Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Muse: Charli XCX -- Boom Clap




In case you've been living in a cave like I have and are only just now catching this song on the radio...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Feature Friday: Laurie Stolarz

Special Note:  This is the last Feature Friday for (at least) the summer.  I'm taking a long break from Feature Fridays.  I will send a large Goodreads invite out if/when I start doing them again, so make sure you're following me on Goodreads!

Laurie Faria Stolarz is the author of several popular young adult novels including the Touch series (the latest release of which is Deadly Little Lessons), Project 17, and Bleed, (all published by Disney/Hyperion Books for Children), as well as the bestselling Blue is for Nightmares series (Flux Publications).  With more than a million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been named on numerous award lists, including the Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers list and the Top Ten Teen Pick list, both through the American Library Association.  She is currently working on her new Dark House series, also with Disney/Hyperion Books for Children.  The first book in that series, Welcome to the Dark House, will be out in July, 2014.  For more information, please visit her Web site at www.lauriestolarz.com.



Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Laurie: 
My biggest piece of advice is to persevere.  There are many talented writers who give up after 5, 10, or even 50 rejection letters.  Be open to learning and to getting better in your craft.  If more than one person criticizes the same point in your work – i.e. your main character whines too much – chances are you need to look at that point again.  Never pay reading fees while trying to get published – ever.  Do your homework.  Know to whom you’re sending your query letter, who that person’s clients are, what that person’s track record is (i.e. the details of his or her most recent acquisitions), and what that person is looking for.  Every letter should be personalized and reflect that you’ve done your research.  And, lastly, consider joining a writers group.  There’s nothing better than being in a group of like-minded writers who can help inspire and cheer you on, and who can provide constructive feedback that can help to strengthen your work. 

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Laurie: 
It's way too hard to pick just one.  I love different books for different reasons, i.e. I love the subtlety of Kate Chopin's The Awakening;  I love the language of Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block and Gravel Queen by Tea Benduhn; I love the voice of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Bringing up the Bones by Lara Zeises.  I love Wally Lamb's narration in She's Come Undone.  I love the pacing and thrill of Misery by Stephen King and Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. I also love work by Amy Bloom, Laura Wiess, Steven Goldman, and Ellen Hopkins. Seriously, I could go on and on.  

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Welcome to the Dark House?

Laurie: 
A lot of readers ask me if I ever get my ideas from dreams or nightmares.  The truth is that I don't.  I don't really dream too much – not that I can remember, anyway.  But about two years ago, I did have a nightmare and Welcome to the Dark House is the result.  I dreamed about a contest in which horror film fanatics (all of them eagerly awaiting the next film in a certain famed director's cult-followed movie series) enter a contest in which they have to submit their worst nightmare. The winners would get flown from all over the country to see the director's long-awaited, highly anticipated film. As the winners arrive, they couldn’t be more excited. The place where they’re staying has been hand-tailored to all of their tastes.  They can’t wait to meet the director and see the film.  This is a once-and-a-lifetime opportunity - or so it seems. My nightmare continued, and let’s just say there’s a creepy amusement park involved, but I don’t want to give too much away.  You’ll have to read the book;)

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Welcome to the Dark House is your favorite and why?

Laurie: 
I really like the complexity of Ivy's character.  I love how secretive she is and how, as a victim, there's a degree of shame. I feel as though she's just beginning her learning curve in this book.  She has a long way to go in terms of her growth, gaining her courage back, and rising above all the trauma she's had to endure.  We can see the ways in which she's tried to deal with her scars, and how her trauma has reared its ugly head in her daily life.  I feel as though she's just beginning her journey in this book. 

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Laurie: 
My initial path to publication was a rough one.  I approached editors and agents at the same time, trying to target those who worked with writers like me (namely, writers who wrote in the young adult supernatural/paranormal genre).  It took me over a year to sell my first novel.  I have a folder filled with rejection letters. My favorite one is from an editor who said: “While this is an interesting project, I do not feel it is strong enough to compete in today’s competitive young adult market.”  That same young adult novel, BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES, has sold over 200,000 copies, has been translated into numerous different languages, has appeared on many different award lists, and was optioned by Blondie Girl Productions (Ashley Tisdale's production company) in partnership with Mandalay Entertainment, and sold to ABC Family for a TV series.

When I speak to young people and aspiring writers, I always tell them this story, that if I had stopped persevering, after I received my first – or my 40th rejection letter – I may never have been able to enjoy the success of my career.  BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES came out in 2003 and it's still in print.  I followed "Blue" up with WHITE IS FOR MAGIC, SILVER IS FOR SECRETS, RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE, and BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS, all published by Llewellyn/Flux. 

I’ve also published several books with Disney/Hyperion: BLEED (2006) and PROJECT 17 (2007); these are companion books to one another, though stand-alone titles. I also published my five-book TOUCH series with Disney/Hyperion, the first book of which is DEADLY LITTLE SECRET (2008), and now WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE, the first book in my DARK HOUSE series is also with Disney Hyperion.

