Category Archives: Uncategorized

Help Light the Night in Honor of My Dad

novel novice generic banner

I’ll never forget the day my parents told me my dad had cancer. I was 11 years old, and terrified of what it meant. Would I get sick too? Was my dad going to die? What would happen to him?

IMG_1558editedHe was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer called Mycosis Fungoides — a non-Hodgkin lymphoma. My dad was lucky. 20 years later, he is alive and healthy and here to be a big part of my life. In the past 20 years, he has helped me complete high school and graduate college; he helped my purchase my first home. He helped me start a new career – twice – and now I work with him on a daily basis, and will one day take over the company he founded. He walked me down the aisle. He even helped me brainstorm this very website. That’s right. Novel Novice owes a LOT to my dad.

I am so lucky and grateful that he’s around; that he survived. And it’s thanks, at least in part, to the work of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and their researchers

100That’s why, on October 25th, I will be participating in the Light the Night Walk, supporting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). My husband and my parents will also be walking, as we celebrate 20 years since my dad’s diagnosis. It’s weird to think you’d celebrate something as somber as a cancer diagnosis — but when the patient is still alive and kicking 20 years later, heck YES you celebrate!

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is on the brink of incredible breakthroughs that have already begun to change the lives of thousands of patients like my dad; treatments that can manage a person’s condition with a daily pill, therapies that seek out cancer cells and kill them, and the use of a patient’s own immune system to eradicate cancer not someday, but today.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk funds those treatments. Please consider donating to my walk and help us support the continued fight against these lesser-known cancers.

Book Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand

book reviews banner2
The Sugar Plum Fairy is not coming to the rescue in this darkly reimagined version of a holiday classic. Claire Legrand’s Winterspell is a luscious and seductive twist on The Nutcracker, which will enchant readers from the very beginning.

winterspellNew York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted–by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets–and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed–if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

Winterspell is a mesmerizing read, with a richly imagined world, enchanting characters, and unexpected twists at every turn. The Nutcracker is a brilliant source of inspiration, and the story’s influence is sprinkled throughout the book — and yet Winterspell does not rely on this source material. Legrand has crafted her own plot, her own mythology, and her own dark turns for the story and her characters.

Most of my memories of The Nutcracker come from the Tchaikovsky ballet — and I remember a growing Christmas tree, a dancing teddy bear, and Clara being whisked off to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy, where delicious treats dance for her delight. But Legrand has tapped into the story’s darkest elements for Winterspell: the kindly but mysterious (and sometimes sinister) Heir Drosselmeyer; the battle between the rats and the Nutcracker; a young girl’s disappearance from her home on Christmas Eve.

Winterspell is an intoxicating blend of fairy tale romance and darkness; there is beauty and evil interwoven throughout the book, from start to finish. The result is a mesmerizing story, and the inability to ever think of The Nutcracker in the same way again.

Winterspell is in stores September 30th.

What the Moon Said Review by Abby Bingham

middle grade

Review by 12-year-old, Abby Bingham.

When I read this book my heart just melted over Ester, a little girl from Chicago moon saidwho lived during the Great Depression. Ester doesn’t quite fit in with her family. Her ma is superstitious and is very strict. She believed if you do something wrong it could bring bad luck. For example, once Ester buttoned her shirt wrong and her ma made her go take it off , shake it out, and then put it back on. Ester found her mother’s rules to be difficult but they were deeply ingrained in her. After reading What the Moon said, I actually do some of the things Ma told Ester to do!

Life is hard for Ester and then one day her pa loses his job and they decide to move to a farm. Ester’s family is not happy but she is determined this is her chance to prove she is a hard worker and can do the job right. Ester has high hopes for a new life, but the farm isn’t everything she dreamed it would be. Ester continues to find peace with her mother and herself.

One of the reasons I loved this book is the emotions. I almost felt as if I was there feeling and hearing Ester’s thoughts. What the Moon Said is a book I definitely recommend because I know that you’ll fall in love with the characters , just like I did. You might even find a piece of yourself in one of them. I think everyone should read this book at least once in their lives. This book I will read again. I also hope Gayle Rosengren writes many more books.




