LOVE & CUPCAKES Cover Reveal

To say I am excited about participating in the COVER REVEAL blog tour for my friend and CP Susan Bishop Crispell would be an understatement, a habit which I am not really known for.

I am bewilderingly elated that Susan found a place for her book Love and Cupcakes, with a publisher that is as enthusiastic and accessible as Swoon Romance. I am flabbergasted by my own enthusiasm on this subject.

Plus, the cover is delicious and the book is dreamy. Yes, Susan is one of my CPs, I can absolutely vouch for her writing ability. (Here I am being very mundane in my word choice. I am relaying the facts, Mack. Hyperbole about her ability is impossible because she is that fabulous.)

I know you want to see the cover, but you should know something about the book first, guys. It is only sensible.

For Jaclyn “Jack” Pace, sensing what sweets people crave is as easy as breathing. But it’s not enough to keep her cupcake bakery in the black.

So, when her estranged sister Harper comes back to town with an affinity for making art out of icing—and a past full of secrets—she reluctantly gives Harper a job and a place to crash.

As their sisterly relationship begins to thaw, the one with her business partner Graham starts to heat up. Given the legend that says Hollingsworth men will recognize their soul mates at first touch, Jack’s always been resigned to the fact that she’s not his.

But when she starts sensing desires that are decidedly not dessert-related, it’ll take all of her magic to set things right with customers and make her own desires come true.

 Love and Cupcakes is a delightfully sweet and sensual romance from Susan Bishop Crispell

You want to read this book.

And you want to see the cover.

…….

Did I mention Susan has a blog, a Twitter, a Pinterest, a Facebook, a Tumblr?

Visit the Blog

Follow on Twitter

LIKE on Facebook

Be Inspired on Pinterest

Get Distracted on Tumblr 

OK, all that stuff is out of the way and taken care of. Phew. I feel better, don’t you? On to the Cover Reveal….!

Oh, a bit about Susan before we do.

susanSusan Bishop Crispell is not one of those writers who’s been scribbling down stories since she could hold a pencil. She didn’t read constantly growing up (blasphemy!), and she can still be found in public without a book tucked into her purse (again with the blasphemy!).

She is, however, the kind of writer who lives for the imaginative spark that introduces her to a new character or story idea that pushes her to turn everyday life into something magical.

Truly, she is a kindred spirit. And, all joking and silliness aside, she is one of the most gifted writers I have had the pleasure of reading, and learning from, and being sharpened alongside. Come January 2014 you will all see what I mean, and you will all be nodding and sharing just how very right I was. (I will be incredibly humble at that time, as I am known for my humility and as the writing you will be commenting on will not be mine at all, but hers.)

Now, no more delays. Here it is…Love and Cupcakes from Swoon Romance coming January 21, 2014!

CoverFinalSM-LoveAndCupcakes

Thank you to

AToMRTours_mdmfor putting this whole tour together. Add this book to your TBR pronto and look for it in digital format this January! Congratulations Susan on making the dream a reality!

The Murder Complex Cover Reveal

Today marked the cover reveal for my beautiful and gifted friend Lindsay Cummings’s stunning 2014 debut The Murder Complex from Greenwillow Books. If you haven’t already seen it, behold…

Murder complex front jacketSo much to love about this cover. The color, the font, the image, and above all how perfectly it teases the content. I was lucky enough to read a draft of this book before it went into line edits, and even then it bled originality and depth. Lindsay is a truly unique talent, but she is also one of my favorite people in the world.

If you haven’t already added The Murder Complex to your Goodreads, follow this link to do so. It is up for pre-order on a handful of easy access sites as well. By following the link to Lindsay’s blog below, you can find all the handy pre-order info.

If you are interested in a signed ARC (and you really should be, because how much fun?) check out the contest going on over at Lindsay’s personal blog. I for one have already entered!

Lindsay Writes: Cover Reveal and Contest!

I am happy for Lindsay, but just as happy for all of us. Soon we’ll get to hold this fabulous book in our hands, which is all Lindsay has wanted for us since writing it over two years ago.

Austin Teen Book Fest 2013, or where all my money now lives.

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Oh, Austin Teen Book Fest, how I adore you. Your incredible panels. Your many fangirl opportunities. How you get me and all the other YA booknerds to the paper and ink core. Where all the books are so intriguing that my credit card was smoking by the time I left for home.

