Category: Guest Post

The Flight of Swans & Stinging Nettles (or how I came to love Benadryl) by Sarah McGuire | Author Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted September 24, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 0 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Sarah McGuire, author of The Flight of Swans, to the blog to talk about her new book and a crazy run-in she had with some stinging nettles while she was doing some research for it!


The Flight of Swans & Stinging Nettles
(or how I came to love Benadryl)

by Sarah McGuire

For me, writing a novel-length fairy tale retelling involves exploring what I love about the tale and what I want to change. In Grimm’s “Six Swans,” I’d loved that a girl did the saving. The young princess single-handedly saves her older brothers by remaining silent for six years and making them shirts out of stinging nettles.

Stinging nettles are the centerpiece of the original tale and there’s just something about the name. They sound like such sinister plants! It was easy to imagine a girl with blistered, perhaps even bleeding, hands weeping as she made six shirts.

And yet…

… it felt like the narrator sat there, saying, “You’re not going to talk? Well, what if you have to live alone? Okay, still won’t talk? What about if I make you work with stinging nettles that destroy your hands? Still won’t talk? You should marry this guy and have two babies–all while you can’t speak.”

“Six Swans” was all about the heroine’s endurance. But in The Flight of Swans, I wanted Andaryn to have agency. I wanted to show all the ways she sought to communicate even when she couldn’t speak, and how hard she worked to save her brothers.

That’s when I realized just what I wanted to change about my retelling. (Well, that and the romantic interest. That man was a mess! But that’s another blog post…) Andaryn wouldn’t just survive the nettles–she’d outwit them. And the more I researched nettles, the more I realized that was possible.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Nettles were a primary source of fabric in Europe before linen. That may be why the Grimms’ version of the tale (gathered as folklore) is fairly matter-of-fact about nettles, while Hans Christian Anderson’s “Wild Swans” involves so much suffering. I doubt Anderson had much experience with stinging nettles except for occasionally being stung by some.
  • There’s a way you can touch nettles so that you don’t get stung. Thank you, YouTube! There were even folks who tore leaves off the nettle plants and ATE them.
  • Stinging nettles are incredibly nutritious.

But research isn’t anything without trying it yourself, right? So I met with Krista, a local farmer whocultivated and harvested stinging nettles. She told me how people with arthritis would use the nettles to sting the affected areas– and that it helped. She told me that you got used to the stings. The first stings of the season hurt, but you’d hardly notice them by the end of the season.

Then she asked if I wanted to try it. And–this was probably me–it seemed like she wondered if I would actually do it.

Oh, I wanted to harvest them. (Because research. Also ego.) I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed a handful of nettles (the wrong way- because research!) and started hacking away. When I had an entire grocery bag of nettles, Krista looked at my welt-covered arms and told me that I had the strongest reaction to nettles she’d seen in a while.

I nodded bravely (because, ego) but to be honest, my arms looked worse than they felt.

By the time I’d driven home, the welts had disappeared. My hands and arms looked normal, and the pain was definitely manageable. Perhaps the fairy tale had been overestimating how much stinging nettles hurt.

A few hours later, I’d changed my mind. Every bit of skin that had been stung burned, and even the slight pressure of typing on laptop hurt. The pain was prickly from the inside–the way it feels when you lose circulation in your foot and then stand up. Except it didn’t stop. A few hours later, it still hadn’t stopped.

I chickened out by bedtime and took an antihistamine. Even so, I still felt triumphant. Because while I’d definitely harvested the nettles the wrong way, I’d also realized that I could strip an entire nettle stalk of its leaves without getting stung. I won’t lie–I was proud of that.

Here’s what stinging nettles taught me. Yes, awful things happen, and we writers do awful things to our characters. But it’s also important to concentrate on the way that we (and they!) fight back.

I love that.

The Flight of Swans wasn’t an easy book to write. Andaryn is mute for most of it. I had to cover six years of her life without bogging down the story. And while I’d loved researching nettles, the story needed to be about so much more than the nettles.

But for me the research on nettles allowed me to create the sort of heroine that I love. Yes, Ryn endures a great deal, but she doesn’t just endure this curse. She fights it. And for me, that is always, always, the kind of story I want to read.


