Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guest Post: You Are Beautiful (Amy Machelle)

When I was asked to do a guest post here, I struggled with what to write. “It just needs to be writing related,” Florence, Tell-Tale Publishing’s director of PR, told me. “Writing related? That could cover any number of things,” I thought, but the more I contemplated it, the more I knew I wanted to direct this post to struggling writers out there. I could have used this tour stop to answer more interview questions, but I’ve done that at several stops already. I wanted to speak to you, the inspired creators in the world, because I know how difficult it can be to share your creations. I hope you’ll read this and be encouraged. If you’re not a writer, please don’t let that keep you from reading. I think you’ll find inspiration here as well.

I’ll start by saying every step toward Saving Elizabeth’s publication has been a milestone – a smoothing of the rough edges each writer begins his journey with, but there are many rough edges yet to be smoothed. I’m not convinced there will ever come a time when any of us step back, look at ourselves in the mirror and think there’s no sand papering needed … no growth left to do. As a matter of fact, one of my jagged edges, “fear of man,” recently reared its ugly head during the publication of Saving Elizabeth. As much as I’d like to tell you otherwise, what people think or say means a lot to me….more than it probably should. People -pleasing was ingrained in me at an early age, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve done my best to make everyone happy, despite how unhappy living up to others’ expectations may have made me. I’m a perfectionist, to say the least, but I’m also a very passionate person who wears her emotions on her sleeve. When combined, those two character traits can create a wonderful novel. Unfortunately, they can also create a doubtful, nervous author who’s sometimes afraid of reading reviews. I imagine I’m not alone in these character traits. Have you ever been afraid to share your writing with others?

I thought so.

I wish I could give you an easy solution that would erase your fears. Someone once said that when a writer screams at the page, the reader only hears a whisper. How true that is! Writers are passionate people by design. Our emotions must lie close to the surface in order for us to easily tap into them and create something that moves readers. We feel deeply, which means rejection often crushes us to the core. There’s no built in emotional switch that can be flipped on when it’s time to write, and then flipped off when our work is finally presented to the world. We must realize we are who we are. Our work is beautiful, regardless of what others have to say about it. It always has been, and always will be because essentially, it’s us on the page. It’s our thoughts, our ideas, our emotions, our desires that make up our stories, and what right does anyone have to tell us that we are not beautiful? At a recent writing conference, Tosca Lee shared this quote by Marianne Williamson. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

Translation? When you shove your writing in a drawer because you’re afraid of what people will say, remember, you and your writing are both brilliant. Keep dreaming. Keep writing. Keep bleeding on the page despite what others might think. A few may not be ready for it, but there are others out there who NEED to hear your stories. Happy writing! 

Amy is a teacher who uses writing to escape after long days of tying shoelaces, opening ketchup packets, and begging children to please use tissues instead of sleeves. While it had always been a hobby for her, writing swiftly turned into an obsession during the sweltering summer of 2009. A year of clacking away on her laptop later, she typed the final period of her young adult paranormal romance, Saving Elizabeth. Satisfied, she packed her laptop away, but the characters she'd invested a year of her life in insisted on being shared with the world. Keep your eyes peeled for Saving Elizabeth, coming sooon from Tell-Tale Publishing.

Follow Elizabeth:
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Blaming God for the death of her father, sixteen year old Elizabeth Bridges denounces her faith and vows never to utter His name again. She tries to distance herself from anything spiritual, but the events that occur after an unwanted move make that difficult.

First, the dreams come – dreams of evil creatures, and rendezvous with the gorgeous stranger she thinks her mind created to escape her miserable life. But her first day at Glacier High proves there’s more to it than that.

Elizabeth meets Riel, the boy from her dreams, and he knows more about her than is humanly possible. He says she possesses a coveted gift that all of Hell is clamoring to seize. The monsters she dreams of are real, and they’re battling for her soul. Soon, Elizabeth is thrust into a spiritual realm where she doesn’t know friend from foe. She battles demons in the storage closets of her high school, with Riel, her only protection.

Will Elizabeth be able to trust Riel and help him save what matters most, or will they both join forces with darkness and turn their backs forever on the only One who can offer them the love and peace they so deeply desire?

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Available: Amazon (affiliate link)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: A Million Suns (Across the Universe 2) by Beth Revis


Godspeed was 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. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

In book two of the Across the Universe trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled 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.


