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Young Adult

Sneak Peek: "The Accidental Highwayman"

Ben Tripp makes his YA debut with The Accidental Highwayman, a whimsical fantasy set in eighteenth-century England. After a series of random events unfold, Christopher “Kit” Bristol, embarks on a quest to save a fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England--only to encounter a series of fantastical obstacles (think goblins, princesses, and a magical map) along the way. The book, out on October 14, is filled with Tripp's illustrations, several of which he has shared here.


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Guest Post: Shane Burcaw, Author of "Laughing at My Nightmare"

LaughingatmynightmareShane Burcaw became a Tumblr sensation by chronicling his life with spinal muscular atrophy on his blog, Laughing at My Nightmare. His warts-and-all-style earned him more than half a million fans. His memoir, also called Laughing at My Nightmare, is out on October 14.

If I had to choose a theme for my upcoming memoir, Laughing at My Nightmare, it would be the absurdity of living with my disability. I was born with a disease called spinal muscular atrophy, and it has been making life pretty ridiculous since I was a baby.

I got my first wheelchair at the age of three, and my favorite activity quickly became crashing into walls at full speed. Looking back, it seems silly, but at least my favorite activity wasn’t running people over or trying to drive down flights of stairs.

The wheelchair gave me incredible freedom, and, naturally, I used this freedom to get into trouble. Driving through dog poop became a new source of joy, (God, I was weird) which is a mostly harmless behavior until I came inside and drove those poop-covered wheels across the white rug in our living room. Mom was not pleased.

As I grew up, my interests turned to sports, which was not the best combination for a severely disabled boy with no regard for his own safety. My friends and I found ways to involve my wheelchair in every sport we played, often at the expense of their personal well-being. Do you know what it feels like to be tackled by a 400-pound wheelchair? My friends unfortunately do.

In school I grappled with the constant pressure to fit in, as most kids do, but my desire to be seen as “normal” despite my disability caused me to go to some extreme lengths that make me cringe today. I tried to be a hardcore skateboarder thug in middle school, grew my hair out, and held on to that identity until I finally accepted that the drug-taking, rule-breaking, hygiene-ignoring lifestyle just wasn’t for me.

Life became more serious in high school as I began to seriously contemplate the realities of my disease. I am constantly getting weaker—arms, legs, neck, jaw, lungs, throat, the whole shebang. I realized I probably would not live a full life when every tiny head cold put me in the hospital for a week. This is when I began to develop the mindset that would help me become the person I am today: the idea that laughter and positivity are powerful weapons against adversity.

In college, I began blogging about this topic, telling stories about breaking my femur and peeing in my pants and falling in love. To my complete surprise, the world enjoyed what I had to say! In a whirlwind adventure that is still taking place as I write this, my blog grew to over half a million readers, I started my own nonprofit organization, I got a book deal, and I even had a few serious relationships with actual human females!

You can read about all of that in my book, and lots of it probably won’t seem like real life. As you read, just know that I have been feeling the same disbelief every step of the way (every roll of the way?).

Life is crazy and it’s beautiful and it’s awesome, and I can’t wait to share mine with you. 

 

How Ending My Trilogy Made Me Feel Like Han Solo

Guards of the Shadowlands concludes with Chaos. Author Sarah Fine offers some parting thoughts.

Writing the third book in a trilogy is a bit like landing a giant spaceship. I mean, I’ve never flown a spaceship, but I imagine that’s what it would feel like. After all, the whole time I was crafting the story and committing it to paper, I was definitely thinking like Han Solo as the TIE fighters descend on the Millennium Falcon:

Pic 120th Century Fox/source

It wasn’t that I didn’t have a clear idea of where the story was going. I did! I’ve known how I wanted the Guards of the Shadowlands series to end ever since I began writing Sanctum. But when the time came to write the final book, there was still so much ground to cover, so many moments I wanted to capture, so many details I wanted to include, so much emotion I wanted to harness. It felt big—and at times unwieldy—as I tried to wrestle all the pieces into place so I could bring this series in for a nice, smooth landing in readers’ laps. But…

  Pic220th Century Fox/source

These characters mean something to me. Their journeys are important and I know they matter to fans of this series, too. Lela started as an uncertain and angry girl and has become the fiercely determined force of nature she was always meant to be, but does she have the endurance to keep fighting all the way to the end? Malachi has traveled so far down his path to atonement, but has he crossed the point of no return? And what about Ana, who only wants one thing—Takeshi—but will Takeshi be the same man she loved and lost all those years ago? Did the Judge plan this all along? Is it even possible to defeat the Mazikin on their home turf? It was a bittersweet pleasure to let this story unfurl, to answer all these questions, to remain at the controls as the ride came to an end.

Now the only thing left is to see how readers react. And I can only hope they join me in feeling a bit like this:

Han3  20th Century Fox/source

Exclusive Pre-order Promotion (US only): Pre-order the Kindle edition of Chaos (Guards of the Shadowlands, Book 3) any time before the publication date of 10/7/14 and receive the exclusive, never-before-published short story Vigilante: A Guard's Tale from Ana's Perspective. Promotional credit will be delivered within 2 days of your pre-order. Download must be claimed by November 6, 2014. Promotion limited to one per customer.

"The Book of Three," 50 Years Later

Book_of_threeFifty years after its release, Noa Wheeler, Henry Holt and Co (BYR) editor, reflects on the lasting power of The Book of Three, the first installment of Lloyd Alexander's epic Chronicles of Prydain. A new 50th anniversary edition is now available.

As a kid in the 1990s, I read Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain over and over again, beginning with The Book of Three. That book is fifty years old this year, and it’s worth stopping to wonder: What has made this series last so long? What keeps them holding up so well? I’m certainly not the only kid who was so fond of Prydain—though I suppose I’m the only kid who grew up to edit the 50th anniversary edition.

One of the many things Lloyd Alexander does so wonderfully in his books for kids is his incredible worldbuilding. He does this in several ways, easing us into this unfamiliar world in a way that makes it seem perfectly natural.

In The Book of Three, Alexander uses Taran’s impulsiveness and naïveté to great effect, to help paint the world around him. We know right away that this is a world unlike ours. The book begins with Taran wanting desperately to make a sword: “Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes.” It’s clear that this is a world in which it’s perfectly normal to make swords (as well as horseshoes), but that Taran isn’t quite there yet—here, as throughout the book, he wants to leap ahead of his abilities and do the difficult, complicated things before mastering the simple ones.

Shortly after we learn that this world is one with swords and battles, we also learn that it’s one with magic, when Taran goes in to talk to Dallben. Dallben discusses the Land of the Dead, and Taran burns himself by touching the magical Book of Three. When he goes to get lotion for his blistered hands, he and Coll discuss Hen Wen, the oracular pig who is Taran’s charge (and the impetus for the adventure to follow, when Taran goes looking for her after her escape). These magical things are presented when they fit into the story, and it is clear to the reader that these are the facts of this world.

The characters in The Book of Three do their bit to make this world fully realized, too. Many of them have their own bits of magic: Eilonwy with her magic bauble, Fflewdur Flam with his harp which snaps a string when he embellishes the truth, Gurgi—somewhere between animal and human—with his unquenchable desire for “crunchings and munchings.”

During the course of the book, Lloyd Alexander also deftly gives us information about the physical form of Prydain. Three different people (Gwydion, Fflewdur, and Medwyn) draw three different maps at various stages of the journey, helping us keep track of our heroes and the path they follow.

All these things seem a natural part of the story—Alexander builds this world slowly, so that we hardly know he’s creating it around us. And the result is a world unlike any other, built loosely on Welsh myth but very clearly its own entity, which has spoken to many generations of children and continues to do so today.

As a kid I was fascinated by Prydain; as an adult I am no less so. In celebration of its fifty years in print, the new anniversary edition of The Book of Three comes with a gorgeous cover (an homage to the original), and also has extra material in it, including a new introduction by Newbery Honor-winning author Shannon Hale and a short story from Prydain.

If you’re a fan of Prydain, join us in celebrating this year by rereading these wonderful books—and if you’ve never been to Prydain, this is a perfect time to open The Book of Three and visit.

Adi Alsaid's Must-Read Banned Books

Lets get lostIn anticipation of Banned Books Week starting September 21, Adi Alsaid, debut author of Let's Get Lost, shares his favorite books or series that have been banned or challenged.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut My favorite author when I was in high school, and one of my favorite books. He summed it up nicely in his well-circulated “I am very real” letter to the school board that sent his books to the furnace for obscene language, so I’ll let you look that up rather than try a poor summarization. Suffice it to say, Vonnegut’s works helped shape my positive, hopeful view of the world, and no matter how many times he swears he deserves your attention.

