Category Archives: Featured Book

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.

Contest: Win a copy of Starters by Lissa Price

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This week, we’re celebrating the release of Enders by Lissa Price, the sequel to Starters. To wrap up our features (see our review here and then check out our Q&A with Lissa), we have a chance for you to win your very own copy of Starters, the first book in this two-book series! Read on for details …

starters new coverThe Contest

Since this series is all about using other people’s bodies, we want you to imagine doing just that.

In 100-200 words, tell us: whose body would you want to take over for a day and why. Submit your response using the Novel Novice + Enders Contest Entry Form.

The Prize

One winner will receive a copy of Starters, the first book in the series

The Rules

  • One entry per person
  • U.S. only
  • Use the entry form
  • Please use proper spelling & grammar
  • Entries should be 100-200 words in length

The Deadline

All entries are due by midnight (PT) on Friday, January 31st

Questions? Leave ‘em in the comments & we’ll reply!

enders finalMeanwhile, here’s more about Enders:

With the Prime Destinations body bank destroyed, Callie no longer has to rent herself out to creepy Enders. But Enders can still get inside her mind and make her do things she doesn’t want to do. Like hurt someone she loves. Having the chip removed could save Callie’s life – but it could also silence the voice in her head that might belong to her father. Callie has flashes of her ex-renter Helena’s memories, too …and the Old Man is back, filling her with fear. Who is real and who is masquerading in a teen body? This is the thrilling sequel to “Starters”.

Exclusive Q&A with Enders author Lissa Price

Today, I’m really excited to share our brand-new, exclusive Q&A with author Lissa Price, whose new book Enders is now in stores! I had the fortune of meeting Lissa a couple years ago, when I was her author coordinator for Portland’s Wordstock Festival. Lissa is just a fab lady, and a pretty fantastic author, too. Today, we talk about the conclusion to her two-book dystopian series and what’s next for her!

enders finalIt feels like I’ve been waiting forever to read ENDERS … what’s it been like writing your sequel?

This was the first sequel I’d ever written. I knew the readers would want the kind of twists and surprises that Starters offered, and early response is that it delivers. It begins soon after Starters ends, and we are right back with Callie, seeing the world through her eyes. She may have prevailed by the end of the first book, but the Old Man can still access her chip and control her, as well as the others – no one is safe. She meets a new guy who claims he’s the only one who can help her defeat the Old Man. But can she trust him?

lissa priceStarters hit the market at the peak of the dystopian trend in YA, but made its mark by standing out. What do you think sets this series apart from other dystopian series?

Readers say that they love feeling like they’re right inside Callie’s skin. I wrote this as a thriller, so I kept the pacing tight because I wanted readers to be on the edge of their seats, unable to put it down. I wanted to present a concept that felt fresh to set the reader’s imagination on fire. And I wanted to hold their interest by avoiding the predictable, instead layering in turns and a big surprise twist.

As you’ve been out and about the last year or so, promoting Starters, what has been the best feedback or reaction you’ve gotten from readers so-far?

I’ve had so many wonderful experiences – from having girls line up an hour ahead to meet me in Istanbul, to a crowd of teens at the Turin Book Festival demanding a signing when none was planned. But the single best feedback has to come from a fan in Brazil who emailed me she was unsuccessful getting her younger brother to read. She had tried Potter, Hunger Games, nothing worked until he spotted Starters in her room. He read it in a few days and then wanted more. Her whole family wrote to thank me for turning him into a reader. Someday, I’ll get to meet him.

Give us your 140-character “Twitter” pitch for Enders - why should readers check it out?

Callie discovers Starters being used as human bombs. She teams up w/ a mysterious guy and uncovers the shocking truth behind the Old Man.

(exactly 140!)

So any word on what you’re working on next? What can we look forward to?

I’m working on a new project that will also be a YA futuristic thriller, but of course involving a different kind of world. I am very excited about this, I wish I could tell you all about it. But for now it remains a secret.

About the Author:

LISSA PRICE is the award-winning, international bestselling author of the YA futuristic thriller series, Starters and ENDERS, from Random House. Starters was deemed “science fiction at its best” by the Los Angeles Times and Dean Koontz called it “a smart, inventive, altogether gripping story.”  It made numerous Top Ten lists in the US and abroad, was a Scholastic Book Club pick, and won awards in Germany and the Netherlands for Best YA Thriller.

