young adult

Sneak Peek Snippet 4: The Evolution of Lillie Gable

It's time to share another snippet from The Evolution of Lillie Gable. This snippet is from Chapter 1 because I don't want to post any spoilers! Release day is March 31. It's coming up!!!

It was almost ten, and Jake needed to go home, but she didn’t want him to leave her in the empty house. 

“I have an idea,” he said. He threw on his T-shirt and stood up. “We both don’t want this awesome summer to end, so I think we should have one more day of summer.”

“What are you saying?” Lillie asked. 

“Let’s ditch school tomorrow. We can spend the day at the beach. It will be quiet because everyone will be at school, and we get to have one more day at the beach,” he said. Excitement was written all over his face.

“Ditch? I don’t know, Jake,” she said. She loved his impulsiveness, but ditching school could get her in serious trouble. 

“It’s the first day. You know nothing happens on the first day. Teachers aren’t paying attention to who should be at school and who isn’t there. It’s the perfect day to ditch. We’ll leave at the same time we should be heading to school. Your parents won’t have a clue. They aren’t around ever.” He grabbed her hands and looked into her eyes. “C’mon, it will be lots of fun.” She turned her gaze from him and mulled over his argument. He’s right. The first day of school is pointless.

“Okay. Let’s do it,” she said. He grinned, gave her a big hug, and lightly kissed her lips. 

“I’ll pick you up first thing.” He turned and walked out the door. Lillie locked the door behind him. She turned off the lights before heading upstairs. She brushed her teeth, set her alarm, and collapsed on her bed. The silence overwhelmed her. She switched on her television so she could sleep.

The Evolution of Lillie Gable Cover Reveal and Release Date

I'm excited to announce that The Evolution of Lillie Gable, my second full-length young adult novel releases on March 31, 2015! Lillie's character is much different than Rachel Brandt in The Photograph, and I'm excited to share her story with the world. If you want a preview of the book, check out the sneak peek snippets section on the blog along with the blurb below. I will let you know about pre-order information in the coming weeks, along with more teasers about the novel.

Meet Lillie Gable–

high school sophomore, outgoing, beautiful, athletic, and funny...

She is the life of any party. Her boyfriend, Jake, is a smoking hot senior, and Lillie is on track to be a starter on the varsity girls' basketball team this year.

But trouble looms behind the façade. Lillie's home life is a wreck. Her father is hiding a secret, and Lillie is determined to find the truth, even if it tears apart her family.

While she searches for the truth about her father, the last thing Lillie needs is a feud with Angela Barrett, the brass, bleached blonde senior who is the queen of the rumor mill. Angela is determined to ruin Lillie's reputation because she has set her sights on Lillie's boyfriend, Jake.

Heartbroken and humiliated, Lillie can't return to the life she once knew. Does she have the strength and resolve to forge a new path now that everything is changing?

January Book Spotlight: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

For the past couple years, my routine is to post my monthly book reviews on the blog. In 2015, I'm changing my reading routine, and therefore, the monthly book review posts. In the past year, my reading habit was centered on finishing as many books as I could, and I wasn't enjoying some of the books I read. This year, I'm slowing down the amount of books I read. I also am focusing my reading to authors I love and some books I've read before. Since I may only read 2 books a month, I am shifting away from the monthly book reviews. Instead, I will highlight a book or two each month. This month's book spotlight is Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.

Katie McGarry has been on my author radar for several months now. She writes contemporary young adult romance, but her novels are much more than love stories. I picked up Pushing the Limits and blazed through the book in a few days. The novel  switches point of view with each chapter between Noah and Echo, the main characters. Noah and Echo are both dealing with issues in their past. Noah lost his parents, and Echo had a traumatizing event with her bipolar mother. Their school counselor sets their romance in motion by assigning Echo to tutor Noah.

I loved this book. I know it follows many young adult and romance tropes, but you can't help but love Echo and Noah. You are rooting for them to figure out their lives together. But this novel is much more than a romance. The characters are battling inner demons and learning how to let go and move forward. The author does a great job of bringing forth the emotion of the characters. I was in tears at the end of the book.

