions to the table. Something about that has always felt super powerful to me. Plus I love spectacle, and with the wizards in the industry nowadays, the only limit is your imagination.

Well, and what makes it through review and testing and every level of production—which is part of the reason I love writing, too. Because much as I love experiencing shared experiences, I also love constructing them for people, and writing affords you a degree of control that simply doesn’t make it through a film pipeline. I love working collaboratively at my day job, but I also love having authorship in my writing. It’s a daunting thing, being responsible for someone’s entire experience with your story, but it makes it so worthwhile when you pull it off.

Indeed. THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS expands on the world you created in THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US. In what ways did the story grow in ways you didn't expect?

It’s hard to say what I didn’t expect because I planned both books concurrently and knew how the story would end before I started telling it. But I think the way I planned it was incredibly focused on Cas’s development as a character, so one of the surprises was getting to explore Swift, Santa Elena, Varma, and the rest of the cast.

Yet another reason to plan stories thoroughly! You also write short stories. What, in your opinion, is the hardest part about writing a short story and why?

Anton Chekov once suggested that, in paraphrased terms, a short story is less about answering a question and more about stating it correctly. I have a brain that’s wired for problem solving. Allowing myself to leave a question stated, but unsolved, is very, very difficult for me, and it’s one of the reasons coming up with short stories is so much harder for me than figuring out novel plots.

Nonetheless, I'll bet that makes for some interesting plotting twists.  What are some of your current projects?

My next novel, HULLMETAL GIRLS, is due out next summer! It’s the story of two very angry girls who become two very angry jacked up cyborgs and are very angry at each other—but maybe have to stop being angry at each other and start working together if they have any hope of saving the wandering fleet of spaceships they call home.


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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

FIREBLOOD, the second in the Frostblood Saga by Elly Blake

I've been a fan of Elly Blake's Frostblood saga ever since I featured her here. In addition to FIREBLOOD's gorgeous cover, Kirkus Reviews said, "Ruby's story shimmers and expands as she grapples with forces pushing her to obey."


Against all odds, Ruby has defeated the villainous Frost King and melted his throne of ice. But the bloodthirsty Minax that was trapped inside is now haunting her kingdom and everyone she loves. The answers to its demise may lie to the south in Sudesia, the land of the Firebloods, and a country that holds the secrets to Ruby's powers and past....

Despite warnings from her beloved Arcus, Ruby accompanies a roguish Fireblood named Kai to Sudesia, where she must master her control of fire in a series of trials to gain the trust of the suspicious Fireblood queen. Only then can she hope to access the knowledge that could defeat the rampaging Minax--which grows closer every moment. But as sparks fly in her moments alone with Kai, how can Ruby decide whom to trust? The fate of both kingdoms is now in her hands.


In our last interview, when talking about character fan art, you said, "I enjoy seeing interpretations of the same character, and how each drawing style gives the character different nuances." Do you keep finding new nuances within your characters, and in what ways do they continue to surprise you? 

 Definitely! I discover characters while writing, so I learn about them as they face new situations. It’s always startling to realize that a character has secrets, even from me. Sometimes a character surprises me by reacting differently to a situation than I expected. For instance, at certain points in Fireblood, Kai shows a softer side that I didn’t know he had. And sometimes Marella’s intentions have eluded me. I don’t always have a handle on what she’s going to do, and I find out in the scenes as I write them.

Probably why she's one of my favorite characters. In FIREBLOOD, Ruby gets more acquainted with her homeland. What about the story's setting connects with her character and the new things she's discovering about herself? 

 Great question! When Ruby arrives in the islands of Sudesia, she notices the vivid green of the hills, the crystal blue water, and the bright flowers. Everything seems more colorful and more vibrantly alive, which I suppose is a fitting backdrop for some of the lessons Ruby learns there. Firebloods are much more accepting of showing emotion, and less afraid of a little flamboyance, from their clothing to their fighting styles. There are certainly parallels between the setting, which includes an active volcano and secret underground tunnels, and the emotional moments and secrets Ruby faces while she’s there.

Fascinating--and I love the symbolism of fire versus ice. The paperback edition for FROSTBLOOD just came out, and the series also made the NYT Bestseller List. Congrats on being an NYT Bestselling author! Where were you when you heard the news?  

