Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tea Time: A Million Suns

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

A Million Suns, Beth Revis (Across the Universe #2)

Godspeed was once fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. 

It’s been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. Everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceshipGodspeed.

But there may be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to act on his vision—no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder learns shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a mystery that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Their success—or failure—will determine the fate of the 2,298 passengers aboard Godspeed. But with each step, the journey becomes more perilous, the ship more chaotic, and the love between them more impossible to fight.

Beth Revis catapulted readers into the far reaches of space with her New York Times bestselling debut, Across the Universe. In A Million Suns, Beth deepens the mystery with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship. (source:goodreads)

Cover-What I love is that this cover takes after the cover of the first book; it's literally the same section of the Godpseed, and everything (I checked). Personally, I love it when the covers match up so well; when it's the same, but different. In this case the difference comes from the filters used on the photo: the orange and yellow, and the way that the metal looks like it's being heated up (whereas the first book had a frozen look to it).

It rocks. because the "heat" theme of it not only fits with the title (the "suns"), but also with the central theme and plot of the book: rebellion and chaos on the ship.

Narrative-As with the first book in this series (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE), this book is told from two points of view: Amy and Elder. We still have the constant alternation, as well, with every chapter being the other character so the reader can follow along in both of their lives as they intersect (because we obviously have shipped Elder and Amy from book one) and as they do their own things (as will be expanded upon in the "plot" section of this review).

I really don't have much more to say about this. Everything that is awesome about Revis' writing style with this series can be read in the review for AtU (here), but just to summarize and recap: Revis does a bang-up and envy-worthy job of giving Elder and Amy their own voices which, in first person, can sometimes be a hard thing to do.

Major Kudos.

Plot-In this book, things heat up.

I mean, really heat up. If you read ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (which, I hope you did/will do), you'll know that things got pretty wacky. Things in A MILLION SUNS gets worse. With people no longer on Phydus, they have thoughts. And with those thoughts, they start getting greedy and (in my opinion) taking their rage on the wrong person (Elder).

The effect of this is total anarchy and rebellion on the ship, including somebody killing people and basically framing Elder in an attempt to get people to tear him down. The ship is falling apart, and I say that both literally (from almost page one you find some strange things out about the Godspeed's mechanical workings) and figuratively (the people are legit going to destroy themselves and blame Elder while they do it).

Meanwhile, Amy has her own things to deal with. There's her parents, of course, who are still cryo'd beneath the ship's surface. The real fun, though, lies in the scavenger/treasure hunt that she winds up going on when she realizes that somebody on the ship is (or was) leaving her clues that lead to more secrets about the ship and its journey to Centauri-Earth.

I think what I really liked about the plot for A MILLION SUNS was that Revis separated Amy and Elder. They're still together-ish, of course, but while Amy is off one her hunt for clues, Elder is busy trying to lead the ship. So there's two plots all wrapped up in one, which means this book is like Christmas.

You know, if Christmas involved rebellion and murder and secrets and lies and it happened on a space ship trapped in the middle of space.

Characters-Many of the characters in A MILLION SUNS are the same as in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, with the exception of a few (you'll know which ones if you've already read AtU).

Of course, we get a lot from Amy and Elder, due to the narration coming from them. The most interesting one, in my opinion, was the development of Elder as a leader: while Amy is off basically ignoring everything that's happening (I mean, it's a safety issue having her around in some areas; also, the ship technically isn't her responsibility besides being one of its inhabitants. So...yeah), Elder is trying to stave off anarchy as people begin rioting and someone starts murdering people and trying to pin them on him. Plus, he's working with the engineers of the ship to figure out why the heck the ship hadn't landed when it should have, and how they can actually manage to touch-ground on Centauri-Earth.

Amy remains the same through much of this book: when she realizes that clues have been left for her, she follows them, because she knows that at the end she might be able to finally defrost her parents.

Elder, on the other hand, is forced through a  major character arc as he struggles to become a leader that the people of the Godspeed can look up to. I honestly found it fascinating, the choices that he made, which made him question his own character, resulting in him comparing himself to Eldest from the previous book.

What I appreciated? The decisions weren't black and white. Some of the things he did to control the people and ultimately keep them safe were completely troubling, and it made me wonder how I would fare in the same situations. It was bleak and a really great look into how far some people will go to ultimately protect the people they're put in charge of.

