News and Books

It’s the end of the school year, which explains why I’m a day late in posting my blog this week. Such a busy time as we wrap things up! I’m looking forward to sleeping in a little bit in just two weeks!

I hope all my friends who are Mom’s out there enjoyed your Mother’s Day weekend. Mine was fabulous! On Saturday, my 10-year-old spawn had her first piano/singing recital, a big milestone for my super shy girl. Then we went to Captiva Beach and ate at a fun place on the island called The Bubble Room, which is decorated like Christmas all year round and has the B*E*S*T cakes in the world!

All of that was enough to make my Mother’s Day complete, but then hubs and kids also bought me a box of my favorite Norman Love Chocolates, a book (the Official Illustrated Movie Companion guide to Divergent so I can drool over Theo James some more),  a Grumpy Cat shirt, and a new Huffy bike! I felt rather spoiled . . . not sure what I did to deserve all that as dinner rarely gets cooked and the house seldom cleaned between writing my 18 Things trilogy and teaching middle school, but I’ll take it 🙂

Mothers Day

On to the book portion of today’s blog . . .  I’d like to feature a novel from my publishing sister, Ayden Morgen. I finally got around to reading Fall, the second New Adult book in her Ragnarok Prophesies series.  The first book, Fade, I read as soon as it was out in 2012 as a way of checking out books Curiosity Quills Press had already published. I wasn’t disappointed . . . read it in twenty-four hours! To be honest, many times sequels fall flat for me, but this one doesn’t! Ayden did an excellent job with her second installment . . . the characters were compelling, the myths and the world she created around them were awesome, and I had all the right feels along the way. A few times I wished there was more dialogue and that the pacing moved along a bit faster, but that’s just my ADHD talking 🙂 Overall, I really enjoyed this story and suggest ya’ll add Fall to your summer reading list! Check out the synopsis below if you still need more convincing!

fall cover

How do you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved?

Those called to stand guard against the end are broken, and Sköll and Hati run free. Now Arionna Jacobs and Dace Matthews face a threat unlike any before. Ragnarök is coming and they aren’t strong enough to stop it.

Arionna thought she understood sacrifice, but she never counted on her destiny tearing Dace apart. Ever since she nearly died, he has been consumed with guilt. Now it threatens to turn him into the monster he always feared.

It’s up to Arionna to stop him before it’s too late, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and Dace is hurtling toward self destruction. This time, Arionna isn’t sure she can save him from himself. Can she convince him to let the past go, or is her true destiny to sacrifice her heart in exchange for the lives of the people she loves?

Also, two of my blogger buddies recently released the covers to their sequels . . . be sure to watch for these good reads!

champion in flight cover

Coming June 2nd!!

And PK Hrezo will release her sequel to Butterman Time Travel on August 31st! But you can add it to your Goodreads today!

induction day cover

So that’s what I’ve been up to . . . how has your week been? Wish me luck–tomorrow I chaperone a trip to the local waterpark for our 6th and 7th grade students. I only hope no pictures of me in a bathing suit end up on Instagram *shudders*

IWSG-Do I Belong Here?

I’ve been chained to my laptop since March 16th, trying to finish up the last installment of my trilogy, 18 Thoughts (can’t wait to show you the gorgeous cover!!!) . . . so I sorta forgot today was the first Wednesday of the month until I checked my inbox when I got home and saw Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog post. Oops!

IWSGHEADER

And I really wanted to tell the Insecure Writer’s Support Group all about my experience at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival, so I’m taking a quick break from writing to blog. When my publisher submitted my name for this festival, I never actually thought they’d accept me. They always bring in HUGE authors for the super Saturday event held every March. This year was no different . . . W. Bruce Cameron, Sue Monk Kidd, Julia Quinn, Jill Shalvis, Rick Yancey . . . the list goes on and on, including . . . Jamie Ayres?

I attended the Friday night Evening With the Authors reception the night before, and Melody Carlson and Tyler Whitesides sat at my table!! Every kid I know is obsessed with Tyler’s Janitors series (I read the first book to four of my classes) and Melody Carlson has written over 200 books, won the Rita, and had one of her books made into a major motion picture. It was her novel, Diary of a Teenage Girl, that motivated me to write inspirational fiction for teens! Hubs had to keep kicking me under the table so I wouldn’t fangirl too much.

Then I got to the festival the next morning and caught Sue Monk Kidd’s speech before heading over to my tent. And it was, as Oprah would say (since Oprah did pick her latest novel, The Invention of Wings, as her book club pick), it was A*M*A*Z*I*N*G!!!

But as I walked to my tent, fear and worry gripped me. I would never speak as eloquently as Sue did and bring in the type of crowd that becomes standing room only, never have Oprah pick my book, never have my book chosen as a Sunshine State Read (as Tyler’s did), never have my novel made into a major picture, never win a national award. WHAT AM I DOING HERE? I’ll be the embarrassment of this festival and never invited back again. I bribed hubs and daughters to pretend they didn’t know me and to ask questions so it’d look like I had three fans at my tent.

Guess what? I had 103 people show up to my tent! By comparison, Ricky Yancey had 131, so I’d say that’s not too shabby for my spot at the Young Adult stage! FYI, I’m reading The 5th Wave by Yancey now, and it’s absolutely awesome. Now I certainly didn’t speak as eloquently as Sue Monk Kidd, but I realized God didn’t need another Sue Monk Kidd. He needed a Jamie Ayres to speak to whoever was destined to be there that day. And afterward, I had an actual line at the autograph table. How freakin’ cool is that! I didn’t even bribe the people to be there 🙂

So if you get invited to an event that’s just a tad bit out of your comfort zone? Don’t let your feet tread easily on the well-worn path and stay in your little box. “Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Don’t know who said that, but it’s on a picture in my dining room, and it’s a darn-good quote! Believe all things are possible . . . hey, maybe 18 Things, 18 Truths, and 18 Thoughts will be made into movies one day. If so, I vote for Theo James to play the angel, Riel!!! Touching his bicep has been added to my bucket list of things that could possibly earn me another restraining order but is totally worth it 😉

P.S. This Saturday, I’ll be in Orlando at the UCF Book Festival from 9-3:30pm with a few other authors at the Curiosity Quills table . . . stop by if you’re in the area–I’d love to meet you!

Rise Of A New Dynasty

Sorry I haven’t been good about hopping around to visit everyone this week. We’re on spring break, which means I’m in  my writing cave, busy at work on 18 Thoughts (the third installment of the My-So Called Afterlife Trilogy). I did have a really cool start to my break on Friday/Saturday when I participated in a huge reading festival, but I’m saving that story for my next Insecure Writer Support Group post 🙂
But today you’re in for a treat! Katie Teller, the author of the best-selling KIYA trilogy, is here for an exclusive interview!
J: Tell us 3 words to describe your personality
K: I asked my hubby for these so they might be a bit bias – Fun, bright, and lovable.
J: Give us a sneak peek into what your daily writing routine is like.
K: Routine? Wow, I wish! I fit it in whenever I can. I usually try to get up before my sweet child and do a little in the morning, then squeeze in a few hours during “nap time” in the afternoon, then a few more before bed. Basically, if I have a moment, I use it.
J: What’s the inside scoop on Kiya 3.
K: Kiya 3 is my personal favorite of the trilogy. Everything comes to a head, secrets are revealed, and Naomi finds her peace. It’s by far the most emotional book, with things you know are coming, and twists you won’t expect.
J: What’s your favorite craft book? Favorite fiction book?
K: I don’t actually read craft books. I’m your trial and error girl. I learn better that way, by doing. Always have.
My favorite fiction book? Hmm… Ella Enchanted has held out as a beloved favorite since I was a kid.
J: Can you give us a fun tidbit about yourself?
K: I’m really into singing and sports. I originally started studying to be a P.E teacher, until I uprooted and moved across the world to marry my hubby. It’s funny where life leads you.
Kiya 3

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Tut has grown into his position as Pharaoh, but he is a wild young man. Naomi fears for him, not only because of his recklessness, but because he has put his trust in Ay–the man determined to destroy Naomi—despite her and Horemheb advising against it.

Meanwhile, death and slavery hang over Naomi and her family. With fear of the booming Hebrew numbers causing talk of enslaving them, conscription is reinstated and Naomi fears
for the lives of her other children. Especially since Ay’s children are now adults, and just as dangerous as their father. They threaten to take Itani, conspire against Tut, and pushing for power.

But Tut is in trouble. While Ay’s daughter draws Horemheb’s attention, and Naomi deals with the struggles of her family, everyone’s distraction could spell death for the young Pharaoh.

It is funny where life leads you! Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to stop by, Katie!
What have you been up to everyone? Do you forgive me for neglecting you?

HELP! What Should My New Cover Look Like?!?

As smaller publishers are catching up with Big 5 illustrators in terms of style and quality, Big 5 YA covers have been differentiating themselves by shifting away from photomanipulation people on the cover and more toward high concept minimalism (think Hunger Games and Twilight). So if I want to follow in the trend of Big 5 covers, this is something I should consider.

With 18 Truths set to come out on January 28th (YESSS, I have an official release date *squeeee*), I wanted to keep the banding the same between its cover and that of the first book in the series, 18 Things. But to do that, there was no way I could lean more toward a minimalistic cover.

I emailed the powers that be at Curiosity Quills about this (my publisher), and asked them about some smoother graphics and a bolder color scheme  for 18 Things, because after a discussion with another author/blogger, we both thought it could do wonders for the cover.

If you’ve ever spent some time browsing covers in the Young Adult section at Barnes and Noble, you see what’s striking, and have probably discovered it doesn’t matter how good the book is; if the cover is exceptional, it will appeal to readers.
I didn’t know if the scene of the 18 Things cover was necessarily the problem of keeping it competing with other YA best sellers, and I thought asking my publisher to redo the whole thing was too bold to ask. But then CQ responded to my concerns with an offer to completely reimage the cover, and I enthusiastically accepted. From there, we can brand 18 Truths and later on, 18 Thoughts (the last book of the trilogy, which I plan to write the entire novel during November for NaNo, so say some prayers for my sanity please), in the same vein.
But now I’m left with the task of telling my publisher what I actually want for the new cover of 18 Things and well . . . I’d LOVE your ideas! Because artwork is not my strong suit! So please, please, please give me your thoughts (hopefully you’ve read 18 Things and know a little about it, lol). And hey, if we use your idea, I’ll thank you in the updated version, and you can be sure a free copy of my next novel is on its way 🙂
~Thanks, everyone!!!

Hope of the Pharaoh

I’m so glad I agreed to review this book! In full disclosure, Katie Hamstead is my publishing sister at Curiosity Quills, although not someone I’ve come to know through the blogosphere yet (but I hope to!).

So, Hamstead started right in the action. The story begins with Naomi, a Jew, who offers herself instead of her sisters to be taken as the Pharaoh’s concubine. From there, the plot unfolds. Danger, desire, decision . . . KIYA (the new name Naomi is forced to take) has it all! And it was nice to read about another young heroine with moral standards who stuck to her guns, no matter what the cost, in order to protect those around her.

The only thing I didn’t like about the story was the villain, Nefertiti . . .  she was too unlikable for my taste. I like to have the bad guy, or girl, to have at least one redeeming quality, and I didn’t see one in this evil queen.

Just FYI, I don’t typically pick up historical novels . . . but I know some people complained about the historical accuracy of this book. Well, I’m no History-Nazi. To me, obsessing over history details (especially ones that can’t be proven) take the magic out of a book . . . kind of like when you become an author and it ruins the magic of writing (because when I finally signed my publishing contract, being chained to my laptop for fifteen hours a day and not even making enough money to keep a child in Africa alive for the month wasn’t what I pictured in my mind . . . but that’s a rant for another time). Ooh, squirrel! Now where was I? Oh yeah–I don’t like to sweat the small stuff. If you’ve ever read a book published by CQ, you know that we’re often into breaking a rule or two . . . or four hundred seventy-two 🙂 And that our authors are prone to rants 🙂 Anyway, I get enough of that educational crap at the school where I teach. HA!

The real crux of the matter was . . . did this book entertain me? YESSS!

Maybe the dialogue wasn’t always convincing for the time. Doesn’t change the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kiya’s voice. The novel was beautifully written, with the combo of dialogue and narrative woven effortlessly within the story, compelling me to turn the page well past my bedtime! I really can’t wait for the sequel!! Bravo, Katie!!!

So click on the link to Purchase Book 1, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh.
Synopsis: When Naomi’s sisters are snatched up to be taken to be wives of the erratic Pharaoh, Akhenaten, she knows they won’t survive the palace, so she offers herself in their place. The fearsome Commander Horemheb sees her courage, and knows she is exactly what he is looking for…The Great Queen Nefertiti despises Naomi instantly, and strips her of her Hebrew lineage, including her name, which is changed to Kiya. Kiya allies herself with Horemheb, who pushes her to greatness and encourages her to make the Pharaoh fall in love with her. When Akhenaten declares Kiya will be the mother of his heir, Nefertiti, furious with jealousy, schemes to destroy Kiya.Kiya must play the deadly game carefully. She is in a silent battle of wills, and a struggle for who will one day inherit the crown. If she does bear an heir, she knows she will need to fight to protect him, as well as herself, from Nefertiti who is out for blood.
And I have a special treat for you . . . the cover reveal for book #2:
Kiya-2-m4

Blurb: Nefertiti has forced Naomi to flee Amarna with Malachi and the three children. But even under the protection of Naomi’s family in Thebes, Nefertiti still hunts her and Tut. Nefertiti sends assassins to kill them, and while Naomi fights to protect the children, Malachi fights to keep her safe.

With three children in tow, one of which isn’t her own, she is labeled the harlot outcast wife of the pharaoh and is shunned. She isn’t safe among her own people, and flees from being stoned to death. Although her family protects her, she must find a way to survive.

