Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras Guest Post: Creative Inspiration

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Today, I’m excited to share an exclusive guest post from Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras. We’re featuring Strays all this week on the blog, so tune in every day for new features, including your chance to win a copy of the book!

For now, here is Jennifer’s guest post:

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Creative Inspiration for My Novel, Strays
by Jennifer Caloyeras

straysA story isn’t born out of thin air, there’s always some sort of inspiration. I’ve written stories inspired by dreams. And I’ve also written stories that have been inspired by real life.

For my latest young adult novel, Strays, a few different experiences converged.

The idea initially occurred when I was doing some research for a dog column years ago. I was writing an article on an organization called K-9 connection based in Santa Monica. Here, teens in continuation school are paired up with homeless dogs. They learn how to train and trust these dogs and in turn gain confidence themselves. As I was writing this column, I put this idea in my back pocket (and into my writing journal) thinking, “this would be a great premise for a story!”

jennifer_caloyeras_high2Roman, the three-legged Pit bull in the story, was inspired by my own challenging experience adopting an aggressive pit mix. Willie, our puppy, had redirected aggressive issues (same as the fictitious Roman). This means that when Willie couldn’t attack the thing he wanted (another dog, for example) he would redirect his aggression to whomever was at the end of his leash (yours truly). I learned a lot about dog psychology while training Willie.

Iris, the sixteen year old protagonist in my novel, ends up in summer school for English. English was always my favorite subject in school and I was lucky to have so many wonderful and supportive English teachers. Perry, the kind and compassionate summer school teacher in my novel, is an amalgam of all my amazing English teachers.

jennifer caloyeras2I have always had a fascination with fairy tales, especially ones that are inverted or told from a different point of view. I discovered Angela Carter’s short story collection, “The Bloody Chamber” when I was in graduate school. I loved Carter’s feminist twist on beloved tales so I worked her novel into my story. These fairy tales always deal with recurring tropes and for Iris, it’s the story of both the missing mother and the wild child that she really finds a connection.

Finally, I needed a setting for my story. In the story, the ocean reminds Iris of her late mother, who loved to swim in the waves, so I knew I needed a beachside community and I settled on Santa Cruz, California. I know Santa Cruz well because I went to college there. Santa Cruz is such a serene and beautiful place, I thought it would be a good juxtaposition of Iris and Roman’s anger issues.

So, as you can see, this novel was inspired by an intersection of many different ideas and experiences!

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Connect with Jennifer online:

New YA Releases: May 19, 2015

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

chantress furyChantress Fury by Amy Butler Greenfield

The sea is coming. We are coming. And we will drown you all.

With a song, Lucy can control the wind and the water; she can bring castles and kingdoms to their feet. Since Lucy mastered her powers, King Henry has kept her close as he’s rebuilt England. She’s his best ally—and his workhorse. And now he’s called her to investigate attempted murder: His men claim they were almost killed on the Thames…by a mermaid. All Lucy can glean from the creature they’ve captured is a warning: The sea is coming. We are coming. And we will drown you all.

And then the floods begin. Swaths of London are submerged as the people scramble to defend themselves against the water—and the monsters—that are flooding their streets. As mistrust of Lucy’s magic grows, the king relies on Nat, Lucy’s great love, to guide them through the storm. But Nat is cold and distant to Lucy. He swore his love only a year before, and now he calls her “stranger.”

Lucy is determined to defeat this powerful new magic alone if she must. But then she hears an eerie song within the water…can it mean that she’s not the last Chantress after all?

Sweepingly romantic and crackling with magic, Chantress Fury triumphantly concludes the powerful Chantress trilogy.

convictionConviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch al- ready has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

eternity's wheelEternity’s Wheel by Mallory Reaves, Michael Reaves & Neil Gaiman

The conclusion to the bestselling InterWorld series, from Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves!