Besides Amy and Elder, a few new faces pop up as well as some old ones. Both work together to create a troubles atmosphere (particularly when you find Victria and Amy realizes something totally horrific: SPOILER. Ha! Ya'll thought I was going to tell ya'll, huh?).

Final Answer: 4.25 / 5

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Author Interview: Clara Stone

Story time.

Over the summer, I had the amazing experience and luck in being able to beta read FOREVER KINDA LOVE, self-published by Clara Stone. At first, I thought it was just something to help out with: read the draft, send back my notes (there were 10 pages of them in size 10 font; oops?), and wish her luck with her journey. In return, I've come to realize that Stone (a.k.a. Priya Kanaparti, who is also published through Reuts Publishing) is probably one of the sweetest gals I've ever met.

And, today, you get to see that for yourselves, as I've got an interview to share with ya'll. So, everyone, say hi to Clara Stone/Priya Kanaparti!


First, let's talk Ace and Heath: what inspired you to come up with these characters and tell their story?

So I had, and always was, fascinated by best friends turned lovers type of stories. So when I was ready to write my next novel, Heath's and Ace's story was the first to unravel itself in my head. And the words just flew out of my finger tips and onto my computer. I completed the initial draft, which was the outline/foundation to the story, in just 6 weeks and it consisted of 53k words by the time I typed 'The End'! And this was while I worked full-time AND was playing Mom at home!

What were your biggest struggles while writing this book?

The biggest challenge was figuring out the common denominator for Heath and Ace.  What is it that draws them to each other. Was it life experiences or traits or hobbies... I think by the end--and adding some additional 27k words--I had this figured out!

While some might not admit it, I am adamant that every writer has their own favorite parts/scenes of their own books; without giving away any spoilers, what's your favorite part of FOREVER KINDA LOVE?

My favorite part is letter Heath writes Ace, followed by the chapter that comes right after. Both of these were a last minute additions to their story!

FOREVER KINDA LOVE is your first self-published book (edit: Stone/Kanaparti's first self-published book was actually DRACIAN LEGACY, which was later published with Reuts. See what good a little extra research can do? Thanks for the clarification, Clara!), but you also have a YA book published with Reuts. What made you want to publish FKL yourself?

The thing I LOVE about self publishing is truly the flexibility to make the call with every aspect of 'The Making' of the book--from editing process, to book covers, to publishing to reaching and having that personal touch with blogging and reader community.

How has self-publishing differed from the more traditional publishing route?

My personal experiences have been that in self-publishing:
1) The decisions made are 100% my choices.
2) I get to meet personally with every individual that will be reading or promoting my book!

How do you best manage and balance your writing life alongside your "life" life?

Honestly? I have no idea! I think sleeping less hours in the day and really wishing and hoping the food gets cooked by itself and the dishes gets cleaned automagically, and laundry gets put away with the snap of my fingers. Oh, and having a husband that's quite a bit supportive of my love for writing :).

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Learn from your past mistakes and move on. Remember that you're writing for yourself and not for others. That's the only way to keep yourself sane and true to your characters.

Last words: tell us something about yourself that I haven't asked yet.

I'm an extremely optimistic person that some people--ahem, hubs-- calls it a disease! lol.


Isn't she great? And if you haven't, already, check out FOREVER KINDA LOVE:

Life’s. Little. Surprises.

The last thing seven-year-old Carrigan "Ace" Casper foresaw was an eight-year-old Heath Lovelly walking into her life the day her mother died. From that moment on, Heath sticks by her side, slowly becoming her strength, her confidant, and her entire world. What she doesn’t know is, she's his saving grace, too.

Ten years later, Ace is handed another crippling challenge that threatens everything in her almost perfect life. Only, this time, she doesn't turn to Heath, hiding the truth instead. But Heath knows Ace too well and won't back down easily. He's ready to do whatever it takes and will stay by her side until she accepts that their love is the kinda love worth fighting for.

Will he be her forever triumph or her unexpected downfall?

Two lives.

One story.

