Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cover Reveal: BYRONIC by Sandi Beth Jones

Today's cover reveal is extra awesome because not only is the author my Omnific pub sister, BUT I recently discovered we reside in the same state. How cool is that? If you haven't yet read about her upcoming YA novel BYRONIC, just you wait. It sounds FABULOUS. In fact, I have the blurb for BYRONIC right here behind my back. Do you want to check it out?

All right. Sure. Here ya go:

When the creatures in her dark drawings come to life, Chelsea finds that the mysterious Geoff is the only person she can confide in. But she can't help wondering who she’s kissing: her tender confidant or the dangerous Byronic rebel bent on shocking his detached father.

Starting over in the South Carolina Lowcountry is just what sixteen-year-old Chelsea needs. Unfortunately, moving also means living with her mom's snobbish British novelist employer and his moody son Geoffrey. Knowing that her new home likely used to be a slave holding plantation doesn't make her feel any more at home.

Troubled and reckless after his brother's mysterious death, Geoff often mimics his father’s literary favorite, Lord Byron, acting "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." She's determined to keep her distance and buries herself in her art, though the darkness of her drawings troubles her and others who see them. When people in the Gullah and Geechee community point out that she has been drawing Boo Hags and haints -powerful and terrifying creatures of local legend and superstition- she starts to wonder about her own heritage and her connection to the Sea Islands. She begins to question her own grasp on reality when it seems those creatures start making their way out of her drawings and into real life. 

It's clear that Geoff has some secrets of his own, but he might be the only person she can confide in. Chelsea must decide who she can trust, when nothing in the Lowcountry is what it seems


I mean, OH MY WONDERFUL. I'll be reading this VERY soon. 

Okay so, I also have behind my back, the cover to this sparkling little jewel of a story. 

*slaps your hands away* 

Not yet. First, I want to tell you BYRONIC releases June 24th! Mark your calendars and add it to your Goodreads list!

NOW, you can see the super cool cover. 

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Author Bio:
Born and raised in the American South, Sandi spent her youth reading Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, and Agatha Christie. She spent many vacations traveling to Low Country South Carolina where she fell in love with the local ghost stories and folklore.
Sandi currently lives in Arkansas with her husband, where she works as a high school teacher. She's reviewed many YA novels for school library journals and has also published adult romance novels.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cover Reveal: THE EMBERS OF LIGHT by Tammy Farrell

It's cover reveal time again! I recently read The Darkness of Light by Tammy Farrell, and absolutely adored it. See my review here. Now, I am ANXIOUSLY awaiting the sequel, The Embers of Light. It will release November 11th.

Before you see the cover, check this out:

The descendants of the ancient gods think they’ve found peace, but the time has come when new magic and ancient powers will collide…

Stripped of his Dia powers and left to rot, Malcolm is a prisoner of Valenia—a sentence he finds worse than death. His thoughts of revenge are the only thing keeping him sane, but when he finally manages to escape, Malcolm discovers that living as a mortal is more dangerous than he ever imagined. After stealing from the wrong man, Malcolm becomes a captive once more, only this time his punishment is one that he won’t soon forget. His only hope of survival is Seren, an enigmatic young girl with golden eyes and a malevolence to match his own.

When he’s led to Mara and Corbin, the two responsible for his fall from grace, their new faction of Dia is in chaos, infiltrated by an ancient power thought to have been banished forever. This only fuels Malcolm’s ruthless ambitions, but he soon realizes that he too is under attack, a pawn in a centuries old game of power and greed. As new battle lines are drawn, Malcolm finds himself in uncharted waters, forced to choose between helping those he’s vowed to destroy or give in to his lingering desire to settle the score.

Debts will be paid, lives will be lost, and no Dia will ever be the same.

And now for the cover...

It's gorgeous...

Like, really really...

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Book One of the Dia Chronicles, The Darkness of Light, is available now.