Pushing the Limits is the first in a series by McGarry. The next books in the series follow secondary characters from Pushing the Limits. I'm excited to read how she connects the dots between the series, especially since my contemporary young adult follows the same pattern. Katie McGarry is definitely on my list for this year. 6 out of 7 stars

What are you reading in this snowy, cold January?

Sneak Peek Snippet 3: The Evolution of Lillie Gable

The release of my second young adult novel is getting closer. I sent the manuscript back to the editor for the second round of edits, and the cover designer booked. Right now, I'm aiming for an early March 2015 release for The Evolution of Lillie Gable. Until then, expect many snippets and teasers! Here's an excerpt from chapter one!

“Let’s play boys versus girls,” Lillie said with a devious grin. Her chestnut-brown hair blew with the lake breeze. She turned to Rachel who sat next to her on their blanket in the sand.

“We can take them,” Rachel said. She smiled, but her brown eyes were sizing up their boyfriends, Brent and Jake. The boys were standing a few feet away tossing a football to each other in the sand.

“Let’s play, then,” Jake said. He walked over to the blanket and offered a hand to Lillie. His messy, blond hair and blue eyes were hard to resist, but Lillie waved him away.

“I don’t need any help from you,” she said. “You guys are going down!” Lillie vaulted forward, sending sand flying in all directions. A few nearby sunbathers turned in their direction offering up dirty looks to Lillie. She yelled “Sorry!” on her way into the gentle, cool waves of Lake Erie.

Due to a mild summer, the lake water remained chilly until a week or so ago. The cold water hadn’t kept Lillie out of the water earlier this summer, but she was bummed that the warm water had only returned in time for school to start.

Lillie, Rachel, Brent, and Jake waded through the rocks and waves to the sandbar. The water reached Lillie’s shoulders before she felt the sand between her toes. On the sandbar, the shallow water rose to Lillie’s waist at the deepest sections—perfect for a game of water football with the boys.

“Okay, what’s our strategy?” Rachel asked. Lillie stood a few inches taller than her best friend, but whatever advantage Rachel lost in height to Lillie, she made up with speed and tenacity.

The boys were talking to each other several feet away. “Beat them,” Lillie said.

Together, Lillie and Rachel were a tough pair to beat on the basketball court. When they weren’t on the court, they didn’t like to lose, even in a game of water football with their boyfriends.

“The good news is we weigh the same as the boys,” Lillie said. Rachel laughed. Brent was tall, maybe an inch or two over six feet, but his body was typical of a runner–skinny and toned. Lillie guessed she weighed more than Brent with his three-percent body fat. Jake’s frame resembled the typical male high school athlete’s. He didn’t play any sports at Eastbrook anymore, but his free time was spent at the gym. He was close to six feet tall with broad shoulders, toned arms, and six-pack abs.

“That’s not a plan,” Rachel said, glancing over her shoulder at the boys.

“I don’t know. Hit them where it hurts?” Lillie said. “Let’s play, we don’t need strategy.”

“The end zones line up with the buoys,” Brent shouted across the water as he pointed to his left and right. “Ladies can have the ball first. Ready?” Lillie and Rachel looked at each other, then both gave a thumbs up.

Brent launched the football into the air toward the girls. Lillie backed up a few paces, waving Rachel off. She caught the ball.

“Block for me!” Lillie shouted. She started running, but her dash for the end zone through the water resembled a power walk. The water slowed her down, but Brent looked like he was gliding through it without any resistance. As he closed in on her, his blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight, and Lillie knew she was in trouble. She looked over her shoulder. Rachel jogged behind her, so Lillie slowed down.

“I’ll take care of Brent,” Rachel said. “Let me lead!”

They ran forward. With Brent a dive away from Lillie, Rachel dashed in front of Lillie and took a flying leap at Brent. She caught him off guard, sending both of them crashing into the water. Lillie laughed and kept running.

With Brent down, Jake remained the only obstacle to Lillie’s touchdown. She knew he wanted to tackle her, to feel her body close to his, but she didn’t want to give him that joy during this game. She had a touchdown to score. If she barreled through him, she could make it to the buoy.

