Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our Sweet Six: An Interview with Charity Bradford, Author of THE MAGIC WAKES

Today, we've teamed up with Charity Bradford, author of the recently released THE MAGIC WAKES.  She's also one of the critique mavens behind Unicorn Bell.  Charity was willing to sit down with us and discuss her release (which started life as YA before her characters aged a bit), and her plans for an upcoming YA fantasy novel.  

But first, here's a peak at THE MAGIC WAKES: 

    Scientist Talia Zaryn has always had dreams of an alien invasion and her own death. She’s kept them a secret, hoping they were nothing more than childish nightmares. But when the face in the mirror matches that of her dreams, she knows death is imminent. If she can prove life exists beyond her planet, perhaps people will prepare to fight.
    Her work at the Space Exploration Foundation leaves no time for personal relationships, but Major Landry Sutton isn’t looking for a friend. He’s looking for a traitor. His ability to sense emotions convinces him Talia is that traitor until a touch sizzles between them. In an instant their minds are connected and they can communicate telepathically. Just as the two begin to trust each other, the invading force arrives.
    Talia and Landry must uncover the secrets of Sendek’s past if they hope to defeat these terrifying creatures. Talia  is the key–if she can learn to trust the magic coursing through her veins.

Wowza!  What an action-packed read.  You know you want to check it out.  Now, are you ready to learn a little bit about Charity and her magical stories?  Instead of telling you more about THE MAGIC WAKES, she wanted to share a sneak peak of one of her works in progress.  Sound like something you'd like the hear?

Thought so.  Without further ado...

1) Charity, tell us about your book!
I've had this YA Fantasy idea for about 2 years, but it's proving harder to write than I thought. Here's what I envision for the back jacket blurb:

Everything you’ve ever heard about faeries is a lie.
Lies they told to keep humans from learning the truth.
What is the truth?
They live among us, sentenced to watch over and nurture their greatest mistake.
Ryanne Killian doesn’t believe in faerie tales, and yet all the eyes of the Fae watch her–hoping she will be the one to set them free.
The original plot is still there and almost all written. However an underlying conflict arose that surprised me. The thing is, that conflict could become the main one and I want to do it justice. Ryanne has had her dreams crushed by an experience that left her scarred physically and emotionally. She has to come to terms with that event and accept that she is still worthy of a prince's love. Then she can truly give her heart to Caedmon and free his people from a centuries old curse. 

2) What scene in your book do you LOVE the most?

This was so hard! I have many favorites, but right now the ending is my favorite. There is still lots to write, but the ending is there and it's got all the payoff for me to work towards. 

This is the first time that I wrote the ending first. I'm hoping it will help things progress easier as I finish the writing. 

My second favorite scene is when Caedmon and Ryanne are on a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley. They are talking about true love and he points out that Ry's sister has that for her. I love a good romance, but family love is often overlooked. It's so important though!

3) If you had to pick a character you LOVE (and not your own!), who would you pick and why?
Wanda from Stephanie Meyer's The Host. I've read this book over and over again. I love how gentle and loving she is in spite of the circumstances she's in. She's the perfect vehicle for discovering the best and the worst of humanity and loving it anyway. I cry EVERY time she makes Doc promise not to send her away. She's found her home but she refuses to "be a parasite" any longer because of the love she's found.

4) What's the craziest/most memorable valentine you've ever received?
My senior year in high school I received my first rose delivered to the school from someone other than my parents. I married that boy and have never regretted it. Three years after that Valentine's, he convinced my brother to get that dried rose for him. He then placed it in a jade box and put my engagement ring in with it. Now that's romantic!

5) If you were a Brach's Heart, what phrase would be written on you?
Hold Me

6) The all-important choice: flowers or candy?
It used to be candy, but as I get rounder I'm moving toward flowers. However, I prefer  wildflowers instead of roses.
Charity, you rock!  Sounds like you've got magic coursing through your veins...or at least your stories! Thanks for sitting down with us today, and congrats on your release!
Pop on over to Charity's blog to see what else she's up to.

