Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ramblings of a YA author

Hi everyone!

While I'm always grateful to be surrounded by so many amazing people, I would like to take a moment to thank my wonderful readers for whom I value more than words can say, my friends (both cyber and close) for your continued support, my family for believing in me even when I don't believe in myself, and my publishers for helping me share my stories with the world. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Where my travels took me:

I had the pleasure of being a part of the University of Whitewater Wisconsin Creative Writing Festival. Over 700 high school students attended this day long conference. Susan Gloss, author of the novel Vintage, kicked things of with a keynote speech to a standing room only crowd. Next were the workshops, of which I lead two. The day ended with an award ceremony. Congrats to the winners! The young talent at this festival was amazing, and I'm truly honored to have been a part of the event.

Book news:

I've been chatting with my fun and amazing publicist about cover options for Entwine. We both loved the same images. Total plus! She passed our thoughts on to the design team at Omnific Publishing. Now for the waiting part, which many of you know is one of the hardest parts of publishing. I'm a big fan of Omnific's covers. They really do a great job. I can't wait to see what they come up with for this book. =)

I'm still oh so close to finishing the new first draft of my YA realistic contemporary romance. What's slowed me down. Unexpected visits from my stepsons, which was worth setting my laptop aside. See, with our boys being in their late teens and twenties, it's a rare occasion to have more than one under our roof at the same time. So when three of them are home, I'm happy to let time slow down and enjoy it. I figure I can knock out the last two chapters... yes, I'm that close... before the weekend.

That's it for me today. What do you consider welcome interruptions when you're in the writing zone? Are you doing NaNo? Have you met your word count?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Misc. Musings: Updates, Twists, Winners & More


Last week, my writing time was divided between working on my YA realistic fiction and critiquing the submissions for the U-WI Writing Festival I'm participating in this week.I really enjoy these events, because I get to meet teens who not only love to read, but are aspiring authors. Each submission I received showed great imagination and I'm looking forward to meeting the teen writers.

As for my work-in-progress... I'm close, very close, to finishing the first draft. My goal is to have it done before I receive the first round of edits for ENTWINED, which I've been told are coming. (If my wonderful editor happens to read this, feel free to take an extra day or five. I won't tell.)

Find me:
I put a paranormal twist on research in the blog post I did for Uncommon YA. You can check it out here.

In other news:
Congratulations to Michelle W, Lisa V, and Betsy D, winners at my stop in the Books I'm Grateful I Read Giveaway! Didn't win? Watch my sidebar for announcement of future giveaways.

Next week I'll be figuring out Thanksgiving dinner. This is my favorite holiday. Of course, there will be turkey and stuffing and yams and a yummy dessert that will include way too many calories.

How's your month going? Are you participating in NaNo? Cooking Thanksgiving dinner?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Spotlight: REALITY NATALIE by Katie Sparks

I'm super excited to have Katie Sparks, author of middle grade novel, Reality Natalie, with me today. Katie's not only a talented author, but she's a good friend of mine, so I've had the pleasure of seeing this story take shape. Katie does a wonderful job of capturing the voice of an eleven-year-old in a fun and entertaining novel. 

About the book:
by Katie Sparks
Publisher: Firedrake Books, LLC

CAMERAS ROLLING…ACTION! The most popular kids' TV show, Kidz Konnection, decides to hold auditions for a guest host spot, and the show’s BIGGEST fan decides to audition.

[Cue Natalie Greyson]

Eleven-year-old Natalie is determined to overcome her habit of turning into a tongue-tied, air ball burping, runny-nose disaster whenever something embarrassing happens in front of an audience so she can audition for the coveted role. As the show’s biggest fan, no one could possibly deserve it more than her. Except a giant obstacle stands in her way: her parents, who deny her permission, think she is too young to be on TV. To make matters even worse, Natalie's naturally talented best friend, Kailyn, decides to audition too, and will stop at nothing to win – like lying during a practice session and tearing up their friendship pact.

With their friendship suddenly in question, Natalie turns to her blog, In A “Nat” Shell, to vent her frustrations about Kailyn's spiteful actions, but Natalie’s emotional outpouring and lies only creates more anxiety for herself. With the stakes high, Natalie goes against her parent’s wishes and decides to audition, but Kailyn has her own secret plan to be Number One, even if it means doing so at the expense of her best friend. Can Natalie find a way out of the drama and into the spotlight? Or will the competitive pressure cause her to lose her ultimate dream along with her best friend? 