And an unexpected journey to falling in love.(sourcce:goodreads)

Meet the Author:

Priya Kanaparti lives in the beautiful city of Boise, ID.  Unlike what most believe about Idaho, it’s more than a sack full of potatoes. When she’s not writing, you’ll catch Priya reading YA and NA books, mostly romance, and enjoying time with her family. She is a proud CW TV addict.

She also write Mature YA and New Adult romance under the name Clara Stone. She is published through Reuts Publications.

Facebook * Twitter * Blog * Goodreads * Pinterest

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Writer's Fears

This post is not going to be about writing fears into your characters. I can do that Monday.

No, what this post is about is this: Sometimes, I am extremely afraid.

It's not that I won't be published. I'm that kind of stupidly optimistic person who refuses to believe that something will never happen just because I hit a few roadblocks. Besides, in this day and age there are so many options open that one day, I really so think my name will be on the page somehow and somewhere.

Yet all of that doesn't stop me from being afraid.

Because I just finished reading and editing the most recent version of a friend's manuscript. It was great: suspenseful, occasionally smart-ass, emotional, and full of so much truth about the nature of change and how inevitable it is. I loved it.

Because I've read snippets of another friend's book, and it's intense and harsh at times and at others it's soft and still intense, and there's action and more suspense, and it's a roller-coaster of a ride through a futuristic version of Spain. And there's still a little humor, just to lighten things up.

Because a great many of the books I pick up to read, and wind up loving, have some kind of comic relief in them. Something small, even: a one-liner that makes the corners of my lips twitch and occasionally laugh so hard (at one line, mind you) that my roommate considers calling an ambulance because I just can't breathe.

D'you see a kind of pattern, here? Many books have a comic relief; it can be a character, a small event, a single line. And maybe right now I should have a disclaimer:

Disclaimer: I'm not saying that these books are comedies. I'm saying that they contain extremely sharp wit that's delivered at just the right moments. Capiche?

To continue: every time I read a book, I tend to compare it to my own. I wonder if I use certain elements correctly, if my voice could be as strong as somebody else's one day. And the biggest fear of all is that I don't have any of those quick quips that bring a reader out of the darkest pits of despair, even if only for a moment.

Basically, my fear is that my writing style is too dark. I've been told that it's a strength based on how I use it, and, personally, I love my writing style. I may not love my actual writing 97% of the time, but heck, I do think that my style reflects me in my most truest moments.

But the doubt always wriggles in: will that help me or hurt me in the long run? The only answer is to keep going. I do what everyone's told me so many times, and what I've told countless others-the truest and most cliched writing advice of all time: keep writing. Because, like I said, I'm stupidly optimistic. The only way I'll ever know is if I try, and this is a question that I sure as hell am not going lave unanswered.

So now I invite you to share: what are your biggest writing fears, and how do you overcome them?

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spotlight: A Soul to Take

I know that it was only yesterday that I posted about the Book Blitz for A SOUL TO TAKE, the debut novel from Emily Taylor. Bear with me, though.

Today's spotlight is a tiny bit different in that I knew Emily Taylor quite well during our Inkpop days (for those who don't know, Inkpop was a writing site run by HarperCollins; it was shut down a little over two years, now). While we don't chat as much as we used to, I can honestly vouch that not only is she an extremely sweet girl with a heart of gold when it comes to all us little people, but she's an excellent writer and deserves the world.

That's why, when I first heard she was being published by REUTS last year (and good gosh that still feels like yesterday), I couldn't be happier, and I knew that I wanted to spread the word.

Besides, I opened up an email concerning this blog tour yesterday and found an especially awesome treat for anybody who loves music. Or, if you're like me, you love listening to special music: also known as the music playlist you listen to over and over again because it inspires you to write a certain special something.

Without further adieu or teasing, check out Emily Taylor's playlist inspired by A SOUL TO TAKE (and click on them to find either the official music video, or the best-quality lyric video that I could find):

OR, here's all of those songs in a Grooveshark Playlist for easier access

Now that your head's full of awesome music, I invite you to for the second time in as many days to check out  Emily Taylor's A SOUL TO TAKE, coming from Reuts Publications September 9, 2014:

A Soul to Take

Dying is the least of Elixia’s worries.

The world has changed. Demons are no longer legend, but part of life, integrated into our society . . . or so the Government claims. Things are never that simple, though, and neither side favors the new union. Agent Elixia Albelin knows the dark nature of demons firsthand, and will do everything in her power to protect the innocent from their wrath.