Wildflowers for everyone!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cupid's Arrow: Epic Mermaid Rap!

Good morning! This is Anne Blankman, and I'm your inaugural Cupid's Arrow victim...er....entertainer. Today, I'll be performing an epic rap professing my love for mermaids, to the tune of "Where Them Girls At" by David Guetta, and assisted by my lovely back-up dancer.

Many thanks to Erik Danielson for shooting a Cupid's Arrow our way.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Our Sweet Six: An Interview with Anita Grace Howard, author of SPLINTERED

Today we're so excited to hang out with Anita Grace Howard, the sweet-and-talented author of SPLINTERED. Anita graciously agreed to be the first author to answer our Sweet Six questions. Sweetening the deal herself, Anita even-more-graciously offered to donate a free audiobook and super-cool swag!

But first... a glimpse of SPLINTERED.

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on.

There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Cool, right? If that doesn't make you want to read SPLINTERED, maybe these blurbs will...

"Splintered is dark, twisted, entirely riveting, and a truly romantic tale.” USA TODAY online

"Splintered is a delicious, mad, wonderful read. I can't recommend it highly enough." --Melissa Marr, author of the New York Times bestselling Wicked Lovely series

Trust us, you want to read SPLINTERED. :) You really, really do. And we're going to give you the chance to win a FREE copy! But aren't you a little curious about the awesome author who made the world of SPLINTERED come alive?

Thought so. :) Buckle up, here we go! 


Anita, tell us about your book!

SPLINTERED is a YA fantasy about Alyssa Gardner, the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice Liddell (real life inspiration for the heroine of the famed Lewis Carroll novel). To save her mom from life in an asylum, Alyssa follows a hunch that there might be some truth to the Alice in Wonderland tale. Led by some family heirlooms and a mysterious moth, she and her best friend/secret crush Jebediah Holt stumble into the rabbit hole where they meet creepy and violent counterparts of the original fairytale crew. They soon realize this is not the fairyland of Lewis Carroll's vision, and the only way Alyssa can free her family of its curse of insanity is to fix the things her great-great-great grandmother Alice put wrong. But if she fails, Wonderland will have her head.

What scene in your book do you LOVE the most?

Aside from the kissing scenes? Those are always my favorites. ;) Seriously though, there was one scene that was both my favorite and my least favorite. Chapter 12: The Feast of Beasts.

It's my fave because it’s one of the most “Carrollian” scenes in the book. It’s based loosely on Chapter 9: Queen Alice, one of the wackiest and most visual chapters in Through the Looking Glass. I never forgot that scene after reading it as a kid, so I wanted to give credence to it in my book. I kept my tribute nonsensical like Carroll’s, but at the same time wove in some sadistic and gruesome undertones to darken it.

It's my least fave because of where I was when I wrote it. My son had recently been diagnosed with epilepsy and his pediatric neurologist started him on medication; the dosage was too high for his system and caused him to have severe panic attacks. We spent several nights those first few weeks at the ER, trying to figure out what was going on. It was during one of these trips that I wrote my Feast of Beasts scene. In the three hours we were there, I managed to tap it all out, even while worrying and wondering if my son was ever going to have a normal life again. I put everything I was feeling into my writing, and it came across as chaotic and absurd and terrifying, which was exactly how life felt to me in that moment, and exactly how it feels to Alyssa when she's living that scene in SPLINTERED.

If you had to pick a character you LOVE (and not your own!), who would you pick and why?

Jane Eyre. She’s the epitome of a strong and intelligent female character who never has to sacrifice her feminine side to kick fate’s fickle bootie.

What's the craziest/most memorable valentine you've ever received?

An earthworm ring from the little boy next door when I was in first grade. And yes, it was authentic; the poor worm’s two ends were tied together with dental floss. I still shudder when I think of it. Still, the little boy’s heart was in the right place and I remember it to this day, so he did something right!

If you were a Brach's Heart, what phrase would be written on you?

GAME ON, because I had to fight tooth and nail and never give up to realize my dream of getting a book on the shelves.

The all-important choice: flowers or candy?

Jewelry. Wait, that wasn’t an option??? That’s the same thing my hubby said. Harumph. ;) Okay, all playing aside, I love Godiva dark chocolate truffles. They would be my top choice if chocolate diamonds weren’t available. :)

Anita, you're awesome. I think Brach's need's to add GAME ON as a phrase. And I, for one, am so glad you never gave up! Huge thanks for taking the time to hang out with us, and for your generosity in giving away some sweet treats for readers. 

What treats, you ask, lovelies? How about an audio book and a swag pack? Take a look...

1 Splintered Audio Book – 10 CD set

Splintered Swag Pack – 1 signed bookplate, 1 signed bookmark, 1 vintage AIW gift tag

Ready to enter? GAME ON, as Anita would say. :) Just Spread the Word about the SPLINTERED giveaway by doing any TWO options...then leave a comment below to tell us what you did! The contest is open for a week, and the winner will be announced next Wednesday, February 27th.a Rafflecopter giveaway

In the meantime, pop over to Anita's blog and say hello.:)

Thanks for helping up share the YA book love Anita! *throws around Brach's hearts and Godiva Dark Chocolate truffles in your honor*

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Valentines!


What better way to kick-off a blog devoted to the awesomeness of 2014 YA Debuts than on the best 14th day of the year, Valentine's Day! In honor of this auspicious occasion, we have compiled a delightful assortment of shenanigans -- Valentine memories, book LOVE, and a GIVEAWAY!

The YA Valentine's biggest goal this year is to interact and otherwise bond with YOU. To make such a thing possible, we have come up with a fantastic (and sometimes terrifying!) way for you to participate in this blog. It's called Cupid's Arrows and couldn't be easier or more rewarding -- simply head over to the Shoot a Cupid's Arrow! page, fill out the form, and voilà! You have both submitted a way for us to make fools of ourselves for your entertainment AND been entered to win our FANTASTIC VALENTINES GIVEAWAY!!!

What IS this FANTASTIC VALENTINES GIVEAWAY, you might be wondering? Every month, everyone who enters an email address along with their Cupid's Arrow submission will be automatically entered into a drawing to win BOOKS and CANDY and other fantastic Valentines goodies! And as a special blog kick-off this month, our giveaway is even more MASSIVE AND AWESOME. If you submit a Cupid's Arrow to us before the end of February, you will be entered to win ALL of the books listed below in our response to the question "What is your favorite YA book?" That's right -- you'll win FOURTEEN books AND get to see one of us do wacky things at your command. Win-win situation, right?

It would be terribly rude of us to expect you to come up with ways for us to embarrass ourselves if you don't even know who, exactly, will be getting embarrassed. Thus, I present your 2014 Valentines, introducing themselves in the best way we could think of -- by telling you their most memorable Valentine (awww) and their favorite YA book (yay!!).

First up: Anne Blankman, author of the WWII thriller NIGHT'S EDGE, coming Spring 2014 from Balzer + Bray!

Most Memorable Valentine: No flowers or chocolates for me! My most memorable valentine occurred four years ago, when I was about thirty-six weeks pregnant and realized I hadn't felt the baby kick in a couple of days. After a quick test at the doctor's office, my husband, Mike, and I were sent to the hospital for a day-long battery of tests. Several hours later, the doctor and nurses confirmed that our baby was completely healthy and we got to go home. It was the best present I ever had!

Favorite YA Book: Nope, impossible to pick just one. But a few weeks ago I read FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. Imagine Jane Austen's PERSUASION meets YA sci-fi. Clever premise, gorgeous writing, and a swoon-worthy hero -- what more would you want?

Next: Jaye Robin Brown, whose musically moving SING TO THE WIND will be out Fall 2014 from HarperTeen!

Most Memorable Valentine: Well, since there's never an excuse needed for chocolate in my house and because every day is Valentine's Day for me and the sweetie, my best day is of the writer variety. There's a small local group of women writers, that host monthly readings. They are mostly poets and I rarely go, but in February they host a Valentine's reading. Each writer is encouraged to create a valentine for another writer and recite a poem either they've written or love. Because I was teaching elementary school at the time, I wrote an Anti-Valentine's poem from the point of view of an eight-year-old boy. It was the first time I read my work aloud and the laughter and clapping of those women made my Valentine's Day!

Favorite YA Book: Okay, I really don't think this is a very Valentine-y question. Because this is torture not love. Because how can I choose just one? Fine. Even though I have many, many, many other favorites, I'll pick The Sky is Everywhere, (and the Scorpio Races and Fire) because there's a bed in the forest and two beautiful boys, and heartache, and poetry, and pretty, pretty prose.

Next: Bethany Crandell, author of the charmingly raw SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS, out Spring 2014 from Running Press!

Most Memorable Valentine: My husband and I were newly married, and I was taking a graphic design course after work which meant I didn't get home until nearly 10pm. ( I have no idea how I managed that. Nowadays, I'm half asleep before they even get to Tribal Council. *nods to Survivor fans*) Anyway, I arrived home after class on this particular evening--Valentine's Day, and found that my tragically unromantic husband had been abducted by aliens, and was replaced by a new, sensitive and caring cyborg husband who had not only set the dining room table with candles, place mats and Outback To-Go, but had Eric Clapton's 'YOU LOOK WONDERFUL TONIGHT' streaming through the computer. That was twelve years ago...Cyborg husband has yet to return.

Favorite YA Book: Okay, we're going old school on this one. LORD OF THE FLIES. Until I got my grubby, 9th grade paws on this book, most things I read were either too predictable with their happy endings and unrelatable characters, or so bogged down with imagery that I couldn't enjoy them--let alone understand them. (Apologies to my high school English teachers. It's not you, it's me). But LORD OF THE FLIES was different. Nothing about that story was predictable. It screamed of uncertainty and chaos, and instilled a delicious kind of fear in me that I'd never experienced from a book before--let alone one that was mandatory reading! I knew it was 'great literature' because we were reading it at school, but nothing about it felt 'educational' to me. It was just an awesome, exciting, slightly terrifying read that changed my view of books forever.

Next: Lindsay Cummings, author of the heart-pounding thriller THE MURDER COMPLEX, out Summer 2014 from Greenwillow!

Most Memorable Valentine: When my fiance and I danced together in his kitchen after he cooked a terrible (but sweet) meal.

Favorite YA Book: The Hunger Games.

Next: Bethany Hagen, whose nuclear futuristic LANDRY PARK will sweep you away, coming Winter 2014 from Dial!

Most Memorable Valentine: My most memorable Valentine was the first one I ever got from the cop-husband, back when we were dating. He surprised me at work (which was a karate dojo) with a dozen roses--eleven red and one white. I felt almost guilty because I think maybe I had gotten him a card or store bought cookies or something equally cheap...DEFINITELY NOT ON THE SAME LEVEL.

Favorite YA Book:My favorite YA book seems to change month to month because so many good ones keep coming out! I will say, however, that right now CODE NAME VERITY is very high on the list, and is what I am consistently recommending to my teen patrons at the library.

Next: Kristi Helvig, whose sci-fi novel BURN OUT will leave you shuddering for the fate of all mankind, out Spring 2014 from Egmont!

Most Memorable Valentine: Well, I hope this doesn't get me kicked out of the group, but my hubby and I have been happily married for 16 years and don't celebrate Valentine's Day. *ducks head* We try to celebrate marriage all the time, so I'll tell you my most memorable event early in our relationship. We'd been dating two months and it was almost my birthday. He hinted that he got me a waffle maker, and while I thought it was sweet because I love waffles, I told him the fun of presents is in the surprise. Well, I was definitely surprised because it turned out the waffle maker thing was to throw me off track--my present was a diamond ring. It was the best birthday present ever...up until the day our son was born on my birthday.

Favorite YA Book: This is a hard question, but I'm going to say The Giver by Lois Lowry. I consider it the first great dystopian novel, because it was way before dystopians were huge. I love books that make me question how the world works, and this book stayed with me long after I finished it. I still give it away as gifts to people because I think everyone should read it.

