Monday, November 16, 2015

YA Guy Reveals... Monica Tesler's BOUNDERS (plus a giveaway)!

One of the books YA Guy's most looking forward to is Monica Tesler's debut science fiction novel, BOUNDERS, which releases on January 5, 2016. It sounds like exactly the kind of thing my twelve-year-old son would love to read (with me)! So I've already preordered it, and today, I have the good fortune to host Monica on the blog. Check out the cover, read about and preorder the book, and enter the giveaway for some great BOUNDERS swag!

About BOUNDERS: Twelve-year-old Jasper and his friends are forced to go up against an alien society in this first book in a brand-new adventure series!

Thirteen years ago, Earth Force--a space-military agency--discovered a connection between brain structure and space travel. Now they’ve brought together the first team of cadets, called Bounders, to be trained as high-level astronauts.

Twelve-year-old Jasper is part of this team being sent out into space. After being bullied back on Earth, Jasper is thrilled to have something new and different to do with other kids who are more like him. While learning all about the new technologies and taking classes in mobility--otherwise known as flying with jetpacks--Jasper befriends the four other students in his pod and finally feels like he has found his place in the world.

But then Jasper and his new friends learn that they haven’t been told everything about Earth Force. They weren’t brought to space for astronaut training, but to learn a new, highly classified brain-sync technology that allows them to manipulate matter and quantum bound, or teleport. And it isn’t long before they find out this new technology was actually stolen from an alien society.

When Jasper and his friends discover the truth about why Earth Force needs them, they are faced with a choice: rebel against the academy that brought them together, or fulfill their duty and protect the planet at all costs.

About the author: Monica Tesler lives in a coastal community south of Boston with her husband and their two boys. She earned her bachelors and law degree from the University of Michigan, and she has worked as an attorney for more than fifteen years. She writes on the commuter boat, in coffee shops, and at her kitchen table. She tries to meditate every day, but often ends up fantasizing about space, time travel, or strange lands, both real and imagined.

BOUNDERS, the first book in her debut middle grade science fiction adventure series, releases January 5, 2016 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin.

Enter below to win this great BOUNDERS swag! (Three winners will be chosen from among all entries; shipping to U.S. addresses only.)

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

YA Guy Reviews... Two Great Books!

YA Guy's drowning in paper, folks. I'm finishing up one manuscript, working on the copy-edited SCAVENGER OF SOULS, and reading a ton of freshman essays for my day job as a college teacher. Plus I've got some really cool news to report soon, and it's taking up a sizable chunk of my time as well. Hence the fact that I haven't posted anything here in a while.

But hey, that's the writer's life, right?

In addition to all of my writing projects, I've also been trying to keep up with reading. I read Ray Bradbury's classic The Martian Chronicles recently, and found it interesting--not really science fiction, since Bradbury has no real interest in the "science" part, and not at all accurate according to what we now know about the red planet, but very readable in an allegorical, philosophical kind of way. I recommend you check it out if you like thought-provoking fantasy.

I've also had the good fortune to read two amazing recent publications, one of them YA and one of them MG. Without further ado, my reviews:

It's a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

When the first page of a novel features the main character’s accidental death at the hands of a bumbling and overzealous Grim Reaper, you know the rest of the book’s going to be one wild ride!

And that’s exactly the case with Sarah J. Schmitt’s debut YA novel, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH. Chronicling the misadventures of RJ, a self-centered cheerleader who’s desperate to prove herself worthy of a second chance at life, the novel careens from laugh-out-loud humor to spiritual rumination to heartbreaking realism without missing a beat. RJ herself is a wonderful character, a teen who’s made some truly awful choices in the name of being popular but who longs to be the better self she knows she can be. The characters who surround her, including not only celestial and infernal beings but RJ’s high school friends (and enemies), keep the action rollicking and the twists turning. When RJ gets the chance to relive three key moments in her life in an attempt to show that she’s redeemable, this Dickensian (or Capraesque) plot device opens up a profound reflection on the seemingly insignificant decisions that make or break a life. But the narrative never bogs down into preachiness or pedantry; RJ’s vibrant personality and the constant one-liners keep the book fun and engaging even when it’s delving deep. And the twist at the end is both shocking and perfectly designed, closing the book on exactly the right note.

IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH gets my highest recommendation. I can’t wait to see what other wonders Schmitt has up her sleeve!

The Inquisitor's Mark by Dianne Salerni

From a book about the afterlife, I now turn to a book about alternative time schemes. THE INQUISITOR'S MARK tells the story of Jax, an orphaned teen who discovers that he's a "Transitioner," with the magical ability to enter an eighth day situated between Wednesday and Thursday. Normal people can't enter the eighth day unless they're shackled to Transitioners, and there are other people, known as Kin, who have been imprisoned in the eighth day (thus they don't exist during the other seven) as a ward against their potential dark magic. The story delves into Arthurian legend--as well as Einsteinian relativity--to explain the origins and operations of the eighth day, creating an intoxicating mix of magic and science. And Jax's story is deeply compelling, as the parentless boy discovers the existence of a family he had no knowledge of, only to learn that they might be plotting the destruction of innocent people, normal and Transitioner alike. The moral dilemma that's set up by these revelations, as Jax and his newfound cousin must both choose between allegiance to family and responsibility to the larger world, will resonate perfectly with the book's target age group.

THE INQUISITOR'S MARK is the second book in a series that began with THE EIGHTH DAY (which I also loved); book three, THE MORRIGAN'S CURSE, comes out in January 2016. As a guy who's written a second book in a series, I know how tough such books can be; and indeed, for the first thirty pages or so, MARK is a bit overwhelming as Salerni tries to catch the reader up on not only the story's core mythology but the events that occurred in THE EIGHTH DAY. Once you get past that somewhat rough start, however, the story barrels along, delivering both excitement and pathos.  I've read many MG fantasy series, including (of course) the Harry Potter books, and I can truthfully say that Salerni's series is second to none. My son, who's in some ways an even tougher critic than I am, says it's his favorite series of all time. So there you have it.

You might not hear from me for a while (next month is NaNoWriMo, after all), but at least you'll have these two great books to keep you occupied!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

YA Guy Reveals... His SCAVENGER OF SOULS Cover!

YA Guy's sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS, won't be out until next year--but the cover's already been designed! To me, as I imagine to a lot of writers, seeing the cover is a watershed moment, one that makes the book seem so much more real than when it's just electronic word-processed documents winging their way back and forth. I know that sometimes writers are disappointed with their covers, but in my case, I've been thrilled by both the SURVIVAL COLONY 9 cover and this latest one. In fact, if I had to choose, I might say I like the second even more!

So, without further ado, here it is!

There's so much I love about this cover. I love the cover model, who represents a new character named Mercy and looks almost exactly the way I envisioned her. I love how the designer used the Querry silhouette from the first book as a design element in this one (and, coincidentally or not, took advantage of the shape of the silhouette to suggest one of the key settings in the new story, a black mountain with sharp horns at its peak). I love the backdrop behind Mercy, which depicts another of the story's important settings, an abandoned military base. I love the overall gritty, dusty color scheme, which is perfect for the world I created. And I love the title lettering, which uses the same font as the SURVIVAL COLONY 9 cover but in a different color that's also central to the plot. In short, I simply LOVE this cover, and I hope you do too.
Now we just have to wait for the book to come out! If we can stand the suspense....

Thursday, October 1, 2015

YA Guy Participates in... The Fall 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt!

Once again, YA Guy's taking part in the YA Scavenger Hunt! Just like this past spring, I'm on the Blue Team, along with the other fabulous authors you see below:

This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! Add up the clues on each blue team page, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in our team! There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!


Directions: In the author biography below, you'll notice I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form to qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, October 4, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered. For more information, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Personal Giveaway: In addition to the prizes named above, readers who enter my personal giveaway via the Rafflecopter form below will be entered in a drawing to win one of two prizes: a signed copy of SURVIVAL COLONY 9 plus swag (bookmarks, postcards, and if I'm feeling really good on that day, T-shirt) or, for those of you who are writers, a query critique (1-2 pages, YA only, any genre). When you enter my giveaway, just indicate in the comments which prize you'd like, and I'll choose one winner for each!