The Flight of Swans by Sarah McGuire
Published October 1, 2018 by Carolrhoda Books
Genres: Middle Grade — Fantasy, Retelling
Add to Goodreads • Amazon

Based on the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale Six Swans, The Flight of Swans follows Ryn’s journey to save her family and their kingdom.

Princess Andaryn’s six older brothers have always been her protectors–until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn’s attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bitter bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers’ lives if Ryn remains silent for six years.

Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. She never thought she’d have to discover the secret to undoing the Queen’s spell while eluding the Otherworldly forces that hunt her. And she never thought she’d have to do it alone, without speaking a single word.

As months as years go by, Ryn learns there is more to courage than speech . . . and that she is stronger than the Queen could have ever imagined.


About Sarah McGuire

Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tales and would be just fine if one day she opened a wardrobe and stumbled into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyways with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.

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An Entreaty for Under-Represented Mythological Creatures In Recent Fantasy | Blogger Guest Post

Posted September 17, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 3 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to welcome Amber of The Literary Phoenix to the blog today to share with us her strong feelings on the subject of lesser-used mythological creatures in recent fantasy novels!


An Entreaty for Under-Represented Mythological
Creatures In Recent Fantasy

If you would humor me, I would like to open this post with a bit of a game. I will list a series of names, and Dear Reader, I challenge you to find what they have in common.

Edward Cullen
Barnabas Collins
Jean-Claude
Eric Northman
Dracula
Spike
Lestat de Lioncourt
Adrian Ivashkov
Kurt Barlow
Marceline

If you are thinking, “They’re all vampires!” then you would be correct! The ten names listed above are a mere handful of famous vampires, one of the most popular creatures to grace fantasy novels since their invention in 1887 with Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

There was a time when it was almost impossible to pick up a new YA fantasy and not find a vampire lurking inside. There is a list on Goodreads with 385 teen vampire books and 1594 adult vampire books. I could start reading right now and it would take me about 20 years to read all the books on these lists.

While vampires are fun, there are a lot of other mythological beasts out there begging for some attention in fiction. Today, I’m going to introduce you to three underused magical creatures with a lot of potential.

The Phoenix

The phoenix is grossly underused in fantasy. As a creature, it is a symbol of renewal and rebirth. In Egypt, it was called “Bennu” and sacred to Heliopolis (god of the sun). In Greek myth, the phoenix lived several centuries before burning up in a nest of myrrh and other finery, and being reborn from the ashes. Chinese legend recognizes it as “Feng Huang” – it was part of the union of yin and yang, representing the Empress.

Despite its majesty and the respect it held in ancient culture, the firebird is oft forgotten in fantasy novels. You can find the phoenix in a variety of supernatural romance novels, but I believe the most famous example is Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet and companion in the Harry Potter series.

Goodreads has a list of 43 books tagged “phoenix”.

The Gorgon

Gorgons are a bit less common than phoenixes, as they are exclusively found in Greek Mythology. The most famous gorgon is Medusa, who was slain by Hercules, but she also had two sisters just as vain as herself who were transformed into hideous monsters by the gods. As far as the mythos goes, there’s no in-depth mention of them… what are their stories?

Goodreads has a list of 23 books tagged “medusa”.

The Selkie

Finally, the selkie is a form of shapeshifter. I first learned about selkies a couple years ago when I was listening to S.J. Tucker’s “For the Girl in the Garden“, a companion album to In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente. The selkie comes from Scottish legend, and is a creature capable of shedding its seal skin and becoming human. Unlike your traditional shapeshifter, selkies require their seal skin in order to return to their original form.

This is asking for an epic quest of a selkie girl trying to retrieve her stolen skin from a hunter! It would fit really well into YA fantasy, so someone please get on top of this.

Goodreads has a list of 153 books tagged “selkie”.

These three are but the tip of the iceberg as to the opportunities available to in the world of underused fantasy creatures. Many of the creatures J.K. Rowling features in her Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have a mythological background, and that book is a good starting point if you’re interested in learning a little more about magical creatures.

I would like to beseech you, dear readers and writers: before picking up a pen or your next great read and seeking out a vampire, witch, or werewolf… try something a little different! Take a chance on a minotaur. Try your luck with a banshee. You never know what stories these other creatures have to tell.

