Saturday, December 31, 2016

YA Guy... Looks Back at 2016!

It's been an exciting year for YA Guy, writing-wise and otherwise. Before moving on to 2017, I thought I'd review some of the highlights from 2016.

Writing stuff. The big news this year was the publication of Scavenger of Souls, the sequel to Survival Colony 9. This novel completes the two-part Survival Colony series (though in the back of my evil little brain, I'm thinking of writing a prequel). If you're a teacher or librarian, you can still enter my great Scavenger of Souls giveaway, which runs throughout 2017. And if you're a reader of any kind, you can get pumped for the release of my new novel, the deep space adventure/romance Freefall, which comes out in 2017.

Other writing stuff. In addition to visiting schools and book fairs, I attended several very cool YA conferences this year, including YA Fest in Indiana and the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) conference in Pittsburgh. It was great meeting other YA authors, librarians, and fans!

Family stuff. I did a lot of vacationing this year, including a trip to Austin to see the X Games with my daughter, a family trip to Niagara Falls, and another family vacation to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a week of snorkeling, snoozing, and sunning. Plus, as research for a novel I'm planning, I drove down to Maryland to visit the Kennedy Farmhouse, where John Brown trained his troops prior to his assault on Harpers Ferry.

Random stuff. I went to some cool concerts this year, including the Who and Bruce Springsteen, which I attended with my son (his first rock concert). I also read exactly 50 books, many of them YA, the best of which are featured in this post.

I'm sure I did some other stuff too, but that's enough for now. Happy New Year to everyone, and YA Guy's looking forward to seeing you in 2017!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

YA Guy Gives Away... a Ton o' Books!

YA Guy reads a lot of books. (It's in the job description.) But alas, YA Guy doesn't have unlimited shelf space, so I give a lot of my books away. It's more fun to share anyway!

Today, as an end-of-year treat, I'm giving away TEN books (mostly YA, though a few would probably count as MG) to one lucky reader. (U.S. addresses only.) All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter thingy below, which I've made as streamlined as possible so you don't have to plow through twenty-seven different entry options, and on December 30, I'll choose a grand prize winner. Easy-peasy, no?

Here are the great books you can win, listed in reverse alphabetical order by author's last name:

The Daemoniac by Kat Ross. A YA mystery/horror set in late 19th-century New York, where grisly murders that might be demon-inspired are investigated by a young detective.

Flashfall by Jenny Moyer. YA science fiction about a world in which radioactive fallout has produced a society sharply divided between the "naturals" who live in protected cities and the "subpars" who mine the minerals near the deadly flash curtain.

Incognita by Kristen Lippert-Martin. The second book in a YA technothriller series about a girl whose memories have been surgically altered and the hacker who assists her in tracking down the villains.

The Whisper trilogy by Dana Faletti. Three YA paranormal romance novels about teen angels, including Whisper, Wake, and War & Wonder.

The Salvation of Gabriel Adam by S. L. Duncan. The second book in a great YA fantasy trilogy about teen archangels. I'm finishing this book up now, and I'll have a review on the site soon.

Tangled Lines by Bonnie J. Doerr. An eco-mystery involving teens who investigate the slaughter of pelicans in the Florida Keys.

The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz. Based on a true story of two young boys from Guatemala who set out on a perilous journey to the United States

Scavenger of Souls by Joshua David Bellin (yes, that's me). I mean, why not? I've got extras, and it brings the giveaway to an even ten.

So here's the aforementioned Rafflecopter thingy. Enjoy, good luck, and see you in 2017!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 19, 2016

YA Guy... Says It with a Smile!

YA literature is full of cliches, and YA Guy's seen 'em all. (Wait, was that a cliche?)

There are plot cliches (teen resistance leader, armed only with a medieval weapon, defeats the technologically-advanced Empire), character cliches (kick-butt heroine! brooding hero! implausibly motivated villain!), symbol cliches (parental hand-me-down with astonishing magical powers). There are also sentence- or word-level cliches, expressions so overused it's hard to find a YA novel without them. I pointed out one such cliche in a previous post ("I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding"), and I'd like to address another today.

