April 2019 Book List

My April reading & audiobook listening habits were a bit varied–and kind of busy! I had a number of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to read for books that are/were about to be released. I also went back and revisited some old favorites on audio. I have to say, I love listening to audiobooks and I knock out a number of my monthly “reading” items while getting ready for work, driving, walking, cleaning the house and doing yard work.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t initially excited about one of the books I read this month, but once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. Five hours later, my mind was blown and I was in love with this book! I’ll lead with it!

Also, as I’m leaving for London and Scotland soon, I’ve started to binge on all the Philippa Gregory novels to get me in the right mind for my travels.

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

(Available May 21, 2019)

Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives.

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

Montauk by Nicola Harrison

Montauk: A Novel

Montauk, Long Island, 1938.

For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City’s wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she’ll be spending twelve weeks sequestered with the high society wives at The Montauk Manor―a two-hundred room seaside hotel―while Harry pursues other interests in the city.

College educated, but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.

As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.

Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart…

Lucid by Kristy Fairlamb

A Terrifying Power. A Horrifying Curse.

Lucy Piper lives a lonely existence on the precipice between life and death. She possesses the horrifying ability to resurrect real-life tragic events in her nightmares, reliving over and over, as if she were there, the last few moments before the victim takes their final breath. Car accidents, drownings, plane crashes – Lucy has seen it all. No one understands what it’s like living death by night and fearing sleep by day.

When Tyler Sims and his family move to town to escape past traumas, Lucy is drawn to him. The two of them are linked through their dreams, and with Tyler’s trust and friendship, hope for a brighter future returns to Lucy’s world. But Tyler’s presence awakens something else in Lucy, and with this new knowledge she will be forced to make impossible decisions. Decisions that will change history, and the future.

Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Available June 11, 2019

Enter a world of gargoyle protectors, rising demons and one girl with an explosive secret.

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…

A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson

Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakesand to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.

For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz’s overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods has become a modern classic of travel literature.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. 

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts . . . he’s at Hogwarts.”

Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world. 

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

The Lady of the Rivers (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, #1)

Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of 19, she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her household for love, and then carved out a new life for herself.

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, #2)

Brother turns on brother. The throne of England is at stake. The deadly Wars of the Roses have begun. . . .”They ruled England before the Tudors, and now internationally bestselling author Philippa Gregory brings the Plantagenets to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women.”Elizabeth Woodville, a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition, secretly marries the newly crowned boy king. While she rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become the central figures in a famous unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the lost princes in the Tower of London. Philippa Gregory brings the artistry and intellect of a master writer and storyteller to a new era in history and begins what is sure to be another bestselling classic series.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory


Caught between loyalties, the mother of the Tudors must choose between the red rose and the white.

When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades.

But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York.

Henry’s greatest fear is that somewhere a prince is waiting to invade and reclaim the throne. When a young man who would be king leads his army and invades England, Elizabeth has to choose between the new husband she is coming to love and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the rose of York come home at last. 

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Author Interview: Dea Poirier

Author of: The Next Girl to Die (coming May 1, 2019)

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

It was a piece for a creative writing class in 9th grade, about a man who was turned into a potted plant (mistakenly) by a witch.  

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I wouldn’t say I’m pursing it as a profession, I have a day job that I love immensely and need a challenge both in writing and in my non-writing career. I try to look at them as different beasts that don’t overlap. One is never going to replace the other. That being said, I started writing my first “novel” in my early twenties. I wrote the beginning of that novel around 437,000 times. Then, probably around 2006, I told myself it was either time to do it or stop thinking about it. I sat down, spent around a year writing the first (AWFUL) draft. The second book I wrote was much easier, and faster (though if you ask me, not much better). Though I did sort-of query the first two books, I wasn’t serious about it. My third project, a YA Paranormal Romance, was the first book I realized I wanted to seriously pursue. It wasn’t until I finished my fifth MS, and queried that, that I ended up signing with an agent.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

There have been so many amazing people in my life that have helped me on this journey, and of course I can’t name them all here. My critique partner (and one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met), Elesha Teskey, for one – I don’t know where I’d be without her. A writing group I had while I lived in Connecticut helped me immensely understanding the market, shaping my query, and realizing how much work marketing a book really is. And then my agent, Laura Bradford, has been fabulous and helped me in so many ways on this journey, giving me the advice I need to improve my work, and of course finding a place for it in the world.

Do you exclusively write thrillers or have you written in other genres?