Lillie put all her strength and speed into forward motion and steamrolled Jake. She elbowed Jake in the stomach and a knee landed below the belt. He crumpled into the water, so Lillie hesitated. He resurfaced seconds later and leaped for Lillie, wrapping his arms around her waist. She pressed forward, looking at the buoy several paces ahead on her left. Her legs burned from the heft and weight of Jake, but a touchdown was within her reach. Dragging Jake behind her, Lillie used her remaining strength for a final push to the goal line. She lunged forward.

“Touchdown!” she shouted, crossing the imaginary goal line. Jake released his grip on her. Lillie threw her arms in the air and then spiked the football into the water, splashing both of them. Rachel celebrated from across the water with cheers and arms raised, and she failed to see Brent until he tackled her. They both fell into the water. Lillie laughed.

“We let you have that,” Jake said as he approached Lillie.

“No, you didn’t,” she said. “We scored on you fair and square.”

“I’m not sure I would call a knee to the groin fair,” he said.

“Sorry about that,” Lillie said, turning to him. “Let me make that up to you.” She wrapped her arms around him and let her lips dance with his. His wet, muscled body was warm against hers.

“Maybe you can make it up to me later?” he asked between kisses.

“We’ll see,” she said, pulling apart from him. “First, we have a game to finish. She grabbed the football and swam to Rachel.

November 2014 Book Reviews

Happy Christmas Season! November was a busy month with the start of basketball season combined with finishing up The Evolution of Lillie Gable. I only read two new books (although I did read another a book a second time). With only two reviews, I decided to skip the video post, especially since both books are two in the same trilogy. If you are looking for an original, beautifully written fantasy series, start with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, then continue on to those below. By the way, the audio book versions are also phenomenal.

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (Book 2 of the series) - Days of Blood and Starlight is a fantastic second installment in a trilogy. The book is darker than the first, and the story is bigger than the love story of the first. The first half is a slower pace, setting up the characters for the action in the later half of the book. Speaking of the characters, the character growth is phenomenal. Taylor introduces us to a few new characters while strengthening our feelings toward the others. The ending was big and epic. I saw one aspect coming, but that didn't take from its grandeur. I can't wait to read the final act! 6 out of 7 stars

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor (Book 3 of the series) - The third and final book in this trilogy was bigger than the first two. Taylor introduces more characters, more world-building, more intrigue, while continuing the epic love story of Karou and Akiva. The story centers on Karou and Akiva bringing together the chimaera and seraphim to stop the Apocalypse on the planets of Earth and Eretz, but when Taylor wraps up that plot line, the book isn't over. She could have wrapped up the story nice and neatly. Instead, she goes bigger and beyond the chimaera and seraphim to the bigger forces of light and dark at work in the world. I found her decision to leave threads of the story untied interesting, and I wonder if one day she will continue this bigger story arc. Overall, I loved the book and series. Taylor's writing is breathtakingly good. 7 out of 7 stars

I am aiming for a better selection of books to review the next month, or at least back to the regular number of four books each month.

What are you reading this holiday season?

Sneak Peek Snippet 2: The Evolution of Lillie Gable

I finished the third draft of The Evolution of Lillie Gable last week. I will go through one more pass on it and then it goes to the editor in a week's time, but I thought it was time to share another snippet. I shared a snippet from Chapter 3 a few weeks ago. Here's a short snippet from Chapter 5 with a special cameo.

Lillie pulled into the Brandt’s driveway without incident. As she walked to the front door of Rachel’s house, she heard a loud, deep bark. Lillie knocked on the door, and the barking grew more frantic. Lillie waited outside, confused. The Brandts didn’t have a dog. Rachel’s grandmother, Nana, opened the door.

“Hi Lillie,” she said.

“Zelda, quiet,” Rachel shouted. Lillie crossed through the doorway and saw Rachel sitting on the couch, holding a small, fawn pug. The pug was barking, and squirming to get out of Rachel’s arms.