Joey Harker never wanted to be a leader. But he’s the one everyone is looking to now that FrostNight looms, and he’ll have to step up if he has any hope of saving InterWorld, the Multiverse, and everything in between.

Eternity’s Wheel is the heart-pounding conclusion to the InterWorld series, full of time and space travel, magic, science, and the bravery of a young boy who must now face his destiny as a young man.

improbably theory of ana and zakThe Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak is Stonewall Book Award-winning author Brian Katcher’s hilarious he said/she said romance about two teens recovering from heartbreak and discovering themselves on an out-of-this-world accidental first date.

It all begins when Ana Watson’s little brother, Clayton, secretly ditches the quiz bowl semifinals to go to the Washingcon sci-fi convention on what should have been a normal, résumé-building school trip.

If slacker Zak Duquette hadn’t talked up the geek fan fest so much, maybe Clayton wouldn’t have broken nearly every school rule or jeopardized Ana’s last shot at freedom from her uptight parents.

Now, teaming up with Duquette is the only way for Ana to chase down Clayton in the sea of orcs, zombies, bikini-clad princesses, Trekkies, and Smurfs. After all, one does not simply walk into Washingcon.

But in spite of Zak’s devil-may-care attitude, he has his own reasons for being as lost as Ana-and Ana may have more in common with him than she thinks. Ana and Zak certainly don’t expect the long crazy night, which begins as a nerdfighter manhunt, to transform into so much more…

off the pageOff the Page by Samantha van Leer & Jodi Picoult

From #1 New York Times bestselling authors Jodi Picoult and her daughter and co-writer, Samantha van Leer, comes OFF THE PAGE, a tender and appealing romantic YA novel filled with humor, adventure, and magical relationships.

Sixteen-year-old Delilah is finally united with Oliver—a prince literally taken from the pages of a fairy tale. There are, however, complications now that Oliver has been able to enter the real world. To exist in Delilah’s world, Oliver must take the place of a regular boy. Enter Edgar, who agrees to take Oliver’s role in Delilah’s favorite book. In this multilayered universe, the line between what is on the page and what is possible is blurred, but all must be resolved for the characters to live happily ever after. Includes twelve full-color illustrations, and black-and-white decorations throughout.

Full of humor and witty commentary about life, OFF THE PAGE is a stand-alone novel as well as a companion to the authors’ bestseller Between the Lines, and is perfect for readers looking for a fairytale ending. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Meg Cabot are sure to appreciate this novel about love, romance, and relationships.

sense of the infiniteA Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.

But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith’s second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

three day summerThree Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash

Michael is unsure about most things. Go to college? Enlist in the military? Break up with his girlfriend? All big question marks. He is living for the moment and all he wants is a few days at the biggest concert of the summer.

Cora lives in the town hosting the music festival. She’s volunteering in the medical tent. She’s like that, always the good girl. But there is something in the air at this concert and suddenly Cora finds herself wanting to push her own boundaries.

When Michael and Cora meet, sparks fly, hearts race, and all the things songs are written about come true. And all the while, three days of the most epic summer await them…

illusionariumIllusionarium by Heather Dixon

What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

killer withinKiller Within by S.E. Green

In the heart-pounding sequel, teen vigilante Lane must face the secrets and unexpected consequences that arise in the wake of her first kill.

It’s been three months since the sadistic Decapitator’s demise, and Lane feels both closer to and more alienated than ever from her united, grieving family. Haunted by conflicting memories, she resumes the role of Masked Savior vigilante—but her heart just isn’t in it. For Lane now knows the rush of deeper thrills. Darker thrills. And a growing part of her wants to revisit its seductive power.

To Lane’s chagrin, the Masked Savior inspires its own fan site, where groupies gather online to praise, document, and debate each delivered act of justice. But then one of Lane’s secret admirers becomes a cunning copycat, assaulting the defenseless with escalating violence. And Lane suspects someone is spying on her, edging closer to making contact-someone who knows her secrets.

