Amazon Giveaway, Excerpt, and Guest Post by author Sara Baysinger

Stand up.

When Lark is stolen from Earth to be a slave on the planet Tavdora, she’s determined to find her way back home to her family, no matter the cost. Placed in the household of a notorious slave trader, Lark quickly learns her best assets are her eyes and ears. And if she’s brave enough, her voice.

Be heard.

Kalen is the Tavdorian son of a slave trader and in line to inherit his father’s business. But his growing feelings for Lark, the new house slave who dares to speak of freedom, compel him to reveal his new plan for the slave ships returning to Earth—escape. Together, they just might spark a change that flares across the universe.

Fight back.

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“What have we here. A runaway?”

I can’t think. In my panic I can hardly breathe—

“Easy there.” His voice is lucid and smooth, not rough and unkind like I imagined it would be. He releases me. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

The first scattered thought that crosses my mind when I look at him is, he’s not really too different from Humans. I mean, apart from being exceptionally tall, he really could pass for a Human. His tanned face is clean-shaven, and when he smiles, dimples appear. Dark feathery hair the color of molasses curls around two pointed ears. Amusement flickers in his eyes—and for the first time I notice the strange color of them. They’re not crazy at all, the way Johnson described. They have a purple hue, soft and deep like lilacs. Never look them in the eye. One of Johnson’s many lessons. I avert my gaze.

“What are you doing outside the plantation?” His voice is not accusing but slightly curious. “You shouldn’t be out here unless you have a death wish. Correct?”

My stomach drops. Yes. He thinks I’m a slave. This could be good.

Or really bad.

I glance at the sky, think of something to say, but every Tavdorian word I’ve ever learned has decided to take a vacation.

“The sunset,” I finally say in his language. “You can get the best view from here.” It’s the weakest excuse ever, but it’ll buy me some time.

“The sunset?” He crosses his arms, and I notice how strong he is, his forearms corded in muscle.“You risked your life leaving the plantation…for a sunset?”

One swallow. Two blinks. “It’s worth it, don’t you think?” I gesture toward the sky, now turning a deep shade of crimson.

He swivels his eyes toward the sunset, then back at me. A confused smile forms on his two perfect lips, and I briefly wonder if all Tavdorians are this good-looking or if I’ve officially lost my mind.

“Alno must be lenient. Not many slaves get the privilege of enjoying a sunset.”

My heartbeat spikes. Look away. Johnson told me Tavdorians never speak civilly to Humans. It’s all orders and reprimands. So why is this one speaking to me? Why isn’t he reacting in anger at my “privilege”?

“But you don’t have to worry about a lashing from me.” The Tavdorian steps closer, and my shoulders stiffen. He’s so tall my head barely reaches his chest. If he thought I was a runaway, he could easily swing me over his shoulder and carry me to the plantation himself.

“What do you want with me?” The question comes out in a breathless whisper. I allow myself to peek up at him. He stares back, his eyes sparking with curiosity.

“Simple conversation would be enough.”

A conversation. With a Tavdorian. There’s nothing simple about that.

“You don’t need to tremble so much. I’m not going to harm you.” He waves his hand in the air. “Or tell on you for running away.”

“Thank you,” I manage to whisper, realizing after I speak the words that I just confirmed his suspicion.

“I would suggest you run with more resources, though. Food. Water.” His eyes drift over my threadbare tunic, and he frowns. “Layers of clothing, perhaps.”

“I’m fine, really.”

“Do you know how to hunt?”

I’m starting to wonder if this is an interrogation.

He narrows his eyes and lowers his voice a notch. “Or are you meeting with other runaways? I heard there were two who ran from the plantation. Alno must have a terrible time keeping his fence intact.”

I can’t speak. My mouth has been bolted shut, my fear threatening to choke me.

He sighs and drags his hand through his hair. “This conversation is seriously getting boring. You can either speak to me like a civil…being. Or you can walk away and leave me hanging, wondering who the mysterious copper-haired runaway was that I met on the riverbank.”

