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Release Day: Thunderstruck

I am thrilled to say Happy Book Birthday to Brenda Drake! Brenda is such an amazing author and an all-around fantastic person. I cannot wait to read her latest book Thunderstruck! I am a huge fan of all things Thor, from the Marvel movies to Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, and I am so excited to see a new perspective on this mythology. Check out the summary, a sneak peek, and an awesome Rafflecopter giveaway for a swag pack and a $25 Amazon gift card! Congratulations, Brenda!!!

 

Thunderstruck

Brenda Drake

Published by: Entangled Crave

Publication date: September 11th 2017

Genres: Mystery, Mythology, Romance

Stevie Moon is famous…at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again.

As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster’s been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter.

Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she’s not willing to give him even the time of day. He’ll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie’s defenses than the demi-god of thunder?

“Every page brims with captivating Norse mythology and deliciously creative worldbuilding.” Pintip Dunn, New York Times bestselling author.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

EXCERPT:

After disposing of the troll, Blake rushed to May’s house and showered. His thoughts kept going to Stevie. After hearing what Jörd said to him, he wanted to see her. The pull to go to her was too strong. He had no choice but to give in to it.

He climbed the tree outside Stevie’s room and sat on the branch. A blue light blinked on and off inside the room. He lightly tapped on the window. Muffled voices from within the room hummed against the glassed pane.

The curtain pushed aside. Amira was close to Stevie’s back when the curtain slid to the side. Stevie said something to Amira that Blake couldn’t hear through the thick glass. Amira turned away and dropped onto the bed. Stevie flipped the locks and opened the window.

“You scared the shit out of us,” Stevie snapped.

Amira crossed her arms. “Yeah, we’re watching scary movies here.”

Blake tried not to laugh, but he couldn’t hold it in. “My apologies. Can I have a moment alone with you, Stevie?”

“With me?” She glanced back.

“No.” Amira heaved a sigh. “With the other Stevie in the room.”

“Where do you want to go?”

He reached his hand out to her. “Out here is fine.”

She narrowed her gaze on him. “I don’t think so.”

“Come on,” he said. “It’s perfectly safe. This branch is thick. Trust me.”

“Stop being a chicken and go already. I have to pee.” Amira shuffled off.

Stevie hesitated before grabbing his hand and letting him guide her out the window and onto the branch. “This is crazy, you know that?”

“If you never throw caution to the wind, you’ll never be rewarded.” He sat on the branch and held her hand as she came down beside him. Her hand was warm and soft in his, and he wanted to hold it forever.

The loose pajama bottoms she wore had cats on them. Her pink tank top rode up a little and exposed a bit of her midriff. Her light-brown hair, the color of the acorns he’d gathered with his grandmother when he was a boy, rose in the wind behind her. Wide, dark eyes met his, her full lips parted in a smile.

“What did you want?” She glanced at the ground. “Wow, this is pretty high.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t let you fall.” He slid his hand across her lower back and held her waist. She shivered. “Are you cold?”

“A little,” she said.

“Hold on.” He let her go, shrugged off his hoodie, and draped it around her shoulders.

“Thank you.”

She held it closed at the zipper. He returned his arm around her, grasping her waist. She shuddered, and he smiled at her response to his touch.

“You didn’t answer me,” she said. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Actually, I’m not here to talk,” he said. “Have you ever had an urge to do something, and once it’s in your head, you can’t sleep or think until you do the thing?”

“I guess.” When she looked over at him, they locked eyes and an intensity passed between them like the energy he felt in the handle of his hammer after catching lightning with it. He noticed a faint scar just above her cupid’s bow.

“How did you get the scar?” he asked.

“Scar?” She glanced down at her chest.

“Not there,” he whispered, lifting her chin to look into her eyes. “On your lip.”

She touched it. “Oh this? It’s an embarrassing story. Let’s just say, I learned to watch where I’m walking, especially when poles are around.”

He chuckled. “I can imagine what happened.”

She lowered her head again, her feet kicking back and forth.

He decided to take his chance and cupped her face in his hands, bringing her face to his and kissing her. It was a gentle, wanting kiss. Her lips were soft and warm against his. She tasted like May’s brownies. When Stevie hadn’t responded to his kiss, he was about to release her, but then her lips began moving with his. He cradled her in his arms and they balanced together on the branch.