About Amber

Author of half a dozen unpublished fantasy tales, book blogger, Ravenclaw, cat lover, and dreamer. Historian. Seeking first class tickets to Oz or Neverland.
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Fairytale Retellings In the Real World: Melanie Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale Series | Blogger Guest Post

Posted September 14, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 5 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to welcome Rachel of Bookworm Mama to the blog today to share her love of Melanie Dickerson’s fairytale retellings, set in medieval times!


Fairytale Retellings In the Real World:
Melanie Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale Series

by Rachel of Bookworm Mama

Fairy tales have always held a special place in my heart. The romance, the charming prince, rescues, fights, daring adventures…And let’s not forget the gorgeous dresses. Please tell me, I am not the only one who still can’t decide if the blue or the pink “Sleeping Beauty” dress is the prettiest…

There is just something magical about getting lost in a fairy tale. Singing mermaids and flying carpets however, aren’t real. What if…these fairy tales were told in a REAL world setting? Sure, they may not be any glowing hair that heals people, but THIS Rapunzel, could have actually been a real person…in fact, I’m convinced she is real.

Enter Melanie Dickerson’s books. The first book I read by Melanie Dickerson was The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, part of her three book A Medieval Fairy Tale series, which my husband surprised me with for my birthday a few years ago. In each of the Medieval Fairy Tale books, we see a combination of fairy tales. Swan Lake and Robin Hood for example is what you will find in The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. I was instantly hooked and desperately needed to get my hands on more of her stories. From Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Aladdin….Melanie’s stories take you to the era of knights and dukes through Medieval Fiction. The Hagenheim series currently has 8 books with the 9th (a Mulan retelling) releasing soon. I still have a few of these stories to catch up on myself, for they are worth savoring.

Written as Young Adult books, I believe fairytale fans of all ages will enjoy Melanie’s books.

Be prepared to fall in love when you pick up one of these stories. Whether you start from the beginning of the series or dive into your favorite fairy tale story first, you are sure to want more. You can find all of Melanie’s books listed on her website.

What is your favorite fairytale?


About Rachel

Rachel enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at www.bookwormmama.org. She’s a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

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A.J. Pine’s Summer Reading Recs | Forever Summer Reading Blog Event (+ Giveaway)

Posted August 15, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Giveaway, Guest Post / 0 Comments

A.J. Pine’s Summer Reading Recs | Forever Summer Reading Blog Event (+ Giveaway)

A.J. Pine’s Summer Reading Recs

During the months of the school year, I’m a high school librarian. I’m also a mom of two fabulous kiddos. Add writing into that, and you probably wonder where I find time to read. The answer? Audio books! I get to “read” while doing other things like driving…or less enjoyable activities such as laundry, emptying the dishwasher, or blow drying my hair (yay earbuds!). Also, I just plain love audio books, so here are a few of my recent listens that you should definitely add to your audio list!

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: I read this book for my summer book club, and it blew me away. I could talk about this book for days—and have. There’s so much to discuss, and I can’t do it justice without spoiling it, but what a fascinating exploration of self vs. projected image we let others see; of how parents see their children and vice versa; of how prejudice can so easily blind someone to the truth; and of what it truly means to be a mother.
  • Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton: Dual timelines, dual narrators, forbidden love, exile from Cuba, family secrets—this book has so muchAnd that cover??? STUNNING. A must read!
  • It Happened on Love Street by Lia Riley: I’m a sucker for small town romance. And men who are good with animals. So a southern veterinarian hero and a heroine who is—shall we say—dog averse? Puh-lease. You had me at Rhett Valentine and Pepper Knight.
  • Burning Up by Jennifer Blackwood: Sometimes I just need a good romcom, and Jennifer Blackwood’s humor always has me legit laughing out loud. As an educator myself, I love a strong school teacher heroine. And I mentioned before my penchant for men and their dogs. Even sexier—a man who’s a good dad. Did I also mention he’s a firefighter?
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: I just started listening to this one but know it’s going to be spectacular. Bahni Turpin is one of my favorite audio book narrators, plus the story has fantasy, magic, and romance yet also a storyline that deals very much with the reality of the world we live in. I’m sure I’ll be flailing about this one on social media when I’m done!

 

A librarian for teens by day and a romance writer by night, A.J. Pine can’t seem to escape the world of fiction, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. For more on A.J. and her books, please visit AJPine.com.