Find Tammy Farrell

Why I Can't Give Up On This One: Selective Mutism

I usually aim to be either funny, snarky, or informative on this blog. Very rarely am I super serious, so here’s your fair warning. This post is about SURIOUS stuff. See, there. I can’t even get through one paragraph. Sarcasm or bad humor is my go-to when I’m nervous, and let me tell you, writing this has my stomach in knots.
Okay, so… here we go.
In 2009, I wrote a book. This was not my first book. Not even my second. And if you count all the half written books, it would’ve been like, my sixth or something. The little spark (plot bunny) that started the fire (completed novel) went something like this:
I wanna write a book about two kids who are completely screwed up but in different ways and they are both very lonely and they become friends first and for some reason, the girl won’t talk. Not like, she can’t talk, but she won’t talk. And there are so many obstacles in their way but they jump every hurdle and they do it together and in the end they may not have a happily ever after but they have a happy for now. And there’s a swan tattoo.
If you’re a writer, you are probably familiar with plot vomit. If you’re a reader, now you know this is how your favorite novel started. An idea tree with a ton of branches, but no leaves at all. The leaves come later.
Now, as I wrote and the story began to solidify, all those fine details were filled in:
The dude, his mom is white and his dad is black, and they die in an accident when he’s fifteen. He does a brief stint in foster care before he’s emancipated and has to learn to survive on his own. His “friends”… they don’t want to hang with him anymore. He’s no fun. All he ever wants to do is work on computers. They fail to comprehend that it’s because he has to, to earn a living. But there’s this chick at school. Nobody likes her. She has black hair and fingernail polish and too much eye-liner. She wears a hoodie all the time. She’s lonely, like him. And he wonders… he wonders if they could be friends.
He asks her name. She stares at him. He’s crushed.
And this is where I get emotional.
She doesn’t talk. It sounds so silly because she physically can. She just won’t. No matter who teases, yells, threatens. No matter if there are consequences. None of it will make her talk. Sometimes she wants to, but not even that matters. She won’t.
When I wrote this book, I didn’t have a name for what my main character struggled with. I knew it was real though. I knew, because I had dealt with it.
But wait, let’s back up a little. Give me some time to tame my feels before I get into the heavy stuff.
When I finished and polished the manuscript, I queried agents. Many of them. This hunk of 72,000 words obviously meant a lot to me, but as you probably surmised, since I am currently sans agent… it was rejected. I’m talking, it rained rejections. Like, flash flood warning, y’all. I was crushed, and not nearly as objective as I am nowadays. I get it now, I do. So many aspects go into an agent’s decision to represent you or not. Their rejection doesn’t mean you suck as a writer. Honestly, it doesn’t. And the bright spot was, I actually got one teeny tiny request to see the full manuscript.
You should’ve seen me soaring on cloud nine. It was hilarious. I think we had a celebratory dinner and everything.
Anyway, that resulted in, you guessed it, another rejection. So, I did what we writers like to call “shelving it”. This is where we move on, write another story, grow our writerly skillz. I personally like to call it “shoving that sucker so far in a hole I forget about it for four years”, but that’s just me.
Fast forward to 2013 and two books later (5 books later, if you’re counting those half written ones. Which, I think you should.) I discovered the wonderful writing community on Twitter… and pitch contests. I still needed an agent but at the time, I had nothing to pitch. FATAL and sequels were contracted and everything else was incomplete. My former manuscripts were all junk except… The Swan.
So, I pitched it, on a whim.
AND I GOT REQUESTS.
Annnnnd those requests resulted in rejections.
By this time, Swan had been through like, three major revisions in an attempt to gussy it up for those requests. But something about it still wasn’t catching the attention of agents. Here’s a fact: every time I read back through this story, I love it. I cry. I feel. I GET IT. But also, I’m NEVER quite happy with the writing. I always think it needs more work, like it could be better. Am I right? Or am I hypercritical because the story hits home and I have this need to get it just perfect? I don’t know.
Right now, I’m querying again. Thankfully, I’ve had a few bites. And while I wait to hear from them, I’m pouring back through the story, picking apart anything that doesn’t sit right.
But here’s what I wanted to share with you: Selective Mutism. That’s the clinical name for my main character’s condition. It’s a form of social anxiety, and it is real. I struggled with it for years (though not as severely as my MC) and never had a name for it. Even to this day, I don’t talk much unless it’s with my fingers and a keyboard. The only exception is my immediate family. I’ve been called rude, snobby, b**chy, shy, inward, backward… and those are actually the more milder names. Coming from an uber religious background, I’ve even had people claim my issue was spiritual oppression. Like, okay, no. That’s not it. Social anxiety is a real and crippling thing and I’ve worked at combating it my whole life, for as far back as I can remember.
Most recently: I could NOT, under any amount of pressure, walk into an Alanta Bread Company because there were people seated near the doorway and I knew as soon as I opened the door, they would turn and look at me and I just couldn’t do it. My husband (who is a total sweetheart when it comes to my cray cray) found a side entrance where there were no people. Once inside, I ran to the nearest seat and begged him to go place my order for me so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. Oh. My. Gawd.
It affects all aspects of your life. At times, you are helpless. And if, like me, you are independent at heart, it can be soul-crushing.
I don’t know how it is for others but for me, there are seasons. For example, after college, my anxiety was minimal. After I had my first baby, it was toxic levels. After my second baby, it was somewhere between minimal and toxic. Right now… well, there are bad days (like Atlanta Bread Company) but mostly, I’m feeling pretty solid.
Writing has helped. Writing, in general. But especially this particular story about a guy who lost his parents and a girl whose anxiety it so toxic she won’t speak.
My dreadlocks have helped. Yes, I know. Weird. There’s a story there, but I’ll tell it some other time.
The sense of community I’ve found on Twitter has helped. It might sound counterproductive because I’m online instead of in public, but for some reason, it helps. Maybe it’s knowing that there are others like me, that I’m not alone, that I’m not the only weirdo (I use that term with love. I embrace my weirdness).
Wrapping things up…
I cannot shelf this book. I can’t. It’s too important. Maybe only to myself, who knows. But it IS important. It’s important because someone out there struggles with Selective Mutism and they think they’re alone or weird or crazy. 
They need to know that they’re not.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: THE DARKNESS OF LIGHT by Tammy Farrell


Confession: In the past, there have been several historical novels that I’ve fallen in deep passionate love with. Eleanor and Park (though some consider it to be a contemporary), Gone With the Wind, and Cold Mountain to name a few. But to be honest, it isn’t my favorite genre. I had a good feeling about this book by Tammy Farrell though, and I was not disappointed in the least.

THE DARKNESS OF LIGHT is based on the ancient Irish Tuatha Dé Danann mythology of a people who exhibited god-like powers, known as Dia. The story centers on a young Dia named Mara who has yet to come into her powers. After tragedy befalls her, she is taken in by an uncle, who is a stranger to her, and his small family of Dia. There is Corbin whose kindness is a balm to Mara’s broken heart. Little Isa whose innocence draws Mara out of her shell. Quiet but faithful Annora who has very little Dia blood and therefore, little power. And Malcom, the man appointed to be Mara’s trainer, who sets her on edge from their very first meeting. Mara is thrust into this strange existence where power, if not reigned in, can feed the darkest parts of person’s soul.

Now, let me tell you what I thought: I loved this book. Not for the pretty writing (though it WAS beautiful). Not for the vivid descriptions that transported me to sixth century Dumonia (though it took me there with ease). Not even for the sweet romance, which as you might know, is sort of my thing (see my fave historicals above). I loved this book for the lesson I learned while reading it. I’ll do my very best to explain.

Deep breath. Here we go…

At the pinnacle of the story Mara suffers a great injustice. Her teacher, a man she should be able to trust, steals her power. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. He abuses his own power, lording it over her to get what he wants. He claims to love her but only shows it through the most selfish of actions. And when Mara is at her very lowest, he threatens those she cares for. I’ll be honest and say that this part of the book was hard for me to read, as there were some personal triggers. But I never considered putting the story aside. I had to see how it played out.

Watching Mara heal, learn to trust again, and ultimately choose to take back her power was what made me want to bear-hug this story. But perhaps the greatest thing was this: the author took the bad guy (who was so authentically bad) and made the reader… understand him. This is something I don’t see enough of in fiction. And the reason this is important, in my opinion, is because in real life, when someone wrongs us so deeply, the first question we ask ourselves is, why? Many times, we get no answer. Or at least not one that satisfies us. But here, although our villain’s reasons are in no way excusable and are completely vile, we at least have an answer. This humanizes the bad guy. Makes him less important. Let’s us take back power vicariously, through Mara. And basically, that’s just brilliant story telling.

Read it, and you’ll see what I mean!

Five HUGE stars for this one! I can’t wait to read more of this series.