Read Reality Natalie today!
Add to your TBR list on Goodreads

Without further ado, please help me welcome Katie Sparks.

Cherie: Tell us about your book, Reality Natalie.

Katie: Reality Natalie follows the adventures of 11-year-old Natalie Greyson as she auditions for a guest host position on her favorite kid-hosted TV show, Kidz Konnection. When big obstacles stand in her way, such as her parents denying her permission to try out and her best friend, Kailyn, choosing to, Natalie decides she’ll do just about anything to get what she wants. But at what cost?

Cherie: I like Natalie already, and I love that she wants to be a talk show host. How did you come up with the idea for this book?  

Katie: About 5 or 6 years ago, I was completely enthralled with all of the reality shows that were popping up on TV. They ranged from singing competitions and talent shows to cooking or bake offs and clothing designer contests. The list became endless. But one thing I noticed was that none of them were for little kids. At the time, I believe the youngest person who could audition for American Idol, had to be 16. However, I knew that despite these rules, some of those watching these shows were kids!  From that realization, I thought about a girl who was obsessed with reality television. Thus, Natalie was born.

Cherie: What is your favorite (or least favorite) thing about writing for this age group?

Katie: I take what I write about seriously – sometimes too seriously. I really want to make an impact on young readers, whether it’s to make them laugh, gasp, sigh, get mad -- any type of emotion – I want to move them.  But sometimes I over think it and it prevents me from simply writing down the story. I’m always asking myself, “Is this how a kid would say that?” “Is that how they would react?”  It’s smart to keep these questions in the back of your mind, but not smart if it prevents you from capturing the story.  I have to keep reminding myself that first drafts are tough and that I can always go back later and add in more detail.

Cherie: Your dedication to get Natalie right shows. Can you share with us something about Natalie that we don’t learn in the book?

Katie: In the very beginning of the book, she puts off doing her math homework.  Natalie is not one for homework unless it’s writing on her blog. Math is her least favorite subject, and reading is her favorite. Her homeroom has SSR (sustained silent reading) and she loves it so much, she wishes it could be the whole day! She’d get some many books read!  She also takes weekly visits to the local library, and loves the smell of the old pages. She mainly goes for her twin siblings but also because she needs to check out books from the reading list at school.  This year, she hopes to join the Battle of the Books club with her two best friends.

Cherie: I’m with Natalie, only I wish I could read all day at work. What are you working on now?

Katie: I’m always working on a million things at once. (Okay, maybe not a million, but a lot!) Right now I’m participating in NaNoWriMo and working on a challenging story about two 12-year-old girls battling asthma and how it affects their lives. It’s such a new story that I don’t have all of the details figured out yet, but I’m having a wonderful time getting to know them as I go.

I’m also a picture book writer so at any given time, I’m jotting down ideas or working on a story. I work as an editor for a parenting consumer line so I’m constantly around parents who have the cutest, funniest stories about their kids and it sparks so many ideas!  Hopefully one day one of these ideas will come to fruition.

Cherie: Sounds like you have a lot of fun projects in the works. I can’t wait to hear more about your NaNo book. The next questions are for fun to get to know you better.

Favorite animal?

Katie: A cat. More specifically, my cat, Moe. I have a feeling if I didn’t say her, she’d attack me in my sleep!

Cherie: M&M or Skittles?

Kaite: Skittles (but not the yellow ones!)

Cherie: Are you a morning person or an evening person?

Katie: I used to be a night person but lately I’ve become a morning person. There’s nothing better than getting up around 7am or 8am when the whole world is still quiet and you can make breakfast and relax. The best part about the morning is being able to brew some coffee and write or read. My weekdays are very busy at work, so it’s super nice to slow down on the weekends.

Cherie: Favorite movie or television show?

Katie: It’s a tie between the movies Independence Day and Breakfast Club.

Cherie: Breakfast Club is one of mine, too. J Do you have any guilty pleasures that get you through the writing/revising process?

Katie: Not sure this is a guilty pleasure but if I get stuck, I read! I know that sounds cliché but when I’m in love with a story or characters, not only do I get some quality reading done, but it pushes me back into the motivated mind-set to turn my characters and story into something that someday a reader will love. Reading gives me the kick in the pants that I need.

Cherie: Do you have a favorite place to write? 

