Category Archives: Blog tour

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming: Blog Tour Q&A + Giveaway

blog tour banner generic
Today, I am pleased to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming – an exciting new non-fiction book for teen readers.

family romanovYep, non-fiction. We don’t see a lot of YA non-fiction, so I’m really excited about this. Plus, a book about the Romanovs? You KNOW it’s gonna be good. Check out our Q&A with the author, then keep reading for your chance to win a copy of The Family Romanov!

Most YA readers tend to veer towards fiction. What about THE FAMILY ROMANOV will entice fiction readers?

It’s such a compelling, heartbreaking and, at times, downright weird story.  Imagine this: The Russian royal family is living a fairy-tale existence. The richest man on the planet, Tsar Nicholas II owns one-sixth of the world’s land, thirty palaces, five yachts, an endless collection of priceless painting and sculpture, two private trains, countless horses, carriage and cars, and vaults overflowing with precious jewels. The Romanovs have it all! But Nicholas is a man of limited political ability. He’s simply not suited to rule Russia. And a charismatic, self-proclaimed holy man named Rasputin spellbinds his wife, Alexandra. She believes Rasputin can save her hemophiliac son, Alexei, from bleeding to death. Desperate, she will do anything – anything — including handing over the reins of power to the evil monk.  Meanwhile, in the palace there also lives four, beautiful grand duchesses – Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia. But they are kept isolated from the world by their paranoid and overprotective parents. They don’t attend balls or banquets. They don’t have any friends their own age, or suitors, as they grow older. The have only each other. Living in this bubble stunts them emotionally. Even at age twenty, Olga giggles like a schoolgirl and blushes when she sees an onscreen kiss. With all this craziness going on inside the palace gates, no one is paying any attention to the dark clouds gathering outside them. Starving, war-weary Russians are tired of Nicholas and Alexandra’s inept rule. They revolt, and the Romanov’s fairy tale lives come crashing down, leading to ninety days in captivity, a horrific and bloody mass murder, hidden bodies and rumors of escaped princesses. Wow, if that’s not a great story, I don’t know what is!

Photo by Michael Lionstar

Photo by Michael Lionstar

The sort of research involved in a book like this seems so daunting to me. Where did you even begin your work?.

The research for this book followed four paths. The first, of course, was primary research.   After all, the heart of all research is the firsthand accounts and eyewitness testimonies of those who lived through an historical event. And so I read reminiscences written by the children’s’ tutors, and Alexandra’s ladies-in-waiting and Nicholas’ courtiers. I delved into the royal family’s letters and diaries and other personal papers. I read Yakov Yurovsky’s chilling account of the murders; statements from the guards; depositions from the priests and cleaning women who visited the Romanovs in their last hours. All of it was so personal, so intimate. If you think about it, it really is the height of nosiness… and probably the reason I love this sort of research so much. I get to be part detective, piecing together testimony from all that conflicting testimony, and part gossip, reporting on all the juicy details I uncover.

My second path? Secondary source material. There are hundreds of books about the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution (although very few for young readers). Dozens of scholars have made the rigorous examination of Russia’s past their life’s work. They’ve written insightful, enlightening histories. And I read dozens of them. For months every night I curled up with books with titles like The Russian Revolution of February 1917 or The Fall of the Romanovs. There’s no denying that my book stands on the shoulders of these works.

My third research path leads to experts – scholars, historians, and other writers. They are, I’ve learned, incredibly generous. All my nonfiction titles have been immeasurably improved by their time and effort. But perhaps no one was more helpful than Dr. Mark Steinberg, professor or Russian, East European and Eurasian studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. While doing research, I came to rely on Dr. Steinberg’s work – his accessible histories of Russia, his impeccable translations of documents recently released from the Russian archives, his re-examination of Nicholas’ leadership abilities, his new and brilliant scholarship on Lenin, his admiration for Maxim Gorky. Can you tell I am a fan? So as the first draft of the book neared completion I approached him tentatively. More than anything, I wanted him to read what I’d written. I wanted his opinion, his knowledge. I wrote him, explaining my purpose and my readership.   Then I crossed my fingers and hoped he’d answer. He did… enthusiastically.   Over the course of the next six months, he read my draft, made suggestions, pointed out errors, suggested more appropriate source material and forced me to look at the evidence in different ways. He sent along books and articles he believed would help in my work.   He re-read portions of the book I’d reworked based on his comments, and patiently answered what must have felt like a tireless stream of questions throughout the entire publication process. That’s generosity!