 

Author Bio:

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pitch Wars 2017 Mentor Bio

Welcome, Pitch Wars hopefuls! My name is Laurie Dennison, and I am thrilled to be a 2017 Pitch Wars Mentor! I am a TeenPit mentor for Pitch Wars. TeenPit is a writing contest created by Michael Mammay and Kelly Ann Hopkins designed specifically for teen writers. (Click here for more info about TeenPit.) This year the top five finalists all earned a spot in the 2017 Pitch Wars agent round.

This means I already have a fabulous mentee, Ellie Firestone!

I am so privileged to be working with Ellie! Ellie writes YA and MG, and I am consistently impressed by her talent, her voice, her self-awareness, and her willingness to challenge herself. She is the best mentee I could have ever hoped for. Ellie is busy revising now, and you are all going to adore her amazing MG contemporary fantasy, The Dreamon!

I am not open to submissions this year, but there is a plot twist…I will also be taking the YA blog hop scavenger hunt winner as my mentee!

Some interesting things about me:

  1. I’ve lived on opposite sides of the US, in Jacksonville, Florida, on the Atlantic Coast and Monterey, California, on the Pacific.
  2. I’ve always loved books, and I still think of myself as a reader first and a writer second. I read and write YA, and I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, big, twisty paranormal like Cassandra Clare’s novels, fantasy like Graceling by Kristin Cashore or anything by Rae Carson, anything by Holly Black, contemporary like John Green, only more like Paper Towns than TFIOS, lighter fare like Stephanie Perkins or Jennifer E. Smith, and darker things like The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin or The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
  3. I’ve had a long writing journey, and I’m no stranger to online contests. I was a Pitch Wars mentee with a YA fantasy in 2012. That manuscript had tons of positive feedback, but I finally put it away for something new. My second, a YA magical realism, was a finalist in too many contests—The Writer’s Voice, Pitch Slam, Pitch Plus Five, PitchMas, An Agent’s Inbox. My current manuscript, a YA contemporary, landed me an agent the old-fashioned way: through the query slush. I am repped by the amazing Danielle Burby at Nelson Literary.
  4. The most important thing I gained on the contest circuit was a community of writers who have helped me, supported me, laughed, cried and celebrated with me. The people are the real prize, and I am so grateful to Brenda and all the others who volunteer their time so generously to help fellow writers. I have gained lifelong friendships and been rewarded with access to so many beautiful manuscripts before they’ve hit the shelves. I was also an SCBWI critique group leader for three years. If you write YA or MG, I highly recommend connecting with SCBWI.  I’ve looked forward to being a Pitch Wars mentor since I was chosen as a mentee, and I can’t wait to celebrate my TeenPit mentee’s amazing journey with her! And I hope I get the chance to work with YOU, too! So hurry up and complete the scavenger hunt!

Whether you end up with a mentor or not, reach out. Make connections. Take advantage of this opportunity to come together with other writers who share your passion.

One place to start is on social media! I'd love to connect with you, and I tweet @lauriedennison and Instagram @laurie.a.dennison. My mentee Ellie tweets @EllieFirestone1, and you can check out her website www.elliefirestone.com.

Click here to go back to the blog hop central. Continue on with the YA mentor blog hop below:

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Swoon Reads – Dangerous Play

Sometimes I have trouble keeping my book budget under control. Social media in the writing community doesn’t help matters; I see so many books that interest me, and before I know it, my nightstand and my Nook overflow.

I recently found a bookish alternative that keeps me reading for free and helps other writers: Swoon Reads! Writers can submit manuscripts, readers get to read and comment for free, and Swoon chooses the top performers to publish! It really is a win-win. My first Swoon Read was Dangerous Play by Alison Miller.

The brief summary:

Best friends and soccer all-stars Jesse, Ashton, and JD are on opposite sides of a prank text that leaves Jesse girlfriend-less and spirals into a vicious social war. When a common rival pits them against each other, threatening to destroy their friendship and futures, they must take him down—together.

I love YA from a boy’s point of view, so I was really excited to see the sides of all three main characters. The close friendships, complicated family situations, and careful reveals of misunderstandings keep the tension high as the story unfolds. I highly recommend reading and rating Dangerous Play, and I’m looking forward to finding more new voices at Swoon Reads!

How I Got My Agent

It feels like I’ve been waiting forever to write this post.