Katie: One of my favorite coffee shops is The Wormhole in Chicago. It has a great retro vibe to it with an 80s and 90s flair.  Oh, and superb coffee!!

Cherie: Who is your mentor (or hero)?

Katie: My Mom. J She’s a children’s librarian, so we always have so much in common to talk about! I enjoy listening to stories about what kids are checking out these days and what things they are looking for. I also love catching up on reading as many of the Rebecca Caudill books as I can!

Thanks, Katie, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be here with us!

About the author:
At a very young age, Katie Sparks discovered the magic of books. She counted on weekly library visits and treasured receiving her first library card at the age of five. At six, she wrote her first story called Baby Carrie (still in her collection today!) 

Katie knew then that writing would be in her future. By day, she is an editor for the parent consumer line at a non-profit medical association and enjoys working closely with authors and industry professionals. Immersed in the publishing industry in both her professional and personal life is a dream come true. On weekends you will often find her writing and sipping coffee at one of the many unique coffee shops in Chicago, spending time with family and friends, or curled up with a new book. 

Katie has been an active member of SCBWI for the past seven years. She lives in Chicago with her devoted and extremely vocal cat Moe. Her upcoming MG Novel, Reality Natalie, published by Firedrake Books, is her first novel.

Learn more about Katie Sparks and her books:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cover Reveal: January Black by Wendy Russo

Congrats to Wendy Russo on her new and gorgeous cover for January Black!

Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn is the son of The Hill’s commandant. As such, he’s expected to conform to a strict, unspoken code of conduct. Small acts of defiance over years—such as walking on the grass—have earned him a reputation for being unruly. When sarcastic test answers finally get Matty expelled from school, King Hadrian offers him a diploma if he can answer a deceptively simple question, and then dismisses the only answer.
To prove his worth to society, Matty wrestles with the king’s word games, the kingdom’s historical record, and laws that don’t make sense. He meets Iris Locke, a street smart gardener, along the way. After enchanting him at a glance, Iris helps his research, keeps him out of trouble, and finally breaks his heart.
Alone again, Matty finds himself on collision course with a deadly law, one he will have to break to answer the king’s question. Was Hadrian challenging him, or teaching him a lesson? Without Iris, it won’t matter, because Matty won’t stand down for anyone else.

January Black is the 2013 Readers' Favorite Silver Medal winner for YA-Coming of Age.
January Black will be available for pre-order on Amazon 11/28/2014.

About the Illustrator

Liliana Sanches started studying Visual Arts at the age of 16 and soon felt attracted to the Romantic artwork from the 19th century. The Pre-Raphaelites and Friedrich were her biggest inspirations at the time, and she felt compelled to explore this graphic language of desolated landscapes that were the reflection of the painter's emotions.
After graduating college, specializing Graphic Design, she created her own business under the name of "Princess of Shadows." Her style had now evolved and had technical knowledge to support it. Intricate concepts with a much better grasp of image composition and visual balance, and also used color and shape psychology to imprint her work on the viewer.
Along the years she has been working with musicians, authors and even other designers who have allowed her to express her creativity, develop visual communication skills and explore different graphic styles to better suit each project.
Nowadays, here personal work has been exploring the human psyche, imbuing it with a dark surreal feeling. Her biggest inspirations are J-Horror movies, dreams/ nightmares and mental health pathologies.
About the Author
Wendy S. Russo got her start writing in the sixth grade. That story involved a talisman with crystals that had to be found and assembled before bad things happened, and dialog that read like classroom roll call. Since then, she’s majored in journalism (for one semester), published poetry, taken a course on short novels, and watched most everything ever filmed by Quentin Tarantino. A Wyoming native transplanted in Baton Rouge, Wendy works for Louisiana State University as an IT analyst. She’s a wife, a mom, a Tiger, a Who Dat, and she falls asleep on her couch at 8:30 on weeknights.


Congrats to my agency sister, Juliette Cross, on not one, but two amazing covers! I'm not sure which I like more. They're both amazing!


The Vessel Trilogy, Book 2
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: April 21, 2015


Sin can look an awful lot like heaven.

One demon prince may be festering in the bowels of the soul eater Cocytus, but Genevieve’s troubles are far from over. Prince Bamal, demon lord of New York City, still wants her. But this time, he wants her alive, to control her inherent power as a Vessel of Light. 

With Jude Delacroix off searching for the prophecy, Thomas—a guardian angel with sea-green eyes and an aura of winter woods—steps into the gap, offering her the power to protect herself.