Will Lane be able to stop the copycat and keep her identity protected? Or will she give in to the thrills that tempt her? Because as her life continues to unravel, the revelations shake Lane to her core.

made you upMade You Up by Francesca Zappia

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

sparks in scotlandSparks in Scotland by Rhonda Helms & A. Destiny

First crush, first love, first kiss—Ava learns about more than her heritage while vacationing in Scotland in this addition to the sweet and clean Flirt series!

Ava is going on vacation to Scotland, where she’s supposed to learn more about her Scottish heritage. She’s excited to see the castles, abbeys, and coastal hills—and maybe even catch a glimpse of Nessie herself—but Ava doesn’t expect to meet Graham.

He’s cute, sweet, and has the perfect Scottish accent…but does he like her as much as she likes him?

And if there is something of a mutual attraction there, Ava wonders, is it worth pursuing a crush when she’ll be on the other side of the Atlantic in just two weeks?

dangerous deceptionDangerous Deception by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

From the world of Beautiful Creatures–a dangerous new tale of love and magic continues in the sequel to Dangerous Creatures.

Love is ten kinds a crazy, right?
Let me put it to you this way: If you can get away, run. Don’t walk.
Because once you’re exposed, you’ll never get a Siren outta your head.

Some loves are cursed. Others are…dangerous. Especially the love between wannabe rocker and quarter Incubus, Wesley “Link” Lincoln, and Dark Caster, Siren, and bonafide bad girl, Ridley Duchannes.

But now Ridley is missing, and Link was with her-right up until she vanished. Determined to find her, Link reunites with his New York bandmates and the mysterious Lennox Gates, who wants Rid for himself. Together they travel to the deep south, find the crossroads where blues guitarist Robert Johnson made his deal with the devil, discover a menagerie of Casters locked in cages, and uncover an evil in New Orleans that threatens to destroy them all.

This time, love might not be enough.

school for unusual girlsA School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts…

last good day of the yearThe Last Good Day of the Year by Jessica Warman

Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder.

Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.

Master storyteller Jessica Warman keeps readers guessing in this arresting page-turner.

hold me like a breathHold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can’t protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family’s line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

lion heartLion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince’s clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

scarlett undercoverScarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks — and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.

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

March & April 2015 Contest Winners

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Well, I was doing SO GOOD for a while there — being on top of contest winners regularly each month. Then we started planning a move, and that all went away … alas. ANYWAY, I’m here now with a catch-up on contest winners from March & April. Thanks for your patience, and now … the winners!

LIES I TOLD Contest

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One winner receives a LIES I TOLD prize pack. Another winner receives a Harper Teen ARC prize pack.

The winner of the LIES I TOLD prize pack is: Kimberly V.

The winner of the Harper Teen ARC prize pack is: Cindy K.

ZEROBOXER Poster Contest

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The winner of this contest receives a copy of ZEROBOXER by Fonda Lee, plus two fight posters inspired by the book.

The winner is: Shannon Quinn Nicole

THE REMEDY Prize Pack Contest

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The winner of this contest receives a Philosophy Purity facial cleanser set and a copy of The Remedy.

The winner is: Autumn Wrought

FINDING MR. BRIGHTSIDE Contest

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The winner of this contest receives a copy of Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark.

The winner is: Tayte

THE WINNER’S CRIME Contest

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We asked you, what would you pay too much for? The winner of this contest receives a copy of The Winner’s Crime.

The winner is: Rachelle Hayes

THE TIGHTROPE WALKERS Contest

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Two winners will each receive a copy of The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond.

The winners are: Danielle Degis and bn100

THE WALLS AROUND US Writing Contest

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The winner of this contest will receive a finished copy of The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. We asked you to submit a 250-500 word piece, describing a teen penitentiary in some way.