But when a mission from the Agency goes sour, Elixia finds herself in a predicament. Murdered, with her last living family-member kidnapped, her only hope is an offer from the very thing she despises: a demon. It’s no ordinary demon offering the contract, though, and his motive for such a deal is unclear. But if she’s to discover the truth and save her sister, she must commit the greatest taboo for an Agent:

Sell her soul.

Now, Marked and shackled to the terms of the contract, she must try to uncover the mystery of her sister’s abduction before her new “owner” comes to claim what is his. Her past may hold answers, but what happens when her investigation finds something far more sinister? Something not even the demons can condone?

Meet the Author:

Besides writing, Emily Taylor currently studies Music Technology at her state’s Conservatorium and recently helped on Respect Cat Production’s feature film, In a Corner, as a Script Advisor.  After great success on InkPop and Figment, A Soul to Take is her first formally published work. You can see more from Emily on Facebook and Twitter.

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Dying, and demons, and contracts. Check out A SOUL TO TAKE @emtaylorinkie via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

@emtaylorinkie shares her musical inspiration for A SOUL TO TAKE on this blog tour spotlight via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blog Blitz: A Soul to Take

Today's Blog Blitz celebrates the kickoff blog tour for Emily Taylor's new and debut release, A SOUL TO TAKE, coming from REUTS Publications September 9, 2014. Check it out below!


A Soul to Take

Dying is the least of Elixia’s worries.

The world has changed. Demons are no longer legend, but part of life, integrated into our society . . . or so the Government claims. Things are never that simple, though, and neither side favors the new union. Agent Elixia Albelin knows the dark nature of demons firsthand, and will do everything in her power to protect the innocent from their wrath.

But when a mission from the Agency goes sour, Elixia finds herself in a predicament. Murdered, with her last living family-member kidnapped, her only hope is an offer from the very thing she despises: a demon. It’s no ordinary demon offering the contract, though, and his motive for such a deal is unclear. But if she’s to discover the truth and save her sister, she must commit the greatest taboo for an Agent:

Sell her soul.

Now, Marked and shackled to the terms of the contract, she must try to uncover the mystery of her sister’s abduction before her new “owner” comes to claim what is his. Her past may hold answers, but what happens when her investigation finds something far more sinister? Something not even the demons can condone?

Meet the Author:

Besides writing, Emily Taylor currently studies Music Technology at her state’s Conservatorium and recently helped on Respect Cat Production’s feature film, In a Corner, as a Script Advisor.  After great success on InkPop and Figment, A Soul to Take is her first formally published work. You can see more from Emily on Facebook and Twitter.

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A SOUL TO TAKE @emtaylorinkie blog blitz kicks off today with a new book trailer Check it out via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quiet Places

It is an inherent fact that no plot can survive on action, alone.

There will not be an explosion every other millisecond. Nor can you constantly have a character get physically hurt or attacked every chapter. Nor can you have them be emotionally traumatized every 500 words.

What I'm trying to say: don't forget those quiet places.

The "place" can be a physical location, somewhere your character(s) go just to forget the rest of the world for five minutes when the stress gets to be too much. Or, it can be metaphorical: let your character think about things. Introspective moments, ya'll. Something.

You know how when you run five miles, you wind up collapsed on your doorstep with your neighbors looking at you sideways, wondering if they should call an ambulance while you slowly die because you're practically hyperventilating? No? Maybe that's just me. The point is that those five miles are the equivalent of every action-y scene that you force your characters through. It tires them out, and guess what? It tires your readers out, too. Don't be that author who writes the book in which the reader turns the page and then rolls their eyes going, "Okay, so somebody's getting shot. Again."

While your characters are getting physically exhausted, your readers will get mentally exhausted. Don't do that.

I mean, action is fun. I particularly enjoy inflicting strange injuries on my characters (including ones that should kill a person, but when you've got a character with regenerative abilities then practically anything goes). Not only is it fun, but it's interesting. I love writing and seeing not only how the character directly involved reacts, but the characters around them.

At the same time, the quiet moments are just as interesting. It's that moment when the world slows down and you (as the reader or author) can notice the little things. Your characters have a chance to actually stop and take a breath, and try to figure out what the heck is happening not only with their world, but with themselves.