My brain screams at me to walk away, but this Tavdorian isn’t the only curious one here.

Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time

I’m going to start from my favorites in high school (that are still my favorites) and work my way until the present. 😉

High School:

A VOICE IN THE WIND by Francine Rivers (Historical Fiction)

DREAMERS by Angela Hunt (Historical/Biblical Fiction)

A LIGHT TO MY PATH by Lynn Austin (Historical/Civil War Fiction)

20’s:

WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion (Zombies/YA)

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (Dystopian YA)

THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass (Dystopian/Romance YA)

Current Favorites:

IGNITE ME by Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me series, Dystopian/YA)

A COURT OF MIST AND FURY by Sarah J. Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses series, YA/Fantasy)

SLAVE by Laura Frances (Dystopian/New Adult)

And a book that was one of the first novels I ever read and is still a favorite today:

THE DRAGON SLAYERS by Bruce Coville (Fantasy)

In reality, I have too many favorite books to list, (who doesn’t?) but these are the books I’ve read again and again, and many of which I own two copies. 🙂

My name is Sara Baysinger and I write books. I was born in the heart of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador where I spent my early life exploring uncharted lands on horseback and raising chickens. I now make my home among the endless cornfields of Indiana with my husband and two children…and I still raise chickens. My dystopian novel BLACK TIGER was self-published in 2016, with books 2 & 3 published in 2017. When not getting lost in a book, I can be found gardening, devouring chocolate, and running off the sugar-high from said chocolate.

I’m currently working on an upcoming science fiction romance novel that will release with Entangled Teen, an imprint of Entangled Publishing.

Website: https://sarabaysinger.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarambaysinger

 

 

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New Release: Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudino

Seventeen-year-old travel blogger CC is stuck on a never-ending road trip with her wanderlust-addicted father. When her dad lands the job of his dreams in Sugar Lump—wedding capital of the world—CC finally finds a place to call home. Complete with two quirky best friends and a quixotic guy to crush on, Sugar Lump is more shades of perfect than she can possibly count.
But when CC accidentally overhears the mayor complaining that she has to “take out” a rogue employee for not fulfilling the terms of his contract, the idyllic town’s facade crumbles. Devastated by the possibility of having to move yet again, CC discovers everyone has been keeping a massive secret from her—including her own father.

Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudino

Genre: YA Mystery

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36679262-sugar-lump

amazon.com/author/megangaudino

Published January, 2018

Published by Evernight Teen

Guest Post, Giveaway & Excerpt: Lions and Tigers and Boys by Tawny Stokes

The last thing a girl as awkward as Dani Gale should be doing is trying to learn the high wire. Yet that’s exactly where Dani ends up—at OZ, the Oswald Zinzendorf School of Circus Arts. Trying to overcome her shyness is near impossible when her new partner—the hottest guy she’s ever laid eyes on, and whose touch seems to give her poise she thought impossible—also seems to be sabotaging her progress.

The last thing Cai Coppersmith needs is a distraction, especially in the form of the new, cute shy girl. He needs to focus on trying not to shape-shift into a tiger on school grounds, and completing his mission to keep Dani from winning the school’s high-wire competition. In fact, the entire safety of OZ is relying on Dani not succeeding. But there’s something about the girl that draws him in. She has magic, he can feel it. So he’ll do what he can to protect her, even if it means pushing her away.

Published by Entangled Crave

To be Released January 8th, 2018

Genre: YA Paranormal

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I spread my legs into a straddle and flattened my torso onto the floor. This was one of my favorite stretches, as it really worked on the lower back. I was rewarded with a whole bunch of snapping and popping sounds when my spine repositioned. As I turned my head slightly to the left, I saw Cai walk into the studio. My belly instantly flip-flopped.