Lissa has appeared on numerous panels including the LA Times Festival of Books and Comic-Con, and taught workshops at SCBWI and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference where she’ll be a keynote speaker in 2014. In 2013, she toured Europe for her foreign publishers.

Holiday Baking: Lisa Schroeder’s Favorite Cookies

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Today, we wrap-up our week-long feature on holiday baking and middle grade fiction about baking. But first, author Lisa Schroeder stops by with a guest post about why she loves baking, and shares one of her favorite recipes.

Be sure to check out Lisa’s three great middle grade books about baking:

  • It’s Raining Cupcakes
  • Sprinkles & Secrets
  • Frosting & Friendship

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  lisa baking1          It is a fact: I love to bake. And I’ve loved to bake ever since I was a child. I have really happy memories of baking cookies with my best friend, Laurie, when I was eight and nine years old. Before Christmas, we’d spend an entire day making all kinds of cookies.

Now, as an author, when I spend months writing and editing a book, there is something so very calming and also satisfying about baking up a batch of cookies or cupcakes. I feel so accomplished after I’ve baked up some delicious treats. There are times when I’m frustrated at the computer and the kitchen will call to me. It’s like my brain knows that sometimes the best thing is to step away from the computer and go make something where you can see real results quickly. Suddenly, I don’t feel like such a failure anymore.

lisa baking2Having written an entire book about cupcakes and a cupcake shop, you might think my favorite dessert is cupcakes. But that’s not really the case. I do love them, of course, but I think my favorite desserts are actually fruit tarts and sugar cookies.

I searched long and hard for a great sugar cookie recipe, one that wasn’t plain and boring, but had some real flavor to it, and I finally found it a number of years ago, in “The Oregonian” of all places. Now that I have a great recipe, I also look for cute cookie cutters that aren’t just for Christmas, because I want to be able to eat them all year long! I got some adorable flower cookie cutters at Target, and the cool thing is I can turn the tulip upside down and make ghosts at Halloween.

You want the recipe? I hope so, because I’m going to share it with you!

Best Sugar Cookies

  • 1 ½ cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter (room temp)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 2 ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar

Mix sugar and butter together. Add egg, vanilla, almond extract and mix well. Measure flour by dipping method. Sift flour, baking soda and cream of tartar together, then blend ingredients. Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough to ¼ inch (note: the dough will be hard! Use lots of flour and just keep working it, and it will get soft). Cut with cookie cutter. Sprinkle with sugar if you don’t want to frost them. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until barely brown. Don’t overbake! I like them frosted, and just use the butter cream recipe on the powdered sugar box.

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Baking: Frosting & Friendship by Lisa Schroeder

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We’ve got one more book in Lisa Schroeder’s middle grade series to feature this week in our literary holiday baking tie-in, and that book is Frosting and Friendship – the delicious third tale in this series, which was released just a couple months ago!

frosting and friendshipHas Lily bitten off more than she can bake? A sweet treat from the author of It’s Raining Cupcakes and Sprinkles and Secrets.

On a scale of one to ten, twelve-year-old Lily Hubbard is a zero when it comes to baking. Her cookies turn out salty, her cakes tend to lean, and things are always overcooked.

When Lily is invited to be a part of a mother-daughter book club called The Baking Bookworms, she is excited—and terrified. It seems like she’s the only one who didn’t inherit the baking gene.

But she does have the music gene, which is why she’s forming a band that will audition for their school’s annual Spring Fling. If, that is, Lily can balance her priorities. Because Isabel, one of the Baking Bookworms, has asked Lily to help plan a surprise party for their mutual friend Sophie. And the task is…creating a showstopping, mouthwatering, thirteenth-birthday-party-worthy dessert. Uh. Oh.

Soon, Lily finds herself knee-deep in sugar and sheet music as she tries to juggle her responsibility to her bandmates AND give her friend the best party ever.

For the comments: What dessert would YOU make for your best friend?