It was a good weekend, starting with the drive down where my sisters-in-law and I covered a wide range of topics including, but not exclusive to, Jon Snow, Doctor Who, ambition, husbands and children, book crushes (more Jon Snow, Four, Gansey, and all the others talk here) etc., and so on. We stopped in West, Texas for some delicious goodness. Some of you may remember West from the news a few months back, but we who’ve made the drive to Austin before, know West as the magical place where the Czech Stop and all the kolaches exist to help us on the road.

We look happy because kolaches in our hands, book festival in our future.
We look happy because kolaches in our hands, book festival in our future.

The sky was weird and wonderful as we drove into a storm, and then promptly out of it again. So, when the clouds broke somewhere near Temple, Texas and a rainbow lit up the gray, we felt as if it was for us and our fellow book loving travelers.

Rainbow, pretty.
Rainbow, pretty.

We arrived in Austin, our spirits and anticipation high, and wandered 6th Street for food and drink, before hitting the sack in preparation of our early rise the next morning.

We walked to the Austin Convention center the next morning, coffee in hand and some more kolaches in our stomachs, and quickly found our seats. My sister-in-law, Celestine agreed to save seats while my other sister-in-law, Stephanie and I checked out the Book People set up across the Exhibit Hall.

You must realize, when I say “checked out”, I mean “gathered under arms until there was no more room and we had to come back later for a second round.” After some panels, because the start of the festival chased us from the Book People to our seats.

I’m going to take a moment here to make sure it’s completely clear how very hard I fangirl Maggie Stiefvater. At some point I will expand on this, maybe with a sonnet and some Maggie Stiefvater book + Me reading it = My Happy Place art, but for now, just know, I think she’s the bees knees.

Maggie Stiefvater rocks!
Maggie Stiefvater rocks!

And she is as fabulous in person as I hoped. Her speech was about being fearless, and how she isn’t, but really is, but not actually, and we all can be too. I actually saw her in the hallway going from one panel to another and had to force myself not stop her. They didn’t want us to, and I would have been hopelessly awkward had I tried, because I get tongue-tied pretty completely by authors I adore. Case in point: I’ve seen Rae Carson three times in person, met her twice, and still have to use my “I will not kiss her” mantra whenever I see her milling around after panels.

I don’t know why.

Back to the Festival. The day was then in full swing, and my group and I, which we added to after Maggie’s Key Note, when we ran into Dallas booknerds Cherie “Little Libba” Stewart and Britnee DeJong. They are what Austin Teen Book Fest is truly about, youngish readers who can’t seem to stop buying, reading, and discussing books.

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The Into the Heart of Darkness panel featured authors Holly Black, Jon Skovron, Mari Mancusi, Robin Wasserman, and April G. Tucholk and was moderated by Dallas-Fort Worth author and Evil Genius, Victoria Scott. The theme was all things devilish and dark, and the authors really got into it. There was a Devil Horn headband, which was passed around between the authors whenever they said something particularly gruesome or black-hearted.

Next we trucked our books and selves back to the Exhibit hall for Fierce Reads vs. Dark Days, which was a game-show style panel pitting the authors from the Fierce Reads Tour and the Dark Days tour against one another. I am a Dark Days girl myself, our house is Slytherin, our chant, a Hiss. I may be biased, but I think the Dark Days ladies killed it.

Grainy pic of the Dark Days authors!
Grainy pic of the Dark Days authors!

Lunchtime! I watched the panel featuring — not eating because I tend to starve myself when excited and nervous — Rob Thomas, creator of Veronica Mars and YA author, and Sarah Dessen, moderated by lovely and eloquent author Lauren Myracle. As a writer of both screenplays and novels, I especially enjoyed listening to Rob Thomas talk about Kickstarter, writing for TV, and maintaining your sane in the crazy of Publishing and Film.

The day was broken up and distracted by getting to meet some cool people I’d connected with online, including Austin based writer and musician Courtney Howell, and the author of the forthcoming novel The Truth About AliceJen Mathieu, whose book you should all put on your TBR pronto, as well as chatting with an agent I respect whose clients I adore.

Us, keepin' it classy with the help of one of the fabulous bookmarks for her book.
Us, keepin’ it classy with the help of one of the fabulous bookmarks for her book.

My afternoon was filled with talent and awesome, on the Powers Strange and Perilous panel with Maggie Stiefvater, Robin LeFevers, Lisa McMann, Cinda Williams Chima, Melissa De La Cruz & Michael Johnston, and moderated by Texas author Rosemary Clement-Moore. The panel spent a lot of time discussing power, real or imagined, and how it can be used in fiction. As a fantasy writer I was enthralled, and intent to soak up all the knowledge they were handing out for free.

Somewhere in there I ate, and then went to buy all the books I’d been noting during panels that I couldn’t live without, plus some literary themed jewelry and another Diet Coke.

The last panel we enjoyed was moderated by local superstar and author of the forthcoming Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy, and appropriately titled I Made You a Mixtape. Contemporary YA is not my main subgenre of interest, but this panel featured some just stunningly talented and well-spoken Contemporary writers. Sarah Dessen, Trish Doller, Lauren Myracle, Sara Farizan, and Leila Howland engaged the audience by opening up to questions immediately, and giving funny, but frank, answers when the questions naturally turned to sex, love, and boys in YA.

Holly Black closed the festival with a fabulous, funny, mandated inspiring and tear-jerking by Maggie Stiefvater, speech with accompanying Vampire related slides. At one point she shared some of her vampire research, saying, “If you are running from a vampire, drop loose poppy seeds behind you. Vampires have to stop and count them. Makes me wonder if that’s where this guy comes from.”

Maybe?
Maybe?

Signings ended the day. We divided to conquer. And conquer we did.

A suitcase full of books.
A suitcase full of books.

I particularly love the Austin Teen Book Fest for bringing together so many wonderful and diverse writers, and giving readers a chance to discover lesser known books or authors they might have overlooked in bookstores, while also fostering an atmosphere of camaraderie. Even the authors attending, there to promote their work and themselves, are first and foremost fans. We are all lovers of books, humans who recognize the power words possess, and young at heart no matter our age.

My reading future is...daunting...I mean, thrilling.
My reading future is…daunting…I mean, thrilling.

Fire and Thorns Trilogy (Wherein, I make my feelings clear.)

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about Rae Carson’s PHENOMENAL Fire and Thorns trilogy since I finished reading an ARC of The Bitter Kingdom a couple weeks ago. Then I got sidetracked with my own writing dramas and nearly forgot.

Never fear, I am here now to talk about these books and why I think you should all pick them up pronto. No excuses.

Oh, the romance I have with these books! It’s been a little over a year since I first picked up The Girl of Fire and Thorns — on a whim due to a particularly glowing review from a fellow YA fiend — and I have salivated for each subsequent sequel since.

As series go, this one starts off at a wonderful place. Elisa — magic stone entrusted princess and role model for all girls who’ve glowered in the shadow of a gorgeous and slim sibling — is married off to the a rather handsome, but slightly weak spirited king, at sixteen. Her life quickly turns upside down and sideways as everything she ever knew about herself is brought into question. The first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, is an introduction to Elisa, the magic in her world, the stakes against her, and the beautiful tentativeness of first love.

The journey continues in The Crown of Embers. Elisa is now Queen Regent, her understanding of the power in her Godstone grows, just as her responsibility to her people in the terrible war against the Inviernos and their black-magic. In the midst of grappling with all this, Elisa is falling in love with someone she really can’t have, and we all suffer right along with her. Note: I have discussed this many times on my blog. The make-out scene in this novel is deserving of a re-read. Or ten. I read it again just now.

In the final chapter of this saga, The Bitter Kingdom, we follow Elisa to the gate of the enemy, as she wields a dangerous and volatile power with grave and unpredictable consequences, all to save her land and her love. It’s harrowing, certainly, but mixed with such heart and vibrancy I was invigorated until the wee hours of the night reading. I especially enjoyed the relationship she develops with a horse she wants to hate, as well as a slave girl she takes under her wing. It’s a satisfying end to a series I didn’t want to see end. There is also plenty of delicious romance to make your toes curl and your stomach flip-flop. Ya know, if you like that sort of thing.

Elisa is a heroine I love and admire. Her evolution over the series created an allegiance few have managed with me. In fact, her fierce loyalty and sense of duty is a quality I am drawn to in real life, and something I long to exhibit more accurately myself.

As a writer, I choose books for all sorts of reasons. Research. Swoony boys. World-building. But above all, a book must make me feel. It must take me out of my own world, and the ping of my pinball thoughts, long enough to stop picking my nails and start smiling again. If a book can do that, I will love it forever. I will carry it with me into conversations. I will push it into hands, and write about it on my blog.

Rae Carson managed that so beautifully with these books, that my conscience won’t allow me not to talk about it. And it’s why I’m threatening you (however emptily, because hello, this is the internet) to read them or else.

Read them. They can be found through Indiebound.org as well as most larger online retailers. Or go to your local bookstore. If they don’t have it at your local bookstore, demand why. I did this at mine, and the bookseller kindly explained they had sold out. OK, acceptable.

Write me when you get to that scene in The Crown of Embers. We’ll swoon together.

