Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Guest Post: Vanessa Barger

Today we've got a special treat on the blog: Vanessa Barger, author of A WHISPERED DARKNESS, will be showing us who she imagines playing some of her characters. And as a baker, she's also pairing them w/desserts! Take it away, ma'am!

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This was such a cool guest blog idea! Thanks Leandra for having me and for coming up with something so fun!

I’m thrilled to be able to give you my dream casting for A WHISPERED DARKNESS. But unlike the other casting posts you’ve seen, Leandra also told me to tell you what dessert would be matched to each character. So I’ve got a really fun post for you!

I love to bake, so if you click the link, it’ll take you to a recipe for the dessert associated with each character!

Claire - Stephanie Honoré

She looks just like I pictured Claire. ☺ As Claire enjoys the sweet stuff, but not too sweet, her dessert would be a Victoria Sponge. (And if you’ve never tried one, they’re DELICIOUS!)


Haven - Alex Pettyfer
When I first thought of Haven, this is who I “cast” him with in my head. Haven isn’t as fond of sweets, so for him, his perfect dessert would be an apple crisp.

Bryan -Chris Sheffield

He’d have to have dark hair of course, but he seems like he could go between adorable and scary pretty well. ☺ Bryan’s dessert would be something dark and decadent – a German Chocolate Cake, for instance.


Mrs. Mallory – Patricia Clarkson

She can be serious or silly, but I think she’d be the perfect actress to play Mrs. Mallory, with her decent into possession and becoming someone else. Since in the book she’s not quite herself, I’ll give you a dessert she might have liked while possessed by a Victorian – Shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate!


Grant – Thomas Brodie-Sangster

Come on, who wouldn’t want this for a little brother? He’s still a kid at heart, so he likes the sweet stuff, but he likes to almost be a grown up. He’s a fan of Panna Cotta with Strawberry Syrup. Think grown up jello and deliciousness.

Melanie – Jenna Coleman

Now you have to imagine her “gothed” up, but she can definitely do the attitude that goes with Melanie. Her dessert would be something weird and different, but not really too different. Cookie butter! (Never heard of it? You HAVE to try it.)


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Cookie butter? COOKIE butter? Cookie BUTTER? How have I not heard of this?! I instantly ran to Google, folks, and it is a real thing:

Image courtesy of college.biggirlssmallkitchen.com

Thanks, Vanessa, I am ever indebted to you(because cookie butter). And thanks for a fantastic post, it was a pleasure to learn a bit about your characters. As well as getting my taste buds all hyped up! =D 

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
When Claire Mallory's father leaves, her mom moves them to a new town and into a dilapidated Victorian house. The old house creaks and whistles, and smells . . . well, like it's been abandoned for years. But as the nights grow longer and the shadows take on substance, Claire wonders if the strange sounds and occurrences might be more than the house showing its age. Just as things start to pick up in Claire's love life, her mother becomes possessed. 
In an attempt to save her mother and their new home, Claire enlists the help of two boys, each of whom is interested in Claire for very different reasons. As she chooses one boy over the other, something dangerous is unleashed, and the spirits make their move. They aren’t content to moan and scream inside Claire’s house, or even control her mom. They want a taste of freedom, and they'll use Claire to get it. But is Claire strong enough to fight off the evil spirits, or will they claim her and her mom before it's all over?

Vanessa Barger was born in West Virginia, and through several moves ended up spending the majority of her life in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a graduate of George Mason University and Old Dominion University, and has degrees in Graphic Design, a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and a Masters in Technology Education. She has had articles published in Altered Arts Magazine, has had some artwork displayed in galleries in Ohio and online, and currently teaches engineering, practical physics, drafting and other technological things to high school students in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She is a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and the Virginia Writer's Club. When not writing or teaching, she’s a bookaholic, movie fanatic, and loves to travel. She has one cat, who believes Vanessa lives only to open cat food cans, and can often be found baking when she should be editing.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

SWAG Giveaway!

