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He sees a spinsterish misfit. If the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for the world’s most boring life, Millie Stephens knows she would hold the record. After the plain, strait-laced personal assistant is saved by a total stranger from becoming New York City’s latest traffic fatality, she has a disheartening epiphany: her life’s highlight reel didn’t exist. Determined to step out of the shadows and take a walk on the wild side, she starts Millie-style – by making a list.
She sees a stereotypical thug.
That total stranger, bad boy Ian Brand, is more than the sum of his parts. Beneath that sexy, tattooed exterior is a man with a painful past who’s desperate to both hide and overcome his disability in the pursuit of his dreams. But his decision to bid on a large construction project could both lead to his downfall and reveal his secret.
Will Millie and Ian look beneath the surface and see there’s more to each other than meets the eye?
If the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for the world’s most boring life, Millie Stephens knew she would hold the record.
Bundled up in her brown wool coat against the chill of a New York fall, she hurried down the Brooklyn sidewalk to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for her boss.
As personal assistant for best-selling romance author, Darcy Butler-Ryan, Millie kept her calendar, edited her manuscripts, handled her social media, and through her agent, Gloria Madison, scheduled her public appearances, among other duties. Since Darcy had become pregnant, Millie had also taken it upon herself to run errands and generally oversee Darcy’s health and well-being.
Thus, the trip to the pharmacy for Darcy’s anti-nausea medication.
She consulted the day’s to-do list to see what other errands were on it. Lists were her life. They provided organization, structure, and a sense of accomplishment. She loved ticking things off her list so much that if she accomplished something that wasn’t on the list, she’d write it down just so she could have the pleasure of marking it off.
She had a list for everything. Errands. Tasks. Books to be read. Special dates to remember. If something needed doing, she had a list for it, all appropriately categorized, of course. Shoving her errand list into her coat pocket, she stopped at the corner and waited for the walk signal. As soon as the light changed, she stepped out into the pedestrian crosswalk, anxious to get to the pharmacy and out of the cold. She glanced to her left and froze, as a delivery truck barreled down the street as if the red light meant nothing. And as if she truly were invisible.
Fear stole her ability to move and she scrunched her eyes closed hoping death would at least be quick. She strived for invisibility, but now she’d give anything to stand out.
Next thing she knew she was yanked from behind and hauled up against a hard object, bands of steel around her waist, her feet dangling in the air.
“Are you okay?” a gruff male voice asked, his breath warm in her ear.
She nodded, unsure if she could do any more than that.
“I’m going to set you back on your feet. Do you think you can stand?”
Nodding again, she realized the hard object at her back was a man’s chest, and the steel bands were his arms. She slid down his body and felt the sidewalk beneath her feet. A wave of dizziness washed over her.
“Breathe,” her rescuer encouraged. He turned her to face him, his hands on her shoulders, and she looked up and into eyes the color of a winter-gray sky, earnest with concern. His already tousled sandy blond hair ruffled in the wind whipping around the corner, and his chin bore the stubble so many women were fond of.
She inhaled deeply, drawing in the scent of something spicy and leathery. “Better?”
She nodded, still speechless.
“You should always wait after the signal changes before you cross a street. I’ve got an appointment. You’re sure you’re okay?”
“Be more careful next time,” the stranger in the leather jacket said before he turned to walk away.
Millie managed to put one foot in front of the other for another block before coming to a bus stop and collapsing onto the bench. Her legs shook, her hands quivered, and she struggled to take in a deep breath. All she could think about was how your life was supposed to flash before your eyes when confronted with a near-death experience, and hers . . . didn’t. Instead it was like a film projector that had run out of film – just a blank screen. What did that mean?
It meant, Millicent Grace Stephens, that your life has been so boring that the highlight reel was nonexistent. Her thirtieth birthday was right around the corner, and what had she accomplished with her life?
Not much, that’s what.
Sure, she had a bachelor’s in literature, summa cum laude, with a focus on the Middle Ages from Sarah Lawrence College. She had a job she loved. And she could support herself. Other than that, she might as well have become a nun for all the excitement her life held.
She recalled the hard strength of her rescuer’s chest against her back. The rough and tumble look of him. She’d bet her first edition autographed copy of Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, that his life wasn’t boring. That if he had a near-death experience he’d have a highlight reel worthy of an action movie.
Rising on still-wobbly legs, she drew in a long, slow breath, and resumed her errand in an I-almost-died daze.
Rebecca Heflin is an award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister snuck a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job as a practicing attorney.
Rebecca is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, and Florida Writers Association. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in sunny Florida.
The other day I wrote the following on Facebook about my four-year-old:
“We’re reading my daughter a graphic novel for 9-12 year olds every night (her insistence) called Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks. Basically it goes through all the different parts and functions of the body. Well, tonight she was once again swallowing her toothpaste rather than spitting it. I called her on it and this was her response. I’ve written it as close to her own words as possible:
“It’s not my fault. It’s called abolation and everybody gets it. It makes you not like your toothpaste anymore. You know that pink dot that hangs down from the appendix? Well it swells up to this big [indicates palm] and moves around the body. It makes you not like your toothpaste anymore . . . and sometimes your food, but that’s rare. You know writer’s block? It causes that too. It’s called abolation.”
She later explained that the pink dot wants to leave the body and that it’s why the appendix has to be removed. So. In case you want a book that will inspire your child to think medically . . .
I then linked to Human Body Theater, which seems to have the singular ability to cause small children (and older ones as well, I’m sure) to want to know as much as possible about medical science. No small feat. Granted mine has a bit of a propensity for original science, but seeing as how she is the product of two English majors, I’m not exactly surprised.
Of course I’d been a fan of Ms. Wicks for years, starting with her work on the picture book Yes, Let’s as written by Galen Goodwin and continuing through Primates, written by Jim Ottaviani. At Day of Dialog in the spring I learned about the incipient existence of Human Body Theater and had been (not so) patiently awaiting its release ever since.
But wait!! Hold the phone!! That is not all Ms. Wicks is capable of, oh no. That is not all. For lo, see ye the following cover reveal. Yea verily, tis a bonny bonny book:
My hope is that this inspires in the resident offspring the same love of the ocean as her previous book caused in terms of bodily functions. But looking at these interior spreads, I think I’ve little to worry about.
Want to know more about the new Science Comics series? Here is the full description:
“Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic–dinosaurs, coral reefs, the solar system, volcanoes, bats, flying machines, and more. These gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you’re a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty-year-old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you!
This volume: in Coral Reefs, we learn all about these tiny, adorable sea animals! This absorbing look at ocean science covers the biology of coral reefs as well as their ecological importance. Nonfiction comics genius Maris Wicks brings to bear her signature combination of hardcore cuteness and in-depth science.
Maris Wicks lives in sunny Somerville, Massachusetts. She is the author behind Human Body Theater, as well as the illustrator of New York Times-bestselling Primates, with Jim Ottaviani. When she’s not making comics, Wicks works as a program educator at the New England Aquarium. She is quite fond of being in the water, whether it’s swimming in ponds or scuba diving in the Atlantic Ocean. Her latest book, Coral Reefs, will be in stores in May 2016. dotsforeyes.blogspot.com”
Many thanks to First Second for allowing me this cover reveal and to Ms. Wicks for generally existing in the first place.
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Our Little Secret Cover Reveal I'm having a cover reveal this Thursday, August 6th. It's going to be a social media blitz, which means you don't need a blog to join in. You can share the cover on any social media site. If you'd like to be part of it, you can sign up here.
Open Submissions For Leap Books Seek I'm open to unagented submissions until August 14th. If you have a middle grade book between 30,000 and 40,000 words, you can submit your query (in the body of the email) along with your synopsis and first 3 chapters (as Word attachments) to email@example.com. Your subject line should read OPEN SUBMISSIONS: TITLE OF YOUR BOOK.