He wore a form-fitting dark blue tank top and baggy knee length shorts. He wasn’t football player big, but he was strong-looking with wide shoulders and trim arms that were cut sharp with muscles. He looked lean but powerful, and I imagined he could do a one armed push-up with little difficulty. He looked a bit like Eddie Redmayne, but with fewer freckles and redder, wilder hair.

His gaze flicked to me briefly, then he strode across the floor and found a spot to toss his bag on the opposite side from where I was. I tried not to make a big deal out of it. He was just sitting with the other sophomores. It wasn’t like he was avoiding me altogether.

I sat up and tried to catch his gaze, but he was talking with the boy stretching next to him. It was probably a good thing, because I needed to focus. I didn’t come to this school to chase a boy. I came to be the best high-wire act the world had ever seen. I came to make my mother proud.

Suddenly the lights flickered overhead. We all looked up to the ceiling to see our instructor Miss Gisele balancing on one of the high wires. She smiled and waved. “Bonjour mes beautés.”

She walked easily across the wire, and it hardly even moved. She then stopped, bent backward, and did a walkover. When she was upright again, she went onto her toes and did a pirouette. I gaped in awe. After another wave, she let herself drop from the wire and landed in the net beneath it.

She was weightless. Like a fairy dancing on a flower petal. That’s what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be.

“Welcome to OZ,” she said, her voice thickly accented. We all got to our feet. “In my class, you will learn to find balance. Not only here,” she held out her arms to her sides, “but in here.” She tapped her head, then her heart, then her stomach.

Fancast for Lions and Tigers and Boys

My dreamcast for Lions and Tigers and Boys if it is ever made into a movie or TV show.  I have a lot of diversity in my school, and would love to see a great diverse cast.

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Cai Coppersmith, 17 played by Hampus Luck, a Swedish male model

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Dani Gale, 16 played by Maia Mitchell, an Australian actressImage result for cole sprouse long hair

Leander, 17 played by Cole Sprouse, an American actor

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Anna, 16 played by Amandla Stenberg, an American actress

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Maggie, 16 played by That Poppy, American singer/artist

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Shen, 18 played by Lee Hong Ki, a Chinese actor

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Professor Morgan Marvel, 40’s,  the showmanship and magic teacher, played by Ben Barnes

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Dean Vasilev, 50’s, the dean of the Oswald Zinzendorf School of Circus Arts, played by Famke Janssen

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Frank Coppersmith, 50’s, animal artist trainer, played by Billy Campbell

Image result for Yi Min Jeong – Korean model/actress

Professor Bo Kwan, 20’s, teacher of acrobatics and balance played by Yi Min Jeong – Korean model/actress

Image result for Park Shi Hoo, Korean actor/model

Professor Li Kwan, 20’s, teacher of acrobatics and balance, played by Park Shi Hoo, Korean actor/model

Related image

Professor Giselle Deveau, 30’s, teacher of high wire and trampoline – Marion Cotillard

Tawny Stokes has always been a writer. From an early age, she’d spin tales of serial killers in love, vampires taking over the world, and sometimes about fluffy bunnies turned bunnicidal maniacs. An honour student in high school, with a penchant for math and English, you’d never know it by the foot high blue Mohawk and Doc Martens, which often got her into trouble. No longer a Mohawk wearer, Tawny still enjoys old school punk rock, trance, zombie movies, teen horror films, and fluffy bunnies. She lives in Canada with her fantastical daughter, two cats, and spends most of her time creating new stories for teens.

You can visit her on twitter @TawnyStokes

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/866822.Tawny_Stokes

 

 

 

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway & Review: The Boat House by Jana D. Barrett

Genevieve Vandermere-Anderson lives in an elite world carefully crafted by her stepfather.  While other girls her age revel in the freedom of their first summer break from college, Genevieve has no choice but to return to her childhood home in Hilton Head, South Carolina to play sidekick to her vindictive stepfather.  Forbidden from social media and isolated from her peers, she returns home disheartened and oppressed by the actions of her past, governed by secrets.