I recently went through my desk drawers and found I was guilty of hoarding swag. I had lots of multiples of the same thing, so I've divided them into two piles and I'm gonna ship it out for someone else to enjoy! Just leave a comment, and two random entrants will be picked. Winners will be updated on Twitter and in the comments on 9/30.  
Here are the goods:

The larger buttons are from Kate DiCamillo's, Flora and Ulysses. 

I also picked this bookmark up at my local bookstore, and since I haven't read the book and have no particular ties to this prettiness(tho the movie trailer does make me well up), I'm giving it away, too.

Also, since I know there's not much to say in the way of comments for these types of things(besides I want, gimme!) how about you guys tell me what are some of your favorite things about fall? 

Thursday, September 25, 2014


“Rose, don’t try to tell me what’s real or not real. I live and breathe impossibilities.”

Rosalyn Lawrence is not the type of girl who strays from the norm. She’s not the type of girl who goes on whirlwind adventures or travels across the world and beyond or fights fire-breathing dragons to the death. After all, fairytales exist only in books, and Rosalyn is happy to keep it that way.

But when her beloved little brother Benjamin disappears, Rosalyn’s entire world comes crashing down. Then a boy with a wand climbs through her window and she learns that the grieving queen of a shockingly desolate enchanted land has abducted Benjamin. If she chooses to be sucked into the magic of this land, its power – and the power of an enemy she isn’t quite sure even exists – could destroy her.

A world of frozen fantasy is waiting for Rosalyn – and if she will succeed in bringing Benjamin home, she must learn how to trust herself, use her wits, and perhaps discover an inner magic she never knew she had.

TOPAZ WINTERS is a songbird, word hoarder, and cheesecake connoisseur. Sometimes she composes music. Other times she writes books. If she knows you, she’s probably written about you. Topaz’s debut novel, Frozen Hearts, drops this year, and her first album in 2015. She enjoys strong coffee, ugly cats, and the taste of words.

Topaz rambles about writing, music, and the meaning of life over at her website.


Rosalyn woke in the middle of the night.

Her head was clouded, cobwebs of sleep still lingering, a fog drifting over her senses. The surface she was lying on was soft. As she sat up she saw a figure, not quite near enough to touch, motionless on the floor. She couldn’t seem to recall his name.

As her eyes adjusted to the darkness she realised that his shirt was off and his back was to her, bare in the soft moonlight. She looked out the window. The stars seemed to glisten, impossibly dense confetti scattered over the blanket of night. The moon hung suspended as if from a child’s mobile.

She stood, moving closer to the figure on the floor. The rise and fall of his chest was almost imperceptible. His face was still just out of her line of sight, his name still just out of the grasp of her slumber-clouded memory.

In the moonlight she caught a glimpse of something on his back. Her fingers glided down to it and she traced it, feather light, afraid for reasons she could not fathom of waking him. The scar joined another and another, until all at once she realised that she was connecting a veritable constellation of pain across the canvas of his back.

She gazed down at them. They were old, she could tell, but they still looked painful. The skin was gnarled, as if some heavenly hand had reached down, ripped it off of his back, and then bunched it up and pasted it haphazardly back on – and she knew she should be horrified at the sight, knew she should be pitying him or turning away in revulsion, yet she could not bring herself to. All she felt was the inherent need to know: how had he gotten them? Did they still hurt?

Was Chase all right?

And there was his name, pulled from the graveyard of her memory: Chase. A boy with a crooked smile and a secret she’d never been meant to discover.

Somewhere in the back of her mind a deep voice with a cold accent surfaced, murmuring something about his father. What had he told her? She struggled to remember, and finally it hit her. “Let’s just say he wasn’t the best role model,” the voice had said.

The gashes were long healed, yet so deep, so thick and ragged that she almost didn’t want to think about who might have put them there – his father? she wondered, and then wished the thought had never crossed her mind.

She couldn’t bear to look at them for a moment longer. Turning away from his pockmarked body, she glanced up at the stars once more before climbing back into the small cot and letting sleep overtake her – an uneasy sleep, riddled with nightmares of long, thin sticks of ice, dark men and evil laughter, unbearable pain lacing through her back. This time the stars did not look like confetti, but teardrops.

In the morning, she would have no memory of her nighttime awakening.

And the boy lying across from her would never tell her that his eyes had been open the whole time.

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Congrats to Topaz on a beautiful cover! And if that excerpt is any indication, FROZEN HEARTS is going to be a fantastic read! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Author Stop: Laura Sassi

On this fine Monday morning, we have Laura Sassi stopping by to answer some questions for us! But don't worry, we'll wait until you're done ogling all the cuteness above. Who knew wild boars could be so adorable...?

1. Do you have a favorite illustrated animal from the book?

Maybe it’s because it’s just so recently released, but we like to keep our copy of GOODNIGHT, ARK close at hand at our house, so we can page through it often. I’m really smitten with all Jane’s renderings of animals on the ark. If I had to pick a favorite, however, I would choose the tigers. Tigers can be fierce-looking and that would be very UN- soothing for a bedtime book. Jane’s tigers, however, are delightfully cuddly, even rolling on their backs for belly rubs just as your favorite adorable kitty cat might.

2. How long does it generally take you to write a story and revise it to your satisfaction?

I am a slow worker and I like to take breaks - long breaks- between revisions so I can see my work with a fresh eye each time I sit down to revise. And before I even put down that first word of that first draft, I can spend weeks, and sometimes even months, percolating on an idea, taking notes occasionally, and building plot and rhythm in my head. GOODNIGHT, ARK was what I call “in process” for two years. That doesn’t mean I was writing it nonstop for two years. I usually have several projects going at once, so that when I finish a revision on one, I can set it aside and pick up another to work on in the meantime. This way, I always have a fresh eye for something. GOODNIGHT, ARK went through at least a couple dozen revisions, probably more, before it was finally ready to sub to a publisher.

3. You’re at a bakery— what do you go for? Muffins, cookies, cupcakes?

Pastry! I love, love, love good French pastry. In fact, just recently my husband and I spent a delicious nine days in Paris and each morning began with a stop at the patisserie/boulangerie just around the corner from our hotel. My favorite morning pastry: the “chausson aux pommes” - a delightful buttery flaky pastry with an apple filled center.

4. What animal from Goodnight, Ark would you have been most afraid to coincide side by side with?

Well, thankfully, Jane’s depictions of the animals on the ark aren’t at all scary. Rather, those elephants, boars and snakes manage to look quite cuddly, if a little scared. But to answer your question, I think I would have been most nervous to be cuddled too close to those little black and white creatures that are snuggled into every page. They have a rather whiffy reputation and I hear they can make a big stink if they get startled. Pee-ew!

5. What’s a fav line from Goodnight, Ark?

I had so much fun writing every line, it’s hard to pick! Sort of like having to pick your favorite child. =) But I think, if I had to pick, I would pick the first verse:

Beds are ready.
Food is stored.
Noah hollers,
“All aboard!”

I selected this opening verse, not because it’s the most exciting, but because I spent MONTHS trying to figure out how to open the story and struggled to find the perfect quippy, fast-paced rhythm I wanted. This verse came to me, after weeks of percolating. I remember where I was (at the library) and what I was doing (browsing the stacks for a good beach novel) and that I didn’t have any paper or pen with me. I remember walking briskly to the front desk to grab one of those little pencils and a tiny square of paper and writing it down. I carefully stashed it as my book mark in that beach novel I wanted to read and hurried home. Writing the rest of that first draft was easy now that I had my meter and rhyme pattern established. And it was FUN to have that structure to work within as I kept punching up the plot.

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So I don't fixate on how envious I am of Laura getting to visit a true-blue French bakery, we'll head straight to the book trailer! ;) As far as trailers goes, I really  love it and it totally does its job by making me wish I could read GOODNIGHT, ARK pronto.

Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in rhyme. She writes daily from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. Her poems, stories, articles, and crafts have appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and elsewhere. GOODNIGHT, ARK is her first picture book.

It’s bedtime on Noah’s ark, but the animals can’t sleep because of the storm. Two by two, they crowd into Noah’s bed, creating a sticky situation. Will Noah ever get them back to their own beds? Climb aboard the ark for this rollicking, yet ultimately restful bedtime story as Noah finds a way to make things calm and cozy, even in the midst of a storm.

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Also, all who comment will be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card(winner updated in the comments & on Twitter on 9/25). Please just also follow Laura at one or more of her social media sites. And a HUGE congrats to Laura on her heart-warming debut!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What's Cookin'

Image courtesy of thyroidu.com

We writers tend to keep things close to our chests when it comes to what's bubbling in the writing pot. For the most part, we all know that if a wildly excited announcement of agent or book publishing news doesn't show up, it means it's just business as usual. Be that querying, struggling with a synopsis, writing a new ms, revising one, etc.

So I thought I'd give you all an update of what I've got going on. I know I'm curious about other people and how their writing lives are progressing, so I thought you guys might be, too. If not, then just ignore this post!

1) Querying. I took a bit of a break from it, but I'm gearing up to head back into it. As we all know, it's up and down, and sometimes fun and sometimes not, but that's part of it. Querying feels sort of like... life, sometimes. But even if this querying journey doesn't end up w/an offer of representation, I have learned tons and feel grateful for the requests that have came in. I am actively living my dream and that feels good.

2) I've only got one thing under my WIP tab right now. A sci-fi short story. It's been fun as I've not written  science fiction before and I'm enjoying just pulling tech descriptions out of thin air. I mean, it's science fiction so that means it doesn't have to make sense, right? *Hush. That's what I'm telling myself, okay?*

3) Come Nov, I'm going to try and pull off an epic undertaking. Which is writing a first rough draft in two months. Eep. I have close to 8K done on an MG, and I'm going to see if I can possibly finish it by the end of Dec. Doable? We shall see! Also, you know how you hear people mention secret writing projects? That they feared talking about because it would take away some of the magic? I never understood that. But... I do now! Not even my oldest CP knows anything about this one! (Did I just shock your socks off, Kimberly?) ;)

So that's what's been brewing and bubbling lately. Anyone care to share what's cooking in your writing life?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Author Stop: Kelly Hashway

Yay! Today we've got Kelly Hashway(writing as Ashelyn Drake) on the blog! Kelly's a great gal in the writing community that many of you may know. She writes wonderful books and is super nice-- and has answered some questions for us! 

1. If you could sit down and have a beverage break w/any two authors(alive or dead), who would you pick?

Rick Riordan is my idol, so he'd be number one. I just love the Percy Jackson series, and having the opportunity to pick Rick's brain would be awesome. I'd also like to sit down with F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby is my all-time favorite classic.

2. When you write, do you set a word count for yourself or a page limit you have to hit before stopping?

Yes, I'm very strict with myself that way. I set a word count minimum and challenge myself to top it before stopping for the day. I even eat at my laptop so I can keep typing. ;)

3. It's out to eat night! Would you go for burgers, tacos, or pizza?

Tough choice, but I'd have to say burgers. I prefer to make my own pizza, and while I love tacos, I have to be in the mood for them.

4. Did you do any sort of research on fire while writing INTO THE FIRE(like would someone have thought you were a pyromaniac from your search history)?

Lol. My research centered more on phoenixes than fire, but they kind of go hand in hand. I don't think the government will be hunting me down based on my search history for this book. ;)

5. Phoenixes! *hearts* Are there any interesting tidbits you could share w/us on these mythological creatures? 

My favorite part of my phoenix research was discovering a connection between phoenixes and cinnamon. Some myths say the phoenix lined its nest with cinnamon. Others mentioned how cinnamon is often associated with the sun (because of how easily it burns) just like the phoenix. I happen to love cinnamon, so I ran with this, and the phoenixes in Into the Fire all smell like cinnamon. This is something that makes them targets for Phoenix Hunters, so they have to try to mask that scent.