So slow down, take a breather. Your characters and your readers will thank you for it.

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Appreciate the quiet places. Not everything in your novel can be action, and here's why via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tea Time: If I Stay

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

If I Stay, Gayle Foreman

On a day that started like any other,

Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she'll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving. (source:goodreads)

Cover-I'm kind of indifferent to this cover. If I saw it in the bookstore, I'd probably walk right by it with maybe a curious glance, but I wouldn't actually stop to look at the book and consider it further. The reason for this is mostly that it doesn't stand out. There's a girl. That's it. The close-up shot really doesn't give the mind anywhere to go; is it contemporary, paranormal, dystopian, historical fiction, etc? It's simplicity, in this case, really doesn't do it any favor just because it's too simple.

Narrative-This book is told from the first-person POV of Mia. She's our main character, the girl we follow through both the present and the past as she tries to make the titled decision of whether she should stay and live, or leave and die.

I admit that I liked Mia's voice. It was very pained and uncertain in the present, and with every memory that was recounted there was a wishful-ness for the joy of the past to come back. That wishful-ness was filled with longing, and also the knowledge that it's gone, and that it'll never be back. The emotions were very strong.

What I also loved was the way in which the story was told: every chapter (with the exception of the first one/two-ish) begins in the present: what's happening in the now, in the hospital. Then, it flips to the past: some memory that applies to that moment, as if the present is reminding her of the things she's lost. That kind of back and forth worked well to showcase how difficult this decision is, since there isn't a single bad or extremely painful memory, but whenever Mia thinks of the future, she can only think of how empty it'll be.

Overall: the story was told in a strong voice with equally strong emotions.

Plot-I thought the premise of this book was extremely interesting: a young girl with a bright future ahead of her has to make the decision to live or die while she lies in a coma in a hospital bed. In the end, her decision comes down to two things: die, because she has no life without her family and she'd rather try to follow them into the afterlife; OR she can live because she has the amazing love of a boy named Adam, who would do anything for her to stay.

Honestly? It's a tough choice. Heck, it's not something you can read and then think, "Well, obviously I'm going to live." There really is no right answer, and by the end of the book I found myself thinking that I agreed with Mia and the choice she wanted to make.

In between that decision I loved seeing both the progression of her love for Adam in the flashbacks, and also the antics happening in the present. Her entire family shows up, and a few of them even have words that they share only with her. Adam and her best friend try a number of strange and silly things just to get the chance to see her in her hospital room (since they weren't close family, nobody would let them through). These antics and the actions of her family serve as the reminder of what she still has, whereas the flashbacks were simply examples of what she lost. It was an interesting way to move the story forward, and admittedly i found myself lost within the pages; when the last words came, I was wholly unprepared because I hadn't even noticed how far through the book I'd already gotten.

Definitely thought-provoking, which is something I always appreciate in a book.

Characters-While I loved the characters as a whole (they're all so slightly quirky in their own ways, and their love for Mia was astonishing), I couldn't help but feel they were all a bit...flat. Granted, this was only after I'd thought about the book for a few days after putting it down. Then again, I feel like the best thoughts about a book come after they've simmered for awhile, so let me explain:

Mia had the absolute perfect life. She's smart, has a great boyfriend, a loving and supporting family that she always got along with, an awesome best friend, and she's insanely talented music-wise which is why she's most likely going to get into Julliard.

Adam is good-looking, also musically talented, and is the boy that everybody always wants to be around. Plus, his band is literally about to make it big.

Mia's parents: those rock and roll teenagers who had kids, but never quite outgrew their glory days; yet, they're not those embarrassing parents; they're the parents that were awesome because they made the rock and roll glory days look cool even though they're in their forties. They're supportive of their children, full of love, and are always able to banter (which, come on, is totally fun).

Honestly, this is the kind of life I would love, simply because there's so much love in it. Looking at it from a bookish perspective, though? It's too perfect. It's too cookie-cutter cardboard. Yeah, there were some problems, but they rarely popped up (besides conflict between Adam and Mia's best friend, which got taken care of pretty quickly once there was an understanding).

So I mean...I loved the characters, I really did. But they really didn't have any faults, which makes me hesitate on really giving them a gushing review, because they weren't 3-D enough for me.

