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Friday, July 29, 2011

Inspiration for your Weekend

where you are to where you want to be
and you'll get
~ Sara Bareilles 
It doesn't matter whether you've only just begun your journey, or you already have 1000 miles behind you, you'll only reach your goals by actually moving toward them, not wishing for them.

Happy weekend & happy writing!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ted Saves the World Blog Tour and Giveaway

Hello everyone - today I have the great privilege of participating in Bryan Cohen's blog tour for his new release, TED SAVES THE WORLD.  Bryan's graciously offered to impart some writing advice as well as tell you how you can WIN a $25 Amazon gift card (and it's really easy).  So read on!

A Learning Experience
By Bryan Cohen

In college, I had a playwriting teacher named Bill Svanoe who had an amazing piece of advice I've tried to follow when creating characters for my books. Bill was an avid movie and play watcher. What do I mean by this? I mean he went to see every single movie that came out in theaters. Every. Single. Movie.

While there are occasionally some good movies that come out in the cinema, more often than not, these flicks are utter crap. Why would Bill subject himself to such awful, putrid "entertainment?"

Have you ever heard the phrase you learn more from a failure than a success? Bill took this to heart and as a result he recommended that we watch as many (if not more) failures as we did successes. This went for reading as well.

In the most unsuccessful books I've read or movies I've watched, something I've picked up is that the supporting characters were completely forgettable. They don't have a voice and they don't stick out at all. I have tried to avoid this fate by basing the supporting characters in my book Ted Saves the World on either people I know or aspects of myself.

One of my favorite characters, Dhiraj, is based on a combination of my younger brother, who is an Internet marketer and sort of a "get rich quick" savant, my best friend from high school, who is also Indian, and nerdy as hell, like me! A lot of supporting characters I've read, have one or two quirks and that is the extent to which they are fleshed out. By giving my characters aspects from multiple people and drawing from my own experience, I hope to present a fully-rounded and well-developed character that readers can enjoy.

I'm very excited to make Ted Saves the World the beginning of a series of books, because it gives me even further time to flesh out these characters and give them one or multiple arcs. Even though I've learned about characters from very well-written books and movies, if it wasn't for Bill's advice, I might have never learned about the character pitfalls I've gleaned from observing the worst of the worst.

Description of Ted Saves the World (Available for just $0.99):

A possessed cheerleader. A cursed gang of criminals. Mysterious telekinetic powers. An angry ex-girlfriend in gym class? One second, sophomore in high school Ted endures his first breakup in his favorite place in town. The next, a mysterious blue light turns him into a worldwide superhero sensation for taking down a posse of grisly murderers. As his views on YouTube increase and his friend Dhiraj tries to capitalize on the marketing potential, his dangers increase as well when a presumed-dead cheerleader begins taking a personal interest. Can Ted survive his first week as a superhero in the public eye? This novella is the first taste in a series of full-length novels about the adventures of Ted Finley and Erica LaPlante. 

The book is also available on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords for $0.99.

Now, for the FREE stuff --

Bryan Cohen is giving away four $25 Amazon gift cards, one for each week of his month long blog tour. To enter, simply comment with your e-mail address (feel free to substitute @ with (at) or other tricks to stop spammers from getting it). Bryan will draw the four names at the end of the tour, picking one entrant at random from each week’s set of blog posts. Entries will be counted through Monday, August 15th, 2011. Enter on as many sites as you want, follow the tour at Build Creative Writing Ideas. If Ted reaches the Top 100 on Amazon at any point during the tour, a fifth $25 card will be added to the giveaway.

So there you go -- leave a comment with your well-wishes for Bryan and you may just be $25 richer in a couple of weeks. Oh, and while you're at it, buy the book.  ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Debut YA Book Birthday

Another Tuesday, another round of debut YA novels being born. Let's celebrate with these authors.

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arliana Tibensky
Keek’s life was totally perfect.

Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.

With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right.

