Tuesday, May 7, 2019

YA Guy Hosts... Malayna Evans, Author of JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY'S ANKH!

YA Guy is excited to introduce debut author, friend, and agency sibling Malayna Evans, whose middle grade novel JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY'S ANKH comes out on May 28! To me, this historical fantasy-adventure, first in a series set in ancient Egypt, sounds like it rivals the Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan, so I can't wait to read it. I asked Malayna to talk about her path to publication, and she responded with a story that's both bittersweet and empowering for aspiring authors everywhere!
I always wanted to be a writer … in the same way my eleven-year-old daughter wants to be a mermaid. It’s not that I didn’t mean it. I did. I even went back to school to earn grad degrees in ancient history, in part because I thought a few fancy pieces of paper might magically transform me into the next Margaret George or Madeline Miller.

Then life happened. And believe it or not, my mermaid job never magically materialized.

And then, life happened some more. In the midst of a family crisis, I took my son, then nine, to lunch one day for a heart-to-heart. I don’t know how we ended up talking about ancient Egypt. At the time, we both adored the topic. (Sadly, one of us--now sixteen--has outgrown it). After a depressing debrief, perhaps we just wanted to lighten the mood. It’s the following moments that are still clear in my mind. He asked me what ancient Egyptians looked like. I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well. And he said someone should write a book about a kid who looked like him in ancient Egypt.

When my son and I drafted chapter one, it was a parenting exercise, something for us to work on together during a rough spot.

When I kept writing, it was a hobby to spend time on as I found myself with a lot more free time on my hands than I was accustomed to.

When I finished a full draft, tracked down real feedback, tossed the first manuscript in the trash, and started again, I began to wonder: could I really land a job as a mermaid?

I didn’t know at the time how hard it is for unpublished authors to get an agent, or find a publisher, or actually launch a book into the world. In retrospect, my naivete might have been a blessing.

I did know I wanted to write a book that featured bright, creative kids--kids like my two little people--on a memorable adventure in ancient Egypt. And I wanted to share my passion for history with middle school kids, and make it fun enough that they’d enjoy learning, or, better, not even realize there was learning involved.

When I landed an agent, I thought my big mermaid-break was just around the corner. Turns out, as hard as that was, it was only the start. Fortunately, my fabulous agent, Liza Fleissig, has the patience of a mollusk. She stuck with me, helping me improve the work until it was good enough to send out. It took a minute (okay, a few billion minutes), but eventually she found my series a home.

Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is scheduled to be released on May 28th from Month9Books. And no, it doesn’t mean I’m a professional mermaid now. Turns out, most authors need regular-old-human day jobs. But it’s a start. And the goals that animated my pursuit are in sight. If kids read this book and see themselves in Jagger and Aria, or discover an interest in the ancient world, I’ll coin myself a successful mermaid … and quite possibly track down a seashell-drenched tiara to don. Because mermaids may not be real, but celebrating life’s accomplishments should be!

About the Book: Jagger Jones is a whiz kid from Chicago's South Side. Ask him anything about Ancient Egypt, and Jagger can fill hours describing all that he knows. But when he and his precocious little sister Aria fall more than three thousand years back in time to the court of Amarna, Egypt, Jagger discovers a truth that rocks his world: books don't teach you everything there is to know. Mummies, pyramids, and cool hieroglyphics make awesome movie props, but the ancient court of Amarna is full of over-sized scorpions, magical amulets, and evil deities determined to scare unwanted visitors away. If Jagger and Aria are to return safely home, they must find nine soul-infested gemstones, defeat an evil general, save the royal family, and figure out how to rescue themselves! Armed only with Jagger's knowledge of history and a few modern objects mined from his pockets and Aria's sparkly purse, the siblings have exactly one week to solve supernatural riddles and rescue the royal family. If they can pull it off, Jagger Jones just might return to Chicago a hero.

About the Author: Malayna Evans, author of Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. She’s used her education to craft a magical time-travel tale set in ancient Egypt for middle graders. Malayna lives in Oak Park, Illinois, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hamster named Pedicure.

You can learn more about Malayna on her website: http://malaynaevans.com
Or you can follow her on social media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Malayna
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/malaynaevans/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/MalaynaEvans

To preorder JAGGER JONES, go here:

Thursday, May 2, 2019

YA Guy Proudly Presents... The Ecosystem Trilogy!

Well, it's finally done. The Ecosystem Trilogy, a project YA Guy's been dreaming about and working on for years, is completed, released, and launched. The three books are out there in the world, and I hope readers enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

To celebrate the completion of the series, I'm running a promotion for the Kindle e-books, each of which is on sale from May 2 through May 6 for only $0.99. By my calculations, that means you can buy the whole series for a mere $2.97. If you're interested, here's the link:

Thanks for tagging along with me on this journey. Traveling through the Ecosystem with you has been one of the best adventures of my life.

Monday, April 22, 2019


YA Guy was happy to find a big box o' books on his doorstep a week ago, heralding the arrival of copies of HOUSE OF EARTH, HOUSE OF STONE, the third (and hence final) book in the Ecosystem Trilogy.

That's a lotta books, isn't it?

Anyway, today--Earth Day, 2019--is the book's release date. (The first book in the series, Ecosystem, released on Earth Day last year, with the second book, The Devouring Land, tucked in between.) I'm personally very proud of this series, into which I poured a lot of my heart and soul, and I hope readers will enjoy its futuristic vision of an Earth in which the natural environment has become a collective sentience bent on humankind's destruction--and of the brave people who try to come to some sort of reconciliation with Nature. Yes, it's an allegory for our times--but even more, it's an exciting adventure story with a fiery protagonist, tons of action, and really cool monsters. So check it out and order a copy today!

Or, if you're in the Pittsburgh area and would like a signed copy, you can check out the book's launch party, which takes place next Tuesday, April 30. Here's all the information you need:

I hope to see some of you at the party, and I look forward to hearing from you about your reaction to the Ecosystem Trilogy!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

YA Guy's in... The Spring 2019 YA Scavenger Hunt!

It's my favorite time of year!

YA Guy's super excited to participate in this year's SPRING 2019 YA SCAVENGER HUNT! This is my seventh Hunt, and I've got a new novel, the concluding book to the Ecosystem trilogy, due out at the end of April (on Earth Day, of course). So I'm totally ready for the Hunt, and I trust that you are too! (I mean, why would you be here if you weren't?)

As you can probably tell by all the green lettering in this post (not to mention the banner at the top), I'm on the GREEN TEAM, along with the other awesome authors you see below:

The YA Scavenger Hunt is a bi-annual event 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 GREEN 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 FIVE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! But don't delay: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will be online only until noon Pacific time on SUNDAY, APRIL 7! (I'm also running a personal giveaway during the same period of time.)


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 Green 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, April 7, 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 will have a chance to win a signed copy of the three books in the Ecosystem series! Like the Hunt itself, the personal giveaway is open internationally. See below on how to enter!

Got all that? Then let's meet the author I'm hosting, AMANDA MARIN!

When Amanda was a child, her father traveled frequently for business, always bringing her back a book (or 22) as a present. It wasn't long before she was hooked on stories! Nowadays, she writes books of her own. Amanda has degrees in English from Salve Regina University and Boston College, and her favorite things include Starbucks lattes, lazy summer afternoons at the beach, and books with characters that make you go "awwww." She lives in New Hampshire with her family and furbaby, Snickers the Poodle.

To stalk Amanda, go to her website or visit her favorite social media hangouts:

Twitter: @AMarinWrites
FB: https://www.facebook.com/amandamarinwrites
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amarinwrites/

About NORTH TO NARA: Neve Hall has always admired the good works of the civil servants who brought prosperity back to the Nation. She especially respects the Sufferers--empaths who, with the help of technology, anonymously bear others' troubles for them. But when her assigned empath is abruptly retired, she uncovers certain secrets. Like the identity of her new Sufferer, Micah Ward... and the fact that behind his kind smile is a life filled with loneliness and pain.

The closer Neve grows to Micah, the more desperate she becomes to protect him from a cruel and gruesome fate. But in a world where only a few are allowed the luxury of love, saving Micah comes with a price: Neve must choose between her loyalty to the Nation or her heart--a decision that will take them both on a race for their freedom, and their lives.

To buy the book, follow this link!

But wait, there's more! I'm also running a personal giveaway, in which one reader will win a signed copy of the three books in the Ecosystem series: ECOSYSTEM, THE DEVOURING LAND, and HOUSE of EARTH, HOUSE of STONE!

Set on a future Earth where the natural world has mutated into a planet-wide predator, the Ecosystem trilogy tells the story of Sarah, a seventeen-year-old girl with the psychic ability to survive within the sentient Ecosystem that drove humankind to the brink of extinction. In order to protect her family and her community, Sarah must face the Ecosystem's deadliest creatures and travel to its most terrifying places. And she must decide whether to save the boy she loves, Isaac, at the cost of losing everything else she holds dear.

You can enter my personal giveaway in one (or all) of the three following ways:

--comment on this post
--follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/joshuadavidbellin
--subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter at https://joshuadavidbellin.blogspot.com/p/contact.html

Each form of entry gives you one chance at winning. The winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries.

THE SPRING 2019 HUNT IS OVER! I'll be compiling entries for my personal giveaway this week, and contacting the winner by week's end. Thanks to all who entered!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

YA Guy... Reveals All!

Okay, YA Guy admits right up front that the title of this blog post is misleading. I'm not revealing ALL (because trust me, you don't want to know!). But I am revealing the cover to the third book in the Ecosystem Trilogy, HOUSE OF EARTH, HOUSE OF STONE, which releases April 22 of this year (Earth Day, of course). Here it is, in all its glory:

Two notes about this cover.

First, though I love all of the covers my design team produced for the Ecosystem series, I love this one the most. Something about the colors, the layout, and the totally cool circlet they created based on my description in the book--perfect! I hope you like it too.

Second note: this is yet another thing I love about self-publishing. I woke up this morning and said, "Gosh, I feel like revealing the cover to my book," and so I did it. No permission needed. No hoops to jump through. Just me, on my own, doing my thing. Nice!

Let me know what you think about the cover, and I look forward to releasing HOUSE OF EARTH, HOUSE OF STONE to the world!

Friday, March 1, 2019

YA Guy... Lets Go!

Like all writers, YA Guy has from time to time permanently shelved a writing project that failed to pan out as originally hoped. Usually, this happens quite early in the writing, a chapter or two in. I'll be momentarily jazzed by an idea, but then I'll figure out very quickly that it's going nowhere.

Not this time.

A couple of years ago, I had what I thought was a great idea for a YA historical horror novel. I had the title, Polar. I had the premise: a North Pole voyage--loosely based on the final voyage of Commander Robert E. Peary--that goes horrifyingly wrong due to supernatural events. I had the narrator, a teen stowaway named Justin Morrow. As that name indicates, I also had an intertextual reference: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, in which the monster's spree of homicidal revenge begins with the false accusation and execution of Justine Moritz and ends, guess where, at the North Pole.

In short, I had it all.

As someone who's been fascinated by the North Pole voyages since childhood, I plunged gleefully into the research. I read the autobiography of Matthew Henson, the African American man who assisted Peary and who was to play a large role in my novel. I read Peary's accounts of his own polar voyages, as well as his wife's account of an earlier voyage to Greenland. I educated myself on Arctic climate and geography and peoples, on the boats and sleds and other equipment used to mount polar expeditions, on the details of polar living and travel. I read other works of fiction set at the Pole. I had so much material, I couldn't wait to start writing.

And I did start. Given the historical nature of my story, I planned out the writing to a far greater extent than I usually do, with a quite specific timeline of major events, incidents, and locations. I drafted the first several chapters, and I was pleased with the story's direction. I kept going. The manuscript swelled to over two hundred pages. The story got richer, more complex, more exciting. The end was, if not exactly in sight, at least in mind.

But then, it came crashing to a halt. The story sputtered and died. I set the manuscript aside a year ago, and I've kept trying to get back to it ever since, but without success.

I'm not entirely sure what went wrong. Looking back over it, I fear I might have over-planned, burdening my brain and my story with so much historical detail, the story never soars. Or possibly it was that I never found a compelling enough reason for my chosen narrator to be taking this journey and telling this story. I do know that I struggled with his voice, which I tried to model on early-20th-century prose but which, in the end, felt forced and flat. Supernatural elements no longer felt as frightening as they were supposed to be, and the coherence of the story suffered as a result. It started to feel like a very weirdly written history, not a novel--a chronicle, not a narrative.

Eventually, I admitted to myself that I was never going to get it back on track, and I retired it permanently.

Letting go is hard, especially with a story you've lived with and dreamed of for such a long time. Writers pour so much of themselves into their writing, it's quite painful to accept defeat, quite tempting to keep alive the belief that the pieces will magically come together. Sometimes, you get lucky. Other times, you don't. Those are the times you need to let go and move on.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm a bit too drained by this experience to pick up a new project immediately, but I'm waiting for the next inspiration. I'm hoping it'll sustain itself better than Polar did. I'm trying not to feel like a failure.

And, whatever happens next, I'm telling myself this isn't the end of the world.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

YA Guy Can't Wait for.. These 2019 Books!

YA Guy's always on the lookout for great books. Here are five from the first half of 2019--all but one of them for young readers--that I'm particularly excited about. I'll freely admit that I have a personal connection to each of the five authors (heck, I'll even tell you what that connection is), but at the same time, no one's paying or even prompting me to promote their books. I've listed them in order of release date--and the first one on the list comes out a mere week from today!

Louise Cypress, NARCOSIS ROOM (February 19). We share an agent and (sort of) a moniker--she's the YA Gal, I'm YA Guy--but one other thing we share is a love of twisty, creepy sci-fi stories. Her latest, set in a world where one's looks and identity can be surgically enhanced--or destroyed--will definitely freak you out in the best possible way.

Jessica Khoury, LAST OF HER NAME (February 26). I've loved Khoury's books since her debut, ORIGIN, and I love space operas. (I also love the artwork she drew for two of my own recent novels.) Her latest is a sci-fi retelling of the Anastasia story set in a distant galaxy, and it's just what I need to get through the wintertime.

Kat Ross, INFERNO (March 15). Way back in 2014, Ross and I met as members of a debut YA novelists' group. Since that time, she's put out some of the highest quality fantasy novels I've read, including two series that span the centuries and are linked by common characters. INFERNO, the final book in the Fourth Talisman series, promises to be yet another wickedly fun adventure into the worlds of the weird, the monstrous, and the undead.

Cadwell Turnbull, THE LESSON (June 18). Currently one of the rising young stars in science fiction, Turnbull was once a student of mine at the college where I teach. But trust me, I didn't teach him how to write this novel, a wildly imaginative tale of an alien race that settles for unknown purposes in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Nick Courage, STORM BLOWN (July 16). Pittsburgh author Courage writes the kind of books my kids loved when they were still kids. (Now the one in high school reads ancient history, and the one in college reads what she has to read for her classes.) His latest, which focuses on children battling a hurricane, sounds like a high-energy thrill ride.