Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Second IN SCBWI Writing Conference

Last weekend I attended the IN SCBWI conference, Universal Truth: Finding Common Ground in Diverse Characters. It was a great! The conference opened Fri night w/a talk from the keynote speaker, Sudipta Bardhan- Quallen. She was hilarious as well as inspiring.



These are several of her picture books that I would like to read.






I sat up near the front, and was mortified when I had to stand up for acknowledgement as a volunteer. I wasn't expecting that! Afterward I went back to my room and talked to the hubby and kidlet on the phone, and then got some writing in before bed. The next day, guess what?! I got my toast.



After breakfast was a full day of classes. The highlights on Sat (for me) was Sudipta's and Rachel Orr's talk. 



It was nice to see behind the curtain on an author/agent relationship. Rachel Orr also gave a great presentation called Developing Your Secondary Characters. I was thrilled when she used two excerpts from one of my favorite middle grade books, Three Times Lucky. Then the next class I enjoyed the most was Skila Brown's How To Read Like a Writer. She is a fantastic speaker! Engaging and funny and thought-provoking.



She also spoke at the end of the day about diversity (and she's provided the handout here), and it was once again so good. Some people are just so easy to listen to-- she's one of them! 

Then Saturday night instead of staying in and writing, I had a night out on the town with my husband, who came up to keep me company. We went to nearby Bloomington, home of college kids galore (Bloomington is where IU is located). I swear half of them looked like they weren't old enough to have graduated high school, let alone be attending college. We ate, got ice cream, bought the kidlet's bday present, and saw a movie. It was nice!

Sunday I got up and chatted with Shannon Alexander at breakfast (who took pity on me sitting alone and invited me over), attended the last class of the day and then it was time to go home. So another successful conference!


This was The Turtle in the Lobby. He had feedings on Sun at 11:30 a.m. I am sorry I missed it.

And thanks to Sam Taylor, who provided me with the pictures of Sudipta and Rachel Orr!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Guest Post: Extraordinary Sam & the Four "Baddies"

Please welcome Kevin A. Springer as he discusses the four main bad guys in his MG novel, EXTRAORDINARY SAM AND THE ADVENTURER'S GUILD. 

Four “Baddies” Sam faces in Extraordinary Sam & the Adventurers’ Guild

In Extraordinary Sam, twelve year-old Sam Miller is thrust into the middle of an adventure in the magical, and quite dangerous realm, Ashling. In order to survive, he must survive confrontations with four “baddies” - deadly pirates, savage warriors, giant spiders and a fire-wielding tyrant named Cormac.


First up, the deadly pirates – In Extraordinary Sam, discovers he is now the captain of a crew of pirates. At first, this seems like a lot of fun, but when Sam realizes he is being hunted by dreaded Captain Redbeard and his motley crew, that all changes. Redbeard is an imposing figure that would strike fear into the manliest of men who sail the seas, so what does Sam think? His first reaction is that this bad guy is the coolest looking pirate he has ever seen, way cooler than any movie pirate. Then reality sinks in as he notices the danger he is in. You must read the book to see how Sam makes it out of this jam!

 
{Closely resembles what is in my head when I picture Redbeard.}


The savage warriors – When writing the scene with the island warriors, the Mala (name derived from the Spanish word for bad), I pictured the old Tarzan movies in my head, but on steroids (also less stereotypically insensitive). These brave warriors are fierce, strong, nimble and extremely accurate with a dart gun. When developing the character of their chief, I imagined the physicality of a professional wrestler – heavily tattooed, muscular, and tall. The personality of this imposing figure is that of a man chosen by the gods to rule the tribe, yet with a deep insecurity that would cause him to kill any who question him. The look in this leader’s eyes can make most men wet themselves.

 
{The warriors may look a bit like this, but more tattoos and muscle definition.}


Giant man-eating spiders – Sam doesn’t deny he suffers from arachnophobia. Small spiders cause him to freak out. So why not throw in a bunch of big spiders to stand in his way? Along his journey, our hero comes face to face with hundreds of spiders the size of a small dog. To raise the stakes, I decided there needs to be an even bigger spider to turn Sam’s fear up to eleven. How will the Extraordinary react to his worst nightmare? You’re going to have to read to find out!

