Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: ASBURY HIGH AND THE KIDNAPPER’S DRIVE by Kelly Brady Channick

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am thrilled to have Kelly Brady Channick as my guest today. The author of the Asbury High cozy mystery series for young adults, she is here to tell us about her love of writing and introduce her latest release, Asbury High and the Kidnapper’s Drive.

How a love of reading grew into a love of writing

by Kelly Brady Channick

I have always been a reader. Back when Borders still existed (ahh to still live in such a world!), all I wanted for Christmas and birthdays was Borders gift cards. To make things sweeter, my parents ever made my sister or myself go to school on our birthdays! Thus, we got to send the day as we pleased. This meant having my mom drive me to Borders, and we’d spend the day perusing the shelves, finding my new and next favorite reads!

After reading truckloads of stories, I quickly realized that I had many stories brewing in my own mind. More often than not, I would finish a book and realize I already had a whole different ending planned. Sometimes, I would pull out some paper and write down how I thought it should’ve ended!

The more I wrote, the more I fell in love. Many times I would wake up from a deep sleep, or seemingly zone out when bored, and realize I had been crafting an awesome story in my head—at least they always seemed awesome to me.

As time went on, I realized I had notebooks and random papers filled with various characters and plots. By the time I was a senior in high school, I thought, why not try to write out the story that kept coming back to me—Asbury High. Clearly, I listened to myself and have now published over half of the series.

While I continue to write, I also continue to be a voracious reader. I believe that reading both spurs the imaginative juices, but also helps authors learn to master their craft. And though not every book I have read has been good or well-written, it is those books which have taught me how not to write, and guided me away from making similar mistakes.

About Asbury High and the Kidnapper’s Drive

On a quiet summer night, in the peaceful seaside town of Asbury, a local girl is kidnapped from her home.

That very same day, a car thief is chased through an empty car lot, narrowly escaping from their teenage pursuer.

Can the two be connected?

Once again, it’s up to Asbury’s favorite, fearless foursome to find out.

Carly, Maddie, Pilot and Cornelious enter the summer before their junior year ready for normalcy. After a few weeks of calm, it seems that Carly may finally have the drama-free summer of her dreams—other than her boyfriend returning from his two-week vacation hotter than ever, drawing interest from her peers.

Just as Asbury is lulled into a sense of serenity, tragedy strikes when a local six-year-old is kidnapped from her home…with no sign of a break-in, no ransom, and no reason. While the town is desperate to find the missing girl, car parts from Maddie’s father’s shop suddenly go missing, and the gang begins to wonder if the two are connected. With little faith in law enforcement, and prodding from Maddie’s younger siblings, the gang finds themselves at the center of the investigation.

Unfortunately, solving both cases isn’t so easy, as the gang must work around the continually growing criminal enterprise of the Pitbulls, the constant construction occurring around town from Governor Gibbz’s Grant, as well as their changing feelings towards each other. When Maddie and Cornelious begin to sense their friendship might be more than what they realize, jealousies arise as the teens garner attention from others.

With all these distractions, can the foursome save the missing girl and figure out who is stealing from Petrozza Auto?

Asbury High and the Kidnapper’s Drive is the fourth book in a thrilling young adult cozy mystery series, that fans of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and Scooby Doo will love.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards from the author.

About the Author

For as long as she could remember, Kelly Brady Channick loved making up stories and leaving her listeners/readers on the edge of their seats.

Perhaps that’s why she always managed to talk herself out of trouble…

After graduating from NJ’s own Ocean City High School, Kelly accepted a basketball scholarship to Holy Family University, in Philadelphia. As a lifelong athlete, Kelly understands the importance of teamwork and overcoming adversity, something she hopes translates into her books.

Before writing page-turners, she taught first, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade — like a dessert menu, she simply had to test them all out. But her favorite job is the one she’s now doing full time: writing. Kelly loves to craft whodunit mysteries, leading readers through various twists and turns filled with red-herrings, hidden clues, and more peculiar characters than a reality show.