Though she is fearful of the repercussions, Genevieve decides it is time to start making her own choices.  She sneaks out of her fortified house to attend the annual beach bonfire.  There she meets a handsome stranger and follows him to an abandoned boathouse hidden in low country marshes.  Little does she know that this small act of rebellion will be the catalyst for unraveling the truth about her regretful past, and the layers of deception her stepfather has masterminded.

When she begins to investigate the boating accident that tragically killed her mother and two other people, she discovers that her stepfather’s suspicious behavior and control tactics are all part of a greater agenda.

CLICK HERE TO SEE BOOK TRAILER!

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FREE E-BOOKS:

Three winners will receive a digital copy of The Boat House

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**Giveaway closes 1/9/18 (US only)

The Boat House is Jana D. Barrett’s first novel, and this talented author shines in her debut.

Despite her affluent lifestyle, Genevieve is far from a spoiled little rich girl.  She has a beautiful home, high end wardrobe, and has mastered mingling with the elite residents of Hilton Head, SC. Her Southern charm and manners are of great value to her step-father, and he uses her to fortify his influence in their social circles. He allows her to mingle with adults at parties, but bans her from interacting with others her own age – unless it suits his agenda.

While home from break, Genevieve sneaks out of her mansion and attends an local beach party. She thinks she’s acting out of character for just one night, but Genevieve soon discovers quite a lot about herself in the chain of events that follow. Red flags, gut feelings, and long buried memories help navigate her investigation of her step-father. The more she uncovers, the more she remembers about the accident that killed her mother and the more she has to fear from the man that raised her.

At the center of the action is a mysterious man, a kind couple, and a set of twins that evolve from Genevieve’s acquaintances to close friends. She may be isolated and lonely when the story starts, but searching for the truth opens doors for the companionship and support she’s desperately wanted.

The Boat House is a great story about unraveling a mystery and finding the courage to keep digging when the clues suggest a much bigger crime.

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Jana was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. An avid reader, she loves to travel, cook and try exotic foods. She is a self- proclaimed ‘city girl’ who fell for a country boy. Jana, her husband and their daughter live on a retired pasture, with a lovely farmland view.

She enjoys the alluring charm of the low country marshes which is the site of her first novel, The Boat House. Well versed in the decorum of the south, she enjoys shaping her characters befitting her experiences and observations, choosing not to shy away from the splendor, humor and somber elements of southern culture.

Connect with Jana!

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Giveaway: Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen

Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls by [McMullen, Beth]A girl discovers her boarding school is actually an elite spy-training program, and she must learn the skills of the trade in order to find her mother in this action-packed middle grade debut.

After a botched escape plan from her boarding school, Abigail is stunned to discover the school is actually a cover for an elite spy ring called The Center, along with being training grounds for future spies. Even more shocking? Abigail’s mother is a top agent for The Center and she has gone MIA, with valuable information that many people would like to have—at any cost. Along with a former nemesis and charming boy from her grade, Abigail goes through a crash course in Spy Training 101, often with hilarious—and sometimes painful—results. But Abigail realizes she might be a better spy-in-training than she thought—and the answers to her mother’s whereabouts are a lot closer than she thinks…

 

Read an Excerpt on Amazon!

Comment below to win one of three copies of Mrs. Smith’s SPY SCHOOL for Girls!

Guest Post by Julie Moffett & a WHITE KNIGHTS Giveaway!

WHITE KNIGHTS by Julie Moffett

Genre: YA spy mystery

My name is Angel Sinclair. I’m the youngest senior at Excalibur Academy for the Technologically Gifted and Talented in Washington, DC. I was pushed ahead a year because of my high IQ and considerable prowess behind the keyboard, making me an outcast even among my own peers. I’ve been looking for my dad all my life. A brilliant mathematician and cryptographer, he disappeared under mysterious circumstances when I was 18 months old. Although my mom tells me I must put him in my past, it only makes me more determined to find out what happened to him. When weird accidents start happening at my school and the vice-principal is involved in a deadly accident, I don’t see it as a coincidence. After launching my own investigation, with the aid of an unexpected set of allies calling themselves the White Knights, I discover a threat far greater than I ever could have imagined. I could take my discoveries to the authorities, but my own investigative methods would be at risk. Can anyone say hacking? No, it’s up to me to set things right. My objectives are straightforward. Clear the name of the vice-principal, learn the truth about my father, and stay alive. In other words, save the day and try not to look too much like a dork while doing it.