The winner is Stephanie Parke and here is their entry:

The cold gray light of dawn filters slowly through my bars. They are spaced wide enough that my skeletal body might fit through, too bad they re electrified. One touch and I would be cooked like bacon.  I search blindly with my hands  wincing at the blunted bloody tips.  Scrabbling on the hard scratchy surface of the cement blocks of my cell stripped the skin right off but I had to find a way to mark the time. I find what i am looking for scratched deep into the unforgiving surface, and I begin to count them, just as I do every morning.

The numbers roll around in my head like bees buzzy angrily and I try to catch them but they flitter away into the darkness. I shiver as I scratch the stubble on my shaved head and wonder how much longer they will really keep me here. My crime was a joke, a made up distraction to force me here because I am one of the Gifted.

The government started rounding us up a year ago, identifying us as”Gifted”.  Those of us who are able to control nature or others were quickly labeled. Those labels quickly became our inmate numbers as Gifted crime sprees began popping up overnight. We were imprisoned, reconditioned.

The coughing starts again and I wonder if it will kill me this time. Ever since the day they dragged us in here the cough has been coming more and more frequently . I don’t know if it’s the damp of the cells or something more sinister, but I cannot breathe as my lungs begin to close over once more. I gasp and reach for my twin sister’s still form under the blanket, hoping she can help. I pull her blanket as I hit my knees and pull it off her.

The shock is so sudden as I stare into her sightless eyes that my coughing actually stops. I stare at her,, my mirror image and shake harder. I know Tali a didn’t want to die any more than I do, but here she is, cold and dead before her time . I feel the tears on my cheeks as i reach to close her eyes. .

I study the marks scratched above her bed, identical ]to mine and count them. She had seventy five. We had lived through it, just for her to die like this.  Tali a and I have the same gift, the ability to control the weather,. Not that I can use it thanks to the inhibitor collars we are forced to wear.  I feel desolation sink in and try to fight it as I pull myself up on the cot with her and cry harder.  Her skin is cold and her body thin beneath it. I know I look just as bad. I wonder if I will die too, I wonder if anyone will care.

Congrats again to all our winners! See our latest contests HERE!

 

Giveaway Celebrating The President’s Shadow by Brad Meltzer

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Today, we’re excited to be hosting a fun giveaway for The President’s Shadow, the third installment in #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer’s thrilling Culper Ring series. (Prizing provided courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.)

 

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TAKE A TRIP THROUGH THE ARCHIVES WITH BEECHER WHITE prize pack

President's Shadow Prize Pack

One (1) winner receives:

  • A National Archives tumbler;
  • Plus copies of The Inner Circle, The Fifth Assassin, and The President’s Shadow.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. Contest runs through midnight (PT) on Monday, May 26th.

Prizing and samples provided by Grand Central Publishing.

Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form HERE.

about the book
PresidentsShadowCoverTHE PRESIDENT’S SHADOW
By Brad Meltzer
In stores June 16th

Following The Inner Circle and The Fifth Assassin, #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer returns with The President’s Shadow.

A severed arm, found buried in the White House Rose Garden.

A lethal message with terrible consequences for the Presidency.

And a hidden secret in one family’s past that will have repercussions for the entire nation.

There are stories no one knows. Hidden stories. I find those stories for a living.

To most, it looks like Beecher White has an ordinary job. A young staffer with the National Archives in Washington, D.C., he’s responsible for safekeeping the government’s most important documents . . . and, sometimes, its most closely held secrets.

But there are a powerful few who know his other role. Beecher is a member of the Culper Ring, a 200-year-old secret society founded by George Washington and charged with protecting the Presidency.

Now the current occupant of the White House needs the Culper Ring’s help. The alarming discovery of the buried arm has the President’s team in a rightful panic. Who buried the arm? How did they get past White House security? And most important: What’s the message hidden in the arm’s closed fist? Indeed, the puzzle inside has a clear intended recipient, and it isn’t the President. It’s Beecher, himself.

Beecher’s investigation will take him back to one of our country’s greatest secrets and point him toward the long, carefully hidden truth about the most shocking history of all: family history.

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about the author
BradMeltzerPhotoBrad Meltzer is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers The Inner Circle, The Book of Fate, and six other bestselling thrillers. His nonfiction books, Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter, were also New York Times bestsellers. He is the host of the History Channel series Brad Meltzer’s Decoded and the Eisner Award-winning writer of Justice League of America. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Columbia Law School, he currently lives in Florida. You can find much more about him at www.BradMeltzer.com. You can also see what he’s doing right now at Facebook.com/bradmeltzer and Twitter.com/bradmeltzer.

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The Artisans by Julie Reece: Blog Tour Guest Post & Contest

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Today, we’re excited to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Artisans by Julie Reece, now in stores. Below, check out our guest post from Julie, then keep reading to learn more about The Artisans and enter to win a copy of the book!

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~My Favorite Writing Spot~
by Julie Reece

Julie ReeceMost of the time, I write in my bed, or catch a few moments at work (shhh) don’t tell. I even write on my laptop in the car when my husband and I are on a road trip (and to answer your question, yes, he is a saint). But my most favoritist <<I know it’s not a real word, but I like it, and it’s staying>> place to write is at the barn. I don’t own this barn, it belongs to my boss. The man is eighty-six-years-old and still rides every week. He’s pretty much John Wayne, and he lets us keep our horses there free of charge in exchange for shoveling poo. That’s another story.

Anyway, I get interrupted a lot when I’m writing. I’m dyslexic and have ADD, so interrupting me is easy. At home it’s a loud TV, a whooshing dishwasher, kids who can’t remember where they put their shoes, or a cat that thinks my lap is his throne. At work its phone calls or pesky clients who dare to come to the office and, you know, actually want my attention. Sheesh.

At the barn, I can’t say I’m not distracted, but it’s different out there.

The-Artisans-CoverI pull up a soccer chair in the breezeway between the stalls and sit with my laptop. The shade keeps the heat off, but the wind is subtle and warm. My husband is mowing, so I smell gas and oil, but the breeze mixes the scent with fresh-cut grass. The sound of the motor makes a constant, dull hum and it works just like white noise in my brain—easily tuned out. Horses whinny and munch hay. A bee whizzes past my head, a dog barks, wind rattles the leaves in the massive oak trees over the roof. You’d think every little sound would drive me batty, like it does at work, but no. Somehow, the natural sounds are peaceful and, if anything, they drive my imagination harder. I’m more productive out here.

Eventually, clouds pass over the sun and the sky darkens. I look at my cell and four hours have passed like four minutes. I glance up and notice the mower has stopped. My husband walks over and kisses the top of my head. He smiles down at me. “Done writing?”

“Never,” I say, and we give each other these big, stupid grins because we both know it’s true. I’ll be finished when I’m dead.

Then we load up the car and drive off somewhere to grab dinner out. We talk and laugh. It’s a good day. A day wrapped in peace, and magic, and creativity. I’m more thankful for that little barn than I can say.

So, how about you? Do you have a favorite place that feels special above any other? I’d love for you to leave a comment and tell me all about it!

My thanks to Sara and everyone at Novel Novice for having me here today and for being awesome! Thinking about my favorite writing place this week has made me grateful all over again.

XOXOX
Julie

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about the bookTitle: The Artisans
Publication date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Julie Reece

They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?

Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | kobo | TBD

Add The Artisans on GoodReads

Check out the rest of the blog tour HERE!

about the authorBorn in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.

I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.

Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.

Then I thought I’d write one down…

Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of The Artisans by Julie Reece (INT). Winner will be chosen on June 19th.

Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form HERE!

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Book Review: Strays by Jennifer Caloyeras

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Today, I am pleased to be kicking off a new week-long feature for a really remarkable new YA novel — in stores now — about the unique relationship between an outcast teen girl and an unwanted dog. Be sure to tune in every day this week for more unique content about the book, plus your chance to win a copy.

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A touching story about the unlikely bond between a troubled teen and an unwanted dog, Strays by Jennifer Caloyeras embodies the spirit and power of second chances.

straysSometimes, life becomes unleashed…

Sixteen-year-old Iris Moody has a problem controlling her temper—but then, she has a lot to be angry about. Dead mother. Workaholic father. Dumped by her boyfriend. Failing English.

When a note in Iris’s journal is mistaken as a threat against her English teacher, she finds herself in trouble not only with school authorities but with the law.

In addition to summer school, dog-phobic Iris is sentenced to an entire summer of community service, rehabilitating troubled dogs. Iris believes she is nothing like Roman, the three-legged pit bull who is struggling to overcome his own dark past, not to mention the other humans in the program. But when Roman’s life is on the line, Iris learns that counting on the help of others may be the only way to save him.

With sparkling prose and delightful humor, Jennifer Caloyeras’s novel beautifully portrays the human-animal bond.

Strays is a quietly moving story about starting over, and the powerful bond that can form between animals and humans. Caloyeras’ prose is instantly captivating, and readers will feel for Iris’s agony and her pain. Iris is a multi-faceted character — as are the others we are introduced to throughout the story. These fully-realized individuals — both people and dogs — who populate the story are what really bring Strays to life.

It’s also refreshing to find a more mature story about the human-animal bond. So often, stories about animals are geared towards younger readers (or they are traumatizingly heartbreaking, thank you very much, Marley & Me, ahem). Strays is an ultimately uplifting and hopeful story — but certainly deals with tough subjects in a mature fashion that both teens and adult readers will appreciate.

Beyond the bond between animal and human, Strays is also about the bond between individuals — friends, family, teachers, partners. And the parallels between Iris and Roman help show that everybody — whether you walk on two legs or four — sometimes needs a hand up, and a second chance.

Strays is in stores now.

 

Beyond The Game of Love & Death: 1930s Jazz Music

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For today’s Book of the Month post, we’re going beyond The Game of Love & Death itself, and we’re exploring a topic featuring prominently in the story: 1930s jazz music. There’s a lot to cover in one little decade of music, but today we’re bringing you just the briefest overview to whet your whistle.

Jazz Greats of the 1930s

Millposter1Jazz music became wildly popular in the U.S. in the 1930s, and several composers and band leaders were at the forefront of the genre. Here are some of the key figures in jazz (swing & big band) music during the ’30s:

Hit Songs of the 1930s

You may think you don’t know any music from the 1930s — but chances are, you’ll recognize at least one (if not more) of these hits from the era:

“It Don’t Mean a Thing (if it Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington & Irving Mills

“Sing Sing Sing” by Louis Prima

“Night & Day” by Cole Porter

“Pennies from Heaven” by Arthur Johnston & Johnny Burke

“In the Mood” by Glenn Miller

“I Got Rhythm” by George & Ira Gerswhin

“Embraceable You” by George & Ira Gershwin

 

 

Book Review: Gabby Duran & the Unsittables by Elise Allen & Daryle Conners

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Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey may have had their fair share of drama — but I’m guessing the original members of the Baby-Sitter’s Club never had to deal with intergalactic toddlers. Enter Gabby Duran, baby-sitter to the stars — and now, to alien kiddos in Gabby Duran & the Unsittables by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners. 

gabby duran and the unsittablesCase File: The First Unsittable

Summary: The Association Linking Intergalatics and Earthlings (hereby known as A.L.I.E.N.) has a new member. After months of investigation, Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, has proven herself to be a babysitter extraordinaire. Her celebrity clients fly her around the country to care for their rambunctious little humans. Our spy, Associate 4118-23432B, otherwise known as Edwina, believes Gabby can be trusted with the truth: aliens are living among humans on Earth. And here at A.L.I.E.N we believe that even extraterrestrials need a babysitter now and then. No one was up to the task until now.