Goosebumps (Series) by R. L Stine This is the series that hooked me as an elementary school kid, and though I like to think I love books so much that I would have eventually become a voracious reader anyway, I bet there are many others who could credit their love of reading to these horror stories.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Aside from the fact that it’s wonderfully written and a great story, the sexual content and violent themes in this book should scare us. As Cesar A. Cruz said, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

The Outsiders by S. E Hinton Contemporary fiction about young adults probably had never felt more real to young adults than in this book. Yeah, there’s violence and language. But the relationships are real and the characters completely compelling, and I don’t think anyone that read the book would actually want to participate in violent acts.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K Rowling That a book this widely read and loved would be banned is pretty astounding--that’s like banning peanut butter. I fully admit to not liking peanut butter and even to never having read the full Harry Potter series (just like, I would venture to guess, those who would want to ban it), but just because it’s not my thing doesn’t mean I’m about to boycott peanut butter and ban it from the world.

Exclusive Excerpt: "Silvern" by Christina Farley

SilvernChristina Farley introduces Silvern, book two in the Gilded series, and provides an exclusive excerpt. Silvern doesn’t release until September 23, but you can enter for your chance to win an advanced copy below.

It all began the day I went digging through the library at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea looking for Korean myths. I was teaching at an international school in Seoul and I wanted to inspire my students to fall in love with Korean literature.

I’ll never forget sitting on that cold, marble floor, the smell of books filling the air around me when I came across the story of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa. It was a story full of magic, shape-shifting, battles, and unrequited love.

I was hooked.

But I wanted more.

What happened after Princess Yuhwa fell back to earth? What other challenges did these mythological creatures encounter? And more importantly, how could these Korean myths intertwine with our modern world?

My imagination kicked in and I went home that night and wrote the first chapter of Gilded. But Jae Hwa’s story didn’t end with that first book. There was a whole new world—a secret world—of the Guardians of Shinshi that Jae had yet to discover. And in the midst of this, she arouses the interest of the most dangerous Korean immortal: Kud, the god of darkness.

For Silvern, the sequel to Gilded, I wanted to bring my readers deeper into the mythological world of Korea. The Nine Dragons, gwishins, imoogi, and the god of the underworld are all players in the hunt for the White Tiger orb. Jae must embark on a dangerous quest into the heart of North Korea in order to foil Kud’s plan. Yet through these struggles, Jae realizes that while she has the power to save those she loves, she may destroy everything she has worked so hard to gain.

My love of fantasy began at a young age when my dad would read at my bedside each night. As a teen, I devoured J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Richard Adams’s Watership Down. Their worldbuilding was absolutely staggering, and because of it, those stories lingered with me long after I closed the book.

Books that inspire me today include Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy and Beth Revis’s Across the Universe series. Both of these not only create magical settings in a fresh new way, but challenge the reader to impact their world and be a part of that change.   

Do dragons still roam the earth? Are there portals that connect us to other worlds? It’s these questions that pump my blood and kindle the love of stories within my veins. Books have the power to take you on adventures to new worlds. And can forever change you.

That’s my hope for readers of Silvern.

Check out an exclusive_excerpt of Silvern (PDF). To enter for your chance to win one of 20 early copies of the book, use your Amazon.com account to sign into Kindle Whispercast here. We will contact winners with instructions for claiming the prize. See official rules. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends 9/14/14 at 11:59pm.

Q&A: Josephine Angelini, Author of "Trial by Fire"

Trial by fireWorlds collide and witchcraft abounds in Trial by Fire, Josephine Angelini's new release about a teen transported to a parallel universe. The author discusses the first book in the Worldwalker Trilogy.

What was your inspiration for the Worldwalker Trilogy? I’m a bad sleeper and a remarkably stubborn person. I go through regular bouts of insomnia and refuse to take any kind of sleep medication. So I spend a lot of time staring at the ceiling at night. Weird things pop into your head at 3:00 in the morning. One notion that kept plaguing me a few years back was the thought that if I ever met another version of myself from a parallel universe we’d probably be enemies. I have no idea how that idea got in there, but once it was there I had to build a world around it so it would leave me alone.   