Last, but certainly not least, my fourth research path leads to travel. I believe it’s imperative to visit the places where the story happened. Landscapes speak and houses hold memories and secrets. This was especially true when writing The Family Romanov. In August 2012 I traveled to Russia where I followed in the Romanov’s footsteps, wandering the shady paths of Tsarskoe Selo and traipsing through the hallways of the Alexander Palace; visiting Rasputin’s apartment; exploring worker’s neighborhoods, Lenin’s headquarters and the dark, dank jail cells of the Peter and Paul Fortress.   Just walking the streets and feeling the air brings my biographical subjects closer.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about the Romanovs and the uprising against them during your research?

Probably the most surprising and important discovery I made during my research for The Family Romanov came while visiting the Alexander Palace. In none of my sources had anyone mentioned how close the palace sat to the front gate. I’d assumed it was somewhere in the middle of the park, away from prying eyes. Not so. The tall, main gate with its golden, double headed eagle opens directly onto the palace’s circular driveway. Every day the family could look through its iron grillwork to the town of Tsarskoe Selo just on the other side. It gave me pause. The family was so close to it’s people. They were right there, just on the other side of the gate. The Romanovs could look out their windows and see them. They could hear their people’s voices from the palace balcony. They could smell their cooking. They really weren’t as physically removed from the people as sources led me to believe. It gave me pause. Why, I wondered, didn’t the Romanovs feel more attachment to their subjects? I mean, they were right there. The question led me down entirely new paths of thought.   And it eventually led to the book’s inclusion of first hand worker and peasant accounts under the title, “Beyond the Palace Gates.”

This is one of several nonfiction books you’ve written for teen readers. Any idea on what subjects you might be tackling next?

I’m tackling William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody next. Actually, I’m in the throes of writing it now. After that, who knows? I’m challenged and intrigued by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I recently read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s account of those terrible, terrible days when she waited for news of her son. And I’m filled with questions. For me, that’s the first sign that a new piece of nonfiction is brewing.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

The 80’s – I was a carefree, college student back then. Believe it or not, I even had purple hair!

Must-have writing snack?

Skinny Pop Popcorn – love that “no artificial anything.”

Favorite Disney movie?

It’s a toss up between The Ugly Dachshund (does anyone remember that one… Dean Jones!) and 101 Dalmatians. I’m a sucker for dog movies.

The beach or the mountains?

The beach along Lake Michigan’s southern rim. There’s nothing I love more than escaping to those endless, sandy shores for an afternoon. I pick up beach glass, hum in my head, and let the world fade away. Ahhh!

Song that can always get you dancing?

“What I Like About You” by the Romantics. Embarrassing, but I pogo to it. The 80’s again, you know?

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space), and share a photo, if possible

  1. A gold bust of Nicholas II I purchased at the Alexander Palace.
  2. A shadow box of objects and fancies collected by my partner, Eric Rohmann and I, on our many travels. If you look closely you’ll see things like an iguana claw from Costa Rica, an antique glass bead from Venice, Italy, and an animal cracker from the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
  3. A crystal ball. So far it has not foretold my future.
  4. A Henry VIII eggcup for holding my paper clips. It also serves as a reminder to stick to the Skinny Pop.
  5. A two-headed rubber ducky – it’s just weird.

WIN A COPY OF THE FAMILY ROMANOV

Now here’s your chance to win! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here and you’ll be entered to win a copy of The Family Romanov, courtesy of Random House.

U.S. or Canada only. Contest ends at midnight (PT) on Wednesday, July 23rd.

family romanovHere’s more about the book:

New from Candace Fleming, THE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA (Schwartz & Wade / On sale July 8, 2014 / Ages 12 up) offers up non-fiction at its very best. From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes a probing look at Russia’s last tsar, his family, and their crumbling dynasty.

When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew.

Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life. Tragedy, melodrama, and I-can’t-believe-it moments make this a read that both kids and Romanov aficionados will devour. History doesn’t get more interesting than the story of the Romanovs.