More Ideas for Book Promotions

Sara | Novel Novice:

book promotions banner

Expanding on last week’s post, here are even MORE ideas for ways to promote your book. I’d LOVE to work with any of you authors and/or publishers out there through my family business, Jag Forms, on coming up with fun, creative ways to promote your latest title(s).

Originally posted on Jag Forms:

Last week, we featured some real-life examples of projects we’ve done for authors and publishers looking to promote their books. And in the past, we’ve talked about some popular promotional product ideas for books and authors.

Today, we want to share even more! These are some of our favorite ideas for authors and/or publishers to consider when promoting different books:

Character Swag

Maybe your character is known for wearing a plastic ring or a special charm bracelet. Or maybe he loves Hershey’s miniatures. Or maybe she wears a certain piece of jewelry, or has an iconic pair of sunglasses. Simon & Schuster recently sent out pairs of red heart-shaped sunglasses for Morgan Matson’s new book Since You’ve Been Gone. You’ll notice they’re the same sunglasses one of the characters is wearing on the book’s cover:

since you've been gonesince you've been gone mailer

Whatever this item is – why not produce it for your fans to wear…

View original 486 more words

#RockTheDrop 2014: Some Thoughts

novel novice generic banner
So today was #RockTheDrop – an annual effort organized by readergirlz and partners to promote Teen Reads Day, by encouraging people to leave YA books out in the wild for teen readers to discover them.

tbd2014I’ve participated for several years now, and I discovered something this year: teachers and librarians have no idea what this is.

It was raining something wicked today here in Portland, OR, so I decided to leave most of my books inside at a couple of local high schools. I’ve left books at high schools before, but usually I darted in during quiet parts of the day and never encountered any school staff. I snuck in, left books, and snuck out.

This year I ventured out during lunchtime. (A mistake, perhaps?) At both high schools I visited, I checked in with the front desk, since it was so crowded, and I didn’t want security giving me the stink eye.

And at both schools, I was met by the most confused reactions. At one school, the woman I spoke to actually seemed cranky that I wanted to leave free books for students to find — and the security guard thought I was wasting my time. (I kindly told him to give the students more credit; not all of them may be readers, but I promised him there were readers at his school, and the right students would find the books).

At another school, I spent probably 20 minutes trying to explain the concept to the school librarian, who just seemed baffled by the entire thing. “But how do they find the books?” she asked. I tried to explain, the book was for anyone who walked by and discovered it. The administrator at this school was at least kinder than the first — but she also seemed sort of baffled.

So readergirlz and future #RockTheDrop organizers, here is my suggestion:

Every year, you give us a fantastic book plate to print out and affix to our books before we drop them out in the world. Maybe give us a pamphlet or brochure we can print at home and hand out to the teachers, librarians, etc. we encounter while trying to execute these book drops.

And maybe, you know, work to expand awareness of what #RockTheDrop is all about.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at all the books I dropped off this year:

rtd1 rtd2 rtd3 rtd4 rtd5For the comments: How do you think we can increase awareness of #RockTheDrop?

The Blessed Giveaway Winners!


The Giveaway for The Blessed sets have been picked and we are happy to announce our TWO lucky winners!

They are: Alicia Ezell and Breana Montgomery!  Precious Bloodpassionaries

Thanks for entering and happy reading! :)

Book Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

book reviews banner2

By the time you finish reading this review you will be online purchasing both ‘Pivot Point‘ and Kasie’s next book in this duo ‘Split Second‘ which hit bookstores Feb 12th, 2014!

pivot point

Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought.  One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

So, Addie is a Searcher.   She lives in a safe community where everyone has different abilities.  Her mom is a Persuasive, meaning she can persuade others to do as she wants, and her father is a Discerner, meaning he is able to see truth from lies.

Addie’s big decision that Pivot Point is based around her parent’s decision to divorce.  Her parent’s give her the choice on which parent she would like to live with.  If she lives with her mom, Addie will stay in the home she grew up in surrounded by her friends and in the same school.  However, if she moves to live with her dad she will be living the safe community and unable to talk about her abilities with anyone.

Addie starts off with her mom and uses her Search ability to see how her life would be if she chose to stay there.  She also uses her Search ability to see how her life would be if she goes out of the community to live with her father.  These choices are told in alternate chapters.