 

 


Tough Luck Cowboy by A.J. Pine
Book #2 in the Crossroads Ranch series
Published by Forever on August 28, 2018
Genres: Adult – Contemporary, Romance

The only girl he ever wanted was the one he could never have.

What’s the saying, bad luck comes in threes? If so, Lily Green is due for something good. First, her divorce is finalized—on her birthday, no less. Then the first job she lands for her catering company turns out to be for her ex-husband’s wedding. To top it off, she’s stuck working the event with Luke Everett, the sexy-as-hell best man who’s never been able to stand her. When can a girl catch a break?

For years, Luke has kept his feelings for Lily safely hidden. Hitting on his best friend’s ex-wife would definitely break the cowboy code of honor. But ever since an injury sidelined his rodeo riding, the two of them keep getting thrown together. It’s only a matter of time until his true feelings come to light. When that happens, it will either be the biggest mistake of his life, or a sign that his luck is about to change.

 


Kristen Brand’s Mood Board and Inspirations for The Ghost Machine | Author Guest Post

Posted May 25, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post, Mood Board / 4 Comments

Do you like creepy old manors full of dark secrets (and possibly ghosts)? Do you find yourself attracted to mysterious gentlemen in Victorian attire who may or may not be villainous? Do you think the best outfit for investigating mysteries is a lacy white nightgown?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you probably like gothic romances.
The gothic genre has been around for hundreds of years and got big in the Victorian Era with novels like Dracula and Jane Eyre. It had a revival in the 1960s (Do a Google Image search for “gothic romance covers.” You won’t be disappointed.), and if you’re looking for a more recent example, think Crimson Peak.

 

When I wrote The Ghost Machine, I wanted to mix steampunk with gothic romance. It influenced everything from the setting (featuring a haunted asylum and shadowy castle), to the plot (the main character, Ella, can see ghosts), to the characters (her love interest is a Byronic hero, and she suspects him of being a murderer for part of the book).

I always associate gothic romances with the 1800s, though they can be set in any time. Maybe it’s because those Victorians were surprisingly morbid, with their creepy photographs of dead family members and the elaborate mourning attire they were required to wear. Or maybe it’s the popularity of spiritualism and their fascination with ghosts.

That’s why I think gothic romance meshes so well with steampunk, which also has a heavy Victorian influence. It lets me play around with steampunk technology that can detect and manipulate ghosts, and I can throw a mad scientist’s laboratory into one of those gothic castles and get a Frankenstein vibe going.

But what I like best about gothic romance is the aesthetic: the dark and sinister mixed with the beautiful. While I’m not a fan of the jump scares and gore of the horror genre, give me the subtle feeling of lurking dread that permeates a good gothic novel any day.

That’s the aesthetic I wanted The Ghost Machine’s mood board to reflect, and that’s what you’ll find in the novel itself.


The Ghost Machine by Kristen Brand
Self published on December 30, 2016
Genres: Gothic, Romance, Steampunk
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Ella Rosenfeld is a lunatic. Locked away in the remote Auttenberg Asylum, she undergoes torturous treatment to cure her hallucinations. Yet the longer she remains within Auttenberg’s austere halls, the more gruesome her visions become, until Ella is sure she’s seeing ghosts, and Auttenberg’s doctor knows it. He doesn’t plan to cure her; he wants to study her ability by dissecting her.

Ella refuses to accept her fate. She assaults her captors, scales the asylum fence, and finds sanctuary in the castle of Baron Viktor Szarka. Young and arrogant, the baron offers her protection, but he’s rumored to have locked a woman in the asylum to hide his dark past, and he has suspicious dealings with Auttenberg’s doctor. Unable to trust him, Ella must uncover the conspiracy surrounding the asylum, her visions, and the baron’s secret…or join the rest of Auttenberg’s ghosts.


About Kristen Brand

Kristen Brand is a total nerd. She writes speculative fiction with lots of danger, snark, and a bit of romance. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading novels or comic books, and she’s probably drinking tea right now. You can find out more about her work and read free fiction at her website, kristenbrand.com.

 


Jenn Bennett’s Mood Board for Starry Eyes | Blog Tour + Giveaway

Posted March 30, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway, Guest Post, Mood Board / 3 Comments

Jenn Bennett’s Mood Board for Starry Eyes | Blog Tour + Giveaway

I’m so excited to be on the blog tour for Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes, hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club! I posted my review of Starry Eyes earlier this week (spoiler alert: I LOVED IT!), and now I get to share Jenn’s mood board for the book! I absolutely love looking at an author’s mood board. It’s so much fun to see what they pictured while they were writing their story. Jenn’s is pretty amazing! Check it out and read a little more about the book below!