Editing Somehow, I'm booked through the rest of the year with edits, so I'm editing all the time. LOL
Drafting I'm trying to draft a novella in between editing. It's going very slowly, which isn't like me at all. I need some help from my muse on this one.
Free Monthly Newsletter My FREE monthly newsletter goes out this evening. If you aren't signed up to receive it, but would like to click here.
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Our Little Secret Cover Reveal Last Thursday was the cover and blurb reveal for Our Little Secret, which releases September 15 through Limitless Publishing. This is a YA contemporary romance under my pen name Ashelyn Drake.
Becca Daniels needs to get a passing grade in Trig. Becca Daniels wants to spend more time with her best friend Tori’s twin brother Toby. What she has is a brain that refuses to understand math and a best friend with a strict “No dating the brother” rule. When her grade hits rock bottom, Becca has no choice but to get a tutor. Lucky for her, Toby is a math genius and more than willing to help her out. Turns out Becca isn’t the only one who hates Tori’s dating rule. What starts out as an innocent tutoring session quickly evolves into late night texts and hidden kisses. But the closer Becca gets to Toby, the greater the risk that she’ll lose her best friend. When their secret relationship threatens to destroy more than just her friendship with Tori, Becca will have to figure out how much she’s willing to risk to keep the guy of her dreams. Add the book on Goodreads.
Piper Morgan Joins the Circus Cover Reveal Stephanie Faris has a cover reveal today for Piper Morgan Joins the Circus. How adorable is this cover?
When Piper Morgan has to move to a new town, she is sad to leave behind her friends, but excited for a new adventure. She is determined to have fun, be brave and find new friends. And after learning her mom’s new job will be with the Big Top Circus, Piper can’t wait to learn all about life under the big top, see all the cool animals, and meet the Little Explorers, the other kids who travel with the show. She’s even more excited to learn that she gets to be a part of the Little Explorers and help them end each show with a routine to get the audience on their feet and dancing along!
But during Piper’s grand debut, her high kicks and pointed toes don't go quite as planned. After causing a dance disaster, she has to prove to everyone--especially queen of the Little Explorers, Lexie--that she belongs in the spotlight.
Leap Books Seek Submissions Since Seek is open to unagented submissions, my inbox has been flooded! lol I'm blown away by how many submissions I've received. Guess what I'll be busy reading this week. I'll be announcing my first acquisitions soon too. :)
Galley Proofs The galley of Our Little Secret has been proofed. Eeeee! I'm so excited for this book. I just loved this story so much.
Ashelyn Drake Blog Has Moved After a run-in with Wordpress on my cover reveal day (AHHH!!!) last week, I decided to move Ashelyn's blog to Blogspot. I'm much more comfortable on Blogspot. Ashelyn's website will remain on Wordpress and there is a link to the new blog in the menu bar there now. If you'd like to follow Ashelyn's blog, you can find it here.
Get ready for Boiling Point! The next installment in Tessa Bailey’s thrilling Crossing the Line series. We hope you love the cover as much as we do!
Release date: January 26, 2016
About Boiling Point:
Falling for a con man is the most dangerous game of all…
Con artist Austin Shaw’s been in disguise so long he’s not sure where his fake identities end and he begins. Now that he’s been strong-armed into working for a specialized undercover unit working with the Chicago police—criminals with unique “skills”—the last thing he needs is to risk his iron control. Especially when it comes to a certain stunningly sexy hacker who tempts him with every look of disdain.
Polly Banks will never, ever trust a con man. On the trail of a ruthless crook who destroyed the only family she’s ever known, Polly is unnerved by the shadow who follows her every move. The one who makes her pulse pound and breath short with lust. Austin. He’s infuriating, enigmatic, and pure sex appeal, and she’s determined to resist him.
But an untrustworthy man of disguise can become anyone he wants…including a man that Polly must trust if she’s to escape their dangerous game alive.
Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.
Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.
She now lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband of seven years and three-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.
The third sexy and emotional novel in debut Avon author Lia Riley’s Brightwater series set in the mountains of Northern California
Sometimes the worst mistakes turn out to be the best…
Smoke jumper Wilder Kane once reveled in the rush from putting out dangerous wildfires. But after a tragic accident, he’s cut himself off from the world, refusing to leave his isolated cabin. When a headstrong beauty bursts in, Wilder finds himself craving the fire she ignites in him, but letting anyone near his darkness would be a mistake.
After her Hollywood life went up in smoke, Quinn Higsby decided to leave Tinseltown behind and returned to Brightwater to care for her ailing father. Spending her days in a small bookstore, her peaceful existence is up-ended by a fascinating but damaged man. Quinn is determined to not to be scared off by Wilder, not once she’s experienced the heat of his passions.
But when an arsonist targets the community and Wilder is accused, he must confront the ghosts of his past. Will his desire for Quinn flameout or will he be able to tame the wildness inside and rekindle a hope for their future?
Lia Riley writes offbeat New Adult and Contemporary Adult romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling XXXX with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments.
A British literature fanatic at heart, Lia considers Mr. Darcy and Edward Rochester as her fictional boyfriends. Her very patient husband doesn’t mind. Much. When not torturing heroes (because c’mon, who doesn’t love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about future books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. Right now, Icelandic hot springs and Scottish castles sound mighty fine.
Today we have the honor of revealing the cover for THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner, forthcoming from Random House on March 8th, 2016. Jeff is a really cool guy and I was so excited when his book sold, and while book deals are crazy exciting and life changing, I was REALLY pumped when Jeff messaged me with the beauty we’re revealing today. Once you manage to pull yourself away from this arresting cover be sure to continue scrolling to learn more about the book, Jeff’s thoughts on the cover, an insightful look into the cover process between Jeff’s editor Emily Easton and cover designer Alison Impey, how you can win 1 of 5 arcs, and a high-five from yours truly.
HERE’S THE COVER! Isn’t it glorious?
Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, as he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and his very public fall from grace.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia . But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. But Dill’s only escape is his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, Dill must cope with another ending—one which will rock his life to the core.
Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and, at times, comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past. JEFF’S THOUGHTS ON THE COVER
ADAM SILVERA: Jeff! Dude. I’m obsessed with this cover. The scaly font is pretty baller and the tone has this cross appeal vibe for both the YA and adult markets. I would’ve cried happy tears to find this attachment in my “Book Cover!” email. But this is YOUR cover so tell me how YOU feel.
JEFF ZENTNER: Let me tell you how I feel about this cover. If Crown had given me money to hire a designer and do anything I wanted, I might have come up with something I love half as much as this cover. Not only is the cover beautiful, the book has a gorgeous velvet matte finish that you just want to roll around on naked. I truly feel fortunate to have a brilliant designer like Alison and a brilliant editor like Emily in my corner.
CREATING THE COVER
EMILY EASTON (Editor): When you publish a book you have taken to heart and nurtured for so long, it is sometimes difficult to know what to put on the cover to help readers love it as much as you do—or at least to make them pull it off the shelf, which is the first step on the journey toward loving it. With such a richly textured story, there were so many directions we could have gone—and did try—as part of the process.
ALISON IMPEY (Cover designer): There was one line in the book that really stuck with me. In English class, Dill is asked what Lord of the Flies is about. He answers, “I guess it’s saying that we’re all born with seeds in us. And if we let them see sunlight and air, they’ll grow through us and break us. Like a tree growing up through a sidewalk.” This inspired a couple early cover concepts. One was a screen-print-style image of a guitar with a tree growing out of it that represented the creative seed in Dill that with a little “sunlight and air” could grow. A second option featured a tree, its branches reaching up through the title, with a snake wrapped tightly around the trunk. We then found the perfect illustrator to help bring these concepts to life.
EMILY: We shared these illustrated covers, and while everyone agreed the images were striking, the consensus was that the illustrated approach was making the book look too young for our targeted audience. There was also concern that the symbolic snake pushed the book more in a fantasy direction, while the content is realistic fiction.
ALISON: At this stage we agreed to go back to the drawing board. We enlisted a couple of designers to bring as many new ideas to the table as possible. We wanted to make sure no stone went unturned. As new ideas started to roll in, some featuring snakes, we realized that with our title—The Serpent King—we had fallen into the trap of saying and showing the same thing.
EMILY: As we moved in a new direction, we were drawn to the idea of showing the main character, Dill, to somehow depict the strength of his inner light, which allowed him to prevail against the darkness that threatened to extinguish it. Dill is really the heart of the story, and we thought putting him front and center could draw readers in.
ALISON: It was very helpful for us to regroup and prioritize what we wanted to achieve with the cover. When we started to discuss “triumph” as the main theme and the emotion we wanted to convey, it really helped us break through and refocus.
EMILY: We had two cover versions focusing on Dill that we were seriously considering. But there was one image from Alison’s early concepts that we couldn’t forget. It captured the sense of place, the power of friendship that was the saving grace for our three main characters, and the sense of hope that readers are left with by the book’s end. Originally I had passed this image by because I was looking for something either more iconic or more character-driven. But when Alison paired this image with a dynamic type treatment she created, it gave the cover concept a whole new power and interest.
ALISON: When we discussed triumph against all odds, I envisioned Dill breaking away and shedding his past. I wanted the title type treatment to represent this, as if the scales of Dill’s past are breaking away, scattering, about to give sun and air to that seed in him. So after a long process and many, many cover concepts, we did in fact land on an image that was in the very first batch of ideas. To some this may feel like the process was all for naught, but it wasn’t, and it rarely ever is. You always discover something new. The type treatment on the final cover is something that evolved through this process, and I am very happy it did.
EMILY: When we showed this concept to our team, it was met with a resounding “yes!” We all believe it has just the right appeal to draw in as wide an audience as this special book deserves. Or at least that’s our hope!
Thank you so much, Emily and Alison! I’m sure our readers will take away a lot from the insight behind this incredible cover.
HOW TO WIN AN ADVANCE READER’S COPY
If you want a chance to win an advance reader’s copy before the book’s March 8th, 2016 publication be sure to tweet about this cover reveal or share the cover on Instagram using the #TheSerpentKing hashtag. Jeff Zentner/Random House will select 5 lucky winners on Friday, July 3rd! You can enter multiple times on Twitter or Instagram (or both platforms!) but you must use the #TheSerpentKing hashtag each time.
What do you think of this cover? Would you like to hear from more editors and cover designers in future posts? Let us know in the comments below!
Lucky had always led a life of service, always putting his life on the line for someone else, managing to survive by pure luck and skill. After bringing an end to a multi-state drug ring, he was finally able to live the life he had wanted as a Last Rider.
A good man would walk away and not touch the curvy woman who had been tugging on his heartstrings. Lucky wasn’t a good man. Therefore, the bad-ass biker in him had a choice: once again become the man he had pretended to be and stake his claim or take the devil’s highway.
Some girls had all the luck.
Willa wasn’t one of them. All she wanted to do was give a home to the children she had made orphans. Instead, she found herself needing help from the man who had left the pulpit behind to embrace a life of sin.
Painfully shy and withdrawn, she wanted a quiet life, a simple man, and well-behaved children. The last thing she had ever expected was for Lucky to want her size twenty body and show her a passion that would lead her straight to hell.
“I was born in a small town in Kentucky. My family began poor, but worked their way to owning a restaurant. My mother was one of the best cooks I have ever known, and she instilled in all her children the value of hard work, and education.
Taking after my mother, I’ve always love to cook, and became pretty good if I do say so myself. I love to experiment and my unfortunate family has suffered through many. They now have learned to steer clear of those dishes. I absolutely love the holidays and my family puts up with my zany decorations.
For now, my days are spent writing, writing, and writing. I have two children who both graduated this year from college. My daughter does my book covers, and my son just tries not to blush when someone asks him about my books.
Currently I am writing five series of books- The Last Riders, The VIP Room, Predators MC, Biker Bitches, and The Dark Souls.
All my books are written for one purpose- the enjoyment others find in them, and the expectations of my fans that inspire me to give it my best.”
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Book Deal! You know that news I've been hinting at? Well, it's that I signed another book deal! Yay!!! OUR LITTLE SECRET, my YA contemporary romance (written as Ashelyn Drake) will be published by Limitless Publishing. Here's the PM announcement:
Ashelyn Drake's OUR LITTLE SECRET, when a girl falls for her best friend's twin brother, she'll have to decide what she's willing to risk to keep the guy of her dreams, to Jessica Gunhammer at Limitless, by Sarah Negovetich at Corvisiero Literary Agency.
Signing Postponed I was supposed to have a signing on July 4th for The Monster Within and The Darkness Within at Books-A-Million in the Stroud Mall in Stroudsburg, PA, but it had to be postponed. It's now scheduled for July 25th from noon to 3:00 p.m. If you'll be in the area, I hope you'll come see me.
Editing This is the summer of edits for me. Last week I tackled edits on two of my own books as well as edits for clients. My poor eyes are going to hate me soon—if they don't already.
Free Monthly Newsletter Today my newsletter goes out. In it is a sneak peek at the cover of the secret project I've been hinting about. The cover has already been revealed in my street team (Kelly's Coven) FB group, and now it's time for my newsletter subscribers to see it. I won't be doing a cover reveal, which means no one else will see the cover until the book is released, which will also be a surprise! If you aren't signed up to receive my newsletter, but would like to, click here.
Slow Response Time I have funeral services to attend this week because there was a death in my family. So if I'm slow to respond to comments, that's why.
You read that right, folks. Karen Cushman has a new book coming out (hooray!) and it’s not like her books in the past. Cushman has embraced her fantastical side in her latest title, Grayling’s Song. Here’s the plot description:
“When Grayling’s mother, wise woman Hannah Strong, starts turning into a tree, Hannah sends Grayling to call “the others” for help. Shy and accustomed to following her mother in everything, Grayling takes to the road. She manages to summon several “others”—second-string magic makers who have avoided the tree spell—and sets off on a perilous trip to recover Hannah’s grimoire, or recipe book of charms and potions. By default the leader of the group, which includes a weather witch, an enchantress, an aspiring witch, a wizard whose specialty is divination with cheese, and a talking and shape shifting mouse called Pook, Grayling wants nothing more than to go home.
Kidnapping, imprisonment, near drowning, and ordinary obstacles like hunger, fatigue, and foul weather plague the travelers, but they persist and achieve their goal. Returning, Grayling finds herself reluctant to part with her companions—especially Pook. At home she’s no longer content to live with her bossy mother, who can look after herself just fine, and soon sets out on another journey to unfamiliar places . . . possibly to see the young paper maker who warmed her heart.”
To get a sense of the book, I had the honor of asking Ms. Cushman a couple questions about his new direction.
Betsy Bird: It’s always a cause for celebration when a new Karen Cushman book is on the horizon. This book does feel, to some extent, like a bit of a departure for you. While it has a historical feel, there’s magic in its bones. Have you always wanted to write a fantasy? Or is this a newfound desire?
Karen Cushman: It is definitely a departure. After eight historical novels about gutsy girls (and Will), I wanted to try something different. I had an idea for a fantasy. How difficult could it be? I would not be bothered by all that pesky history, the rules and boundaries that constrain an author writing about a real time and place.
That shows how much I know about fantasies. A fantasy world has as much history, as many rules and boundaries and limitations, as historical fiction, but the author has to invent them. For both fantasy and historical fiction authors, our task is to make a world come alive within boundaries. .
Grayling’s Song takes Grayling reluctantly on a journey to free her mother from a curse. I set myself a difficult task: to write a fantasy in which magic exists but is sometimes harmful and never the answer. Grayling has to get herself and others out of danger without magic–by being thoughtful, observant, cooperative, persistent, and determined. In other words, human. My husband calls it an anti-fantasy. And that’s the point: magic is not the answer.
BB: Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of the book itself?
KC: The book began with the image of Grayling’s mother rooted to the ground. I’m not a big fantasy reader and had never before thought about writing a fantasy, but that image appeared in my head and I wanted to find out more, so I had to make it up and write it down.
BB: What are some of the children’s fantasy novels that you yourself have enjoyed reading (either when you were a child or now as an adult)? Have they influenced this book in any way?
KC: I don’t remember fantasy being popular when I was young. Science fiction, yes, but I wasn’t interested. The first fantasy I recall reading is Peter Beagle’s wondrous The Last Unicorn, and I was all grown up and married before that. Since then I have found several fantasies to love: Lloyd Alexander’s five Chronicles of Prydain books, which I read over and over with my daughter, The Hobbit, The Once and Future King, Ella Enchanted, The Princess Bride, Plain Kate, Seraphina, The Goblin Emperor.
I think their influence is mostly in their wide spectrum. There is no one right way to write fantasy, they told me, no correct kind of character, no approved method of magic. And several of them gave me permission to be funny, ironic, and downright silly at times.
BB: So many authors have difficulty writing standalone books. Which is to say, books that don’t require sequels. Looking at your titles, I don’t know that you’ve ever done a sequel. Is there a particular reason for this? Do you think you might try one in the future? I’m sure your fans have asked you to
KC: Stories seem to come to me all of a piece–a beginning, middle, and end, all in one book. I had thought about writing a sequel to Catherine Called Birdy for my second book but my editor didn’t like sequels and urged me to try something else. So I did. That something else was The Midwife’s Apprentice, which won the Newbery Medal in 1996. Good call, Dinah.
I still think about that Birdy sequel. I have a plot and characters, but I’m not sure I could recapture that voice. Birdy’s voice is so distinctive and pretty well known. But maybe, maybe…
BB: Speaking of which, recently you were a bit in the news when Lena Dunham announced that she was adapting Catherine Called Birdy, one of her favorite books, to the silver screen. I assume that you’ve had interest from Hollywood in the past, but this felt a bit more serious. Did it catch you off-guard?
KC: Off-guard is an understatement. Several people had sent me the comment Lena made stating that Catherine Called Birdy and Lolita were the two best books for girls. That’s pretty rare company but I thought no more about it until a contract for an option appeared from Lena’s company.
I’ve met with Lena, who is bright and lovely and sweet, much smarter and nicer than Hannah from Girls. Lena is excited about the project and determined to make it happen so I have my fingers crossed.
BB: Well finally, what are you working on next?
KC: Too many ideas are swimming around in my head. I’m working on a short story set in Elizabethan Bath, which may also be a novel. And there is Millie McGonigal waiting for me in San Diego in 1941. And a book about a pilgrimage to Rome, and, oh yes, something about thieving orphans in medieval Oxford. Probably my next book will be one of those. Probably.
BB: A million thanks to you, Karen, for agreeing to speak with me! Just as a side note, Lena Dunham also has a tattoo of Richard Peck’s Fair Weather. Probably the only one in known existence, so her motives are certainly pure.
And now folks . . . the very first Karen Cushman fantasy novel!
Karen Cushman’s acclaimed historical novels include Catherine, Called Birdy, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Midwife’s Apprentice, which received the Newbery Medal. She lives on Vashon Island in Washington State. Her website is www.karencushmanbooks.com.
Today, I'm excited to share the cover of Travelers by Meradeth Houston! It's gorgeous!
Sienna Crenshaw knows the rules: 1) no time traveling beyond your natural lifetime, 2) no screwing with death, and 3) no changing the past. Ever. Sienna doesn’t love being stuck in the present, but she’s not the type to break the rules. That is, she wasn’t the type until her best friend broke every one of those rules to keep Henry, her twin brother and Sienna’s ex-boyfriend, alive.
Suddenly, Sienna is caught in an unfamiliar reality. The upside? Henry is still alive. The downside? Sienna’s old life, including the people in it, has been erased. Now, Sienna and Henry must untangle the giant knot in time, or her parents and all the rest of the Travelers, will be lost forever. One problem: the only way to be successful is for Henry to die.
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
I’ve never been a big fan of talking about myself, but if you really want to know, here are some random tidbits about me:
I'm a California girl. This generally means I talk too fast and use "like" a lot. Since I now live in Montana, sometimes this is a problem. I have my doctorate in molecular anthropology. Translation: I sequence dead people's DNA and spend a whole lot of time in a lab, which I love. I've been writing since I was 11 years old. It's my hobby, my passion, and I'm so happy to get to share my work! My other passion is teaching. There's nothing more fun than getting a classroom of college kids fired up about anthropology! This is probably a good thing, since my day job requires me to teach at the local university. If I could have a super-power, it would totally be flying. Which is a little strange, because I'm terrified of heights.
Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
Signing at Books-A-Million I'll be at Books-A-Million in the Stroud Mall in Stroudsburg, PA on Saturday from noon to 3:00 p.m. If you're in the area, come see me. I'll be signing copies of The Monster Within and The Darkness Within.
News! I'm most likely going to have news to share with you this week. Stay tuned!
Pepe Maurice Pierre, Poodle Extraordinaire I got to see the cover and illustrations for my upcoming picture book, Pepe Maurice Pierre, Poodle Extraordinaire this past weekend. Wow! I was blown away. I can't wait to share this book with you soon. (My street team, Kelly's Coven, has already seen it.)
Our Little Secret I've been busy with edits for my upcoming Ashelyn Drake title, Our Little Secret. I love this story and can't wait for the release, which is happening in September! Tomorrow, I'll be sharing the blurb and tag line all over social media, so stay tuned for that.
Hot Pink in the City Cover Reveal Check out the cover of Medeia Sharif's upcoming YA title, Hot Pink in the City:
Asma Bashir wants two things: a summer fling and her favorite '80s songs. During a trip to New York City to stay with relatives, she messes up in her pursuit of both. She loses track of the hunk she met on her airplane ride, and she does the most terrible thing she could possibly do to her strict uncle…ruin his most prized possession, a rare cassette tape. A wild goose chase around Manhattan and Brooklyn to find a replacement tape yields many adventures—blackmail, theft, a chance to be a TV star, and so much more. Amid all this turmoil, Asma just might be able to find her crush in the busiest, most exciting city in the world.
This week the cover of Trail of Secrets by Laura Wolfe was revealed. Check it out:
Trail of Secrets, by Laura Wolfe
Fire and Ice YA (Coming August/September 2015)
Spending three weeks of her summer at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy in northern Michigan should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode, she can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched. Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows.
Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted “Top Rider” award. To make things worse, someone discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. As Brynlei begins to unravel the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she is faced with an impossible choice. Will she protect a valuable secret? Or save a life?
Age level: 13-18
Check out the trailer:
Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.
This morning I have a cover reveal and giveaway for Rachel’s Deception by Karen Ann Hopkins. I enjoyed the Temptation series, and I’m looking forward to reading the continuation. Noah’s sister Rachel and Rose’s younger brother take center stage, and I can’t wait to find out what happens. Check out the cover, revealed below, and then enter the giveaway!
Growing up Amish is difficult…but leaving it behind is even harder.
Noah was Amish…Rose wasn’t. Being together should have been impossible. But somehow they found a way to make it work. They are finally a family, but their happily-ever-after is still a long off. Will Rose and her friends be able to force real change?