“We are dog sitting this little mutt,” Papa said from his recliner.

“As you can tell, Papa isn’t too fond of Zelda,” Rachel said. “I think she’s pretty cute.” Rachel set Zelda on the floor. Zelda darted at Lillie, but stopped at Lillie’s feet. She reached down to pet Zelda, but the pug ran in the other direction.

“She will warm up to you. She’s just a little feisty when you first meet her,” Nana said. “Richard, let’s go upstairs to give the girls’ the living room.”

October 2014 Book Reviews

October was a packed reading month. Three of the books I read were brand new releases that I was excited to read right away. They didn't disappoint! Check out the video or the reviews below for more details on the books I read. What have you read recently?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COYSmoAHa5I]

Balanced on the Blade's Edge by Lindsay Buroker Balanced on the Blade's Edge is so much fun to read. The novel is a steampunk romance with a heavy dose of adventure. I love the witty dialogue and narration throughout the book. It made me laugh out loud several times. The characters develop nicely, despite it being a shorter book. The action scenes keep the pace moving, and I even liked the steamy romance sections. I am excited to keep reading this series by a great indie author! 6 out of 7 stars

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - The Throne of Glass series evolves in this third installment. The first two books were action packed and fast paced with some character development along the way. In this third book, the structure changes. The story focuses on character development and world building with very little action, especially compared to the first two books. This makes the book seem slow at parts, especially in the first half. I knew the story was building to something greater, so I didn't mind, but I could see how the slow pace could turn off readers. However, the last third of the book was great. I couldn't put it down at that point. The POV chapters from Manon (a witch) also feel misplaced and disconnected, but I am confident it will make sense in the greater story arc of the next book. I think this is morphing from a light young adult fantasy to a high fantasy series. I like it. 6 out of 7 stars

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - I loved The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson's debut novel, so I was excited to read this one. It didn't disappoint. The story is stunning. I adored the dual point of views from the varying time periods. I also liked the element of mystery to the novel and figuring out exactly what happened to Noah and Jude. But most of all, I loved the story of Noah and Jude. It was so good. I did feel a little bogged down with the long chapter lengths (especially since it's YA), and some of the quirky language. I also wonder if teens are truly the target audience of the book. It just didn't sit with me as a novel teens will flock to reading. Maybe too literary? Either way, I liked it. You probably will too. 6 out of 7 stars

Unstrung by Kendra C. HighleyUnstrung is the first in a new YA series from Kendra Highley. Unstrung is a sci-fi, dystopian novel where artificial humans were created to be a new workforce. As the technology increases, these artificial humans or "Bolts" have become more and more human. Lexa, the main character, is on a crusade to free these bolts from their slavery. I enjoyed this novel. The pacing of this story was great–it really kept the plot moving. I found myself intrigued at the greater story arc about the bolts and this society. With so many dystopian novels these days, I am curious how Highley plans to differentiate Unstrung. I did want a little more character development and backstory, but I hear there is a prequel on the way to address it. Overall, Unstrung is a fun, enjoyable ya novel, and I'm looking forward to more in the series. 6 out of 7 stars

 

The Girl in Between by Laekan Zea Kemp - The Girl In Between is an intriguing young adult novel. Bryn, the main character, suffers from a condition that causes her to sleep for days or weeks at a time in a coma-like state. She starts having vivid dreams during this state, and meets a boy named Rowan in this dream. The dreams cause her to search for him when she's awake while she meets with doctors searching for a cure. We also learn about her family, friends, and school for Bryn. On the positive side, I loved the unique concept of the story. It caught my interest, and I am intrigued to see where the story goes, especially with the cliffhanger at the end. I did find the pacing a little slow for my liking, but I'm not a reader who likes extra fluff and exposition.  5 out of 7 stars

 

 

Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best books I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.

Grab The Photograph for a Buck!

I'm running a $0.99 promotion on my novel, The Photograph, this week (October 5-11) in the Amazon Kindle store. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, it's only a buck, so fire up your Kindle and load it. Find it here in the Amazon store.  Also, happy October. Eat something pumpkinish. :)

ThePhotograph_Ebook_Final

The Photograph 

On a quest for truth, one girl will find more than she bargained for...