Wildefire by Karsten Knight
Every flame begins with a spark.

Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

I know lots of you have been waiting for Wildefire to come out. Are you excited yet??

Friday, July 22, 2011

Top 5 Reasons I'm a Not-So-Closet DORK

1.  I got totally geeked out over buying the school supplies for my 5 and 6 year old daughters.  I separated everything and then slipped the supplies into their backpacks while they slept. I felt like Santa Claus.
2.  When my hair is driving me nuts & I can't rummage one of the dd's hair clips from out of my purse, I use a small binder clip.  Note: dorky but effective.

3.  The only "sport" I ever lettered in when I was in high school was marching band. *hangs head in shame*

4.  The only "Greek" organization I belonged to in college was Eta Sigma Phi -- it's the Classics Honor Society.

5.  My day job is being an appellate attorney. I know, you probably don't even know what that is.  Just think: she sits in front of a desk all day researching and writing and hardly ever has to interact with other people.  It's sort of my dream job.
So there you have it -- cold, hard evidence that I am just as big of a dork (and maybe more so) as I think I am.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Happy YA Debut Book Birthday

Another Tuesday, another release day celebration!  It might be a small list this week (only 1), but let's still welcome this debut YA author to the ranks of the published:

Releasing July 21st --

The Robot by Paul E. Watson

Science-loving Gabe and girl-crazy Dover are best friends. In fact, they're practically each other's only friends. So when Gabe's parents leave town for the weekend, he lets Dover convince him to break into his father's basement laboratory-even though he knows it's off-limits under penalty of lifelong grounding. Once inside, the boys make a shocking discovery, one that will turn a boring weekend into a hilarious madcap adventure: a smoking hot robot!

While Gabe and Dover argue over "Trina," the robot flees the lab. The chase is on! Before the day is over, she'll expose a traitorous plot, catapult two geeky freshmen to high school fame, and try to assassinate Dr. Phil!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cross-country Co-Authors Finally Meet in Person

Saturday was a really fun and exciting day for me.  It was the day I finally got to meet Nikki Katz, the woman with whom I co-authored an entire novel, in person.  She and her family were in Orlando so we meet up.  And what better place to meet than an IHOP?  (We were also joined by our Oasis sister, J.A. Souders, whose debut novel, Renegade will be published by Tor in September 2012 -- but I'm saving that picture for when Oasis comes off hiatus.)

It always seems sort of amazing to me that although Nikki lives in California, I live in Florida, and we'd never met in person, we were still able to gel our thoughts and writing styles to compose a novel.  We're still shopping for a home for Beneath the Surface, but we're confident you will find it on bookstore shelves in the not-too-distant future.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Starcrossed

For starters, you all know I LOVE Greek mythology.  And I LOVE love stories.  So when I read the premise for Starcrossed, I knew I had to read it.  In fact, I forgot to cancel my pre-ordered Kindle version when I won a copy, so I have it in e-format and paper.  (In case you're wondering, I read the paper one, 'cause I was home and sometimes paper is just nice!)  Here are the details --

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Now, it actually took me a little longer than I would've liked to get into the book.  I'm a first-person kind of girl and this is written in third, so maybe that's why I didn't connect right away.  It might also have been that Helen is one of those painfully beautiful and painfully shy girls that are getting a bit cliche these days (although the reason for her behavior is explained later).

One of the other things that bugged me (just a little) is that there was this big secret that no one was letting Helen (or the reader in on), but it was pretty obvious for at least 50 pages, if not more.  

But that's where my gripes end.  I loved Lucas, the main love interest. Instead of the typical hot guy ignores the girl plot line, the minute Helen sees Lucas, she lunges at him and tries to rip out his jugular with her bare hands.  That's some kind of engrained hatred! And despite her attack (or more probably, because of it), Lucas realizes that Helen's a demi-god like him, and eventually brings her into the folds of his large and lovable Greek family.