Starry Eyes Mood Board

Curated by Jenn Bennett


Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 3, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?


About Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of several young adult books, including ALEX, APPROXIMATELY and STARRY EYES. She also writes romance and fantasy for adults. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs.

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Jaime Questell’s Mood Board for By a Charm and a Curse | Guest Post

Posted March 8, 2018 by Jana in Debut Author Challenge, Guest Post, Mood Board / 1 Comment

I’m excited to welcome 2018 debut author, Jaime Questell, to the blog today to share with us her mood board for By a Charm and a Curse! She chose some really pretty pictures, and I love her reasonings for choosing them.

 

Jaime Questell’s Mood Board for By a Charm and a Curse

I’m the kind of writer who finds mood boards incredibly helpful when writing. If I feel a little stumped or unsure what to write next, then I go back to my mood boards to try to recapture that feeling the picture inspired. So here are a few of the photos that I collected while writing By a Charm and a Curse.

To start, obviously, a Ferris wheel. That was one of the first images I had in my mind when I came up with the story and one of the first I found for my mood board. I love the glowing lights and the rickety little cars. And this photo of a Ferris wheel against a twilight sky, feels exactly the way I wanted the start of my novel to feel.

One of the next photos I found was this vintage photo of three tumblers. As someone who is very uncoordinated, I was immediately taken in by how in control these three are, and how each is dependent on the other. The Moretti brothers, for all their faults, operate under that inherent trust and belief in each other.

The Dresden Dolls were a big inspiration for this novel, and this photo of their drummer, Brian Viglione, helped shape my early imaginings of Sidney into a real character. I love how in this pic, Viglione is wearing vintage clothes but seems completely modern, like a person stuck in time. And while the Sidney on the page doesn’t match up exactly with Viglione in this photo, I think the spirit is still there.

Much like the vintage photo of the tumblers, when I came across this vintage photo of a young equestrian being trained by (in my imagination, if not in fact) her dad, I knew I needed characters like this.

Anyone who’s read the book knows that a pivotal scene takes place on a carousel, and I took that opportunity to fill the ride with as many fantastic creatures and bright colors as I could, all while coming back to the soft glow of this photo. I have always loved carousels (my husband and I even took our engagement photos on one!), especially the art of them, the deeply saturated colors and movement captured in the figures.

This photo of a woman in a modified ringmaster’s costume always made me think of Leslie. The confident way she’s holding herself, the sense you get that, even though she’s not looking at the camera, she’s surveying that which belongs to her. All that’s missing to really make her Leslie is blond curls.

And finally, this photo of a carnival as seen from above, in the early morning. Or at least, what I’m choosing to believe is early morning and not sunset. That was a feeling I wanted to capture: what does a carnival feel like when it’s not teeming with people? I hope I succeeded, at least a little.


By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell
Published by Entangled Teen on February 6, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

Editorial Reviews for By a Charm and a Curse

“A dark idea for a YA story, executed deftly and with feeling.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A real page-turner! I was so charmed by this book filled with mystery and magical mayhem that I wasn’t able to put it down until the end.” — Brenda Drake, New York Times bestselling author

“What a ride! From the very first page, By a Charm and a Curse took me on a roller coaster of emotions—and I never wanted to get off!” — Pintip Dunn, New York Times bestselling author


About Jaime Questell

Jaime Questell is a writer and graphic designer from Houston, Texas. She has also been a bookseller, a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and an administrative assistant. None of these jobs involved wrangling corgis, which is quite sad. She lives in the ‘burbs with her husband, children, and pets.

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Keeping Up With the Debuts: Tricia Levenseller | Daughter of the Siren Queen Blog Tour

Posted February 28, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Guest Post, Keeping Up With the Debuts / 2 Comments

Keeping Up With the Debuts: Tricia Levenseller | Daughter of the Siren Queen Blog Tour

Keeping Up With the Debuts is an original That Artsy Reader Girl feature, where I bring back former debut authors and give them the opportunity to talk about what they learned from their debut novel and what’s next for them!