For the comments: What intrigues you about the Romanov family?

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe: Summer Blog Tour – Hitting the Road

TSLOG blog tour
After our week of guest blogs from The Sound of Letting Go author Stasia Ward Kehoe, it’s time for this summer blog tour to hit the road! Here’s Stasia with more:

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swknovelnoviceroadtrippicTAKING IT ON THE ROAD…Like a summer road trip, a blog tour is nothing without fun stops along the way. Sara at Novel Novice has lined up some awesome destinations for THE SOUND OF LETTING GO adventures. But the other essential part of road tripping, like writing life, is THE PEOPLE YOU BRING ON THE JOURNEY. The book business is scary and full of heartbreak. Lots of things are out of your control. And, frankly, the money ain’t great. But, if you’re looking for incredible friends—folks who are really your tribe, who love books and writing and reading and the whole crazy world of it—then you’re exactly where you need to be and every stop along the way is kind of amazing.

So, as summer swelters along, you can find follow THE SOUND OF LETTING GO blog tour to…

July 14th – Hypable

July 21st – Reading Teen

July 28th – Page Turners

August 4th – Novels, News & Notes

August 11th – Icey Books

August 18th – Book Chic

August 25th – Candace’s Book Blog

At each stop, I’ll be interviewing a writer friend (Who, you ask? It’s a surprise!) about the business and the their lives beyond the pages. I hope you’ll follow along!

And, oh yeah, don’t forget to enter for THE PRIZE of PRIZEY GOODNESS! Enter the Rafflecopter HERE!

 

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe: Summer Blog Tour – My Pinterest Problem

TSLOG blog tour
Today, we continue our summer-long blog tour with The Sound of Letting Go author Stasia Ward Kehoe.

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I’m a word person. Not super visual. In fact, I’ve tried using index cards and other visual methods for plotting my novels and have, well, failed. Here’s an example of one failed attempt for my current work in progresss:

plotting

That said, I LOVE PINTEREST! While visual aids don’t help me plot novels, I’ve had great luck finding inspiring images such as the perfect-looking dog for my new main character (a brindle Great Dane) and I’ve had lots of fun doing things like decorating rooms for my characters and imagining who might play them on the big screen (hey, a girl can dream, right?).

Check out DAISY’S MUSIC ROOM and my FANTASY CAST boards for THE SOUND OF LETTING GO. Or give me some feedback on my style choices at the DRESSING LIKE AN AUTHOR board.

pinterest

For more ways to win my books and summer swag, visit www.stasiawardkehoe.com.

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe: Summer Blog Tour – YA with Great Shape

TSLOG blog tour
Today, we continue our summer-long blog tour with The Sound of Letting Go author Stasia Ward Kehoe.

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Who needs a perfect beach body when you have these YA novels with great shapes?

I started seriously reading YA in my twenties as newly-employed as a Library Marketing Associate at Random House Books for Young Readers. My job gave me access to a remarkable library, including two particularly memorable YA’s: Philip Pullman’s GOLDEN COMPASS and Suzanne Fisher Staples SHABANU: DAUGHTER OF THE WIND. Those were the books that started me wanting not just to read but to write teen fiction.

Over the next decades, my marketing career took me from publishing house to publishing house and I kept reading. Sarah Dessen, M. T. Anderson, Pete Hautman, Libba Bray, Judy Blundell, Holly Black, J.K. Rowling…I devoured thousands of pages. But I still hadn’t found my own voice as a writer. Who finally led me there? Ellen Hopkins, Sharon Creech and Karen Hesse. In their verse novels, I first saw the synthesis of my love for poetry, the cadence of dance (my first creative love), and the emotional immediacy of verse. Their work changed way I read, the way I think about creating a novel…it set me free.

Since then, I’ve realized that I have a particular taste for prose and poem-based novels that break the mold by taking unusual approaches to shaping language into a narrative form. Here are a few uniquely structured novels that, to me, FEEL LIKE POETRY, inspiring readers and writers alike to realize the power of form in storytelling.

wintergirlsWINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

The story: Lia did not answer one of the 33 calls her estranged best friend Cassie made the night she died. Cassie was her “secret sister” in the shadow community of girls with eating disorders. Now, Lia is alone in the wake of Cassie’s death, battling guilt, struggling to stay thin, and risking her own death as loved ones around her try to help her heal herself.