I enjoyed getting to know all of the Delos cousins and their personalities.  They were each distinct and well-drawn. And the writing in this novel is fantastic. I wished I'd been marking the pages earlier, because there were a number of times when Angelini came up with a metaphor or simile that blew me out of the water.  This one's toward the end, but you can see that she has a gift with words:

A storm was gathering over the water, and the fruit-punch colors of the sunset seemed to be trying to claw their way out of the rain clouds.

Probably the main reason I loved this book was because I absolutely couldn't put it down once I got into it.  I've read a lot of books lately that were enjoyable, but I wasn't willing to stay up late to finish them. Happily, this book was different. I spent all of last Sunday sneaking away from my family to go read a few more pages (poor hubby was so bored!).  When I get that kind of insatiable hunger for a book, I know I've got something good in my hands.

So despite a few minor quibbles, I really, really liked Starcrossed.  I give it 4 out of 4 Greek coins - appropriately enough, an OMG! rating (only here, we'll make that Oh My Gods).  

If you want to read Starcrossed for yourself and haven't gotten a copy yet, STICK AROUND.  I plan on giving away some of my summer reads in the not-too-distant-future!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy Debut YA Book Birthday

Happy Tuesday -- time to celebrate the releases of these debut YA novels!

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Someone's been a very bad zombie.
Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steriods are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town  . . . and stay hormonally human.

With or Without You by Brian Farrey

Eighteen year-old Evan and his best friend Davis get beaten up for being loners. For being gay. For just being themselves. But as rough as things often seem, at least Evan can take comfort in his sweet, sexy boyfriend Erik--whom he’s kept secret from everyone for almost a year.
Then Evan and Davis are recruited to join the Chasers, a fringe crowd that promises them protection and status. Davis is swept up in the excitement, but Evan is caught between his loyalty to Davis and his love for Erik. Evan has lied to keep his two worlds separate. Now his lies are about to implode…and destroy the very relationships he’s been trying to protect.

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode

Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities - or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. Exciting new talent Laura Goode lays down a snappy, provocative, and heartfelt novel about discovering the rhythm of your own truth.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at At Home with Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
Sunset on St. Pete Beach, Florida. Late May.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Five

I decided to copy Kim Baccellia and do a Friday Five this week.
1.  Cirque du Soliel - Alegria
 I love, love, love Cirque du Soliel performances.  My husband and I actually saw Alegria in Paris in 2007, so when the show came to Jacksonville, I knew we had to take the girls.  As a member of Club Cirque (told you I loved it), I could buy advance tickets, so we ended up being in the front row on the floor, literally like 3 feet away from the stage.  The clowns and bird people were close enough to give my daughter a balloon and pat hubby on the head. We felt the rush of air when the performers landed right in front of us. It was awesome. If you've never been to one of their shows, I can't recommend it enough.

2.  Beach time with the family -- after the excitement of Sunday's performance, we spent an incredibly relaxing 4th of July on the beach. 
When the tide went out, we got to see the coquinas doing something we'd never seen before.  They stuck some part of their body out of their shells, so that it was above the sand while the shell was buried, and they looked like these mini anemones.  The girls collected dozens and relocated them to their own private beach colony.  They even had an open white clam shell mirror.  Very chic.

3.  Starcrossed.  I wasn't sure about it during the first 2 chapters, but now I'm pretty well hooked.  Can't wait to see what happens.  Sort of hoping that Helen kills Hector.  He's annoying me.

4.  Destined.  I'm now more than 2/3s of the way through revisions and it's feeling really "right."  My lovely and talented CP - Lynne - is being like my own personal cheerleader and I can't thank her enough!

5.  Sprint Tri.  And no, it's not me. But hubby is doing his last one of the summer tomorrow and I wish him luck as he strives to beat his last time (and maybe even win a new bike in the raffle).  Good luck, sweetie!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Introducing Cover Artist, Josh Longiaru

By now, you've probably all had the chance to see my fabulous cover.  And last week, I even told you the story of how I met my cover artist, Josh Longiaru.  But this week, I want you to meet him and see some more of his work -- 'cause he's just that awesome.