I’m so excited to welcome Tricia Levenseller to the blog today as part of the official blog tour for her sophomore novel, Daughter of the Siren Queen! Tricia’s debut novel, Daughter of the Pirate King, came out exactly one year ago today on February 28, 2017. What better day than today to invite her back to the blog to tell us what’s she’s been up to over the last year, and what’s on the horizon!


Keeping Up With Tricia Levenseller

Guest post by Tricia Levenseller

Being a debut author was, in a word, magical. It was unreal having complete strangers read my work for the first time, and it was even more surreal when they wanted to discuss themes and topics that I hold dear. I’ve loved getting to know so many bloggers, Instagrammers, and YouTubers. The book community as a whole is very welcoming and fun.

Doing book events was a new experience. I loved being able to connect with readers directly, instead of solely over the internet.

In some ways, however, being a writer was exactly the same. I was working on my next project as soon as DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING released. The sequel, DAUGHTER OF THE SIREN QUEEN, was already done, and so I had to be thinking about the next project I wanted to try to sell to my publisher.

I’m excited to share that I have sold two new books! The first of which is a Viking fantasy titled WARRIOR OF THE WILD, which will release in 2019. It’s about a teen warrior who is banished after failing her coming-of-age test. With only two boys who were banished the previous year for company, she must survive the monster-filled wild and kill her village’s oppressive deity if she is ever to return home.

My current task is my first round of edits on WARRIOR OF THE WILD. It’s been a fun break from pirates, and I’m excited to for readers to get to read Rasmira’s story next year!


Daughter of the Siren King by Tricia Levenseller
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King #2
Published by Feiwel and Friends on February 27, 2018
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult
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Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.


About Tricia Levenseller

Tricia Levenseller writes historical fantasies for young adult readers. Her debut, DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING, is set to release Feb. 2017 from Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers.

Initially from a small town in Oregon, Tricia now lives next to the Rocky Mountains with her bossy dog, Rosy. She received her degree in English Language and editing and is thrilled that she never has to read a textbook again. When she’s not writing or reading, Tricia enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles, playing volleyball, and watching shows while eating extra-buttered popcorn.

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Visit the other tour stops!

2/20  Love is Not a Triangle – Guest Post on research about lady pirates
2/21  Page Turners Blog – Moodboard
2/22  Fiction Fare – Author Interview
2/23  Avid Reader – Fancast
2/24  Mundie Moms – Character Interview
2/25  Stories & Sweeties – Quote Highlights
2/27  Moonlight Rendezvous – Playlist
2/28  That Artsy Reader Girl – Keeping Up With the Debuts


10 Things Gloria Chao Learned While Writing American Panda | Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted February 1, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway, Guest Post / 3 Comments

10 Things Gloria Chao Learned While Writing American Panda | Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

I’m so excited to welcome debut author Gloria Chao to the blog today as part of the American Panda blog tour hosted by Fantastic Flying Book Club! Gloria is here to tell us what she learned while writing her first novel. Following her post, read more about Gloria and her book, plus enter to win a copy of American Panda for yourself!


10 Things I Learned While Writing American Panda

by Gloria Chao

1. Writing is a form of therapy.

2. Sometimes during the writing process, you need to put your head on the desk or lie on the floor and that’s okay.

3. Sometimes, for the sake of your book, you need to face your demons and ask your mother why she was so strict, why she didn’t let you date, and other horrible questions that are terrifying but necessary.

4. Don’t look at the word count—only bad things will follow. (How bad? Think Mei’s grandma with a knife threatening to cut off her forehead mole to “help her catch a man.” [p. 87 of American Panda])

5. Humor makes writing more fun!

6. Humor is tough and needs a lot of cutting and reworking.

7. Humor is subjective and scary.

8. Everything about writing is subjective and scary, especially sending your book out into the world.

9. And yet it is so rewarding and wonderful, and I want to hug the readers who so kindly let me know how much they connected with the characters, the story, the jokes, the cover, etc.

10. There is nothing in the world quite like writing, and I am the luckiest person that I get to do this as my job, even if it is a roller coaster.


American Panda by Gloria Chao
Published by Simon Pulse on February 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
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An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?


About Gloria Chao

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. AMERICAN PANDA is her debut novel, coming out February 6, 2018 from Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

Gloria currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.

Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at gloriachao.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @gloriacchao.