At first, it was hard to know which future I hoped for more but after 2 chapters of each I figured out what I hoped would happen.  I won’t tell you which one since I do not want to spoil any of the fun for you!

I loved meeting Trevor and was dismayed with Addie’s friendship with Laila.  It’s great that she has such a dramatic friend but I would be happy for her to leave Laila behind.

I’m really excited to find out what happens in Split Seccond which came out this week.  GO and BUY both books!

Check out Kasie West online at her Website, Twitter and on Goodreads.

Book Review: Passionaries by Tonya Hurley

book reviews banner2

One would hope that if you are visiting our review for ‘Passionaries’ (The Blessed #2) by Tonya Hurley you have read ‘Precious Blood’ (The Blessed #1) but even if you haven’t we have for you a spoiler free review.


Agnes, Cecelia, and Lucy watched as Sebastian sacrificed himself for what he believed in. Will the girls trust that their destiny as saints and martyrs and perform the miracles as Sebastian instructed? Or lose faith in themselves and each other in his absence? Time is running out for them to make a decision, and the fate of the world lies in the balance.

The end of ‘Precious Blood’ was a shock but also completely fitting for the storyline Tonya has woven with Agnes, Cecilia, Lucy and Sebastian.In Precious Blood, we met Dr. Frey.  Fear not, for Dr. Frey is BACK and the creep(y) factor is still there.  He continues to wreak havoc between the girls.  While I do not want to be a patient of Dr. Frey, I do love what he brings to the storyline.

As with ‘Precious Blood’, death is not in short supply.  I am definitely looking forward to book 3 and am wondering who we will end up with at the end.  After the tough situations the girls have lived through I am wondering what life afterward will look like.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Prepare to fall in love with a young boy named Jude.  No, I am not giving out information about him because YOU should go read this book!

Not only do we learn more history of the Saints thanks to Dr. Frey’s intrigues, we also go behind the scenes of the Catholic Church.  Reading ‘Passionaries’ inspired me to go online to find photos and floor plans for the Vatican.  I enjoyed reading up a bit on what different areas were built for and how they are currently being used.  One area I looked into is the Borgia which is included in my Q&A with Tonya in the previous post.  Go and check out the picture!

One of my favorite parts about The Blessed series are the illustrated pages that have character hymns, elegies and visions.  In fact, I admit to going back and reading them twice as they are so intricately written.  Plus I am always trying to figure out if they are dreams or actually happening.

While I haven’t talked about what Agnes, Cecilia and Lucy they are of course the most important part of the story.  However, I want you to discover, as I did, how hard it will be to put down this book while you continue to learn more about their backgrounds and what they are up against in ‘Passionaries’.

Stop by our Giveaway post and enter to WIN copies of ‘Precious Blood’ (book 1) and ‘Passionaries’ (book 2). Then check out our Photo based post about the characters! Plus check out the Q&A post.  To learn more stop by the newly updated ‘The Blessed’ webpageTonya’s Webpage and THEN go follow Tonya on Twitter. You know you want to.

Exclusive Q & A with Tonya Hurley


To prepare myself for Tonya Hurley’s new book ‘Passionaries’ which is book 2 in The Blessed series I re-read ‘Precious Blood’ on a trip I took recently.  I admit I had ‘Passionaries’ with me as lovely folks at Simon & Schuster sent me a copy so I read both books in one weekend.  Since I was on an airplane and had a TON of questions about the books I created a list on my iPad to ask Tonya later.  Shout out to Tonya for being willing to answer my very random questions.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 7.20.16 PM

When I was re-reading ‘Precious Blood’ I picked up on the fact that you use numbers at the beginning of each chapter for each girl: 3 Agnes, 7 Lucy and 13 Cecilia.  Since it is throughout both books I wondered if it was related to theBible or from something else you had read about the Saints. (Example photo from ‘Passionaries’ on right)

I wanted to use numbers like the Bible so I chose 13, 7 and 3.  All considered holy numbers.  Cecilia is 13 because she’s badass, Lucy is 7 because she’s known as Lucky Lucy, and Agnes is 3 to represent a trinity – which, other than the 3 girls themselves, will be revealed.

How did you come up with the special pages for the specific characters Hymns, visions, and elegies that are throughout the series?