While Naomi struggles to keep herself and Tut alive, old adversaries return as Smenkhkare takes advantage of Akhenaten’s ailing health. Naomi must rely on Horemheb’s promise to protect Tut’s birthright, but her feelings for Malachi could cause more problems with Horemheb than she expects.

You can stalk Hamstead at these fine establishments:

*So, what are you reading this week? Whatever it is, please consider leaving a review when you’re done . . . and thanks to everyone who volunteered last week to review either 18 Things or 18 Truths. I’ll contact you shortly 🙂

IWSG: Making Amends

Hi *waves & shouts Happy Hump Day!* My name is Jamie Ayres and I’m a bookaholic. If you are too, then you’ve come to the right place!

bookaholic

My friend, Amy, shared this with me on FB–too funny!

*Clears throat and adjusts microphone on the podium* One great thing about life is that it’s full of second chances. This is a brand-new day, a whole new beginning, and I’m lucky to be able to call upon friends and family to support me!

I have to confess . . . the release of my debut  coming of age novel, 18 Things, did not go as well as a I hoped. So now, eight months later, when my publisher offered to make some amendments to it, including clickable links at the end of several chapters, I was very excited! There are ten quotes they picked out to be featured at the end of some chapters, and you can click on a link in the ebook that posts it directly to either Twitter or Facebook!

The chapters  without a quote to share still had a page break between each chapter that looked a bit jarring, so we took some of the Literature Circle Questions from the back of the book and added them to the back of the corresponding chapters. As much as I try to turn it off, I was and still am a teacher first. I know firsthand how hard teachers work to provide the most engaging novels they can find, and I wanted to make their job a bit easier with these questions. Of course, even if you aren’t a teacher or student, I hope these questions provide the perfect bonus material for making your 18 Things journey a thoroughly gratifying, enriching, and most of all, interesting read. If you’ve read 18 Things, you know how much I adore quotes. One of my favorites is by Harper Lee: “The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.”

So, now I have a few favors to ask . . . if you’re not too sick of me yet! *Gulp* I created an Accelerated Reader quiz for 18 THINGS, but it’s only available at the middle school where I teach now. In order for it to be a national quiz, many many people have to request it on their site. It’ll literally only take you a minute! If you’re not a teacher or don’t have a kid in school, please put “Gulf Middle”  when it asks for a school. Here’s the info and the link: Quiz Type: Reading Practice. Series: 18 Things. Publisher: Curiosity Quills. Interest Level: Middle Grades Plus. Year Pub’d: 2013. ISBN: 978-1-62007-151-9 . . . (if you’re not familiar with the AR program & you write MG or YA, make sure you peruse the sight to see about requesting your book as well).

Now that the book has been updated and book #2, 18 Truths, has been written and going through edits, I need blog reviewers for a blog review tour to create some buzz before the sequel is released! If you’ve already read 18 Things, I hope you’ll send me your details so I can have my publisher’s tour organizer hook you up! If not… jump in! I’ll supply you with an e-copy for your Kindle or Nook, and you will go in the running to win autographed paperbacks of both 18 Things and 18 Truths with some cool swag when it releases!

If you don’t have a blog, but you’re reading mine (thank you), would you be willing to post a review on Goodreads if you’re a member or even Amazon or Barnes & Noble?

And finally, if you’ve already reviewed 18 Things and hope to review 18 Truths BEFORE it releases, please let me know that as well 🙂 It won’t release until January 2014, but if you suffer from bookaholism like me, then you also have a MASSIVE pile of books on your TBR list . . . so I’m trying to give you a four month timeframe here. And if you don’t think you can do it by then, well, you’re just sick and you need to get a grip on your TBR problem. Seriously *shakes head in shame*

I’m excited about the release of book #2, but I’m also anxious and afraid. Authors bleed onto the page and live for ‘word of mouth’ stuff. I want my release for book #2 to be bigger and better, so I’m trying to be more organized. Hopefully, I’ve learned a thing or two! Hopefully, you have a tip or two to share with me!! I don’t know everything yet *Hears everyone out in cyberspace yelling one collective “DUH!”*

THANKS ALL, and don’t think I won’t return the favor for any of you . . . just let me know what I can do! After all, that’s why we’re part of the Alex’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. See ya back here the first Wednesday of November! Don’t forget we have our own Twitter hashtag to keep in touch between now & then: #IWSG. Also, who’s excited about the new IWSG website? I know I am!!!

Buccaneer Blogfest and IWSG

P.S. For those inquiring about where the “About the Author” section was, it’s also been added to the back of the book in the new amendment. So now when I see random middle schoolers reading my book at the post office and I tell them I’m the author, they won’t run away screaming from me because I can prove I AM the author. Okay, that’s a lie. They’ll probably still run screaming from me . . . I have that kind of effect on people.

Okay, that’s all. But don’t forget to let me know if you want to review 18 Things or 18 Truths *stares expectantly* Don’t worry, I won’t go all Kayne West on you and start a major twitter rant if you don’t volunteer 🙂 Okay, I really must go now. I’m suffering from major book withdrawal . . . happens after I haven’t read a page for an hour *wipes drool off keyboard*

Bye!

Songs of Destruction and Dating Nerds

Today I’m so excited to let one of my favorite publishing sistas from Curiosity Quills take over my blog to promote her new release!

TeamApoBadge

Let me just say that I LOOOVED her first book, Fade, and recommended it to anyone looking for a paranormal read.

Let me also say that Ayden has been served a pretty large cup of suffering as of late, and she could really use our help promoting her new book right now. You can visit her blog if you’d like the full story. But as always, Ayden is keeping strong and carrying on . . . . so take it away, Ayden!

Songs of Destruction:  FALL’s Playlist by @AKMorgen

Music is such a big source of inspiration for me. Nothing invokes a certain emotion, memory, or frame of mind quite like the perfect song. Naturally, one of the first things I do when I sit down to write is to create a playlist that reminds me of the story in some way.

In my new release, FALL (The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two), we see this struggle unfolding between Arionna Jacobs and Dace Matthews, our apocalypse stopping heroine and hero, where they both have their own ideas on what’s best for everyone. They end up clashing over those differences of opinion and reacting to this added element of angst in their relationship in some pretty intense ways at times. As a result, this created a sort of dark, melancholy tone for FALL in places.

I’m not exactly a dark and melancholy kind of person, so it was critical that I found music that captured that feeling or it simply wouldn’t have worked. But because FALL took over a year to write, I often reached this point where I literally could not listen to a specific song again without wanting to scream. I had to switch things up for my sanity, so the playlist for FALL evolved and changed a lot while I wrote.

Luckily, there is an endless supply of music out there that really captures the more angsty parts of FALL, so I had a lot of good choices. 🙂

Here are some of my favorite angst-ridden songs from FALL’s playlists:

  • Letters      From The Sky – The Civil Wars      – This song so perfectly captures Ari and Dace’s relationship, and the      whole hopeful yet melancholy apocalypse theme of the series, I added it to      the list the first time I heard it.
  • Closer      – Burn Season –      This song reminds me so much of Dace at times. He’s so screwed up, and yet      so amazingly good at the same time, I always feel a little sad for him.
  • Maybe      Tomorrow – Stereophonics – I      can’t think of any other song that says so much with so little. It’s sad,      it’s hopeful, and just all around powerful.
  • All      Falls Down – Adelitas Way – This song was an early favorite.      I love it for Ronan, who we see a lot more of in FALL, and really start      getting to know. It also perfectly captures some of the darkest points of      the entire Ragnarök series.
  • Radioactive      – Imagination Dragons – This      song has such a great feel to it. There’s that apocalyptic vibe, and then      that self-loathing vibe, and then underneath all of that is the story of      an awakening or desire to change. We see a little of each in FALL.
  • Always      – Saliva – This is      one of my all time favorite pissed off songs. It’s so spot on when it      comes to that “breaking point” of relationship angst. I rocked      it a time or five.
  • One      More Night – Maroon 5      – This is another great dysfunctional relationship song. Plus, I don’t      know anyone who can make dysfunction sound as hot as Adam Levine does.
  • Hold      it Against Me –      Sam Tsui – Speaking of hot, I love, love, love Sam Tsui’s cover of this      song. It’s so raw and lovely at the same time. There’s a specific scene in      FALL where this song fit perfectly.
  • Tears      of an Angel – Ryandan      – If I had to pick a single song to listen to while writing the entire      Ragnarök Prophesies series, this song would be it. It’s haunting,      beautiful, sad, hopeful, and just all around amazing.

You can listen to this playlist, as well as a few bonus tracks, here.

About the Author:

A.K. Morgen lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband, three dogs, and demonic cat. She has a graduate degree in Criminal Justice and Law, and plans to save the world some day. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching her niece and nephews how to cause mischief. You can also find her dancing in the grocery store, building a spork army, and fundraising for nonprofits close to her heart.

You can learn more about Ayden at http://akmorgen.com or by following her on Twitter, GoodReads, or Facebook.

FALL – The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two (summary)

RagnarokProphesies1

How do you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved?

Those called to stand guard against the end are broken, and Sköll and Hati run free. Now Arionna Jacobs and Dace Matthews face a threat unlike any before. Ragnarök is coming and they aren’t strong enough to stop it.

Arionna thought she understood sacrifice, but she never counted on her destiny tearing Dace apart. Ever since she nearly died, he has been consumed with guilt. Now it threatens to turn him into the monster he always feared.

It’s up to Arionna to stop him before it’s too late, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and Dace is hurtling toward self destruction. This time, Arionna isn’t sure she can save him from himself. Can she convince him to let the past go, or is her true destiny to sacrifice her heart in exchange for the lives of the people she loves?

You can read the official prologue to FALL here.

FALL – The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two will be available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble on October 5, 2013 from Curiosity Quills Press.  FADE – The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book One is available now at Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

*Thanks for visiting, Ayden! You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers! I loved your playlist! Maroon 5 and The Civil Wars are two of my favs!

What song is at the top of your playlist right now? I don’t know why, but I’m loving Royals by Lorde. I heard it for the first time on the way to my retreat last weekend when I was in the car with teenagers, and now it’s stuck in my head. Sooo catchy . . . .

Last but not least, I’d also like to give a shout out to the hilarious Cassie Mae! Happy Book Birthday, chica! Be sure to pick up her new release on Kindle today for only $2.99!

how to date a nerd Blog banner

My Bipolar IWSG Post . . .Nah, I don’t need no stinkin’ encouragement this month! Oh, wait! Who’s that knocking on my door at this hour? My good old friend REJECTION!

Uh-oh! Guess what day it is? Huh? Anybody? Oh, come on! I know you can hear me! It’s . . . Happy*Over*The*Hump*Day! Are you happier than a camel on Wednesday, because I am . . . or I was until an hour ago . . . but more on that in a moment.

The first Wednesday of every month is also officially known as Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Our mission via Head Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh: Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer.

Buccaneer Blogfest and IWSG

This past month I was feeling pretty encouraged with all the feedback I received from four of my Beta/CP’s over the sequel to 18 Things, 18 Truths (if you’ve read book one, I put a sneak preview up top ^ for book two, so go check it out and tell me what you think, if you’re so inclined). Here’s what some of them had to say in their email comments:

Beta Reader #1: “JAMIE! What are you doing to me! I already finished 18 Truths!!!! I got to read it all day long…best day ever! I have so many thoughts swirling through my brain about it, but I just want to say this…..I’m dying here! If I had book three, I would pick it up this instant and start reading! The ending was absolutely perfect! It made my “Nooo” moment in 18 Things all okay ….  I just wanted to say another great read. And seriously, just as soon as you get book three done I’ll happily beta read for you again. You wrapped the second book up so well, in addition to leaving us hanging just enough that I’m salivating for the final book!!!!! You know I want you to send it JUST as soon as you write The End! I can’t wait to read it!!! ”

Beta Reader #2: “Truth: I LOVED 18 TRUTHS! 🙂 Now, I have to be honest with you, because A.) I consider you much more than “just” a writing friend, and B.) I really love your writing. 18 THINGS blew me away. The story was such an emotional journey for me, and I’m assuming anyone else who’s ever picked it up shares those feelings. My heart was wholly invested in Olga and the rest of the cast from the very first page. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that immense connection with 18 TRUTHS until I’d read a good chunk into it. So, what I think happened, is that some of the deep emotional connection we had to Olga in the first book, was lost in this second book. I think that in 18 THINGS, you concentrated on Olga’s emotional and spiritual journey, but you focused more on the story as a whole in 18
TRUTHS. . . 18 THINGS was powerful and profound . . . 18 TRUTHS was just a really good book. I guess I was missing that emotional and
spiritual journey aspect a little bit. But I am just one person, and my thoughts might be one among a million opposite perspectives, so take what you will, or don’t. 🙂 You truly have a gift, and I am so happy to be able to read such God-centered stories because at times, I really need the reminder.”

Beta Reader #3: “Brilliant! That’s all I have to say, love. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  My comments are very, very few. Take them or leave them.  Thank you for letting me be a part of this incredible read. This was an un-put-downable book, filled with twists and turns and while I was hoping for the ending you gave us, I didn’t really think you’d go there.  I am thrilled you did.  I love the way you weaved the stories, linking them all together in unexpected ways.  The complicated relationships between the characters were expertly told with just the right about of passion, sizzle, and pure love.  I have chosen my one and only for Olga, but I will gladly wait until book three to find out if my wishes come true or if God has other plans. Beautifully told story, strong characters, well-thought out plot, expertly written.  A true storyteller. Bravo.”

My other beta reader also sung praises for 18 Truths, but she’s totally old school and printed out my entire novel and left comments all over it, and I’m too lazy to hunt through my pages and retype comments at this late hour (anyone else usually still up around 1:30am?). I always take the path of least resistance (A.K.A. letting my computer do most of the work), so I’m in awe of  her ways!

So anyhoo, I was thinking I may not need any of that encouragement stuff this month, until I read an email tonight from Curiosity Quills, my publisher, that said Barnes and Noble turned down their pitch to stock 18 Things in stores nationwide 😦

Hear that sound? That was the SOUND OF MY HOPES AND DREAMS BEING CRUSHED!!! Anyone else ever feel like they can’t be too happy over something because bad news is just around the corner? *raises hand* Truth is, there are sooo many events in our lives which we have no control. It’s all up to chance, luck, and timing. However, we do have control over whether we press on or give up. The secret of survival is in fact trusting in God’s perfect timing for our lives (yup, you may recognize a line like that in 18 Things). I can sit here and question and whine about why other novels got chosen over mine, or I can trust in God’s plan for my life. Maybe he’s taking me in a different direction . . .maybe the whole nation isn’t ready 18 Things yet . . . maybe my writing just isn’t good enough. All I know is I’ve had the longing to be an author from a very young age, and I believe with my whole heart that it was divine inspiration.

So yeah, I got knocked down tonight, a dramatic power-bomb slam that put my lights out for a good hour while I cried on the couch. Then I blew my nose, took a deep breath, and remembered that it’s all in God’s hands, not mine. Even in this small room, sitting still, I am moving closer to the plan he has for me by holding onto faith.

Anyway, before I go, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to another fellow author in need of some help. My dear friend, Jessa Russo, re-launched her debut novel this week. If you haven’t read Ever yet, you seriously need to! And stop by Jessa’s website because she’s giving away some totally A*W*E*S*O*M*E prize packs!

What about you? Do you find it hard to surrender things to the universe? How do you find your peace when things don’t go your way? Have you ever had a setback that ended up being a blessing in disguise? I could still use some encouragement after all . . . . ❤ Jamie

~xoxo

It’s Labor Day! Pop Into Travel!!

Happy Labor Day! Hope you enjoyed your weekend as much as I did. Hubs and I stayed at the Inn on Fifth in Naples while my mom watched the kids (Thanks, Mom!) . . . we walked the fancy Fifth Avenue while sipping on the Starbucks early released Pumpkin Spice Frappucciono’s Saturday afternoon, took a swim in the rooftop pool, then rode on The Naples Princess Dinner cruise Saturday night while salivating over the multi-million dollar homes along the way (of which only 25% are full-time residences). Then Sunday we enjoyed beautiful Naples beach (lots of pelicans, flying fish, and dolphins to watch at the pier), then ate lunch at Tommy Bahama (our first time doing so and all I can is Fish Tacos=YUMM-O!), walked up and down the historic Third Street district while sampling bad a** coffee (not my words–it’s the title of their shop, lol), then did dinner at Agave Mexican restaurant before enjoying some drinks at the closing of McCabe’s Irish Pub and Grill. This morning we slept in before traveling to Tin City for some delicious breakfast at the Mon”Key” Bread Factory (if you’re ever travelling this way, you seriously need to stop here for some treats!).

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On The Princess Dinner Cruise

While all of this was fantastic, I would’ve been perfectly content just relaxing in the hotel room, where the mattress wasn’t as old as our 15 year marriage, where there were nine different HBO channels to choose from (hey, we don’t even have basic cable!), and where I could finish reading an excellent book. It seemed fitting I was reading Pop Travel by Tara Tyler, since I was traveling! Anyone who has ever wished they could escape airports and the endless delays of flying (and who hasn’t?!), will love this novel. In Tyler’s novel, teleportation was the answer, but every new technology has glitches. Tyler says she was Inspired by Michael Crichton’s incredible style to take on the challenge of writing a fast-paced techno-thriller. I think she succeeded and that you’ll enjoy the ride . . . . the book also reminded me of the highly acclaimed novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Before I delve into my review, here’s the scoop on Pop Travel:

In 2080, technology has gone too far for J. L. Cooper. He is happily hidden in his simple, secluded life as a private detective in a small town, far from any pop travel laser teleportation stations. Until he takes on a client who insists pop travel made his fiancé disappear.

When Cooper investigates, he finds evidence of pop travel’s deadly flaw, sparking a series of murders, attempts on his life, and threats to his brother. He’d like to pass off the evidence but knows he’s being watched and can’t trust anyone. And who would believe him?

The only way he can save his brother is to fool his observers while looking for a way to expose the problem. He decides to go to the source and confront the Creator of pop travel. On his way, Cooper meets Southern siren, Geri Harper (an undercover FBI agent) who tags along despite his protests. When they reach the Creator, he has plans of his own and leads them on a wild detour.

