Monday, April 28, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Last Pages

My first love is YA historical fantasy, so I'm super excited to share the cover for The Last Pages with you all! There's so many elements I love about this cover: The script in the background, the buildings, the looming mountain, and then that blaze of fiery red. Not to mention that the girl's holding a SWORD! Congrats to Lara on a fantastic cover for what sounds like a fantastic book!


Kale led a simple life with her mother in a small 18th century town. She never met her father and knew little about her past. That changed when a runaway named Leon forced her into joining him. Soldiers want Leon for treason. They want Kale now, too. She thinks it's because she is with Leon, but he knows better. A mysterious, shadowed figure has joined the chase, but his intentions are not the same as the soldier's.

In the quest to prove that he is innocent, Leon and Kale journey across untamed lands, discover secrets, meet long lost siblings, and find out the truth about their pasts; truth that should not have seen the light. It is truth, which may cost Leon and Kale their lives and send the nearby kingdoms into war. Can they save their lives, stop war from ravaging the land, and undo their mistakes? Or will they die trying?

Add to Goodreads

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About: Lara Whatley is a teen that loves to use her creativity in as many ways as she can. She is an avid reader, and in addition to writing, Lara enjoys sketching, painting, and playing her harp and guitar. Any writing contest she has entered has earned her an award, and she has published several short stories for children co-written with Monica Whatley. She lives with her family in Newmarket, Ontario. Her favourite part of being an author is making new friends, real or otherwise. 

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Unicorns of the Mist: Interview w/R.R. Russell (+ Giveaway)

R.R. Russell has stopped by the blog today in celebration of the paperback release of Wonder Light, the first book in her Unicorns of the Mist series. The second book, The Unicorn Thief, releases May 2014. And doesn't that title just get your hackles up? Who would want to steal a unicorn? Jerk. I mean, of course I would like my own unicorn, but you just don't up and go and start stealing other peoples! K. Got a bit off track there, sorry. =) 

R.R. has kindly answered a few questions for us today, so lets get to 'em!

1. Lets say unicorns come in different colors besides their lustrous white coats- what color of unicorn would you like?

 Pearly blue!

2. In your own words, you grew up as an army brat. Was there a certain place you really enjoyed  living, or would love to visit again? 

I lived in Korea, Kansas, Hawaii, Washington State, Germany, and California. I loved Washington State, and that's why I moved here after high school. It's the best place in the world, in my humble opinion. 

3. I love the names- Night Spark, Dagger, Ash- of many of the unicorns in your books. Did you have to think long and hard for them, or did they just come to you?

I spent several days brainstorming names for the unicorns and ponies in Wonder Light, experimenting with different combinations. I could pretend it was hard, but really, the whole time I was thinking, "Life doesn't get any better than this!"

4. When writing a series, what do you find is the hardest thing to keep track of? 

I stress the most over each character's hopes, dreams, growth, and relationships with other characters. It's not that I lose track, but it's all about the relationships to me and it can be really challenging to make sure I continue to develop each of them throughout the series. 

5. It's a nice afternoon, and you have a hammock in the shade all to yourself. What snack/beverage are you consuming and what book from your TBR pile do you crack open next? 

Wait! Are you saying you've fixed my broken hammock frame? Who would've thought nine kids in a hammock would kill that thing, anyway? If I were lounging in a hammock in the shade, it would be summer, so I'd be eating a pineapple popsicle and reading Inkspell, the sequel to Inkheart. It's been on my TBR pile 
way to long.  
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Mmm, a pineapple popsicle makes me think of Pineapple Whips. Anyone ever get those at the fair? Delish. Anyhoo, if you'd like the chance to win this set of buttons, just leave a comment. (and plz follow R.R at one or more of her social media links below)

{Image courtesy of Panda Eight Designs}

That red button is exactly how I'd like to see my first unicorn someday(if you know, unicorns were real, but that's beside the point). Doesn't it look like it should be standing on a craggy cliff, staring wisely down at you as you gape up in grubby wonder at it? Sorry, can't help it, big fan of The Last Unicorn here! 

About: R.R. Russell lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. She grew up traveling the world as an army brat and now travels the country as a coach with a nonprofit judo club. She loves to read and draw, and like Twig, once spent a lot of time sketching unicorns.
Website | Facebook | Twitter

The winner of the buttons will be announced 4/28 on Twitter & also updated on this post. Congrats to R.R. on Wonder Light's paperback release, and the imminent release of The Unicorn Thief!

Deep in the heart of a mist-shrouded island, an impossible secret is about to be discovered.

Twig is used to feeling unwanted. Sent to live on a pony ranch for "troubled" girls on a misty, haunted island, Twig is about to discover the impossible — someone who needs her. 
Jolted awake from a bad dream, Twig follows the desperate whinny of a terrified horse out to the stables. There in the straw is a bleating little scrap of moonbeam. A silver-white filly with cloven hooves and a tiny, spiraling horn.