Next: Kristen Lippert-Martin, author of the mind-jarring thriller TABULA RASA, coming Fall 2014 from Egmont!

Most Memorable Valentine: My most memorable valentine was, is, and shall ever remain my husband, who was born on Valentine's Day. He is the gift that keeps on giving. Except when he's snoring.

Favorite YA Book: WHY WOULD YOU EVER ASK A QUESTION LIKE THAT?! That's like asking "Which is your favorite child?" (Well, right now it's the third one, because she's the only one who regularly picks up her wet towel off the bathroom floor.) But if I must answer, I'll say ... Kristin Cashore's Graceling.

Next: Lynne Matson, whose book NIL gives a dire meaning to the phrase "island getaway", out Winter 2014 from Macmillan/Henry Holt!

Most Memorable Valentine: When I was a sophomore in college, my then-boyfriend-now-husband took giant stacks of Yellow post-it notes (I'm talking hundreds) and wrote goofy stuff on each one. Some were phrases from Brach's hearts, other were our initials, still more were sweet or funny phrases and inside jokes. Then he got my roommate to let him in my bedroom and he plastered them ALL OVER my room. Walls, mirror, bed, you name it. All yellow, all awesome. It was the cutest thing EVAH. I've never forgotten it. He was a keeper.:)

Favorite YA Book: How to pick just one?! Such a brutal question to ask. After much hand-wringing, I pick If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

Next: Jen McConnel, author of the dark and twisty paranormal DAUGHTER OF CHAOS, out Spring 2014 from Month9Books!

Most Memorable Valentine: My hubby always tries to do something nontraditional for Valentine's, but I'd say the best year was when he got me a stack of books.  That man knows the way to my heart! ;)

Favorite YA Book: Gagh!  Too many to choose from.  I'd have to say that my favorite YA book of the moment is EMBRACE by Jessica Shirvington.  Angels, demons, and a kick-butt heroine = bliss!

Next: Sara Raasch, author of the shiver-inducing fantasy SNOW LIKE ASHES, coming Fall 2014 from Balzer + Bray!

Most Memorable Valentine: Every Valentine's Day when I was little, my dad would always get my sister and me those heart-shaped paper boxes of chocolates and leave them on the kitchen table before he went to work. We'd wake up to the "Valentine's fairy" and have chocolates for breakfast!

Favorite YA Book: INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher. This book is the perfect blend of twisty, psychological thriller and fantasy. I love it so much it scares me a little, which I guess is appropriate for this book

Next: A. Lynden Rolland, whose OF BREAKABLE THINGS will make you a believer in the afterlife, coming Spring 2014 from Month9Books!

Most Memorable Valentine: Valentine's Day for me now consists of volunteering for preschool parties, baking heart-shaped cookies, and holding my son in a vice (or bribing him) to write his name on sixteen Batman cards for each student in his class. Once upon a time, my husband and I planned elaborate dates, but sadly our cynicism has prevailed, and to avoid the sappy, heart-shaped menus and long lines at local restaurants, we typically stay home and order carryout.

As a lover of all things young adult, one of my favorite memories of Valentine's Day was when I was thirteen. In middle school, Valentine's Day is better than Christmas, an excuse to silly string the lockers, wear ridiculous, bobble-heart headbands, and eat candy during class. And of course, there are the dreaded carnations. As a fundraiser, students could buy carnations for their friends (white), crushes (pink), or significant others (red). In hindsight, it's a horrible way to color code the tiers of popularity.

That year, I received a bouquet of red carnations. The note was anonymous, and for all I knew, my mother had finagled a way to buy them as a ploy to renew my self esteem. No matter. I floated down the halls that day, riding the high of my crush trailing alongside, asking jealously who sent them.

As a result, red carnations now remind me of a time when my life consisted of the Limited Too, Tommy Girl perfume, flirty giggles, and sleepovers. Hubby, if you happen to read this, a bouquet of carnations will suffice this year.