The shape: Dark, intense, present-tense narrative is peppered with overstrikes, italics, numbers, varying fonts, repetitions, and even stretches of blank page that make the experience of Lia’s anxiety, grief and illness palpable to the reader. The novel is a breathless and terrifying emotional journey, its fearless form taking it to a place of utter realism far beyond the reach of standard paragraphs.

graveyard bookTHE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

The story: Toddler Nobody Owens (“Bod”) escapes being murdered with the rest of his family by wandering into a graveyard where he is raised and protected by the dead until reaching young adulthood and eagerly stepping out into the “real” world to live his life.

The shape: Names and naming are critical to this novel’s unique structure. Gaiman’s protagonist, “Nobody” is also “Bod”–the only living, embodied denizen of his graveyard home. Bod’s many dead friends are identified by both name and headstone inscription (this is actually quite amusing at times) which both date and characterize them. Bod’s enemy is “the man Jack.” Elegant, organic interweaving of illustrations into the book’s format and design complete Gaiman’s rendering of a fantastical world through which the reader, and Bod, journey, realizing beauty in wounds that can’t be healed and hope in places that will never be perfect.

flora and ulyssesFLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo

The story: A lonely girl name Flora Belle Buckman meets a remarkable, magical squirrel (who is also a poet) who helps her on her journey to rediscover love and family.

The shape: An elegant amalgam of short, uniquely titled chapters, paper-and-pencil style cartoon storyboard illustrations, GIANT vocabulary words, multiple references to a comic book series featuring THE AMAZING INCANDESTO and snips of poetry. On so many levels—the text, the titles, the cadence of the chapters, and the poignant final poem itself-DiCamillo creates an unforgettable exploration of the parent-child bond, the glory of hope, and the redemptive power of words.

book thiefTHE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

The story: In the dark, book-burning, Nazi-overrun world of 1939 Germany, Liesel Meminger lives with her foster family near Munich. Overcome by her yearning for books, Liesel steals, learns to read, and finds herself helping to hide a wounded Jewish man.

The shape: First, the novel is narrated by Death. But don’t let that put you off. This musing on life found, preserved and lost features chapter titles made of imagistic word collages, bullet-point lists, bold-faced musings, translations, transcriptions and definitions. This book is a modern classic: An homage to language, words, communication and what is most human inside all of us.

For more ways to win my books and summer swag, visit www.stasiawardkehoe.com.

Book Review & Blog Tour Giveaway: Idols by Margaret Stohl

idols blog tour
Today’s book review is part of the official blog tour for Idols by Margaret Stohl, the second book in her Icons series. Be sure to keep reading for your chance to win a copy of Idols and check out links to the rest of the blog tour!

idols final book coverThe Icons came from the sky. They belong to an inhuman enemy. They ended our civilization, and they can kill us.

Most of us.

Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas are the four Icon Children, the only humans immune to the Icon’s power to stop a human heart. Now that Los Angeles has been saved, things are more complicated – and not just because Dol has to choose between Lucas and Ro, the two great loves of her life. As she flees to a resistance outpost hidden beneath a mountain, Dol makes contact with a fifth Icon Child, if only through her visions. When Dol and the others escape to Southeast Asia in search of this missing child, Dol’s dreams, feelings and fears collide in an epic showdown that will change more than just four lives — and stop one heart forever.

In this riveting sequel to Icons, filled with nonstop action and compelling romance, bestselling author Margaret Stohl explores what it means to be human and how our greatest weakness can be humanity’s strongest chance at survival.

I confess, as much as I enjoyed Icons, I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to commit to the rest of the series. But after reading Idols, I’m all-in. This sequel had me hooked — and in many ways, I think it far surpasses the first book.

In Idols, Stohl takes readers on a globe-trotting adventure, as the four teens search for a way to save their planet and their lives. New faces, surprising twists, and unexpected revelations about within the pages, making for a delightful, edge-of-your-seat reading experience.

The stakes are higher than ever, as the Icon Children race to find answers, all while struggling with their own relationships, their pasts, and their unknowable futures. Iconsis in stores now.