A baby unicorn.

Now Twig knows what secret is hiding in the island's mist: the last free unicorn herd. And a mysterious boy named Ben who insists that this impossible creature is now Twig's to care for. That she needs Twig's love and protection. Because there's something out there in the deep, dense shadows that's hunting for them... 

B&N | Amazon | IndieBound
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Twig and Ben are unicorn riders- guardians whose job it is to keep the last free unicorn herd safe. But a new danger is threatening the beautiful, mysterious creatures of Lonehorn Island. A thief from Terracornus has snuck onto the misty island and stolen Ben's loyal unicorn, Indy. There's only one path for Ben and Twig- straight into the secret, shadowy heart of the island and through the passage to Terracornus. 
But their missions is unexpectedly complicated by a secret Ben has been hiding. A secret about the Queen of Terracornus who has enslaved all the unicorns of Ben's homeland. A secret that could save them all- or start a war. 
UPDATE: The winner of the buttons is Kimberly Afe!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chain vs Independent

It's well known to my friends and family that I'm a Barnes & Noble girl. How could I not be- they have an ampersand in their name! It's my fav store to visit. Like any book lover, I can spend hours in the stacks, reading jacket flaps and first lines. Likewise in the kid's part, where there's picture books to salivate over and always just one more to add to the pile. {Look at those adorable trucks! Ooh, and is that a pb about talking crayons? Must have! And come here, Curious George, I can never say no to your face.}

I shell out the $25 every year to be a member. It more than pays for itself w/the automatic 10% off & free shipping that comes w/membership. Not to mention the tantalizing 15-20%  off coupons that arrive every so often in the inbox. And every parent should sign up for the B&N's kids club. It's free, and on the child's bday, they get a certificate for a free cupcake or cookie from the cafe. 

My local B&N, about forty mins away:

So the title of this post is Chain vs Independent. And where's the independent? It's...

Right here!

Viewpoint Books is located in Columbus, a city about 15 mins south of where I live. I try my best to get into VP every few months. I want to support them b/c it would be a tragedy if they were to ever go under. It's such a fun store and their kid's department is fantastic. That, and they have a used section in the back where I often score great titles. 

It took a bit of coaxing to get the kidlet past the stuffed dog. =)

The used books section. 

Free coffee, and pop and candy for a $1. 

Tyger, tyger, burning bright/ a dinosaur's about to give you a fright...

Have you guys seen these board books of the classics? I want all of them! 

How true is that saying on the tote hanging on the wall? 

And though Viewpoint is small, you can always count of them having the latest bestsellers out. Besides books, VP also has tons of games and puzzles and toys. Not to mention all kinds of fun kits. There was a kit for doing animations on your phone and computer, making cupcakes w/reusable silicone cupcake holders, and a kit to build a 2 foot shark, to name a few. 

Me and the kidlet really enjoyed our visit today and the the used section didn't disappoint. Best deals out of our used book haul(eight books total): a Bright & Early Board Book and a Kate DiCamillo for $1.25 each.

Hopefully I can buy a new book at a regular price the next visit, but the rest of this week's fun moolah is going toward candy and plastic Easter eggs! =) 

Right, so, back to the vs issue. For me, there isn't one. I love both my local chain and independent bookstore and hope that they both continue to do nothing but thrive. I feel lucky to have an indy bookstore that I can visit, as I know in this day and age they're becoming more and more rare. And having a chain bookstore close by is something I don't want to take for granted either. In the past two years, I've seen a Waldenbooks and a Borders close down in my surrounding area. 

So what about you all? Do you have a chain bookstore you often frequent? Or any charming local indies? Feel free to leave links in the comments if you'd like! I'm off to see if I can squeeze my latest books onto my bookshelves...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday, Bloggy Woggy!

It's my blogging anniversary! Today, I have been blogging one whole year. I remember when I was tossing around the idea of blogging. I did so for several  months, unsure of whether I could do it or not. Computers and I sometimes get along about as well as oil and water do, and I was afraid of trying something new(did I just rhyme there...?)

And who would comment? Who would care what I had to say? But looking back, I'm so happy I took the plunge- maybe a good lesson to remember when faced w/trying things out of my comfort zone? Anyhoo, in the past year, I've made so many new friends. I enjoy reading your blogs, and discussing books and writing and life(and developing a certain Mafi/Riggs know who you

It's fun to cheer successes, and to commiserate over the lows the writing life can sometimes bring. I hope I blog for many more years to come, b/c you guys are all the best. *giant group hug & cupcakes for everyone!*

And....of course I'm doing a giveaway! =)   

I didn't even have to think very hard on this one. If you've read my About Me on the side, you know I'm partial to a few things in life. Like vanilla in my pop and ampersands! Also old houses, but those don't translate well into giveaways. I know, bummer.

