Author Archives: Sara | Novel Novice

Book Review: The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky

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M.P. Kozlowsky’s new middle grade adventure, The Dyerville Tales, is a beautiful story about hope, magic, and love.

dyerville talesVince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and his father in a fire when he was young, but beyond that, his life hasn’t been much of a fairy tale. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was remanded to a group home, where he spun fantastical stories, dreaming of the possibility that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. But it’s been a long time since the fire, a long time since Vince has told himself a story worth believing in.

That’s when a letter arrives, telling Vince his grandfather has passed away. Vince cannot explain it, but he’s convinced that if his father is somehow still alive, he’ll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for his grandfather’s small hometown of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather’s journal. The journal tells a story that could not possibly be true, a story of his grandfather’s young life involving witches, giants, magical books, and evil spirits. But as Vince reads on and gets closer to Dyerville, fact and fiction begin to intertwine, and Vince finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather’s than he ever could have known.

M. P. Kozlowsky, the author of Juniper Berry, has crafted a powerfully imaginative novel of the spaces in life where fantasy and reality intersect, a touching story of the things we give up to recover the things we’ve lost.

Kozlowsky elegantly captures the battle between hope and belief and magic we feel as a child, and the brutal onslaught of reality and disappointment that we face as we mature. Left orphaned at a young age, Vince is even more susceptible to this depression — and yet, armed with the waning belief that his father is still alive, and the stories his grandfather has left for him, Vince soldiers on. He faces his fears and anxieties, and embarks on an incredible journey.

Along the way, Vince learns that hope and belief and magic are not something he has to give up in order to grow up. He learns that sometimes hope is the most powerful magic of all.

The Dyerville Tales is in stores April 22nd.

Exclusive Q&A with Noggin author John Corey Whaley: Part 2


Today, I am pleased to bring you part 2 of our exclusive Q&A with Noggin author John Corey Whaley. If you missed it, here’s part 1!

john corey whaleyYou have an amazing book trailer for NOGGIN. Were you involved in making this trailer? Tell us about it!

I am super lucky to have met and befriended Ben Jenkins a few years back. He and I actually grew up a few miles down the road from one another, but were separated by just enough years of age that we never met until we were adults. Anyway, he filmed the trailer for WHERE THINGS COME BACK in and around our hometown in Louisiana in 2011, and I got to help a lot with that one. With the NOGGIN trailer, Ben had his own vision from start to finish and filmed it in Colorado, where he currently lives. I just got to sit back and laugh and be in awe of the clips he would email my way.

NOGGIN has been optioned for a movie, and a screenplay is being written. Have you been at all involved in this process so-far? What sort of involvement do you hope to have if/when the movie moves forward?

I’m still in shock over this one. I was involved a little in the process of choosing the writer/director–I met with him and we discussed his vision for the film. I knew instantly that he had to make this movie. From here on out, I won’t be too heavily involved (as most authors aren’t), but I hope to be able to visit the set and such if the movie gets green lit. Basically, they’ll have to put out a restraining order to keep me away. ha.

where things come backWHERE THINGS COME BACK was such an amazing book, and it had huge critical acclaim when it was released. Did you feel any sort of pressure when working on NOGGIN? How did you respond?

Did I feel any pressure? HECK YES. But, my editor and agent are so great and they really helped me when I thought I was lost a few times–when I thought WTCB was a fluke and that I was a phony. I think there will always be pressure with every new book, but I hope that I’ve now learned enough about how to use that pressure positively to make it less insane next time.

Can you give us any insight into what you’re working on next?

I’m still in the early stages, but I can tell you that’s it’s about a psychic, her son, a small town, and a movie. That’s all you get.

Tune in on Friday for part 3 of our Q&A!

Blog Tour: Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley Official Playlist

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Today, I am thrilled to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley - easily one of my favorite new books of the year!

As part of our stop on the blog tour, we bring you the Official Ask Me Playlist (which you can listen to on Spotify, except for one song which you can find here.) Plus, Kimberly shares some commentary on the playlist, as well!

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ask meMy writing playlist for ASK ME was actually pretty much the same playlist that makes up the chapter titles. I seriously did listen to every one of those songs on repeat. But, there are a few songs I would add to that as my “get myself going” songs, so those are the ones I’m going to list here. Do note, however, that there are other songs I hold near and dear but wouldn’t, for various reasons, work for ASK ME. So this is just a small list of some of my favs. In Spotify, these are saved to my “Random Songs I Like” list.

  • The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars
  • Johnny Got a Boom Boom by Imelda May
  • Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
  • Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple
  • L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. by Noah and the Whale
  • In the Cold, Cold Night by the White Stripes
  • Jockey Full of Bourbon by Tom Waits
  • Human Fly by Nouvelle Vague
  • Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie
  • Somebody that I Used to Know by Goyte
  • Dirty Boulevard by Lou Reed
  • If I Knew You Were Coming I would Have Baked You a Cake by The Fontane Sisters

And that truly is a random list, isn’t it? Music was huge to me for this book. I can’t always listen and write, but for this one, I *had* to listen while I wrote.