About the Book:
Published by: Little Brown
To Be Released on: July 8, 2014
Series: Icons #2
Add it to GoodReads
Purchase it From: Find A Retailer/Book Store near you!
 
About The Author:
 
Margaret Stohl is a lifelong science fiction fan, former video game designer, coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Beautiful Creatures series, and author of Icons. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her family.
 
Find Margie via: her Website TwitterFacebook | Tumblr | Goodreads
 
The Giveaway:

Thank you to Margaret Stohl and Little Brown, fans will have a chance to enter to win a copy of IDOLS at each stop during the blog tour (1 winner per book). Please be sure to fill out the form HERE to enter to win!  Please be sure to read the giveaway rules listed at the bottom of the form before entering.
*US residents only
Good luck!
 

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe: Summer Blog Tour – A Writing Tip & Tumblr Trip

TSLOG blog tour
Today, we continue our summer-long blog tour with The Sound of Letting Go author Stasia Ward Kehoe.

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A Writing Tip and a Tumblr Trip

Summer is time for fun. It’s time to relax, regroup and reinvigorate. How to do this while also trying to write a new novel? THE WRITING EXERCISE (no weights required)! These are just fun ways to loosing up those writing muscles. You won’t necessarily keep the results in your manuscript but hopefully you’ll make a character discovery or at least add a bit of fun to your process. REMEMBER: No word is wasted in the writing process. Every step has value.

Here are three quick ones:

  1. Open a work of fiction (favorite, current read, random bookshelf choice) to somewhere near the middle. Read until you find the first line of dialogue. Incorporate that line of dialogue into your wip (changing names as necessary).
  2. Rewrite a scene from your manuscript in daytime (if it’s nighttime) or vice versa.
  3. In the next chapter you write, have your protagonist HIDE SOMETHING and/or have your antagonist REVEAL or GIVE SOMETHING away.

I’ve also been having some summer fun getting to know Tumblr. This week, I’ll be adding “art quotes” from both of my novels. Just for kicks!

tumblrscreenshot

For more ways to win my books and summer swag, visit www.stasiawardkehoe.com.

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe: Summer Blog Tour – Five YA Novels to Applaud

TSLOG blog tour
Today, we continue our summer-long blog tour with The Sound of Letting Go author Stasia Ward Kehoe.

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From rock bands to stage plays, here are five great reads for arts-loving teens and adults. Performing, expression emotion through script or movement or sound, is a fitting metaphor for the teen years when we try on so many identities in search of the deepest truth of ourselves. Perhaps it’s not surprising that, after writing my ballet novel, AUDITION, many YA novelists I met confessed that they, too, had spent their childhoods onstage. Ask a few writers you know!

brandycolbertBallet: POINTE by Brandy Colbert

Theo almost has her eating disorder, her ballet future—and her life—back in balance until her friend Donovan returns after being held by a kidnapper for four years and everything spins out of control again.

if_i_stayClassical Music: IF I STAY by Gayle Forman

After a car accident, talented cellist Mia is hospitalized in a coma. Hovering between life and death, she reflects on love, dreams and the reasons to try to keep living.

this is what happy looks likeCelebrity/Fame: THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE by Jennifer E. Smith

A mistyped email begins teen movie star Graham’s anonymous virtual relationship with small-town Ellie. But will the chance to meet in real life only prove that fame can destroy anything?

jumped inPerformed Poetry: JUMPED IN by Patrick Flores Scott

Sam has tried to be invisible since his mom left. But when his English teacher pairs him with gang-member Luis for a slam poetry unit, disappearing is no longer possible.

ninalacourRock Music: THE DISENCHANTMENTS by Nina LaCoeur

The novel follows Colby, reeling after his best friend Bev announces that after this final tour with him and their band-mates Meg and Alexa, she’s going off to college and life turns off key.

For more ways to win my books and summer swag, visit www.stasiawardkehoe.com.

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe: Summer Blog Tour – Giveaway & Intro

TSLOG blog tour
Today, I am thrilled to be kicking off an exciting new summer-long blog tour with The Sound of Letting Go author Stasia Ward Kehoe. We’ll have posts here at Novel Novice every day this week, then we’ll kick off a weekly tour at OTHER fab book blogs across the Internet — so stay tuned for details, and now read on!