Irving Library Beneath the Surface Author Panel and site of utter fangirl overload

Nova and Me

It is hard to know where to begin this post because I am still mulling over my magical evening.

Last night, we assembled (we being a bunch of readers from North Texas) to soak in the glorious genius of: Nova Ren Suma —lovelier than I even thought possible and so filled with knowledge and incredible stories, Tessa Gratton — hilarious and witty and I’m glad she is not a politician, Ransom Riggs — very tall and not terrifying like his book but undeniably interesting, Tahereh Mafi — stunning and engaged to Ransom Riggs but is an elegantly normal sized wordsmith, Rae Carson — blows me away with her awesome and is a reformed beauty queen who loves Star Wars and the intersection between literary and commercial fiction so…good taste, and Aimee Carter — accessible and honest and dry, which are some of my favorite things. The panel was wonderfully moderated by local author, Jenny Martin, whose book Tracked debuts next year.

The Irving Public Library is sprawling book-haven. I’m accustomed to libraries being a normal size and I always find my way to the end of them before I’m ready. Irving impresses. The event featured tons of freely given swag, a tower of cupcakes and a candy bar. My phone was nearly dead because I used the voice prompts in google  maps to get to Irving, and earlier in the day I was compulsively checking email because…well, I do that…so I took almost no pics.

You can take my word for it, and also, Twitter has pics. I wanted to buy all the books, but alas money and responsibility prohibited. I did get a handful for signing, which was giving me social anxiety during the panel. I was determined to quell my urge to be nervous and weird.

Before the event, I planned to meet up with Nova, but her travel arrangements went haywire and she barely made it to Dallas in time for all the Library revelry. Timing was on my side, as well as nature, when I stopped into the bathroom and in came all the authors —including Nova — freezing me by the trashcan. We laughed and gabbed and talked about how sucky Delta Air is and how wonderful it was to meet, and she graciously introduced me around and exclaimed positives about my book.

It is almost too exciting to write about, that I really, just, can’t.

Author panels are always incredibly fascinating to me. As an aspiring author, I watch and learn from them. I glean knowledge about the business I want to be a part of as well as the task of writing books readers will love. But as a reader, I gush and laugh and want to jabber about the books they’ve written that I love and will love in the future.

One of my favorite moments during the panel was when they each told their unique “road to publishing” story. Some had always known novels would find them, some began in screenwriting, pursuing film, pursuing extensive education, pursuing politics and world-changing and wizardry. For most, it was a road littered with rejection and agony, as well as a road of self-discovery.

The panel ran long, but not a single person in the room cared. I was sad it was ending, actually. And then, even though it went late, the authors kindly chatted and listened to all of us thank them for their books and pose for a picture and tell them about our Twitter. (Me, I did that. Because I am hopeless.)

I got to hang with friend and 2014 debut author Lindsay Cummings and fellow bookworms — particularly Cherie, a girl almost as tall as Ransom Riggs who I’m nicknaming, ironically, Little Libba — and talk only books. My favorite kind of talking.

Support your local library by going to events such as this one wherever you live. A huge shout-out to Half-Price Books for selling me too many things, and all the clever booknerds I met last night in Irving!

17 & Gone and Me

This is a post in two parts, wherein I examine both the brilliance (without giving away spoilers) that is Nova Ren Suma’s book 17 & Gone, and the treacherous time that is being seventeen going on eighteen.

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That’s me, seventeen years old. I’d just chopped my hair short for the first time ever a week before my birthday. My skin was going through a fresh scrubbed, sun-kissed phase. Soon I would go on my first real date, with my first real boy, and we’d kiss for the first time on a swing set. Soon all of my hopes would be dashed, eroded by choices too hard to make for a seventeen year old girl. Soon, the bubbly, confident girl I’d always pretended to be would start to fade, into someone volatile and confused, ever-shrinking, ever-wandering. I’d get in fights I couldn’t win. I’d fail tests I should have aced. I’d wreck cars and friendships and store signs. I’d stand by while everything around me crashed and burned, leaving in the wreckage the shell of who I’d been before. And it all began after I turned seventeen.

17 & Gone is the story of Lauren, a seventeen year old girl who is having visions of missing girls. The common thread between the girls is that they are all seventeen, and all suddenly gone without a trace. Lauren launches headlong into investigations, seeking answers for both their stories, and her own. Why are they speaking to her? Will Lauren be the next seventeen year old girl to vanish? Is there anything she can do for herself or the others?

This book is layered with depth, and intrigue, and finely crafted plotting, but what makes 17 & Gone so utterly engrossing is the trepidation the reader carries with them through the pages. The need to put the book down, but keep it close. I actually, very nearly, had to put this one in the freezer to diffuse some of my anxiety.