Kelly lives in South Jersey with her handsome husband, energetic baby boy, two cookie-stealing dogs, and an awfully smart cat.

Author links:

For additional reviews, guest posts, and more, visit the tour page.

Release Spotlight: KNIGHT MOVES by Julie Moffett

Today’s post celebrates this week’s release of Knight Moves by Julie Moffett.  Knight Moves is the second book in the White Knights YA mystery series, which features really cool geek girls.  I have yet to sample this series but it sounds like a fun book.

About the  Book

CoverFinalLG-KnightMovesWhen U.S. intelligence agencies invite teen geek and ace hacker, Angel Sinclair, and her friends to try out for a highly competitive school for government operatives, will she wash out or step into a future she never expected?

My name is Angel Sinclair and I’m the youngest senior at a high school for technologically-gifted students. School bored me until my friends and I were unexpectedly tapped to try out for a top-secret spy academy. I’m not sure I have what it takes to be an operative for the U.S. government, but my friends and I are going to give it our best shot.

But first I have to go up against uber-skilled candidates who can do a thousand push-ups, kill a person with a fingernail file, and make handcuffs out of paper clips. My only defining skills are my mad hacking abilities and extreme awkwardness. I don’t know what kind of spy that would make me, but I’m not going down without a fight.

With my loyal friends by my side, we’re in a race to finish at the top of the class. Together we have the smarts…but we’ll have to battle our insecurities and work together or miss out on an adventure of a lifetime.

Check out the trailer:

Buy links:

You can the book on Amazon and other booksellers.

About the Author

JulieMoffetJulie Moffett is the bestselling author of the long-running Lexi Carmichael Mystery Series and the young adult White Knights spin-off series featuring really cool geek girls! She’s been publishing books for 25 years, but writing for a lot longer. She writes in the genres of mystery, young adult, historical romance and paranormal romance. She has won numerous awards, including the Mystery & Mayhem Award for Best YA/New Adult Mystery, the HOLT Award for Best Novel with Romantic Elements, a HOLT Merit Award for Best Novel by a Virginia Author (twice!), the Award of Excellence, a PRISM Award for Best Romantic Time-Travel AND Best of the Best Paranormal Books, and an EPIC Award for Best Action/Adventure Novel. She has also garnered additional nominations for the Bookseller’s Best Award, Daphne du Maurier Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Julie is a military brat (Air Force) and has traveled extensively. Her more exciting exploits include attending high school in Okinawa, Japan; backpacking around Europe and Scandinavia for several months; a year-long college graduate study in Warsaw, Poland; and a wonderful trip to Scotland and Ireland where she fell in love with castles, kilts and brogues.

Julie has a B.A. in Political Science and Russian Language from Colorado College, a M.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and an M.Ed from Liberty University. She has worked as a proposal writer, journalist, teacher, librarian and researcher. Julie speaks Russian and Polish and has two awesome sons.

Follow Julie on Social Media:

Guest Post: ACCEPTING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM by Beth Rodgers

Mistletoe & Magic coverIt’s a pleasure to invite Beth Rodgers to take over my blog today as she shares her  thoughts on accepting constructive criticism – an issue that all authors have to face up to at some time in their careers.

Beth Rodgers is an accomplished author of YA fiction, who is currently celebrating the release of Mistletoe & Magic, a multi-author anthology that includes  “Hearts & Homes” – a contemporary young adult romance.


Accepting Constructive Criticism by Beth Rodgers

It may seem difficult at times to put your work out there for someone else to critique, whether it’s for editing in the process of publication, grading, or otherwise. The fact of the matter is that without hearing other people’s opinions, you are obviously bent on your own opinion on the writing you have done, and, let’s be honest – you think it’s great. We all do. It’s only natural to have emotional ties to the writing you have done. It is also possible that something you hated writing or hated the outcome of once it was fully written could be completely loved by one or more of your readers.