So without further ado, I introduce you to Josh --

1.  How did you get started designing novel covers?
I've been dabbling in graphic and print design for about 15 years.  I started mainly with retouching photos for friends and family or designing the occasional greeting card.  I then began getting more serious and continued with photo manipulations, rebranding for logo businesses, and some basic web design.  I didn't start on novel covers until I stumbled upon a YA Book Blog that was having a contest for the best re-designed cover redesign.  Being a bit competitive, I did some research and started entering contests.  It sort of took off from there.

2.  Obviously, I think you're very talented. ;)  How many different programs or skills did it take you to create the cover for DESTINED?
I used three programs, all Adobe: Photoshop, Illustrator, and inDesign.  Photoshop was used for the photo retouching.  Illustrator was used for the title and the rest of the graphics.  inDesign was used for the final layout and text placement. 

3.  Since you only recently got into freelancing, I assume you have a day job.  Does it involve the same skill set you use for cover art?
My day job is in roughly the same genre - I'm an IT Director for a non-profit healthcare agency.  The title roughly means that I get the fun task of managing anything that plugs in, any of the software that runs on anything that plugs in, and anything else that's needed to let the things that plug in function or communicate.  I also get to provide support to everyone in our agency that uses any of aforementioned devices or services. 

[[ Jessie's note -- since computers tend to hate me, this job sounds like one of my personal circles of hell.  So glad there are people like Josh in the world so I don't have to worry about these sorts of things.]]

4.  Can you share with us some of your other favorite covers you've created? 
I am happy to say that your cover is the first book cover that's actually going to be printed!  All of my previous covers have been re-designs for contests or fun.  Although thanks to you, I am currently working on several other covers for books that will also hit the shelf in coming months.  You can see some of my covers as well as a few other examples of my print media work here:
 [[Jessie's note -- Lauren Hammond gave me permission to post her cover for Famished, which Josh also designed.]]

5.  In addition to covers, you also designed my countdown widget and are helping with promotional materials (bookmarks, business cards, etc.) for the novel.  Can you give us an idea of the full range of your services?
In my real job, I need to be a jack-of-all-trades.  This has translated pretty well to my freelance jobs as well.  So far I've done everything from full business rebranding (logo, business cards, letterhead, envelopes, banners, etc), designed full websites and online surveys, photo retouching and manipulation, basic flash programming, and tried to do just about anything else a client might need. 

6.  What's the best way for someone to get in touch with you?
You can contact me via the website:  Or e-mail me directly: josh.longiaru [at] gmail [dot] com

7.  Random fact: What would readers of a YA lit blog be most surprised to learn about you?
As much of a geek as I am, I still refuse to use any electronic device to read books.  There's just something about holding a book that's too satisfying to relinquish just yet. 

Thanks very much Jessie!  It's been great working with you so far and I can't wait to see what else we can create together! 

Jessie's note: I can say the same to you, Josh!  Folks, if you are ever in need of a designer for your cover, Lauren and I cannot recommend Josh enough.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy Debut YA Book Birthday!

Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful long weekend and enjoyed your 4th of July activities!  Now that we're back to the grind, let's take a moment to celebrate the release of these debut YA novels.
July 4th:

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter (this is one I read early via NetGalley - you can check out my review here)

Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid. A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce possesses an extraordinary singing talent, which makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

July 5th:

Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray

Meet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend's fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.

Passion, romance, drama, humor, and tragedy intertwine in this compulsively readable debut novel, told by a strong-willed, modern-day Ophelia.