Holiday Baking: Sprinkles & Secrets by Lisa Schroeder

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Holiday Baking Week continues today, with a look at the second book in Lisa Schroeder’s It’s Raining Cupcakes middle grade series: Sprinkles & Secrets

SprinklesandSecrets_cvrIn this companion novel to It’s Raining Cupcakes, twelve-year-old Sophie has a dream come true when she’s offered a TV commercial spot. She’s not just happy about the opportunity, she’s over the moon happy!

But then she finds out what exactly she’ll be advertising: the delectable, ever-popular brownies from Beatrice’s Brownies, which just so happens to be the number one competitor to It’s Raining Cupcakes, a cupcake shop owned by her best friend, Isabel’s, family.

Sophie has a tough choice to make: Follow her dreams or crush her best friend. What’s a girl to do?

When Sprinkles & Secrets was being released last year, we invited some of our favorite middle grade authors to share their delicious baking recipes. See them all HERE!

For the comments: What is your favorite thing to bake?

Holiday Baking: It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder

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All this week, we’re featuring Lisa Schroeder’s It’s Raining Cupcakes book series for middle grade readers — to tie in with all that holiday baking you’re likely to be doing this month. (Or if you’re not baking, you’ll at least be sampling some baked goods, right?)

it's raining cupcakesToday, we turn the spotlight onto the first book in the series, It’s Raining Cupcakes:

Twelve-year-old Isabel is dying to get out of her small town of Willow, Oregon, and travel like her best friend, Sophie. But when Isabel’s mother decides to open up a cupcake shop across town, Isabel is once again stuck in Willow for the summer…until she learns of a baking contest where the finalists get an all-expenses paid trip to New York City to compete in the final bake-off. But Sophie is also entering the contest, and Isabel’s mother has reservations. Can Isabel finally realize her dreams of leaving Willow without hurting two of the most important people in her life?

And don’t miss this interview our former middle grade contributor Elena (an ACTUAL middle grader) conducted with Lisa … inside a local cupcake shop!

For the comments: What’s your favorite flavor of cupcake?

The Theory of Everything: Mix Tape Week – “Love” (And a contest for you!)

All this week, we are featuring guest posts from Kari Luna, author of The Theory of Everything – spotlighting playlists/mixtapes featured in the book, and giving you a chance to win an amazing prize pack! (Contest details are at the bottom of this post, so be sure to read all the way to the end.)

“Music was memory. I think that’s why Dad liked making tapes and I liked listening to them. Without leaving my seat or traveling to another universe, I could go somewhere else as often as I wanted, a little world that existed for Dad and me alone.”

Love by Angelino Sophia


When my sister went away to college, I made her mixtapes. Music was everything to me – and I loved sharing it with her. She was the one who went away to London for a semester, came back, and introduced me to the good stuff, anyway: The Smiths, New Order, The Housemartins… the list goes on. Her love of new wave became my love of new wave and forever changed the way I listened to music. She let me borrow her Talking Heads albums. She played me Blondie. And she didn’t officially let me borrow her cool smoking jacket from London but I did, anyway. And somehow, lived to tell about it.

You can tell what was going on in my life by what I put on the tapes – Robyn Hitchcock and Lloyd Cole and songs of love meant it was 1991 and things were changing. In the mix from 1994, though, I seemed happier – more sure of life – and in love with The Breeders, Pavement and PJ Harvey. It makes sense. And it also makes for a perfect snapshot of my life in a certain time and place. A life I shared with my sister, through music.


When it comes to making mixtapes, Sophie’s dad is the master – and he passed the legacy down to her. Some of the rules? Always have a theme. Work diligently on the order of the songs. Name the tape creatively. And most importantly, put a lot of thought into choosing the last song. Like Sophie says in the book, her dad taught her that the last song should always leave a mark.

Love isn’t one of the tapes Dad left behind or made for himself, it’s a tape he made specifically for her. Each song has a message, including the last one. Especially the last one. At its heart, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING is about belonging, no matter who you are – or how many shaman pandas you see.

“I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.”
            – The Smiths, “How Soon Is Now?”

So go ahead – make more mixtapes.  Make more playlists! Put yourself out there and reconnect with an old friend. Tell someone you like them. Or let your sister feel like a part of your life through music. Mixtapes are like little love bombs traveling from one pair of ears to the next. Connecting, delighting, inspiring. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

Thanks so much for listening and reading this week!