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Briefly, what led up to this book?

The idea for the WHITE KNIGHTS series came when I was writing NO TEST FOR THE WICKED, (Book #5) in my Lexi Carmichael geeky mystery series. Lexi, who is 25, has to go back to high school undercover to find out which students are hacking into the school system, changing grades and causing all kinds of havoc. Lexi did NOT like high school the first time around, so going back to re-live her worst years was interesting to explore. While I was writing the novel, I thought how cool it would be to write a younger female character who was highly intelligent and into computers, a loner who was actually in high school. Of course, there had to be spies, international intrigue and hacking (well, because that’s my thing). When NO TEST FOR THE WICKED turned out to be well received, and several reviewers mentioned I had a voice well-suited to YA, I decided to put that idea to paper. And that’s how Angel and the WHITE KNIGHTS series was born!

 Comment below for a chance to win

an ebook of WHITE KNIGHTS and a magnet!

**Giveaway closes 1/5/18 (US only)

Julie Moffett is a bestselling author and writes in the genres of mystery, historical romance and paranormal romance. She has won numerous awards, including the 2014 Mystery & Mayhem Award for Best YA/New Adult Mystery, the prestigious 2014 HOLT Award for Best Novel with Romantic Elements, a HOLT Merit Award for Best Novel by a Virginia Author (twice!), the 2016 Award of Excellence, a PRISM Award for Best Romantic Time-Travel AND Best of the Best Paranormal Books of 2002, and the 2011 EPIC Award for Best Action/Adventure Novel. She has also garnered additional nominations for the Bookseller’s Best Award, Daphne du Maurier Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Julie is a military brat (Air Force) and has traveled extensively. Her more exciting exploits include attending high school in Okinawa, Japan; backpacking around Europe and Scandinavia for several months; a year-long college graduate study in Warsaw, Poland; and a wonderful trip to Scotland and Ireland where she fell in love with castles, kilts and brogues. Julie has a B.A. in Political Science and Russian Language from Colorado College, a M.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and an M.Ed from Liberty University. She has worked as a proposal writer, journalist, teacher, librarian and researcher. Julie speaks Russian and Polish and has two sons. She greatly enjoys interacting with readers at her website: www.juliemoffett.com. You can also follow her by clicking on the following social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Guest Post by author Henry Lien

Welcome to Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, where the blades are sharp and the competition is fierce.

Peasprout Chen dreams of becoming a legend of wu liu, the deadly and beautiful art of martial arts figure skating.

As the first students from the rural country of Shin to attend Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout and her little brother Cricket have some pretty big skates to fill. They soon find themselves in a heated competition for top ranking.

Tensions rise when the dazzling pearl buildings of the Academy are vandalized and outsider Peasprout is blamed for the attacks by her rivals … and even some friends.

Now, she must uncover the true vandal to ensure peace between Shin and Pearl – all while becoming a champion.

Available at Amazon

 

Henry Lien

Henry Lien

What Wu Liu Is

Wu liu is an art form/sport that I invented for the world featured in my first novel PEASPROUT CHEN, FUTURE LEGEND OF SKATE AND SWORD (Holt/Macmillan, April 2018). Originally developed for combat purposes, it combines figure skating with kung fu.

Wu liu arose in a fantastical city called Pearl that is made out of a substance that looks like semiprecious pearl but stays dry and smooth to the touch . Located on an island inspired by my homeland of Taiwan, the entire city is ornately carved and can be skated on, every rooftop, handrail, balustrade. Thus, there’s an element of parkour in there as well. Once a defensive art, wu liu is now used primarily in Pearlian opera, a dazzling spectacle that features displays of wu liu in place of singing.