I write thrillers, fantasy, and romantic suspense for the adult market. I also write paranormal romance, historical fantasy, and thrillers for the young adult market.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

When I’m writing a draft, I write during my lunch break at work (if I can), and then I write once my son goes to sleep for the night. Typically my writing time is 8pm to 11pm (or midnight, depending on how long the coffee keeps me up). It can be very difficult to maintain work/life balance with writing, especially in the draft stage, because I tend to become completely immersed in the story.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

It really varies by project. But my fastest draft (40k words) was two weeks. My most recent draft (60k words) was 17 days, I think. Something like that. On average though, I’d say a first draft takes me 4-6 weeks. Edits are a completely different beast. I usually set something aside to think about it after the draft. So, it can take me anywhere from six months to a year to get through revisions, readers, etc.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

It depends on which market I’m writing. Most projects, at the very least, I start out with a very detailed outline, and a character spreadsheet. For my historical projects, I look at the general time period/location I want to write about – then I fill in more of the historical details during the revision period. I have one exception to this, which is a novel that I spent over a month researching because it was very important to me to capture the location/history of the setting – as I saw the setting as its own character in a way.  

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

That I’d never want anyone to know? Nah, not really. I’m a pretty open book about being peak-weird. I do find that I do my best writing during thunderstorms. I write all of my drafts/edits on paper. Though I can write on the computer, and I have challenged myself to do one entire MS on the computer instead of long hand, I find it doesn’t flow as well or as easily for me that way. I also have to write with the window open. And when I’m writing/editing a project, I fully immerse myself in similar genres/time periods for all the books, TV shows, and movies I’m watching/reading at the time. The one exception to this is SVU, because SVU transcends all.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I haven’t done a literary pilgrimage, though I would LOVE TO. I’m currently editing a project about a sanatorium, and I cannot tell you how badly I want to go traipse around some abandoned sanatoriums. I have gone to walk through an orange grove for inspiration for one particular character. There is also a creepy mansion I’ve visited a few times that appears in one of my novels.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

For some, yes. For others, it was more than likely a spark of inspiration while driving. My current project actually came upon in a stranger way than usual. This character was meant to be connected to another book, and while writing some of her origin story, I ended up falling down a plotting rabbit hole and writing an entirely different book.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love thrillers, historical, romantic suspense, anything with kilts, fantasy – and anything creepy or weird.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I haven’t yet – but now I might 😉

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

I don’t base any characters on people I know. I have some characters that have historical influences, but I think that’s the closest I’ll ever get to having a character based on a real person. Usually I start with a base idea for what I think a character is going to be, and halfway through the draft I really know them.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club gets so much attention, but Diary is my favorite book.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I don’t feel guilty about reading books, so I can’t think of one that I would consider to be a guilty pleasure.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Nope, I let Google do that for me. Google Alerts 😉

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?


Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Spelling. I am AWFUL at spelling. It was something I always had trouble with in school.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Be patient, keep going no matter what. And don’t edit as you write, edit AFTER your first draft is complete.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Try to find a balance between promo for your book, and the other things you love. It’s important to remember that the whole world isn’t the book release. And – if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Don’t feel like you’re alone with your release. Ask other authors, friends, betas, family members, there are so many people that would love to help.  

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

Every month on my blog I do critique giveaways, some are for queries, some for queries and pages. I will also do flash query giveaways on twitter sometimes. The writing community was so integral to keeping me writing and helping me find an agent, it’s super important to me to give back.

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Solving the case will avenge her sister—unless the killer finds her first.

It’s been fifteen years since Claire Calderwood’s sister, Rachel, was brutally murdered in their small hometown in Maine. Claire has finally carved out a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit, but the past comes calling when the local police back home ask for her help with a murder eerily similar to Rachel’s.

Still haunted by Rachel’s cold case, Claire returns home, hoping to solve the crime and finally put her grief to rest. As she starts investigating, the last thing she needs is tenacious journalist Noah Washington asking questions she’s not ready to answer. But like her, Noah won’t give up until he finds the truth—and Claire reluctantly finds herself relying on him more and more when disturbing new details about Rachel’s death come to light.

When the killer strikes once again, Claire knows he’s not done. Now he’s set his sights on Claire, who will have to find the courage she needs to survive a deadly confrontation years in the making.

Get your copy of Next Girl to Die on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

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March 2019 Book List

March was a busy month in my reading and listening habits (which might be why I haven’t gotten much writing done?).

Anyway, the books I enjoyed in March–some more than others, but none of which I detested–are as follows:

Seige and Storm (Shadow and Bone Book 2) by Leigh Bardugo

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner―hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long.

The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army.

But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice―and only she can face the oncoming storm.

The Winter Queen (Stolen Empire, Book 4) by Sherry Ficklin

Far from the shores of England, another Elizabeth was born to rule a nation…

The daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth is a princess by birth, yet a warrior by blood. Never content to be a pawn in the game of men, Elizabeth is destined to sit upon a throne. But when her father’s sudden death leaves her mother and sister at the mercy of the scheming Privy Council, she will have to abandon her beloved Russia in order for her family to survive.

This is not a fairy tale.

And Elizabeth is not an average princess.

She is a Romanov—one woman in a line of powerful female rulers who will change the fate of Russia forever.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

David Sedaris’ move to Paris from New York inspired these hilarious pieces, including the title essay, about his attempts to learn French from a sadistic teacher who declares that every day spent with you is like having a caesarean section. His family is another inspiration. You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a portrait of his brother, who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers of food and cashiers with six-inch fingernails.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt

The money is old, the problems are new.

A wry and addictive debut about a modern-day American dynasty and its unexpected upheaval when the patriarch wills his dwindling fortune to his youngest, adopted son–setting off a chain of events that unearth family secrets and test long-held definitions of love and family.

The Whitbys: a dynasty akin to the Astors, once enormously wealthy real-estate magnates who were considered “the landlords of New York.”

There was a time when the death of a Whitby would have made national news, but when the family patriarch, Roger, dies, he is alone. Word of his death travels from the longtime family lawyer to his clan of children (from four separate marriages) and the news isn’t good. Roger has left everything to his twenty-one-year-old son Nick, a Whitby only in name, including the houses currently occupied by Shelley and Brooke–two of Roger’s daughters from different marriages. And Nick is nowhere to be found.

Brooke, the oldest of the children, who is unexpectedly pregnant, leads the search for Nick, hoping to convince him to let her keep her Boston home and her fragile composure. Shelley hasn’t told anyone she’s dropped out of college just months before graduating, and is living in her childhood apartment while working as an amanuensis for a blind writer named Anandaroop Gupta, with whom she develops a rather complicated relationship. And when Nick, on the run from the law after a misguided and dramatic act of political activism, finally shows up at Shelley’s New York home, worlds officially collide as Nick and Mr. Gupta’s daughter fall in love. Soon, all three siblings are faced with the question they have been running from their whole lives: What do they want their future to look like, if they can finally escape their past?

Weaving together multiple perspectives to create a portrait of an American family, and an American dream gone awry, Baby of the Family is a book about family secrets–how they define us, bind us together, and threaten to blow us (and more) apart–as well as an amusing and heartwarming look at the various ways in which a family can be created.

The Gathering by Anne

Anne Enright is a dazzling writer of international stature and one of Ireland’s most singular voices. Now she delivers The Gathering, a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family and a shot of fresh blood into the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light. The Gathering is a daring, witty, and insightful family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is a novel about love and disappointment, about how memories warp and secrets fester, and how fate is written in the body, not in the stars. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. 

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Twenty years ago Claire Scott’s eldest sister, Julia, went missing. No one knew where she went – no note, no body. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart.

Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And it seems that she might not be the only one.

Claire is convinced Julia’s disappearance is linked.

But when she begins to learn the truth about her sister, she is confronted with a shocking discovery, and nothing will ever be the same…

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges, #1) by Stephen King

In a high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. “Mr. Mercedes is a rich, resonant, exceptionally readable accomplishment by a man who can write in whatever genre he chooses” (The Washington Post).

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with two new, unusual allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable. 

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

Within and Without by Deborah Maroulis

Some girls will go to great lengths to fit in. But how far is too far?

A stunning YA debut that touches on a teenage girl’s emotionally haunting journey to self acceptance.

When sixteen-year-old Wren Newmann is forced to move from her small California town to her grandmother’s vineyard after her parent’s divorce, she’s convinced she’ll die a shriveled, wine-country virgin.

Her dating life improves when Jay, the son of Granny’s vintner and her long-time country crush, notices her. She tries to be the girl Jay would want—social, skinny, and sexy. But as their relationship heats up, so does her anxiety and the need for her secret purging sessions. Still, she insists Jay is the perfect boyfriend in spite of everyone’s warnings.

When Panayis, the cute Greek farmhand, insists on being her friend, Wren finds someone who truly sees her—trouble is she can’t bring herself to look at her own reflection, let alone allow anyone else to see her as she is.

When personal tragedy strikes the night of the Spring Break party, Wren is left to pick up the pieces of her broken relationships. Now, she must step up to the plate and decide if the illusion of being loved is worth sacrificing her health, and maybe even her life.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Piccoult

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.

Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

From bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater, a gripping tale of darkness, miracles, and family. Saints. Miracles. Family. Romance. Death. Redemption.

Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

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Book Review: Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt

Baby of the Family is a novel about the once influential Whitby family.

Roger Whitby, the four times married family patriarch, has died after squandering a majority of his wealth. He’s left what remains of his estate to his youngest (adopted) son, Nick, the son of his fourth wife. Nick is a young man who has been struggling to find a purpose in his life. As his father is dying, Nick becomes involved in an act of political activism, and then goes missing.

Brooke, Roger’s daughter from his second marriage, is dealing with her own issues. She’s pregnant by a man she doesn’t love, afraid to admit to the love she has for Allie, and her house—the one thing she has from her dad—has just become part of Nick’s inheritance. Brooke doesn’t even really know Nick and has no idea if she’ll be forced out of the house. She’s barely able to get by on her nursing job, and the thought of having to add rent or a mortgage to her financial plan—in addition to the cost of having a baby—has left her unsure of the right decisions.

Roger’s daughter Shelley is living with her mother in the New York apartment Roger walked out of years ago. Her mom has left after descending into a years-long cycle of depression. Desperate for income, Shelley takes a job with a very peculiar man, and ends up in a complex relationship with him.

Told from the point of view of these three Whitby children, each abandoned and let down by their father, it explores the complex relationships between children and their parents. It’s really about finding and being yourself, despite your familial relations.

It was hard to identify with the characters (for obvious reasons—the lack of my own family fortune), but they were interesting enough to keep me reading. Baby of the Family wasn’t a novel that drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat, but I was passively interested enough to continue reading to find out what happens to each of the characters.

*I received an ARC of Baby of the Family from Netgalley and Dutton Books in exchange for an honest review

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Jan & Feb ’19 Book List

I love to share some of the great books I’ve read (and listened to!) every month. I’ve been doing this via my newsletter, but haven’t shared anything yet this year, so forgive this list, it may be a bit long!

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha)

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

HE LOVES YOU: Adam adores Emily. Emily thinks Adam’s perfect, the man she thought she’d never meet.
BUT SHE LOVES YOU NOT: Lurking in the shadows is a rival, a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.
AND SHE’LL STOP AT NOTHING: Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other… 

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:
“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”
Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family―and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy―and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold―a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.
Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite―and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.
As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.
Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price―and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .
A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don’t kill each other first.
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Blog Tour: Policy of Truth by Scarlett Holloway

Policy of Truth: Book Review

Policy of Truth is a little outside of my usual reading trends, but (as a fan of Sons of Anarchy) I was interested in giving it a try.

Policy of Truth has one thing in abundance: strong, complex, bad-ass female characters. The female characters in this book, including main character Tamra “Durty” Simons, are well-developed, strong and face a number of real-world issues that happen in every day life, even if we prefer to not talk about them (ie- domestic violence). While they’re all affected by the things they’ve seen & endured, all these chicks are strong and maintain their own positions in a male-dominated world. Sometimes they even dominate.

In addition to the bad-ass women, there’s a ridiculously spicy love story that develops between Durty and “Sting” who’s equal parts mysterious, dangerous and endearing.

Policy of Truth is an easy, engaging, and steamy read with a great cliffhanger that’ll have you eagerly anticipating book 2.

*I received a copy of Policy of Truth in exchange for an honest review*

Enter for your chance to win the Policy of Truth giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t miss any of the stops on the Policy of Truth blog tour:

Coming soon from Scarlett:

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A Message For My Spammers

I’ve just devoted way too many minutes to cleaning up my comments and deleting spam. It’s a bit out of control.

I know, Spammers, you spend a lot of time trolling the interwebbie thing, and you hate for your work to be in vain. I thought I might offer you some tips so that your efforts can be better targeted and all the silly, mundane spam can quit being such a burden to both of us.

  • “Assess far on minuscule the flabbergast” doesn’t mean anything to me. Please consult your American translation dictionary and try again.
  • I do not read Russian.
  • Or any of the Asian languages.
  • Nor the Middle Eastern ones.
  • I’m neither located in Melbourne, nor do I own a car there, so I have no need for a car removal service in Melbourne.
  • Opening with “Howdy” doesn’t make the rest of your super-shady comment any less suspect!
  • I am not following that link.
  • There are far more educated people than I, who can make recommendations about plug-ins, web servers, etc
  • If you found duplicate information on my blog, it’s because I’m human, and forgetful, and probably have no idea what I blogged about a week ago.
  • I will not call you daddy.
  • Also, I will not spank you.
  • I am definitely not following that link
  • However miraculous that pill may be, it will not give me guaranteed penile growth. Mother Nature determined that in advance.
  • Posting the exact same comment to each and every one of my posts is just lazy, lacking in creativity and is the mark of a spammer who isn’t truly invested in his/her future with the spamming company
  • What can an online casino tell me about the topics I blog about (books, writing & parenting)?
  • I am by no means “truly a webmaster” and the “sheer velocity of the loading time” has more to do with your internet provider than anything I’ve done.
  • I don’t believe, based on your generic comment, that you really do think I made “good points”, that you’ve bookmarked my blog, or will be coming back frequently. (Nobody is that interested in a post about pink eye!).
  • And for the rookie spammer: You were supposed to copy & paste ONE of the spam comments. I don’t think you were intended to post all the possible variations of spam comments! I hope you’ve been fired for your lack of attention to this deplorable career path you’ve chosen.

And finally, why are you trying so hard to invade my pitiful web page? Don’t you have a country or multi-million-dollar corporation to topple? There’s much more glory there! Dream big, my Spammer friends.

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Author Spotlight: Wendi Silvano

Name: Wendi Silvano

Author of: Turkey Trouble; Turkey Claus; Turkey Trick-or-Treat; Just One More; What Does The Wind Say?; Hey Diddle Riddle; Counting Coconuts. (Upcoming book: Turkey’s Eggstra-Special Easter, Two Lions Press, January, 2019)

From: I was born in Salt Lake City and grew up there. I lived for two years on the coast of Oregon at ages 7-8, and I lived in Peru for 18 months at 21-22. I have now lived in Grand Junction, CO for 19 years.


Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I don’t remember for sure if it was the very first “story” I wrote once I decided to try and write a children’s picture book, but Just One More, was certainly one of the first. When I lived in Peru I was fascinated by the crazy bus rides I took (since drivers cram their buses as full as they can get them, and people bring animals of all sorts aboard). I knew that multicultural stories were something publishers were looking for and I thought I could make a funny book telling the tale of a young boy who is so crammed in he can’t get off the bus. Just One More ended up being my first published picture book (after 7 years of submitting and after 24 rejections).

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I was an elementary school teacher for 11 years, until my 3rd child was born. I quit teaching to stay at home with my kids. I didn’t really like so many of the domestic things stay-at-home mom’s often do (cooking, gardening, sewing, crafting, etc.). I started looking into how to write teacher resource books, as I thought that might be something I could do to earn a little money. The more I looked into that the more I realized that I really wanted to write fiction picture books. They were something I had always had a passion for reading… so why not help create what I loved to read most?

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

When I first began writing, I pretty much began on my own. As there was no internet to use, I checked books out of the library on “how to get published” and purchased a copy of the Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market Guide. I joined SCBWI, and began sending away to publishers for the author’s guidelines. Since I had three tiny children, I wasn’t really able to attend conferences often (I only went to one during the first five years of my writing career. I didn’t have a critique group or anything at that point, so SCBWI was probably my best source for help. However, once I moved to Grand Junction, I found a group of three other writers who became my critique group and their help was absolutely critical to improving my writing and helping me get published. Cherie Winner, Linda Armstrong and Penny Stine hold a very dear place in my heart. We laughed a lot, and learned a lot and I credit their help for my success. Years later, Diane Hower moved to town and revitalized the local SCBWI members (and we formed another critique group here in town which was amazing). There’s nothing more helpful than having a good critique group!

Do you exclusively write  picture books or have you written in other genres?

I write everything from ages 0 to about 8. (I think my brain quit growing after 3rd grade!). I have written board books, early readers, picture books and young chapter books. I have also had numerous stories in children’s magazines. (I have absolutely NO ideas for middle grade or YA novels). I have done considerable writing for the educational market, which has included writing reading passages that are used for standardized tests from Kindergarten to Grade 12 levels, and a number of teacher resource books for middle grades. I did the puzzles for the puzzle spreads in OWL Magazine for two years, and have done a variety of work-for-hire assignments of all sorts. I will try almost anything.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I will admit that I go through cycles in my writing. There are times when I can write every day and be productive, and other times when my family has greater needs and I am lucky to get in any writing time for weeks. There are also times when I have a few hours to work on my writing and nothing comes out right. Those are the most frustrating days because my available time is so limited I hate to not be productive. I have learned that is just the nature of the process and I have to live with that. I do try to do something writing-related EVERY day. If I can’t write or revise something I try to research or send out queries, etc. I read, on average, 25-30 picture books per week. I request so many picture books from the library (that are shipped in from all over the area), that they have given me my own reserve shelf. I think there is nothing that helps more with my writing than reading the wonderful writing of others. It gives me a feel for what works and why. It generates new ideas and shows me new ways to structure or approach a story.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions

Once I figure out what it is that I want my story to be, and know how I want to approach it the first draft usually doesn’t take long (maybe a few hours to a day or two). But, it can take me many tries at starting a story to figure out what execution might work. Once a draft is done and I start revisions it will usually be many, many months (or even years) of getting feedback, revising, putting it away for a while and getting it back out to take a fresh look, then revising again, over and over, before I feel a book is ready to go on submission. It’s crazy, but most of my books that have sold have taken at least a year to get “right”.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

I have numerous notebooks full of possible ideas for picture books. When I choose one to start working on I might look for other picture books on similar topics/themes to see what is already out there. I brainstorm every idea, word or notion that comes to mind on the theme and try to think of a unique approach. If a book has science elements or some character that is an animal, I will, of course, get as many books from the library as I can find on the topic to learn more. I love reading other children’s books about a topic (i.e. the states of matter, hedgehogs, etc.) because they explain things so simply. It’s the easiest way to learn about something.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I don’t know if it is quirky, but I find that every time I am sitting at the computer writing, I get a craving for gumdrops. I try to resist the temptation, but often cave and eat a few… just for inspiration!

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I haven’t gone on a trip specifically to do research for a story (although that sounds delightful!), but when our family went to Peru to visit relatives in 2008 I was taking good notes for future story ideas. We visited the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu (where a current story is set) and the Amazon Rain Forest (where several older stories have been set). Anywhere I go I am watching for inspiration for stories.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

Not so much an exact moment… more like a general time frame. As I said before, I have notebooks full of possible ideas. I might think of a title or character or plot idea and write it down, and then later work on it over time to see if a whole story comes of it. For example, I saw a facebook video or a person in a tyrannosaurus costume wearing a tutu and visiting some office somewhere. It gave me the idea for a character who is a tyrannosaurus who desperately wants to dance ballet, but struggles because she has those itty bitty arms that can’t reach the barre and clunky legs and a long tail that gets in the way. But it took some time after seeing the video before the story idea came around.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

Of course I read picture books by the hundreds (as that is my preferred genre, and there are SO many wonderful ones being published lately I could never choose a favorite. When I read adult stuff I find I tend to lean towards thrillers because they keep me from falling asleep as I read (or drive if I am listening).

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I haven’t done that yet… but what an intriguing idea!

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Sometimes. In fact, my Turkey character was inspired by a “pet” turkey that a family had that I lived with for a time in Peru. This turkey acted just like one of the family dogs. He would come running when leftovers were scraped into the feeding trough, and would follow people around, wanting attention. I never knew turkeys had so much personality!

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

There is a wordless picture book called The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang. It has to be one of my all-time favorite picture books. It was published in 1996, and was actually a Caldecott Honor book, with truly incredible illustrations (the grandmother in the story is depicted in negative space… so clever and fun). However, I hardly ever hear anything about this book, or see it on recommended reading lists, or anywhere. Every child deserves to know about this book. My five children and I have received such delight in reading it.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Once in a while. It’s sort of scary to see what comes up!

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

A Llama or alpaca. I fell in love with them in Peru, and have a fascination for them now.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Yes. I struggle with critiquing the work of other writers. I can tell you if a manuscript is working and if I like it, or if I feel like there’s something amiss, but I struggle to be able to put my finger on exactly what is right or wrong sometimes.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Be patient and persistent. Even great work can take a long time to get published. You have to hit the right editor or agent with the right thing at the right time. Keep learning how to better the craft and don’t give up!

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Do what you can to market your own work. Publishers often don’t do that much, and it is up to you to create a buzz.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I love talking to aspiring writers. They are so enthusiastic and anxious to learn. I am the local area coordinator for the Western Slope Area of the Rocky Mountain Region of SCBWI. I help organize and coordinate writing “Connects” in our local area so writers have a chance to get together and learn from each other.

Want to know more about Wendi?


Turkey Trouble 

Turkey is in trouble. Bad trouble. The kind of trouble where it’s almost Thanksgiving… and you’re the main course. But Turkey has an idea- what if he doesn’t look like a turkey? What if he looks like another animal instead? After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise to make this Thanksgiving the best ever! This delightful book is a Children’s Choice Award winner!

Get Turkey Trouble from Amazon or Barnes & Noble


    Turkey Claus

Turkey is in trouble…again. He made it through Thanksgiving without becoming a turkey dinner, but now it’s almost Christmas, and guess what’s on the menu? Turkey decides the only thing to do is to ask Santa for help. He sets off for the North Pole, but getting in to see Santa on Christmas Eve isn’t as easy as Turkey expected. It’s going to take all his ideas- and his clever disguises- to find a way into Santa’s house. After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise, and Santa has the perfect solution!

Get Turkey Claus from Amazon or Barnes & Noble


Turkey Trick Or Treat

Everyone loves Halloween candy—even Turkey. But how can he and his barnyard friends get any when the farmers give it out only to children? With a costume, of course! As his pals look on, Turkey comes up with one clever costume after the next. Each trick gets better and better…but will Turkey and his friends end up with any treats? This hilarious companion to Turkey Trouble and Turkey Claus is filled to the brim with holiday fun.

Get Turkey Trick or Treat from Amazon or Barnes & Noble


Just One More

Hector doesn’t know what he’s in for when he climbs aboard a bus high up in the Andes Mountains. He watches in disbelief as the driver lets MORE people and MORE animals on the already swaying and bouncing bus until it’s ready to burst. “There’s no more room. This bus is packed.” said Hector. This bus is piled and stacked up to the roof and out the door!” But the bus driver hollered, “Just one more!” Come along with Hector as he learns a valuable lesson. There’s always room for just one more.

Get Just One More from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

What Does the Wind Say?

A rhyming picture book for 3-5 year-olds that poses playful questions about some of children’s favorite things, like the moon, clouds, frogs and raindrops. From whish-a-woo to peek-a-boo! the answers to the questions make for lively poetry. Warm, charming illustrations depict familiar scenes for little ones.

Get What Does the Wind Say? from Amazon or Barnes & Noble


Hey Diddle Riddle

Enhanced with gatefold flaps and bold illustrations, a silly book will challenge kids to guess the answers to simple riddles featuring the dish and the spoon, the three kittens, and other classic nursery rhyme characters.

Get Hey Diddle Riddle on Amazon

Counting Coconuts

Help! Monkey is hungry. But before he can eat his coconuts, he must find the fastest way to count them. A trio of tapirs, a slithering boa, an oh-so-slow sloth, and a wickedly wise jaguar are among the rainforest animals that suggest various counting methods. Learn to count by sets and help Monkey complete his comical, ever-changing, arithmetic task.

Get Counting Coconuts from Amazon


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Author Spotlight: Tiffany Brownlee

Name: Tiffany Brownlee  

Novel: Wrong in All The Right Ways (Macmillan)


Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? 

The first story I ever remember writing was when I was in the second grade. It was something about a taco pocket (a common food that we ate in the cafeteria) and how it didn’t want to be eaten so it ran away from the table. Much of my writing from when I was a child had to do with food, which I find hilarious.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in grade school, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I began to think about writing professionally. My good friend, Brad, and I would daydream about becoming professional writers and we’d trade off stories. But then, senior year happened, and I realized that I needed to get serious about college. So, I put my dreams away until after I graduated college, and when I picked writing back up, the first novel I wrote, which landed me an agent and ultimately a book deal, was Wrong in All the Right Ways.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

Yes! Once I got my book deal, I joined a group called the Electric Eighteens. It’s a group of debut authors who have novels coming out in the year 2018. This group, collectively, has been so helpful on my journey to publication. Anytime I had a question about something—be it book swag, author events, the struggle of writing book 2, etc.—they’ve been there to advise me. My agent and editor have been really helpful and supportive as well, and without either of them, I’d be so lost. So, I’ve kind of gotten advice and support from a number of people during my journey; I can’t say give all the credit to one person.

Do you exclusively write contemporary YA (young adult) or have you written in other genres?

So far, I’ve only written in the YA romance genre. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good romance—or “kissing books” as I sometimes call them. However, I have written pieces of novels in other genres, but I have yet to figure out how to write a good action scene. Maybe one of these days, I’ll figure it out and pick up one of the half-written novels I’ve started and work on finishing it.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I’m an English teacher, so for most of the year, my focus is on making sure I can deliver high-quality lessons to my students, and unfortunately for me, that makes it difficult for me to get an adequate amount of writing done. However, whenever I’m on vacation from school (especially summer vacation) and I get the opportunity to I write for extended periods of time, I crank out

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

When I wrote Wrong in All the Right Ways, it only took my twenty days to write the first draft of that novel, and maybe three months on revisions before I began to query for an agent. I’m not sure how I did it, and I wish I could go back in time and write down my exact process because now that I have one novel out already, I feel so much pressure to repeat, and because of that it’s become more and more difficult to finish the first draft of my next novel. It’s getting there, though.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

When it comes to preparation for writing a novel, I’m definitely a plotter. I love making outlines for the entire project before I begin writing. This helps me reveal every possible twist and turn, so I can write with those things in mind. For the most part, I try to stick to my outlines, but occasionally, I’ll get an idea in my head that throws the outline off a little bit, but I always know that it won’t be long until I’m back on track with the way I’ve planned the novel to go.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

 I’m kind of an open book, so I don’t have anything I wouldn’t want anyone to know, but one of my habits is that I listen to Disney songs while I write. And I’m talking all kinds of Disney music—from the animated films, DCOM soundtracks (High School Musical is my personal favorite), and even from albums that past and present Disney stars have put out (Hilary Duff, Bridget Mendler, Miley Cyrus, etc.). I don’t know, there’s just something about Disney songs that put me in the mood to write.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I wouldn’t say that I do any interesting research to write a novel because a lot of what I write is pulled from my own life experiences. When I do research something, it’ll be to fact-check something medical-related or get a little more information about the setting that I’ve chosen for the novel. Surprisingly, what I spend most of my research time on are names of characters. I will scour through baby name websites for days until I find the perfect one.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

My inspiration for Wrong in All the Right Ways came when I reread Wuthering Heights a few months after I graduated college. But today, most of my inspiration comes from interacting with my students at school. They’re middle schoolers so they have plenty of daily drama for me to draw inspiration from.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love anything in the YA contemporary or YA romance categories. Reading those books remind me of when I was a teenager and was experiencing love and meaningful friendships for the first time. Some of my favorite novels are Jenny Hans To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series and anything by John Green. Occasionally I’ll try a YA fantasy, but it’s not really my style so it takes a very interesting premise for me to pick up a YA fantasy novel.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Yes, there are some secrets that only a few people will know about, such as my first kiss, that made it into the novel. There are two instances where I wrote about first kisses in the novel, and I’ve told readers that my first kiss is written in there, so readers will have to guess which one is from my life. But unless I or the guy it happened with spills the beans, no one will ever know which one is the real one.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Some of the characters are inspired by people in my real life, but one in particular is a mash-up of people I’ve met across my lifetime, and that character is Karmin Ortega. Karmin is Emma’s best friend in the novel, and she was inspired from every best friend I’ve ever had in my life. When I was younger, my dad was in the military and we moved around more than I would have liked to. Because we moved so frequently, I was never able to keep a best friend for very long. 

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I have two, actually. One is the book Holes by Louis Sachar, and the other is the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. Holes is a book that made me fall in love with reading at a young age, and the Delirium series was one of the first book series I read when I just started getting into the YA dystopian genre. I will never get tired of reading those books.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

I used to Google myself a lot more prior to publication, just to see what people are saying, but I’ve tried to stay away from that because it gives me anxiety. I don’t want to know what people are saying about me or about my book, so I’ve stopped. Maybe one day, I’ll resume Googling myself, but today is not that day (haha).

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

My patronus is some kind of rodent (a possum or a ferret or something along those lines), and I don’t think that fits me very well, so I like to think that my mascot would be a dolphin or something fun like that. They’re so playful, which is SO me.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

I feel like I should be better at writing authentic dialogue, but I find it difficult to do sometimes, especially when I’m attempting to write dialogue for a male character. I’m always second-guessing myself, like “is this what a guy would say?” Usually, I seek advice from my boyfriend or brother when I start to feel self-conscious about the authenticity of my male characters’ dialogue.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

1) Don’t give up! And 2) do your research before deciding to get into the publishing business. There are a number of different routes that aspiring writers can take to publish their novel—self-publishing/traditional publishing, small press/large press, etc.—so be sure to do your research and choose the path that works best for you.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Here’s the greatest advice I can give any newly published author: Whatever you do, do not check your book reviews on Goodreads. I wish someone had told me this earlier, but I fell in the Goodreads trap early on my journey to publication. I think ignorance is bliss when it comes to reviews. I don’t want to know how many people are reading it, and I don’t want to know what they think about it. The second you realize you have a one- or two-start review, you’re going to start doubting yourself, and enough self-doubt can really hurt your future. So, one more time for the people in the back row: DO NOT CHECK YOUR BOOK REVIEWS ON GOODREADS! You’ll thank me later 🙂

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I try to help other aspiring authors by giving them as much advice as possible about what I learned from my journey to publication. Aspiring writers are always looking for advice on querying/publication do’s and don’t’s from an experienced author, and I try to help them out any chance I get. I’ve gotten messages from writers asking about my process and what they should do, and I don’t mind answering questions or telling them how I did it, but I always give them the disclaimer that just because I did things a certain way doesn’t mean that they have to do the same. Every author has a different publishing experience and they should choose the route that works best for them.

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Wrong In All The Right Ways

An attraction between foster siblings sets fire to forbidden love in this contemporary reimagining of Wuthering Heights.

Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews.

Meanwhile, Emma’s AP English class is reading Wuthering Heights, and she’s been assigned to echo Emily Bronte’s style in an epistolary format. With irrepressible feelings and no one to confide in, she’s got a lot to write about. Distraught by the escalating intensity of their mutual attraction, Emma and Dylan try to constrain their romance to the page―for fear of threatening Dylan’s chances at being adopted into a loving home. But the strength of first love is all-consuming, and they soon get enveloped in a passionate, secretive relationship with a very uncertain outcome.

Tiffany Brownlee’s Wrong in All the Right Ways marks the exciting debut of a fresh voice in contemporary teen fiction.


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