A Scene from a Scary Movie by Matt Blackstone

Rene, an obsessive-compulsive fourteen year old, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he's nervous. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle when the time adds up to thirteen (7:42 is bad luck because 7 + 4 + 2 = 13), or washes his body parts in the wrong order, Rene or someone close to him will break a bone, contract a deadly virus, and/or die a slow and painful death like someone in a scary scene in scary movie. Rene's new and only friend tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but that's not as easy as Gio makes it sound.
Paradise by Jill S. Alexander

Paisley Tillery is the drummer for a country rock band. If they can make it to the stage at the Texapalooza music fest, then Paisley will be closer to her dream of a career in music and a ticket out of her small Texas town.
Drumming and music are what Paisley has always wanted. Until the band gets a new lead singer, the boy from Paradise, Texas. With Paradise in her life, what Paisley wants, and what she needs, complicate her dreams coming true.

July 8th

Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif

No pizza. No boyfriend. (No life.)
Okay, so during Ramadan, we're not allowed to eat from sunrise to sunset. For one whole month. My family does this every year, even though I've been to a mosque exactly twice in my life. And it's true, I could stand to lose a few pounds. (Sadly, my mom's hotness skipped a generation.) But is starvation really an acceptable method? I think not.

Even worse, my oppressive parents forbid me to date. This is just cruel and wrong. Especially since Peter, a cute and crushable artist, might be my soul mate. Figures my bestest friend Lisa likes him, too. To top it off, there's a new Muslim girl in school who struts around in super-short skirts, commanding every boy's attention-including Peter's. How can I get him to notice me? And will I ever figure out how to be Muslim and American?

Friday, July 1, 2011

How I Got My Cover

You can't judge a book by it's cover... only, everyone does.  So when I decided to put out Destined, I knew the cover had to be breathtaking.  Something that would compete with the look of the big houses without breaking the bank.  And then fortune smiled on me and I met my designer online.  At the risk of sounding cheesy, I think it was destined.  ;)
I entered a blog contest to win a copy of Shade by Jerri Smith-Ready and low and behold, I won.  When I went to the YA Book Queen's blog to read some more of her posts, I noticed that another person had won both Shade and the sequel, Shift. This person -- JL -- had won by designing alternate book covers for the two titles.

In a word, they were amazing.  I knew this was who I wanted to make the cover for Destined.  I contacted the blogger, who got me in touch with JL -- who turned out to be the super-fabulous Josh Longiaru (stay tuned for his interview next week) and he said he's never done a cover-for-hire before, but he'd be willing to give it a try.  SQUEE.

First step, picking a concept.  I knew I really liked the covers of Falling Under and Abandon, so I was going for something along those lines.  With that in mind, we both started hunting for stock photos that would work.

Now, you've got to know this about my novel: it's a retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth, where Psyche is the most beautiful woman in the world.  So you might say I was a bit "picky" when it came to finding a face I liked well enough to fit the bill.

I found my cover photo on DeviantArt and instantly fell in love with it.  Only it wasn't for sale.  And the owner/photographer lived in Norway.  I tried to put it out of my mind and looked for something else.  But when my daughter woke me up at 2 am and I couldn't go back to sleep for hours, I decided, what the heck, it can't hurt to ask if she'd sell me the rights to it.  I sent an e-mail in the middle of the night our time.

When I got up the next morning, the self-portrait artist, Perri Eriksen, had responded that she was flattered and yes, she'd sell me the photo as a stock image for my book.  Cue jumping over the moon.

From there, the rest came easy.  Sure, I had to make sure I paid royalties on the fonts since they were for commercial use.  And I had to write the back cover copy.  And we went through lots of "just tweak this" and "can you change that?"  But in the end, I am SO happy.

I don't know how authors can stand to sit back and have no input on their covers.  I was grateful that Josh had artistic vision and came up with ideas for me to give the thumbs up or thumbs down, but I loved having that choice!

I want to thank everyone for their support of the novel thus far.  We're still months from launching, and I have friends sending me shout outs, which has led to new twitter followers, Goodreads friends, and I'm sure visits to Amazon.  So, THANK YOU!!  The YA reading and writing community is amazing and I love being a part of it.