Which character do you most identify with in Trial by Fire? Right now, after finishing the second book, it’s Lillian. Funny thing about writing series instead of stand-alone books is that your sympathies often wander from one character to another. 

What made you decide to make Lily and Lillian witches? I’m from Massachusetts and I grew up with the lore of the Salem Witch Trials all around me. My parent’s house is right across the street from the town forest, and in the center of that forest is a cliff with caves in it. Those caves sheltered people accused of witchcraft in Salem who were fleeing persecution. My sisters told me many died—froze to death—in those caves. Try sleeping with that right across the street from your bedroom window. Maybe that’s where my insomnia comes from, come to think of it. I’ve been thinking about witchcraft my whole life, and I knew that some day I would write about it.

Where do you do your best writing? What is your dream “room of your own”? I have the most boring writing space imaginable, and this is on purpose. Every now and again I’ll trek out to a coffee shop to work, or if I’m traveling I have no problem working on planes, trains, hotel lobbies, or wherever. But day-to-day I work on a tiny bare desk that faces a blank wall. I have two choices—write or go crazy. Usually I write. Usually.

Character Study: "Ghosting" Author Edith Pattou

GhostingEdith Pattou introduces the characters in her new book, Ghosting, and discusses how their true personalities unfold following a prank gone horribly wrong.

When I got the idea for Ghosting, I decided right away that I wanted to tell the story of this very bad thing that happened at the end of summer to eight teenagers from their points of view. I could almost hear each voice as it took shape on the page.

On the surface, each of the characters seems like a type—the lacrosse jock, the merit scholar nerd, the school beauty, the disaffected outsider—but it was important to me that I capture the real person and not just the label. Several of the characters—Chloe, Maxie, even Emma—refer to the way you are pigeon-holed in a particular role in high school. But the truth is that everyone has layers—everyone has a very specific story, family, truth, and I wanted to reveal that for each of the characters.

Brendan, who I would probably consider the least sympathetic character in the book, seems on the surface to be a typical arrogant preppie bro, but as his story unfolds, we see that he is also the victim of a bullying, abusive father, which gives us a different perspective on him. And Chloe, whose identity has mainly been formed by how pretty she is with little confidence in her intelligence, reveals herself to be surprisingly funny—as well as brave.

The “cue ball” of the story (to use Chloe’s metaphor of a billiards game) is Walter, and I deliberately kept him a somewhat shadowy figure. In fact, we first see him as a shadow in an upstairs window. But even he, who does so much damage to so many lives, has a backstory that makes him—if not likable as a character—then at least someone worth having sympathy, even understanding, for.

Using the different shapes of free-verse helped me reveal the characters. Felix—the Joey Pigza-loving pothead with ADHD—speaks in a run-on, stream-of-consciousness style, while Maxie, the most artistic of the group, uses an unpredictable, creative form of word stacking.

I hope how each of these teens lives through and survives the fallout of that night imparts a message of healing. The world may be unsafe and unfair and pitted with unbearable losses but it is also possible to carve out a new path in life, one that is filled with good times with friends and family, and hopefully lots of guacamole.

Sarah J. Maas: Musical Musings

Heir of glassSarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series, finds inspiration in everything from movie scores to heavy metal. Here she shares the songs that inspired Heir of Fire, the latest book in the fantasy saga.

Music plays a huge role in creating my novels. I keep extensive playlists for every book, and almost every scene, plotline, and character is inspired by music. Movie scores and classical music are usually my go-to sources, but I’ve found inspiration in everything from heavy metal to country to rap.

When it came time to daydream about and then write Heir of Fire, the third book in my Throne of Glass series, the music I listened to formed the backbone (and heart) of the story. By the time I finished drafting the book, my playlist for it was the longest of any I’d ever created, clocking in at over 800 songs, divided internally into three separate playlists, one for each of the three narratives: Celaena, Dorian/Chaol, and Manon Blackbeak (a brand-new character to the series). I usually dislike traditional outlining methods, but these playlists wound up helping me keep track of the plots, emotional arcs, and general tone and feel of the story. Here are some of the songs that shaped and sculpted Heir of Fire:

“Waking Up” from the Oblivion soundtrack by M83: This is the first song on my Heir of Fire playlist—and the song that inspired not just Celaena’s opening scene but also her emotional state when the book begins. There’s something about its relentless beat, the darkness and light, that captured her rage, self-loathing, and brokenness, and also allowed me to slip easily into her head. I can’t read her opening chapter without hearing this music.