 
{This is a picture of a real spider that would cause anybody to scream. Sam’s spider is the size of a minivan.}


Fire-wielding tyrant – The baddest of the baddies is the ruler of Ashling, Lord Cormac. He has a fiery temper and magical ability to match. Through fear and intimidation, Cormac has even the deadly pirates, fierce warriors, and giant spiders bowing down to him. Only the Adventurers’ Guild and Sam stand in his way.


{This is closest image I found to resemble Cormac. His hair is longer, but the look in his eyes and facial hair are spot on.}

* * *

Amazon | Goodreads

“This box may seem empty, but there’s more than meets the eye…”

Sam Miller seems like an ordinary 12-year-old boy, until he discovers a mysterious box. Suddenly, he lands in a magical world in which he must battle deadly pirates, savage warriors, giant man-eating spiders, and a fire-wielding tyrant. To survive, Sam must overcome his fears, solve riddles, and most of all, be extraordinary.

* * *

Website | Twitter 

Kevin A. Springer grew up on a farm in Maryland where his imagination knew no limits. As a husband and father, he reconnected with his creativity while telling bedtime stories to his two young boys. One such story evolved into his debut book, Extraordinary Sam & the Adventurers’ Guild (March 2015, Bookfish Books LLC.), which tells the tale of an ordinary boy who finds a hatbox and discovers a world of adventure and self-discovery.

Kevin is a self-proclaimed dreamer and a kid at heart. When he’s not writing or reading, he is coaching soccer or helping with homework. He lives outside of Atlanta with his wife, two extraordinary boys, and dogs. He is also a co-founder of the Middle Grade Mafia blog.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Excerpt from THE INFINITE + Giveaway


As part of THE INFINITE blog tour, I have an excerpt from the story for you all today!

Excerpt:

The Fields of Ishta stretched out before us in rippling waves of yellow-green grass. I urged my scout a few steps forward. The grass rustled against my legs and prickled the backs of my hands.

I understood why Emryn thought the chimera nest might be here. I could feel the echo of something in the way the wind breathed through the dry grass, the way the blades whispered of memories held within the earth around their roots. It wasn’t anywhere near as powerful or oppressive as the Void, but it was still a physical presence.

“What is this place?” I asked.

“A battlefield from the Mahjo War,” Emryn said.

“As the story goes, no one survived the battle,” Cassia said. Her gaze swept across the Fields as if imagining the bodies strewn through the grass. “The warriors fought as though crazed, driven so mad by magic and bloodlust that they turned their swords on their own comrades, screaming the name of their god Ishta even as they lay dying.”

“Bet that made for a pleasant bedtime story,” Mason muttered from behind me.

* * *


THE INFINITE Book summary:

The walls of Ninurta keep its citizens safe.

Kai always believed the only danger to the city came from within. Now, with a rebel force threatening the fragile government, the walls have become more of a prison than ever.

To make matters worse, as Avan explores his new identity as an Infinite, Kai struggles to remind him what it means to be human. And she fears her brother, Reev, is involved with the rebels. With the two people she cares about most on opposite sides of a brewing war, Kai will do whatever it takes to bring peace. But she’s lost her power to manipulate the threads of time, and she learns that a civil war might be the beginning of something far worse that will crumble not only Ninurta’s walls but also the entire city.

In this thrilling sequel to Gates of Thread and Stone, Kai must decide how much of her humanity she’s willing to lose to protect the only family she’s ever known.





Author bio:

Lori is the author of young adult fantasy novels Gates of Thread and Stone and The Infinite. She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.

Author Links:

Website: http://www.lorimlee.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7084159.Lori_M_Lee
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoriMLee
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoriMLee

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Guest Post by Paul Durham: The Smallest Spaces Can Take You Great Places

I have a super special treat for you all today! Paul Durham is here to talk about the ex-chicken house he writes in. Yup, you heard me right. And it is AMAZING! Read on to be inspired. 