New YA Releases: April 15, 2014

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Here’s a look at some of today’s new YA releases:

frozenFrozen by Erin Bowman

The Heists were only the beginning.

Gray Weathersby escaped from the primitive town of Claysoot expecting to find answers, but what he discovered shook him to the core: A ruthless dictator with absolute power. An army of young soldiers blinded by lies. And a growing rebellion determined to fight back.

Now Gray has joined a team of rebels on a harsh, icy journey in search of allies who can help them set things right. But in a world built on lies, Gray must constantly question whether any ally—or enemy—is truly what they seem…

house of ivy and sorrowHouse of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

fury of the seventh sonFury of the Seventh Son by Joseph Delaney

The thirteenth—and final—book in the internationally best-selling fantasy adventure series that inspired the forthcoming major motion picture Seventh Son. Finally, Tom Ward, the spook’s last apprentice, will confront the Fiend for the last time.

Tom Ward has battled boggarts, ghasts, witches, dark gods, and the most terrifying creatures to roam the earth. He’s allied with the witch assassin Grimalkin, with a powerful boggart, and with Alice . . . the young witch who is also his true love. And he has kept one step ahead of the Fiend, the most evil being in the world. Now, he will vanquish the Fiend once and for all. But it will require a terrible sacrifice: not everyone Tom cares about will survive the final battle. The Last Apprentice series is soon to be a major motion picture, Seventh Son, starring Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Olivia Williams, Antje Traue, Djimon Hounsou, and Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin. It’s a suspenseful thrill ride that’s “spine-tingling” (Publishers Weekly) and “anything but tame” (Horn Book). But don’t read it after dark!

you only live onceYou Only Live Once by Bridie Clark

You survived your freshman year at Kings Academy, the prestigious prep school in the New Hampshire hills, but hold the slow clap—turns out sophomore year’s the real grinder. You’ll have to deal with the stress of keeping up with the soul-crushing homework. Not to mention your glam classmates are throwing glitzy sweet sixteen parties this year and you’ll need a job if you want to join.

Will you take that babysitting job in town (and pretend not to notice Hot Dad’s flirtatious ways)? Will you bribe your way to a New York Times internship and land a college guy? Filled to the brim with twisting paths and turns, this may end up being the best year of your life . . . or it may send you home to Hope Falls in tears. Whatever snap decisions you make, it’s going to be an unforgettable year.

don't look backDon’t Look Back by Jennifer Armentrout

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

geography of you and meThe Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

what i thought was trueWhat I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle’s Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen’s dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.

also known as elvisAlso Known as Elvis by James Howe

Skeezie Tookis navigates a pivotal summer of first crushes and tough choices in this conclusion to the bestselling and acclaimed quartet that began with The Misfits.

Skeezie Tookis, also known as Elvis, isn’t looking forward to this summer in Paintbrush Falls. While his best friends Bobby, Joe, and Addie are off on exciting adventures, he’s stuck at home, taking care of his sisters and working five days a week to help out his mom. True, he gets to hang out at the Candy Kitchen with the awesome HellomynameisSteffi, but he also has to contend with Kevin Hennessey’s never-ending bullying. And then there’s the confusing world of girls, especially hot-and-cold Becca, his maybe-crush. And the dog that he misses terribly. And the dad who left two years before, whom Skeezie is convinced is the cause of all his troubles. In the words of the King, Skeezie Tookis is All Shook Up.

Skeezie’s got the leather jacket of a tough guy, but a heart of gold—and his story, the fourth and final chapter of the beloved Misfits series, is brimming with life’s tough choices, love in all directions, and enough sweet potato fries to go around.

to all the boys i've loved beforeTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them — all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved— five in all.

When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

For the comments: Which of today’s new YA releases are you most excited about?

Exclusive Q&A with Noggin author John Corey Whaley: Part 1

Today, I am pleased to present the first of our three-part exclusive Q&A with Noggin author John Corey Whaley.

john corey whaley2So tell the truth: did you decapitate a lot of action figures as a child? Okay, I’m kidding. But please tell us about the inspiration for such an outrageous premise!

I always wanted to write something with an absurd premise–a la Vonnegut–and just a few days after chunking the second version of a book I had decided not to publish, this weird idea just sort of popped into my head (pun intended).

I love how, despite the crazy premise, NOGGIN is so deeply rooted in reality. How did you balance the outrageous with the realistic while writing this book?

It definitely took a lot of thought and fine-tuning. I wanted the tone and meaning of the story to be as relatable as any other contemporary realist story, but I always wanted to use the outrageousness of the premise to heighten those things—I think sometimes the most authentic, universally felt moments happen in spite of the absurd events surrounding them.