Criticism gets a bad rap. The word has a negative connotation. When people hear that someone is being critical or is criticizing something, they think negatively. Again, this is only natural and is a part of life. An important idea to remember, however, is that criticism does not have to be bad. Without criticism, think of how many pieces of writing, movies, TV shows, or other works of art would go out to the masses due to the biased opinion of the work’s creator.

Have you ever read a book you didn’t like? Have you ever watched a movie or TV show that you wish you hadn’t bothered with? Have you ever thought how nice it would be to be able to tell the author or creator of whatever it is you read, watched, etc. what you might have done differently? Everyone is a critic. Everyone judges. It’s something that is as normal as a typical daily routine. Yet, criticism and judgment can turn out positively. There are always at least two sides to every idea/topic/issue/etc. Just because you think something is great doesn’t mean the rest of the world does, and just because you think something was awful doesn’t mean the rest of the world didn’t love it. You are entitled to your opinion just like anyone else. Just because someone tells you that they suggest changing something doesn’t mean you have to do it. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. What it does mean is that you have to attempt to see that person’s viewpoint and analyze not only whether you agree with it, but determine whether you feel that others may see things the same way as the original critic. That is why having more than one person read your work and give you feedback is important. Even if the people you choose to read your work do not give the same advice, even if one person tells you how feedbackgreat it was while another says it was good but there was room for improvement, while another tells you they couldn’t stand it, sharing what other people had to say with the group of reviewers you have established for yourself will help you to gauge whether they truly noticed everything in your writing.

Just because you are the writer does not mean you are the only reader that writing will ever have. The definition of constructive criticism is “the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.” It is essential that this definition is not only remembered, but taken to heart. No writer has ever penned the perfect piece the first time around. If they say they have, they are lying to you. Read the following quotes from well-known people and authors to further your understanding of the power of constructive criticism:

Winston Churchill, Former British Prime Minister:
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Hillary Clinton, Politician and Former Presidential Candidate:
“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”

Neil Gaiman, Author:
“I suspect that most authors don’t really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so.”

user-satisfaction-2800863_1280 Why do you think there are reviews on sites that sell books, appliances, and any other item you can possibly think of? The reason is simple. It is because people want to know what others think. They want to see differing opinions to help them make the most informed decision possible. So should it be with writing. Writers must be able to make informed, intelligent decisions based on suggestions that others have made. When something sounds negative, consider the actual intent behind the suggestion, and then determine whether the person is in any way coming up with something that is a possible revision that can be made. Just as you are entitled to your opinion, so are your readers. This is why only certain books make the New York Times Bestseller list, why certain movies and TV shows win Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmy Awards, why certain music wins Grammys and American Music Awards, etc. If you have ever thought someone unfairly lost an award, an election, or anything else, you have a different opinion than those who did the voting. You are entitled to this. Remember this when someone reads your work and gives you suggestions. Your emotional and other connections with the Beth Rodgers Author Posterwork you have written is essential to you being motivated to continue writing. This is extremely important. Never forget this. However, don’t forget that others are entitled to their opinions as well, and their opinions may just help you improve your writing and sustain a more solid style from that point forward. Every little bit helps. You just have to see it that way.

About the Author

Beth Rodgers is the author of two contemporary young adult novels, Freshman Fourteen and Sweet Fifteen, as well as “Hearts & Homes,” a short story that follows her second novel, but can be read as a standalone story. It can be found in Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Books Central Holiday Anthology. She also works as an editor and creative writing presenter.

In her free time, Beth loves to watch binge-worthy TV shows, travel with her family, and read plenty of good books that she spends time reviewing for her blog and as a staff reviewer for YA Books Central. She lives in Michigan with her husband and children.

Connect with Beth on:

Find her books on Amazon at the following websites:

Interview & Spotlight: ALL THE THINGS WE LOST by Kayla Tirrell

Today I am happy to have as my guest,  Kayla Tirrell, author of the River Valley Lost & Found series. She’s here to tell us about her writing and All the Things We Lost, the first book in her  young adult, contemporary romance series.

