Introducing Anna-Marie McLemore

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¡Encantada! I’m Anna-Marie McLemore, author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA magical realism novel coming September 15, 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Here’s a little about the story:

TheWeightofFeatherscoverThe Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS is a story of the tension between two families, the meeting of two different cultures, and the draw between a boy and a girl who’ve been raised not to go near each other. 

For my Fearless Fifteeners introduction, I wanted a share a few things about FEATHERS, and, since it’s a story about performers in traveling shows, a little about my background in the performing arts:

Five things about THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS:

  1. The initial spark for the novel was a story my father told me about a mermaid show, and a day I spent in a national forest wearing a set of wings. You can find a little more about that here.
  1. One family in the story, the Palomas, are Mexican-American, as am I. The other, the Corbeaus, are French and Romani, neither of which I am. I was originally inspired to write about Romani traditions by talking with someone close to me about his family’s history.
  1. I’ve spent much of my life involved in the performing arts. However, both Lace and Cluck work in aspects of their families’ shows that I haven’t often been part of: Lace does make-up not just on herself, but on the other mermaids, and Cluck makes costumes, specifically his family’s wings.
  1. The color of Lace Paloma’s mermaid tail, and the significance of it, draws on quinceañera traditions.
  1. I knew that Cluck Corbeau’s name was Cluck before I knew anything else about him.

Five things about me and the performing arts:

  1. The first time I ever climbed a lighting scaffold, I got stuck up there. Like a cat. If the audiovisual technician hadn’t climbed up and talked me down, I might still be up there.
  1. As a teen, I competed in Irish dance feisanna. My dress was lipstick red, and weighed about ten pounds.
  1. The most nervous I’ve ever been while running the light board was for a Lorca play, because I was in love with the soundboard operator.
  1. I realized I was in love with him when I accidentally said the name of the Scottish play three minutes before curtain. To make sure a disaster didn’t befall the production, I had to run around the outside of the theatre and spit over my shoulder before the stage manager called places.
  1. When, instead of playing a cue of barking dogs, the soundboard operator accidentally played a track of mariachi music, I realized he was in love with me too. A few years later, I married him.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read a little about THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS! And please come say hello—I’d love to hear from you!

Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley with a boy from the other side of the Rockies. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, will be released in 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Twitter @laannamarie.

Introducing: Becky Wallace

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The Storyspinner-highYou know those online personality quizzes? The ones that can supposedly tell your age/lifestyle/hair color from your favorite food and how you organize your DVDs? Yes. Well. I took one of those last night at 2 a.m. – it’s the sort of thing you do when you should be sleeping, but are really worried about wasting time by sleeping.

Finding out what my job would have been in medieval times was a much better use of that time, right?  Sure. Let’s go with that.

Actually, the quiz gave me a cool occupation: Entertainer! Which is perfect for both me and my book, THE STORYSPINNER.

You see, I love telling stories, reading stories aloud, and listening to others share their stories. There is nothing better than having friends and family gathered in my kitchen, exchanging tales while I cook (more likely bake) something fun and festive.

The main character of THE STORYSPINNER, Johanna von Arlo, is a storyteller too, but prefers a less intimate setting.  As a member of the Performers — a gypsy-like entertaining troupe — she loves being a spectacle, reeling in an enormous audience, and keeping them in breathless anticipation for each tale’s conclusion.

When her father dies and her family is expelled from their troupe, Johanna is forced to sell stories in the court of an arrogant (and unfortunately attractive) young duke, Rafael DeSilva. And while she loathes her boss, his noble guests are about a million times more despicable.  Jo finds herself embroiled in a dangerous game of thrones where she discovers the magically-inclined characters from her stories might be real after all.

It’s a fun, twisty, fantasy and will be out in…TWO MONTHS.  (Remember the not sleeping from the first paragraph?  My closely advancing pub date might have a little something to do with that).

If you want to know more about me and my books, drop by my website. Or look for me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Or if you wanted to pre-order my book, you can do that at one of these fine retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Blue Willow Book Shop, The King’s English or request it at your favorite independent bookstore.