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Brittany Pearlman’s Favorite Winter ’17-’18 YA Books | Guest Post

Posted December 27, 2017 by Jana in Guest Post / 1 Comment

I’m so excited to welcome Brittany Pearlman, publicist at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, to the blog today to share with us some of her favorite books coming out this winter! I’ve been excited to read many of these, and now I’m even more excited!


Hi Bloggers!

I am so excited to share some of my favorite books coming out this winter! I’m always looking for new books to dig into (especially when I’m cold and don’t feel like braving the NYC weather), but I’m usually in the mood for something very specific so here is a list of rec’s broken down by my favorite categories as well.

Wishing everyone a very “Belle in the library surrounded by books and a warm fireplace” kind of holiday!

 

High Fantasy:

Working in YA right now, I read a lot of fantasy (I’m not complaining at all, that’s just a fact). It’s really rare that I come across a YA fantasy that feels as remarkably original as Tomi Adeyemi’s debut, CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, does! This is an entirely new world inspired by African culture and mythology– with a fascinating magic system and an even more compelling story. You will root for Zelie as she tries to bring magic back to her disenfranchised people, and you will come to love the whole cast of characters that entirely real. Thoroughly engrossing, you won’t remember what year it is let alone that it’s 12 degrees outside when you start this one.

Jane Austen Vibes:

If you’re like me, you can never have too much of Jane Austen. Unfortunately, the pool original work is rather small, and I’ve basically already read everything published that is somewhat related. Enter THE FORGOTTEN BOOK by Mechthild Gläser! It’s a standalone YA that combines the magic of books with Jane Austen vibes to create a beautiful world that feels super reminiscent of your favorite Austen classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Emma!

Pirate Adventure:

I have been obsessed with pirates ever since that fateful day I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl in theaters in the summer of 2003, and ever since I have been an apologetic sucker for any and all things pirates. If you haven’t read the first book in this duology (Daughter of the Pirate King), you need to stop whatever you’re doing and pick it up IMMEDIATELY. It’s a dashing high seas adventure with a badass female pirate and a super sexy romance. In the sequel, DAUGHTER OF THE SIREN QUEEN, Tricia Levenseller delivers on the promise of the first book– and I promise you that this book will keep you nice and toasty on a cold winter day ;)!

Modern Retelling:

I love Emma Mills. Everything she writes gives me all the feels and FOOLISH HEARTS, her modern retelling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is no exception. If you’ve read either of Emma’s first two novels (First & Then and This Adventure Ends), you know that NO ONE does dialogue better and that is certainly still true in Foolish Hearts. With a super sweet romance and a heartfelt friendship story at its core, FOOLISH HEARTS is the perfect read when you’re in the mood for something light, breezy, and ultra satisfying.

Contemporary:

Sometimes you just need a good cry. Listen, seasonal depression is a thing (at least it is for me) and sometimes I just need a book that will let me get out all my feelings. IN SEARCH OF US is that book. Ava Dellaira’s sophomore YA novel explores the complicated relationship between a single white mother and her biracial daughter, told in dual points of view of each of them at the age of seventeen. The story unfolds to reveal secrets from the past that inform the present, and both of their coming of age stories. This will make you think and it will make you cry, so get your tissue box before you pick this one up. It’s so worth it!!

Graphic Novel:

It took me a long time to get into graphic novels. I just couldn’t figure out how to read them! If you’re like me and you struggle with learning how to really enjoy this format, then I’d recommend transitioning from a world you’re familiar with (like The Lunar Chronicles), and reading the next adventure in graphic novel form. WIRES AND NERVE Volumes I and II by Marissa Meyer are the perfect introduction. They have all the trappings of the bestselling novels, but give you a new and refreshing visual perspective to accompany your reading experience. After you’ve dipped into these, there are several other amazing graphic novels coming out this winter, including THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER and BRAZEN that I’d also recommend!

Mystery:

Who doesn’t love a good mystery during the cold winter months? Snuggle up with Caleb Roehrig’s sophomore YA mystery, WHITE RABBIT, and find yourself caught up in an enthralling, high-stakes thriller! Full of teenage angst, queer romance, and of course, MURDER, White Rabbit is an entirely modernized take on what would happen if The Hardy Boys realized they were actually gay, and I never knew how badly I needed this in my life.

Which of Brittany’s favorites are you excited to read?

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