I’m grateful to have been very busy with work after publishing my first novel.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Laurie: 
I'm working on the sequel to Welcome to the Dark House.  It's called Return to the Dark House and it will be out next summer.

A.L.:
What was it like growing up in Salem?

Laurie: 
I didn't really appreciate growing up in Salem until I became an adult; it was simply the place where I lived and went to school.  I'd walk through Gallow's Hill every day on my way home from school (ho hum). I'd pass by the Salem Witch Dungeon, the cemetery where Giles Corey was crushed to death, the House of Seven Gables, the plot foundation for the house where Tituba lived, the house where Judge Hathorne's body was secretly buried, etc., etc., and not think twice. All of these places (aside from Gallow's Hill and Tituba's place, which are both off the beaten path) were always surrounded by tourists, and so that's the way I compartmentalized them in my head; these were tourist traps.  It wasn't until adulthood that I really got into the history and culture of Salem and the old Salem Village (Danvers). As part of my research for Blue is for Nightmares, I even worked at the Salem Witch Museum for a couple of months to learn as much as I could about the history and about modern-day Witchcraft as a religion. 

A.L.:
You've written in a number of different YA genres.  which would you say you gravitate toward the most?

Laurie:
I love intense drama and suspense and entangling the two.

A.L.:
If any two of your characters from any two novels that you've written could be friends, who would you like to befriend whom and why?

Laurie:
I think Ivy needs a friend. I think she could learn a ton from Stacey Brown, the main character in my Blue is for Nightmares series. Having grown over the course of five books, Stacey is a confident, fearless, no-nonsense type of character who's been through the ringer and is stronger for it. Ivy could use that kind of mentorship.

The Giveaway:
Laurie is giving away a copy of WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE as well as the winner's choice of one of Laurie's TOUCH series books.

Welcome to the Dark House:  What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.


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How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the arrow buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter).  International.  I will contact the winner via email.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Feature Friday: Kate Karyus Quinn

Kate Karyus Quinn is an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict. She has lived in California and Tennessee, but recently made the move back to  her hometown of Buffalo, New York, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would build character. ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE was her debut novel.


Interview:

A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Kate:
Make time to write. This may seem obvious, but so many people talk about writing a novel, but forget to sit down and actually write the darn thing. Secondly, dream of unparallelled success, but be mentally prepare yourself for some setbacks and disappointments as you move towards that goal.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Kate:
I don't have a favorite book. It seems wrong to play favorites when there are so many different books that I love with all my heart, and all of them for different reasons.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for (Don't You) Forget About Me?

Kate:
I didn't really have a light bulb moment with this book. I simply started writing it with the idea of the main character, Skylar, living in this strange place and buying these odd drugs made from forget-me-not flowers. It took me a long time to figure out what Skylar's story was and what exactly she was trying so hard to forget, but once I did the book started to come together.

A.L.: 
Did you hit any snags while writing (Don't You) Forget About Me?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Kate:
Yes! This book was nothing but snags! I knew there was something there in the beginning pages of this story as I began to write it, but I didn't know exactly what that something was. I spent a lot of time staring into space and scribbling into notebooks and Googling various things - all with the purpose of trying to shake the story loose from the inside of my skull. It really came together bit by bit with little lightening bolt moments of "Oh yes!" that were quickly followed by, "Oh but then what about that other part...?" I was tempted to push this book aside several times in the early days of writing it, but something about the characters and the town of Gardnerville (almost a character in and of itself!) would not let me go - so I kept pushing on.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in (Don't You) Forget About Me is your favorite and why?

Kate:
Oh Skylar, the main character and very unreliable narrator is my favorite. I know some readers will not find her very likeable, but I was sympathetic to her from the beginning and then began to love her even more as the book progresses and she begins to sort herself out and attempt to rise to the occasion.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Kate:
I knew I wanted to write books as early as second grade. But then I got distracted when the acting bug bit me in middle school, which in turn- years later - took me towards directing and film school. Of course, I was scribbling away the entire time, beginnings of novels and bad poetry and short stories filled several notebooks over the course of those many years. And then in my late twenties, I found myself unemployed and home with a newborn and for the first time I sat down and wrote a complete novel from start to finish. It was such a great feeling - and I wanted more! So I started the journey of figuring out how to get an agent and all that other stuff. It took me two more completed novels before I was able to snag the agent and publishing deal, which would have seemed very depressing if I'd known it would take so long when I first got started, but now - looking back - it's difficult not to be happy with the way that everything worked out.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Kate:
Something new. :) Another stand-alone. Quite dark, like my first two novels, but also with a bit more humor and also romance. I am a sucker for a good romance and I really love the one in my next book.

A.L.:
I sense a theme with how you name your novels...Will you always name them after song titles?  If so, what's the next song?

Kate:
I don't know if I'll always name my books after song titles - that seems like a difficult thing to hold oneself to... However, my third book does currently have a title taken from a song - not sure if it will stay that way or if the publisher will change it. I guess we will both have to wait and see. ;)

A.L.:
You've lived all over the United States!  What's the worst place you ever lived and why?

