Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Release: HOT PINK IN THE CITY by Medeia Sharif

I’m happy to be helping celebrate the book release for my online writer friend, Medeia Sharif. Her new contemporary YA novel, HOT PINK IN THE CITY, releases today, August 19th. CONGRATS, Medeia!!

Asma Bashir wants two things: a summer fling and her favorite '80s songs. During a trip to New York City to stay with relatives, she messes up in her pursuit of both. She loses track of the hunk she met on her airplane ride, and she does the most terrible thing she could possibly do to her strict uncle…ruin his most prized possession, a rare cassette tape.

A wild goose chase around Manhattan and Brooklyn to find a replacement tape yields many adventures—blackmail, theft, a chance to be a TV star, and so much more. Amid all this turmoil, Asma just might be able to find her crush in the busiest, most exciting city in the world.

Available from Prizm Books: LINK
Available on Amazon: LINK
More purchase links on Medeia’s site: LINK

I was born in New York City and I presently call Miami my home. I received my master’s degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. After becoming a voracious reader in high school and a relentless writer dabbling in many genres in college, I found my niche writing for young people. Today I'm a MG and YA writer published through various presses. In addition to being a writer, I'm a public school teacher. My memberships include Mensa, ALAN, and SCBWI.


Connect with Medeia – YA and MG Author:

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

WIN STUFF! WIN STUFF! Enter the HPITC book blast giveaway!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you ever been to New York City, specifically Manhattan or Brooklyn?
Did you know about this YA book before you read this post?
Do you remember using and listening to cassette tapes?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Five-Word Book Reviews

Okay, this is just for kicks and giggles. I’ve seen people who write short-short reviews (or summaries) for movies, so I thought I’d give it a whirl with BOOKS. I mean, really short. As in, five words long…er, short.

Can we summarize the essence of a book in 5 words? Let’s try.

Here are my attempts:
Charlotte’s Web: Pig lives, thanks to spider.
Scorpio Races: Night mares rise from the sea.
Lord of the Flies: Island of boys, primal instincts.
1984: Big Brother is watching you.
What’s Left of Me: Double souls, one doesn’t fade.
13 Reasons Why: Tapes reveal reasons for suicide.
The Body Institute: Losing weight FOR other people.

Can you describe these (or other) popular books in only FIVE WORDS? 
Gone With the Wind
Pride and Prejudice
Hunger Games
Maze Runner
The Book Thief
The Giver
Looking For Alaska
City of Bones
If I Stay
Hush, Hush
Imaginary Girls
Treasure Island
Howl’s Moving Castle
Shatter Me
A Wrinkle in Time
The Lightning Thief
Doll Bones
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Golden Compass
Harriet the Spy
Bridge to Terabitha
The Hobbit
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Go ahead! Give it a whirl in the comments. Do a completely different book if you want.
Have you heard of these books—did you recognize them even without the authors listed?
Can you summarize your OWN books you’ve written in just five words?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CROW'S REST book blitz!

Today I’m part of the CROW’S REST blog blitz and giveaway, celebrating Angelica R. Jackson’s YA novel!

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers—and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel and get him back plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.

Add to Goodreads
Buy Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo Books 

Check it out! Crow's Rest is on sale for $0.99 through July 31!

ARJ’s Top Ten Urban Fantasy Influences
1. The Borderland series, which starts with an anthology of the same name edited by Terri Windling, and moves on to some novel-length works like Elsewhere by Will Shetterly. It may have actually established the "collision of the strange and the everyday" definition in my mind.
2. Ariel by Steven R. Boyett is a cult favorite from 1983, which takes place in a post-Apocalyptic landscape--where the Apocalypse was caused by technology failing and magic returning to our world.
3. Books by Charles de Lint, who made Urban Fantasy popular with his Newford stories. I recommend starting with Little (Grrl) Lost for the younger YA set, or Svaha for older readers.
4. Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Fiest is a great example of UF that straddles the line into horror.
5. The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone, which starts with Three Parts Dead, is a great example of what makes UF so hard to compartmentalize--this fantasy novel takes place in an urban environment where the natural laws on the existence of magic are completely different from our world, and yet aspects of the city and its denizens still seem so universal and relatable.
6. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black can stand in for the vampire books that are sometimes labeled "paranormal" (with or without "romance" added to it), sometimes fantasy, but in my mind are UF.
7. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is another that fits the above description (but not with vampires).
8. Gail Carriger's YA Finishing School series, which begins with Etiquette and Espionage, is another world that could equally be described as steampunk or UF. 
9. Cassandra Clare's books, especially her Infernal Devices series, also straddles that steampunk/UF/paranormal line.
10. Christopher Moore’s books, which are shelved in general fiction in most bookstores, although they have elements of magical realism, urban fantasy, fantasy, mythology, and horror to various degrees. My favorite is his A Dirty Job, and there’s a sequel to it coming out in August.