It is hard to write about 17 & Gone because so much of the story must be experienced first hand. I would never take that away from you, but for the purposes of this post, I will share something that has nothing to do with the twists and turns in the plot. Speaking, here, about her mother, Lauren says:

I nodded and let her keep touching me, even though every finger on my scalp and every brush against my neck felt wrong all of a sudden, weird. It wasn’t so much her. Again, it was me. All me. My skin was tightening against intrusions. My body was pulling in on itself like a knot tied over a knot tied over a knot that would never come out.

This is seventeen. Much of my late teens were filled with this raw, hidden pain. Pain I couldn’t quite make sense of, or put words to, or recognize for what it truly was. But more, what Lauren’s words remind me of is feeling desperately and hopelessly misunderstood, because suddenly the girl I had been wasn’t fitting with the girl I was becoming. I wasn’t a woman, not by a long shot, but suddenly I was doing womanly things and being asked to just accept them. My future was growing complex.

At sixteen, I remember driving around with my brother and one of my friends, cranking Jimmy Eat World up in my beat up Jeep Cherokee, and talking about Harry Potter while we ate Frosties. Sixteen was the last time things were simple. Sixteen was filled with certainty. It had been about school and books. It had been me and music and giant drinks from Sonic.

Seventeen changed everything. Suddenly I was about to graduate, and I was supposed to pick a school and take the SAT’s, and plan a future. At seventeen, I was eyed. Boys looked at me more like meat and less like furniture. My cheekbones were sharper, my eyes caught on the curve of a guys muscle under his sleeve, and not the idea of his charm. Seventeen meant I had to act, not observe.

For Lauren, seventeen meant danger. It meant you could be stolen, and no one would care, because isn’t that just what happens if you’re not careful? 17 & Gone illustrates a universal truth about the perilous downward slope of the seventeenth year. The knowledge that you leave behind the girl you were, but you may never make it to the woman you should become. For Lauren, the fear manifests in waking nightmares of the lost girls before her. For me, the fear followed me into every decision I made.

Somehow I managed to survive seventeen, though I can’t tell you if Lauren does — you’ll have to read the book to find out! — and become the woman I was warring with back then. As a teenager, I don’t think I would have believed you if you’d told me I would. I think, like Lauren, I would have been sure my fate lay with the other vanished girls, trapped at seventeen, never getting to move on or see if they could hack it. That’s why 17 & Gone is such a valuable read, for a girl struggling to stay upright on the slope towards eighteen, or a woman who still remembers tripping along that same path.

Many things about my seventeenth year were magical, and everything I had ever wanted or more. Seventeen forms us, and in some ways, it is impossible to avoid the dangers that await on the other side of it. But you won’t be seventeen forever, I know I wasn’t, no matter what that ends up meaning for you now.

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17&gone

Buy 17 & Gone where books are sold, and follow Nova on Twitter by clicking here. If you live in the DFW area, Nova will also be at the Irving Public Library on July 11th for an author panel. Don’t miss it!

 

POISON Blog Tour

For my first blog tour, I am happy to be supporting a book as effervescently full of fun as Poison. When I heard about Bridget Zinn’s book — and the untimely passing of the author — I was moved by the groundswell support from the blogging and writing community. I did not know Bridget personally, as some of the other bloggers and authors on the tour did, but from what I can tell from her writing, she was someone I would have loved to grab coffee with. Or Pie. Kyra, the sixteen year old heroine of Poison, really seems to like pie.

As I began reading Poison, I was immediately transported by Bridget’s words and engaged by the thrilling concept of her story. There was a playfulness and zest in her storytelling that reminds me of the earlier Harry Potter books. In fact, that thought actually upset me a bit. As a fairly stingy reader, who can’t consume books fast enough to satisfy my appetite, I was throughly miffed that I won’t get to read more Bridget Zinn books.

Readers, we have been shorted.

It is a huge complement to a writer when readers want more of you. I would have wanted more books from Bridget. Many, many more. I would have bought them and shared them emphatically.

I’m glad we have Poison to enjoy, and I am sure you will enjoy it, but still…

Here is a bit about the book:

poison

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

Pick up a copy using one of the handy links below, or by visiting your local bookstore/library.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

IndieBound

iTunes

Powell’s Books 

If you are on Goodreads, add it to your To Be Read list pronto, friends. Here’s a link for that: Poison on Goodreads

Now, a bit of Bridget’s personal story:

bridget_zinn_photoBridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the “summer of love” and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was “Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect.”