Yet she hesitates, for the transfer of that power comes through a kiss. While Gen’s love for Jude is true, Thomas stirs a desire where there should be none. Thomas also knows Jude’s darkest secret and plans to use it, if necessary, to win Gen for his own.

While her Vessel power grows and more demon spawn creep from every dark corner of the world, one thing is certain—the Great War between the angels and demons is quickly approaching. And Gen is in a race against time to awaken her full power before the storm breaks.

Warning: Contains a demon hunter with dark secrets, a sexy angel with ulterior motives, and demonic creatures running amok.

SiS on Goodreads


The Vessel Trilogy, Book 3
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: July 21, 2015


In the belly of the beast, strategy is useless.

Genevieve Drake is on a dangerous mission to find the soul collector, Lethe, and enter the deepest, darkest level of the underworld. No one has ever returned alive from the belly of a soul collector, but she will let nothing stop her from going after the precious treasure Lethe stole from her.

As she is tested against demon spawn and foul creatures of the underworld, each triumph strengthens her Vessel power—and drags her closer to a breaking point that could forever doom her to the abyss.

Meanwhile, with the full prophecy hurtling toward completion, the Dominus Daemonum strategize for the day Gen will battle Prince Bamal’s Vessel to the death, when the Great War between heaven and hell will begin.

But Bamal has a secret weapon. When he reveals it—and Thomas reveals his own hidden agenda—Gen may not have the strength to resist the temptation to fall into darkness, forsaking the fate of the world for her broken heart.

Warning: Contains malicious demons, sinister spawn, and a vengeful heroine with plans to send them all back to burning hell.
BiB on Goodreads

Author Bio— Juliette calls lush, moss-laden Louisiana home where the landscape curls into her imagination, creating mystical settings for her stories. She has a B.A. in creative writing from Louisiana State University, a M.Ed. in gifted education, and was privileged to study under the award-winning author Ernest J. Gaines in grad school. Her love of mythology, legends, and art serve as constant inspiration for her works. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance—brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own. 

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Some Fine Day by Kat Ross Excerpt & #Giveaway

Congratulation to Kat Ross on her soon to be released novel SOME FINE DAY!

What if everything you've been taught is a lie?

Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist knows that when the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.

She knows that the only species to thrive there is the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.

Most of all, she knows there's no place where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.

Turns out Jansin was wrong. On all counts…

Enter here to win a Kindle Paperwhite pre-loaded with Some Fine Day, plus other awesome YA audiobook giveaways!


Author's note: This is toward the end of the first chapter. Our main character, Jansin, has never seen the sun. She lives in an underground city-state called Raven Rock. Her dad, a general, has just arranged for the family, plus Jan's boyfriend Jake, to go to the surface on holiday for the very first time. She's never been inside a mole before but she knows how they work: back end a simple pod with seats, front end a boring machine that drills through rock and dirt and whatever else gets in its way.
Jansin doesn't know it, but this vacation is about to go wrong in ways that will change her life forever…