 

Quidditch and Lightsabers

I wanted to come up with something as iconic and cool as quidditch and lightsabers. However, I believe in the maxim that you should write the story that only you could write.

I wanted to make it very personal to me, something that had Asian roots. Ang Lee’s film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon rawked my world so hard that I’ve never gotten over it. I also wanted to invent a sport that had a gay soul, something that was campy but ferocious and deadly stylish.

I also wanted to focus on an activity that conveyed pure joy. There’s not enough joy in children’s lit or the world in general. I specifically was shooting for a Miyazaki flavor of joy.  The delirious pandemonium of Spirited Away and the exuberant scenes of flight in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, and so many of Miyazaki’s films were particular inspirations.

I modeled Peasprout on myself, which was confronting and humbling. Peasprout is brave, wildly talented, huge-hearted, a true original, and pretty hard to forget. She is also self-aggrandizing, deluded, extreme, a bit of a weirdo, and rather lonely. Like I am. It was like drawing a portrait of your own face but refraining from tweaking your least favorite features. Writing such a deeply flawed character with honesty while keeping her relatable and lovable was an act of learning to accept myself while recognizing that I’m a work in progress.

Feminist Sport

As research for wu liu, I took figure skating and kung fu lessons. I figured that as a fit and pretty strong guy, I would be tolerable at them.

I was comically appalling at both. I wish there were video of it, especially of the 19-year old woman gracefully kicking my butt in kung fu class.  What I learned was that these are two sports that often reward balance and flexibility more than brute strength. As a combination of both sports,  wu liu is an art form that very much promotes girl power and traits that aren’t always valorized.  This informed my creation of wu liu and Peasprout. With this book, I wanted to show that heroes truly come in all shapes and sizes.

I intended PEASPROUT CHEN as a gift to say thank you to all the women who have nurtured and inspired me, family, friends, teachers, authors, editors, my agent, and so many others. This book was my way to say,   “Thank you, I see you, I love you, you’re my heroes.”

 

Cover Reveal: Look the Park by Jewel E. Ann

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Look the Part, an all-new romantic standalone from

Jewel E. Ann is coming January 29th!

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Look the Part by Jewel E. Ann

Publication Date: January 29th, 2018

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Cover Designer: Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations

Photographer: Regina Wamba

Flint Hopkins finds the perfect tenant to rent the space above his Minneapolis-based law office.

All the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted on Ellen’s application. Her references are good. And she’s easy on the eyes.

Until …

Flint discovers Ellen Rodgers, Board-Certified Music Therapist, plays music. Bongos, guitars, singing—not Beethoven administered through noise-cancelling headphones.

The cut-throat attorney serves up an eviction notice to the bubbly, constantly-humming redhead who’s too sexy for her own good. But luck is on Ellen’s side when Flint’s autistic son, Harrison, takes an instant liking to her. A single dad can’t compete with guitars—and rats. Yes, she has pet rats.

This woman …

She’s annoyingly happy with a constant need to touch him—adjust his tie, button his shirt, invade his space, and mess with his mind.

Still …

She must go.

Their lust-hate relationship escalates into something beautiful and tragic. This sexy, romantic-comedy explores the things we want, the things we need, and the impossible decisions parents and children make to survive.

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2iz3dtC

About Jewel:

Jewel is a free-spirited romance junkie with a quirky sense of humor.

With 10 years of flossing lectures under her belt, she took early retirement from her dental hygiene career to stay home with her three awesome boys and manage the family business.

After her best friend of nearly 30 years suggested a few books from the Contemporary Romance genre, Jewel was hooked. Devouring two and three books a week but still craving more, she decided to practice sustainable reading, AKA writing.

When she’s not donning her cape and saving the planet one tree at a time, she enjoys yoga with friends, good food with family, rock climbing with her kids, watching How I Met Your Mother reruns, and of course…heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, panty-scorching novels.