Publication date: January 10th 2012 by Razorbill

The Elliott Review:

I'm always terrified of second books. There's this sense of uncertainty, wondering if it will measure up to the first book that got you hooked. Well, um, let me just say that A Million Suns has that same breathless suspense that Across the Universe has. From start to finish, I was totally absorbed in Amy and Elder's story. Their voices resonate so much that I felt entirely wrapped up in what happened to both of them.

Now Elder is in control of the ship, attempting to rule fairly without controlling people with Phydus in their water and without other dictatorial measures taken by Eldest. However, with their increased self-awareness, the people of the ship start hungering for revolution against the whole Eldest system, and they are beyond unwilling to accept a sixteen-year-old as their leader. When someone starts killing, leaving messages that say "Follow the leader," everyone assumes that Elder is behind it all, secretly as dictatorial as Eldest. Things become dangerous for him and for Amy, the freak who doesn't look like everyone else.

Furthermore, Orion has left video clues for Amy, letting her know why he acted the way he did before he was frozen. Although Amy hates him for the intended murder of her frozen parents, Amy and Elder follow the clues to the most shocking revelation yet. I'm going to come out and proudly say that I called it from the last book. I don't know why, but I had already guessed it. This makes me feel proud, especially since I hardly ever do that! However, although I knew what was up, I had no idea why... And that is the most disturbing part of what Amy and Elder uncover.

I still love the bloody pants off Elder, too. He has sacrificed everything he has believed in to do the right thing, only to be unappreciated and challenged and threatened. Glimpses into his childhood also make me want to just give him a hug. Living with Eldest was no picnic, but he managed it with strength. His feelings for Amy mixed with his uncertainty are a powerful combination.

This book is just so amazing, I considered immediately re-reading it when I finished. It's part of a series that cannot be missed.

Young Adult Notes:

Mention of rape, mild sensual scenes, mild language, mild violence.

Source: Thanks to Razorbill for providing a copy of this title in exchange for a fair review.

Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 YA Scavenger Hunt

I'm today's hunt stop for the 2011 YA Story Scavenger Hunt!

Follow the hunt every day during the month of December! Answer the daily trivia questions from MG and YA books published during 2011 to be entered into the YA book giveaway.

Today's question is from Defiance by Lili St. Crow.

Question #38: What does kochana mean?

Remember to fill out your answer in the form at Most Important Letter here!

Good luck!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Guest Post: From Sketch to Chapter Art, an Illustrator at Work (Richard Due)

For me, getting to work with Carolyn Arcabascio was a dream come true. On The Moon Coin, we worked from a master list of scene options, with Carolyn picking out scenes she liked and making sketches. For the prologue, Carolyn drafted three options. All three were great, but two in particular were spectacular. I first went with option 3 (one of my scene suggestions). I think we spent more time on this sketch and subsequent color drawing than on any other piece. But it never seemed right. At the eleventh hour, I asked Carolyn how hard she’d hit me if I suggested scrapping the thing and instead going with the pinky promise scene you see below (one of her scene suggestions). Carolyn responded: "There would be no hitting involved!" and told me it wouldn't be a problem. You sure can't ask for better than that.

From the Prologue: Bedtime Tales

Click on image to enlarge.

Richard: Did you make all these sketches in the same location, Carolyn?

Carolyn: Yes, I do all of my work at a drafting table that's situated in a little nook of my apartment in Acton, Massachusetts. There's a bookshelf to my right and a wall of "inspiration" to my left, where I hang prints of other artists' and illustrators' work. On either side of my drafting table are drawers of supplies, and stacks of sketchbooks and old paintings. The drafting table faces a window overlooking a quiet street and the woods beyond it.

From Chapter Two: A Coin of the Realm

Click on image to enlarge.

Richard: Do you use models when you're sketching?

Carolyn: I use a combination of models and photo references. If I need to work out the nuances of a character's posture and really understand the perspective of it, I'll ask whatever friend or family member is handy to pose for a sketch. Often, I'll get into the position myself or mimic the facial expression I want to portray in order to get the feel of it. And sometimes, if there's a character being portrayed multiple times across scenes, I'll make a rough model of their head out of clay so I'll have it to refer to.

From Chapter Four: To Barreth

Click on image to enlarge.

Richard: When drawing fantastical creatures, do you use bits and pieces of real animals for inspiration, or have you actually seen a wirtle and you're just not telling us? ;)

Carolyn: No wirtles native to Massachusetts, fortunately! When figuring out the look of fantastical creatures, I use photo references of different animals to understand the way the anatomy might work, and then combine features as I see fit and as the story calls for. To understand the wirtle's legs and paws, for example, I referred to a series of photographs of show dogs leaping over hurdles. The severely arched, scruffy back was influenced by photos of hyenas on the prowl. The bone-structure of the face ended up being something of a cross between a cow and a warthog, and I wanted the snout to be bare—kind of gross and raw-looking. Add it all up and, voila! We have a wirtle.

The Moon Coin, by Richard Due, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Wintertown by Stephen Emond


Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent's divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, "Old Lucy" still exists, and he's determined to find her... even if it means pissing her off.

Garden State meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.


Published December 5th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The Elliott Review:

This book drew me in with its realistic characters and situations. I felt like I was reading an account of actual people and the events that happened to them over the course of their lives. The story starts from Evan's perspective, and I loved his way of approaching the world. He's intelligent and hard-working and obedient - all the things his parents love, but he's also creative and fun-loving deep down, something that has become somewhat surpressed over the years in his attempt to please his parents.

When Evan sees Lucy again this year, the comfortable and familiar things about her seem to have disappeared. Even as he wonders about her, Lucy is hiding things in her new life from him, aching to tell him and really, really scared. Halfway through, the narrative switches to Lucy's perspective and the reader is able to see the mess her life as become, how confused and scared she is. Seeing Evan from her eyes makes him even more lovable.

My favorite part about this book is that it wasn't your typical ending where all problems are fixed absolutely. In keeping with the realism of the story, the resolution of the plot is real. For Evan and Lucy to have any kind of a future together, they have to grow and change, and that process is not easy.

I also really enjoyed the comic strips interspersed throughout the text along with the illustrations. It helps showcase the eclectic, interesting friendship that Evan and Lucy have built over time as well as Evan's talent.

Young Adult Notes:

Mild sexual references, mild language, sensitive topics.

Source: Thanks for Faye at Little, Brown for providing a copy of this title for a fair review.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Attention Aspiring Writers! - Manuscript Feedback for Essay Contest Winner!!!

The president of the Book Wish Foundation let me know about this awesome contest that may interest some of my readers! I know if I actually had a manuscript ready to show, I would be all a bout doing this myself! You have the chance to win a literary agent or acclaimed author's feedback on your unpublished manuscript for young adult or middle grade readers!  This rare opportunity is being offered to the six winners of an essay contest recently announced by the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation.  See for full details.

You could win a manuscript critique from:
  • Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot
  • Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau
  • Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust
  • Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe
  • Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
  • Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue

All that separates you from this prize is a 500-word essay about a short story in Book Wish Foundation's new anthology, What You Wish For.  Essays are due Feb. 1, 2012 and winners will be announced around Mar. 1, 2012.  If you win, you will have six months to submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript for critique (which means you can enter the contest even if you haven't finished, or started, your manuscript).  You can even enter multiple times, with essays about more than one of the contest stories, for a chance to win up to six critiques.

If you dream of being a published author, this is an opportunity you should not miss.  To enter, follow the instructions at

Good luck and best wishes!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Top Ten Reasons You Need a Dog (W. Bruce Cameron)

10. Without a dog, you’ll have to hump the neighbor’s leg yourself.

9. Without a dog, you won’t have anyone to dig up your carefully planted flowers.

8. Someone has to bark when the doorbell rings. Who’s going to do it, you?

7. It’s so much more enjoyable to eat with someone staring at you, wondering when you’re going to drop a piece of food on the floor.

6. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a car ride to the grocery store with someone who thinks it’s the most fun in the world?

5. Tell your dog you invented bacon. He’ll take it at your word.

4. Without you even asking, your dog will make sure none of your tennis balls are too dry.

3. Your dog will always remind you when you forgot to put the lid on the garbage can.

2. Your dog will always be happy when you walk back in the door. Can you say that about anyone else in your life?

1. No matter what you do, what mistakes you make, what failures you have, your dog will think you are the best. No one else in the world will ever believe in you like your dog.

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