"Beverage?" the attendant asks, and I thank her and take a soda. We're an hour or so in, and the trip is actually turning out to be kind of boring, just like Captain Dan said.
The red-headed kid is across the aisle on my left, hammering away at a game. His parents are nursing cocktails. The mood has gone from apprehensive to lethargic and half-drunk, by the glassy looks of some of the passengers. The mole is very smooth, soundproofed as promised, no hint of the rock being explosively vaporized a few feet away. Just a slight upward tilt to my seat.
I doze off, thinking about the sheep and the valley and the sun breaking through the rainclouds. It's become my favorite daydream.
Then I feel Jake's hand on my arm. "We've stopped," he says.
And I realize that there's no hum under my seat anymore. It must have just happened, because no one else seems to have noticed.
"Is that normal?"
"I have no idea."
We wait. I keep expecting Captain Dan to get on the intercom, but he doesn't. Half the passengers are asleep, the others reading quietly or watching the cane network. Tracking the storms is something of a national obsession.
Then a guy toward the back yells, "It's not moving. Why is it not moving?"
His voice slurs a little, and there's an edge of panic there.
Uh-oh, I think.
"Now sir," an attendant says, gliding down the aisle with a fixed smile on her face.
But the cat's out of the bag now. A low murmuring begins, as people start to grasp what's happening. The attendant holds up her hands. She's young and pretty and immaculately groomed.
"There's nothing to worry about. The mole ahead of us snapped a rotor on some bedrock. It's being repaired. We expect to be moving shortly."
"What does that mean? How shortly?" The man calls out. He's half risen from his seat. The middle-aged woman next to him, wife or girlfriend, puts a restraining hand on his arm and he shakes it off.
The attendant knows better than to tell him to calm down, which usually has the opposite effect on people. "Why don't I just check with the captain and get an update?" She disappears into the forward cabin.
No one speaks for a minute. I know it's my imagination, but the temperature in the mole seems to go up a few degrees.
"How much air do they carry on these things?" someone asks.
I sip my soda and share a look with Jake.
"Moles have redundancies built into their redundancies," he says quietly. "Foolproof."
I don't really want to be the one to say it, but we're all thinking it anyway, so I go ahead.
"Black Dome."
Jake snorts and looks away, like he's disappointed in me. But before he does, I see a flash of fear.
Black Dome.
It happened six years ago. I was only ten, but I remember every detail. My parents tried to shield me, unsuccessfully, since it was all anyone talked about for weeks.
Five moles, twenty-five passengers and crew each. Departed from Black Dome launch station on August the nineteenth. Fair skies above, a perfect window for an excursion to Gallia Archipelago.
Ninety-three adults, thirty-two children.
The tremors started about halfway up, the mole equivalent of turbulence on an airplane. Ice rattling in glasses, maybe a bag or two toppling from the overhead bins. No one's too alarmed at first. But then they get stronger.
Subterranean quake, six point six in magnitude. The epicenter was two hundred miles away, so the moles weren't just crushed like the glorified tin cans they are. What happened was worse.
They got trapped.
For thirty-seven days.
The military tried to send in diggers, a smaller, more maneuverable version of moles, to reach the stranded passengers, but the rock was too unstable to get close. Their com uplink still worked, although after a couple of weeks, people stopped talking.
Rescuers got in eventually. They're probably still in therapy…

About the Author:

Kat Ross lives in New York. She's a fan of mutants and terrible weather; Some Fine Day is her first book. It's available on Amazon in Kindle or paperback format (Feb 2015). You can also check out the book trailer here.

Twitter: @katrossauthor

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A few words of encouragement. #IWSG

I've been so absorbed in my current work-in-progress, I have nothing this month. So, I'll leave you with a few words of encouragement before I hurry back to my story. 

It's easy to let doubt keep us from accomplishing our goals. What if we aren't good enough? What if we fail? What if our work sucks? But if we don't try, we'll never know what we are capable of. The only true failure is not trying in the first place. And if you aren't happy with a scene, revise (or start over) until you are.

How are you doing this month? Any insecurities you'd like to share? Any words of encouragement?

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a group writers who share our doubts and encouragements on the first Wednesday of the month. A big thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and the wonderful administrators who keep the site running! Learn more about the group here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Books I'm Grateful I Read! #Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my stop on the Books I'm Grateful I Read! Giveaway Hop hosted by Stuck in Books.

There are so many books that I'm grateful I read, that I couldn't narrow it down to just one. Below are some of my favorites.

Books that make you think:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is one of my favorite classics. It's a story of love and sacrifice with characters I love and hate. This one makes my list because it brings awareness to just how different live was in the 1800s.

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown was not only a great mystery but does leave one questioning the roles of the Priory of Sion and had me looking at artwork in a whole new way.

Books that create awareness:

Thirteen Reason's Why by Jay Asher has saved lives by helping people recognize the signs of a trouble soul and has help those who were considering taking their own life to chose to live.

Books that feed the imagination:

One of my favorite children's books is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. I also love the movie. This makes my list because it captures the heart and imagination of children and brings an amazing world alive.

I'm a HUGE fan of fantasy and witches and devoured the Harry Potter books with the rest of the world.

If you like faeries, you have to read Melissa Marr's, Wicked Lovely. This one makes my list because of the unique twist on the story of the Winter King. And, come on, there're faeries!

The list goes on, but for the sake of keeping this post from getting too long I'll stop here.

Up for grabs at my stop is a $5 gift card and an Embrace series swap package, including a book bag for all the books you're grateful for, an official Embrace hemp bracelet, bookmarks and more. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Looking for something new to read? Check out my darkly romantic paranormal thrillers:

Photobucket    Photobucket    Photobucket
Click the covers to learn more about each book.

Follow the hop.