Favorite YA Book: I have so many, but at the time of the story above, my go-to was: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Next: Philip Siegel, author of the savvy and sweet THE BREAK-UP ARTIST, coming 2014 from Harlequin Teen!

Most Memorable Valentine: In third grade, there was a valentine's box at the front of the classroom, and we would slip in cards for the class to be distributed on the 14th. Even if you weren't friends with everyone in class, you still gave them a valentine. I'm not sure if schools still do this, or if it's no longer allowed. Anyway, in third grade, instead of a card, this girl gave everyone brochures from her family's church explaining how we could convert to Jehovah's Witnesses. My teacher came around and ripped them out of our hands before we had a chance to figure out what this was. And to this day, it's the only elementary school valentine I clearly remember receiving.

Favorite YA Book: Gahhh. So many to choose from! I loved reading The Face on the Milk Carton and anything by Lois Duncan when I was a young adult. But my recent favorite is THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger. I loved the voice, the banter, and as a former fat kid, I could easily relate to Bianca. The book reminded me of those WB dramas I used to watch in high school, and I've probably recommended it to at least half a dozen people.

Next: Paula Stokes, whose book THE ART OF LAINEY combines old school war-strategics with modern day romance, coming Summer 2014 from HarperTeen!

Most Memorable Valentine: A quirky musical genius boy I used to date was always making fun of my musical tastes. (Yay 90s alternative!) One Valentine's Day he had been strangely distant for about a week and I remember getting all sulky and accusing him of not wanting to spend time with me. It turned out he'd bought an Alice in Chains CD and had spent the last few days teaching himself to play every song on the guitar as a surprise for me, even though he didn't like the music at all. Best. Present. Ever.

Favorite YA Book: Going Bovine, by Libba Bray. Time travel, sentient garden gnomes, an epic journey, a romance, and a hilarious teen voice all in one book--what more could you want?

Next: Secret Valentine, whose book is shrouded in mystery and will be announced soon!

Most Memorable Valentine: Well, it's hard to say, because it's usually pretty standard--dinner, the occasional couple's massage, just nice, fun dates together. My husband has done some incredible surprises for our anniversaries or birthdays, but Valentine's Day we tend to do more low key. One that stands out right now was actually last year; we had a nice dinner at home with our kids (that I made), but my husband and kids surprised me with this huge tower of red/pink/white balloons--it was as tall as our ceiling and wide enough to fit a person inside! He usually doesn't get flowers or chocolates, because flowers die and chocolates disappear, so he often gets me shoes or clothes or something more lasting. But the balloons were quite the surprise! He also gave me a card... a Twilight card. Yep, It asked me if I was Team Edward or Team Jacob (with pictures of them both, Jacob was shirtless, of course) on the front, and when I opened it, my hubby had taped a picture of himself shirtless, flexing, and written over what was inside "How about Team (his name)?" I love my creative Valentine. ;-) (And yes, I am firmly Team Hubby. Plus he has some pretty nice abs, too, if I do say so myself.) 

Favorite YA Book: That is impossible, because I honestly love so many YA books SO much. How can you possibly choose just one? Can I do a top ten? No. Okay, so I'm going to cheat a little bit and pick one of my favorite books from last year (and I picked this one because it is the first in a series, and some of my favorites were second or third books): Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

Now tell me you don't want to see these people publicly humiliated on a weekly basis? We are thrilled that we get to spread the YA Debut Book LOVE with all of you and cannot wait to see what kind of shenanigans we can all get into together!

Upcoming Shenanigans:
--Pop back in on Tuesday, February 19th for our first SWEET SIX -- where one of our Valentines asks a current YA author our six sweetest questions. This week the interviewer will be Lynne Matson!

--Next Friday, February 22, will be our FIRST Cupid's Arrow! Come back to see Anne Blankman profess her LOVE for something via your suggestions.

--Check back on Friday, March 1, 2013 to find out the winner of our MASSIVE February Valentines Giveaway!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Coming Soon!

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's--


Check back on February 14, 2013 for our inaugural blog post!