So, I liked the book. I really did. It was a light, relaxing, and cute read, and I have its sequel (WHERE SHE WENT) sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I honestly really want to know what happens next, given the aftermath for Mia of the car crash.

At the same time, like I said, once I really thought about it after finishing the entire thing, I couldn't help but realize that the characters are the book's weakest part, so matter how awesome and adorable and lovable they all are.

Final Answer: 3.5 / 5

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@Rae_Slater reviews IF I STAY @gayleforeman (Click to Tweet)

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Start Your Engines, Folks

So today...I start my fifth semester at college. Honestly, yes I am excited. Also honestly, I am not excited. The truth is that I love learning new things; what makes it difficult and not so lovable tends to be all the hoops you have to jump through while at traditional 4-year colleges.

Which is where I'm at right now, so starting today I'll get a taste of what my next four months are going to look like. And, of course, there's always those one or two classes that make me nervous; i.e. I have absolutely no clue if I'm going to like them or not, so I have absolutely no clue if I'm going to come back to my apartment somewhat happy with my choices or in a total rage.

Isn't college fun?

So yeah. I just thought I'd update ya'll on that little tidbit. Another little tidbit (in case ya'll haven't heard), I've officially finished my 2.5 draft of THE HOLLOW MEN. Just in time, too, because, well. School.


Anybody else here starting another year? Excited or no?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blog Tour: FRED

There was no way I was going to fit the entire title of this novel into the title of this post. Trust me. Today, I'm pleased and honored to have a spot in the Blog Tour for the newest REUTS release: The Utterly Uninteresting & Unadventurous Tales of Fred, The Vampire Accountant.

Or FRED, for short. 

Some people are born boring. Some live boring. Some even die boring. Fred managed to do all three, and when he woke up as a vampire, he did so as a boring one. Timid, socially awkward, and plagued by self-esteem issues, Fred has never been the adventurous sort.

One fateful night – different from the night he died, which was more inconvenient than fateful – Fred reconnects with an old friend at his high school reunion. This rekindled relationship sets off a chain of events thrusting him right into the chaos that is the parahuman world, a world with chipper zombies, truck driver wereponies, maniacal necromancers, ancient dragons, and now one undead accountant trying his best to “survive.” Because even after it’s over, life can still be a downright bloody mess.

REUTS Publications - GoodReadsAmazon

Come on, guys. Every other vampire tale out there cannot measure up to this. In their own words, the REUTS team said, "We love vampires. We love snarkiness. "Fred" (shortened title) has a lot of both." If this is true, then this is a novel after my own heart, and I hope I'm not the only one dancing a nervous jig until I get  a copy! 

Meet the Author:

Drew Hayes is an aspiring author from Texas who has written several books and found the gumption to publish a few (so far). He graduated from Texas Tech with a B.A. in English, because evidently he’s not familiar with what the term “employable” means. Drew has been called one of the most profound, prolific, and talented authors of his generation, but a table full of drunks will say almost anything when offered a round of free shots. Drew feels kind of like a D-bag writing about himself in the third person like this. He does appreciate that you’re still reading, though.

Drew would like to sit down and have a beer with you. Or a cocktail. He’s not here to judge your preferences. Drew is terrible at being serious, and has no real idea what a snippet biography is meant to convey anyway. Drew thinks you are awesome just the way you are. That part, he meant. Drew is off to go high-five random people, because who doesn’t love a good high-five? No one, that’s who.

Website - Twitter

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cover Reveal: Under the Trees

Today's cover reveal is pretty special. Ashley Maker, the author of her debut UNDER THE TREES, to be published this September, is an ex-Inkie (from the HarperCollins run site, Inkpop), and seeing her come this far with her writing has been an absolutely heart-warming experience.

Under the Trees
Ashley Maker

Desperate to prevent an abusive arranged marriage, Princess Araya flees to a neighboring kingdom, only to land at the mercy of the impulsive Crown Prince Thoredmund, who provides refuge in a secluded forest and teaches her survival skills. Her surprise at the unexpected hold the price has on her heart mirrors his shock at falling for the one girl he can’t have.

As the young couple’s feelings for each other grow, the fragile alliance between the two kingdoms threatens to break apart. With a vengeful duke and an enraged king fast on their trail, Thor and Araya must decide how much they’re willing to risk for love.