Karen Ann Hopkins returns with a gripping new book in the YA Temptation series. The powerful family saga continues with Rachel’s Deception, as events spiral out of control in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview. And Rachel Miller has her own secrets to hide. Noah’s younger sister has been living a double life. That is, until Justin Cameron, Rose’s little brother, catches her in the act. Rachel is not the obedient Amish girl that her sister was, and her rebelliousness takes her to a very dangerous world. A world that only her true friends can help her escape from.
As Rachel questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment, Rose discovers what it really means to be shunned. And an evil shadow looms on the horizon, threatening not only Rose, but everyone she holds dear.
A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. Her unique perspective became the inspiration for the story of star-crossed lovers Rose and Noah. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel.
Karen is generously offering up a $25 gift card (Amazon or B&N) as well as a copy of TEMPTATION (book 1) to one lucky winner! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form
One of the absolute craziest things about writing Loving Dallas was the fact that it was like having two male leads. Dallas himself says it best in the chapter where he explains to Robyn about "Person Dallas" and "Performer Dallas." The recording label he is hired onto quickly turns charming Dallas Lark from Amarillo (think: country cutie Easton Corbin) into the sexy, sharp-tongued Dallas Walker, a drifter with a shady past (think: country music outlaw Eric Church). I thought it might be fun to compare the two sides of my guy side by side!
First up, even though he's really just one man, Dallas has a completely different style when he's on stage. If you were to see the laid back crooner around town, he'd be clad in a well worn-in flannel button down and his favorite pair of jeans and cowboy boots. There will likely be trucker hat providing some shade over his baby blues. However, stop in to see a show and you might not recognize him! On stage Dallas Walker rocks an edgier look including Aviators, leather jackets, and biker boots. Vintage rock band tees are a staple in the wardrobe of this version of Dallas!
Dallas Lark is a caring and somewhat overprotective big brother to his little sister, Dixie. He believes women should be treated like the ladies that they are with the respect they deserve. He says Grace and he says ma'am, y'all!
Dallas Walker on the other hand is a little rougher around the edge and if you get too close you might enter a danger zone where you end up in scandalous tabloid photos alongside country music's newest bad boy!
Dallas Lark will forever carry a torch for his high school sweetheart, Robyn Breeland. She is and will always be his muse.
Dallas Walker can't be tamed or tied down and women traipse in and out of his life quicker than Billboard chart toppers change places! He does certainly pay a lot of attention to one special lady that has yet to be identified by media sources. Rumor has it she's the one that got away!
Which version of Dallas would be your favorite kind of book boyfriend? Decide for yourself on 6.16.15 when LOVING DALLAS GOES LIVE!
LOVING DALLAS EXCERPT 2
“I’m still me,” he’d said before falling asleep.
I’d been about to snuggle down into that blissful murkiness of sleepy time when he’d said it.
No matter how much he’d changed, Dallas was still Dallas. And maybe I had a college degree and a big-girl job, but I was still the same girl he couldn’t forgive. I’d been an idiot, pushed him away so that he wouldn’t let my mom’s illness stop him from chasing his dreams. By the time I realized how unfair it was and how much I needed him, the damage was done and Dallas Lark had moved on.
I was the one who’d needed space, but Dallas ended up being the one to walk away for good.
Forget being on the same page; Dallas and I had been reading entirely different books when it came to our relationship. In mine, there was a happily ever after that involved making a life together. He wasn’t just in my story—he was my story. In his I was merely a chapter.
I’m still me.
I wanted to smack myself. Hard. Of course he was still him. And he’d still walk away, dragging my battered heart behind him while I watched him leave. I’d hurt him, deeply. And I’d live with that regret for the rest of my life. He’d still be the guy who chose music over me, over us. He had even more reason to now that he was on this tour.
I waited there in his arms, forcing my steel walls back up between us while he drifted into unconsciousness. Once his breathing was deep and the light rumble of a snore settled into a steady rhythm, I slipped out of his bed and gathered my things as quietly as I could. Dressing quickly, I watched him, memorizing that peaceful look on his handsome face and promising myself this was a one-time thing. I wasn’t going to obsess over it. It was a life experience, one I didn’t regret but knew I’d be crazy to repeat.
I chanced one last look as I left, before I shut the door completely. The light from the hotel hallway sliced across him and he looked so . . . alone.
I closed the door and told myself this was for the best. What would having breakfast together or sharing a cab to the airport change? Nothing, that’s what.
This time, I’d been the one to leave. For the sake of my sanity and my heart, I could never fall into bed with Dallas Lark again.
I recently read GETTING DIRTY, by Mia Storm and flipping fell in love. So when I had the opportunity to reveal the cover to the second book in the series, I was like, SIGN ME THE HELL UP!
This cover is absolutely gorgeous and I cannot wait until May 28!!!
Rules of the game:
1) Never underestimate your opponent
2) Avoid personal fouls
3) Score early and often
4) Play or get played
Coach Marcus Leon has always played by the rules…until he
meets Addaline Grace, the seventeen-year-old senior transfer on his Oak Crest High water polo team. Addie changes all the rules, mostly because she doesn’t play any games. But as off limits as she is, the more Marcus discovers about Addie, the more he finds himself…and the more he questions whether Addie might just be worth risking everything for.
For Addie, water polo is anger management. She’s driven and focused because it keeps her mind off other things…like the fact she destroyed her family. Her game plan is to keep her head down and graduate so she can leave her father and the crappy town he dragged her to in her wake. But when what starts as friendly completion with Marcus turns into more than a game, Addie has to decide if she’s willing to face down her demons…and possibly ruin the man she may or may not be falling in love with in the process.
What happens when the only thing you need is the one thing you can’t have?
If sex is dirty, why would I do it with someone I love?
If sex is dirty, then didn’t we all come from the dirt?
What if I like the dirt?
What if I want to get dirty?
What if I want to roll in the mud until I’m so fucking filthy that I’ll never be clean again?
When twenty-five-year-old graduate assistant Caiden Brenner asked Blaire Leon how old she was, she said she was a senior. He chose to believe she meant in college. They connect over Lord Byron’s Don Juan and, as their conversations become increasingly thicker with sexual innuendo, Caiden finds himself obsessing over a totally off-limits undergrad who’s bold, beautiful, brilliant, and one of the most passionate poets he’s ever met.
But it turns out Blaire hasn't been totally honest. She's the seventeen-year-old valedictorian of her high school class, taking courses at Sierra State while awaiting her acceptance to Stanford.
Will Caiden get too deeply into Blaire to back away before he finds out the truth? Or will their connection be enough to seduce him into risking his entire future on Jail Bait?
Mia Storm is a hopeless romantic who is always searching for her happy ending. Sometimes she’s forced to make one up. When that happens, she’s thrilled to be able to share those stories with her readers. She lives in California and spends much of her time in the sun with a book in one hand and a mug of black coffee in the other, or hiking the trails in Yosemite. Connect with her online at MiaStormAuthor.blogspot.com , on Twitter at @MiaStormAuthor, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MiaStormAuthor.
I have a Top 5 list and a cover reveal this morning for Victoria Denault’s NA hockey romance, One More Shot. This is the first book in Victoria’s Hometown Players series.
Top 5 Fun Facts about Victoria Denault
1. I’ve run the bulls in Pamplona, Spain – twice.
2. The title One More Shot was inspired by a song by a band named Kane.
3. The characters are from the fictitious town of Silver Bay, Maine. It’s roughly based on Old Orchard Beach, Maine, but I swapped the ocean for a lake.
4. The relationship between the Caplan sisters (Jessie, Rose, Callie) is inspired by the relationship I had with my best friends growing up.