What (if any) type of research did you do for NOGGIN? (And if you did not do any research, what was your reason for that choice?)

There wasn’t a lot of research involved with writing this particular book. I did some reading about leukemia, so I could describe Travis’ illness/symptoms accurately, but I mostly used my own pop cultural knowledge of cryogenics to deal with those parts of the story. I set the book in Kansas City, MO, where I’ve only been once, so I did some geographical research at one point too.

Tune in on Wednesday for Part 2 of our Q&A!

Noggin by John Corey Whaley: Official Playlist


In case you didn’t know, Noggin by John Corey Whaley is actually in development to (possibly, hopefully) become a movie. And if/when that happens, the studio will no doubt release some fancy soundtrack.

NOGGIN playlistBut until that day comes, we still have a pretty kick-ass soundtrack to Noggin, courtesy of author Corey himself — who shared this playlist with us:

1.) ‘Head Over Heels’ –Tears for Fears

2.) ‘Girls Like You’ –The Naked and the Famous

3.) ‘Forever’—Haim

4.) ‘Pop Music of the Future’ –Say Hi To Your Mom

5.) ‘Dead Heart’ –Stars

6.) ‘True Romance’ –Citizens!

7.) ‘Timeless’ –The Airborne Toxic Event

8.) ‘Power Hungry Animals’ –The Apache Relay

9.) ‘Best of Friends’ –Palma Violets

10.) ‘Forever Young’ –Youth Group

For the comments: What do you think of Corey’s playlist? Any songs you’d add?

Book Review: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

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Journeys – both physical and mental – abound within the pages of Kenneth Oppel’s The Boundless, a stunning new middle grade saga that combines action, adventure, and magic into one thrilling story.

boundless, theAll aboard for an action-packed escapade from the internationally bestselling author of Airborne and the Silverwing trilogy.

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

Though intended for a middle grade audience, The Boundless contains plenty of content to entertain and engage readers of just about any age. Woven into the story are themes about family, love, friendship, coming of age, and courage. Oppel brings these themes together seamlessly with a story that is packed with action, intrigue, and a touch of magic and whimsy.

As captivating as The Boundless (the train) is to its passengers, so is The Boundless (the book) captivating to Oppel’s readers. The writing is just lovely, and the storytelling engaging. It’s easy to get swept up in the extravagance and adventure of Oppel’s story.

The Boundless is in stores April 22nd.

Read an exclusive sneak peek from The Taking by Kimberly Derting

Today, we are super excited to share an exclusive sneak peek at The Taking by Kimberly Derting. We’re one of several blogs revealing an excerpt from Kim’s new book, which hits store shelves on April 29th.

taking, theCheck out the excerpt below, then keep reading to learn more about The Taking, where you can pre-order it, and where you’ll find the next excerpt tomorrow!

I popped the candies into my mouth, letting the sour jolt of them awaken my saliva glands and wash away the tang of dirt that seemed to cling to my tongue.

As always, I got impatient and bit down on one of the candies. Despite their gooey outer shell, inside they were rock hard, something I discovered the moment I felt a chunk of my right-side molar chip away.

Cursing, I spit the rest of the candies in a messy wad onto the ground and ran my tongue over the new, rough edge of my tooth. I’d just been to the dentist last week, something I hated doing, and now this would mean I’d be forced to see him again.

Fishing my cell phone from the front pocket of my uniform pants, I decided it was time to call for backup. I still couldn’t believe I’d ended up behind the Dumpster of a gas station last night. My parents were probably freaking the hell out. I was freaking the hell out.

Not to mention Austin . . .

I dialed him first, not caring that my decision was sure to set off another round of arguments when I got home.

I held the phone to my ear and waited. After a moment I pulled the phone away and inspected it.

no service, the screen read.

No service—how was that even possible? I knew exactly where I was. I’d been at this gas station hundreds of times; it was maybe a mile from my house—well within our coverage map.

Whatever, I thought, getting tentatively to my feet and waiting till my legs felt steady. I did my best to ignore the headache that continued to pulse behind my eyes. The walk would probably do me good.

Read more from The Takingtomorrow at Paranormal Book Club!

Here is the full synopsis for The Taking:

A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

Pre-Order The Taking:

Or call one of the following stores to request a signed copy:

  • Books of Wonder
  • Mysterious Galaxy
  • The King’s English
  • Blue Willow

Book Trailer Spotlight: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Today we’re featuring the fantastic book trailer for Noggin by John Corey Whaley, our April Book of the Month. The book hit stores just yesterday, but if you haven’t picked up your copy yet (DO IT!), this trailer will definitely pique your interest:

Fun fact! The same people also produced the trailer for Whaley’s first book, Where Things Come Back.