So to celebrate one year of awesomeness I'm giving away a bottle of vanilla flavoring and an ampersand. Just comment to be entered to win(and maybe follow me on Twitter if you don't'll find the link on the sidebar to the right). I'll announce the winner 4/19 on Twitter. Also, you've probably noticed the ampersand is just plain wood. That's b/c I have a selection of colors for the winner to pick from.

Sky Blue, Regency Blue, Dark Hydrangea, & Cayman Blue

 Yellow Light, Nutmeg Brown, Pure Black, & Rainy Day Grey

Lisa Pink, Tangerine, Burgundy, & Holly Berry Red

So thank you everyone for all the comments and love this past year, and for making my small slice of the internet feel like a special place. *more hugs and cupcakes- you can never have enough cupcakes!*
UPDATE: Suzanne Furness was the winner, announced via Twitter.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

IN SCBWI Conference Recap

I attended my first conference over the weekend! I had a really great time and it was just... so nice to be around other people who love books and writing. Also, I laid eyes on an agent for the first time ever- so yeah! =) And, no, I didn't try to pet her or tackle her, so it's all good. *tee-hee*

This was the first pic I took upon arriving:

The conference was held at Canyon Inn at McCormick's Creek State Park. I love the brick, and you'll see that it was featured throughout a lot of places inside the inn, as well. 

Then going on around the corner, here's the main entrance. Very stately!

A festive Easter display in the entryway. 

Some art work on the way to my room(and a reflection of me, looking weird). The inn was full of wildlife paintings and photographs and would be a nature lover's delight. It was very quaint/rustic.

My bedroom. It was tiny, but perfect for just me. 

Snapped this on the way to the vending machine.

And got this at the vending machine- snacks! I had a bit of time to kill before the official welcome so I munched and worked on my WIP and got in 600+ words. Which was great b/c I didn't think w/packing that day, dropping off the kidlet at the in-laws, and then driving, that'd I'd get any writing in. 

This pic and the next were taken during the autograph/mingle time, after the keynote speaker, LeUyen Pham spoke, and she was amazing! She was super funny and is an incredible artist. If I remember right, she's done over 60 books! After she spoke, then it was Blue Slip Media, and they had really good insights on promoting your work.

These pics don't do the number of people there justice. I'm horrible at estimating, but I'd say there was probably close to one-hundred attendees. They had appetizers afterwards, and the cheese ball and the ranch dip I ate both had green onions in them. I tried to talk w/out breathing much! =)

All three of the above pics are of the Oak Room, where I attended all my sessions except for one, which was in the Sycamore Room in the basement(forgot to grab a pic). I thought being in the basement it'd be all dreary but it had windows and felt more bright and cheery than even the Oak Room did. Of course, I have a passionate dislike for paneling, so maybe that explains my preference for the Sycamore... *passionate, I tell you, passionate!*

Then the next morning was breakfast, at seven a.m. *yawn!* B/c even though I went to bed a little after 10 the night before, the pour soul in the room next to me must've been hard of hearing. I laid in bed until after 11 hearing every word of the crime drama he/she was watching. Yay. Anyhoo, at breakfast they had us sitting in a long side room fully enclosed w/windows. A few birds visited, and later at lunchtime, a squirrel. So stinkin' cute.

The sessions I attended Sat were:

Mike Mullin: Going from "Tell" to "Show", or How To Make A Scene in Your Writing
~ He's a super funny guy, and gave some great information.

Grace Kendall: Building Character with Community
~ An associate art director w/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, who did a neat exercise by pulling excerpts from books and breaking down what they showed about the characters involved.

Erica Finkel: Inside The Editorial Meeting: What happens when you are out on submission?
~ A sweet girl who gave insight on...well, the title says it all!

Erica Finkel/Minju Chang: First Pages for Middle Grade and Young Adult Manuscripts
~ I didn't submit a first page, but I enjoyed sitting in and listening to what an editor(Erica) & agent(Minju) had to say. A definite reminder that this business is so subjective!

Minju Chang: Storytelling and the Art of Fascination
~ Minju(BookStop Literary) was so funny, loved some of the stuff she said off the top of her head. She also used two videos in her presentation to drive home some points, and that was a nice switch-up.

Mike Mullin, Janna Matthies, Alina Klein, & Laurie Gray: Tackling the Tough Stuff.
~This was a panel type discussion and was really good. I might have teared up a few times...*sniff*

I also traded business cards w/a few people, as I always enjoy checking out new sites. If you do, too, here they are:

All in all, I did better than I thought I would w/talking to people. I am SO AWKWARD in person, and tend to fall back on my shy childhood days when faced w/a bunch of people I don't know. I should have tried to approach more of my fellow conference attendees, but I didn't want to push the limits of my deodorant... 