5. I LOVE hockey and was lucky enough to be at a Stanley Cup winning game. Total bucket list item.
ONE MORE SHOT by Victoria Denault (June 2, 2015; Forever Yours E-Book; $3.99; Hometown Players Book #1)
They say you only get one shot at making your dreams come true. Jordan is determined to take two. Drafted by the NHL at eighteen, Jordan Garrison was headed for fame, and there was only one person he wanted to share it with-Jessie Caplan. He was crazy in love with her, and had finally told her so. They shared an amazing night . . . and then everything fell apart. Jessie tries not to think about the night she gave herself to Jordan-or how he broke her heart. She tries not to think about it, but she does. Especially now, when she’s staring into his sky-blue eyes for the first time in six years. After so much time and torment, she can’t tell if she loves him or hates him. But Jordan has learned enough to know a connection like theirs is rare. He was lucky to find Jessie once. No way will he lose her again.
Victoria Denault loves long walks on the beach, cinnamon dolce lattes and writing angst-filled romance. She lives in LA but grew up in Montreal, which is why she is fluent in English, French and hockey.
Cover Reveal Day is here once more! This time it’s a true doozy. A Sara Varon (and you know how the kids clamor for her). Here’s a bit of a description and the book itself. And I know my mom would approve of how they’re holding their knitting needles:
Back before Odd Duck, before Robot Dreams, Sara Varon created Sweaterweather. This endearing, quirky volume is a captivating look into Varon’s creative process. It combines short comics stories, essays, and journal entries, and invites the reader into the world of Sara Varon: where adorable, awkward anthropomorphic animals walk the streets of Brooklyn and a surprising, sideways revelation is waiting around every corner.
First Second is proud to introduce Sweaterweather to a new generation of readers in this gorgeous jacketed hardcover, with a new cover and plenty of new content.
Many thanks to the good folks at First Second for this sneaky peek!
Girls solving mysteries is one of my very favorite things! It was great fun for us to host the cover reveal for Robin Stevens’ Murder is Bad Manners last year, so we’re delighted to be hosting her again, this time with the North American cover for the second book in the Wells & Wong series. Daisy and Hazel find themselves in more puzzling predicaments, with the central mystery taking place at a grand old English manor…that just so happens to be Daisy’s home. Poison is Not Polite won’t be released here until next April 2016, but we have your exclusive first look right here and now–along with the opportunity to win one of the very first ARCs hot off the presses. Without further ado–here is the fantastic cover!! It’s wonderful how the designer has changed the color scheme, but you can immediately tell that it’s part of the same series.... Read more »
Hello from Julie! I’m so excited, because today I get to reveal the cover for a fellow 2016 debut author, Emily Martin, whose YA novel THE YEAR WE FELL APART (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse Spring 2016,) is at the top of my CAN’T WAIT list! I feel so privileged to be able to introduce you to this book. Along with her beautiful cover, we have a few words from Emily herself, as well as from the designer! If that weren’t enough, we also have a giveaway for an ARC! So, without further ado…
Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year, she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hookup, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But the worst mistake was her first one: destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.
Now, after two semesters of silence between Harper and Declan, Declan is home from boarding school for summer break. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger . . . handsomer. But Harper has changed too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.
While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on with her. But after she betrayed his trust, he’s also the one person she’s lost all right to seek comfort from.
As shared friends and shared histories draw them together, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still possible to fix and which parts they’ll have to live with forever.
I could go on and on about this book, but I know you’re dying to see the cover, so here it is!
Isn’t it GORGEOUS? We are so lucky to have Karina Granda, Designer at Simon & Schuster, here to discuss the process that went into the design.
Where do you start when it’s time to design a cover? Do you get a chance to read the book? Do you consult with the editor? How do you pull together those first ideas?
Every book is its own world and has its own process, which keeps my job varied and fun! Sometimes we just have an outline, author or editor’s concepts, comp titles, icons, etc. to work with, but whenever possible, I do LOVE to start by reading the book! I was fortunate to be able to read THE YEAR WE FELL APART, and it really helped me to get a deep sense of the tone and to develop a package that feels as special as Harper and Declan’s story.
As I mentioned, our projects are hugely varied–sometimes I get to work with a really cool artist, other times I compose my own iconic or type-driven covers, occasionally I’m able to direct and style a shoot, and sometimes we just comes across an existing image that perfectly jives with the story—and there are many factors that go into deciding the final direction: what is the tone of the book; are there any compelling icons; is it important to show the characters; what other books do we want to be associated with; and of course, what is the budget?
The editor, Sara Sargent, and I both immediately knew that THE YEAR WE FELL APART needed an illustrated cover since it would give us huge range for creating a unique package that would capture many aspects of the story. Which brings us to that question: The editor is hugely involved through the whole process, and our editorial team does a tremendous job of providing ideas and feedback and ensuring that the images and tone are right for each individual project.
Tell us a little about the cover design for THE YEAR WE FELL APART. What choices did you make, and what did you want to convey?
In the case of THE YEAR WE FELL APART, we were able to work with the fabulous artist, Sarah Dennis, whom I’ve been wanting to work with for a long time! She not only illustrates, but she creates her illustrations through cut paper rather than drawing, which just brought that extra special touch that we wanted for this cover. We knew she could bring the right feel. As a team, thematically, we wanted to emphasize the course of the year and time and the seasons through the cover. So much of the book is about what can and cannot be changed over the course of time (and the emotions that come with that!), so we felt that depicting the course of the year with images that felt relevant to the story would make for a good cover.
Though all projects can (and do!) take many different directions and turns, ultimately the end products are always the result of a very collaborative team effort, and THE YEAR WE FELL APART was definitely no exception. The author pulled a bunch of images from the story that felt most relevant to her—the oak leaves were specific to the type of tree that was special to Harper and Declan, the friends spend a lot time in a quarry during the summers so it is a place of tension now that Declan and Harper are at odds, etc. Among many other ideas, the editor made the key suggestion that we should bring a hand-written feel to the type design. I found and art directed the illustrator, provided direction for the palette and composition, and created the hand-written elements on the jacket. Sarah Dennis brought her own ideas, compositions, wonderful details, and most importantly, her killer illustration skills!
How many concepts did you consider, and how many drafts did this one go through?
Honesty, I cannot even remember how many specific concepts we considered for this book! So often tons of ideas are tossed around in conversations with the editor or at team meetings—many get left right there, some make it into rough comps, and sometimes we are picking between options at very final stages. THE YEAR WE FELL APART has been through two “final” iterations—though in this case they came consecutively rather than simultaneously. We strongly pursued the idea of focusing on the tree or a tree stump, and though our art team tried several iterations of that concept that were beautiful, it was ultimately a bit too young and did not capture the depth and scope of the story. However, that process did lay the groundwork for developing the ideas that made it into our final cover. Even when concepts are rejected, they are always a crucial step in the process!
Thank you so much Karina!
Author Emily Martin is also here to answer a few questions!
Congrats on your beautiful cover! Karina mentioned that you had some input into the design, in that you offered some images from the story. How were you brought into the process? What was that like?
Thank you! My editor and the team at S&S were amazing about keeping me in the loop on the cover design. We discussed which places and moments in the book felt most important, and it became clear we all wanted a similar look for the cover. Being able to see the cover evolve from sketch to final product was an awesome experience.
The designer said that lots of ideas were considered, and that there were two “final” versions of the cover. Were you able to see different drafts? If so, how much did they vary?
I saw sketches of both covers that became contenders, and from sketch to final version, neither of them changed too drastically. However, the two concepts were very different from each other.
I really loved the first design, so it was painful to find out the team had decided to go in a different direction. But I was fortunate enough to be brought into the conversation again, and I was thrilled when we settled on Sarah Dennis as the illustrator. I wound up falling even harder for the second design!
Since you were somewhat involved in the process, did you develop an idea in your mind of what the cover would look like? Does the finished cover reflect your expectations, or did it surprise you? How did you feel when you saw the final version for the first time?
Despite knowing who the illustrator would be and having an idea of the concept, it was still really difficult to visualize the finished product. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the cover completely blew me away. It just felt so special to me, such a perfect representation of my characters and their story.