Thank you so much! I’ll never forget that moment. I was in the middle of cooking pasta when the phone rang. My editor, Deirdre, said she had some good news and suggested I might want to sit down. I asked my son to keep an eye on the pot of boiling water and I took a seat. Deirdre told me that Frostblood had hit the NYT bestseller list!!! I immediately started to cry. Then I heard a few voices in the background, and I realized I was on speaker phone! Several people in the LBYR office were in on the phone call, and here I was, having a good cry. But they were all happy and supportive. I’m so grateful to all the people—especially readers—who took a chance on Frostblood and made my dream come true!

And we're glad you've written such a compelling series! If you could tell your younger writing self one thing, what would it be and why? 

I’d say: You can do this. Don’t feel bad for making mistakes. Failure is only temporary if you keep going.

When I was younger, I dreamed of writing, but I didn’t have the courage to try. I was convinced I wouldn’t be good enough. I didn’t want to risk failure. I thought being a writer was a special gift bestowed at birth, and only people who compulsively wrote poetry or journals would turn out to be real writers. I didn’t think that I’d be talented enough or strong enough. It took the fear of possibly never finding out to jolt me into action. I figured I should at least try. I’m so so so glad I did!

Publishing can be tough, but the writing community is a rewarding one and there’s always so much more to learn, which I find fascinating and energizing! You start writing and before you know it, you can’t stop. And then you find the most wonderful people to take the journey with you. If there’s a secret writer-dreamer reading this—especially someone with a lack of confidence, or high sensitivity, or low self-esteem—I’m speaking especially to you. You are capable of so much more than you know. Find supportive people and be gentle and kind to yourself. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to try! Give yourself permission to try and fail and try again. That’s the only way we learn. I, for one, am proud of you!



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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee

I first met Mackenzi at the launch of A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE when she spoke with author Anna-Marie McLemore. I was Anna-Marie's ride, and my car battery decided to die right before I was supposed to leave. If not for a kind city sidewalk paver and his knowledge of cars, I might not have gotten Anna-Marie there in time. There were even wildfires on the freeway on our way there, and the journey started to feel very Illiad-ish. Thankfully, we arrived on time, and intact.

And I'm so glad I went. Not only is Mackenzi a great author, but she's an engaging speaker and brilliant historian. I hope to read her other books, including THIS MONSTROUS THING.


Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.


I love that you feature #bygonebadassbroads on Twitter. How did this series come about, and what do you love most about writing it?

It came from a lot of the same place as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – my frustration that the stories of anyone other than white, straight, cis men in history is considered niche and not mainstream. Sexism has always existed, but so have incredible women who have fought back and beat the odds and persisted in spite of it. Their stories are often overlooked so the twitter series was my small attempt to share something I’m passionate about in away that felt fun and accessible. I never knew it was going to take off the way it has, and it’s been such an incredible passion project. Hearing the response from readers and what the series has inspired has been the best part.

It's truly been an inspiration to us all. And the opening to THE GENTLEMEN'S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE is one of the best I've ever read. What, in your opinion, is necessary for a good novel opening?

Thank you! The whole books sort of came from the first two lines of the book—when I looked back at my first draft right before the book was published, I realized they hadn’t changed at all (the rest of the book changed A LOT). I think the most important thing in a first line is that it sparks a question in the reader. It makes you want to know more, and propels you into the story.

Indeed it does. THE GENTLEMEN'S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE also reached the New York Times Bestseller list! Congratulations! Where were you when you heard the news?

I was in a hotel room in California, about to jump in the car to drive to my event at Kepler’s with Anna-Marie McLemore. I got a text from a friend who works in publishing that just said CONGRATULATIONS!!! And I had no idea what she was talking about. But my editor called a few minutes later and it all made sense.

Wonderful. What are some of your current projects?

I have a book of short essays based on my twitter series about amazing forgotten women in history, Bygone Badass Broads, coming out next March from Abrams, and illustrated by Petra Eriksson, and incredible graphic artist. There’s also going to be a sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which is called The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, and follows Felicity’s continuing adventures.


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