I wanted to incorporate some aspects of the character’s sainthood that would be very personal and relevant to the story but not part of the narrative. Also, it’s a way for the characters to act out their feelings – perfect for love scenes and fantasies.

The headpiece on page 104 of ‘Passionaries’ for Lucy is the headpiece from ‘Precious Blood’. Did you find one like it somewhere online or in person or did you dream it up?

I basically dreamed it up.  I wanted to combine something I thought would be fashion forward, since Lucy is all about style in many ways, and also a piece that suggested a relic.  A piece of art. The bones and pearls seemed to make sense to me.  Beauty, death and immortality.  Three big themes that run through the series.

Sister Dorothea and Agnes discuss the phenomena of Bilocation. How did you learn about that? (pg 170/1)

In my early research for the book on the legends of saints and martyrs.  There were certain special abilities attributed to these men and women and bilocation was one of them.  I thought it would be interesting to endow the characters in the Blessed with some of these powers or at least the suggestion of them.

Jude speaks to Agnes every time he sees her and yet Agnes has the feeling something is different about him.  Sister Dorothea tells her that he is ecstatic.  What does that mean? (Page 171) 

It can mean many things. An ecstatic is someone who undergoes mystical experiences and who often believes that the truth is revealed to them in visions.

On page 200 of ‘Passionaries’ we end up at the Borgia Apartment. Can you tell me what a Borgia Apartment is?

Sala Dei Santi - Borgia Apartment

It is one of several Papal apartments in the Vatican.

Did you interview any clergy or was all of your research conducted via books and the internet for the background and saints of this series?

I was raised Catholic so I had some idea about the lives of the Saints and the traditions that surround them but most of my background information came from research. I’ve had the opportunity to chat with several priests since I wrote the Blessed and that has been interesting to say the least.

Where did you find the Latin phrases and how did you fit them in? A bit like the chicken and the egg question. Had you read them during your research and then add them in or did you write the story and go back later to add in the phrases once you had them translated?

They come from several places.  Some Biblical, some not.  Bits of prayers, poems and other things I’ve read and researched that fit that moment.’I felt strongly that I needed to connect this story, which is a very gritty and modern day fantasy, and the characters to the ancient and mystical aspects of the martyr traditions. The use of Latin felt like one way to do that.

We are so thrilled Tonya could answer my burning questions about The Blessed series.  I can not wait until Book 3 is out!!

Stop by our Giveaway post and enter to WIN copies of ‘Precious Blood’ (book 1) and ‘Passionaries’ (book 2). Then check out our Photo based post about the characters!  To learn more stop by the newly updated ‘The Blessed’ webpage, Tonya’s Webpage and THEN go follow Tonya on Twitter. You know you want to.

‘The Blessed’ via Pinterest photos & artwork


As I read ‘The Blessed’ and ‘Passionaries’ much of my daydreaming was spent attempting to picture the amazing clothing, headpieces and surroundings I was immersed in…along with Agnes, Cecilia and Lucy.  I wondered if Tonya had drawn up visions of the headpieces I read so much about.  Wanted to tour the church mentioned so frequently throughout the books and yes I wanted to go downstairs to the sacred room where….oh right NO SPOILERS HERE!

So a few months ago when I was rummaging through my friends Pinterest boards and came across the board Tonya Hurley had labelled as ‘The Blessed’ I was intrigued.  I’m not sure how long I spent clicking on each photo and staring at the detail and beauty of the fashions as well as the gothic beauty before I realized I had to ask Tonya about her inspiration and use of the Pinterest board.

Tonya had this to say, ‘I am very inspired by fashion. Music. Life.  So the fashion aspects of my boards help inspire me!’

All of the images below are pulled from Tonya’s Pinterest page and are clickable directly back to her board.


Starting with this simple yet complete image (above) of how I imagine Sebastian at the church.  Although I admit to picturing him slightly less clothed.  The elegance found among the images Tonya has pinned always has me checking back to see what she has found and added.

Moving along to Cecilia, for me to narrow down the photos to a reasonable amount was difficult.  I admit Cecilia is, after two books, my absolute favorite of the three young ladies.  I want to rock out and whip my attitude around as she is

so succinctly able to do.  *waits for Tonya’s brother in law to call about setting up guitar lessons*

As I wait, let’s talk about how I adore the cover design for ‘Passionaries’ and how it relates back to Cecilia.