The Smallest Spaces Can Take You Great Places
I write in an abandoned chicken coop at the edge of a swamp.
When I tell people this, they either chuckle or assume that I’m embellishing in some way. After all, I write fiction for kids, so a little fibbing isn’t entirely out of the question. But it’s true. If there’s one part of the description that’s not entirely accurate, it’s that the coop was ‘abandoned.’
When we bought our current home, it included a rather elaborate chicken coop painstakingly built by the previous owner. Granted, it was the Ritz Carlton of chicken coops—8 x 10 feet of nesting boxes, chicken wire, and storage. It was also occupied by several hens. I have nothing against chickens and, like Lottie O’Chanter of The Luck Uglies, enjoy fresh cackle fruit from time to time. But we still had a daughter in diapers and weren’t necessarily eager to clean up after something else that couldn’t use flush plumbing on its own. The chickens were relocated to a good home and, for a while, the “Coop” remained vacant.
But I had always longed for a secluded writing space. Home offices are wonderful, but somehow the hustle and bustle of daily life still finds a way to intrude into even the most private in-house sanctuary (think phones, sibling fisticuffs, and FedEx deliveries). Inspired by images of Roald Dahl’s famous Gipsy House, Michael Pollan’s tiny writer’s retreat, and Dylan Thomas’s ‘word-splashed hut,’ I set out to design my dream writing space from scratch. With the help of a contractor, we refinished the Coop using all natural materials. Wide plank floors and white pine siding mirrored the New Hampshire forest surrounding it. We installed two large windows on either side so that, rather than feeling claustrophobic, it sometimes it feels like I’m sitting outside under the trees. My favorite feature, the desk, runs the length of one wall and is a thick slab of unfinished barn wood, complete with knots and saw marks.
Once finished, I filled the Coop with art and pictures that inspire me. I have a Carnival mask from Venice, book covers, my own sketches, and a wire and metal rooster rescued from a local curiosity shop. The barn doors are painted with black and white map of Village Drowning that I sometimes look to for reference. And, on top of the roof, sits a Dead Fish weathervane commissioned from a local artist.
I’ve written three books in the Coop so far and look forward to many more. When I sludge through the snow and open the door to my little studio, it’s like entering another world where the only walls are the limits of my imagination. Whether you write in a coop, a garage, a basement office, or at the kitchen table, I encourage you to make that writing space your own.
Sometimes the smallest spaces can take you great places.














Today the sequel to The Luck Uglies releases: Fork-Tongue Charmers. If you haven't read this middle-grade series yet, I cannot recommend it enough. Brilliant world-building and sassy, love-able characters combine to create the type of books that are hard to put down. {Unputdownables}




It's not easy being the daughter of the High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies.

Now an insidious new lawman in Drowning has declared Rye an outlaw, and she's stuck on the strange and remote Isle of Pest. But the island quickly feels much less remote when the battle to control the future of the Luck Uglies moves to its shores.

To defeat the Luck Uglies' bitterest rivals, Rye must defy a deranged earl, survive a test meant to judge the grit of the fiercest men--and uncover some long-buried family secrets. And when Rye leads the charge to defend the island, she and her friends will meet an eerily familiar enemy...

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 



The Luck Uglies is the first in a tween fantasy-adventure trilogy brimming with legends come to life, a charming wit, and a fantastic cast of characters-and is imbued throughout with the magic of storytelling.

Strange things are happening in Village Drowning, and a terrifying encounter has Rye O'Chanter convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned. 
Now Rye's only hope is an exiled secret society so notorious its name can't be spoken aloud: the Luck Uglies. As Rye dives into Village Drowning's maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she'll discover the truth behind the village's legends of outlaws and beasts...and that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.

The first in a series, The Luck Uglies is an altogether irresistible cross of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, Stefan Bachmann's The Peculiar, and Chris Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, overflowing with adventure, secrets, friendship, and magic.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Conversation with Debut Author Ashley Allen

Leandra: Hi, Ashley! First, thanks for stopping by today to share more about you, and your recently released YA novel, CLAIRVOYANCE. So the first thing I want to know: What did it feel like to finally hold your book in your hands for the first time?

Ashley: Thanks for having me, Leandra. This is great. Oh my... holding Clairvoyance in my hands for the first time was completely surreal. It was a proof copy, and I literally carried it around for days. After three days, it was wrecked. It looked like I'd put it through the washer and dryer. After the novelty wore off, I actually took a look inside, and the reality of the errors came to light. I was happy with the exterior, but the margins were all off, the font was wrong, and the spacing was hideous. I thought, "Ahh! Am I actually showing this to people?!!" I stopped parading it around and got back to work. When I received my second proof, I was a lot more subdued.

Leandra: Yes, I imagine I'd be like that too! How could you not be? =) And I recently read on a blog about the wisdom of ordering multiple proofs before releasing it into wild. Which just makes sense, considering how fickle of a thing formatting sounds like it can be. So once you decided to publish Clairvoyance, how long was it from this decision, until it was available to buy? 

Ashley: I would definitely suggest to anyone embarking on this journey: Look at several proofs - what looks one way digitally can look entirely different in print. The temptation to push the 'Accept' button is strong... must resist! Let's see... of my three novels thus far, Clairvoyance was my quickest write. I wrote the first draft over two months last year (the prior manuscript took a year), took a short break, and edited for two more months. I queried over the summer, and I think I decided to self-publish in early November 2014. My paperback became available on February 27th, and the Kindle version a few days later. I wanted to make sure I was all set up - proper editing, critiques, a website and Facebook page, etc - before I put it out there. I'm really fortunate to have friends who helped with cover art and web design. They probably saved me time, and definitely saved me money. My friends have been HUGE in this process; I'm so grateful.
  
Leandra: That's wonderful that your friends were part of this. My two closest friends support my own publication dreams, and it's a great feeling. So now that Clairvoyance is out there, and reviews are/will be rolling in soon, what-- in your eyes-- would be the biggest compliment someone could pay you? 

Ashley: Wow. That's a tough question. There are so many things I'd like to hear! If it had to be one compliment, I think it would be someone saying they read the book in a single sitting. I'm an avid reader, and one of my all-time favorite things is finding a book I completely lose myself in. The hours go by, and I just keep turning pages, until I realize the sun is coming up and the birds are chirping. If that happens, the book has an 'it' factor. You can't put it down. (This is usually followed by a satisfied, yet slightly depressed feeling, because it's over and you binged instead of savoring) If my book accomplishes that... even for a few people... I would feel really rewarded.

Leandra: That's a fantastic compliment to want (marks it down). And last, but not least, describe what would be your favorite thing to do on one of your free days, followed by your favorite place to eat (besides reading and writing, I'm all about the food around here!).

Ashley: If I'm not writing, reading, or mixing cocktails for thirsty patrons, I want to get away. I'm addicted to vacation. It could be something as small as fishing and camping an hour down the road, a summer or winter weekend at the beach, debauchery in Vegas or Reno, to as major as an extended stay in tropical bliss (usually Mexico. I love Mexico. I even lived there for a year). I'm a total foodie, so you're challenging me again with that second part. My number one meal would have to be a starter of bacon wrapped scallops, followed by a Ribeye steak, complimented by a bottle of tasty red and a table of laughing friends, at a place called Jaks in Issaquah, Washington. They are grill masters, and it's always one of those evenings that goes on for hours. Hmmm... now that I think about it, it's almost dinner time....

Also, I would like to offer three signed books (and would really appreciate reviews on Amazon or Goodreads!) to Leandra's blog readers. To enter, please follow me on Twitter @Allyn_Ashley and tweet me with Clairvoyance #bookgiveaway and I'll select three winners at random, a week after the interview is posted. I will alert the winners and let them know where to supply their addresses.

* * * 

Introducing Ashley Allyn's debut novel, Clairvoyance, the first book in a thrilling new young adult series.

Jaded by a strange ability and haunted by the demons lurking in everyone around her, seventeen-year old Gladys 'Colby' Colbern thinks her life is destined for loneliness and heartache.