Love by Angelino Sophia
Message of Love – The Pretenders
Close To Me – The Cure
Have Love Will Travel – Thee Headcoatees
Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
The Passenger – Iggy Pop
Two Hearts Beat As One – U2
The Village – New Order
How Soon Is Now? – The Smiths

Listen to this playlist on Spotify!

The Theory of Everything Playlist Contest

NoviceGiveawayNow it’s your chance to win the “Love” mix tape – and more! We’re giving away an amazing prize pack, put together by Kari, which features a copy of The Theory of Everything, a TTOE poster, a set of TTOE buttons, a copy of the actual “LOVE” mix tape AND a Walkman!

To enter, submit your ultimate playlist – including title – for your chance to win. Playlists should include between 5-10 songs.

Submit your ultimate playlist using the Novel Novice + TTOE Playlist Contest Entry Form.

Please note the following rules:

  • One entry per person
  • U.S. only
  • Use the entry form
  • Playlist should be 5-10 songs in length (include song title & artist)
  • Playlist should also include an original title

Entries are due by midnight (PT) on Friday, November 8th!

The Theory of Everything: Mix Tape Week – “Delirious Dusk”

All this week, we are featuring guest posts from Kari Luna, author of The Theory of Everything – spotlighting playlists/mixtapes featured in the book, and giving you a chance to win an amazing prize pack!

“Dad loved walking around New York City at night… That was why he made a soundtrack to go with it, full of brooding music that was dark, like the fading night, but inspiring – Tones on Tail, Bauhaus, The Jesus and Mary Chain. It featured driving guitars to match the driving thoughts in my brain.”

Delirious Dusk


There’s definitely a dark side to having a dark side. That’s what this tape is all about. Sure, Sophie’s Dad made it to listen to while walking around at night. But I think it’s a perfect mix for anytime. Especially Halloween! This is the music I listened to the most in high school, the music that made me feel the most understood. Bauhaus. Love and Rockets. The Cure. I’d run in my room, slam the door, put on a record and listen to it – loudly – until the world seemed right again. These are also some of my all-time favorite songs. Sophie likes them, too! So whether you’ve had a fight with your sweetheart/Mom/the world or not, take a walk. Or hole up in your car or room and press play. If you’re not feeling good by Haunted When the Minutes Drag, we need to talk.

Delirious Dusk
Cities In Dust – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Atmosphere – Joy Division
The Hanging Garden – The Cure
Socrates The Python – Peter Murphy
She’s In Parties – Bauhaus
Happiness – Tones on Tail
My Little Underground – The Jesus and Mary Chain
Haunted When The Minutes Drag – Love and Rockets

Listen to this playlist on Spotify!

The Theory of Everything: Mix Tape Week – “Gravitons & Gravy”

All this week, we are featuring guest posts from Kari Luna, author of The Theory of Everything – spotlighting playlists/mixtapes featured in the book, and giving you a chance to win an amazing prize pack!

Gravitons and Gravy

The first time I learned about gravitons, I squealed. The name made me a little giggly on the inside. Plus, gravitons are hypothetical particles like the Sasquatch. Or unicorns! (Don’t worry – I totally believe in both of those things.) I can imagine Sophie’s Dad saying: “Have fun. Don’t worry! It’s all gravitons and gravy!”

I love a ton of songs on this mix. The Cure song slays me – “Oh, I want to change it all…” but it’s the last one that really drives things home. All Sophie’s Dad ever wanted was everything. He wanted her. He wanted his scientific theories to work out. But he also wanted to travel to parallel universes. It’s a fun mix (Siouxie and the Banshees! The B-52′s!) but it’s also poignant.  Sometimes, what you get isn’t what you wanted. But a lot times, what you get is even better.

Gravitons and Gravy
Never Let Me Down Again – Depeche Mode
Private Idaho – The B-52′s
Personality Crisis – New York Dolls
The Killing Jar – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Atomic – Blondie
A Night Like This – The Cure
Love Is Stronger Than Death – The The
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything – Bauhaus

Listen to this playlist on Spotify!