Pop TravelI had the pleasure of meeting Tara Tyler, my fellow Curiosity Quills sister, in July, and let me say, her novel is every bit as lovely as she is!

Tyler didn’t waste any time jumping right into the action–I was hooked from page one! There was just enough back-story presented for clarification without the annoying info dumps. I commend Tyler’s ability to write strong characters . . . specifically, the mixture of external and internal conflict with Cooper was very well done.  And the setting was so cool and the plot that rotated around it very believable! I could easily imagine the United States heading down this scary road. Coincidentally, I’ve become increasingly wary of that white panel van surveillancing my neighborhood on a weekly basis. Yeah, it has ice cream stickers on the sides and blares the “Do Your Ears Hang Low” jingle, but my guess after reading Pop Travel is it’s all a cover-up for Big Brother to keep their ears low . . . to the ground . . . listening in carefully to all of us.

Hey, some of you may laugh, but after the Edward Snowden scandal, the Intelligence community have been up to their ears in hot water (hey, my middle school students are reading my blogs now–I have to use as many idioms as I can to educate them!) . . . Spying on regular citizens through their compucenters (computers)? Reading our vid messages (e-mails)? Monitoring our Qnet (web) searches? With the direction the NSA is heading, I can totally picture Tyler’s storyline happening in real life. Okay, I am a writer myself and frequently hear voices in my head, so my paranoia may just be my muse whispering to me in the dark corners of my mind again (or am I just saying all of this as a coverup so the NSA won’t send the ice cream man to kidnap me?)

You decide. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Want to read Pop Travel? Do you think it could be a case of fiction imitating life? I’m really hoping Pop Travel will be made into a movie one day because it’s the type of plot that would be PERFECT for the big screen . . . if the FBI and NSA will allow it 😉

My Review: Broken Forest by Eliza Tilton

Broken Forest Ebook CoverPublisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: May 1, 2013

Paperback, 236 pages

Intended Audience: Young Adult

Blurb: Hopeless he’ll never be more than the boy who didn’t save his brother, 17-year-old Avikar accepts his life as the family stable boy, trying to forget the past. But when his sister, Jeslyn, is kidnapped, the thought of losing another sibling catapults him on a desperate quest. With his best friend by his side, and using the tracking skills he learned from his father, he discovers Jeslyn has been taken, kidnapped by one Lucino, the young lord of Daath, a mystical place thought only to exist in fables. And Lucino has plans for Jeslyn.His shape-shifting brethren feed off the auras of humans, and Jeslyn’s golden hue is exactly what Lucino needs to increase his power. The longer it takes Avikar to reach her, the more entranced she becomes with Lucino’s world, and the harder it will be for Avikar to set her free.

He failed his family once. He won’t fail again.

Review: I want to say in full disclosure that Eliza and I share the same publisher. I was given her book in exchange for an honest review. I wouldn’t have accepted the offer if I didn’t think it sounded like a book I’d enjoy, and I wasn’t disappointed! It had my four favorite things in a book: love, adventure, fantasy, and a twisted ending!

The opening page immediately drew me in and from the very start, I could tell Tilton had a gift for storytelling. There’s danger, there’s desire, and there’s decision. You won’t read the first few chapters of this book asking yourself, “Who gives a crap?” I’m a middle school Language Arts teacher, so I can testify that kids have short attention spans. They inhale violent video games. They think life can be encapsulated in a text message. I can say with conviction that my students would enjoy this book because there’s something for everyone here and because the story moved along at a good pace. Her plot and characterization were spot on. Every scene was manipulated for maximum impact. This was Tilton’s fantasy world, but I felt like I was a part of it (and who wouldn’t want to be . . . did you see that beautiful cover? Seriously one of my favorite book covers of the year!)

The *BONUS* is the characters are inspiring. My favorite character remained Avikar throughout the book, but the other secondary characters were enjoyable too. As the plot unfolded, I was interested in what happened next for everybody. Needless to say, I can’t wait for Book Two in The Daath Chronicles, and I’ll be purchasing the print copy for my classroom!

Kudos to Eliza Tilton. Here’s more on the author if you want to stalk learn more about her:

Eliza author pic (345x640)

Eliza Tilton is the author of the YA Fantasy, Broken Forest, published by Curiosity Quills Press. You can find her blogging about video games and writing on her blog and doing bi-weekly posts on author media over at YAStands.

She graduated from Dowling College with a BS in Visual Communications. When she’s not arguing with excel at her day job, or playing Dragon Age 2, again, she’s writing. Her stories hold a bit of the fantastical and there’s always a romance. She resides on Long Island with her husband, two kids and one very snuggly pit bull.

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BUY LINKS: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / KOBO Goodreads

*How about you? Read any good books lately?