Has your love of this cover caused any interesting new behaviors? Do you carry a miniature version of it tucked in a locket, or sleep with it under your pillow? (You can tell the truth. We’re all friends here!)
Ha! I am fairly obsessed with it, and did immediately save it on my phone… but I only peek at it a dozen or so times a day! Pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before a framed copy finds its way onto my bedside table.
More about the author: Emily Martin lives and writes in the Greater Boston area, though she will always call Michigan home. When not writing books, you can find her hiking New England’s peaks, searching for the perfect cup of hot chocolate, or baking something pumpkin-flavored. She is a member of The Sweet Sixteens and the Class of 2k16. Visit Emily online at her website, and on Twitter @thatEmilyMartin.
Thanks to Karina Granda from Simon & Schuster for sharing her process with us, and to Emily Martin for not only letting us host her cover reveal, but also generously giving away an ARC of THE YEAR WE FELL APART! (Emily will happily send an ARC to the winner’s US or Canadian address, once they are printed later this summer.)
You can add TYWFA to your “To Read” shelf on Goodreads and pre-order it on Barnes & Noble and/or Amazon. Please join us in congratulating Emily in the comments below!
Folks sometimes ask me if I’ll ever do cover reveals of debuts. It’s an interesting question. Often the books that I’m doing cover reveals of are by authors or illustrators that I admire. If I’m doing a review of someone new, how do I know they’re any great shakes? I don’t, of course, but sometimes you appreciate a book for reasons above and beyond your familiarity with its creator. Take the case of today’s reveal. Called “Rules by Cynthia Lord meets Counting by 7s“, it’s set in Manhattan. That’s nice but if I’m going to be honest I was probably also attracted to the fact that the name “Thyme” is in the title and it reminds me of the old Edgar Eager title Time Garden.
Here’s the publisher description:
When eleven-year-old Thyme Owen’s little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.
After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours and the days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.
You can also follow its author, Melanie Conklin, on Twitter at @MLConklin. Many thanks to
. This is the new Guardian Herd #3: LANDFALL cover.
Landfall is the final installment . . . maybe . . . (I hope not) . . . of The Guardian Herd series.
Unfortunately, you must wait until next February 2, 2016 to get your hands on this beautiful cover.
How cruel, isn’t it, to reveal a cover you can’t touch for 8 months. Well, I cannot wait . . . must not wait . . . I shall not wai . . . okay, I will wait, but only because it is worth the wait and because the story comes with the cover. Ah, the story. What is Landfall all about?
“It has been many moons since Star received his starfire power. He has gone from being born a dud—unable to fly and shunned by the five herds of Anok, including his own—to becoming a strong yearling, ready to lead his own herd as an over-stallion. But now he will face his toughest challenge yet. Nightwing the Destroyer, Star’s eternal rival, is amassing an army to destroy him and all of Anok. The only way for Star to defeat him is to learn how to fight like a warrior—without using his starfire. For if he uses his power, even to heal, Nightwing will know where to find him.
“As the threat of war looms over Star’s head, he can’t help but wonder if the current peace among the united pegasi is strong enough to defeat the powerful Destroyer once and for all.
“With increasingly difficult challenges and brand-new areas of Anok to explore, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez will thrill readers with this epic and exhilarating third installment of The Guardian Herd series.”
But hold on—there is more.
TheGuardian Herd Series cover has inspired readers all over the country. Here is some of the amazing art fans have created to show their love of the series.
As if this Guardian Herd cover and those kids’ pictures are not exciting enough, I am pleased as punch-ing herds to have a partial glimpse at Guardian Herd author Jennifer Lynn Alvarez’s interview with the cover artist, David McClellan. Most of you know about Jennifer. Here is a little about David:
David grew up near Portland, Oregon. He studied illustration at Brigham Young University in Utah. In addition to illustrating books, David works as an artist for Disney Interactive Studios, where they make the video game, Disney Infinity. David lives in Utah with his wife and four boys.
Interview and Art Tips with David McClellan
How did you become the cover artist for The Guardian Herd series?
The art director at Harper Collins had hired me before, but on a completely different kind of subject matter. As she considered me for this job, she asked if I was any good at painting animals and asked for some examples, and I told her that I was okay, but that I was probably weakest at horses. Of course, horses were exactly what she needed. And she agreed with me that my horses were not my best work, but for some reason she took a chance on me anyway. I immediately went and got some books on horse anatomy and started trying to figure it out. In hindsight, I think I was probably equally bad at drawing all animals. It’s just that horses are animals that humans are really familiar with, and have such specific proportions and musculature, that people can always tell when artists get them wrong. If you draw a dog wrong, you can just say it’s a different kind of dog.
Please describe your process, from conception to delivery, for creating a Guardian Herd book cover.
The art director gives me a description of what they want to see on the cover as far as characters and what kind of setting they want. Then I do several sketches to try and turn all those elements into a composition, taking into account where the title and author’s name will be. Those first sketches are usually so rough that no one else would understand them. Lately I have been doing those kinds of sketches on my phone. I then pick out a few that have the most potential and make more finished sketches of those ideas to send to the art director. She will then review the sketches with the editor and author and then either ask for changes or give the go ahead on the one that they like best. Then I will do color studies and work out the big picture before rendering any details.
I will have to do research and gather reference materials, in this case, lots of pictures of horses and wings. I have used toy horses for reference too since the photos usually don’t have the right kind of lighting. So sometimes I set up the toy horse with some makeshift paper wings to help me figure out what the shadows need to do. Then, from that point on, it’s just a lot of hours of painting time to refine and finish it off.
Your perspectives on the covers are dramatic! Can you give readers any tips on how to draw interesting pictures?
As far as perspective goes, on both of these Guardian Herd covers so far I have dropped the horizon line lower so it feels like you are looking up at Star, which makes him feel more heroic. There are so many potential answers to the question of how to make interesting pictures. Coming up with an interesting idea that is worth the time spent creating it is certainly crucial. Doing several rough sketches to get at the best possible idea helps. Making your image clear and legible helps. For example, it helps to have a clear focal point that is the most important thing in your picture and then have all the other elements complement rather than compete with that main focal point.
I believe that contrast is a big key to making things interesting. Our brains naturally look for contrast to make sense of things. And not just contrast of light and dark but just about everything you can think of has an opposite that you can use to set it apart and make it stand out. Of course, not everything should stand out. Only the important things. But if you want something to feel light, surround it with some dark. If you want something to feel big, put something small next to it. Try to keep variety in your shapes and not make everything too similar or monotonous.
Do you have any specific tips/advice on how to draw horses and feathers?
Well, start by getting the best reference materials you can get. You may not be able to see all that you need to understand in a photo of a horse, so a book on horse anatomy or a diagram of the muscles of the horse can be helpful. With feathers, it seems to be a little like drawing fingers or hair. If you are drawing a hand, it works best to mass in the fingers as a group first before trying to depict each individual finger. And with hair, it’s the same thing. You draw the mass of hair and then define only as many strands of hair as you need to in order to show that it’s hair and no more.
With the feathers, start with the shape of the wing as a solid mass with the structure of the bones underneath in mind, and then add the feather detail on top of that foundation. And remember that you don’t have to define each feather with equal importance. Pick a few main ones to be the ones that tell the story.
Can you recommend any software programs that budding artists might want to learn?
I really only work in Photoshop for my illustration work, although I sketch in the Sketchbook Pro app on my phone. I have messed around with the Brushes and Art Rage apps on my iPad. I think the kids probably know better than I do what the cool new painting apps are. I always recommend that kids get really good with real pencils and paints before getting into digital art because I think that foundation really helps.