I could tell the version where I write a manuscript, polish it up, and send 30 query letters. The one where 15 full requests flood my inbox. In that version, I sign with an agent in less than six weeks. That story is true, and it’s not.

I think I wrote my first novel to prove to myself that I could do it. I had no idea how long the journey would be or where it would take me. I sent that manuscript to friends to read, because I didn’t know any writers. I revised. I went to a conference. I learned about the industry and sent a few queries. One agent requested, but it was a quick pass.

Fast-forward a few years, through an unfinished second manuscript. By the time I wrote my third, a YA fantasy, I had a better handle on things. I researched. I went to another conference and met my first real critique partners. I joined the SCBWI and found my tribe. I started querying and had a respectable number of requests, but no offers.

Then I found the contest circuit. I was so fortunate to be chosen as a Pitch Wars mentee, not because of the exposure to agents, but because of the community. I really connected with other writers and got meaningful critiques. I ended up with R&Rs from two small press editors, but I wanted an agent. So I started a local critique group through SCBWI and moved on to a new story.

When this manuscript was ready, I started with contests. This story was a finalist in The Writer’s Voice, PitchMas, An Agent’s Inbox, Pitch Plus Five, and possibly some I don’t remember. I sent queries, too. I was sure this was the one. I had an even more respectable number of requests, tons of positive feedback, and one R&R that led to scrapping more than half of the book. I was willing to put in the work. Six months later, the agent still passed.

How much longer would I keep pouring my time and energy into this writing thing? My freelance work had led to a job offer that meant going back into an office, doing the perfect combination of media, branding, editing, design, and web coordination. But I couldn’t stop writing. On my lunch breaks. At night after my kids were in bed. I decided that even if I never landed an agent or a book deal, I loved writing, I loved books, and I loved the amazing community that had become so important to me.

I could not give up.

I moved across the state, readjusted to working from home again, and kept writing. When my fifth manuscript was finished and in the hands of my amazing CPs, I entered a contest. To my surprise, it won the 2017 SCBWI Rising Kite Award for the state of Florida. After a few more months of polish and revision, I dove back into the query trenches.

Which finally brings me back to thirty queries. Fifteen requests. More than one offer. A difficult decision. And finally a signed contract.

I am absolutely thrilled to say that I am now repped by Danielle Burby of Nelson Literary Agency.

 

 

Book Review: The Thing About Jellyfish

Buy it through Barnes and Noble or Amazon

The summary (adapted from Goodreads):

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.

The review:

The Thing About Jellyfish is exceptionally well-written. Informative without being preachy and realistic but also timeless, Jellyfish covers quite a bit of ground in what it means to journey from childhood to adolescence. That aching realism, and the interesting facts, were my favorite parts of the novel. It’s the kind of book with a cross-over appeal that adults will love. The question I kept asking, though, was how will the target audience feel? Even with the first person narration, I felt a distance from Suzy, as if the reader is seeing an adult tell the story instead of a twelve-year-old. Even with that distance, I still appreciate the layered nuance of Benjamin’s writing.

4 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: Take It All Back by Judah & the Lion

Release Day: The Island Deception

The Island Deception is finally here! Ever since I finished The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt, I’ve eagerly anticipated the next installment in the Gateways to Alissia series. Today is the day!

The Summary:

For stage magician Quinn Bradley, he thought his time in Alissia was over. He’d done his job for the mysterious CASE Global Enterprises, and now his name is finally on the marquee of one of the biggest Vegas casinos. And yet, for all the accolades, he definitely feels something is missing. He can create the most amazing illusions on Earth, but he’s also tasted true power. Real magic.

He misses it.

Luckily–or not–CASE Global is not done with him, and they want him to go back. The first time he was tasked with finding a missing researcher. Now, though, he has another task: Help take Richard Hold down.

It’s impossible to be in Vegas and not be a gambler. And while Quinn might not like his odds–a wyvern nearly ate him the last time he was in Alissia–if he plays his cards right, he might be able to aid his friends.

He also might learn how to use real magic himself.

I can’t wait dive in! Click here for more info or to buy your copy today!

About the author:

Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and fantasy/science fiction author. He has co-authored more than 70 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals. Dan is also an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.

Dan’s WebsiteTwitter, and Facebook

Book Review: The Shadows We Know by Heart

I am thrilled to be back with a new book review. I just finished Jennifer Park’s The Shadows We Know by Heart, and I can’t wait to write about it.