Blog Tour & Contest: The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas

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Today, I’m excited to be featuring an exclusive guest post as part of the blog tour for The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas, an exciting new historical fiction novel that is in stores now! Here’s more about it:

THE RED LILY CROWN coverFlorence Italy, 1574; Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

The court of Francesco de Medici, his rise to power and mysterious death, has fascinated historians for centuries. Loupas gives a fresh interpretation of the royal intrigue and power-hungry characters that ruled Italy while weaving a compelling story that “Effortlessly evokes the dangerous glamour of Renaissance Italy…” (The Chicago Tribune)

Sounds awesome, right? Today, Elizabeth stops by with a guest post about what life would be like in 16th-century Florence for her character, Chiara, growing up. Keep reading below for your chance to win a copy of The Red Lily Crown,too!

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“It’s a Long Story…”
By Elizabeth Loupas

One tricky thing about world-building in historical fiction is that your world is, well, historical. Certain things happened on certain dates. As an author you have all kinds of latitude in working out why people might have done things, what their private thoughts were, what motivated them, what happened behind the scenes—and that’s the wonderful thing about historical fiction, really—but when it comes to dates, you’re pretty well stuck.

Elizabeth Loupas headshotIn my first book, the whole story happened over the course of about three and a half months. Easy to keep up the pace and the suspense without skipping over any time. My second book, although not much longer in word count, covered a little over five years. A longer timeline, but still manageable.

When I started on my third book, though, I found myself facing a timeline of fifteen years. There was no way I could show everything that happened in fifteen years! And I couldn’t pick a shorter capsule of time because if I did, I would lose some of the dramatic and exciting historical events that I wanted to incorporate into the story. This time I had to plan much more carefully in order to maintain the pace and the suspense over the much longer timeline.

(As an aside, this challenge of telling a story that covers a long period of time isn’t exclusive to historical fiction. A writer can have any number of reasons for needing or wanting a story to start here and end there, in any kind of setting.)

So what did I do?

Well, first of all I had to start with my main character young—fifteen years old. Of course, in the Florence of the sixteenth century Medici, fifteen wasn’t quite as young as it is today. Fifteen-year-old girls were routinely married off, sometimes to much older men, in a way that would make us shudder with distaste today. My fifteen-year-old heroine wasn’t married off—in fact, she was coerced into taking a vow of virginity—but for all her youth she was able to interact with other characters more or less as an adult. The story was off to a good start.

An important thing to do when you’re skipping over weeks or months or even years of time, is to use date-and-place headers at the beginnings of chapters, particularly chapters that mark a jump forward. I think readers subconsciously think, “oh, we’re skipping forward a bit,” when they see a new date heading to a chapter. Instead of a specific date, sometimes I would head a chapter with something like, “The silver mine at Bottino, northwest of Florence—Ten days later.”

Another technique I used to skip over the less-than-thrilling periods in my timeline was setting up the story in sections—“books”—with each book focused on a different female character in the story. This gave me a smooth way to skip forward to events featuring that character, and move on to another book when that character’s main story arc ended or changed. When I needed to skip over a year or more, starting a new “book” within the book was a way to help readers acclimate to the change.

If you’re going to skip over chunks of time, you do have to fill the reader in a bit on what’s been going on. My favorite way to do this was to start a chapter with action and/or dialogue in the new time, just enough to get the reader well-ground. Then I used a stream-of-consciousness-style narration (yes, telling—but telling does have its place sometimes) to fill in the gaps and bring the reader up to date. Although the story is told in third-person points of view, I worked to weave definite “voice” into these narrations, so not only does the reader learn what’s happened, but what the point-of-view character thinks about it. They turned out to be fun to write, as well as a way to smooth the time transitions.

Another challenge when writing a story that takes place over a significant span of time is showing how your characters change. No one stays the same over fifteen years! My fifteen-year-old main character starts out as a defiant and deeply troubled shopkeeper’s daughter, and as the story continues and she matures, she passes through several stages: a prideful and materialistic young woman on the fringes of the court, a wounded and terrified casualty of power politics, a focused professional in the alchemical science of the day, and ultimately a strong woman capable of trust, self-sacrifice, and great love. The other characters in the book change as well—some for the better, some for the worse, just as people do in real life.

It was a considerable challenge to map out my story over a fifteen-year time span, and many times I banged my head against my desk and swore I’d never do it again. But for all the technical difficulties, it was worth it—it offered wonderful scope for richness of story and characterization.

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You can visit Elizabeth’s website to learn more about The Red Lily Crown and her other books!

Meanwhile, we’re giving away one copy of The Red Lily Crown – and all you have to do is check out this Rafflecopter for all the entry details.

Entries are limited to U.S. only. Contest is open through April 15th.

For the comments: Tell us why you want to read The Red Lily Crown.