Partial Interview Reprinted with permission from Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. For more information on The Guardian Herd Series please visit The Guardian Herdseries website. To read the entire interview, gallop—or fly—on down to the tour dates and sites. (But don’t go yet, there is “One More Thing.”)
Now for the author of The Guardian Herd series. Just in case you have been living in a WIFI-less barn, here is a little about the author, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is the author of The Guardian Herd: Starfire,Stormbound, Landfalland The Pet Washerindie book series. She lives in Northern California with her husband, three children, and more than her fair share of pets, including horses.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you would like to see more of the cover reveal tour—who knows what else you might learn—check out these sites: June 15th—Middle Grade Mafioso(running entire interview with David McClellan) June 16th—Kid Lit Reviews June 17th—This Kid Reviews Books(Interview with Audio Book Narrator) June 18th—Beachbound Books(Interview with Guardian Herd Character) June 19th—Doodles Doodles Everywhere(Artist Interview Debut in India) June 20th—Jennifer Lynn Alvarez ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ONE MORE THING.
Really, there is one more thing, and you really need to pay close attention to this part. To be sure you’ll hear, I’ll yell it out:
“HERE IS THE GIVEAWAY MENTIONED IN THE POST TITLE!”
To enter for a chance to WIN a Tote Bag Prize you MUST leave a comment (with your full name and email address IF your name does not link to a website or blog).
Here is the Tote:
Oh, wait . . . I forgot to open it up. Ooh, inside are the prizes!
The winner will receive: .
A signed paperback of book #1 STARFIRE (reviewed HERE) .
A poster of the LANDFALL cover.
Character trading cards (sorry, no image, but Stormbound is reviewed HERE)
AND, to carry home all this swag, you get to keep the actual Guardian Herd Tote!
. . . That is one good prize package.
Ready to win? Leave a comment. (Winner will be announced in a future post.)
Stay tuned, a review of LANDFALL will be here as soon as, well, Ms. Alvarez sends a review copy.
We're honoured today to present the exclusive cover of BANISHED, the second book in the FORBIDDEN trilogy by Kimberley Griffiths Little!
About the Book
BANISHED, Book 2 of the FORBIDDEN trilogy February 2, 2016 Harpercollins
She thought she’d lost everything . . .
After spending months traveling the harsh, unforgiving Mesopotamian desert, Jayden reunites with a broken, injured Kadesh. Although everyone was convinced the violent and unpredictable Horeb, Jayden’s betrothed, killed the handsome prince, Jayden knew in her heart that her love was alive and safe. But their reunion is short-lived, as they learn Horeb is on their trail and determined to take back the girl he has claimed. Soon, the two star-crossed lovers are on the run toward Sariba, Kadesh’s homeland, where, as heir to the Kingdom, he plans to make Jayden his princess.
But the trek to Sariba is fraught with heartache and danger. After narrowly escaping being stoned to death for a crime she didn’t commit, and learning that her sister has disappeared, Jayden’s only solace is her love for Kadesh. But even he is keeping secrets from her . . . secrets that will change everything.
This gorgeous and enchanting sequel to Forbidden, is full of love, danger, and heated passion that will leave readers breathless.
Awards for FORBIDDEN: (the first book) Whitney Award Finalist Letters of Mormon Arts Award Finalist BOOKLIST Top 10 Historical Novels of 2015
Editorial Reviews *STARRED* in BOOKLIST “At its core, this is a romance, with all the push and pull that goes along with impossible love, and Little elevates the story by creating a perilous landscape, both outward and inward, as Jayden must deal with the hardship of desert life as well as her own desires.” Little elevates the story by creating a perilous landscape, both outward and inward, as Jayden must deal with the hardship of desert life as well as her own desires."
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “A fast-paced, entertaining choice which will appeal to fans of historical fiction and romance.”
BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S BOOKS: “Rich historical details are deftly woven into Jayden’s narration, and the dynamics of Jayden’s tribe are vividly drawn. Jayden’s story becomes as much about finding herself as it is about finding love.”
"Lush, lyrical, romantic. Forbidden transports readers into a vividly imagined place and time." --Claudia Gray, New York Times bestselling author
"The beauty of the desert of ancient Mesopotamia comes to life in Forbidden . . .Your heart will break as you root for Jayden to triumph over the struggles that tear her world apart, and the ending will leave you thirsting for more!" --Sara B. Larson, author of Defy
About the Author
Kimberley Griffiths Little grew up in San Francisco, but now lives in an adobe house on the banks of the Rio Grande with her chaotic, messy family. She’s drunk so much Land of Enchantment water that some of that ancient magic got into her blood and now spurts out her pencil—um, ergonomic keyboard.
Kimberley has slept in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland, sailed the Seine in Paris, walked the beaches of Normandy, ridden a camel in Petra, shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria.
P.S. She also writes award-winning middle-grade novels with Scholastic. :-)
The official book trailer is compelling. How did you go about making it?
Fun story: I’ve created book trailers for my MG novels, too, and I love writing the script and planning out the shots and locations. For FORBIDDEN I wanted it to truly look like an actual movie. I hired a young man I’ve known since he was young who got his film degree from Columbia in New York.
After we discussed the script we decided to focus on Jayden and not clutter the trailer with too many shots or stills. The entire trailer is live action. Justin found a location in southern Utah called Little Sahara Sand Dunes that looks VERY much like the country of Jordan and its mountains (where Jayden and Kadesh’s first romantic declarations occur).
Justin met Sela, the actress, on the set of another film. Sela is actually Tongan, but looks just like the Bedouin girls I met in the ancient city of Petra, beautiful and exotic. (She’s also 5’11” tall and is in the midst of call-backs for Disney’s new princess, Moana.) Sela’s mother is a makeup artist and in one afternoon they did all the shooting. Justin and I spent about 2-3 weeks choosing the footage and editing. I planned out the opening titles and credits and sent Justin the graphics and fonts he needed. The end result is gorgeous and interestingly enough the book trailer fits for BANISHED in many ways, too.
Wait for it...
Isn't it gorgeous?! *heart eyes*
Giveaways (US Only):
One grand prize winner:
1. Signed ARC of FORBIDDEN & BANISHED when available
2. $25.00 Amazon Gift Card
3. Middle Eastern Earrings
4. Paper Blanks Magnetic Notebook
5. A set of beautiful FORBIDDEN & BANISHED Bookmark Club Cards
7 Winners will receive:
1. $10.00 Amazon Gift Card
2. Middle Eastern earrings
3. Paper Blanks Notebook
4. A set of beautiful FORBIDDEN & BANISHED Book Club Cards
EVERYBODY WHO Orders or Pre-orders copies of the books receives a set of gorgeous BOOK CLUB CARDS and an autographed book plate!
As the heart-pounding Chasing Fire trilogy concludes, a dangerous entanglement leaves Hudson and Allie wondering how much they’re willing to risk for the love they can’t live without…
There’s almost nothing Alessandra Sinclair wouldn’t do for Hudson Chase. He was her first love, and she’s determined that he’ll be her last. But when the terrible truth Hudson has been hiding comes to light, Allie finds herself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a man from her past who’s determined to use what he knows to ruin Hudson. Now, the only way to save the man she loves may be to lose him forever…
Hudson has always known that the secrets he keeps could be his downfall, but he never expected them to put Allie’s life in danger as well. It’s time for him to come clean–before everything he’s ever wanted is destroyed…
Includes previews of REMIND ME and RELEASE ME, the first two books of the Chasing Fire trilogy.
Praise for the Chasing Fire trilogy
“Walker and Rogers strike the perfect balance between blistering physical desire and heartfelt connections…”–RT Book Review
Though thousands of miles apart, Ann Marie Walker and Amy K. Rogers are in constant contact, plotting story lines and chatting about their love of alpha males, lemon drop martinis and British supermodel, David Gandy. You can find them on twitter as @AnnMarie_Walker and @Amy_KRogers.