Everything changes the day Colby and her best friend Beck, also a visionary, realize they are not alone. Their ability is referred to as 'clairvoyance', and a community miles away declares itself a safe-haven for hundreds with the gift. The vast compound is called Arcadia and promises a peaceful, happy life, away from the treachery and corruption they witness on a daily basis. The membership exclusive, lifestyle extravagant, Arcadia is given the title of 'paradise' for clairvoyants.

Within a week, Colby and Beck are on a Greyhound bus, runaways from Austin, Texas, to the hope of a better life in Seattle, Washington.


At first, Arcadia seems perfect. The grounds are lush, the residents carefree. Only one thing strikes Colby as bizarre: a strict set of rules, including no touching, and attending unorthodox therapy sessions to deal with the traumas of their pasts.

When a mysterious young man, named Jax Sumners, enters Arcadia, Colby realizes two polarizing things: life doesn't have to be so lonely, and sometimes, the promise of paradise can be the worst demon of all.





Ashley Allyn lives in Issaquah, Washington, with her boyfriend and three rescue pets - all from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They are the first to hear her stories and often help by keeping the key board warm. She is a lover of wine, coffee at all hours, dancing, traveling, cheese, writing, and reading, although not necessarily in that order, and believes that amazing friendship - the kind where they tell you the truth (even when it hurts), stand by you during your highs of highs and your lows of lows, and selflessly celebrate your happiness because your joys are theirs - is one of the greatest, and rarest, gifts in the world. She would love to hear your thoughts, reviews, or questions and is a strong proponent of writers helping other writers.


And one last note, keep an eye on Ashley's Twitter & Facebook pages for discounts or freebies!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Author Stop: Sioux Trett


I am super happy to have my friend, Sioux, here today! Her book, DRAWN IN, debuts this month, which is pretty awesome.

1. Besides writing, do you have any other creative outlets?

I have always enjoyed being creative in one way or another. I play the piano and I paint. I have a background in technical theatre, so I painted scenery for years and loved it. I also love scrapbooking and jewelry making… walking into Michael’s or Hobby Lobby is truly dangerous. I suddenly think I have all the time in the world just for being crafty!

2. You're at a taco bar, and they have every known taco topping known to man-- what goes on it?

Ohhhh, being a California girl, I love my tacos! I think my personal favorite taco would be soft corn tortilla, grilled mahi (perfectly seasoned of course), fresh cabbage and jicama slaw, a bit of pico de gallo, and topped with avocado/cilantro crema. I don’t think I’ve ever met a taco I didn’t like, but a perfectly fresh delicious fish taco is hard to beat. Just like being on the beach in Mexico!

3. We writers often beat ourselves up, so lets do the opposite! What do you consider is your greatest writing strength?

I love this! You’re so right, we do a lot of that, don’t we? Okay, well… I’m going to say that my greatest strength is my dialogue. In the theatre, it’s 99% of what’s on the page, so with that as my background, it’s kinda where I live. All of my scenes start as conversation in my head. I hear each character speaking in their own voice, so it makes it easier to translate to the page. It’s so exciting to see them come to life that way.

4. Physical book or ebook?

It depends on the book. I have to have my favourites as physical books, even if I already own the ebook. Seeing a favourite trilogy or series on my shelf is so comforting somehow. But I have to admit, I buy mostly ebooks these days. They’re cheaper, easier to store, and my puppy doesn’t get irritated with me turning pages while she’s trying to sleep. =)

5. What is a fav line(s) from DRAWN IN?

It's hard to pick - do I choose pretty, funny, snarky? Haha! I'll pick this one. Rennie's first meeting with Alex, he accidentally runs into her with a pile of driftwood. Later, he's inspecting her bruised shoulder to see how it's holding up. She's a little distracted...

He’s rolling my shoulder back and forth in the socket, but I’m feeling no pain. All I can concentrate on is that face so close to mine, the warmth of his hands on my arm, those beautiful full lips moving wordlessly mere inches from my own.

“Rennie?”

Okay, not wordlessly. I just wasn’t listening. Crap. “Huh?” Quite the elocutionist I am. “I was thinking of, um, something else,” I manage to get out.

He chuckles quietly. “Well I guess that means it doesn’t hurt too badly then.” He has no idea.


* * * 

As always, one commenter will win a $5 Amazon gift card. And today, we've got not one, but two giveaways happening. Another lucky commenter will get an annotated ARC from Sioux! Isn't that cool?! Please follow Sioux at one or more of her social media links {winner will be announced 3/12 via comments}.


   
Sioux Trett was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California (the setting of Drawn In). She graduated from college in Oregon, and now makes her home in the beautiful Ozarks. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found traveling, playing with the cutest puppy on the planet, or obsessing over things like Doctor Who, manicures, and Starbucks. Find more at her blog siouxtrett.wordpress.com.





Who says having all your dreams come true is a good thing?

Serenity Winters is taking the summer off. After her last year included crushing on the wrong guy (again), having her best friend move all the way across the country, and an unexpected loss she's still not prepared to deal with, she deserves it. And a visit to see Maia in California seems the perfect getaway. Beaches, bonfires and boys? Yes please!

But Rennie's dreams aren't so easy to elude. Sketching what she can remember of them helps some, but her drawings are taking on a life of their own and the dreams they represent are starting to come true.

Enter Alex, who may or may not be perfect. (No, who is she kidding? He's perfect. Great hair, plus he can quote Hamlet and Yoda? Come on!) But Alex has secrets of his own, namely a hidden ability to transport himself through time using a book as a portal. Could it be that both Rennie and Alex are being drawn in to the same mystery? They better find out quickly, because her dreams are getting louder. And they know her by name.
 


Amazon (Pre-order) | Goodreads


Friday, March 6, 2015

THE DARKNESS WITHIN Trailer Reveal! Plus, Masks.

The trailer for Kelly Hashway's THE DARKNESS WITHIN is now live! Let's watch, shall we? *dims light and passes out the popcorn*





Ooh, great trailer! And music, I especially love that ominous 'duhm' sound at the end. I also love the covers for this series (The Monster Within). Aren't they gorgeous? 
























So for some additional enjoyment for you all, I've perused Etsy for masks. I would love to one day have an excuse to buy a fancy mask. Unfortunately, in IN, there's not alot of masked balls going on... ;)

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* * * 

After dying of cancer at seventeen and being brought back to life by an evil witch who turned her into a monster, Samantha Thompson thinks she's finally gotten past all the tragedy in her life. Now she's part of a coven of good witches who are helping her and her boyfriend, Ethan Anderson, learn to use the powers they received from other witches. Aside from the fact that Sam and Ethan are still in hiding from their old lives--the ones they had before Sam was brought back to life--things couldn't be better. Sam and Ethan are inseparable. What could go wrong? 

Magic. 

Ethan's magic came from a witch who'd turned as evil as possible, and though his coven thought he'd be fine, the more he uses his magic, the stranger he starts acting. The magic inside him is changing who he is. One minute he's Sam's sweet, perfect Ethan and the next, he's a complete stranger. Even with all her witchy power, Sam is helpless against the magic corrupting Ethan. Can Sam find out what's wrong with him before she loses him to dark magic forever?

Title: The Darkness Within (The Monster Within #2)
Author: Kelly Hashway
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
ISBN:  9781633920217
Release Date: 6/2/2015
Formats: Paper, e-book 




* * *


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About Kelly Hashway:
Kelly Hashway grew up reading R.L. Stein’s Fear Street novels and writing stories of her own, so it was no surprise to her family when she majored in English and later obtained a masters degree in English Secondary Education from East Stroudsburg University. After teaching middle school language arts for seven years, Hashway went back to school and focused specifically on writing. She is now the author of three young adult series, one middle grade series, and several picture books. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Ashelyn Drake. When she isn’t writing, Hashway works as a freelance editor for small presses as well as for her own list of clients. In her spare time, she enjoys running, traveling, and volunteering with the PTO. Hashway currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and two pets. Hashway is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Find Kelly Online:


 
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