“The First Ambush and Remembering the Wilderness” from the Patriot soundtrack by John Williams: I wrote a good chunk of Crown of Midnight to the Patriot soundtrack, so it was no surprise that the first song on the playlist for Chaol Westfall’s narrative is from it (especially since that first scene is a dream/flashback to Crown of Midnight). The music is haunting, dark, slightly terrifying—it both set the tone for Chaol and Dorian’s narrative in Heir of Fire and also clicked with how I imagined Chaol’s feelings regarding the truth about Celaena’s past (and what he envisions for her future).

“Welcome to Fright Night” from the Fright Night soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi: The entire Fright Night soundtrack (and film) actually helped to inspire a new character in the series—Manon Blackbeak, an immortal (and very wicked) witch. We got a glimpse into the world of the witches of Erilea in Crown of Midnight, and Manon’s plotline picks up where that one left off. This piece inspired her opening scene—especially the predatory/stalking pace.

There are a few other new characters introduced in Heir of Fire, and perhaps my favorite of them is Prince Rowan Whitethorn, the Fae warrior tasked with training Celaena. “Hearts Like Ours” by the Naked and Famous was a song that didn’t inspire any specific scene in Heir of Fire, but rather reminded me of their relationship (the lyrics are eerily accurate).

Commenting on the hundreds of other songs on the playlist would 1) take forever and 2) be pretty spoilery, but I’ll hopefully get to share them once readers have had a chance to read Heir of Fire for themselves. I’m currently working on the fourth book in the series, whose playlist is already over 600 songs long and counting. And in the meantime, I’ll be keeping my ears open for new music to inspire me.

Guest Post: "Jackaby" Author William Ritter

JackabyWilliam Ritter takes readers for a ride through nineteenth-century New England in his upcoming debut novel, Jackaby. The author discusses his world-building approach for the YA supernatural mystery.

You’re not writing a book, you’re writing a bus pass. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking readers a hundred years into the future or to your own backyard—they still need to get there, and you’re the one behind the wheel. So, button up that starchy polyester uniform and start thinking about three things: rules, routes, and riders.

Rules: As the driver, it’s your job to post the rules at the front of the bus. Figure it all out, from hard science to social graces. Don’t worry, you’re only making these rules so that you can break them.

It’s these exceptions that make the story fun, but if you fail to establish guidelines first, then your “loose cannon” cop or rebellious heroine will fall flat. You can’t be extraordinary if there is no ordinary.

Jackaby is a supernatural mystery set in 1892. To build my world, I had to re-create a believable nineteenth-century New England, and then seat my own paranormal reality within it. This required big things, like setting the rules of magic, and little things, like repairing cobblestones and following women’s fashion. Getting the big things wrong might have made the world feel fake, but I found that getting the little things right was what made the world feel real.

Routes: People will like or dislike your book just the same whether you’re going to Nantucket or Narnia, so in the words of a man named Book, “How you get there is the worthier part” (Firefly).

If you can stay consistent but unobtrusive and balance the logical and illogical, then you’re in for a smooth ride and happy passengers. Make maps, family trees, and character bios that no one will ever see—but remember that readers don’t need to know everything. If you drone on about how the atmosphere of your alien world is 75 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen on page one, then your passengers will leap from the moving bus by page two. Be subtle, slipping in details when relevant.

While you’re at it, be logical. Think about how the dark overlord’s monolith would affect banal things like traffic. Don’t be too logical, though, because reality doesn’t work like that. If things are too perfect and orderly, they will feel just as wrong as if they made no sense at all.

Beyond including little details like gaslights and carriages, one of the things I pushed myself to think about was how my city had evolved on top of itself over many years. As a result, the streets don’t follow a perfect grid, but wind around in a confusing web. This adds realism to the setting, and it also accents my narrator’s struggle to get her bearings in a new town and a new life.

Riders: Finally, remember that every passenger is unique. Some savor the complex inner workings of elven councils. Others won’t even bother finishing the first chapter if there isn’t an action beat on every page.

You can’t make extra stops. Everyone gets the same book. The best that you can do is offer them the trip that you would want to take.