Now, back to pictures!

Shot of the lobby from the stairs.

Fun display of spelunking helmets. 


Took this as I was leaving, so you could see what a super nice day it was. Now we just need some green stuff on the trees.

And, yeah, I know, a selfie. Boo(normally I like selfies about as much as paneling). But I realized on my way home that I didn't have any pics of me at the conference. See, in my head, I'd planned on getting all kinds of pics w/authors, but there was the shyness and sooo...I had to resort to a selfie. But you can see my bags and my conference folder, so that kinda counts, right? =) At actual author events, I'm not as shy about it b/c it's sort of...expected? But at the conference I felt like I'd have been crowding their personal space if I'd ran up brandishing a camera at them.

Though I was brave enough to get some books signed. My two Mike Mullin's books, and the book I bought for the kidlet, Penguin Cha-Cha, by Kristi Valliant. She even sketched a penguin for him!

So there you have it- my first conference experience all documented and yakked up about. I had a fantastic time and appreciate all the hard work that was put into it. I hope it's not my last conference, and hope one day I can attend and see my own book sitting over on the bookstore table. That's the dream, anyway! =) 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sweet Reads: Lemonade Pie Cookies and The Secret Hum of A Daisy

Once a month I'll be posting a dessert recipe and an excerpts from a book that's struck me just right, whether it be gorgeous descriptions, funny dialogue, swoon-worthy kisses, sarcastic come-backs, or spine-tingling encounters.

After a two month break, Sweet Reads is back. Yes! To having baked goods hanging around the house. No! To eating them all up by myself b/c my husband has an underdeveloped sweet tooth. *what is wrong with that guy?*

All I had to do was walk up to the coffin. That was all. I just had to get there and set the gardenia on the smooth brown wood. Grandma said gardenias were a proper funeral flower. As if there were such a thing. 

But my mind kept turning to daises.

So I was pretty sure I'd be reaching for the tissues w/this book. And I was right! Let me just say the ending of this book would squeeze a tear out even the most cantankerous ol' curmudgeon. 

Richard Peck blurbed the book saying that Hum was 'a lyric about love and loss.' And boy was this guy ever right(not that I would imagine Richard Peck would ever get it wrong...). Tracy Holczer's writing truly is lyrical and a treat to read. And the mc, Grace, is a personable, funny girl and that I liked alot:

As Miss Turner answered another phone call, I watched through the glass of Mr. Flinch's door and tried to read lips as best as I could. Banana charger in the pig sink wind. That was the best I came up with. I smiled at my own weird thoughts.

Now while Grace is sweet and sensitive to others, she's also going through the roughness of having just lost her mother and trying to make the transition of living with the grandmother she never knew. Needless to say, she makes a few... er...compulsive decisions, one that even lands her in some rather hot water.

I was tired of watching Sheriff Bergum huff and puff and mumble to himself about my ingratitude and general twelve-year-old nincompoopery as though I wasn't right there listening. 

There were also moments while reading along that would catch me out of nowhere and bring those tears to my eyes again. You know the saying it takes a village to raise a child? Well, it also takes a small town to help heal a grieving girl. 

She pointed to Mama's fountain. "Your grandmother tends to that fountain and her park like they were actual blood and bone family."

"So I've heard," I said. 

She looked at me, took the curve of my cheek in her hand. "We've been waiting for you."
For those of you that like birds, gardening, art, and horses, I say pick this up in a flash! And for the rest of you, still pick this up in a flash. Hum is beautifully written, with fun, tween awkwardness and the comfort of friendships old and new. You'll find yourself rooting for Grace as she struggles to find the right path to start her on her way to healing. For an entire description, visit Hum's Goodread's page.

Now... dessert dessert dessert!

Lemonade Cookie Pies

1 egg
Splash water
1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 jar(10 oz) lemon curd
1/2 cup sugar

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper.

2. To make egg wash, in small bowl, beat egg with splash water until well blended. Set aside.

3. Unroll pie crusts. Spread lemon curd on 1 of the crusts, leaving 1/2 border around the edge. Place second crust on top. 

4. With 3-in. cookie cutter, cut out cookies by gently pressing down through both crust layers.

5. With handle of knife, press edges to seal; cut "x" in center of each cookie pie. Brush each cookie with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar. Place on cookie sheet.

6. Bake 12-15 mins or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 mins, before serving. 

If you don't have a round cookie cutter, just use a jar lid(what I did). I'm kinda thinking, too, that these would translate well into s'mores pies, by spreading the crust w/marshmallow creme and squares of Hershey chocolate.  

Until next time, may your desserts and your reads be sweet!