Okay, got all that? Then let's meet the author I'm hosting, SHARON HUSS ROAT!

Sharon Huss Roat lives in Delaware with her husband and two children. She worked in public relations for 20 years--not, as some believe, 22--before deciding what she really wanted to be when she grew up. BETWEEN THE NOTES is her debut novel. When she’s not writing (or reading) books for young adults, you might find her planting vegetables in her backyard garden or sewing costumes for a school musical. Find out more about Sharon at:

About BETWEEN THE NOTES: When Ivy Emerson's family loses their house--complete with her beloved piano--the fear of what's to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Forced to give up her allowance, her cell phone, and the window seat in her lilac-colored bedroom, Ivy moves with her family from her affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, aka "the wrong side of the tracks." Hiding the truth from her friends--and the cute new guy in school, who may have secrets of his own--seems like a good idea at first. But when the bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy's carefully crafted lies begin to unravel . . . and there is no way to stop them. Once things get to the breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some surprising new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. And she may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were . . . including herself.

To buy BETWEEN THE NOTESfollow this link!


The Scavenger Hunt is over! I hope you had fun, and I'll see you again next spring!

SURVIVAL COLONY 9 + swag/query critique giveaway

To enter my personal giveaway, use the Rafflecopter form below:

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

YA Guy Celebrates... September 23 Debuts!

September 23, 2014 will always hold a special place in YA Guy's heart. That's because that was the date of my debut, SURVIVAL COLONY 9. I expect to have other release dates in the future--in fact, as I've mentioned, the sequel, SCAVENGER OF SOULS, comes out next summer--but there really is nothing like your first time!

So to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my debut, I've teamed up with other 9/23/14 debuts to offer a great giveaway. (United States only.) The winner receives one signed copy of each of our books, as described below:

YA Guy: signed copy of SURVIVAL COLONY 9

Christina Farley: signed copy of winner's choice in the GILDED series (GILDED, SILVERN, or BRAZEN)

Darlene Beck Jacobson: signed copy of WHEELS OF CHANGE

Kendall Kulper: signed copy of SALT & STORM

Kristen Lippert-Martin: signed copy of TABULA RASA

The contest runs for one week, starting today. Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. And good luck!

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Friday, September 11, 2015

YA Guy Looks Forward to... Fall!

YA Guy's a fall fan. The colors, the camping trips, the trick-or-treating (yes, I still dress up for Halloween and go out with my kids; see photo below). Fall just has a great feel for me, you know? Sometimes I get a rush of excitement just thinking about it.

Plus, lots of cool things are happening this fall: bookstore and bookshop appearances, NaNoWriMo, the YA Scavenger Hunt, a YA writers panel at a local library, and (to top it off) the Who in concert in late October! Plus SURVIVAL COLONY 9 turns one year old on September 23; keep an eye out for a big giveaway on that date. And (unless I miss my guess) I should be hearing some interesting things about SCAVENGER OF SOULS too. (A cover reveal, maybe? Here's hoping.) So I'm definitely gearing up for Fall 2015 in a big way!

But before I leave summer behind, I wanted to look back at some of the events and excitement that took place over the warm months. It's been a great summer, and here are some highlights to share!


My family and I went to Utah, which looks a lot like the landscape I imagined in SURVIVAL COLONY 9 and SCAVENGER OF SOULS. Then I traveled to Concord, Massachusetts for a two-week summer seminar, where I researched a historical novel I'm planning. Great times and great environments for a writer to be in!


In addition to finishing SCAVENGER OF SOULS and shipping it off to my editor, I've had a very active summer, writing-wise. A new group of Pittsburgh authors of children's literature has formed (with monthly meet-ups at local hangouts), and I've also hooked into a larger collective of Pittsburgh-area authors. (Pittsburgh, the literary epicenter of the world? Who knew?) I was also invited to be the keynote speaker at the Western Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English (WPCTE) annual English Festival, where students in middle and high schools compete in trivia and writing contests based on works of literature they've read. (That won't take place until next May, but the invitation came this summer.) And finally, on Labor Day, traditionally seen as the end of summer, SURVIVAL COLONY 9 came out in paperback! So it's definitely been a summer filled with writing milestones!


It's no secret (or it shouldn't be, anyway) that I'm a huge baseball fan. (Remember the scene where Laman and Querry play catch? That was me and my son.) This summer, my family and I took in quite a variety of ball games--not only our hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, but the Pirates' AA affiliate in Altoona, PA and the Washington Nationals during a weekend trip to DC. Next summer, my son and I plan to travel throughout Pennsylvania watching as many Major League and Minor League games as we can!

I'm sure there was more stuff, but that'll do for now. Here's to a great summer, and here's looking forward to an even greater fall!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

YA Guy Reads... Historical Fiction!

YA Guy's always been a voracious reader. (Like, what author isn't?) Though there are certain genres I've focused on--YA and science fiction, most obviously--I've dipped into lots of others over the years, including biography and memoir, travel narratives, epic fantasy, mystery, and many more. I'm too restless a reader (and writer) to exclude anything!

So now, I find myself reading historical fiction, something I haven't done much of in the past. My new fascination with the genre is largely due to the fact that I've begun to write a historical novel myself, centered on Thoreau and his relationship with abolitionist John Brown. I'm discovering that there's some really good stuff out there, and while I'm in the thick of it, I thought I'd share it with you here.

Mr. Emerson's Wife by Amy Belding Brown. Ralph Waldo Emerson was married twice, first to Ellen Tucker, who died shortly after their marriage from tuberculosis, and then to Lydia Jackson, who bore him four children and lived with him through the rest of his life. This novel is told from Lydia's point of view, and it delves into the frustrations of being a woman in the nineteenth century, even (or especially) when one is the wife of a famous man. Though it's a bit disconcerting to delve into Emerson's intimate life, the book does a good job of humanizing characters whom most people think of as pure symbols or icons.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. There are many novels written about John Brown, and this one, which won the National Book Award, is well worth reading. Purporting to be the narrative of an escaped slave who rode with Brown in Kansas and survived his raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry (no such person actually existed), the novel seeks to deflate the Brown myth through comedy and satire. I wasn't crazy about that at first, but the book gains richness and resonance as it goes on.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Told in alternating points of view by Sarah Grimke, a southern slaveholder who became an abolitionist, and Handful, one of Sarah's slaves, this Oprah's Book Club novel does an excellent job of portraying the lives of antebellum women, black and white. For me, it bogged down a bit in the middle with its focus on Sarah's romantic entanglements, but it picked up thereafter, weaving other historical figures expertly into the tapestry of Sarah and Handful's lives.

Raising Holy Hell by Bruce Olds. Another John Brown novel, this one a kind of postmodern pastiche that combines actual quotations, newspaper clippings, slave laws, and other historical material with an inventive, fictionalized portrait of Brown. While I didn't agree with the author's representation of Brown as a complete madman, I found the technique intriguing.

Woodsburner by John Pipkin. Based on an actual event in which a young Thoreau accidentally burned down part of the Concord woods he so loved, this novel felt particularly well researched to me. Its cast of characters includes not only Thoreau but an opium-addicted minister and a businessman who discovers the new art of photography (and thereafter trades in pornographic images). You'll have to read it yourself to see how all of these strands tie together!

Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks. Yet another John Brown novel, this time narrated by Brown's son Owen, who accompanied his father to Virginia but stayed behind at Harpers Ferry and thus survived the raid. I haven't finished this book, mostly because it's nearly eight hundred pages long (!!!), but it promises to be another good read.

So there you have it! If you know of any other good historical novels--especially ones focusing on Thoreau, Brown, the Transcendentalists, and/or antebellum slavery--drop me a line!