Kate:
The worst place was definitely Los Angeles. My husband and I rented two different apartments when we lived there. The first was a place that we ended up calling 'the cave' because it was so dark and depressing inside and almost never got the sun. The most interesting thing about this place was that after living there a few months, an anonymous letter was sent to all the residents letting us know that the apartment manager was a registered sex offender. The apartment manager then responded with a several page long letter explaining the circumstances of his pleading guilty to sex with a minor (the gist of it: he was innocent but pled guilty to spare the girl the trial. sounded like some major bs to me.).

Our next apartment was in Burbank. While living there the apartment above us was raided by the cops because it was full of drug-dealing college kids. Also, we were electrocuted several times by the outlets in the kitchen and when we had an electrician check it out - he was surprised we were still alive after living in the apartment so long!

The most upsetting thing about both of those places, though, was the rent was incredibly high!

A.L.:
What kind of weather-related character building exercises have you and the family been up to in Buffalo?

Kate:
Ha! Well this winter has definitely been the worst since we've moved back to Buffalo. Lots of cold. Lots of snow. Even a blizzard or two thrown in to keep things interesting. Really the hardest thing about it has been not going stir-crazy from being trapped indoors for so many cold and miserable months!

The Giveaway:
Kate is giving away a copy of (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME and ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE.

(Sorry, no matter what I did I couldn't get the cover image to load...)
(Don't You) Forget About Me:  Welcome to Gardnerville.

A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies.

Except...
There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.

Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.


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Buy on Amazon.
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How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the arrow buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter).  US only.  I will contact the winner via email.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Feature Friday: TIGER'S PROMISE exclusive interview

New York Times Bestselling Author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, science fiction, and romance. Her first four novels, Tiger’s Curse, Tiger’s Quest, Tiger’s Voyage, and Tiger’s Destiny were New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestsellers. Formerly a student at the University of Arizona, she worked as a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter for seventeen years before switching careers to become an author. Colleen lives in Salem, Oregon, with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.

The Interview:
We're interviewing Yesubai, one of the characters from Colleen Houck's TIGER'S CURSE series.  Yesubai has her own story out called TIGER'S PROMISE.

A.L.:
If you could pick one song to tell your story, what would it be?  Why?

Yesubai:
Dark Side by Kelly Clarkson. This song is really the theme for my life. I was always concerned that my father’s evil was just a part of me. If it wasn’t for the Rajaram family I would have always believed that was all I was.

A.L.:
How about a theme song for yourself?  why?

Yesubai:
Absence of Fear by Jewel. It took a long time for me, sixteen years in fact, to overcome my fears and stand up to my father.

A.L.:
What are you hoping readers get out of your story?

Yesubai:
My hope is that it inspires people to look past the obvious. Just because something seems evil on the outside doesn’t mean it truly is. There’s always hope and you always have a choice.

A.L.:
What's your favorite food?

Yesubai:
Aam Shrikhand which is sweetened yogurt topped with mango.

A.L.:
If you could sit and have a chai tea with any person who has passed away, who would it be?

Yesubai:
My mother-Yuvakshi

A.L.:
We know you have a magic power, but if you could pick ANY one magical power to possess, what would it be and why?

Yesubai:
I would wish for the power to eradicate the darkness in my father.

A.L.:
If there was one thing that you could do over again, what would it be?

Yesubai:
I would not have run away from Kishan in the garden.

A.L.:
Rubies or Sapphires?

Yesubai:
Purple Sapphires

A.L.:
If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?

Yesubai:
That I might have been born in another time or place.

A.L.:
If you were in modern day America, what would your typical outfit look like?

Yesubai:
I think I would prefer to wear dresses. It is what I am used to, but I should like to have one of every color. I enjoy the bright colors of my homeland.

The Giveaway:

Colleen's publisher will be giving away 10 e-book copies of TIGER'S PROMISE (INT).

Tiger's Promise:   Before the curse, there was a promise. A prequel to the bestselling Tiger’s Curse series, this much anticipated novella recalls the beginning of Ren and Kishan’s story. Before Kelsey there was a girl, raised by a villain, whose love for a hero changed the course of history.

Trapped under the thumb of her abusive and powerful father Lokesh, Yesubai struggles to keep her own magical abilities secret while evading his dark powers. When Lokesh promises Yesubai to the prince of a neighboring kingdom, she becomes the central pawn in his plot to destroy the ruling family and take power for himself. Yesubai is trapped by her father’s threats and desperate to protect the man she comes to love, but she knows that any decision she makes will have dire consequences. As dark forces gather around her, Yesubai must decide if she’s willing to reveal that somewhere deep within her she has the power to change everything.




Read Goodread reviews.
Buy on Amazon.
Buy on Barnes and Noble.

How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the arrow buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter).  International.  I will contact the winner via email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway