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Guest Blogger: "Snitch" Author Olivia Samms

SnitchI don't know if I write Bea, or Bea writes Bea... she has a very strong personality and so much to say (thank god I have an editor who's not afraid of her!). I hope you take a gander at the latest of Bea's escapades, book two of the Bea Catcher Chronicles, Snitch. In the meantime, here are a few more words and illustrations from Bea, on being a highly sensitive person.

Sadly, I’m afflicted with the Princess and the Pea syndrome—forget the “princess” part, I just always seem to be feeling the “peas.”

It’s like all of my five senses are jacked up—hyper-revved. It really gets annoying sometimes.

Smell? I friggin’ smell everything! And there’s this chick in biology. Omg, she wears the strongest perfume—the kind they try to hide in the magazine folds from people (yeah, like that really works). She probably rubs the paper fold on her wrists, her neck—every pressure point on her body—right before class. And it’s always a different perfume. Boom, instant headache.

Taste? Do you think some people were born with too many buds on their tongues? I do and I believe I’m one of them. Stuff makes me gag, literally. If an egg is a bit runny? Gag. A burger too rare? Gag. Anything my mom cooks? For sure, gag. 

Snitch1Touch? Okay, we’re going to deal with clothes here—get your mind out of the gutter. Unless it’s  cotton, or a blend, I itch, sometimes even breaking into hives. And it sucks, ‘cause most of the vintage clothes I adore are not cotton. Like this petticoat skirt from the ‘50s? Full-on nylon netting. No way could I wear it if it weren’t for the cotton tights underneath. 

Snitch2Hearing? Forget sleep. I wake up at the slightest noise. My house is like five-thousand-years old and the floors creak and squeak; the wind blows through the old, paint-flaked windows. I hear my parents bicker, the neighbor’s television droning on, Barf, the dog, down the street whimpering to go inside. And I’ve been convinced there’s a mouse in the wall snickering at me.

Seeing? Well, where do I start...

Bea-ware...I’m watching you

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New Teen Takes on Old Favorites

Herdarkcuriosity Megan Shepherd is the author of The Madman’s Daughter and Her Dark Curiosity, creative retellings of classic tales. She shares five favorite reimaginings of classic stories.

Many of readers’ favorite classics are getting a fresh spin by authors writing for the teen market. These retellings, reimaginings, and alternate versions are a great way to revisit old favorites in a new light. Since many classics are packed with swashbuckling adventure, tortured love, ghosts, and mad science, it’s no wonder readers of all ages are embracing YA reboots. Here are some of my favorites.

The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (coming 2015) make up a four-book series inspired by various fairy tale heroines. In Cinder, a cyborg mechanic loses her foot in front of the handsome prince. In Scarlet, a girl befriends a street fighter named Wolf in a Red Riding Hood inspired story. These creative reboots are fast-paced and fun.

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin Masque of the Red Death and its sequel, Dance of the Red Death, reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story in a post-apocalyptic world beleaguered by plague. Beautiful writing makes this dark series an addictive read and will likely send readers back to Poe’s original short story.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson Tiger Lily takes a minor character from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and gives her an entire world. The titular character is ambitious, wild, headstrong, and sure to make readers fall in love with her. Narrated by Tinker Bell, this story is a tragic and moving tale of love and loss.

Splintered by A. G. Howard Splintered and its sequel, Unhinged, take readers back into the world of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in a dark, goth, utterly modern way. A descendant of the original Alice, Alyssa Gardner returns to a Wonderland that is far more grotesque, haunting, and dangerous. Full of twists and surprises.

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund In this stand-alone follow up to For Darkness Shows the Stars (itself a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion), Peterfreund blends a post-apocalyptic world with inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel. Fans of Baroness Emma Orczy’s original play will enjoy revisiting the common themes and characters.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge This Beauty and the Beast retelling combines the romance of the original fairy tale with a thrilling and inventive fantasy setting. Seventeen year old Nyx marries her sworn enemy with plans to murder him, only to fall in love and question everything she’s ever believed in.

Guest Blogger: Marcus Sedgwick on "She Is Not Invisible"

SheisnotinvisibleI’m thrilled to be heading for Las Vegas in June to collect the Printz Award for Midwinterblood—it’s still sinking in what a wonderful thing this is—but I’m also delighted to be able to get out on the road in April and meet lots of readers in schools, libraries, and conventions in a ten-day book tour from New York to Houston and back up to Chicago. I’ll be mostly speaking about She Is Not Invisible, a book that I’d been trying to write for around eight years. The outward form of the book is an adventure story about a girl whose writer-father goes missing in the middle of his research for his latest book. When no one else seems interested in tracking him down, she decides to do it herself. What the book is actually about, however, is coincidence.

Everyone loves coincidences—that tingling sensation on your neck when something weird happens to you is really intriguing. But as the years of thinking about how to write about them ticked by, I came to a conclusion: writing about coincidence is hard. For one thing, you yourself can be greatly amused by some relatively low-key moment of synchronicity, but when you try and tell someone else about it, you’re usually met with feigned interest at best or at worst utter boredom. How to convey that sense of excitement that is so personal, so interior?

For another thing, and to be blunt, overly convenient moments in books are what bad writers use to cover up holes in their plot. And as readers we’re very, very good at spotting such things.

So writing about coincidence is hard. That might not seem like much of a statement, but it was enough to give me the key to writing this book: rather than write a book about coincidence, I chose to write a book about a writer writing a book about coincidence. That made my life much easier and meant I still got to discuss all the ideas that thinkers like Einstein, Jung, Koestler, and many others have had on the subject, and yet on the surface keep the form of a sensibly plotted novel, which, with one deliberate exception, I hope steers a safe course through the dangerous waters of the Sea of Overly Convenient Moments.

There’s one other thing about the book and coincidence—and this sounds a little weird—but throughout my life I feel that a particular number has been following me. It’s not a very sexy number; it’s 354, but I feel that I see this number way more often than you should see any given three-digit number. In the novel I discuss ways of understanding such things—ideas around informational bias and apophenia (pattern recognition in random data), but I’ll finish with just one example of what I mean; the kind of thing that inspired me to write She Is Not Invisible. My first trip to New York was about ten years ago. I’d been brought to the city by my publisher, who, this being a very special occasion (I’d been shortlisted for the Poe Awards), sent a limo out to JFK to pick me up. As I got into the car I saw it had a pool number painted on its side; I smiled as I saw “my” number again, 354. The limo drove me into Manhattan, to my hotel, where I checked in to find I had been put in room 354. I love stuff like that, so when I wrote the book, I thought it might be fun to “hide” 354 in the book in as many ways as I could, some of which are obvious, some of which I doubt will ever be seen.

The Boy Who Read Books

EmpressofthesunEmpress of the Sun author Ian McDonald reflects on an adolescence immersed in literature.

I was always the different kid. The one you couldn’t place in the sports team. The one who didn’t watch what you watched, who listened to different music. Who trawled shops looking for comics–which were rare treasure when I was a kid, growing up just outside Belfast. I was the Boy who Read Books.

I had allies. A family friend realised that I had a hungry imagination. She gave the Moomins, The Phantom Tollbooth, the 35th of May, the Uncle books. My Dad bought me Spiderman on the understanding that he got to read it after me. My primary school had a book club. There I discovered Alan Garner’s fantasies, and Arthur C. Clarke. An English teacher spent a year working us through Irish and Nordic mythology. Our library had a good science fiction sectio--Victor Gollancz put out their SF in yellow jackets. I worked my way along the yellow spines.

I loved science fiction–it opened up a larger universe to me. I grew up by the sea, and the horizon is very real there: the line where the sky and sea seem to meet. The place beyond which you can’t see. I always wanted to know what it was like beyond that line. Science fiction looked beyond the horizon. There were wonderful things there.

I loved television: the old Gerry Anderson series Stingray, Thunderbirds, Fireball XL5. Dr Who, Star Trek, Lost in Space, Blakes Seven. There was so little then I gobbled up whatever I could find. I’m sure if anime had existed then, I would have loved it too. I might well have vanished into gaming forever. But for me, the pure stuff, the stuff that fired the imagination, was on the page. Worlds! In my head! Mine in the way that images on a screen weren’t. Because I made them out of words.

And now I write.

Continue reading "The Boy Who Read Books" »

Author Ava Dellaira on Coming-of-Age Stories

Love letters to the deadAva Dellaira is the author of Love Letters to the Dead. The debut novel releaes on April 1.

Coming-of-age stories are beloved by teenagers and adults alike because they give us a way to look backward and forward at once. In our teen years, we discover a newfound self-awareness that allows us to see where we’ve been as we move toward our futures. But the hard work of growing up continues past high school and past college. Having just turned thirty, I am finding that it continues even past the prolonged youth of your twenties. (I have yet to experience this, but I imagine it continues even as you care for kids of your own.) For those of us who are past adolescence, the memory of that time lingers; we return to it, in memory and stories, in films and literature, because that threshold between what we have been and what we will become is one that we are faced with for all our lives.

I was twenty-three when I lost my mother to a sudden death. I had just graduated from college. I was on a new precipice, out of school for the first time, trying to figure out how I’d make a living, pay for grown-up things like insurance, and most important, who I’d be now that I was meant to be fully adult. After receiving my diploma and packing up my apartment in Chicago, I’d retreated to the safety of my childhood home in Albuquerque, spending my days sitting at the desk I’d had since middle school and working on PhD applications. That’s where I was one afternoon in early August when the doorbell rang. I thought the man in uniform who asked for my father must be a policeman coming to warn us about a break-in in the neighborhood. When he asked us to sit down, my dad said words that are still impossible to my mind: “Are you going to tell me my wife is dead?”

The man was not, in fact, a policeman, but a chaplain. My mom had kissed me good night the evening before, gone to work that day, and never come back. I remember that as the chaplain spoke, I was staring at the little plums that had fallen from the tree in the front yard, broken and staining the cement a deep purple. When we went inside, my father lay down and sobbed on the long runner of the carpet, the same one where we once dangled a string of shell beads, teaching my little sister to crawl. I don’t remember much after that.

There was a funeral. There were visitors. There were rainbows in the wide-open New Mexico sky. There were mashed potatoes that the visitors made, which were the only thing I could eat for days. And then there was a new precipice. A life I had to figure out how to go on living without my mom, who was my best friend and favorite person. I abandoned my PhD applications and turned to writing, struggling to find words for what still felt impossible. A few months later, I moved to Los Angeles and got a job. The next year, I went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I moved forward, all the while caught in the undertow of grief.

It took many years to cross the threshold between being my mother’s daughter—the daughter of a mother who’d been lost—and becoming my own person. It took writing my first novel: Love Letters to the Dead. The title came to me first, along with the idea of writing letters to iconic dead people in the wake of personal grief. And when I sat down to start, Laurel appeared to tell her story. Laurel lost her sister, and her letters become a way of processing her complex feelings about May’s death, as she learns to live her own life. Though writing the book was never easy, it came more naturally to me than anything I’d written before. As I wrote about Laurel finding her voice, I was finding my own. I was learning how to transform grief into something else. A story. A kind of beauty. A life. I was learning that I would be okay. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a new precipice every day. I am always “coming of age.” Because that gesture, first born in our teenage years, is one that will stay with us for all our adult lives. We are always looking backward, and we are always looking forward. We are always turning into who we will become.

Guest Post: "Flat-Out Love" Author Jessica Park

Flat-out loveRead about Jessica Park's inspiration for Flat-Out Matt, and enter for your chance to win book that started it all, Flat-Out Love.

Alternative point-of-view books: What a cool concept, right? You read a story from one perspective and then you get the opportunity to see that same story from another. There’s been an influx of these books over the past year or so, and I’ve loved watching reader reactions, but then... my readers starting asking (begging) for me to repeat Flat-Out Love from Matt’s perspective. 

I panicked. I said no a hundred times. Maybe more. I didn’t see how I could pull this off without the book getting repetitive, and I had grave concerns about somehow compromising the integrity of Flat-Out Love by retelling the entire story.

But I stewed on the idea. If I was going to do something from Matt, it would have to give readers more time and connection with Matt, but also give new information and insight into who he is. Then I realized something else: I don’t like to play by rules. Although that usually causes me trouble, here it works in my favor. Who said I had to approach an alternative-POV book the way other authors had? My readers were begging for specific scenes, and that, I figured out, is what I could give them. It didn’t make sense for them to hear the full story from Matt, but it did make sense to give them their favorite Flat-Out Love scenes. So, a ha! I could do a companion piece. And thus, Flat-Out Matt came to life.

Writing this companion novella turned out to be an incredibly special experience for me. I created Matt and I thought I knew everything about him, but it wasn’t until I was really in those scenes again that I developed a deeper understanding of my character.

And then...there was one more reader plea that I couldn’t refuse. Flat-Out Love is a pretty tame book—especially given today’s YA and romance markets—and the fade-to-black scene resulted in more than a few cries of, “I want to see what happened!” I was initially hesitant to write out a love scene because it truly wouldn’t have fit with the style of the original story. But since I’m a big ol’ rule breaker, I wrote it. And it was a great writing challenge to do one that kept the Flat-Out Love style and suited the characters. It resulted in what I think is a really beautiful and caring chapter that absolutely fits the relationship. Plus, you’s kinda hot. In a nerdy, intellectual way.

Flat-Out Matt proved to me the symbiotic relationship between authors and readers; we feed off of each other, we learn from each other, and we challenge each other. And great things can come from that.

Sign-in to Kindle Whispercast here for a chance to win Flat-Out Love. We’re giving away Flat-Out Love to 20 lucky winners. Just use your account to sign into Kindle Whispercast. To learn more about Whispercast, visit Ends 3/24/14 at 11:59pm. Using the e-mail address associated with the winner’s account, we will contact the winner by e-mail with instructions regarding how to claim the prize. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. See official rules.

Lissa Price's Recommended Reading for Teens

The Enders author suggests books--old and new--every teen should read.Coraline

Step inside my mind to discover the books that moved me and I believe will move you. Some may be familiar, some will be new to you, but all are exceptional examples of the unusual. Science fiction and fantasy, dystopian—there is nothing normal here.

Watchers, Dean Koontz From a master of suspense, this story involves two dogs and genetic manipulation, and that’s all I’ll say about the plot. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, because Koontz is one of the best at that.

The Giver, Lois Lowry I confess the beginning of this classic seemed a bit slow for me. But because it was highly recommended as a classic, I stayed with it and soon became another of its many fans. An early YA dystopian novel, winning the Newbery Award in 1994, it rewards the reader with a pitch-perfect, memorable ending. Read it before the film comes out this summer. 

Coraline, Neil Gaiman Any novella that deals with people who aren’t exactly who they appear to be, moving around in different levels of reality, is naturally going to grab me. This delightfully creepy story by a master storyteller transcends all age ranges. It’s one of my favorite books. Consider the audio version read by Gaiman, a mesmerizing narrator.Hitchhiker

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams If you’ve never read what I and many others consider to be the greatest science fiction comedy, pick it up and find out what all the towel jokes are about. One of a kind, Adams was a writer who sweat over every word of every line and was a huge influence on me.

Inception (shooting script), Christopher Nolan Yes, it’s a film script, but it’s one of my favorites, and it also plays with levels of reality. Enjoy this peek into my favorite writer-director’s process as Nolan shows us dreams in a way we’ve never seen before.  

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins Just about everyone has read this one, or at least seen the film, but I couldn’t leave it off my list. Collins’s writing, relentless and never condescending, set the bar high, inspiring us all.

Continue reading "Lissa Price's Recommended Reading for Teens" »

Cayla Kluver on the Power of Series in Young Adult Fiction

Queen's choiceThe author of The Legacy Trilogy and recent release The Queen's Choice, the first in the Heirs of Chrior saga, reflects on the staying power of YA series.

“One choice can transform you.” Get a job? Get married? Go to college?

“This school hides dark secrets.” Bullying. Body dysmorphia. Kids facing adult problems.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” Winning can feel like everything for those involved in athletics or other competitive activities.

“What if your parents could unwind you?” What if they already are? What if the people you’re supposed to trust are hurting you?

“By a single deed, I had become something more than I wanted to be.” What would you give to turn back the clock? How do you reverse a decision that has taken on a life of its own?

If you recognize many of these quotes, it’s because they’re catch lines from popular book series that resonate with young adults—Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and Neal Shusterman’s Unwind series. The last is the catch line for my own book, The Queen's Choice, the first in the Heirs of Chrior series. As a 21-year-old author of two young adult series, I’m in the unique position both of writing for and being part of this market. For me, writing and reading are therapeutic—I live vicariously through my own characters as well as those created by other writers, because the experiences of characters in epic historical, contemporary, or dystopian series evoke striking parallels to the experiences of today’s youth.

Continue reading "Cayla Kluver on the Power of Series in Young Adult Fiction" »

Dan Wells: Dystopian Stories That Changed My Life

RuinsAuthor Dan Wells explains why writing dystopia is like one giant conversation spanning all of human history, and offers his own recommendations.

Ruins is the third and final novel in the Partials Sequence, a story that's equal parts dystopia, post-apocalypse, and epic quest. I was inspired by a lot of different sources, which is one of the greatest things about fiction: I write one thing, you write something similar, someone else writes their own take on it, and suddenly we have a giant conversation of ideas and hopes and fears, reaching around the world and spanning all of human history. It's our greatest achievement as a species. And if you're anything like me, and you're totally fascinated with this “dystopia” part of the conversation, I've got some awesome recommendations you may not have read yet:

The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells Look, another Wells! Dr. Moreau lives on an uncharted island, where the sub-human natives seem to worship him as a god. A shipwrecked man starts to suspect that they're humans, altered to be more animalistic, but soon learns the darker truth: they're actually animals who've been altered and indoctrinated to become more human. It's a terrifying exploration of where power comes from, how societies work, and what it means to be human.

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. This story begins with a group of monks in the post-nuclear ruins of the southwestern US, carefully gathering up the remnants of human civilization and preserving them for a time when humanity is ready to unlock the secrets of the past...and then we jump forward a few hundred years, and we unlock the same nuclear secrets that destroyed us in the first place, and we do it all over again. The darkness comes when you realize that there's no one forcing us to live in a dystopia, it's just our own fallible nature, returning to the same mistakes over and over.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle This is not a full dystopia, but as the characters travel through alien worlds and dimensions they arrive in one of the scariest dystopias I've ever encountered. Camazotz is a world similar to our own, but driven by a central consciousness so overwhelming it forces everyone to conform to it—they live in the same houses, they leave at the same time going to the same places, they even come out to "play" at exactly the same time, bouncing their balls in perfect, soulless unison. It's no exaggeration to say that this terrified me as a child. It forced me to examine my life, then and every day since, to make sure I was doing things because I chose to, and not just because the world, or my teachers or my parents or my boss or my friends or whoever, were making me.

“'Repent, Harlequin!' Said The Ticktockman,” by Harlan Ellison “Repent, Harlequin” is one of the greatest SF short stories ever written, if not one of the greatest short stories of any genre. It tells about a future so strictly regimented that being late is not only an expensive inconvenience, it's a crime. Fittingly for a story about a roguish troublemaker, the story is told in a chaotic mishmash: parts of it are out of order, words get mashed together or are made up completely, and standard rules of grammar and punctuation and spelling are alternately followed or discarded, seemingly on a whim. It's one of the best “stick it to the man” stories ever told, and it's about ten pages long, and it includes one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of jelly beans. How can you go wrong?

Melissa de la Cruz on "The Ring and the Crown" and Her Spring Reading List

RingandthecrownMelissa de la Cruz, whose latest novel, The Ring and the Crown, comes out in April, shares which new books she's looking forward to reading in the coming months.

My latest novel, The Ring and the Crown, is an alternate historical fantasy that imagines a world in which the sun has never set on the British Empire, where Avalon is real, and the British won the French crown in 1429 and defeated the American rebels in 1776. The Franco-British empire is the most powerful one the world has ever seen, and at the turn of the twentieth century, its fate is in the hands of Princess Marie-Victoria, a sickly, weak seventeen-year-old girl who longs for a smaller, simpler life.

The book was inspired by The Ambassadors, about rich American girls coming to London to secure titled husbands, War and Peace, about court life and noble courtship, and The Mists of Avalon, with its formidable sorceresses and forbidden love. I wanted to write a book that contained all these elements and introduced a dynamic set of four main characters—the reluctant princess, the woman scorned, the social climber, and the wily enchantress.

Their lives and loves are played out in an epic story of love, war, magic, and fabulous dresses and parties. My publisher and I have nicknamed it Glam of Thrones—it is a frothy, delicious concoction, a magical soap opera, and the most fun book I've written yet.

I hope you enjoy it, and here are a few books that I am looking forward to enjoying this spring.

Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl I'm a huge fan of Beautiful Creatures and the lyrical and deeply affecting writing in Garcia and Stohl's Southern Gothic tale. I am counting down the days to see what Ridley and Link are up to in the spinoff. Narrated by my favorite character in the series, bad-girl Ridley and set in the mean streets of New York, it's bound to be wickedly good fun from the powerhouse duo.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo I was captivated by the Grisha trilogy and its sumptuous landscape of alternate-fantasy Russia (Ravka) as well as the twisted love triangle between brave but wounded Alina, handsome, fearless Mal and the seductive Darkling. I can't wait to see how it all ends—and I have to be honest, I'm worried for them. Bardugo has promised a satisfying ending with a high body count. Eep!

Dangerous by Shannon Hale The heroine is named Maisie Danger Brown (Danger is her middle name--SOLD!) in a thrilling science-fiction tale from the acclaimed author of The Goose Girl. I love Shannon Hale's smart, resilient, and lovable heroines and can't wait to see what she has in store for us in this end-of-the-world alien apocalypse story.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han Han's Shug is one of my all-time favorite romances—incredibly sweet and sad at the same time, like the end of a summer day. In her latest, inspired by her own true life experience, Lara Jean writes letters to all the boys she's had unrequited crushes on, to let them know she's moved on. When the letters are accidentally mailed to the boys, she has to deal with the fallout—and I can't help but imagine, a few delicious surprises.