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Sound of Letting GoTHE WEIRDEST BLOG TOUR EVER – or – what happens to a YA novel five months and one day after publication.

I am so grateful to Novel Novice for hosting me here despite the fact that my book is long past launching (in fact, this very morning I emailed a new manuscript to my agent). But Sara is the kind of blogger who truly understands all aspects of writer life and the book biz. So, when I came to her with this “remember me” idea, she was wonderfully, generously behind it. Here’s what I told her (more or less):

You can enter to win the swag I mention here!

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The rest of this week, I’ll be sharing favorite reads and writing tips, partying on Pinterest and talking Tumblr here at Novel Novice. Then the virtual journey will be moving on to a few other, awesome blogs. Not to mention all the fun at https://www.facebook.com/Author.StasiaWardKehoe and https://twitter.com/swkehoe!

Guest Blog: April Henry’s Real-Life Inspiration for The Body in the Woods + Blog Tour Giveaway

thebodyinthewoods_btb
Today, I am truly honored to be sharing a very cool guest post about a great new YA mystery series — and the first book is in stores TODAY! I’m talking about The Body in the Woods by April Henry, the first in a series about teen search & rescue volunteers. Today’s post is part of the official blog tour for The Body in the Woods.

Today, April stops by to tell us more about the real-life teen volunteers who inspired her story. Plus, keep reading for your chance to win a copy of The Body in the Woods+ a rescue whistle!

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For a long time, I have been looking for a realistic hook for a teen mystery series. The problems is that, for some reason, adults don’t tend to allow teens to do much that’s interesting and crime-related.

body in the woodsAbout two years ago, I was sitting with some old friends at a Kathleen Edwards concert. They told us their daughter was volunteering with Multnomah County’s Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (MCSO SAR).

I thought I knew what SAR did: help find people who are lost in the woods. But it turns out that our local SAR has two things that set it apart.

The first is that while other SAR groups exist across the country, most are not made up of teens. Many don’t allow teens at all. Those few that do take teens are usually either associated with Boy Scouts and/or just allow them to have an observational role. By contrast, MCSO SAR is the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office primary search and rescue resource. While there are adult advisers and a Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputy present at any operation, the team leaders are all teens, as are most of the members.

The second is that about 30% of what these teens do is crime scene evidence searches.

And when I heard a little bit about this, I knew right then, sitting in that concert, that I was going to write a series based on our SAR. Less than six months later, I had made a two-book deal in what is now known as the Point Last Seen series. The first book, The Body in the Woods, comes out today.

How crime scene evidence searches work

Evidence seearch training 2MCSO SAR members perform crime scene evidence searches at major or outdoor crime scenes for agencies all over the state of Oregon, and have been credited with finding key evidence in dozens of cases.

To conduct an evidence search, they form a line on their hands and knees, wearing painter’s padded kneelers and leather gloves, and they crawl forward shoulder to shoulder. They never touch what they find, so they don’t enter the chain of evidence. They are taught to look directly in front of them, as well as above them and behind them, to make sure they don’t miss, say, a knife someone sunk into a tree trunk. The rule is, if they can’t see through it, they have to go through it, because they know that a bad guy might discard evidence in a place he thinks no one would ever look, such as a blackberry bush.

Law enforcement might call on MSCO SAR:

  • If the police suspect the weapon or other evidence was discarded outside.
  • If the cops know a bullet went through someone outdoors and they need it for evidence.
  • If a body is found outside and law enforcement needs more information to ascertain the cause of death.
  • To find the rest of a body after a hiker finds a human bone (remains are often scattered by animals or weather).
  • To recover the bodies of people who have died in the outdoors, from natural causes, accidents, suicides and sometimes even murder.

And these are teens 14 to 18 years old!

More about MSCO SAR

MCSO SAR was originally a Boy Scout troop. In 1961 it was asked to help with a search and rescue on Mount Hood by Multnomah County after all their law enforcement staff were exhausted. Later the group was asked to partner with Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office as a volunteer search and rescue resource. It began offering membership to girls in the 1970s and its relationship with the Boy Scouts faded.

To participate, teens must be 14 years of age or older, maintain a 2.0 GPA, pass a criminal background check, have up-to-date vaccinations, be able to hike for long periods of time, be on call 24/7, and have the permission of their parents/guardians as well as their schools.