Sixteen-year-old Rachel Brandt is excited about her six-month anniversary with her boyfriend, Brent, getting her driver's license, and competing for a district championship in her first season on the varsity basketball team.

But when Rachel stumbles across a photograph of her parents, she can't shake the feeling that she is meant to find her mother, whose identity is a secret her grandparents have closely guarded. All Rachel knows is that her mother disappeared around the time her father was killed in action in the Gulf War a few months after she was born.

Her discovery of the photograph sends Rachel on a search for her mother against her grandparents' wishes and propels her life into a tailspin. She never imagines her search will reveal a series of lies that jeopardizes every important relationship in her life and her success on the basketball court.

What's Next? (And a Zelda Launch Debrief)

CHUBBSZ3

Hello Friends! I hope all my blog friends and followers enjoyed the pug palooza on the blog last week. If you didn't, I have good news–the pug posts are back to a once a month schedule. In all seriousness, thanks to those who helped publicize the launch of the third book in the Zelda series: The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach. Zelda fans have commented the third book is the best so far.  I agree–I feel like the Zelda saga hit a fantastic groove with the introduction of Peach in the third book.

As for the launch success, I had great publicity and traffic on the blog and on social media. The conversion rates could have been better, but I am getting a better sense of what works and what doesn't work for promotion of children's books.

For the most part, advertising or email list sites don't seem to do much for Zelda book sales. I have a theory they may do better if the first Zelda ebook was free. On the other hand, working with the pug community sells books, and they are super supportive. I mean who doesn't love Chubbs the Wampug?

CHUBBSZ3

So what's next for me?

I'm taking a hiatus from the Zelda series for several months to focus on my young adult and longer fiction works. I'm currently halfway through the first draft for my second full length young adult novel. It is a follow up to The Photograph, but I hesitate to call it a true sequel or series. This book takes place several months after the end of The Photograph, and follows the story of Lillie Gable, who was a secondary character in the first novel. I should finish the first draft in the next two weeks. After the first draft, I will go through and do my first round of revisions, then send to beta readers. I'm thinking a late winter of 2015 release (maybe February?), but it's too early to say yet.

I also have a completed first draft for the first book in what will be my Ozais series. The Ozais series is a fantasy project that I am super excited to write. I wrote the first draft this summer, and I will be working on revisions when Lillie's story goes to beta readers. I'm hoping for a spring release for the first Ozais novel. This is by far the most ambitious of my current projects, so I'm taking care to make sure this series is well-planned.

Finally, I will sneak in some Zelda writing this winter for the fourth Zelda book. I already have plenty of ideas for this fourth book–it's amazing that the stories for Zelda and Peach continue to emerge. I expect the fourth Zelda book to release in the summer of 2015.

The above projects are on my plate for the fall and winter.  I'm doing very well with time management right now, but basketball coaching starts at the end of October, making my schedule much trickier to manage. However, I'm writing faster and better with each project so I'm hopeful I will meet my goals.

What are you writing this fall?

Author Spotlight with Kate Sparkes

Today I am excited to feature author Kate Sparkes. Her debut novel, Boundreleased on June 23, 2014 and has been on the top of the young adult fantasy charts since it released. I read and reviewed Bound last month. It was a joy to read, and I am excited about her success.

Tell us a little about yourself and your novel Bound.

I’m a writer and a mom, wife to a Mountie, comfortable seating for three cats and regular walker for a Boxer named Jack. And actually… all of that pretty much sums up my daily life. I was born in Ontario, but I now live in Newfoundland, which I think is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’ve been writing stories since I was in Kindergarten, but only started working toward it as a career in 2010. That’s when I started writing Bound.

Bound is the first book in a YA Fantasy trilogy. It’s the story of two characters: Rowan, a young woman who comes from a country where magic is considered a sin (but who has always been fascinated with the fairy tales she’s not supposed to be reading), and Aren, an enemy Sorcerer whose life she accidentally saves. Secrets are revealed, loyalties tested, adventures had… it’s good fun.

What are your favorite and most challenging parts of writing a novel?

My favourite part is when things click into place, when a plot problem or character motivation issue that I’ve been struggling with finally yields, and everything seems like it was just meant to be. My least favourite part would be the struggles leading up to that. Also, trying to write sales/cover copy. I didn’t think I was going to survive that with my sanity intact.

I love reading fantasy because of the creative, immersive worlds of the genre, but as a writer, I am intimidated by that world building aspect. What was your process to create the fantasy world of Bound?

The world had been gradually forming in my mind for years before I came up with the story and characters that fit into it. I’ve always loved fairy tales and myths, so it seemed natural that mythical creatures from our world would find their way in there, but I try to put my own spin on them. The land itself is frequently based on Newfoundland. Its rugged beauty, worn-down mountains, and glacier-carved landscapes seem like they’re already full of magic, especially on foggy days. The hardest part of the world for me was creating the magic system, finding a balance between possibilities and limitations, setting the rules, and making sure it didn’t make things too easy for my characters. I was tweaking that right up to the last minute, and I’m glad my editor regularly works in Fantasy and was willing to give my hands a slap when I messed up.

The challenge now is pushing the boundaries that I’ve set, and also exploring other aspects of magic that were mentioned in Bound but that we haven’t really explored.

Bound is a bestseller on Amazon in the YA Fantasy Sword & Sorcery and Coming of Age categories with almost 50 reviews posted on Amazon since its June 23rd launch. Can you share your launch and release strategy?

I wish there was some huge secret I could share, but I think I’m as surprised as anyone. Pleasantly surprised, of course, and incredibly grateful to the readers who have made it happen. My launch strategy for publication involved releasing on multiple platforms so that my Nook and Kobo loving friends could get the book. Sales have been far better on Amazon than anywhere else, but I’m still glad it’s available to everyone. On Amazon, I got the book into as many appropriate sub-categories as I could, which meant it showed up in Best Seller lists and Hot New Release lists sooner than it would have in larger categories. I launched the book at an introductory sale price of $2.99 as a “thank you” to everyone who was already supporting me, and I hoped it would make it easier for people to decide to try the book.

In terms of publicity, there’s my blog, where I had been posting weekly teaser snippets as part of WIPpet Wednesday. I have a nice little community of writers I follow on Wordpress, and many of them helped spread the word on cover reveal and release day, and a few hosted interviews. I had a launch party on Facebook. That was really just for fun, but it did get people I already knew talking about the book. Some of them read it and loved it, and recommended it to their friends.

Most of the book’s success has been thanks to word of mouth promotion. People who read advance copies loved the story, and when they learned how important their enthusiasm was to the book’s success, they were more than happy to tell their friends. I put a few sentences in my note to readers about how they can help spread the word about books they love, and that encouraged people to leave reviews. Eventually the book started showing up on sub-category Best Seller lists, and Amazon’s recommendations took over.

I learned later that I had accidentally followed most of the advice in David Gaughran’s book “Let’s Get Visible,” which I have now read and recommend to everyone who asks. Fantastic advice on getting the word out on Amazon.

Finally, what is on the horizon for your fans? What books are next to be released?

The next book that I’ll be releasing is Torn, which is book two of the Bound trilogy. I think some people would be rather upset if I released anything unrelated before I did that! I have a short story in the works that’s a prequel to Bound, but it still needs editing and a cover, so that has to wait. After that we’ll see book three of the trilogy… and I do have a fun urban fantasy novella in the works that’s gotten excellent reviews from beta readers, but again, that has to wait for its turn.

And then, who knows? There are a ton of characters in the Bound trilogy who are begging to have their stories told. If readers want them, we might see a few spin-off stories, or even full-length novels.

Thanks for having me!

Thanks again to Kate for her thoughtful responses. You can purchase Kate's novel Bound using the links below. Also, I encourage you to follow her on social media. She's funny. :)

Amazon

Kobo

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

iBooks

Facebook

Twitter 

Disregard the Prologue (blog)

Sparrowcat Press

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