Tuesday, December 30, 2014

YA Guy Looks Back on... His Debut Year!

The seventies rock group Boston wisely tells you, "Don't look back." (And Mark Twain or Satchel Paige or somebody like that says something similar.) But come on, this was YA Guy's debut year, and I can hardly avoid reviewing some of the highlights. No lowlights, though. I'm sure there were some, but they hardly matter next to how wonderful this year was for me as a writer!

Vanity plate!


Introducing James Dashner in Pittsburgh!

Finished books!

Launch party!

Day 1 at Barnes & Noble!

Book signing and display!

In libraries!

Meeting my agent, Liza Fleissig, at New York Comic Con!

On a panel with James Dashner, Scott Westerfeld, Pierce Brown, and others at the Con!

School and library visits!



It's been an amazing year! See you all in 2015!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

YA Guy Lists... His 2014 Top 14!

As we near the end of 2014, YA Guy thought it would be fun to list (in no particular order) the 14 best books I've read this year. All of these books were published in 2014, and many are debuts--which means some really good books I read this year that weren't published in 2014 (Paolo Bacigalupi's The Drowned Cities, Lyn Miller-Lachmann's Gringolandia, Meg Medina's Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) aren't on the list. Me being YA Guy, most of the books on the list are YA, though a few are middle grade and one is actually (gasp!) adult science fiction. But everything on the list gets my highest, highest recommendation. These books rock!

SURVIVAL COLONY 9. Oh, come on, how could I resist putting my own book on the list? I think it's a pretty darn good book, too--but don't take my word for it. Read it yourself!

PHOENIX ISLAND by John Dixon. Great action, great characters, great plot. Plus the author's a boxer, and he's from Philadelphia--so he's kinda like Rocky!

WHISPER by Chris Struyk-Bonn. A quietly magical novel about deformity and conformity. I haven't read anything else like it, ever.

THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Austin Aslan. The apocalypse hits Hawaii, and a teenager with epilepsy may be the only one who can save the world. This has been on lots of year-end "best of" lists, and it deserves to be.

BEING HENRY DAVID by Cal Armistead. How could you go wrong with a novel that integrates Thoreau into a teen's quest for self-discovery? Actually, I suppose you could, but Armistead definitely doesn't.

NIL by Lynne Matson. This Maze Runner-y story about teens who have to survive being mysteriously transported to an unknown island is scary, intense, smart, and sexy. I hear the sequel will be out soon!

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton. Part historical fiction, part magical realism, and all awesome. A completely strange and beautiful reading experience.

THREATENED by Eliot Schrefer. I would have read this book simply because it's about great apes (chimpanzees, specifically). But add to that the fact that it's lyrical, heartbreaking, and wise, and it makes my "best-of" list.

THE EIGHTH DAY by Dianne Salerni. Ordinarily (being YA Guy) I don't read a lot of middle grade fiction, but lately I've been checking out the books my 11-year-old son reads, and this one--about an eighth day of the week accessible only by certain people--really caught my fancy. He and I are both eagerly awaiting the sequel, due out early in 2015.

THE RIFT by Chris Howard. Sequel to Howard's ROOTLESS, about a world without trees. Vivid and imaginative, and told in one of the most distinctive voices you'll find in YA.

IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by Mindy McGinnis. I loved McGinnis's debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, about a future earth with practically no drinkable water. I didn't think she could outdo that book--but in the sequel, she did.

THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier. Another middle grade novel, this one about an Irish brother and sister in the nineteenth century who become entangled in their employers' dark and terrifying secret. A modern-day fairy tale that's also an ode to the power of storytelling, written by an author from my hometown of Pittsburgh.

JUST A DROP OF WATER by Kerry O'Malley Cerra. One more middle grade book (I told you I've been reading it lately!), set around the events of September 11. Beautifully written and powerfully told.

TOMORROW AND TOMORROW by Thomas Sweterlitsch. This wild science fiction mystery, set largely in a digital Pittsburgh after the real city has been demolished in a nuclear attack, will keep you up nights reading--then keep you up nights freaking out after you're done. Yet more proof that Pittsburgh is home to many amazing authors!

So there you have it, folks. I wonder what 2015 will bring?

Sunday, December 7, 2014


There is no greater lover of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien than YA Guy. I first read 'em at age twelve, and I re-read 'em every few years (most recently, with my children). I've taught classes on Tolkien, collected innumerable items of LOTR merchandise (including a balrog action figure that's as big as a lion cub). I loved Peter Jackson's film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings; heck, I even thought the Ralph Bakshi version wasn't half bad. (Okay, I even liked the Rankin & Bass cartoons!) So it pains me to say what I'm about to say next:

I've decided not to see the final chapter of Jackson's three-part Hobbit series, subtitled "The Battle of the Five Armies."

Why? Well, to begin with, I thought the first two films absolutely sucked. I mean, beyond sucked. They were so bad, I was tempted for the first time in my life to charge the projectionist and stop the picture. If you want to know why I hated them so much, check out my reviews here and here. If you care only about the general idea, it's this: the films were loud, stupid, overblown video games with no apparent relation to Tolkien's story in either style or substance.

But even with all that, I might have taken a chance on the final film; heck, it's only ten bucks and three hours of my life. (By contrast, I devoted much of two months to reading A Game of Thrones, which was pretty darn bad too.) No, the final straw was the film's subtitle. That did it for me.

As you may recall, months prior to its release, this film was billed with the subtitle to Tolkien's book: "There and Back Again." That subtitle gave me some hope for the movie, because it calls attention to what the story of The Hobbit is really about: the adventures of one small individual who ventures out into the big world and, through luck and pluck, manages to return changed but intact. A children's story, in other words, comparable to other great children's stories past and present: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Stuart Little, Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryThe Night Gardener (the final title being that of fellow Pittsburgh author Jonathan Auxier's wonderful modern fairy tale). "There and Back Again" captures the essence of The Hobbit, and the use of this subtitle gave me reason to believe Jackson might have come to his senses and decided to return to his source material.

But no. It got changed to "The Battle of the Five Armies." The motivation, no doubt, was that the majority of the previous films' viewers--non-readers of Tolkien--wouldn't catch the literary reference and would be baffled by a title that doesn't promise lots of kick-butt special effects and gory battle sequences. They'd stay away in droves if they thought the film wouldn't contain sufficient computer-generated mayhem.

And sadly, that's probably true.

So in tribute to Tolkien's genius, in honor of the true spirit of children's literature, and in protest of Jackson and Company's perversion of all that's wise and good about The Hobbit, I'm staying home. (And I'm writing this blog post, for what that's worth.) It won't amount to much--the movie will make a zillion dollars, Jackson will get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (this has already happened), and we as a culture will choose lucre over art yet again.

But at least, I won't have to be there to see it. And one underpaid and overworked projectionist in Pittsburgh will get a little bit of a break.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Rachel O'Laughlin's RISE OF ORION Release-Day Blitz!

YA Guy is beyond thrilled to host the release-day blitz for RISE OF ORION, third in the fabulous Rachel O'Laughlin's Serengard series. (Okay, the book and e-book released yesterday, but still.) An amazing writer, tweeter, and friend, Rachel has constructed a totally original historical fantasy in the Serengard series. Read on for an excerpt and info on where to buy her latest and greatest!


Mikel had two rooms. The front room held a small bench; the other, where he was now, had a bed with a full mammoth skin on it. There was no furniture in the two cells next to him, and mammoth skin was rare and expensive, fit for a prince. It bothered him whenever he thought of it.

Trzl’s footsteps came around the corner, and then her face was there—sharp, vivid features accented by heavy eye paint and a new combination of braids that pulled the hair up and away. Severe, if ever she was.

“Avoiding my presence?” Her mouth twitched. The light at her back made her shadow against the wall rather foreboding.

Mikel shook his head, but he hadn’t a decent reply.

“I am not as frightful as all that, am I?”

“The last time I saw you, Colstadt was taken to another building for questioning. It’s been a month, and he hasn’t returned.” He looked up at her through hair that fell into his eyes. “Tell me, are you frightful?”

Trzl took three steps toward him. He leaned back until his head hit the wall above his bed, and she stopped moving. “I only kept him near you because you were worried about him. Once his wound was healed, it was indulgent to spoil you with his company. You should understand the pressure I am under.”

Mikel bit the inside of his mouth, his eyes down.

“No need to be sullen, Mikel. I didn’t hurt him.”

“I’ll believe that when I see him.”

Trzl tossed her head and sat down on his bed. “Your food is here. I’m sorry, but you can’t have a knife today.”

“Why should anything change today?” He smiled slightly, but she made no explanation. “Is it pheasant again?”

She slid her hand across the mammoth fur, and her fingers grazed his elbow. He winced. Trzl was the only person who’d touched him since they came here four months ago. As much as he pretended to hate her company, he looked forward to it as he would a strong cup of arabica. Only she never thought to bring him one.

He stood abruptly, slid out from under her arm. 

Her gaze followed him until he had left the room, then she took a few steps and leaned against the doorway. “Do I make you nervous?”

Mikel shrugged, took the food from the guard without lingering, and walked back to the wall. He perched on the bench with one leg sprawled in front and the other half-bent beside him. “I do find myself wondering what you’re doing here.”

“I came to bring a new prisoner and thought I’d see how you were getting on.” Mikel set his plate of food down. “You should have brought ale if you wanted to reminisce.”

She walked to him, picked up his leg, and moved it out of her way so that she could sit next to him. “My apologies. I did forget the ale.” 

There was a quirk to her mouth, as if she knew a secret that made her laugh. Whatever it was, she certainly should not share it. They were, after all, deep in the belly of the Fourth City—a modern atrocity on the ancient soil of Serengard. He’d been brought here with a mask over his eyes, guarded by twelve men, and kept under sporadic watch.

Trzl was the granddaughter of one of the most powerful men in the world, second only to the Emperor; Mikel was the son of the dead king she’d helped overthrow. They were supposed to be enemies.

“Did you give Colstadt pheasant today as well?”

Trzl let out her breath in a huff. “Must you speak of him? I’m tired of hearing his name.”

“Then free him. He presents no danger to you. Keep Pier if you must.”

“I cannot free political prisoners unless they give me something that warrants it, and nothing Colstadt has told me has meant enough to tempt the Emperor.”

Mikel knew she was playing him. Colstadt wouldn’t tell her anything at all.

“Oh, come now,” she said. “You cannot induce me to move him back here. I won’t have you consorting with my imprisoned Drei, Orion, not since I’ve begun questioning. The three of you might prop up each other’s lies.” 

She leaned a shoulder against his, and he didn’t move away. Her eyes were dreamy, and while that was better than distant, he was never sure what to do with her in this state. She twirled a finger around a strand of hair and looked at him with a slight pout.

“You haven’t touched your bread,” she scolded him.

Mikel stared at the wall. “I’ll eat it later.”

“The mice may claim it if you leave it unguarded.”

He lifted the bread between two fingers. “If I return this to you, will you give a double ration to my knights?”

She let out a half-laugh. “Mikel, they are not your knights anymore. They are my prisoners, the same as you are. I give them favors, and someone may begin to think I am in love with one of them.” She laughed, but he didn’t think it was funny. “Mikel, you… You should eat the bread. I swear they are looked after.”

“I saw fresh bruises on Pier.”

“I never meant for you to pass him in the hall.” Her brow furrowed. “But I am sure the Drei can handle pain far better than you.”

“But I am the one who has been chained in cages before.”

“For true?” Her jaw went slack, and her eyes grew suspicious. “You must tell.”


After the Border Wars, Mikel Orion flees Serengard and seeks haven in the Desert of Aldad. Although he and his sister, Kierstaz, must become slaves in order to set foot inside its borders, the hot sands hold a bitter kind of peace—one he hopes to keep. But he risks destroying their newfound stability when he becomes entangled with an Aldadi girl. Aura has tragic secrets of her own, but she gives Mikel a purpose beyond his birthright, and when he leaves the Desert he carries scars that run deeper than skin.

Twelve years later, trouble brews in Serengard that threatens to pull in the Aldadi and the Drei alike. Trapped in a dungeon as the prize prisoner of Trzl—an orchestrator of the rebellion that killed his parents—Mikel is out of maneuvers. Even while Kierstaz gathers a force to attempt his rescue, Trzl transforms more and more into the hypnotic ruler she claims to loathe…and Mikel becomes convinced that peace has never been within his reach at all. 

Author Bio:

Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories on an archaic laptop that only ran one program, couldn’t connect to the Internet, and died every few days—which provided a nice excuse to use a typewriter in the middle of an epic murder scene. After high school, she pushed novels to the backburner for immersion in the arts, tours with her band, and a hands-on education in sustainable living. At last, she admitted to herself that she missed her first love and returned to fiction full time. She lives in New England with her husband and two kids, listens to The Fray, and drinks too many lattes. Rise of Orion is the third book in her epic fantasy series, Serengard.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

YA Guy Visits... Schools and Libraries!

YA Guy's discovered that one of the coolest things about writing books for young people is that you get to visit schools and libraries to talk about your book, the writing life, and lots of other things besides! (At a recent library visit, the middle schoolers I addressed were very interested in what I'd eaten for breakfast.) Here, for fun, are some pictures from recent events!

At Community Library of Allegheny Valley

At the new Teen Space in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh East Liberty branch

On a panel with other local YA authors at the Peters Township Public Library

And here's my book on a library shelf, next to books by friends in one of my author groups!

More events are coming up, so I hope to post more pictures soon! In the meantime, if you're a teacher or librarian looking for YA authors to address your students, drop me a line--I'm newly on Skype, so even if it's not local, we can make it happen!

Monday, November 10, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... The HOW WE FALL Book Blast!

YA Guy is thrilled to host the book blast for HOW WE FALL, the YA debut of one of my very favorite people on the web: Kate Brauning! Learn about the book, read the first chapter, and check out the huge interactive video launch party, which happens tonight!

How We Fall

How We FallKate Brauning
Merit Press, F&W Media
Releasing November 11, 2014
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 1440581797
ISBN-13: 978-144058179

Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle's sleepy farming town, she's been flirting way too much--and with her own cousin, Marcus. Her friendship with him has turned into something she can't control, and he's the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left for...no one knows where. Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn't right about this stranger, and Jackie's suspicions about the new girl's secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus. Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else's lies as the mystery around Ellie's disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?

Praise for How We Fall:
Kirkus Reviews: "Debut novelist Brauning tells a touching story of young, star-crossed lovers caught in a drama they have tried hard to avoid.... A sweetly written mix of mystery and romantic turmoil."

School Library Journal: "Heartbreaking and well-paced, this mystery novel challenges readers to look past preconceptions and get to the know characters, rather than focus on an uncomfortable taboo. Brauning's characters are well developed and their story engrossing. An intriguing thriller... this title will raise eyebrows and capture the interest of teens."

ALA Booklist: “…an unusual combination of romance and suspense…There is also something universal about Jackie’s struggles with her feelings and her desires, and readers will identify with her emotions, while going along for the plot’s ride. This quest for identity, wrapped up in an intriguing mystery, hooks from the beginning.”

How We Fall is available through:

All book lovers are invited to attend #YAlaunch, a giant book party for How We Fall and The Hit List on Monday, November 10th, from 6-9pm central time. Broadcast live over video, the party will allow you to see, hear, and interact with the authors. 10 YA and adult authors will be discussing everything from writing a series to how they write love interests. They’ll also be playing book games with the audience, taking questions, and giving away 100 books to guests attending online. Authors attending include NYT bestsellers Nicole Baart and Tosca Lee, Kate Brauning, Nikki Urang, Kiersi Burkhart, Bethany Robison, Alex Yuschik, Blair Thornburgh, Kelly Youngblood, and Delia Moran. It will be a fun and interactive evening for anyone who loves books and wants to spend some time with great authors. For more information and to sign up to attend, please click here. We'd love to see you there!


Author Bio: Kate Brauning grew up in rural Missouri and fell in love with young adult books in college. She now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she'd want to read. This is her first novel. Visit her online at www.katebrauning.com or on Twitter at @KateBrauning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Linda Vigen Phillips, author of CRAZY!

Today on the blog, YA Guy hosts one of my very favorite people: Linda Vigen Phillips, debut author of CRAZY. I met Linda through the debut writers' group OneFourKidLit, and her generosity, humor, and insightful blog entries have made me a huge fan! And then there's her wonderful novel, which released on October 20. I guarantee that once you get to know Linda and her novel, you'll be a fan too! 

YA Guy: Welcome to YA Guy, Linda! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to publication!

Linda Vigen Phillips: I was born and raised in a small town in Oregon, and while it has some of the most majestic beauty on earth and an ideal climate, I couldn’t wait to see what was on the other side of the Rockies. After college I set out to save the world with my BA in Sociology, and New York City seemed like a good place to start. Then I met my husband, stopped saving the world to start a family, and started paying attention to the poems that kept popping out at all hours of the day and night. The rest is history, though not the kind that happens overnight, I might add!

YAG: Crazy is a novel in verse. Can you describe your decision to write the novel this way, and tell us about some other verse novels that inspired you?

LVP: The book evolved from a collection of about twenty adult poems that were destined to be included in a chapbook until a friend of mine suggested they should become a novel. There was never any question in my mind that the novel would stay in verse form. My father’s love for poetry influenced me early on, and I filled many childhood diaries and journals with my own versions of poetry. The verse form seems to be what I do best. I’ve trashed three versions of a recent novel that I was trying to write in prose. So I think I’ve found my comfort zone, at least for now. Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust was the single most influential and inspiring book during the writing process. I literally kept it by my side and used it to prime the pump repeatedly. I also love Ellen Hopkins, but her style is becoming more influential with my WIP than it was with Crazy.

YAG: Crazy is told from the perspective of a young person whose mother suffers from mental illness. That seems like a difficult subject to write about. What were your reasons for taking on this subject, and what were your biggest challenges?

LVP: My mother suffered from bipolar disorder and she was having episodes during most of my growing up years. I knew it only as a series of “nervous breakdowns” and did not discover the exact diagnosis until I began writing the book. Of course the book is semi-autobiographical, and probably the biggest challenge, and the reason I’ve done so many revisions, was stepping out of the story enough to be able to write it objectively. I had to come to the point of reminding myself “this is now fiction, and yes, I can change this, that, or the other thing if I choose to.” That was both freeing and terrifying.

YAG: What’s been the most memorable part about your debut year so far?

LVP: I’m sure I should say something far more profound than this, but the best day so far was the first day, Jan. 1, when I saw that the calendar year now matched the year I had been waiting for for so long:  2014. On New Year’s Day when everyone else was hung over or stretched out on the couch watching football, I was dancing around the house and posting triumphantly on Facebook and Twitter. Even though I still had nine months and twenty days to go to launch, I felt like the fairytale was really coming true!

YAG: As a fellow debut, I know that once the creative juices start flowing, there’s no stopping them. What’s next for you?

LVP: I’m working on another story based on real events. There are three students, two from the same family, here in Charlotte, NC who are suffering from Batten Disease. Children usually acquire this rare genetic condition between ages five and ten, and often don’t make it to their twentieth birthday. I taught in the same school where these children once attended, and I am talking with the families to gather information. My protagonist will be the older sister telling the story--in verse, of course!

YAG: Thanks, Linda! Readers, to find out more about Linda and CRAZY, here's where to go!


web and blog:  http://www.lindavigenphillips.com
Twitter:  @LVigenPhillips
Barnes & Noble
Facebook:  Linda Vigen Phillips (regular page, not author page)

Linda Vigen Phillips is a retired teacher living with her husband in North Carolina near two sons and two grandkids. CRAZY, a novel written in verse, is her debut book, drawn from her own experiences coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness while growing up in Oregon.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

YA Guy Discusses... His Top Three YA Sci-Fi Pet Peeves!

YA Guy loves science fiction. And YA Guy (needless to say) loves YA. So I'm thankful there's so much great YA sci-fi out there—in fact, more and more every year as the genre gains ground. It’s a good time to be a YA Sci-Fi Guy (or Gal)!

But as any genre becomes popular, the inevitable knock-offs appear: inferior versions of the real thing created quickly and sloppily to make a buck. This is, perhaps, even more common in the case of literature for young people, where the (very insulting) assumption seems to be that kids won’t care and won’t know the difference. It happened with Harry Potter, paranormal romance, dystopian, The Hunger Games, and it’s happening with YA sci-fi. I pick up a lot of titles that sound promising, only to find them derivative, predictable, and just plain bad.

The good stuff I review on Goodreads and Amazon. The bad stuff I don’t mention by name. But here, for fun, are three telltale signs of uninspired YA sci-fi. All of these techniques typically occur within the first few pages, certainly the first chapter—so it’s easy to throw aside such books before you get too deeply into them.

1. Caps Out of Control. Some things (namely, proper nouns and titles) are indeed capitalized. Sometimes, in the real world—and usually for marketing reasons—such capitalization gets a bit out of hand. But when you read a YA sci-fi book that starts like this, you know you’re in trouble:

“Kaitlin Woke. She rose from the Bed, checked the Wall, noted the time on the Clock. Today was the day she’d Take the Exam.  If she Failed, she wouldn’t get into the Academy. If she Passed, the Doors of Opportunity would be wide open.”

How does capitalizing these words make this a futuristic society? Isn’t it just, like, some teenager taking the SAT?

2. NewSpeak. There’s a strong tradition in sci-fi of coining new words, often in conjunction with new technologies. (As, for instance, the word “robot,” from the 1920 play R.U.R. by Czech sci-fi writer Karel Capek.) It takes real ingenuity to do this well, to invent a word that sounds plausible but that is not, in fact, a word in common usage.

That’s probably why one sure-fire sign of lazy YA sci-fi is bad word-coining. Typically this takes the form of using truncated, combined, or otherwise mangled real words to create ostensibly hip, newfangled, futuristic words. So the device that projects one’s inner fantasies will be called the MentProj. Or the gizmo that walks a dog remotely will be called the TeleSpot.

I mean, come on!

3. Techno Overkill. And while we’re speaking of technology: yes, science fiction relies on it. New technologies, altered technologies, lost technologies, alien technologies—all of these are fundamental to the genre.

But folks, just because sci-fi typically features unfamiliar technologies does not mean that merely introducing unfamiliar technologies makes something sci-fi. Throwing in a bunch of gimcracks and gewgaws for atmosphere or whatever misses the whole point of technology in science fiction: it needs to make sense. It needs to be integrated with—indeed, integral to—the society you’ve invented. It needs to have some logical connection not only to our world, but to the history and current functioning of the speculative world. It’s not good enough to have people flying around in high-tech cars and having their ear wax removed by VirtEarProbes.

Then again, that might come in handy. I think I’ll Look it Up on the GlobWebPurch and Buy a Couple.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Erin Rhew's THE OUTLANDERS Blog Tour (plus a giveaway)!

You all remember Erin Albert's debut, THE PROPHECY? Well, YA Guy is thrilled to announce that Erin's back, with a new name and a new book: THE OUTLANDERS, sequel to THE PROPHECY! Read on for a blurb, excerpt, and great Rafflecopter giveaway!


With King Jesper dead and Prince Wilhelm mortally wounded, Halfling prince, Nash, and the Fulfilment, Layla, assume the throne of Etherea. They must contend with a new Prophecy Candidate who asserts her position, and Layla is surprised to find her fate intertwined with this challenger.

Facing a myriad of choices, Nash and Layla’s decisions affect not only their own futures but that of two kingdoms.

Unbeknownst to the Ethereals or the Vanguards, a menace stirs in the south, awakened after centuries of slumber. The mysterious Outlanders, a force shadowed in mystery, sit poised to tip the balance of power, sending ripples of fear throughout both warring kingdoms.

Elder Werrick proved a formidable foe, but Layla may yet meet her match in the monstrous Outlander queen. This mistress of the dark’s plans, rooted in revenge and ancient lore, now threaten the livelihood of all three kingdoms.

Racing against time, Layla travels to the Borderlands—home of the Voltons and Ecclesiastics—to discover as much as she can about the war, the First Ones, and the prophecy itself. Lives teeter in the balance, kingdoms sit on the cusp of ruin, and a beast, greater than any she’s ever faced before, plots a catastrophic attack.

Read this excerpt from THE OUTLANDERS:

Everything about Mia felt wrong. The girl, who looked so much like Layla, just happened to be where Samson could find her and came with him to the home of her enemy without any resistance? Whole generations of Ecclesiastics searched for entire lifetimes and never found the Fulfillment, yet Samson encountered two potentials in short succession. She couldn’t pinpoint the reason for her unease, but something tickled the back of her mind, inching toward the surface with painstaking sluggishness.

“I don’t understand why she would just come with you to Etherea.” Layla struggled to keep her voice level and calm to avoid raising Samson’s hackles.

“She didn’t have anywhere else to go. Vance killed her family in Vanguard.”

Layla made a mental note to confirm Samson’s version of the story with the information Nash managed to extract from Mia. “If she’s a Vanguard, why would she come with you to Etherea?”

“You came here,” Samson shot back, his inexplicable protectiveness for the mystery girl heightening her concern. 

She treaded with care. “Well, some insane man in a black and purple robe stole my brother, so I didn’t really have a choice.”

Mia stared at the young man before her with a mixture of curiosity and weariness. She understood why others found him so handsome—rich, dark hair and those shocking green eyes. If she succeeded, he would be her…she stopped herself, determined to keep her mind clear. She had to give off an air of mystery, to lure the Ethereals into her web so they followed her plan. More than anything, she needed them to follow her plan, so much depended on it. She could not slip up. She could not make a mistake. 

Taking a steadying breath, she refocused her thoughts and slid her amethyst colored eyes across the prince in front her. She wouldn’t even think his name or give any indication she already knew about him. She had to forget how much she’d been told about him…how much she’d been told about them all. Feigning ignorance factored into her plan. 

“Who are you?” he asked, after spending an inordinate amount of time regarding her. 

She noted how his gaze bounced from her eyes to her hair and back again. As planned, her appearance intrigued him. Though he’d asked a different question, she heard the real one layered beneath it. He wanted to know why she resembled the proclaimed Fulfillment. That question would then lead him to an inevitable one…could Mia be the Fulfillment instead of Layla? And if she were the Fulfillment, what did that mean for him? For Wil? For Layla? 

“I’m Mia.” She almost grinned, pleased she’d answered his question but given him nothing more. When his lips twisted, her grin broke into a full smile at his evident irritation. “And you are?”

He hesitated. “Nash, brother of the king.”

“The injured king?” He flinched, a subtle movement most might miss, but she caught it. 

“According to our friend, Samson, you’re an Outlander.” 

“He found me in the Outlands.” The less Nash knew, the better. 

Frustration flickered across his face, marring his otherwise handsome features. She smiled to herself, not trusting his patience should her lips turn up yet again.

“Sooo,” he dragged out the word. “Are you an Outlander?” 

“No. I’m a Vanguard.” 

Nash cocked his head to the right. “Why were you in the Outlands then?”

“I went to escape Vance’s oppression.” Mia stared at the wall behind him until her vision blurred. She willed tears to form. Given the pressure she’d been under, summoning them proved easier than she expected. When the familiar tight burning started near her lids, she blinked at the prince. He shifted in his seat. Mia wanted to snort at his reaction. Tears always made men uncomfortable. “Vance killed my family.” She paused and swallowed, hoping he believed she needed a moment to collect herself. “I ran as far as I could and ended up in the Outlands. Samson found me.”

Nash cleared his throat and shifted again; she increased the flow of her tears in reply. “What do you know about the Outlands?”

“Very little.” She sniffed. Looking as pathetic as she could manage, she attempted to wipe her eyes, an impossible feat given her bound hands. Nash frowned as his gaze landed on her restraints. She bid him to unbind her hands, and for a moment, she believed he might. To her disappointment, he gripped the side of his chair until his knuckles turned white and left her tied up. Mia ground her teeth. 

“Do you believe you are the Fulfillment?” Nash kept his voice steady despite the turmoil she read upon his face. 

Mia waited a moment to respond, both to further escalate his frustration and to collect herself. In this moment, she needed to be most convincing, to begin what she’d been tasked to set in motion. She gestured with her chin, drawing Nash’s attention to the blazing “F” upon her upper arm. The dark purple birthmark matched the shade of her eyes.

“The First Ones speak for themselves.”

Nash shook his head. “It’s too obvious.”

Mia’s head jerked back. She struggled to maintain her composure as his reaction, so unexpected, derailed her careful planning. Her mind racing, she grappled for a response. 

“Too obvious?” 

“Yes. See, Mia—” His clear distaste tainted the sound of her own name. “I know about the First Ones.”

“Who do you think you are? An Ecclesiastic?” She smirked at him, acting like she retained complete control, but her insides knotted. She couldn’t lose her ability to direct the conversation.

To her surprise, Nash laughed, though she noted no pleasure in it. “The Prophecy states, ‘In a time of war, when the land is divided amongst the two, she, with raven black hair, purple eyes, and a special blessing from the First Ones shall bring peace.’”

“I think everyone in the three kingdoms and in the Borderlands is familiar with The Prophecy.” Mia rolled her eyes for effect. “What’s your point?”

“My point is, the special blessing wouldn’t be something as simple as a birthmark. If it were, the First Ones would have just said raven black hair, purple eyes, and an ugly purple ‘F’ on the upper arm.” He flicked his hand toward her arm. “Special blessing is vague, indicating something mysterious. There is nothing mysterious about your birthmark.”

Mia’s heart pounded as she felt the tables turn and the conversation slip away. “And there is something mysterious about her?”

The word her hung between them for a moment. Mia took another deep breath, worrying she’d pushed him too far. Beneath his shirt, she saw Nash’s muscles ripple and hoped she’d managed to touch a new nerve. 

Mia clenched her teeth. She hated acting this way, so out of character, but she had to press on. No one could know the truth. She had to win this game…

About the author:

Erin Rhew is an editor, a running coach, and the author of The Fulfillment Series. Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word. She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the "Grammar Police." A Southern girl by blood and birth, Erin now lives in a rainy pocket of the Pacific Northwest with the amazingly talented (and totally handsome) writer, Deek Rhew, and their “overly fluffy,” patient-as-a-saint writing assistant, a tabby cat named Trinity. She and Deek enjoy reading aloud to one another, running, lifting, boxing, eating chocolate, and writing side-by-side.

Giveaway time!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

YA Guy Reports: Marketing Madness!

When YA Guy's debut novel, Survival Colony 9, was accepted for publication, the first thing people in the industry told me (after they said "congratulations!") was that I'd have to spend lots of time and money marketing the book.

Gone, they told me, were the days when publishers--even big ones like mine, Simon & Schuster--put up lots of money to promote unknown authors. Nowadays, they said, only celebrity authors like Hillary Rodham Clinton (whose autobiography appeared from S&S earlier this year) got the sizable promotional budgets. In other words, the authors who really needed the help--like me--got nothing, while the authors guaranteed to sell--like Clinton--got everything.

Turns out it's not quite that dire. I got plenty of promotion from S&S, ranging from mass mailings to book giveaways to conference pitches. I had my own very energetic and capable publicist on staff (though of course, I was only one of her clients). But I believed I needed more; I believed I needed to put significant amounts of time, as well as part of my advance (which was actually quite substantial for a debut), toward promoting my book.

And I did.

When it comes to writing, I don't believe in secrecy. I believe in honesty. So here, in more or less actual numbers (a few of the following figures are estimated or rounded), is what I spent to promote Survival Colony 9:

Publicist retainer: $5800
Publicist expenses: $225
Website hosting: $60
Website design: $850
Swag design: $100
Swag printing: $280
T-shirts: $120
Launch party game: $70
Launch party cake: $170
Curriculum guide: $500
Giveaway items: $600
Mailing supplies: $200
Postage: $400
Professional dues: $180
Conference fees: $250
Travel: $300
Miscellaneous: $1545

Total: $11,650

Amazing how things add up, isn't it?

And that's only the dollar amount. A lot of my PR I got for free--from friends, fellow authors and bloggers, and others. But even that PR wasn't free in terms of time spent.  How many hours did I devote to tweeting, responding to interview questions, updating my website and Facebook author page, writing guest posts, arranging appearances, and so on? I can't begin to calculate it.

But money's cheap. So is time. The real question is: was it worth it?

That depends.

The people I worked with were great. My in-house publicist and the freelancer I hired, my swag and website and curriculum guide designers, the companies that printed my various items, the conference contacts, the regional coordinators of my professional organizations, the folks who interviewed and/or hosted me--all of them, without fail, were great. It was a joy to work with them, and it's cheering to know so many good people are out there to support authors.

So if "was it worth it?" means "do you have any regrets?"--the answer is "no."

But if "was it worth it?" means "did all this time and money produce tangible results in terms of books sold, name recognition, and/or brand development?"--I honestly have to say I have no idea. So far as I'm aware, unless you have a clickable ad that tracks how many people actually buy your book after clicking, there's simply no way to know if one's marketing efforts paid off. Survival Colony 9 appears to be selling reasonably well--not appreciably better but not appreciably worse than many a debut. Would it have sold worse without the marketing push? No way to tell.

The only thing I can tell is this: the time I spent marketing is time I certainly could have spent writing. Every hour online or on the phone, every trip to the post office to mail a contest winner my book, every moment spent writing a guest post is time I didn't devote to my primary objective as a fiction-writer, which is to write fiction.

When it comes to marketing, everyone has to make her or his own decision. The numbers I've provided might help you to make yours (or they might help you to shop for better bargains than I did!). In my own case, though I don't regret how I marketed Survival Colony 9, I've determined to approach any future works I might publish very differently. This isn't to say I won't market them at all. But I won't do it in the way or to the extent I did with my debut.

Instead, I'll write. And write. And write some more. Maybe that won't sell books. Maybe it will.

Who knows?

But selling books was never why I became a writer in the first place.

Monday, October 13, 2014

YA Guy Reviews... SILVERN by Christina Farley (plus a giveaway)!

When YA Guy was asked to review Christina Farley's SILVERN, book two of the GILDED trilogy, I jumped at the opportunity. I loved Christina's debut, a YA fantasy based on Korean mythology, and I couldn't wait to read the follow-up. Now that I've done so, I have to report that it's not as good as GILDED.

Because it's even BETTER!

That's right, SILVERN ups the ante on its predecessor and creates an even more intense, inventive, involving read. Check out my review below, and then read about Christina and enter to win a SILVERN giveaway!

After destroying the demigod Haemosu, Jae Hwa Lee figures her life will go back to normal: hanging out with her best friend Michelle and her boyfriend Marc, learning about the Korean past from her grandfather, and trying to connect to her distant father, who's thrown himself into his work as a way of forgetting his wife's death. But then Jae Hwa is confronted by an even more powerful supernatural opponent: Kud, the god of darkness. Where Haemosu wanted only Jae Hwa's soul, Kud wants the power contained within the White Tiger Orb, a power that might give him control over both the Spirit World and the human realm. To defeat him, Jae Hwa will have to confront both man-made threats--in the form of a trip to the totalitarian state of North Korea--and horrifying beasts from myth and legend. And she will also have to face a terrible choice, one that pits the lives of her loved ones against her very freedom.

Everything I loved about GILDED is on full display in SILVERN: the action sequences, the imaginative settings and creatures, the strong teenage characters, the conflict between Jae Hwa's desire to live a carefree life and her awareness that other lives depend on her. But by producing a deadlier opponent in the form of Kud, and by placing much of the novel's action in North Korea, Farley has exceeded GILDED in tension, danger, and emotional complexity. In this passage, for example, we find Jae Hwa longing not only for power over supernatural events but for the ability to intervene in the human world:

"I stare at the picture behind me of the little girl, lying on a mat in a barren concrete house. I don't know her name, but I want to. Nearly everyone is exiting the gym to head outside to the soccer field, except Kag-dae, so I scribble my wish onto the lantern.

"To be powerful enough to stop the evil."

Evil, in this context, has nothing to do with gods or monsters. It has to do with inhumanity, the rule of the powerful over the weak, the insanity of a world where suffering has no easy source or solution. That's a much more difficult evil to defeat than the god of darkness, and it's a much more powerful lesson for young people to learn as they grow up to face the real world.

It's Farley's increasing maturity as a writer that enables her to approach these subjects, and to her credit, she does not try to wave a magic wand to resolve them. I can't say more without giving too much away--so I'll just say that the ending of SILVERN will haunt you. And at the same time, it'll leave you wishing for more from this talented new voice in YA.

SILVERN is available at Amazon, BAM, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble

CHRISTINA FARLEY, author of Gilded and Silvern, was born and raised in upstate New York. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. She taught at international schools in Asia for ten years, eight of which were in the mysterious and beautiful city of Seoul, Korea that became the setting of Gilded. Currently she lives in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is, until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown. Christina holds a master’s degree in education and has taught for eighteen years. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of Jennifer Lyons Literary.

To learn more about Christina, follow these links:

Twitter: @ChristinaFarley

And to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, go here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 6, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Darlene Beck Jacobson, author of WHEELS OF CHANGE!

Today, YA Guy is thrilled to host Darlene Beck Jacobson, whose MG historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE releases October 14. Check out the blurb and other info about Darlene's debut novel!

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old Emily Soper, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. But when Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors and by horsepower of a different sort, Emily is determined to save Papa’s business--even if she has to go all the way to the President.

About the author:

Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl. She wrote letters to everyone she knew and made up stories in her head.  Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs.  She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel.

Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties.  She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day.

Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters.  Check out her website at: www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

Saturday, September 27, 2014

YA Guy Hosts... Katie L. Carroll's ELIXIR BOUND Blog Blitz! (Plus a giveaway!)

YA Guy is thrilled to play host to Katie L. Carroll's ELIXIR BOUND blog blitz! If you're in the YA community and don't know Katie, you should--she's an author, editor, social media whiz, and one of the most genuinely awesome people around. Her book ELIXIR BOUND is a thrilling YA fantasy, and Katie's giving it away on Goodreads through September 28 (that's TOMORROW)! Read on, and be sure to enter the giveaway before it's too late!

YA fantasy
by Katie L. Carroll

Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone.

It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love.

Ebook on sale for $.99 until September 27:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Elixir-Bound-Katie-L-Carroll-ebook/dp/B0093CL4OM/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1385863834
MuseItUp bookstore: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/now-available-in-ebook/elixir-bound-432-detail

Signed paperback giveaway on Goodreads until September 28: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15821579-elixir-bound

About the Author:

Katie L. Carroll began writing at a very sad time in her life after her 16-year-old sister, Kylene, unexpectedly passed away. Since then writing has taken her to many wonderful places, real and imagined. She wrote ELIXIR BOUND and the forthcoming ELIXIR SAVED so Kylene could live on in the pages of a book. Katie is also the author of the picture app THE BEDTIME KNIGHT and an editor for MuseItUp Publishing. She lives not too far from the beach in a small Connecticut city with her husband and son. For more about Katie, visit her website at www.katielcarroll.com and follow her on Twitter (@KatieLCarroll) or Tumblr.