This one goes something like: "His smile didn't reach his eyes," or "She smiled, but it didn't touch her eyes." Lots of smiles out there in YA Land that don't make it to the smiler's optic apparatus.

You know you've seen this before. Maybe you've even written it. (I have.) But I think it's time to stop.

I get what the writer's saying. I really do. It sounds silly--as if it were possible for the corners of one's lips to penetrate the cheeks and make physical contact with the eyes--but I do understand that's not what's being implied. The implication is that this is an insincere smile, or a smile without real joy, a perfunctory smile that conveys just the opposite. It's the kind of smile you give your boy/girlfriend when you're ready to break up with him/her, or the kind you throw at your companion right before you jump off a cliff, armed only with a medieval weapon, into a nest of flesh-eating guggernauts. Since it doesn't reach the eyes, and since the eyes (according to another cliche) are the windows to the soul, it's not a very smiley smile. I do get that.

But aren't there other, equally good, or even better ways to say this? Couldn't one describe the smile in more concrete terms? Or couldn't one dispense with the smile and describe some other, more interesting character action that conveys the same thing? Or, heck, if you've done a good job setting the scene and characterizing the characters, do we really need to be told that the character is less than delighted to be taking a plunge into that nest of guggernauts? Shouldn't we be able to figure this out ourselves?

YA Guy thinks so, anyway.

So let's save the smiles, genuine or not, for when they're really needed. Chances are you'll find they're not needed much at all. Surely, at moments of high tension, people can be doing something more captivating than smile at each other, whether they really mean it or not.

I'll make an exception, of course, for when someone's smile actually does reach their eyes. You never know with those guggernauts. They've got really big mouths.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

YA Guy Picks... His 2016 Top Ten!

It wouldn't be the holidays without YA Guy's yearly Top Ten list!

Here, in no particular order (and with no buy links, because I'm celebrating, not selling), are the 10 YA and MG novels I enjoyed most during this past year!

Kat Ross, The Midnight Sea. The first book in an exotic, wondrous alt-historical fantasy featuring genies and the handlers who control (and love) them.

Dianne Salerni, The Morrigan's Curse. The last and best book in the Eighth Day series. And the first two books are among the best MG fantasy I've ever read.

Amy Allgeyer, Dig Too Deep. A contemporary YA about mountaintop removal coal mining and one teen's crusade to stop it in her ailing grandma's small town.

Parker Peevyhouse, Where Futures End. Almost impossible to classify, this collection of linked sci-fi/fantasy stories is sure to surprise.

Jeffry W. Johnston, The Truth. A tense thriller about the cost of lies and the bonds of family. I sped through it in a single night.

Chris Howard, Night Speed. One of my favorite YA science fiction authors, Howard tells an exciting, morally complex tale of a teen special agent who hunts drug-enhanced criminals--and who has to take the same highly addictive drug to track them down.

Eliot Schrefer, Rescued. The third book in Schrefer's planned "ape quartet," this one focuses on an American teen who comes to recognize that his childhood pet orangutan deserves to be returned to the wild.

Margo Kelly, Unlocked. When the main character is hypnotized at a town fair, she starts to see and hear strange things. Is she going crazy, or are there even more sinister, demonic forces at work?

Siobhan Vivian, The List. This book wasn't published in 2016 (though another enjoyable Vivian novel, The Last Boy and Girl in the World, was). But The List, a story of how compulsory standards of beauty affect a group of high school girls, is the Pittsburgh author's best and most disturbing work.

Joshua David Bellin, Scavenger of Souls. Where is it written that I can't include my own novel in my Top Ten list? But seriously, I loved writing this concluding book in the Survival Colony series, and I couldn't resist!

So there you have it, folks! Happy reading, and I'll see you in 2017!


YA Guy

Monday, November 28, 2016

YA Guy... Gives Away SCAVENGER OF SOULS to Schools and Libraries!

I know it's been a long time since YA Guy posted here, largely because I've been frantically revising my 2017 novel, FREEFALL, while working on a new project during National Novel Writing Month. But NaNoWriMo is drawing to a close, and I wanted to announce a very cool giveaway I'll be running throughout the coming year.

Each month in 2017, I'll be selecting one winner to receive 20 FREE hardcover copies of SCAVENGER OF SOULS. That's 12 winners, each receiving 20 FREE copies. The giveaway is restricted to schools and libraries in the United States, but other than that, there are no strings attached. If you're a teacher or librarian, head over to the Survey Monkey form here to enter:

And if you know of teachers or librarians who might be interested, feel free to share!

FREE copies of SCAVENGER OF SOULS for schools and libraries. I suppose there are cooler things than that, but at the moment, I can't think of any!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

YA Guy Hosts... The QUEEN OF CHAOS Cover Reveal!

YA Guy is ecstatic to participate in the cover reveal for QUEEN OF CHAOS, the third and final book in Kat Ross's epic FOURTH ELEMENT series! If you haven't read the first two books--well, what are you waiting for? Read 'em now so you'll be ready for the finale this coming January!

Queen of Chaos
Kat Ross

(The Fourth Element #3)
Publication date: January 18th, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Persepolae has fallen. Karnopolis has burned.
As the dark forces of the Undead sweep across what remains of the empire, Nazafareen must obey the summons of a demon queen to save Darius’s father, Victor. Burdened with a power she doesn’t understand and can barely control, Nazafareen embarks on a perilous journey through the shadowlands to the House-Behind-the-Veil. But what awaits her there is worse than she ever imagined…
A thousand leagues away, Tijah leads a group of children on a desperate mission to rescue the prisoners at Gorgon-e Gaz, the stronghold where the oldest daēvas are kept. To get there, they must cross the Great Salt Plain, a parched ruin occupied by the armies of the night. A chance encounter adds a ghost from the past to their number. But will they arrive in time to avert a massacre?
And in the House-Behind-the-Veil, Balthazar and the Prophet Zarathustra discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. But is it enough to redeem the necromancer’s bloodstained soul and thwart his mistress’s plans?
As a final showdown looms with Queen Neblis, the truth of the daēvas’ origins is revealed and three worlds collide in this thrilling conclusion to the Fourth Element series.
Previous books in the series:
29670787 30228183

Author Bio:
Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters, and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.


Friday, October 21, 2016

YA Guy Reviews... GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee!

YA Guy finally got around to reading Harper Lee’s GO SET A WATCHMAN. It’s not really a YA novel—in fact, it’s even less YA than its predecessor, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD—and I’ve been extra busy this semester teaching overloads and juggling writing projects. But I finally got a break on the teaching side, and before NaNoWriMo starts next month, I had a chance to sneak Lee’s novel in.

When WATCHMAN was published last year, a lot of people were disappointed, even devastated, by what they took to be the sequel to MOCKINGBIRD. They were troubled, first of all, to discover that this “sequel” wasn’t very well written (more about this later). They were upset by some of the events that occurred in the fictional Finch family as the thirties turned into the fifties. And they were dismayed to discover that saintly Atticus Finch had, apparently, become a racist and a Klansman in his declining years. For those who saw WATCHMAN as Lee’s carrying forward of the story she’d first told in MOCKINGBIRD, all of this seemed like a betrayal of a beloved classic.

But as we know now—actually, as we knew all along, only this wasn’t talked about much within the publishing industry because it might have hurt sales—WATCHMAN is manifestly not the sequel to MOCKINGBIRD. Quite the contrary, it’s Lee’s first draft, her first attempt to tell the story of Jean Louise Finch and the racial history of Maycomb County. She wrote it before MOCKINGBIRD, submitted it to her editor, Tay Hohoff, and was told that it needed drastic reworking before it could be published. Hohoff suggested that she refocus the story on Jean Louise’s childhood, the days when she was (to quote WATCHMAN) “Scout Finch, juvenile desperado, hell-raiser extraordinary” (49). That’s exactly what Lee did, and MOCKINGBIRD was the result.

WATCHMAN, in short, was never meant to be published, any more than any first draft is meant to be published. It got published only after Lee’s advancing age and infirmity made it impossible for her to block its publication. Had it been published by a scholarly press, with an editor to provide the context and annotate the text, one might have argued that it got published for academic reasons, as a means of providing students and teachers insight into a classic author’s writing process. Being published as it was, however, it’s quite clear that it was published largely to make a bunch of people in the publishing industry (and not Lee herself) rich.

Given that history, part of me wishes it had never been published. It really isn’t a very good novel; though the writing is confident at the sentence level, the plot is slow and fractured, the characters (including the adult Jean Louise) dull, the romance between Jean Louise and her childhood chum forced and uninteresting. To the extent that it’s harmed Lee’s posthumous reputation in the eyes of some, it’s unfortunate that her wishes regarding its publication weren’t respected, or that (as said above) it wasn’t at least published in an academic manner.

But if the reader in me, the lover of literature, feels this way, the writer and the teacher of writing feels differently. What WATCHMAN tells us is that writers, even writers of Lee’s immense and astonishing powers, seldom if ever get it right the first time; it’s by swallowing their pride, accepting the limitations of their first efforts, and engaging in the arduous process of revision that writers are able to do what they do. With NaNo approaching—and with so many people both inside and outside the publishing industry rushing to put inferior work out there simply because the “market” demands it or electronic publishing facilitates it—I think it’s important to remember that drafts are just that. They exist for a reason, but they’re not ends in themselves.

I can’t wait to re-read MOCKINGBIRD, which I plan to do now that I've finished reading it in draft form. I haven't read it for years, and I’m eager to be reminded of what Lee’s persistence, humility, and hard work enabled her to produce.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

YA Guy... Gives Away the SURVIVAL COLONY series!

So here's something fun YA Guy just discovered: a student made a pillow out of my SURVIVAL COLONY 9 cover image.

As Joe Walsh says, it's tough to handle this fortune and fame. Everybody's so different, I haven't changed.

But seriously, this is a nice tribute. It's good to know somebody likes my book enough to want to sleep with it every night!

And here's another nice thing: you can win a signed copy of the two-part Survival Colony series, including SURVIVAL COLONY 9 and SCAVENGER OF SOULS, right here at YA Series Insiders.

You won't be able to sleep on them--they're hardcovers--but you can stay up late reading them!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

YA Guy Celebrates... The Release of BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES by Yvonne Ventresca!

Black Flowers, White Lies | Release Blitz |

YA Guy's excited to be celebrating the release of BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES by Yvonne Ventresca! I absolutely loved this book, which I had a chance to read before publication--check out my review here. Then read the book's details and teaser, and be sure to enter the giveaway below!

Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne VentrescaBLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES 

Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication: October 4, 2016
Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a supernatural connection. Since her mother discourages these beliefs, Ella keeps her cemetery visits secret. But she may not be the only one with secrets. Ella’s mother might be lying about how Dad died sixteen years ago. Newfound evidence points to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not as a result of a tragic car accident as her mother always claimed. After a lifetime of just the two of them, Mom suddenly feels like a stranger. When a handprint much like the one Ella left on her father’s tombstone mysteriously appears on the bathroom mirror, at first she wonders if Dad is warning her of danger as he did once before. If it’s not a warning, could her new too-good-to-be-true boyfriend be responsible for the strange occurrences? Or maybe it’s the grieving building superintendent whose dead daughter strongly resembles Ella? As the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, Ella becomes terrified about who—or what—might harm her. Soon the evidence points to someone else entirely: Ella herself. What if, like her father, she’s suffering from a breakdown? In this second novel from award-winning author Yvonne Ventresca, Ella desperately needs to find answers, no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

Excerpt from Black Flowers, White Lies

I take the stairs down. Once the stairwell door closes behind me, the basement seems darker than ever, as if the electricity is off. The light on my phone helps guide me to the laundry room. I flick the switch. Nothing happens. Not even the one good light turns on.
Maybe Norma’s in the middle of fixing the lightbulbs. She could have turned off the circuit breaker or something. But when I open the dryer, the drum light turns on as I dump the clothes into the basket. The electricity is working after all.
The light from the dryer illuminates the space and some­thing catches my eye. I focus my phone on the wall to my left.
“No.” I back up, banging into the open dryer door.
One word is scrawled in red capital letters across the wall: DAUGHTER. A bloody handprint drips in the space underneath.
I grab the basket. A cat T-shirt falls, but I don’t stop. I need to escape, fast. The elevator takes forever. The doors slide open. I expect demons, monsters, ghouls. It’s empty.
On our floor, I race to our apartment, fumble with my keys. My hands tremble too much to open the lock. “Blake!”
When he opens the door, I drop the basket to grab his arm. “Come with me.”
“El, what’s going on?”
I can’t speak on the elevator ride to the basement.
“Seriously, are you okay? You’re scaring me.”
“I’ll show you.”
I turn my phone light on when we leave the elevator and pull him into the dark laundry room. I illuminate the wall but can’t bear to look. “See?”
He’s quiet. I figure he’s as frightened as I am.
“See what?”
I turn my head and shine the light where the red scrawl was minutes before.
There’s nothing.
“Why are we in the dark?” Blake asks, flipping the laundry room switch.
The lights come on. The sudden brightness makes me blink as I stare at the blank wall.

About the Author

Yvonne Ventresca’s latest young adult novel, BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES will be published by Sky Pony Press in October 2016. Her debut YA novel, PANDEMIC, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. In PANDEMIC, a teen struggles to survive not only a deadly outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons. Ventresca's other works include the short story “Escape to Orange Blossom,” which was selected for the dystopian anthology PREP FOR DOOM, along with two nonfiction books, PUBLISHING (Careers for the 21st Century) and AVRIL LAVIGNE (People in the News).

Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca |


Prize pack includes a three panel rustic chalkboard with a $25 Amex gift card, a $25 Sephora gift card, and a signed copy of Black Flowers, White Lies. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 24, 2016

YA Guy... Meets the Authors!

It's easy to get so wrapped up in the day-to-day anxieties of the writing life that one loses sight of the big picture.

At least, that's what YA Guy has learned.

As a writer, you're always fretting about something. The manuscript you're working on. The manuscript you should be working on. The revisions due back to your editor. The upcoming release of your book. The marketing for that release. The sales figures for your previous book. The next project you have to write, and the sales figures for that one.

What can be forgotten in all of this is that you've realized a dream many aspire to but relatively few achieve.

I was reminded of this fact most recently when I received the following flyer via email:

Look at that title: "Meet the Authors." And I'm one of them. Whatever might be going on in my mind or my life, in the eyes of the rest of the world, I'm an author.

And that's pretty cool. It's something I've wanted to be for most of my life. It wasn't in any way guaranteed. It took hard work, lots of support, and more than a little luck. But it's here now, and whatever happens from this moment forward, it's here to stay.

I'm not saying I won't fret anymore, that I won't from time to time lose sight of the big picture, that I've become some kind of Zen writer. I'm sure I'll need reminders like this one every so often.

I'm just saying to other authors: you should be on the lookout for reminders like this. And when you find them, you should revel in them.

YA Guy can't wait to meet you.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

YA Guy Co-Sponsors... A Great Giveaway!


Click on a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win $220 to spend on books!

Fourteen YA authors,  including YA Guy, are sponsoring a giveaway for your chance to win a $220 Amazon e-gift card to restock your bookshelves this fall. The giveaway runs from today (September 8) to September 22. Participating authors include:

***Click on a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter!***

Fine Print: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Time Period: Begins on 09/08/2016 at 12:00 AM (Eastern Time) and ends on 09/22/2016 at 12:00 AM (Eastern Time). Eligibility: Open to legal residents of USA and Canada. Must be 13 years old or older to enter. Winner Selection: The winner of the giveaway will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Promotion Period. The random drawing will be conducted within 48 hours by Sponsor or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible Entries received. Winner will be notified by email at the email address provided in the Entry Information on or about 48 hours after the random drawing.