JewelEAnn

Connect with Jewel:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjeweleann/

Twitter: @JewelE_Ann

Stay up to date with Jewel by signing up for her newsletter:

http://www.jeweleann.com/free-booksubscribe/

http://www.jeweleann.com

Interview with Debut Author JJ Strong

Us Kids Know by [Strong, JJ]

“A gripping, tragic debut novel that will fascinate and trouble sophisticated teen readers.” —Kirkus Reviews

We all knew about Cullen Hickson.

Siblings Bri and Ray O’Dell are lost. Anxious. Restless. Ray—bullied at his Catholic school for being small and timid—wants to be someone people respect or, even better, someone people fear. Meanwhile, Bri knows that something is off about her friendship with the shiny, happy, sophisticated blond girls on her field hockey team. They don’t really understand Bri, and if Bri is being totally honest, she doesn’t really understand them either.

When storied delinquent Cullen Hickson enters the orbit of the O’Dell siblings, though, everything changes. Bri and Ray find an alluring, addictive outlet in Cullen, who opens their eyes to a world they didn’t know existed. For Ray, that means experiencing the singular thrill of crime—from breaking and entering to grand theft auto—while Bri quickly dives into an all-consuming romance with the enigmatic upperclassman.

As Bri and Ray become more and more entwined with Cullen’s antics, and their once-thrilling experiences grow increasingly dangerous, a series of life-changing events threatens to lead the teens down a dark path—one that could forever alter the course of their lives.

Available at Amazon

JJ Strong

JJ Strong

Briefly, what led up to this book?

Initially, it started with little more than a feeling. I wanted to write about the sensation of being a teenager and being angry for reasons that are almost too complex and deeply-buried to understand, and then, as a result of this anger—and despite being an otherwise totally rational, smart, seemingly “normal” kid—doing some really, really, really, really stupid stuff.

What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?

I learned, thanks to my astoundingly astute proofreaders, that I have a very limited grasp on what words and phrases should and should not be hyphenated.

As for surprises… My whole life all I’ve wanted was to be a novelist, but I never anticipated that the actual moment of publication would be so nerve racking (nerve-racking? You see the problem). The days leading up to publication were some of the most anxiety-ridden days I can remember. It felt almost like the entire world had snuck into my bedroom overnight and stolen my diary.

What would you do differently if you had to do it again?

I didn’t spend a lot of time outlining this book and at times wished I had. I mostly forged ahead blindly through the text, which was, on the one hand, useful in terms of allowing my characters to come to life in new and surprising ways, but it also resulted in a LOT of revision and rewriting. At one point I more or less deleted the entire second half of the novel and rewrote it, which took a full year of work. I wouldn’t choose to do that again. But then, there’s no guarantee that outlining would have changed any of that. More often than not, these things are outside of our control.

What piece(s) of advice would you give authors seeking publication?

When I was 24, I was convinced—CONVINCED!—that my first novel, which was my thesis in grad school, would immediately be published to great acclaim and that the world would fall at my feet to worship my unparalleled, uncontested genius. It was a fun fantasy, but it was also a young person’s fantasy, and it would be another twelve years until my second book was completed and sold. It took me a long time to learn how to write a good sentence. And it took me an even longer time to learn how to tell a good story. And it took me an even LONGER time to learn that there are so many more important things in the world (like love and family and friendship and kindness and all that crap that seems so cliché when you talk or write about it but is really, in the end, all that matters) than publishing a book, and that it is possible to be attuned to those things even if publishing a book remains your singular, lifelong dream.

So… all of this to say: Be patient. And be humble. And don’t wait until your so-called “Big Break” to find happiness and fulfillment, and resist at all costs the temptation to root your self-worth in your success as a writer. And while you’re doing all this:  just keep writing.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on another YA novel about a girl who gets knocked unconscious during an earthquake and wakes up in an alternate reality where she’s wanted for the murder of her swim team coach.