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers’ copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads. 

I actually, to be incredibly personal with you all and at the risk of TMI, read this in my bath. There are happy dried drops of sudsy water on a handful of the pages.

To Bridget! To first books, first blog tours, and pie!

Share the love.

This is a reblog. I am majorly inspired by this effort, and thrilled to pass the info along to all of you guys. Reposting from Elodie and Peggy Eddleman. Any help you can offer, even if it’s just buying and reading their books (which is what all authors long for), will be wonderful.

From Peggy (Literally, copy and pasted. All credit to her, and you can visit her blog using the above link.):

Two of our very own needs us:

I have always been so amazed at how supportive, loyal, encouraging, and helpful the writing community is. Writers rock, big time. Whenever someone’s in need, writers rally the troops, which is why I’m posting this. Guys– we need to rally the troops for two of our own.

First: Chad Morris.

I’ve gotta say, a debut year is extremely busy and stressful. But there are a lot of very rewarding and fun parts of it, too! Chad Morris, a blogger many of you might know, has willingly given up all the fun and rewarding parts of his debut year for something infinitely more important– his 9 year old daughter. Last Tuesday he and his wife Shelly (a writer who many of you might know, too) took her to one of the best neurosurgeons in the nation to get a tumor removed from her brain. Dang! I’m getting teary-eyed just typing this! *deep breath*

Chad is in a hospital, being there for his daughter as she recovers. He can’t promote his book, but we can! We can give him the book launch that he deserves. His book releases tomorrow. If you feel so inclined, think about mentioning his book on Twitter, Facebook, on your blog, on Pinterest, or on whatever other form of social media you enjoy.

Here’s the quick details:

Book: CRAGBRIDGE HALL: THE INVENTOR’S SECRET (Shadow Mountain, 3/5/13)
The blog post where Chad talks about his daughter:http://writingwithshellyandchad.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-more-important-dream.html
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chad.morris.5
Twitter: @ChadCMorris

The longer details:

About THE INVENTOR’S SECRET:

Imagine a school in the year 2074 where students don’t read history, but watch it happen around them; where running in gym class isn’t around a track, but up a virtual mountain; and where learning about animals means becoming one through an avatar.

Welcome to Cragbridge Hall, the most advanced and prestigious school in the world. Twin siblings Abby and Derick Cragbridge are excited as new students to use their famed grandfather’s inventions that make Cragbridge Hall so incredible. But when their grandfather and parents go missing, the twins begin following a trail of clues left by their grandfather. They must find out where their family is, learn who they can trust, and discover what secrets are hidden within Cragbridge Hall.

Abby and Derick soon realize they are caught in a race with a fierce adversary to discover their grandfather’s greatest secret–a dangerous discovery that could alter both history and reality.

About Chad:

Chad Morris grew up wanting to become a professional basketball player or a rock star. (Inspired by Animal from the Muppets, he’s been banging on drums since he was eight years old.) After high school, he wrote and performed sketch comedy while going to college, and eventually he became a teacher and a curriculum writer. He lives in Utah with his wife and five kids. Chad would love to teach at Cragbridge Hall.

Unlike Oscar Cragbridge, however, he hasn’t really invented anything, though his son once sketched out blueprints for a machine that would turn celery into cookies.

Second: Bridget Zinn

Bridget’s debut novel, POISON, releases a week from tomorrow. Sadly, Bridget died from cancer in May of 2011, and never got to hold her book in her hands. Being published was her dream, and her husband and friends would love some help putting the finishing touches on her dream. Her husband has set up a website that talks about all the ways you can help. It’s a pretty awesome thing. You can find his plea for help here: http://bridgetzinn.com/help/index.php

Here’s the quick details:Book: POISON (Hyperion, 3/12/13)
Twitter Hashtag: #poison

The longer details:

About POISON:

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

About Bridget:

Bridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the “summer of love” and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was “Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect.”

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers’ copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads.

I am positive that anything you want to do to get the word out about these two fabulous books— no matter how small— will be greatly appreciated.

I’m honored to be part of the troops with you all.

This is me talking now:
Get the books. Read them. Tweet about them. Blog about them. Like Peggy, I am so inspired by the way authors build up other authors. We aren’t out to make everything about us, and our book, and our success. Getting people to read, whether it is your book or someone else’s, is a win for everyone.

The Top Five YA Books I Read in 2012

I have ambitiously decided to narrow down the thirty books I read this year, consisting of mostly YA, to my Top Five.

Yes. I’m going to try. *Cracks Knuckles*

I read a few non-YA books this year, but as I am a Young Adult writer, I think it’s most appropriate to limit the Top Five list to just YA. No offense meant for the amazing “Adult” books I read.

There is a certain gut reaction I can’t ever seem to escape, but I am really going to try and be conscious of reason. I write fantasy, so I read a heck-of-a lot of it this year. I will make sure to include a smattering of the brilliance happening all over YA, not just in fantasy, because there is a lot of amazing stuff to be seen. Try to keep in mind, I am still playing catch up, so some of my favorite reads may not have been published this year at all. In fact, I am sure at least two will not.

OK, so, enough chatter. Onto the list, starting with number 5.

5) The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

fios

I loved this book for so many reasons. It was my first John Green, which is sad, so I added all of his books to my TBR list. I actually picked this book up because Veronica Roth recommended it at the reading for Insurgent I attended earlier this year.

I am so glad she did. From the moment we are introduced to Hazel, and then Gus, they capture the reality of people living (and dying) with a disease and the sentiment of trying to make sense of an otherwise confusing world. They are children becoming adults. The tragedy is tempered skillfully by wit and humor, so it’s never too much. Until it finally is. Then it crushes you.

This book is a good read for a girl or boy. It also has the added bonus of creating a love story for the dying that anyone will root for. Check it out, even if you don’t like Contemporary.

4) The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson (Bonus: Its sequel The Crown of Embers)

goftcoe

I found this book through a YA Highway suggestion, and again, I am so thankful I did. This is true high fantasy with a twist. Rae Carson set her book in a world influenced in dress and environment by an area in northern Africa between Algeria, Morocco, and Spain.

What’s even more compelling about these books than the landscape and food, is Elisa, the protagonist princess and fated bearer of a mystical stone of power. I really fell for Elisa, her transformation from weak, overweight princess to freedom-fighter and Queen is wonderful. Rae Carson draws on the classic Tropes of Fantasy literature and spins them around until their heads pop off. **Bonus** The Crown of Embers has a super steamy romance.

If you aren’t sure about high fantasy, this is a great pick for you. It’s nerve racking, tragic, inspiring, and based in a compelling world.

3.  UnWind, by Neal Shusterman (Unwholly is the sequel)

unwindunwhollyThese books will not be for everyone. UnWind was published in 2009, and it’s sequel, UnWholly was just released in the fall of 2012. UnWind is one of the most difficult books I have ever read in terms of theme.

It takes place after the Second Civil War in America, which was over the issue of Abortion. The solution is that life is inviolable from birth to thirteen, but from the ages of thirteen to eighteen a parent has the option to UnWind their child. UnWinding is a process where each piece of the body is separated and redistributed. The story follows three fated UnWinds and how they battle to stay alive, or in some cases, die.

This is a gut-wrenching subject and Neal Shusterman doesn’t shy away from it in the slightest. If you are a parent, especially of a teen, I think it is an important book to read. It is a brilliant commentary, as well as a non-stop roller coaster of a read. If you can get through it, it just might change you. If you can’t tell, I feel very strongly about these books. I think you will too.

2) Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

sbAnother high fantasy flipped on its backside. This is Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel, and it speaks volumes about her potential as an author. She’s been around the Hollywood scene as a make-up artist for a while, and her eye for the dramatic is definitely felt in the pages of Shadow and Bone.

This awesome slice of fantasy takes place in a Czarist Russian inspired world called Ravka. A magical force has created the dangerous fog known as the Shadow Fold, which slowly grows around the country, cutting it off from resources and endangering the lives of the citizens. The First Army of the King is aided by a magical army called Grisha, led by the mysterious Darkling. The story centers around an orphan girl named Alina who possesses a dormant power much needed in this desperate nation. A power she never knew she had. This power changes her world forever.

Alina is a vibrant narrator, with a certain snark and sharpness to her that is refreshing, and the plot vibrates along at a comfortably quick pace. This book isn’t my number one only because I am a little jealous of the Fabulous Leigh for writing it and not me. I think anyone, even those who generally loathe high fantasy, can get into this book. If you haven’t already picked it up, do it…now!

**Bonus** Sexy boy love interests are exponential!

And…my favorite read this year…

1) When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead 

wyrmThis was a hard choice for me. When You Reach Me is actually Middle Grade, which I don’t usually read in, but I had heard non-stop raves for this book, so I had to. I am tickled pink that I did. Every time I think about this book, I smile, which is why it is number one on my list. It touched the child in me while giving me food for thought and stroking the science fiction nerd deep down.

When You Reach Me was the Newbery Winner for 2010, among other prestigious awards, but it’s really a very gentle, simple slice of life tale with a truly golden heart. It takes place in 1979 New York City, and is told by Miranda, a twelve year old girl who’s best friend doesn’t want to be friends anymore. When Miranda begins to receive mysterious notes with eerily accurate information in them, her world turns upside down.

I don’t want to tell you anything else. Just, seriously, read this book. Like, tonight. It’s short and sweet. It will reaffirm the goodness of humanity, the mystery of the universe, and the joy of true friendship. Be warned, you will probably cry, so keep tissues by your side. Anyone, anywhere, can read this and appreciate it. I would even read it aloud to younger children.

Phew, I feel better now. A few Honorable Mentions that I must now mention are:

Hope you enjoy the list, and get a few great reads out of it. Feel free, or largely compelled, to share your own list, especially if it differs greatly from mine. I am ALWAYS looking for more books to pile on my TBR list.

I finally watched The Walking Dead.

My husband and I have resisted The Walking Dead phenomenon until now. My reasons are threefold:

  1. I get scared, fairly easily, and reanimated human flesh doesn’t help.
  2. I have no time to get caught up on a television show in its third season.
  3. I know I will love it and therefore obsess over the finer and more gruesome points until I myself resemble a Walker.

So, as I said on Friday in this post, my son is in Texas for the week. I don’t know what I did before Sam was born, but I sure as hell don’t remember having this much time on my hands. Yes, I’m editing my manuscript (again, and hopefully for the last time until selling it!). Yes, I got Jillian Michael’s 30-day Shred DVD and used it today. (At one point there were noticeable tears.) Yes, I cleaned the stove, and walked the dog, and took a relaxing bubble bath.

Now what?

We watch The Walking Dead, of course.

Here is a poorly recalled transcript of Nathan and I watching the pilot:

Opening scene-

Rick walks around with a gas can, gun secured stupidly in his pocket. My husband gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the poor bastard didn’t know about the Zombie Apocalypse. The sad sack.

Husband: It’s not like you walk around expecting an undead to wander up beside you in house shoes.

Me: Clearly some mischief is afoot — ALL THE CARS ARE ABANDONED!

The little girl with the bear and the missing jaw approaches.

Me: Shoot her. Either way, this does not bode well.

Scene Where Rick Wanders Around Town-

My notes on this: Shoes. He goes home, but he doesn’t get dressed. No shoes+ no pants= very vulnerable situation.

Husband: He’s in a fairly distressed state of mind.

Me: Still, survival instincts. Where is he gonna go without footwear?

Husband: He’s messed up. He was shot and woke up to a loading dock of mutilated corpses.

Me: Who probably still have some loafers he could borrow.

Scene At the Police Station-

They raid the armory. I would have gathered, in no particular order, the following:

  • Rifle
  • Machete, multiple
  • Flame Thrower
  • Grenades (for large scale attacks)
  • Sawed off shotgun
  • Hand gun (for when I know the end is nigh)

Note: Stop shooting people. The black dude said it calls them.

Scene When the Black Dude (whose name has escaped me) Does Target Practice-

Husband: I thought he said not to shoot. He really beat himself up about that, what’s he doing?

Me: Working out his aggression.

Husband: This is a bad idea.

Me: He’s looking for his wife.

Husband: Maybe he wants to move on.

Me: Oh, there she is. (Aside) If the Zombie Apocalypse comes, and I get bitten, you better shoot me in the freaking head. That is no way to live. (To the black dude) Shoot her, her brain is fried. She’s eating human flesh.

Husband: But what if they find a cure?

(Cute!)

Atlanta-

Rick, very stupidly, rides a horse down an empty road toward the city.

Me: All the cars are leaving the city.

Husband: No traffic at least.

Me: If he gets that horse killed…

Husband: That’s an empty threat.

(Action ensues, the nature of which I will not spoil.)

Husband: They’re moving kind of fast.

Me: I guess these are The Skipping Dead.

(Something really crappy happens.)

Me: I do not feel bad for him right now, this is of his own making.

Husband: I feel bad.

(Eye roll.)

Me: That dude is not dead, just shoot him for good measure.

(A gross scene follows.)

Me: That horse was grazing in a pasture, and now look at him.

After the episode-

Husband: What do you suppose the pop culture fascination with Zombies is?

Me: It’s Natural Selection on undead juju.

Husband: There are zombie viruses in nature.

Me: Stop.

Husband: Yeah, these parasites take over this specific breed of ant’s brains. It’s crazy.

Me: I’m never going to get to sleep tonight. (Long Pause) Lets watch another one.

(End Transcript)