The purple and black are what I have come to think of as her personal colors.  This black/white photo is exactly how I picture Cecilia.  When she has to deal with Dr. Frey or any of the naysayers I imagine this to be her facial expression.  Also, awesome headpiece for the win!


Now truly when I picture her dressing for a rock performance the veil I want to see her wearing is actually this photo to the left!

This black strand veil with a beautifully designed head piece inspires head banging and flailing all over the stage as Cecilia shreds her guitar.  Bonus: Subtle ability to hide her face making her appear even more secretive and desired by the crowd.


Now when Cecilia is rocking out her nails are torn up but for some reason I couldn’t let go of her starting off with beautiful nails that reflect the love she has for Sebastian.  I found this photo and they really only work for her.


I am a big fan of Taylor Momsen. In fact when I went to Warped Tour 2010, the big reason I went was to see her.  It was most definitely the highlight of my day!  The bonus was the signing tent after as I love meeting artists and authors!  It was one of the few music acts I wanted to see.  My friend B-tez would tell you I dragged her to that set…and I figured she & my other friends owed me for making me spend the rest of my day seeing their choices…haha  So I’m clearly taking a bit of artistic license here when I point out that my next few picks are not only clothes I can see Taylor wearing but also Cecilia.  I wonder if Tonya agrees that they could be friends? know if Cecilia was not a fictional character that is…

So above are the boot/leggings that I love….and really why hasn’t anyone bought those for me? You know..maybe don’t answer that.  I admit I found two pairs of boots that combined would be PERFECT…so here they are below! I admit the benefit of having curved blades that you could grab quickly, and use to fight off Dr. Frey or anyone else, would be a great benefit to Cecilia.

boots1 boots2


This was probably my favorite find on Tonya’s Pinterest board after those leggings above…this Articulated Hood would be so beneficial to Cecilia for slipping out of the club when the crowd goes crazy after her sets.  I can also imagine her ducking down alleys and into the church with the stealth I know only Cecilia has. 

Now I know my adoration for Cecilia has probably overwhelmed you but I do have a few picks for Agnes and Lucy.  Ready?


For Agnes, viriginal, pure and with an inner strength to go against all who rail against her I figured the items I felt drawn to would illustrate the quiet strength that surprises those who do not truly know her.


Now this is the beautiful floral headpiece I imagine Agnes pairing with the white dress above along with the make-up that I imagine Lucy would do while they are sitting in the pews of the church getting to know each other or catching up on what has happened in each other’s lives.


For this dress and gold headpiece to the right, I think Agnes would be the first to take scissors to the bottom two or three layers to shorten it in order to climb out her bedroom window.  The gold headpiece would be added later once she reached the church.  The man she is stepping on is one of those horrid cops from ‘The Blessed’.  Okay so technically a cop would be dressed but…just GO WITH IT people.


Of course with Lucy being the It Girl of the group, I couldn’t imagine picking out anything but the following blatant HERE I AM gown for her.  I wonder how long after Lucy shows up at the club with photos posted online this dress would sell out? This dress is also on my wish list for someone to buy me.

Oh did I mention I picked out a headpiece appropriate with some edits for Lucy?


This red rose headpiece is not quite how I imagine it.  I picture the roses being dipped in gold around the edges and the long part hanging down would be turned around to the  back of her head.  Really this outfit is the perfect outfit for that disastrous night out Lucy is bound to have as she attempts to distance herself from Cecilia, Agnes and thoughts of Sebastian.

gildedOf course her make up would need to be spectacular as only Lucy can pull off. So to the left is how I know her eyes would look. Only a hunch here that the lips would have to be a bold ruby red to match the dress above.  Quite possibly her hair would be braided in a crown around her head and her ears would have dangling ruby red earrings.

So which item(s) are you favorite? Did I not pick something on Tonya’s Pinterest page that you think fits Agnes, Cecilia or Lucy better?  Leave me a link so I can check it out!

To learn more stop by the newly updated ‘The Blessed’ webpageTonya’s Webpage and THEN go follow Tonya on Twitter. You know you want to.