Sunday, May 31, 2015

#interview with Lisa Cresswell @chapterxchapter @peach83352 @month9books #giveaway


Title: Vessel
Publication date: May 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Lisa T. Cresswell

The sun exploded on April 18, 2112. It exploded in a Class X solar storm the likes of which humankind had never seen.

They had nineteen minutes.

Nineteen minutes until the geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every electrical device created by humans, blacking out entire continents, every satellite in their sky.

Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew, forever, and to prepare for a new Earth, a new Sun.

Generations after solar storms have destroyed nearly all human technology on Earth and humans have reverted to a middle ages like existence, all knowledge of the remaining technology is kept hidden by a privileged few called the Reticents and books are burned as heresy.

Alana, a disfigured slave girl, and Recks, a traveling minstrel and sometimes-thief, join forces to bring knowledge and books back to the human race. But when Alana is chosen against her will to be the Vessel, the living repository for all human knowledge, she must find the strength to be what the world needs.

1.       Where/how did you come up with the idea for your story? Did it suddenly pop into your head or were you brainstorming?
My stories seem to grow out of things I’ve seen, read, or heard about on NPR – usually a combination of all three!  I had read about solar storms and the dangers they can pose to our satellites and our power grid. E-books were really taking off about that time, and everyone was wondering if we might stop printing books altogether some day. It got me wondering, what if all our books became electronic in the future, and we suddenly lost them? How catastrophic that would be!  I always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo, so I wrote up the initial outline for Vessel and started writing in November 2011. I didn’t win NaNo that year. I write too slow! But I kept working on Vessel off and on for several months until I finally finished. It sold to Month 9 Books in 2013.

2. Did you start with the main character, the world or the overarching concept?
It’s been so long ago, I’m not sure what came first. I think it was Recks. I had put the name in my back pocket for a future story. When I finally wrote Vessel, he seemed to fit. Most of my stories do start with characters.

3. Panster or Plotter? Or in between?
I originally tried to be a pantser years ago, but I failed miserably at it. I learned, after a lot of grief, that I absolutely MUST have an outline figured out before I start to write. I have to know beginning, middle, and end, or I will get bogged down and lost every time.

4. Are you a fan of writing contests?
They’re all right. I entered one of my first books in a YA discovery contest and it won third, which got me a phone call consultation with an agent. She requested to see the full manuscript, but she didn’t end up representing me. Overall, I think it was a good experience and it gave me the courage to keep trying.

5. How did you find your agent? How many query letters did you send?
I’ve sent dozens of queries over the years, but I’ve yet to find an agent. ;) I seem to have better luck with editors.

6. What's the best marketing tool you've found so far?
I think the best marketing tool is a really great story. Tweets don’t sell books. Blogs don’t sell books. I’m not even sure if paid advertisements sell books. If people like a book, and they tell other people they liked it, that’s the best advertising there is.

7. What do you like best about your mc?
Alana is strong, strong, strong.  She doesn’t think much of herself at the beginning, but she overcomes her self-doubt. She’s been so beaten down, but she never loses hope for something better. I love her spirit.

8. What do you like best about your main antagonist?
Hmm. Anders is not very likeable. I find him rather terrifying to tell the truth. He’s cold, calculated evil.

9. Anything else you would like to share about your journey or your upcoming launch, including links to giveaways or ways people can help spread the word?
I just want to say thank you so much for hosting me. I’d be tickled to death if folks ordered the book and added me as friend on Goodreads.  I love to hear from readers, either through reviews or directly on my blog  or Twitter. 

I should also add that I’m donating a portion of my book proceeds to the International Justice Mission to help end slavery.  Alana suffers through slavery in the dystopian future of Vessel, just as many people around the world suffer through slavery right now.  It’s my sincere hope that one day slavery will only exist in fiction. Please visit to learn how you can help too.

Link to Goodreads:

Purchase Links:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks


Lisa, like most writers, began scribbling silly notes, stories, and poems at a very young age. Born in North Carolina, the South proved fertile ground to her imagination with its beautiful white sand beaches and red earth. In fifth grade, she wrote, directed and starred in a play “The Queen of the Nile” at school, despite the fact that she is decidedly un-Egyptian looking. Perhaps that’s why she went on to become a real life archaeologist?
Unexpectedly transplanted to Idaho as a teenager, Lisa learned to love the desert and the wide open skies out West. This is where her interest in cultures, both ancient and living, really took root, and she became a Great Basin archaeologist. However, the itch to write never did leave for long. Her first books became the middle grade fantasy trilogy, The Storyteller Series. Her first traditionally published work, Hush Puppy, is now available from Featherweight Press.
Lisa still lives in Idaho with her family and a menagerie of furry critters that includes way too many llamas!

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted by:

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Best in Blogs 5/24-5/30 #amreading #amwriting

Here's this week's roundup!

Writer Unboxed
About the craft and business of fiction - and a cute kitty picture too!
"Writers are made, not born. Writers are born, not made. Writers are born without maids. Whichever nature/nurture boxing glove you decide to swing in that battle, I hold that there are some distinct methods to cultivate a writer’s eye, and that those cultivations can result in sweet writerly fruits. (Please excuse that the last sentence mixed its metaphors with a waffle iron rather than a whisk.)"

Adventures in YA Publishing
Great YA blog - plus . . . check this out if you've been looking for a blog to be a part of!
"Things have been a little bit hectic here at Adventures lately. We're all on crazy deadlines, dealing with sick family members, last days of school, getting kids off to Madagascar (That would be my daughter, who's headed there for eight weeks) and, of course, book festivals, school visits, and so on.

Which brings me to my point. We could use a little help! : )"

Flogging the Quill
The art of writing compelling first pages, plus ...
"I came across the following micro-tension exercises by literary agent Donald Maass. He writes about how to create micro-tension in his craft books “The Fire in Fiction” and “Writing 21st Century Fiction.” "

Janice Hardy
An analysis of a movie that writers looking for emotion and tension should see
"Once in a while, a story comes along that blows me away. It might be a novel, a movie, a game, or a TV show, but how it’s written or structured illustrates an aspect of storytelling that expands my writer’s mind. 

The film, Mama, by AndrĂ©s and Barbara Muschietti is one such story. "

Marcy Kennedy
Book written? published? Now what?
"We’ve now reached a milestone in writing our author business plan. Last month, we finished our author business plan summary and our Business Operation section. In other words, we’re officially into the body of our author business plan where we need to start laying out practical steps to reach our goals. (If you missed the earlier posts, it’s important to start from the beginning because we’ve already talked about setting our goals, choosing our stories, and identifying our audience.)"

Writer Unboxed
A powerful look at female self-analysis - and what we need to keep in mind for our female characters
"In Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the main character is a young woman who is at the end of her rope. She’s lost her mother and she can’t find her footing in the world, and on a whim, she decides to go on a hike on the Pacific Coast Trail, 1000 miles."

Project Mayhem
How do you write in a child's voice?
"How do you manage to write in a voice that engages a child’s interest when all of you (he inserted a half-apologetic smile and shrug here) are well past being children yourselves?

The panel members answered the question individually, but basically we all had the same answer, in slightly different words:

In our heads, we are still children."

Ok, not exactly a writing blog, but the theme of things going unexpectedly wrong should fit perfectly with anyone trying to plan a novel!
"Propaganda is basically what happens when a government sprinkles glitter on a turd and then claims that it's unicorn meat. If done right, the people will eat it up and be thankful for the privilege. But, as we've pointed out before, if done wrong, we end up with hilariously failed propaganda campaigns that achieve the exact opposite of what they set out to do." 

Flogging the Quill
One of my favorite sites - helping writer's with their first pages. Comments and submissions needed!
"The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page?"

Please contribute to the fun - what blogs did you enjoy this week. Comment below!

Friday, May 29, 2015

#M9BFridayReveals Serpentine by Cindy Pon #ya #fantasy #giveaway

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!
This week, we are revealing chapter one of
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
presented byMonth9Books
Stay tuned for news on a special brush painting card by Cindy with
Serpentine pre-order through Mysterious Galaxy in June!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.
Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.
When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.
Vivid worldbuilding, incendiary romance, heart-pounding action, and characters that will win you over–I highly recommend Serpentine.Cinda Williams Chima, best-selling author of the Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles fantasy novels
Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, NYT Bestseller of the Graceling Realm Series
Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites
add to goodreads
Title: Serpentine
Publication date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Cindy Pon
Pre-order Links:

Chapter 1
The mountain was still shrouded in mist.
Skybright felt its cold tendrils against her nape as she climbed the giant cypress tree. She could almost believe she was in the heavens and the immortals themselves lived beyond the high monastery walls. A strange quiet had settled over Tian Kuan mountain, as if the mist had turned into something solid, blanketing their surroundings in silence. Skybright loved mornings like these. She scooted further up the thick gnarled branch, clinging with her legs, not daring to look down. Rough bark scraped her palms, and she held her breath as she grabbed a branch above her with both hands and eased herself onto her feet, crouching low, like a cat about to spring. She glimpsed the far edge of a square; dense fog hovered just above the green stone tiles of curved rooflines.
Zhen Ni gasped from below.
Skybright glanced down at her mistress. Zhen Ni’s pale face was turned upward, her eyes wide. Skybright quickly looked away and gulped. She had never been this high up before--if she fell she’d surely break her neck.
“Take care,” her mistress said.
Take care! Zhen Ni was the one who had concocted this mad plan to begin with, convincing Skybright the monastery wall truly wasn’t that high, and that she could climb the cypress tree with ease. Curiosity was her mistress’s weakness, and she simply had to know what went on within the monastery, behind its grand facade. Of course, Skybright would have to do the climbing. She couldn’t glare at her mistress, as it meant risking a glance downward again. Instead, Skybright rose slowly, willing her legs to keep steady, until she finally stood, her cloth shoes digging into the wood. She hugged the higher branch to her chest and murmured a prayer to the Goddess of Mercy.
Standing, she had a full view of the immense square hidden behind the walls, flanked by two red rectangular temples. A pair of fierce stone lions guarded each temple, and tall cypress trees dotted the edges of the square. Hundreds of monks, dressed in slate blue sleeveless tunics and trousers, sat cross-legged on the gray stone floor. While Zhen Ni and Skybright had been ascending the mountain, the monks’ strong voices had reverberated across the tall peak, counting as they practiced their forms. Now, they were so still and silent that Skybright blinked, wondering if they were statues as well—or an illusion. Each monk’s head was closely shaved, and they sat with their elbows resting against their knees, exact replicas of one another.
Not even the wind stirred.
“What can you see?” Zhen Ni asked, her impatient voice too loud to be a whisper.
Skybright ignored her. She scanned the endless rows of monks, each offering a three-quarter profile, when her eyes rested on one that did not appear like the rest. His hair wasn’t shorn, but shoulder length, and tied back. His tunic and trousers were tan. He sat in the very back, near the edge. As if he sensed her watching, he tilted his chin until their eyes met across the great distance.
She froze, feeling caught. And in those few quick moments, his gaze swept across her, seeming to take in every detail, before he turned his head back toward the magnificent temples, his expression never changing. Heart thudding, Skybright maneuvered until she was straddling the branch again, then scrambled as fast as she could down the giant cypress.
Her legs trembled when she finally reached the ground.
“Well, what did you see?” Zhen Ni tugged at her sleeve, her face shining with curiosity.
“Monks. So many of them.” She began walking back toward town, not waiting for her mistress as proper decorum dictated.
Surprised, Zhen Ni picked up her skirt so she wouldn’t trip on the embroidered hem and followed. “Could you see their faces?”
She shook her head, even as she recalled the slender eyes of the boy who had seen her. “They were meditating.”
The two girls hurried now through the trees. The fog had begun to lift, allowing glimmers of sunlight, and the earth was soft and damp beneath their feet. Skybright and Zhen Ni clasped hands and ran—they would be in trouble if their absence were noticed.

Skybright brought a late morning meal of rice porridge to Zhen Ni’s spacious reception hall and dined with her mistress. The two girls were now draped across Zhen Ni’s expansive bed, playing a game of Go. Her mistress was the better player, yet Skybright still had to keep an eye on the game, to be sure she never won by chance or from carelessness on Zhen Ni’s part. The last time she had won, Zhen Ni had pounded the bed so hard with her fists, the black and white stones scattered and bounced to the floor. Skybright never did find all of the pieces.
Morning light filled the bedchamber through lattice windows cast wide open. The walls were papered in the palest green, and Zhen Ni had decorated them with several magnificent lotus paintings—her favorite flower. Despite the open windows, the bedchamber was warm, and Skybright felt her chin dip, her lids growing heavy. Zhen Ni gave a languid yawn and stretched like a cat onto her side, leaning her head against her arm. A sharp tap on the reception hall’s door startled both girls. Skybright jumped from the tall platform bed as Zhen Ni swung her legs down the side, patting the gold ornaments woven in her hair.
“Your mother’s bringing a guest to visit, mistress,” Rose, another handmaid, said from outside.
“Now?” Zhen Ni asked as Skybright smoothed her mistress’s peach tunic and skirt.
“She’s on her way, mistress,” replied Rose’s muffled voice.
Zhen Ni sighed and gave Skybright an exasperated look before saying, “Thank you, Rose.”
Lady Yuan entered the quarters soon after, trailed by a woman in her forties, but dressed much more plainly, with her hair pulled into a tight bun. If Lady Yuan was an iridescent king fisher, then this woman clad in brown and gray was a dull hen. Yet there was a keen sharpness to the woman’s eyes as she took in the opulent reception hall, decorated in pale gold and pink, before her gaze glided to Zhen Ni’s face.
“I’ve brought a special surprise for you today, Daughter. Madame Lo is the best-regarded seer of our time. We’re fortunate to have her visiting so far from the Capital.” Lady Yuan smiled at both girls, her excitement obvious. She had grown plumper in these past few years; it had softened her features and rounded her chin.
Madame Lo inclined her head. “You honor me, Lady Yuan. It’s been too long since I’ve visited the mountains. I consider it a retreat.”
Zhen Ni bowed to the woman. “The honor is mine.” A flush colored her cheeks as she turned to her mother. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wasn’t certain if Madame Lo could make it until she actually arrived at our door,” Lady Yuan said.
Zhen Ni swept an arm toward the curved-back chairs. “Please sit.”
“You’ve not yet started your monthly letting,” the seer stated, and everyone froze as if she had picked up a vase and smashed it to the floor.
“Mother?” Zhen Ni’s voice was barely a whisper.
Lady Yuan sat down, arranging her silk skirt with nervous fingers.
“Dear girl, the fact that you’ve not reached womanhood shines as bright on your face as the moon in full bloom. I’m a seer, after all.” Instead of following her hostess’ lead and sitting, Madame Lo stood before them and scrutinized Zhen Ni. Despite her plain dress, two stunning jade bracelets encircled the fortuneteller’s fine-boned wrist. One in a clear crisp green, and the other a deep lavender, both wrought with delicate gold details. They flashed and gleamed under the bright lantern lights, mesmerizing Skybright. Madame Lo lifted a hand to her chin, and her dark, piercing eyes slid to Skybright’s own face for a breath before she said, “But don’t fret, Mistress Yuan, your monthly letting will start soon enough.”
A chill slithered down Skybright’s spine when her eyes had met the seer’s, and she retreated a step to leave when Zhen Ni grabbed her hand and pulled her to the plush chair beside her own. “So, Madame Lo, how do you tell your fortunes?” Her mistress wore a faint smile, but Skybright heard the hesitancy in her voice.
The seer gathered her brown skirt and finally seated herself. “I use your birth date and time, and study your facial features as well.”
Zhen Ni ducked her head, staring at her folded hands. “I see,” she murmured.
“Tell us what you’ve divined,” Lady Yuan said, turning to the other woman across the enameled table. “Will she have a good husband? And many children?”
Zhen Ni caught her lower lip between her teeth, something she did when she was anxious. The familiar clatter of china against lacquered trays, a pleasant sound, carried from the covered corridor outside, along with the barely perceptible whisper of slippered feet. Rose entered, followed by another handmaid, Oriole, who set small dishes of lychees and sweets on the tables beside them. The delicate aroma of jasmine tea filled the reception hall. Pouring the brew into celadon cups, Rose then offered one to each of the women with both hands. Her dark eyes flickered to Lady Yuan, and the lady gave the barest nod before Rose gave a steaming cup to Skybright as well.
The two handmaids then slipped out, after bowing their heads.
They took time to sip their tea, quiet for a long moment, before Zhen Ni, with a raised chin, finally met Madame Lo’s knowing eyes and asked, “Will I fall in love?”
“Love!” Lady Yuan cut in. “Love comes later, Daughter.”
“When did you fall in love with Father?” Zhen Ni plucked at the delicate beading on her sleeve edge.
“Not until ten years after we were wed,” Lady Yuan said. “Love takes time.” She nodded at Zhen Ni, as if in encouragement. But Zhen Ni wouldn’t look at her mother.
“I’ve composed and read her star chart according to her birth date and time. And what they tell me confirms what I see in your features, Mistress Yuan.”
They all leaned forward while the seer pressed the tips of her long fingers together, her wide mouth drawn tense. Skybright wondered if the pause was for theatrics. But when Madame Lo spoke, it was with such care and authority that the thought disappeared from her mind.
“You’re a willful girl.”
Zhen Ni crossed her arms and reclined into the cushion. Skybright struggled to keep her face straight.
“This will pose challenges for you. Cause grief for you and your family. The shape and set of your chin only emphasize what your star chart indicates. You will love. Truly and deeply. The slight tilt of your eyes, the sheen to them, say as much. You’re a romantic, and sensual—see the shape of your upper lip, and the curve of your lower. You will suffer heartache.”
Zhen Ni’s dark brows had drawn together, and she gripped her hands so tightly that the nails bit into her skin.
Madame Lo rose from her seat. She was a slight woman and moved with an assurance that lent her grace. Her brown tunic and skirt were loose and edged with gray, worn only for function. Skybright tried to imagine the woman in turquoise or lavender—any bright color—but was unable. The seer didn’t need any extravagance but the glittering bracelets at her wrist, and the sharp light of her dark eyes. Madame Lo kneeled beside Zhen Ni’s chair and extended a hand to her face. Her mistress shrank from the older woman, as if her fingertips were barbed.
“Her ears are beautifully shaped. See how thick the lobes are? This coupled with the wideness of her nose all point to her fortune in having been born into such an illustrious family. You’ll find a very wealthy husband for her to marry, Lady Yuan.” Madame Lo stood and returned to her chair, before taking another sip of tea. “She’ll have at least two children. More, I cannot say.”
“Will she marry an eldest son?” Lady Yuan asked. “Will she bear a boy herself?”
“I fear I have nothing more specific, Lady Yuan.”
Zhen Ni had not relaxed beside her, but was still sitting rigid as a bamboo stalk, and leaning toward Skybright as if for shelter. “How can I marry well yet suffer heartache?” asked Zhen Ni.
“One does not exclude the other,” said the seer.
“We all suffer from the pangs of love at least once in our lives, Daughter. It’s nothing to worry over. The important thing is that you’ll marry well and have children!” Lady Yuan smiled, her face glowing with pleasure.
“I think I’ve heard enough, Madame Lo,” Zhen Ni said briskly, and her mother cleared her throat before taking a sip of tea. Zhen Ni blushed. “You honor me with a personal reading.”
“It was a pleasure,” Madame Lo replied. “I hope it has helped to ease your mother’s mind.”
“My gratitude, Madame Lo,” said Lady Yuan.
Skybright eyed the ginger candy on a plate beside her. It was Zhen Ni’s favorite, but she hadn’t touched any of the sweets since they had been brought. Skybright would have liked some lychees, but decorum didn’t allow her to eat until everyone else had taken something for herself first. Instead, she stood and refilled the teacups. The fragrant scent of jasmine rose with the steam.
“What about a reading for Skybright?” Zhen Ni asked after a long pause.
Skybright almost exclaimed aloud, but bit her tongue.
“Skybright? Of course.” Lady Yuan said. “But what’s there to tell?”
Madame Lo turned her attention to Skybright fully for the first time, and Skybright sank deeper into her seat, feeling exposed. “I would need her birth date and time. A star chart takes at least three days to prepare.”
“We don’t know when Skybright was born, exactly,” Zhen Ni said.
Madame Lo studied her face as if she were a painting. Skybright willed herself to keep her head raised. “You’re Zhen Ni’s handmaid?”
“Yes. And my companion since we were babes.”
“Let the girl speak for herself,” the seer said.
All three looked to Skybright, and she swallowed, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks. She wasn’t used to being noticed, much less being the center of attention. “I’m an orphan.”
“I see,” Madame Lo replied. “And you were taken in by the Yuans?”
“She was left on our doorstep in a basket--”
“She wasn’t more than a few days’ old--”
Lady Yuan and Zhen Ni spoke over each other but both stopped abruptly when Madame Lo slapped her palm against the carved armrest. Lady Yuan jolted in her chair and Zhen Ni attempted to appear contrite.
“It’s as they say, Madame Lo,” Skybright said. “I know nothing more beyond that.”
The seer beckoned with a curl of her fingers. “Come here, girl.”
Skybright rose and stood before Madame Lo, feeling the damp of her palms. She had spent very little time wondering about her past, her parents, where she came from. It seemed pointless and impractical. Her life was full with daily responsibilities and rituals, with being a handmaid and companion to Zhen Ni. Now, this stranger might tell her more about her future or her past—probably useless or false knowledge, as far as Skybright was concerned. If she had a family, if her parents were still alive and wanted her, wouldn’t they have come back for her by now?
“Kneel,” Madame Lo said.
Skybright lowered herself onto the cold stone floor. The seer took her chin in one hand, turning her face this way and that, as a merchant would study cattle before purchasing. Skybright held her arms still at her sides, her hands fisted.
“There’s an unusual symmetry to your face.” Madame Lo tilted Skybright’s head to examine her ears. “Your features reveal little to me.” Skybright wanted to jerk away, but steadied herself. “She’s no classic beauty,” Madame Lo went on, speaking to Zhen Ni and Lady Yuan directly. “See how the mouth is too full, the eyes set slightly far apart. The nose is narrow, the bridge too tall—there is no wealth there. No fortune. Yet the face as a whole—”
“I’ve always thought Skybright quite pretty,” Zhen Ni said.
“Yes. Not a classic beauty, but the features come together to create something quite alluring. Almost unearthly.”
“But this tells us so little, Madame Lo,” Lady Yuan said, choosing a candied persimmon from the tray.
“Will she meet a good man?” Zhen Ni asked.
“Daughter!” Lady Yuan reprimanded.
Because they all knew Skybright would be a handmaid to Zhen Ni for life, and never marry.
“She could take a lover,” Zhen Ni retorted.
Skybright bowed her head, and Madame Lo patted her hot cheek, as if in sympathy. Then the seer’s grip tightened, her long nails digging into Skybright’s face, and Skybright gasped in surprise and pain. Grimacing, Madame Lo dropped her hand, then pressed her knuckles against her eyes. “I’m sorry, Skybright,” she murmured. “This has never happened to me before.”
The seer’s complexion had turned ashen, and Skybright could see she was unsettled. Alarmed, she sensed that Madame Lo was rarely fazed, much less showing it as she did now. She jumped to her feet, lifting the ceramic pot so she could pour the seer more tea.
“What’s the matter?” Lady Yuan exclaimed.
“When I touched Skybright, her image changed. It was as if her true self was veiled, and I was unable to see her clearly. I’ve never encountered the like before in any of my readings, and I’ve done hundreds.” Madame Lo reached for her teacup and took a long sip. Her hand trembled. The seer drew a breath before saying, “But she’s strong. That much comes across.”
Zhen Ni nibbled on a ginger candy and watched Skybright with interest. “Have you ever thought of yourself as alluring, Sky? As strong?”
“Never, mistress,” Skybright replied. Madame Lo’s revelations meant little to her—they were only frivolous nonsense.
“I can see it,” Zhen Ni said, her dark eyes gleaming as she nodded to the seer. “I never noticed before, but now I can see it.”

Zhen Ni fiddled with the jars and bottles on her vanity as Skybright brushed her black hair then plaited it, weaving luminous pearls into the single braid. Her mistress had been quiet since Madame Lo’s visit earlier in the day, her usually animated face appearing pensive for much of the afternoon. In an attempt to coax her into a better mood, Skybright had suggested a new hairstyle and outfit in time for Zhen Ni’s evening meal with her mother in the main hall. Her mistress had agreed with a distracted wave of her hand.
“Mama said a family friend’s daughter will be staying with us through the summer,” Zhen Ni said and began chewing on her nail. “She’s our age.”
Skybright swatted at her mistress’s hand.
The smile Zhen Ni gave her lacked its usual mischievousness. “I hate waiting. I wish it would never happen.” Their eyes met in the bronzed mirror, and Skybright took the opportunity to adjust the jade lotus pendant encircling her mistress’s neck.
Skybright knew she wasn’t talking about the girl who would be visiting.
“I know Mama’s eager to show me that book as soon as my monthly letting begins.”
Zhen Ni’s older sister, Min, had sneaked The Book of Making to share with them when they were just fourteen years. All three had gawked at the dozens of illustrations depicted, teaching a bride how to best pleasure her future husband in the bedchamber and become with child quickly. Now, two years later, Min was wed and living with her husband’s family, already expecting her first babe.
“To think Mama’s so desperate to marry me off, she hired that seer!” Zhen Ni said. “You’re so fortunate not to have to … suffer through any of it.”
Skybright began making Zhen Ni’s expansive platform bed, straightening the silk sheets and plumping the brocaded cushions. Her mistress had lain in it for much of the afternoon, without ever falling asleep. “I’ll go with you when you marry, and have to leave the Yuan manor too.”
“You would come with me, Sky?” Zhen Ni grabbed her hand and smiled coyly, knowing Skybright had no choice.
Skybright rolled her eyes. “Of course.”
“It would be a great comfort to me to have you by my side.” Zhen Ni sighed, her shoulders drooping.
Skybright laughed and, because she looked so pitiful, gripped her mistress’s hand. Zhen Ni’s most beautiful feature was her eyes, almond shaped and a deep honeyed brown. They often appeared to have sheen to them, as if she were on the verge of uproarious laughter or dramatic tears. She was half a head taller than Skybright, and more slender of build.
And as Zhen Ni considered her, her mouth twisted into a scheming smile, one that Skybright knew all too well. Wary, she dropped her mistress’s hand.
“You know you’re supposed to help me. Teach me to be a better wife to my future husband.”
“Teach you?”
Zhen Ni nodded. “A good handmaid … practices with her mistress.”
Skybright blushed, finally realizing what she was implying. The illustrations from The Book of Making had always featured a man and a woman. It had never crossed her mind that … Skybright swallowed, before saying, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“You wouldn’t have. But Min told me some households require it of their daughters before they marry, to make them better wives. It’s called mirroring.” Zhen Ni grinned wider, the same wicked grin as when she had plucked the eyeballs from the steamed fish when they were eight years and convinced Skybright to eat one, telling her it was a delicacy and would make her smarter. She would never forget the wet, gristly texture of it, the hard marble in the middle. How it had burst in her mouth. Zhen Ni had cackled when she spat it out, almost retching.
“Don’t worry, Sky.” Zhen Ni drew closer, then leaned forward and pressed her mouth against Skybright’s.
Skybright startled but didn’t pull back. Her mistress’s eyes were closed, and the delicate scent of peach cream enveloped her senses—the cream she had rubbed into Zhen Ni’s face and throat earlier. Her lips were soft, supple, making Skybright suddenly aware of how rough her own were.
Zhen Ni put her hand on one shoulder and squeezed, before she spun away and collapsed onto the bed, giggling. “Oh!” She rolled, quite unladylike, twisting the sheets. “Oh,” she snorted, “We just had our first kiss!”
After a few moments, she sat up and rubbed the tears from her eyes. “How was it?”
Skybright hadn’t moved, not knowing how to respond, afraid of what her mistress might suggest next. “Your lips … were soft.”
Zhen Ni covered her mouth with both hands and began laughing uncontrollably again. “Dear darling Skybright.” She shook her head. “There is no guile to you. It’s why I adore you.”
“How did it feel to you?” Skybright was too curious not to ask.
Zhen Ni scrubbed at her mouth with the back of her hand with exaggerated disgust. “It was like kissing my own sister!”
Skybright pitched a fat cushion at her, and Zhen Ni squealed, barely dodging it in time. She then fell into bed and laughed with her.

Skybright couldn’t fall asleep that night.
It was near the end of the sixth moon, and the summer air was heavy and hot. She kicked the thin sheet aside and wound her thick hair away from her damp neck, trying to find a cool spot on the narrow bed. Her mind kept returning to the kiss she had exchanged with Zhen Ni. The kiss itself had been chaste, like she had shared with Zhen Ni before on the cheek. But there was an undercurrent there, an expectation, a bated breath. It seemed to have stoked something deep inside of her, as if touching her mouth to someone else’s had kindled a hidden desire, dormant until now.
She let out a long sigh, feeling the back of her arms stick to the bamboo mat. The face of the young monk who had glimpsed her clinging to a branch bloomed beneath her eyelids, how his expression never changed as he assessed her, as if they stood in front of each other at arm’s length. Who was he? And why wasn’t his hair cut like all the others?
Her dreams, when she finally fell asleep, were scattered and warm.
Then insistent.

Skybright woke in a fevered haze, feeling as if she were drunk. It was still night, so dark that she couldn’t see. Heat radiated from her groin downward, pulsing through her legs, tingling her feet, then ricocheting back again. Her thighs and calves ached of it, of melding and severing.
She gasped, trying to rise. She clutched at her legs, and her hands sprang back as she cried out. No sound came and she whimpered, rubbing her ears. Had she gone deaf as well? Skybright touched her legs again, but they were no longer there, replaced by something sleek and supple that wasn’t her skin, wasn’t her flesh.
This must be a dream.
A nightmare.
She tried to swing her lower half off the bedside, but instead thrashed and thumped to the stone floor below. Its rough coldness scraped her torso and elbows. Unable to stand, she dragged herself across the ground toward the lantern resting on her small cherry wood dresser. Something knocked over and hit her back. She hissed. Pulling herself up, she grabbed the lantern and a match. Her hands shook as she lit the wick.
The light’s warmth was familiar, comforting. Skybright twisted, held the lantern over her lower half, and nearly dropped it. A thick serpent coil snaked behind her, where her legs should have been, the ruby red scales glittering even in the wan light. She glided her hand along its smooth length, and felt it as her own flesh. The serpent length began at her waist, but the scales covered her abdomen, rising to just beneath her breasts. She was naked. Where had her sleep clothes gone?
The lantern jangled in her grasp, and she set it on the ground, running her hands over her face, now in a panic. Her features felt the same. She pushed herself, slid back to the dresser, and grabbed the pearl hand mirror that had been a birthday gift from Zhen Ni. Her familiar face reflected back at her, although her eyes were dark and wild, and her long hair seemed alive, floating about her shoulders.
A silent sob shook her, tremored from her chest through to the tip of her grotesque tail. Then she glimpsed something that caused her heartbeat to stutter. Slowly, she opened her mouth, and a long forked tongue escaped from it, waggling, as if taunting her.
The hand mirror crashed to the ground, and Skybright clawed at her neck with both hands, unable to speak, to scream. Her serpent coil jerked, swept the lantern on its side, and the flame was doused, casting her into darkness.

Quiet knocking stirred her awake.
The door panel slid aside and Zhen Ni poked her head through, then tiptoed inside, closing the panel behind her.
“You’re late. Of all the days!”
Sunshine flooded the small chamber when Zhen Ni opened the lattice window and Skybright struggled to rise, hysteria smothering her chest.
“What happened in here?” Her mistress stared at the toppled stool and broken lantern with oil seeping out beneath, then looked at her and gaped. “Why are you naked?”
Skybright glanced down and saw her legs, stuck her tongue to the roof of her mouth. “I’m—” She choked with relief when she could speak, “I was hot. Last night.” It must have been a nightmare. She had a fever and was hallucinating.
Zhen Ni drew to her bedside and waved her hands at her torso. “When did you get those?” she exclaimed.
Skybright peered down again, momentarily terrified, to realize that Zhen Ni had been pointing at her breasts. She crossed her arms, flushing.
“You’ve become a woman,” her mistress said in a quiet voice, her expression serious and thoughtful.
She wrapped the thin sheet around herself, laughing from a mixture of embarrassment and disorientation. “We’re the same age!”
“I certainly don’t look like that.”
Skybright was familiar with her mistress’s physique, being the one to help her bathe, and Zhen Ni was willowy, lacking the curves that Skybright had. Curves hidden beneath loose tunics that, until now, Skybright had never given a second thought.
Zhen Ni stooped down so that they were eye level. “It’s happened, Sky,” she whispered. “My monthly letting came.”
Skybright clapped her hand over her mouth. “Mistress—” But something in Zhen Ni’s measured gaze stopped her short.
“I’ve bled onto the sheet. You must strip and wash them. Hide the evidence.” Zhen Ni paused. Skybright had known her a lifetime and had never seen this look of fierce determination in her mistress’s eyes. “Mama can never know.”

Cindy Pon
Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association's Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Serpentine, the first title in her next Xia duology, will be published by Month9Books in September 2015. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cover reveal Library Jumpers by Brenda Drake #ya

Library Jumpers
Release Date: January 2016
Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.
Jumping into some of the world's most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik's world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Pre-Order Links:

About the Author
Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at schooluntil her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up is of hereccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was onlyfitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward thefantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores,and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Author Links:
 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png  photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png

Cover Reveal Organized by:

#T4T Two books from Month9Books #giveaway #ya, #paranormal

M9B Two for Thursday Book Blitz – Call Me Grim by Elizabeth Holloway and Into the Fire by Ashelyn Drake with Giveaway #T4T
Hello and welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday Book Blitz #T4T
presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books!
Today, we will be showcasing two titles that may tickle your fancy,
and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles!
You just might find your next read!
This week, #T4T presents to you:
Call Me Grim by Elizabeth Holloway and
Into the Fire by Ashelyn Drake
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Call Me Grim
The truck should have turned Libbi Piper into a Libbi Pancake—and it would have, too, if Aaron hadn't shown up and saved her life. The problem? Aaron's the local Grim Reaper . . . and he only saved Libbi's life because he needs someone to take over his job. Now, Libbi has two days to choose between dying like she was supposed to, or living a lonely life as Death Incarnate. Talk about a rock and a hard place. And the choice goes from hard to sucktastic when her best friend shows up marked: condemned as a future murderer. Libbi could have an extra week to stop the murder and fix the mark . . . but only if she accepts Aaron's job as Reaper, trapping herself in her crappy town forever, invisible and inaudible to everyone except the newly dead. But, if she refuses? Her best friend is headed straight for Hell.
add to goodreads
Call Me Grim is humor, brilliance and a success altogether.” – Paula, Her Book Thoughts

“Okay, just the story line over all was GENIUS. I have NEVER EVER read a book like this before. It was just so original and plain awesome. MEGA props to the author. I'm still grinning from what I've read.”Rachelann, Goodreads Reviewer

“Call Me Grim is one of those books that you do not want to put down. At the same time there is something about it that makes you just want to savor it - you want to know what is going to happen next but at the same time you do not want it to end.” – Mike, Goodreads Reviewer

Elizabeth Holloway
Elizabeth Holloway is a maternity nurse living in Southern Pennsylvania with her two teen children and their pets, Bam-bam the dog and Tinkerbell the cat. In addition to nursing and writing, she’s also an avid reader, an artist, a karaoke singer, a music lover, and a kick-ass Pictionary player. Her debut YA novel, CALL ME GRIM, will be released from Month9Books in Fall 2014.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Into the Fire
Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.
But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.
A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.
add to goodreads

“You witness a major loss to the main character that does not involve a death, and also fully understand just what is about to face the main character. It was such a hook for me and I just had to find out what would happen next.”Maria, The Paisley Reade

“I love finding series about unique paranormals, and Ashelyn Drake did a really good job with this one.”Michelle, Book Briefs

“Kelly Hashway aka Ashelyn Drake has created an impeccable story surrounded around mythology, romance, family and deceit.” Nay Denise, Nays Pink Bookshelf

Kelly Hashway
Ashelyn Drake is a New Adult and Young Adult romance author. While it’s rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there’s never a bad time for some dark chocolate. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!

Release! A Change of Mind by @NickPWilford #speculativefiction #collection

Title: A Change of Mind and Other Stories
Author: Nick Wilford
Genre: Speculative fiction
Format: Ebook only
Page/word count: 107 pages, approx. 32,000 words
Release date: 25th May 2015
Publisher: Superstar Peanut Publishing
A Change of Mind and Other Stories consists of a novella, four short stories and one flash fiction piece. This collection puts the extremes of human behaviour under the microscope with the help of lashings of dark humour, and includes four pieces previously published in Writer’s Muse magazine. 

In A Change of Mind, Reuben is an office worker so meek and mild he puts up with daily bullying from his boorish male colleagues as if it’s just a normal part of his day. But when a stranger points him in the direction of a surgeon offering a revolutionary new procedure, he can’t pass up the chance to turn his life around. 

But this isn’t your average surgeon. For a start, he operates alone in a small room above a mechanic’s. And he promises to alter his patients’ personality so they can be anything they want to be… 

In Marissa, a man who is determined to find evidence of his girlfriend’s infidelity ends up wondering if he should have left well alone. 

The Dog God finds a chink in the armour of a man with a megalomaniacal desire to take over the world. 

In The Insomniac, a man who leads an obsessively regimented lifestyle on one hour’s sleep a night finds a disruption to his routine doesn’t work for him. 

Hole In One sees a dedicated golfer achieving a lifelong ambition. 

The Loner ends the collection on a note of hope as two family members try to rebuild their lives after they are torn apart by jealousy.
Purchase Links:
“Not seen you in here before,” said the barman, while dispensing the frothy liquid into a glass. Fascinated by the collection of grubby beer mats on the ceiling, I was jolted by the fact another person was apparently trying to start a friendly conversation with me.
   “Errm... I don’t get out much.”
   Well, there it was. I’d revealed himself as a loser already, as if this guy didn’t already know.
   “Why’s that, pal?” The barman put the dripping glass onto a stained towel covering the bar. I gazed into the bubbly liquid as if it held all the answers to life’s dilemmas. The urge to simply walk out was overwhelming, but I steeled myself and took a deep draught of the beer. It settled in my stomach and then seemed to radiate outwards, imbuing a sense of calm.
   “Well, I don’t have any friends.”
   I expected the barman to walk away and find something else to do, although there were no other customers at the bar, but the man remained where he was, absentmindedly running a cloth over the discoloured bar top.
   “Seems to me, if you got out more, you might make some friends. Seems to me you’re in a bit of a vicious circle at the moment. What’s your name?”
   “Reuben. I’m Dave. Now let me give you a bit of advice. When you came in just now like a drowned rat – I know, it’s not your fault it’s raining – you stood there like you owed the world an apology. Like you were sorry for using up air. And you looked like you were terrified of everyone. If you stood up straight, acted a bit more confident, you might get on better.”
   I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes and telling the guy he sounded like my dad. Somehow, I didn’t think that would help. Meet the author:
Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now makes use of those rare times when the house is quiet to explore the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. When not working he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine. Nick is also the editor of Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew. Visit him at his blog or connect with him on Twitter or Goodreads.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review & Interview - Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth #ya #paranormal

Welcome to my review of Escape from Witchwood Hollow. The author, Jordan Elizabeth, was kind enough to answer a few questions and provide a fun video associated with the book. Check them out below!

~~About Escape from Witchwood Hollow ~~

Everyone in Arnn - a small farming town with more legends than residents - knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

~~ My Review ~~
I was honored when Jordan Elizabeth asked if I’d be interested in reviewing her book. After a quick read of the summary, I promised I would, but that it might take a month or more because of other commitments. It took two days.

Wow, I was instantly pulled into her world of rural New York where Escape from Witchwood Hollow takes place over multiple timelines spanning centuries.

Honoria comes to the town of Arnn after the death of her parents in 2001. She meets some locals with a historical interest in the town, and over time, she finds her connections to the past are more than curiosity. Skillfully woven between Honoria’s chapters, we meet others from 1670, 1850, and other points who are all tied, literally, to Witchwood Hollow, the woods rumored of a resident witch who captures any who wander in.

Through the ties from the past to Honoria, she holds the key to release them all.

Jordan’s writing is clean and evoking. Tension is built quickly and it pulls the reader through. I felt the need to return to the characters whenever I stepped away for a break. The world-building is rich and colorful. No major grammar issues although I prefer a few more commas. I would have preferred the ending to be a little more drawn out, but it was certainly impactful and satisfying.

Well done and highly recommended! 4.5 of 5 stars.

~~ Author interview ~~
1. Where/how did you come up with the idea for your story? Did it suddenly pop into your head or were you brainstorming?  This idea came to me years ago when I used to make movies with my friends and cousins.  We lived in the country, so I wanted to do something set in the woods.  There are tons of stone fences and old foundations. 

2. Did you start with the main character, the world or the overarching concept?  I usually start with a concept.  "I want to write about a haunted wood."  The characters develop from there, then the setting.  Sometimes I write down the idea and come back to it a year or so later. 

3. Panster or Plotter? Or in between?  Definitely a panster.  I never know where a story will take me until I am typing "The End." 

4. Are you a fan of writing contests?  I used to be, but not so much anymore.  I entered quite a few in my day and most of them were more depressing than helpful.  Writing is always subjective, but I found that with writing contests, a lot of them make you feel like you're worthless if you don't win. 

I do, however, want to say that I entered the Utica Writers Club short story contest shortly after graduating from high school.  I won first place and joined the club.  I am now the president and have made great, lasting friendships with fellow writers. 

5. How did you find your agent? How many query letters did you send?  I sent over 4,000 query letters!  I have 24 manuscripts written, so they weren't all for one novel.  I kept track of them in a spreadsheet.  People kept telling me to give up, but my family told me to keep going. 

6. What's the best marketing tool you've found so far?  Every month I give away a different signed paperback on my author facebook page.  I feel that is a great way to get people to take notice of my writing and to form friendships. 

7. What do you like best about your mc?  ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW follows three girls who live in different time periods, but I will focus on Honoria.  She lost her parents during the World Trade Center attacks.  I like how she doesn't allow grief to define her, while still respecting her parents and honoring her past. 

8. What do you like best about your main antagonist?  The "witch" has a troubled past, but she only wants love.  She can justify her actions, even if they only make sense to her.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the bad guys because no one is ever truly "bad."

9. Anything else you like to share about your journey or your upcoming launch, including links to giveaways or ways people can help spread the word?  My website features videos, reviews, the chance to purchased signed paperbacks, bonus scenes, and contests!  I like to think it is a fun place to visit.  

~~ Video! (Jordan imagined this as a movie before it haunted her to write the book)~~

And BONUS! Here's a link to read an extra scene and to find Jordan online.

~~ About the Author ~~
Jordan Elizabeth, formally Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, writes down her nightmares in order to live her dreams.

With an eclectic job history of working as a college professor, historic costumed interpreter at Fort Stanwix, Victorian Leisure Fair, and Mayfaire on the Green, office specialist, sales clerk, election inspector, and trainer, she is now diving in the world of author. It happens to be  her most favorite one yet.

When she’s not creating are or searching for lost history in the woods, she’s updating her blog, Kissed by Literature.

Jordan is the president of the Utica Writers Club and maintains She roams Central New York, but she loves to travel. A great deal of time has been spent in a rural town very similar to Arnn.