After accepting the top-secret position, Edwina has paired our new associate up with her first charge, a little girl from the planet Flarknartia. The timing for associate 4118-25125A is less than ideal. It’s a school day on Planet Earth, Gabby’s audition for the solo part in the band is tonight, and this tiny alien is a bit more than meets the eye.

Can Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, First Sitter to the Unsittables, keep her otherworldly charge safe in the unpredictable halls of middle-school and keep A.L.I.E.N hidden?

The book gets off to a bit of a slow start as we are introduced to Gabby and her miraculous, natural talent for babysitting even the most difficult children — and as the premise for her new assignment is laid out. But once Gabby’s role as a babysitter for aliens living hidden on Earth is established, the book really takes off on a fun and hilarious ride.

The premise is wacky, and it makes for some really entertaining scenes as Gabby learns to juggle the unpredictable nature of alien children. But she also learns that alien kids and human kids have a LOT in common — and it’s fun to see the different ways her alien ward interacts with both Gabby and the other humans she encounters.

The groundwork is clearly laid for a series of Gabby’s future adventures in alien babysitting, and this first entry is a really entertaining and funny first foray.

The Baby-Sitter’s Club meets The X-Files, Gabby Duran & the Unsittables is in stores now.

Exclusive Q&A with The Game of Love & Death author Martha Brockenbrough: Part 3

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Today, we are pleased to bring you part32 of our exclusive Q&A with The Game of Love & Death author Martha Brockenbrough. If you missed it, catch part 1 here & part 2 here. Today, it’s time for FLASH QUESTIONS!

marthaFavorite villain?

Vizzini in the Princess Bride. It’s true. No one should ever get in a land war in Asia.

Pen or pencil?

Pen.

Favorite piece of clothing?

Impossible to choose. Probably my Frye harness boots. I wear them everywhere.

Song you can’t get out of your head right now?

Fever by Peggy Lee.

Most recent vacation?

I’m just back from San Francisco and Los Angeles, visiting old and dear friends.

5 things that are always in your purse

I’m not a purse person. I carry a backpack that has my wallet, my laptop, at least one book, my house keys and some form of lipstick or lip gloss to ward off the universe and its chapping ways. Oh, and dental floss. That’s six things. (I don’t carry a calculator, apparently.)

Thanks, Martha! Tune in for part 2 of our Q&A on Wednesday and part 3 on Friday.

Book Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

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A crime family drama, loosely based on a classic fairy tale, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt is a seductive thriller about love, loss, and betrayal.

hold me like a breathPenelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can’t protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family’s line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

I’ve made no secret about the fact that I love, love, LOVE YA novels about crime families and the mob. Whether paired with a supernatural element or kept contemporary (like this one), I can’t get enough of these stories. So of course I dove right into Hold Me Like a Breath eagerly anticipating another favorite read, and was NOT disappointed.

Where do I begin?

Schmidt has written a captivating cast of characters — and as the story unfolds, she continues to increase the stakes, the drama, and the tension. It’s so fantastic to see a character like Penelope — burdened by a childhood illness, and told her whole life that she is weak and delicate and in need of protection — come into her own, and find her own kind of strength and power. Penelope’s character development is the true star of Hold Me Like a Breath. She is a strong, female character that shatters stereotypes about strong, female characters — and I love her for it.

Schmidt also keeps the twists coming. Even when I thought I knew where something was going, she surprised me and kept me on my toes. Hold Me Like a Breath is full of shocking surprises — even when you think you know the twist, you don’t. And I didn’t even realize it was based loosely on a fairy tale until the very end, when reading the author’s note. That just made me love the story even more!

Billed as the first in the Once Upon a Crime Family series, Hold Me Like a Breath still reads like a standalone novel — which is really the best of both worlds. I get a self-contained novel, with the promise of still more to come. I am so in.

Look for Hold Me Like a Breath in stores May 19th.