About the Author:
In keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, Angelica R. Jackson has far too many interests to list here. She has an obsession with creating more writing nooks in the home she shares with her husband and two corpulent cats in California's Gold Country. Fortunately, the writing nooks serve for reading and cat cuddling too.

Other pastimes include cooking for food allergies (not necessarily by choice, but she’s come to terms with it), photography, and volunteering at a local no-kill sanctuary.

She blogs at Angelic Muse, and is a contributing member of Operation Awesome and the Fearless Fifteeners.

Author Links: Website  Goodreads  Twitter  Facebook   

I whipped on over and got my 99-cent copy of CROW'S about you? 
How many of Angelica'sTop 10 urban fantasy novels have you read? I've just read TWO, #6 and #7.

Book Tour Organized by: YA Bound Book Tours

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Launch Prep 101

Now that I’ve reached 55 days prior to the release launch of my debut YA sci-fi novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE, I’m a busy little chicken. If you haven’t already experienced this, here’s a checklist of Stuff You Can Do to help you prepare for launch day, compiled from various sources. These are roughly in order of 6-8 months out, to the actual book birthday.

Banner printed at Vistaprint for signings; image used for Twitter/FB headers

1.  Make an author website. This is a must. Readers, bookstores, etc. will want to check out your online presence. You don’t have to spend a lot; my site is simply Blogger, refashioned into a website. Cost: roughly $12/year for GoDaddy hosting.
2. Get good-quality author photos taken. Also a must. Everyone wants to see your face to connect a real person to your name—NOT the cover of your book.
3. Write up a marketing plan. What will you do in what month? Sketch it out so you have an idea of your game plan ahead of time. Consider holiday tie-ins or work-arounds.
4. Join and participate in various social media sites. Check out Twitter or secure a Facebook author page. Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Pinterest are also ways to connect (hint: see followers as people to interact with, not potential buyers). Learning to navigate these sites is easier if you aren’t under a time crunch; join early and build friendships/followers.
5. Make crucial connections. Scope out: potential reviewers, published authors to request blurbs from, and blog tour sites. Get to know your local librarians, teachers, and bookstore personnel for potential speaking opportunities. 
6. Reveal the cover of your book. Your publisher may have a hand in this, or you may need to organize a reveal tour with your blogging and writer friends. 
7. Design promo materials, and research sites to purchase them from (,,,, etc). This can include postcards, bookmarks, business cards, flyers, banners, personalized book bags and mugs, t-shirts, pins, and pens. Hire someone or ask a friend if you don’t feel qualified to design these. Include your book title, cover photo, ISBN, release date, website URL, and your name.
8. Plan your launch event. Where do you want it held? Do you want a full-blown party with catered food? More low-key with just drinks and cookies? Consider display, too—you might consider a stand to ensure at least one of your books is presented vertical, to catch people’s eyes. You may need a folding table and chair, a drape to cover the table, a bowl of candy, or a vase of real or silk flowers. Many bookstores work 4-5 months ahead, so book your event as soon as possible.
9. Consider creating a newsletter. Interested people can sign up on your website or other social media. This lets them know of upcoming sales, giveaways, promos, and events. You can also begin collecting people’s email addresses for a contact list—people who want updates, or friends who want to help promote.

Glossy 2x6 bookmarks from
10. Draft Facebook updates, Tweets, and other shout-outs ahead of time. Include purchase or website links, catchy phrases, review snippets.
11. Compose guest and interview posts; record radio podcasts or videos. These don’t all have to occur on the actual day of your launch. Content ideas: character interviews, publishing journey info, fun facts, bonus scenes, related nonfiction ideas or book themes, etc.
12. Make a book trailer if you wish. Your publisher often does this (mine does). You can post this on youtube, your website, or share on Twitter/Facebook/other social media.
13. Organize a book launch tour, plan giveaways. Your publisher might help you with this (mine did). Goodreads offers giveaway opportunities, as do many review blog sites.
14. Send out ARCs, or Advanced Release Copies. Your publisher may do this for you. These are usually sent to high-profile book bloggers or reviewers, and trade reviewers like Kirkus. ARCs can also be used as giveaway and contest items.
15. Send out postcards to libraries, groups, and book stores. Introduce yourself with a hand-written note, inviting them to consider your book. If you wish, offer yourself as available for events or to sign their stock of books when you’re in the area.
16. Start inviting people to your events. This includes online Facebook “parties,” bookstore signings, book festivals, and library or book club appearances.
17. On your book’s birthday, send out those Tweets, Facebook updates, Tumblr photos, etc. Engage and have fun.
18. Continue the promo. Enjoy the launch parties, attend signings, make connections, offer giveaways, and keep your eyes open for further fun opportunities to showcase your book!

If you’ve already had a book published, can you add any helpful thing to this list?
Do you have a book coming out soon, and if so—how ready are you with prep/marketing?
If pre-published, what are some of the things you’ve already done to establish yourself as a writer, and get your online presence or platform in place?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

12 QUOTES for Writers

Here are 12 quotes about writing that give me great food for thought.

A book is simply the container of an idea—like a bottle; what is inside the book is what matters.   
Angela Carter

I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.     —Ray Bradbury

If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day-work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.     —David Brin

Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.    ―John Green

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.     —E. L. Doctorow

Writing is its own reward.    —Henry Miller

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.     —Somerset Maugham

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.      —Edgar Rice Burroughs

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.     —Harper Lee

Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.
Larry L. King

For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.     —Catherine Drinker Bowen

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.     —C. J. Cherryh

Which of these is your favorite, that inspires or resonates with you? 
(I like them all, but I like John Green's the best!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Making of Great Books

Recently I attended an Oregon SCBWI conference, and enjoyed listening to Lin Oliver, co-founder and executive director of the SCBWI—and a writer herself. She’s a funny personality with tons of good information. One of her talks was on the making of great middle grade fiction; I’ll touch on some highlights here. The book cover shown here is Lin Oliver's middle grade novel, WHO SHRUNK DANIEL FUNK, first in the series about a boy who gets shrunk to the size of his fourth toe.

Some of these concepts apply to writing novels in general, not just middle grade.

1. The journey. Middle grade often involves leaving home, setting out into the world, having experiences, and then going back home wiser and experienced. (In contrast to YA where the character often does NOT return home, and the goal is independence or separation.)
2. Middle grade, for kids ages 8-12, is the MOST SOUGHT AFTER books. It’s the “bread and butter” of publishing. I didn’t know that, with the focus on YA in recent years.
3. Your “canon.” Make a list of books you like and study it to find out WHY these are your faves. What themes are repeated? Do certain subjects crop up repeatedly? Are they linked by humor, adventure, quirky characters? This will teach you about your OWN voice—because it’s reflected in what you love to read.
4. Common MG themes: adventure, a secret that must be kept, interacting with friends, making sacrifices, rising to a challenge, exploring one’s bravery.
5. Act 1 is the beginning third of a novel. The character’s flaws and vulnerabilities are exposed. Get those characters out of their comfort zone!
6. Act 2 is roughly the middle third of a novel. This involves a testing, which results in failure—there’s no growth if the problems are solved too easily. Problems need to BUILD, with a period of learning before things can be solved.
7. Act 3 is the ending third of a novel. It’s the resolution of the plot as well as the character development. How is he or she different by the end of the book? There doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but a satisfying one…moving forward with hope.
8. Plot. In middle grade, the plot doesn’t have to be complex. It can be linear and simple; kids don’t necessarily care about subplots; they just want to know “what happens next.”
9. BIG excitement and adventures: Kids love to have these!
10. Humor. Kids love it, so include that if you can do it well.
11. Pacing is crucial. New things must be happening on every page—fun things, adventuresome things!
12. Climax. You need a scene that is SO dominant that everything builds toward it. Put all your emotional chips there. The hinging scene where things have to change or else can’t go on. The point of no return. This happens roughly around the end of the second act or the beginning of the third.

Do you have a dominant scene, a point-of-no-return climax, in your novel?
Did you know that middle grade is the “bread and butter” books of publishing?
Do you feel like you can do humor well? Is yours more of a middle grade or young adult or adult flavor of humor?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Character: Hero or Rogue?

What kind of a person is your main character?

I’ve been thinking about this lately, about the kinds of main characters I usually write. I tend to create them with dramatic character arcs, meaning they aren’t necessarily “nice” people in the beginning of the book, but they grow to be something admirable by the end.

However! This doesn’t seem to translate well into something desirable or marketable. Beta readers, critique partners, agents and editors (and readers?)—for the most part, all seem to prefer a character that doesn’t have off-putting traits. So I find myself cleaning up my MCs so they are more palatable and likable throughout. They still change by the end, but not as much.

Relatability and Likability
It seems like the most popular characters are the ones who have hearts of gold, even though they make mistakes. They have good intentions. They’re heroes or heroines by the book’s end. They muster up courage in the face of adversity. If they offend or cause harm to someone, it’s accidental—or at least minor or forced upon them. Think Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen. They are role models, people we often wish we were, people we like because they give us hope or show us how to be brave.

I have a suspicion that more abrasive, less “nice” main characters are found in paranormal or dystopian novels. These books have grittier scenarios, which produce grittier MCs.

People don’t tend to like whiny characters. Or spiteful characters. Or rude-to-their-mother characters. Or narrow-minded characters. But these kinds of people exist in the real world. Are we restricting ourselves too much when we only focus on the “nicer” people, the “good” main characters—or should we stick to what’s more widely marketable?

Personally, I love to read about characters who are complex, not always “good,” and who are different from the usual. I enjoy a wide-swinging character arc, like in the movie Groundhog’s Day; he’s totally obnoxious in the beginning, but his gradual change into someone kind-hearted is awesome.

It’s all fascinating food for thought. I suppose we can’t paint too broad of strokes—because there are always exceptions—but it’s good to ponder these things once in a while.

What kind of main character do you enjoy reading about?
Can you enjoy reading about a character who is mean or snarky to other characters?
What are your favorite characters, and why?—are they the “heart of gold” kind?
Do you think paranormal and dystopian genres have more abrasive or less “nice” kinds of main characters?

Thursday, May 7, 2015


I'm excited to share the cover reveal of The Tale of Willaby Creek by Victoria Lindstrom! This is a middle grade adventure fantasy that releases in June 2015.

About the Book:
A magical tale of amazing sacrifice...

When a violent windstorm strikes an enchanted rain forest, many of the woodland creatures of Willaby Creek are stranded, injured, or lost forever to the frenzied force of the tempest. Basil, a black bear full of doubt and fear, becomes the unlikely leader to head the woodland creatures' rescue. He is joined by Daphne, a spunky blue dryad; Oliver, a wise horned owl; Elbert, a noble elk; and a host of other creatures that inhabit the enchanted rain forest.

Dangerous twists and turns in this adventure fantasy cause Basil to discover a courage, and a conviction, he never knew he had. The answers to the ancient mysteries in this magical tale emerge in an extraordinary finale under the tall timbers of the hidden hinterland.

About the Author:
VICTORIA LINDSTROM is a full-time writer, a voracious reader, and the author of the children's picture book, The Scandinavian Santa. She loves to wander through the woods, capture the beauty of Nature in photographs, and visit museums and fine art galleries. She and her husband, Michael, live near the shore of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. You may visit Victoria at:

One hardcover copy of The Tale of Willaby Creek (US) and an ebook of The Tale of Willaby Creek (INT)
(Books will be delivered upon release, or shortly before.)
Ends May 19, 2015

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.