Even if staying together means starting a war.

Meet the Author

Armed with a keyboard, microphone, and an energetic imagination, Ashley Maker is a combination author/songwriter from Oklahoma with a passion for all things creative. UNDER THE TREES, a Young Adult blended historical romance, is her debut novel, releasing from Cliffhanger Press, LLC in the fall of 2014. Songs inspired by the book can be heard from Seeking Never, the recording band she sings in with her guitar-playing husband Corey. A newbie vlogger and former editor, Ashley spends much of her time writing, procrastinating on social media, and waging a revision war against pronouns. The rest of her time is spent doting on her daughter and cuddling with myriad family pets, most notably Johnny Cash, cat writing buddy extraordinaire.

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Ready for the cover? It's gorgeous, I promise, and designed by the fabulous Arterismos, and you're going to love it as much as I do:

Under the Trees
Author: Ashley Maker
Genre: YA Historical Romance
Release Date: September 15, 2014
Publisher: Cliffhanger Press, LLC

Pre-Order UNDER THE TREES from Amazon

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Designed by @arterismos, the cover for @ashleymaker debut UNDER THE TREES has been revealed! via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Characters' Trinkets and Charms

Look around your room. Or, take a look at any jewelry you're wearing. Or maybe it's not jewelry: maybe it's something that you just carry around with you like a certain keychain or a ribbon you shove into your back pocket.

Then ask yourself: why?

My personal "charm," as I'm going to call it, is a necklace: the charm is a small circle with a swirl laid on top, and beneath it the word "karma." I've worn it nearly every day since I got it, which is bordering on 3-ish years, now. When I ask myself why I wear it, I really have no answer. The only answer I have is that it suits me; it's honestly really difficult for me to wear anything else, including a necklace that has mucch more sentimental value (a gold chain with a camel charm that my dad bought for me from Egypt when I was a baby; he and my mom gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday).

Why am I detailing to ya'll a portion of my jewelry collection?

Everybody has that one thing they take with them everywhere. Maybe not even everywhere, but it remains in sight in their bedroom or house, something like a charm that, for some reason, they're not too sure they could live without. It could be something that reminds them to act or think a certain way, or it could be a gift/remnant from a family member or friend that they keep around in order to feel attached to them.

The truth is, the reasons people carry things with them are as unique as they are. And charms and trinkets like these can carry some powerful memories and motivation. Some people feel completely lost without their "object of power," if I may so call it, and because of this they provide an excellent detail you can use toward characterization.

So I want you to think about it: do your characters have anything that they carry with them whenever they go out? If the answer's yes, then explore it. Try to really dig in to your character's psyche and figure out what makes that thing so damn important to them.

For example, one of my writing buddies has a character who carries around a coin from a currency no longer in use. Another one has a character who receives an item from a friend/love interest in order to make a ruse work, and then she never gives it back. Personally, I've once had a character who wore her father's military dog tags, and another who always wore a bow in her hair because it was the apocalypse and wearing a bow was the way she fought back against becoming such a hardened tough-ass (and earned her the nickname of "Bow," which she hates but it still makes me snicker).

More often than not, these kinds of trinkets serve as a reminder of a turning point, or a point of no return of some kind. They keep the character grounded, reminding them of what used to be instead of constantly forcing them to look forward. What's interesting is that this means the trinket can serve as both a positive or a negative thing: negative in that, if they keep thinking of the past or what that charm represents, they might refuse change, or push too hard against the inevitable, which makes them a stubborn mule.

Which makes for great characterization.

**Special note: your character doesn't have to have a charm. It's not a requirement. Heck, no matter how hard I think about it there isn't a single charm or trinket that either of my main characters in THE HOLLOW MEN have. It doesn't mean that they'll never have one (there's still two books that follow), but the fact that they don't have anything isn't a death sentence.

So don't freak out about that.

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Mundane objects in novels. @Rae_Slater talks trinkets and charms, and how they create great characterization (Click to Tweet)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tea Time: The Raven Boys

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #1)

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before. (source:goodreads)

Cover-First glance: it's definitely eye-catching. I like that the artist used the tactic of making the raven the central part of the cover, where the eye is drawn first, and the four boys are merely a shadow in the background. They're there, but they're not, and they're mysterious.

