Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why I Write Paranormal and Historical YA

I’m the YA Triple Scoop’s resident paranormal and historical writer who is, of course, currently working on a contemporary. All I can say is, these things happen.

So I guess my tastes are eclectic—both as a reader and as a writer. When the little voices in my head start talking to me I know I ignore them at my own peril, so naturally the high school students in the contemporary could not be ignored. But usually the voices insist on paranormal or historical stories, or best of all a combination of both!

This is true for both my YA writer self, and my alter ego—the adult romance writer. My first published novel is a contemporary paranormal with a tiny historical twist, and its prequel is equal parts paranormal and historical. Except for that current work in progress, the contemporary, all of my writing falls into these categories.


I’ve wondered that myself! My interest in the paranormal is probably the easiest to explain. For almost as long as I can remember I’ve had the occasional odd psychic experiences, ranging from BIG unexplainable occurrences of precognition—the kind that can really shake you up for a lifetime—, to the pretty run of the mill premonitions, like getting a strong feeling the day before it hits that the Bay Area is going to have an earthquake. When these things happen to you it makes you take an interest in unexplainable phenomena. It also makes you freak out when you dream about tsunamis or earthquakes or harm coming to loved ones. (NOT every dream is psychic—you just never know which ones are!) One of my favorite YA authors has mentioned in interviews that she’s had some similar experiences to mine—in fact one is almost identical to one of mine—and interestingly she is a writer of paranormal fiction. So maybe it really does go hand in hand.

As for historical, the answer is simple. I’ve just always loved history and am always entranced by the stories of people’s lives long ago. As a storyteller I like weaving my fiction in with the threads of historical facts. For those months that I’m writing that historical fiction it’s like I myself have traveled through time to that particular time and place. Next best thing to a time machine. Oh, and I love doing research! I can hear a lot of groans right now, but I’m just weird that way. Love it!

After I finish the contemporary, I have a story waiting for me that I’ve wanted to write for years. I’m not sure why I’ve put it off so long, except now I’m happy I have, because I think my writing and storytelling skills have improved with each manuscript I’ve finished. There’s a notebook waiting for me with all of the characters sketched out, some of the historical research completed, and the general plot planned. It is the perfect blend of historical and paranormal, and the kind of book—a subgenre of the paranormal/historical— that has always been my favorite. That’s all I want to say about it now, but I’ll probably say more here when the real writing happens.

I love writing YA because you get to mix genres in ways that the publishing world doesn’t let you get away with in books aimed at the adult audience. It makes for a very liberating writing experience. And besides, I love reading YA, so writing it is awesome fun!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: MORTAL DANGER by Ann Aguirre

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Just that one line on the back of the book was enough to suck me in! I was basically already sold on this book before reading a single word about it because I know I LOVE Ms. Aguirre’s writing. Once I started reading reviews and the summary; I couldn’t wait!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads: 


Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn't imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She's not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he's impossible to forget.

In one short summer, her entire life changes, and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly... bad things are happening. It's a heady rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil's bargains, she isn't sure who—or what--she can trust. Not even her own mind..


That’s the first thing that comes to my mind once Edie made her “deal”. Edie is literally on the edge when we meet her. She’s about to jump off a bridge when a handsome stranger stops her and takes her to a strange diner to “talk”. Kian (the beautiful stranger) offers her a bargain and she accepts. This is very much a “devil's deal” with all the strings attached and little to no knowledge about who she’s actually making said bargain with or what they can ask for in return. Is Kian the devil? (I thought so) Each “favor” comes with a price and she must use all three within the span of five years. 

The bargain Edie strikes is with a “company” that finds people in what they call Extremis (people about to snuff themselves out) and offers what seems like an amazing gift. What you discover is that it is all part of a larger “game” being played between rival factions. Intriguing? I’d say so. 

Now. Let’s talk about Kian and Edie’s relationship. Kian, who is a liaison of sorts, is assigned to watch Edie – her struggles with the High School from hell, her family and basically her entire life. He falls in love with her before they even officially meet. They have this sort of push and pull relationship that I enjoyed. He loves her but knows – because of his company ties- that he can’t be with her. He struggles to let her go and all she wants is him. 

Ultimately Edie has to make some tough choices and in the end the choice she makes could either save or destroy Kian. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mortal Danger and highly suggest it! It was new and fresh with a little bit of scary thrown in there.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why I Write/Read Young Adult

I get a lot of questions about this. Mostly in the form of: “Why do you want to write/read books for teens? Why not adults?” OR “Aren’t you a little old for that?”

And I’m like; “Hello, not that old” and also I WAS a teen/young adult/new adult.

I grew and changed and struggled just like the characters in the books I read and write. It was one of the most amazing/scary/challenging times in my life. Why would I NOT want to write/read books for young adults? 

One of my favorite things about YA books is the incredible transformations the main characters go through in the span of one (or two or more!) book! It might be a fantasy or contemporary or paranormal but no matter the genre – just as in life – the main characters experience the highest highs and the lowest lows and in the end come out stronger and ever-changed because of their experiences.

Those few years forever shape us in one way or another forever. Whether it’s first love or first heartbreak, first fight or first time standing up for yourself…in the future, past or another realm. The settings change but at the heart of the story all of these characters are strong, smart and resilient. 
Just like their readers! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick

You know how, when you are least expecting it, you stumble upon a gem of a book that so completely captivates you that can’t do anything but live in that book until you’ve finished it, and then you walk around for days afterward just thinking about it? And maybe bumping into walls while you’re thinking about it? Because you’re so consumed with thinking about it? Or maybe you finish the last page and then turn back to the first page and start all over?

That was how it was for me when I read My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. I love this book so much. And what makes my love affair with it even more special is the fact that I’m the paranormal/historical reader and writer—NOT the contemporary reader. But lately I’ve been bingeing on contemporary, thanks to books like My Life Next Door. Authors like Huntley Fitzpatrick could turn me for good!

This book is wonderful is so many ways, so let me count the ways:

First, there are the main characters, Samantha and Jase. Sam is a breath of fresh air in that she is smart and strong and doesn’t whine. And if you don’t fall head over heels in love with Jase there is something missing from your heart. He is the most kind, gentle, gorgeous hero I’ve read in ages.

Second, there is Jase’s family, the Garretts. I want to be a young teenager again and be a member of this large, loving, crazy, adorable family. The Garretts alone would have made me love this book. I wouldn’t have needed anything more, but there is so much more!

Third, the secondary characters are so fully formed that you, the reader, love them passionately, or hate them, just as passionately. There isn’t a forgettable secondary character in this book. And one in particular made me cry. A lot. He might be my favorite character of them all.

 Fourth, the story compels the reader to turn the pages. I dare you to put the book down at the end of a chapter or scene. You won’t be able to do it. Hint: Samantha knows she isn’t suppose to fall in love with Jase Garrett, in fact she isn’t suppose to have anything to do with the Garrett family. Or so says her controlling, perfection-driven, politician mother.

Some authors have a special talent for drawing characters that truly come alive (best ever at this would be JK Rowling), and Ms. Fitzpatrick falls into this category. The writer in me is trying to take apart this book and find Huntley Fitzpatrick’s secret.

This amazing, beautiful book was Fitzpatrick’s debut!! Wow. And since it was released a couple of years ago, there are now two more books by Fitzpatrick to enjoy. But the best news of all is that a linked book, starring my favorite secondary character, is due to be published in 2015!! I cannot wait. {Perhaps I should start a campaign for an ARC??}

I hope you love My Life Next Door as much as I do!

The Goodreads synopsis for My Life Next Door:
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is Writing a Hobby?

A few months ago I was talking to someone about where I was at with my writing process and the long waiting period while if floated out there in the agent universe. “Who knows if anything will happen, but it’s out there!” I told them. To which their response was, “Well, it’s a really nice hobby, Sarah.”

A hobby. Huh.

That thing you do in your free time, but never take too seriously. I mean, sure, I crochet hats and sometimes I sell them, but would I ever be able to do that successfully in a full time capacity? Probably not. (Though I’m not saying I wouldn't enjoy that!)

Even months later, when I think about that conversation, I still have this child-like desire to stomp my foot and say “NO! My writing is NOT a hobby! I might actually make it as an author one day!”

I know that there is a valid sentiment in the community that you shouldn't write for money. You are writing for you. Because you have to. Because you love to. Because there is a burning need inside you to do it.

That doesn't pay the bills unfortunately. At least not my bills. Here’s the deal, I’d quit my job tomorrow if I could be a full-time writer and manage to earn a paycheck doing it. And I wouldn't feel like a sellout for a minute. I’d feel like I won the lottery!

Not to mention, writing itself is an expensive hobby. You wouldn't think so, right? But it is. The workshops, retreats, conferences and memberships. Like hundreds of dollars. Each. Yikes! How do you justify those expenses when you haven’t “made it” yet? How do you go to your spouse and say “Here’s the deal, I need like $500 to go to this conference in Seattle and do you mind taking 3 days off work so you can be with the kiddos? K, thanks, bye.”

Except that really happened. (Do I have the best husband or what?!) I couldn't even believe I did that! The experience was invaluable and unforgettable, but I mean…that’s A LOT of money for travel, hotel and the conference itself! And that’s just one event. These things happen, like, multiple times a year!

The funds I spend on my “writing stuff”, on sending the kids to the babysitter for an extra few hours, on buying more coffee at the coffee shop I’m writing at so they don’t kick me out, do I rationalize them as an investment? An investment that I have little to NO guarantee on a return? I have to. Because the alternative is writing only in my free time. Pulling it out of a box when everything else is done and tinkering away at it.

Yes, writing is a commitment and time intensive, but it’s part of me now and I need it to be more than a hobby.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien

First, let me tell you that I love Mrs. O’Brien’s writing style! Her imagery is beautiful and rich and her characters are complex and engaging. In fact, I love her books so much I re-read them about once a year just so that I can visit the characters and settings that I love. So, when I heard she was coming out with a new series I couldn’t wait! 

The Vault of Dreamers is the first book in a new science fiction series by Caragh M. O’Brien. (Publication date: 9/16/14 from Roaring Book Press)

Here is the summary from Goodreads:

From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

From the first sentence of this book I was hooked! The Book is exciting, new and (I’ll say it) a little creepy. I didn’t want to go to sleep right after reading it! 

The students don’t sleep in beds they use “sleep shells”. When Rosie decides to stop taking her sleeping pill she watches her classmates get wheeled out of the dorm but always returned in the morning. She begins to try to film what is happening but, somehow nothing gets recorded. As she begins to doubt herself and what is going on, as the reader I began to doubt too (did I read that right? Is that what is really happening?).

Rosie is brave and scared (a combo that doesn’t usually happen in books like these) she sticks with her convictions even after being offered a way off the show and out of the School. 

When she meets Linus they don’t have an instant connection (and I liked that) their romance builds throughout the book and it’s really sweet. It wasn’t too mushy but you really root for them. Mrs. O’Brien does a great job of weaving their story into what is happening with the Forge Show and the goings on at school. It didn’t feel forced, just natural. 

I have to say I think it took me a whole two days to read this book cover to cover. It was fast paced and engaging! If you haven’t put it on your pre-order/library/to be read list I strongly suggest you do!