Get your copy through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound.

The summary (adapted from Goodreads):

Leah Roberts’s has a secret she’s told no one: Sasquatch are real, and she’s been watching a trio of them in the woods behind her house for years. Leah discovers that among the Sasquatch lives a teenager. This alluring, enigmatic boy has no memory of his past and can barely speak, but Leah can’t shake his magnetic pull. Gradually, Leah’s life entwines with his, providing her the escape from reality she never knew she needed. When Leah’s two worlds suddenly collide in a deadly showdown, she uncovers a shocking truth as big and extraordinary as the legends themselves, one that could change her life forever.

The review:

I’ve read many, many books in the past year. But it took this one to get me back online to write a review. I immediately related to Leah and her struggles, even in this fantastical world of Bigfoot. The family dynamic was incredibly well-drawn, examining what it means to be the child of a pastor in the South, and how faith can be tested in devastating circumstances. The contemporary elements of the novel work so well that I never found myself questioning the fantasy elements. Park also manages to create a believable, dynamic love triangle. She kept me guessing as to how this situation could possibly be resolved in a satisfying way, keeping me turning the pages until late at night, and she managed to pull it all off perfectly in the end.

Rating: Five out of five stars!

Music for today: On Hold by The XX

Anticipated Releases in 2016

Hello, Blogger my old friend. It's been too long!

2016 is flying, bringing us closer to some of the most anticipated releases of the year. Here are the top three books I can't wait to read in 2016:

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Expected publication: July 21, 2016

 
I know, I know, there is basically no way it can live up to my expectations. But I just can't help myself. We're getting another Harry Potter book!

 
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Expected publication: April 26, 2016

 
The Raven Cycle has been a wild ride full of lovable characters, and I can't wait to see this series reveal all of its secrets

 
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Expected publication: September 27, 2016

 
Six of Crows had an excellent ensemble cast and tons of adventure. I can't wait to see where the band of outlaws goes next.

 
Do you have any books you're excited to read as we rush on toward summer?

Book Review: Until I Find Julian

The Summary: I received an Advance Review Copy of Until I Find Julian by Patricia Reilly Giff this summer, and it released on September 8, 2015.



Twelve-year-old Mateo lives in Mexico with his mother and grandmother, and his older brother Julian works across the border in the United States to support their family. When a raid on Julian's work site leaves him out of contact and possibly arrested, Mateo journeys across the border himself to find out what really happened.  



The Review:

I enjoyed this contemporary middle grades story on several levels. The vivid descriptions of life in Mexico transported me into Mateo's world. Both his voice and his heart kept me turning the pages; I read the entire book in one day. And yet, the story as a whole left me a bit unsettled.

As an adult who reads mostly YA and MG novels, I rarely find myself reading through the lens of a parent. I've never been troubled by twelve-year-olds slaying monsters or going away to magical boarding schools, maybe because the fantasy element always reminds me that I'm reading a story. But in Until I Find Julian, I couldn't shed my "mother" glasses. Mateo travels alone through Mexico on foot. He pays a coyote to smuggle him across the border, then makes his way to Arkansas relying on the kindness of strangers. With no money, no food, and without speaking English, Mateo manages to find his brother's abandoned home. Until I Find Julian does ultimately end happily, but all along I felt more worried about Mateo than a desire to journey with him.

I plan to have my own eleven-year-old read this book to see how his reaction differs from mine; this may be a time when I'm too far out of the target audience to be objective.

3 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: First by Cold War Kids

Writer Resources

The online writing community can be phenomenal, but it can also be overwhelming. Some great resources have been shared on the Pitch Wars hashtag over the past week to help navigate the rules and language of publishing. Here are my favorites:

What is a WC, you ask? (Hint: It’s not a potty in France.) The publishing biz loves abbreviations. A few years ago Dahlia Adler shared a fantastic glossary to help you wade through the alphabet soup of MSs, LIs, and CPs.
Literary agent Janet Reid hosts this must-read resource for querying writers. Though new-comers should read the entire website, in the post linked above, the shark herself boils down the answer to the essential question: What is a query letter?
Literary agent Jennifer Laughran keeps her former blog open for references like these, and Wordcount Dracula is one of the most popular posts. In it she explains the accepted norms for word counts (WC) in children’s books.
Literary agent John Cusick addresses taking measure of yourself as a writer. He also recently posted here about effective queries.