But back to the raven: the design in it is fantastic all on its own; there's patterns within the feathers, and a red fire glowing in its chest, and I think it's those small details that make it so much more awesome than if it were a "normal" raven.

Narrative-I'm going to be honest here and say that I have very mixed feelings about the narrative style used, here. Given that this is the first book by Maggie Stiefvater that I've read (although I do have plans to begin the SHIVER series soonish), I don't know if it's unique to this book, or if it's just her style.

You've heard me say it a million times: I flock to books told in the third person. Even more so, I devour books told in the third person from multiple perspectives. Therefore I devoured THE RAVEN BOYS. It's told in the third person POV from multiple perspectives: Blue, Gansey, Adam, and a fourth guy named Barrington Whelk. Not only did I love getting to switch around to different people every chapter and seeing what's happening in their own corner of the world, it was fantastic to see how well Stiefvater gave each of them their own voice.

As  pointed out, already, though: what threw me off was the style. The first few chapters were jarring for me because the way the narrative was written felt a bit new: somewhat shorter, to the point. The word that kept coming to mind was "odd," but not particularly in a negative way (just in a way I'm finding very difficult to describe).

Admittedly, if I hadn't already gotten invested in the plot and characters, I would have put the book down because the narrative style was so jarring to my mind. However, as the pages wore on, I got used to it.

Plot-As stated above, the plot was one of the things that kept be hooked on this book. It took me a few weeks to actually hunker down and buy it, because it sounds like every other paranormal YA with a girl and a guy with a forbidden love (in this case, forbidden because it would wind up with him dead) and blah, blah, blah.

This is SO not what I got.

Instead, I got this tale woven with a part of mythology I'd never been introduced to before. I got a treasure hunt mixed with a murder mystery, mixed with the most breathtaking magic I've ever read about (there's a forest that basically changes seasons depending on which section you're at), mixed with the fact that Blue didn't go for the guy I thought she would, mixed with psychics, mixed with family problems, mixed with the fact that while everything is blowing up around them, the characters still have their own individual lives they're dealing with.

THE RAVEN BOYS is jam-packed, and it takes off at about 100 mph in the back seat of Gansey's old Camero (lovingly named, Pig). The fact is, while the only word that came to mind with the narrative was odd, the only word that came with the plot was different.

It was so, amazingly, different. A breath of fresh air. And I can't say for sure, but I feel like the rest of the books in this series are going to make me feel the same way.

Characters-The characters in this book were by far the best part.

Let's start with Blue: she's sassy and quirky. Gansey: rich, loyal, and basically a kid in a candy store when you get him in the right place. Adam: smart and resentful but also sweet. Ronan: well, he's...Ronan. Noah: the fact that he likes to comment on the spikey-ness of Blue's hair just made him downright adorable, but at the same time he's an extremely shadowy character.

Put these five in a room together (or, heaven forbid, cram them all into a car) and it's natural. Once the boys meet Blue and Blue meets the guys (and Gansey begins calling her Jane, instead, which isn't her name but made me laugh), it's like they're a family. Things like this really sweep me up do to the fact that I've always wanted that group of friends who're totally chill with each other (usually) and loyal to a fault. These guys have that dynamic (once Blue finally stops taking offense to the way Gansey talks).

I was reading this on a plane ride back from New York, and basically I kept smiling and laughing and the stranger sitting next to me looked like she wished we weren't thirty-thousand feet in the air.

Especially when it came to the psychics that Blue lives with. Some are family (her mother), and some are just friends. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but above all they're so quirky (like Blue) that even though they were kind of annoying at times you can never doubt the sincerity behind them.

It's a somewhat large cast of characters, but Stiefvater did an amazing job at giving everybody their own voice and personalities; I was awed with how well they all stood out from each other.

Would I recommend this book? Heck yes. It's the newest on my "favorite" list, and I'm already planning on pre-ordering BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE (the third int he series) once my credit-card mysteries clear up. I'm already diving into THE DREAM THIEVES (the second book), so. Yep.

Final Answer:  4.25 / 5

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"Would I recommend this book? Heck yes." @Rae_Slater reviews THE RAVEN BOYS @mstiefvater (Click to Tweet)

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