Becky headshots-Becky headshots-0007Becky Wallace is the author of THE KEEPERS’ CHRONICLES: THE STORYSPINNER, a magical adventure in which a case of mistaken identity exposes a young performer to a danger she could have never imagined and a secret her father died to protect. It will be available from Simon & Schuster in March 2015. When Becky’s not writing, she’s baking cupcakes and teaching her kids ’90s dance moves.

INTRODUCING NATASHA SINEL

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Here’s how to become a published author in five steps. (Notice I didn’t say five easy steps. Nor did I say they’d all be forward-moving steps.)

1. Live Your Childhood Inside Books

I was a reader. When I finished one book, I’d start the next. Books dictated the ups and downs of my moods (This probably confused the hell out of my parents—well, what is she crying about now?) I wrote stories too. People would say, “She’ll be a writer someday.” But people aren’t books, so I didn’t listen.

2. Go to Business School by Default

Having grown up in Washington, D.C., I assumed I’d be a lawyer, a lobbyist, or a politician. But…eh. A doctor was out of the question—I was one of those faint-at-the-sight-of-blood types. So, I went to business school. Maybe I’d be some sort of business-type person.

3. Do Something That Makes You Feel Horrible About Yourself

During business school, I miserably failed my internship at one of the big investment banks. (Why did I even try it? Because someone—I won’t mention names, but it starts with a D and ends with a D—always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. Investment banking, however? Not in my “anything” category.) Turns out, I wasn’t interested in any of the MBA-type jobs at banks, consulting firms, and product marketing companies. I had no job-worthy interests, period. Then, after listening to me whine long enough, my dad asked one simple question:

“When you pick up the New York Times, which section do you read first?”

The Book Review, duh. Also TV and movies. So something clicked there, and I set my mind to a more appropriate “anything.” After a grueling independent job search, I landed a job at Showtime Networks. I was on the business side, but I was working in TV. I loved watching TV! One of my interests plus job equals happy/successful.

4. Spend $$ on Gas and Parking

Many years later, I put work on hold to start a family. I had an idea for a story, so I signed up for a YA novel workshop. Driving an hour to SoHo every week would give me a kick in the pants to write, and that would make me feel creative, productive, and good. What I hadn’t expected was for my instructor (fabulous author/yoga instructor Kristen Kemp) to say, “Girl, you can write. There is no reason why you can’t get published, if that’s what you want to do.”*

Whoa. That was an option? Sure, I’d fantasized about being an author. Who doesn’t? But, that was just fantasy, right? But something clicked, and I set my mind to another “anything”—being a writer.

5. Fail and Fail and Fail Some More

After ten years, two and a half manuscripts, and numerous heartbreaking but necessary failures, the fantasy is a reality. And it feels like the right “anything.”

*My fellow Fearless Fifteener, Sona Charaipotra (PRETTY LITTLE THINGS) was in that class with me, and I’m so glad to reconnect with her here during our debut year!

Here’s a description of my debut YA contemporary THE FIX, which comes out this September:

One conversation is all it takes to break a world wide open.

Seventeen-year-old Macy Lyons has been through something no one should ever have to experience. And she’s dealt with it entirely alone.

On the outside, she’s got it pretty good. Her family’s well-off, she’s dating the cute boy next door, she has plenty of friends, and although she long ago wrote her mother off as a superficial gym rat, she’s thankful to have allies in her loving, laid-back dad and her younger brother.

But a conversation with a boy at a party one night shakes Macy out of the carefully maintained complacency that has defined her life so far. The boy is Sebastian Ruiz, a recovering addict who recognizes that Macy is hardened by dark secrets. And as Macy falls for Sebastian, she realizes that, while revealing her secret could ruin her seemingly perfect family, keeping silent might just destroy her.

The Fix follows two good-hearted teenagers coming to terms with the cards they were dealt. It’s also about the fixes we rely on to cope with our most shameful secrets and the hope and fear that comes with meeting someone who challenges us to come clean.

“First shot out of the gate, Sinel bravely addresses tough topics, demonstrating that the weight of secrets can pull us under—and their release can save us from drowning.” —Holly Schindler, critically acclaimed author of A Blue So Dark and Feral

“A bewitching, beautiful, and brave debut. Readers will marvel at Macy’s resilience. Natasha Sinel’s writing devastates and uplifts, by turns. An important story of one girl’s journey to rewrite the blueprint of her own life by facing the truth inside herself.” —Carrie Mesrobian, award-winning author of Sex & Violence and Perfectly Good White Boy

Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she’s still in high school, and hopes no one near her can read minds. Find her on Twitter and on YA Outside The Lines. Natasha’s debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press in September 2015.

Introducing Tatum Flynn

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SEVEN THINGS ABOUT ME

  1. I was a pro poker player for a decade. Bluffing all your chips while being stared down by a guy who looks like he might moonlight for the mafia is pretty good practice for making up stories while staring down a deadline.
  2. The first thing I ever wrote, aged seven, was a precociously brilliant comic about a girl detective. Okay, it was terrible. A blind rhino can draw better than me.
  3. I think funny books are underrated. After all, imagine a world without laughter. Now there’s a horror story.
  4. I have a tattoo of a hissing black cat. It tells the world that I’m not a person to be trifled with. Or possibly a person who makes poor decisions when hungover.
  5. Once upon a time I worked in a casino on a cruise ship, and I missed the boat. I had to jump from a moving pilot boat onto a rope ladder hanging from the side of the moving cruise ship and climb a hundred feet up. Yes I am secretly James Bond.
  6. Unless you catch me when I’ve not had enough sleep or coffee. Then I’m more Rosa Klebb.
  7. I don’t trust adults who’ve forgotten what it was like to be children.

 

SEVEN THINGS ABOUT MY BOOK

  1. A successful author once told me no publisher would ever buy a kid’s book set in Hell. Muahaha.
  2. My favourite note from my editor says ‘How I love [the main character] Jinx – he is such a NICE sort of boy, despite being the literal spawn of Satan’.
  3. My book will be illustrated (by the very talented Mr Dave Shephard). It never crossed my mind that this might happen, and has been one of the coolest things about getting a book deal.
  4. There’s one scary scene I asked *not* to be illustrated, because some things are better left to the imagination.
  5. The very first sentence I ever wrote – ‘Lucifer was sulking.’ – is still in the book, which makes me happy. I have a soft spot for the King of Hell.
  6. Making up fantasy worlds is one of my favourite things ever. It’s your universe – you can do ANYTHING with it.
  7. If you like underdog heroes, ninja dead girls, kindly sloths, dangerous libraries, carnivorous carousel horses, and laughing, you might like my book.
Tatum FlynnTatum Flynn lives by the sea in England with a cat called Friday and too many hats. Her debut, THE D’EVIL DIARIES, is a humorous MG fantasy about Lucifer’s youngest son Jinx, who’s hopeless at being evil, and the startling adventures he gets up to when he runs away from home. It’ll be out from Orchard/Hachette in April 2015, with a sequel to follow in October. Find her on Tumblr (sometimes) and Twitter (far too often).

Introducing Patrick Samphire

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Today we’re going to introduce you to Patrick Samphire, whose thrilling middle grade adventure, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, is due to be published in August 2015 by Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan. With no further ado:

Well, hello. You seem familiar.

Why, thank you. You may have seen me on television. Although, to be honest, that’s unlikely, as I don’t think I’ve ever actually been on television.

More likely it’s because, originally, my incredibly awesome, impossible-to-miss, thrilling, hilarious novel, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, was going to be published in 2014, and then it wasn’t, and now it’s going to come out in 2015 (probably August 18th, but, you know…) Anyway, so, and all that, I introduced myself last year, and now I’m doing it again. Hello.

So what’s changed since then?

Well, for one thing, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is now shorter, sleeker, and faster (rather like me, except for the shorter, sleeker, and faster parts), and my super-brave hero is now twelve years old instead of fourteen.

Are you going to tell us about the book?

Yes I am. Just here. Look:

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb

Not actually the book cover…

Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads about in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster … that is, until the villainous archaeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward’s parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb.

Edward sets off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. With him are his brilliant and outrageous little sister, Putty, his impossibly starchy older sister, Olivia, and his secretive cousin, Freddie. Together they must evade Sir Titus’s minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can’t, they’ll never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward’s family.

SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is an exciting, funny middle grade adventure full of fantastic inventions, terrible danger, exotic creatures, and larger-than-life characters.

You can add SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB on goodreads. I’ll wait.

That picture up there? That’s not the cover. I couldn’t stand not having a cover yet, so I did this instead.

That book sounds utterly awesome. Can I pre-order it?

As it happens, you can! Here’s a few places:

Book Depository | Books-a-Million | Powell’s Books

It’s also listed on Indiebound, but whether you can preorder it there yet will depend on your local indie bookstore.

Do you have a photo of you with a dinosaur?

Of course! Who doesn’t?

In which the author attempts suicide by T. Rex.

Somehow, I don’t think that fence is going to be enough…

Want to tell us about yourself?

Sure. Why not?

I’ve been a teacher, physicist, editor, web designer, explorer, and consultant idler. I’ve lived in Africa, South America, Europe, the U.K., and on several small asteroids part way between Mars and Jupiter. You can often find me on twitter at @patricksamphire.

I’m married to another writer, Stephanie Burgis, who also writes middle grade novels. Her first book, Kat, Incorrigible, was published in 2011. She has two other full length novels out, Renegade Magic and Stolen magic, as well as a novella in the same series, Courting Magic, which has just been published. Because I am multi-talented (as well as painfully modest) I designed the cover for the novella.

When I’m not writing, I design author websites and ebook covers.

Sometimes I like to make things up for my biography. Then I can’t remember what was true and what wasn’t. It’s all a bit confusing, really.

Last chance to say something interesting.

As well as writing middle grade novels, I also write fantasy short stories for teenagers and adults. You can find them on my website. Some of them are available as ebooks, and some are free online.

I’m so excited that I’m going to get the chance to share SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB with you in 2015. I loved writing this book, and I really hope you enjoy it!

The sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, which may or may not end up being called THE EMPEROR OF MARS, will come out in 2016.

Photo of Patrick SamphireDinosaur hunter. Accidental archeologist. Armchair adventurer. Some of these things may not be true about Patrick Samphire. What is true is that Patrick is the author of the extremely thrilling and sometimes funny middle grade adventure, SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB (Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt / Macmillan), coming your way in August 2015. He lives in Wales, U.K., where it occasionally doesn’t rain.

INTRODUCING MELISSA HURST

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I guess you could say I’ve always been drawn to science fiction and fantasy. When I was little, I adored the STAR WARS, STAR TREK, and INDIANA JONES movies, and I would always watch THE TWILIGHT ZONE or THE OUTER LIMITS when they were on TV. In first grade, I desperately wanted to watch THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK when it hit the theaters, so my parents bribed one of my older cousins into taking me to see it.

I grew up in a small town, so the selection of speculative fiction for early readers wasn’t great, but that changed when I moved on to books for older children (way back before there was a middle grade or young adult section). It was like being in paradise. One of the first books that I read in the “Big Kid” section was A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle, and I fell in love with it. After reading it, I really thought for the first time that I could possibly become a writer one day.

I wrote a lot of terrible stories after that, then some not so terrible ones (I even won first place in a short story contest at my middle school). The desire to become a professional writer grew stronger each year, but I pushed it aside when I started college to get a more practical degree in teaching. After eight years in the classroom, the dream to write books never faded, so I decided to finally give it a shot. I started my first book in 2009, had a blast writing it, then ultimately trunked it in 2011 after hearing that dystopian was on the way out.

It was my second book—a time travel—that ultimately allowed me to sign with my awesome agent and landed me two book deals within the space of a year. I’m excited for you to meet Alora and Bridger next fall, and I hope you will love them as much as I do!

Melissa Hurst lives in the southern US with her husband and three kids. She writes YA science fiction and fantasy, which means she considers watching Star Trek and Firefly as research. She dreams of traveling around the world and maybe finding Atlantis one day. Her debut YA novel, THE EDGE OF FOREVER, will be out from Sky Pony Press in 2015. To learn more, visit melissa-hurst.com or follow her on Twitter.

Introducing Dan Gemeinhart (and his cover!)

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A few years ago I went on a trip. I left home, and I was seeking something. You could call it a journey, I suppose.

I was working on a book, and I was stuck. It’s a story that was immensely important to me. It was about a boy, Mark, and his dog. Mark is battling cancer, and maybe losing. So he runs away with his dog to climb Mt. Rainier. And maybe die trying.

I was writing it in memory of a friend of mine, also named Mark. Who loved climbing mountains. And loved animals. And battled cancer. Right up until the end.

Since the story was centered around Mt. Rainier, I figured that might be a good place to go to get unstuck.

I had a lot of questions. Big ones. Would the story ever come out right? Could I translate the truth I had inside me into words that others would ever read and connect with? Was my dream of being a writer floundering, destined to just wither and fade like so many dreams do?

I took a room in a rustic bunkhouse near the mountain’s entrance, a humble former lumbermen’s quarters now serving as a home base for climbers about to make the attempt. It seemed appropriate.

I drove around. I wrote. I drove some more. I entered Mt. Rainier National Park and wandered up to the Visitor’s Center. Looking for something. I walked a bit up the packed snow that led, eventually, right up to the top. And all the time, while I was looking inside myself, I was also looking up. Looking for the mountain.

And I never saw it. The whole two days. The mountain was lost in clouds, hidden in a spring storm. This is a momentous mountain you can see from hundreds of miles away – and to me, standing on its very flank, it was lost and shrouded. It seemed to symbolize so much.

But still I wrote. Looking for the words through the clouds. The story through the storm.

And then: on my way down, driving home, I rounded a corner. It was one of those mornings that is a magical mix of golden sunlight and dripping rain. I was only ten minutes out of the hotel, and there it was. Front and center, and not a cloud in sight.

The mountain. Mt. Rainier. It’s a big mountain; it looks big from Seattle, a couple hours drive away. When you’re in a pickup at its very foot, though, it is much more than big. It fills the windshield. It overflows your field of vision…you actually have to turn your head to see it all.

I was lucky I kept my truck on the road. It is a beautiful mountain, that Rainier.

The road turned through an S-curve and I lost sight of it, but I leaned eagerly forward when the road turned back around toward the mountain. But, impossibly, the mountain was gone. All that the sky held was an impenetrable wall of gray. It had retreated back behind its clouds, but not before it had given me that one glorious view.

Long story short: my story got written. Not that weekend, but eventually. It took a few years, and a couple rewrites – but it got written. Longer story short: my story is getting published. It also took a few years, and a few rejections – but it’s getting published. In early 2015. It’s called THE HONEST TRUTH, and it is a dream come true.

It was hard, sometimes, to hold onto the story when it seemed like it just wasn’t going to ever come out right. And it was hard, a lot of times, to hold onto the writing dream when it seemed like it just wasn’t ever going to happen. Dreams and stories can spend a lot of time hiding behind clouds, just like mountains. You have to believe that they’re still there, through the storm, and that you’ll find them eventually as long as you never stop looking. You have to believe in the mountain more than the clouds.

And now, in the latest phase of this crazy journey, I get to reveal the beautiful cover. Designed by Nina HonestTruthCoverGoffi with Scholastic Press, it is far better than anything I had imagined. I love the drama of it, the peril. I love that the boy and the dog are apart, but seeking each other. I love that death stands between them, but they are still looking toward one another. I love that maybe they cannot see each other, maybe they each seem lost in a storm, but that they still have faith that the other is there, somewhere through the darkness. It’s perfect.

I am so thrilled to be where I am. So lucky to have had the support of friends and family through the years. So excited that after a decade of sharing great books with great kids as a teacher, now I’ll get to share one with them that has my name on it. And a really kick-ass cover.

All the climbing’s worth it when the clouds blow away, and you’re finally looking at the mountain.

That’s the honest truth.

Dan Gemeinhart is an author and teacher-librarian who lives smack dab in the middle of Washington State with his wife and three daughters. What passes for his website can be found at www.dangemeinhart.com, and he can more frequently be found on Twitter. His contemporary adventure MG novel, THE HONEST TRUTH, will be out from Scholastic Press in January 2015.