6. What is one of your fav sentence(s) from INTO THE FIRE?

It's hard to pick just one. Here's a snippet from chapter one when Cara watches her younger brother be reborn: What’s so beautiful about watching my sixteen-year-old brother burst into flames, turn to a pile of ashes, and rise up out of them, reborn? I can still smell the smoke. See it in the air, like a dark cloud waiting to take me next.
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I absolutely love the cinnamon aspect and so I had to incorporate it in a giveaway. One lucky commentor will receive this car smell-good thingy in Sparkling Cinnamon. As always, please just follow Kelly at one or more of her social media sites listed below. Winner will be announced 9/12 via Twitter and updated in the comments. 

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Kelly Hashway grew up reading R.L. Stein’s Fear Street novels and writing stories of her own, so it was no surprise to her family when she majored in English and later obtained a masters degree in English Secondary Education from East Stroudsburg University. After teaching middle school language arts for seven years, Hashway went back to school and focused specifically on writing. She is now the author of three young adult series, one middle grade series, and several picture books. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Ashelyn Drake. When she isn’t writing, Hashway works as a freelance editor for small presses as well as for her own list of clients. In her spare time, she enjoys running, traveling, and volunteering with the PTO. Hashway currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and two pets.

Hashway is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.
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Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.

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Congrats on your newest release, Kelly! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Big Three

There are three books coming out soon that I am DYING TO GET MY HANDS ON. When I get them, I am going to do nothing but read them. Forget writing that day, forget laundry, and forget healthy eating because I'll be parking myself on the couch with unlimited chips and dip and vanilla pop.

In honor of these books I'm DYING TO GET MY HANDS ON I've decided to compile love lists for them. As I've not read them yet, my love lists will be about the previous books before them in their series. 

The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co.) by Jonathan Stroud, coming 9/16/14

A company ran by teenagers
Numerous references to donuts
Scary ghosts!
Historical houses
A boy who goes by his last name
Murder mysteries
An alternate London setting

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle) by Maggie Steifvater, coming 10/21/14

A band of boys who are like brothers
Unusual mythology 
A car nicknamed The Pig
A journal stuffed full of notes and research and ideas
A raven from a dream
An abandoned factory turned into a home
A loving family of strong & unusual women
A beautiful farm
Street races
A girl who can't have what she wants

The Inquisitor's Mark (The Eighth Day) by Dianne Salerni, coming 1/27/15

Hungry teenage boys
Loyalty from unexpected sources
Charred hamburgers
Yard picnics that start a friendship
Ancient pyramids
Garden gnome statues
Shopping carts shoved in bushes
Bloodlines of legends

There you have it, my Big Three. Are there any books you all are DYING TO GET YOUR HANDS ON? 

Monday, September 1, 2014

YA Pics & Mugs & Books

I love when I come across neat bookish things on the Internet. And one of the neatest I recently discovered is The Real Fauxtograhper. Margot Wood takes pictures inspired by YA books. Ahhh! How cool is that? Besides the fantastic pictures she takes, she talks about what she had to buy in order to create the scene, and sometimes the exact line that inspired her. 

Code Name Verity, originally uploaded by margotwood.

I've been meaning to read CODE NAME VERITY as I've heard nothing but raving about this book, but after seeing this pic-- yeah, totally going to be reading it soon. 

Across The Universe, originally uploaded by margotwood.

Now, I have read ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and think this captures the cryogenically freezing required to be shipped into space absolutely perfectly. And reading how Margot achieved this affect was pretty cool too.

Tiger Lily, originally uploaded by margotwood.

A gorgeous and fierce interpretation of Tiger Lily, from TIGER LILY. There are many more pics inspired by YA books on Margot's website. And I, for one, can't wait to see what Margot does next! 

As for another fun bookish thing I enjoy, that would be mug & book combos. I came across this on Erin L. Funk's blog and was just totally charmed by it. See, see!

Originally uploaded by Erin L. Funk

I love this creative idea of mixing two comforts(reading and hot beverages) and decided to try my hand at it. I only own two mugs, matching yellow Longaberger ones. Though not nearly as cool as Erin's matches, here's mine:

I hope you all enjoyed these two bookish features I stumbled across. If anyone has any that they enjoy, feel free to hit me up a w/a link in the comments.  And lastly, to all of you who celebrate Labor Day, I hope it's full of fun, family, & good eats!