About All The Things We Lost

ThingsLost_coverAfter her mother’s death, eighteen-year-old Katie finds herself in a town she never thought she’d see again. Lost in turmoil and sadness, a ray of hope shines when she comes face to face with Julian for the first time in years.

However, he isn’t the same boy she left behind. Reserved and covered in bruises, everyone in River Valley avoids him. Rumors of his activities run rampant.
Despite his cold attitude toward her and her own sadness, Katie can’t keep her thoughts from straying to her childhood friend.

Julian is barely keeping it together. He’s the sole provider for his family after his dad leaves. His dreams to go to college are ruined. Even his relationship with his older brother leaves its mark.

But Katie’s back in town and is stirring feelings in him he thought were lost forever.

Can they find hope and love in each other, or will the struggle to survive their desperate situations prove too much?

All The Things We Lost is a young adult contemporary romance perfect for both teens and adults. It is the first in a series of books, each revolving around a different couple living in the same, small town.

Tip: You can download All the  Things We Lost from Amazon for just 99 cents or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

An interview with Kayla Tirrell

Earlier this year, you released a YA series set in Idaho. What made you choose Idaho?  Have you spent a lot of time there?  

I actually grew up in a small town called Kuna. River Valley is loosely based on this town. It was fun to relive some of my childhood experiences through Katie and Julian.

What challenges did you face in the writing process? How did you deal with writer’s block, and so on…?

Well, for one, I don’t actually live in Idaho anymore. So I spent a lot of time talking to my childhood friends. I asked a LOT of questions.KaylaTirrell

Writer’s block hasn’t been a problem as of yet. Finding the time to write is the real struggle.

Do you have any advice to offer other writers?  

It’s cliché, but don’t give up. I almost put All The Things We Lost down, never to be finished. I’m really glad I didn’t. I’ve met so many amazing authors and readers along the way. This book has really touched people. That’s an amazing feeling.

I am guessing you read a lot. What genre do you most enjoy reading? 

I actually don’t get to read nearly as much anymore. Writing takes a lot of my free time. But I enjoy young adult, specifically fantasy and science fiction. In fact, I have a science fiction idea that I HOPE to be writing early in 2018.

What writers or books have most inspired you?

Considering I write romance, Kasie West and Morgan Matson have been some of my biggest influences. Wendy Higgins is another.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on a collaboration with two other authors. I’m really excited about it. We recently released a collection of short stories (that’s available for free on all major retailers), but are co-authoring a full-length series together. Each one of us is writing a book in it, and it should be released early 2018.

What role does social media play in your life?

I have such a love/hate relationship with social media. I actually took a several-month hiatus when I was finishing up All The Things We Lost. I find it to be such a black hole for time. That said, I’ve so enjoyed connecting with readers and writers I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

What do you do when you’re not busy reading and writing?

I’m a mom of three very active boys. I spend a lot of time chasing them. I’m also very active in my church.

And last but not least, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I really, really want to visit Russia. I’m fascinated by the architecture of their cathedrals.

About the Author

Kayla has loved to read as long as she can remember. While she started out reading spooky stories that had her hiding under her covers, she now prefers stories with a bit more kissing.

When she gets a chance to watch TV, she enjoys cheesy sci-fi and superhero shows. Most days, you’ll catch her burning dinner in an attempt to cook while reading just one more chapter.

Kayla lives in the sunshine state with her husband and three boys.

You can find Kayla on:  Amazon  Website    Twitter

Additional works by Kayla include:

To subscribe to her newsletter and receive a FREE short story, click here.

Spotlight: FAMOUS BY DEFAULT by M.K. Harkins

MK Harkins recently released what has been heralded as a gripping YA Contemporary Romance.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but Famous by Default looks like a promising read – a sweet romance that touches on social issues.

Description

Jax
FamousbyDefaultcoverBuried, By my family’s fame. Dying to escape the limelight, And finally, I do. Being raised as a Jayne, I’m under constant scrutiny. The rock band my brothers formed makes it impossible to stay under the radar. Paparazzi, tabloids, rabid fans–you name it and I’ve got it. It all makes me sick. But getting shipped off to crazy Aunt Betty’s house in my senior year of high school isn’t any better. After all, there isn’t a stray kid or pet in the world that my aunt wouldn’t take in. Then I meet her. She’s cautious, suspicious, and not interested in me at all. But that’s fine by me. Sivan Holt may be beautiful and intelligent, but she’s nothing I’m looking for.
Sivan
Drowning, In my past. Struggling to feel settled. And finally, I do. Growing up in the foster care system, I longed for a sense of belonging. All I wanted was a place to call home. At the age of seventeen, I’m finally starting to feel it here. Home. When he comes along, it unsettles me. I don’t want him to ruin everything we’ve built–everything that matters. Jax Jayne is arrogant, privileged, and I want nothing to do with him. But those green eyes of his keep drawing me in. If I let down my walls, will it be my final undoing?
 

About the Author

MKHarkinsMK Harkins has always been a voracious reader. After hitting a dry spell of reading material, she decided to write the kind of book she’d like to read. This resulted in the creation of her debut novel, Intentional. (Award for Best Sweet Romance – eFestival of Words- August 2014) Unintentional, Breaking Braydon, Taking Tiffany and The Reader soon followed. MK’s newest, Famous by Default, released March 2017. The follow-up to The Reader, The Jack, is due out 2017.

When she’s not writing novels, she likes to spend her free time traveling the world, splashing in mud puddles (She lives in Seattle, what can she say?), watching movies and reading (!) She LOVES to hear from her readers!

Connect with MK:

Sign up for MK’s Newsletter and receive a free book: http://eepurl.com/clLfBf

Release Spotlight: DATING THE IT GUY by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Krysten Hager has been at it again. Her new YA contemporary romance – Dating the It Guy – was released earlier this month.  Check it out.

Description

DatingtheItGuy453x680.jpgEmme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

Click here to view the trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HdfnUqZPKU

A short excerpt appears at the end of this post.

You can find the book on these retailers:

About the Author

author photoBesides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, Krysten is a also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes young adult, middle grade, new adult, and adult fiction as well as humor essays. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in southwestern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows (she’s addicted to American Dad to the point where she quotes episodes on a daily basis and also loves Girl Meets World). She’s also a third generation Detroit Lions fan.

Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star,  Landry in Like, and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

Follow Krysten:

Excerpt – Dating the It Guy

“By the way, did you hear Lauren got into Senator Agretti’s old school?”

“Seriously? I wonder if she applied there because Brendon did,” I said.

Margaux snorted. “Duh, of course. Seriously, she might as well just pee on him to mark her territory.”

“Margaux, shut up,” Kylie said.

“Whatever. Anyway, the important thing is if Brendon knew she was applying there,” Margaux said. “Em, do you think he knew?”

I hoped Lauren was just trying to follow Brendon, but what if they had planned this whole thing while they were dating? What if he convinced her to apply there so they could go to college together, wear matching American flag sweaters with big scarves while drinking hot chocolate, and jump into leaf piles just like a preppy clothing catalog. At least now I didn’t have to worry about them reciting poetry to one another in South Bend, but still, what if they had made plans to go to school together?

“Don’t worry about it,” Kylie said. “She was probably trying to follow him—like she always does. She’s so pathetic.”

Kylie was trying to make me feel better, but Lauren was far from pathetic. After all, she was pretty much the “Most Likely to Succeed” poster girl. While she was out overachieving and saving the world without messing up her perfect, bouncy hair, I was trying to get through each day. I tried to push away the image of Lauren and Brendon holding hands and drinking hot chocolate under a stadium blanket.

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: THE MYSTERIOUS PACKAGE by Christa Nardi and Cassidy Salem

The hint of a fall breeze is in the air, bringing with it the excitement of an upcoming release – The Mysterious Package – A Hannah and Tamar Mystery.

Mysterious-Package.jpgThe Mysterious Package is the first book in a new series for Young Adults that features two teenaged sisters who have a knack for solving mysteries.

Description

Hannah and Tamar are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving break with their grandparents. On the long ride to Vermont, the sisters are quick to offer assistance when a fellow passenger – a girl in her late teens – is hassled by a rough-looking young man. Grateful as she may be for their help, Gwen is in no hurry to make friends, not even as she thrusts a mysterious package into Tamar’s hand and disappears in the Rutland train station. Puzzled by her behavior, Hannah and Tamar set out to locate Gwen and unravel the secret of the mysterious package.

You can order your copy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mysterious-Package-Hannah-Tamar-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01M1XPEZH/

Scroll down to the end of this post for a short excerpt…

The Mysterious Package (A Hannah and Tamar Mystery)

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win an e-copy of The Mysterious Package and a $10 Amazon Gift card (US only).

About the Authors

Christa Nardi

Christa Nardi is and always has been an avid reader. Her favorite authors have shifted from Carolyn Keene and Earl Stanley Gardner to more contemporary mystery/crime authors over time, but mystery/crime along with romance and scifi/fantasy are her preferred choices for leisure reading.

Christa has been a long time writer from poetry and short stories to the Cold Creek mystery series. Christa Nardi is a pen name for a real life professor/psychologist from the Northeast.

Other books by Christa Nardi:

  • Murder at Cold Creek College (Cold Creek #1)
  • Murder in the Arboretum (Cold Creek #2)
  • Murder at the Grill (Cold Creek #3)
  • Murder in the Theater (Cold Creek #4)

Cassidy Salem

Cassidy Salem has always been an avid reader. She is especially fond of mysteries (both cozy and traditional) and police procedurals. Over the years, her favorite mystery authors have included Agatha Christie, Caroline Keene, Mary Higgins Clark, and Janet Evanovich. Cassidy also enjoys reading historical fiction focused on American and world history, as well as the classics.

When she’s not reading, she enjoys music and spending time with family and friends, and travels with her husband and son whenever possible. Her travels have taken her to destinations throughout the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia.

Other books by Cassidy Salem:

  • Think Murder (Adina Donati, Accidental Sleuth #1)
  • Dying for Data (Adina Donati, Accidental Sleuth #2) 

The Mysterious Package – An excerpt

The scenery flew by as Hannah and Tamar rode the first leg on Amtrak from Baltimore, Maryland to Rutland, Vermont. It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the girls were on the way to their grandparents’ house to help prepare for Thanksgiving Day. The rest of the family would arrive Wednesday or Thursday.

It hadn’t been easy to get the high school to excuse the students from two days’ classes the following week. But both were honor students and they had promised to keep up with their school work. With over eight hours of train ride, Wi-Fi, and available plug-ins, the girls would have plenty of time to get their pesky homework out of the way.

Even though Tamar and Hannah had travelled this route many times, the scenery distracted them. They enjoyed the view of the cities, small towns, and landscape. As the train edged north, vestiges of the last snowstorms were evident. Dirtied piles of snow, not big enough to even call drifts, dotted the landscape.

“Leave me alone!” A woman’s high-pitched plea shattered the constant drone of conversation and the hum of the train as it moved along the tracks.

Both girls turned toward the source of the scream. A girl, about their age, was pushing a young man away. She had medium brown, straight hair to her waist that swung from side to side as she tried to pull away from the man. Conversation stopped as passengers watched the two, but nobody moved. Hannah and Tamar exchanged glances and as one they walked up to the pair. Continue reading

Guest Post & Spotlight: LANDRY’S TRUE COLORS by Krysten Lindsay Hager

For a change of pace, I am happy to host Krysten Lindsy Hager, who is celebrating the release of the paperback edition of True Colors. In her guest post,  Krysten talks about her inspiration for Landry’s True Colors – a  young adult series about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, crushes, and self-image. Sounds like relevant and enjoyable reading for the younger generation.

Inspiration for the Landry’s True Colors Series by Krysten Lindsay Hager

When writing my teen series, the Landry’s True Colors Series, I wanted to create a character who showed her own insecurities and feeling about friends, her looks, talking to boys, school, etc. to show that everyone has their insecure moments and that no one is alone in that.

Landry is a very realistic teen in that I didn’t create her to magically have all the answers. She gets pushed around by friends and you see her trying to deal with the situations and handle moving from one  group of friends who turns their back on her, to another group where she might need to conform to fit  in. We see Landry realize she feels most comfortable with friends she can be herself around and not have to pretend to like certain things to fit in. She doesn’t come to that realization overnight that you need to find those kinds of friends, but it’s by trial and error and in learning it’s okay to be yourself and  that good friends will accept you for who you are—not who you pretend to be.

Landry shows her flaws and the things that make her anxious –like talking to her crush, the modeling competitions, and being on live TV. Even though she makes it through a few rounds of the modeling contest, she still deals with self-doubt due to her own insecurities and mean comments made by “frenemies” as well as girls at school. I’ve had readers share with me that they identify with Landry and liked that we saw even her embarrassing moments where she gets so nervous she makes a bee-line for the bathroom. One reading specialist wrote me to say her students felt better seeing that even this teen model sometimes felt bad about how she looked. I wanted to write a book that made people feel less alone in their own insecurities and hearing that from readers means so much to me.

I think the subject of jealousy and competition is something we all face at that age—at all ages really. I know I sure ran across it and recently I had a cousin who is in college complaining about dealing with jealousy drama on the same day I was talking to someone with a twelve year-old daughter who was dealing with the exact same issues. It’s difficult to deal with things like that, but when those negative feelings are coming from people you considered good friends…well, it hurts all the more. It really all boils down to friendships and loyalty and what it means to be a true friend. I think it’s a message that hits everyone no matter what your age or background is—everyone deals with this at some point in  their lives. I used to like to read about girls I could relate to and I hope someone reads the Landry’s True Colors Series and feels a little less alone in the world.

About Landry’s True Colors

The Landry’s True Colors Series is a clean reads young adult humor series about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, crushes, and self-image. It’s a clean reads book so it’s suitable for ages 11 and up.
series

True Colors (Book 1)

Landry Albright just wants to be one of the interesting girls at school who always have exciting things going on in their lives. She wants to stand out, but also wants to fit in, so she gives in when her two best friends, Ericka and Tori, push her into trying out for a teen reality show modeling competition with them. Landry goes in nervous, but impresses the judges enough to make it to the next round.

However, Ericka and Tori get cut and basically “unfriend” her on Monday at school. Landry tries to make new friends, but gets caught up between wanting to be herself and conforming to who her new friends want her to be. Along the way she learns that modeling is nowhere as glamorous as it seems, how to deal with frenemies, a new crush, and that true friends see you for who you really are and like you because of it.

Best Friends…Forever? (Book 2):

Landry Albright hopes the new year will start off in an amazing way—instead she has to deal with more frenemy issues, boy drama, and having most of her best friends make the cheerleading squad without her. Suddenly, it seems like all anyone can talk about is starting high school next year—something she finds terrifying.

Landry gets her first boyfriend (her crush, Vladi), but then gets dumped just as things come to a head with her friends. She feels lost and left out, but finds good advice about dealing with frenemies from what she considers an unlikely source. Landry faces having to speak up for what’s right, tell the truth (even when it hurts), and how to get past the fear of failure as she gets another shot at competing in the American Ingénue TV show modeling competition. Will she get a second chance with her friends, fame, and Vladi?

Watch the BFF book trailer here.

Landry in Like (Book 3):

Things seem to be going well in Landry Albright’s world—she’s getting invited to be on local talk shows to talk about her modeling career, her best friends have her back, and her boyfriend Vladi has becoming someone she can truly count on…and then everything changes.

Suddenly it seems like most of the girls in school are into hanging out at a new teen dance club, while Landry just wants to spend her weekends playing video games and baking cup-cakes at sleepovers. Then, Yasmin McCarty, the most popular girl in school, starts to come between Landry’s friendship with her best friend Ashanti. Things take a turn when Yasmin tells Vladi that Landry is interested in another boy. Can Landry get her relationships with Ashanti and Vladi back or will she be left out and left behind?

Watch the Landry in Like book trailer here.

About the Author:

KLHager_Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, the celebrity world, values, and self-image in True Colors, Best Friends…Forever? Landry in Like, Next Door to a Star and Competing with the Star. Best Friends…Forever? was ranked at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Teen; Young Adult Values; Virtues Fiction, and True Colors is an international bestseller. Her work has  been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Bellbrook Times, the Grand Haven Tribune, and on the talk show Living Dayton.
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Guest Post: H.L. BURKE on Her Creative Process – “Ideas are kind of like rabbits”

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a reading adventure. For the first time in years, I decided to read a fantasy novel.  I loved it. Beggar Magic was a delightful read that left me in awe of the author’s creativity.  I was thrilled when H.L. Burke agreed to do a guest post on my blog.


Where do I get my ideas? 

11755639_10154140291146002_1215304829087524943_nIdeas are kind of like rabbits. You let them run free, and they’ll find other ideas and make little idea babies, often more than you can handle, and sometimes you’ll end up sitting in front of Walmart with a box of ideas, begging other writers to take them and give them a good home because you really would like to give them the time and attention they deserve, but you already have a backlog of ideas, and you know you will never finish, and your only hope is that they have word processors in Heaven. Sorry for the 89 word sentence. I’ve had a lot of coffee.

Like a lot a lot.
Like I replaced my bloodstream with coffee around 2007. Where was I?

Honestly, though, I think most ideas spring from taking something and looking at it in a new way. This can be as simple as changing your perspective or listening to someone who comes at it from another direction.

Take spiders. Most people don’t like spiders. Myself, I find them genuinely creepy. While I know they eat bugs and rarely devour humans, I still think they are devil-eyed spawns of Ungoliant.

What if, however, I put myself in the mindset of someone who likes spiders? What does this someone see in them? How do they feel constantly seeing their favorite animals mocked and squashed? Are they afraid to invite friends over because they worry people won’t understand their arachnophilia? Do they try to get a puppy so they can be like normal people but end up naming it Spidey and dressing it up in one of those spider-dog costumes for Halloween? And what if they found someone who didn’t think they were odd? What would the relief and excitement be like to finally be understood or at least accepted?

And that’s an idea. All I did was pick the first random thing to pop into my head and ask how it might look to someone else.

My personal tastes tend towards fantasy because the potential “what ifs” are endless, but really, the real world offers a ton of wonder … endless wonder. Why? Because each person is like a prism bringing a new viewpoint, filtered through life experiences, personality, and many other factors. Because God didn’t say, “Meh, I’ll only color in the interesting parts. No one’s ever going to see it if I put crystals at the bottom of this cave or colorful birds on this isolated island.” He stretched Creation into the depths of the ocean and far flung reaches of space. It’s all out there. That’s pretty inspiring.

Ask a simple question. Take a premise that’s been done to death and add a “what if?”

What if the knight came to rescue the princess from the dragon and the princess said, “No, thanks, I like this dragon. We’re friends now.”

What if magic existed but people used it the way modern people use technology … and then what happens if you take it away?

If a cat and a dragon were roommates, which would be the pet?

What if fires were sentient?

Those four basic questions all spawned novels (Dragon’s Curse, Beggar Magic, Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon, and Lands of Ash), but if you answered each of them, I bet the resulting stories would be totally different. They’d go through your prism and come out unique.

beggarmagic 3booksheidi_ landsofash

About H.L. Burke

Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

She is the author of a four part fantasy/romance series entitled “The Scholar and the Dragon“, featuring the books Dragon’s Curse, Dragon’s Debt, Dragon’s Rival, and Dragon’s Bride as well as the YA/Fantasy Beggar Magic. Her current projects are a children’s chapter book and an epic fantasy trilogy.

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