While the state requires only 30 hours of training for certification, all members of MCSO SAR receive about 300 hours of training in first aid, emergency survival skills, radio communications, land navigation, GPS orientation, crime scene evidence searches, search techniques, human tracking, helicopter safety, wilderness medicine, rope rescues, urban search and rescue, snow and avalanche safety, and how to respond to terrorist attacks as well as natural disasters.

Teen TrackerThey meet every Wednesday evening as well as do weekend outings once a month. I have gone on trainings with them, most recently a unit on “man tracking,” which is what they call it when you follow someone’s tracks. It’s a real art, and the only clue that someone might have been there can be as small as a broken twig or a few grains of sand on top of a leaf.  (When I told folks at my kung fu school that I was learning to man track, one of the other women looked at me with pity and said, “Oh honey, I can set you up with somebody!”)

Of course, the teens in my books need to take a few more risks and make a few more mistakes than the real MSCO SAR would like their teens to, so I made up a group and in fact a whole county: Portland County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue.

The books are being looked at for a TV series. (And if we know anything about TV shows for teenagers, we know that none of the actors will be actual teens.)

I so believe in this group, that for every sale made in person or online at Powells.com the first week The Body in the Woods is on sale (through June 24th), I am donating $1.69 to MCSO SAR.

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Want to know more? Here are some helpful links:

And we’re also giving away one finished copy of The Body in the Woods+ a rescue whistle to one lucky winner. Contest is open to the U.S. & Canada only and ends Wednesday, June 25th at midnight (PT).

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form here for your chance to win!

Here’s more about The Body in the Woods:

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

Blog Tour: Exclusive Q&A with The Murder Complex author Lindsay Cummings

murder complex blog tour
Today, we’re excited to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings. Thanks to Lindsay for stopping by today for a Q&A. Plus, scroll down to learn more about The Murder Complex,in stores now.

murder complexI think THE MURDER COMPLEX is one of those futuristic stories where the reader really is forced to ask themselves, “Could this happen?” How did your idea for this world come about?

I wrote this story after reading this weird article I found about a small town with a crap-ton of murders. I thought, “Hey, that could actually be a really cool futuristic story.” And I put a twist on it!

Was the narrative always a dual voice? What made you choose to tell the story from BOTH Meadow’s and Zephyr’s perspectives?

It always was! I honestly have no idea why I chose to do it that way. It simply happened, from day one, as I was writing it. It must have been a gut feeling, and I’m so glad I kept it that way!

lindsay cummingsFor readers unfamiliar with THE MURDER COMPLEX, give us your 140 character “Twitter pitch” for the book. Why should they read it?

It’s a story about two teens who must struggle to survive in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate, and pre-programmed assassins control the population.

You also have a middle grade book coming out later this year. Tell us about writing both YA (with some violent, grisly elements) and MG.

It was SO hard for me to switch from writing the YA story, to a happy, light-hearted MG book! But it was really worth it to help me grow as a writer.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Favorite decade?

Definitely the 1920’s or the 60’s

Must-have writing snack?

This weird “fake-coffee” that my mom got me hooked on. It tastes like hot chocolate, but it’s got caffeine! WIN!

Favorite Disney movie?

Recently I’m totally hooked on FROZEN.

The beach or the mountains?

Both! I grew up surfing and skimboarding every summer at the beach…but I also really really love the mountains and snowboarding.

Song that can always get you dancing?

Probably some type of cheesy Disney Channel song that comes on when I’m babysitting.

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space).

Water bottle, a Murder Complex postcard, a picture of me and my husband! Some dog slobber. And my phone!

Here’s more about The Murder Complex:

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.

About Lindsay:

Lindsay Cummings is the 20-year-old author of THE MURDER COMPLEX, as well as its sequel, coming 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, and the MG trilogy THE BALANCE KEEPERS, coming Fall 2014 from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.

Lindsay deals with chronic fatigue, can’t get enough of her two pesky German Shepherds, wolf cub, and two horses. She’s still waiting on her letter from Hogwarts–it was probably just lost in the mail. You can follow Lindsay on twitter @lindsaycwrites

Connect with Lindsay online: