Guest Post: On Writing & Doing What You Love by Megan Cutler

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When a mysterious island appears off the coast of San Francisco, two intrepid academics risk everything to discover its secrets. Literature professor Catilen Taylor has struggled all her life with the ability to sense others’ emotions. The only person comfortable with her eccentricities is Damian Cooke, who studies an ancient art he calls ‘magic.’

Beyond the military barricade they discover a paradise unspoiled by modern advances, ruled by the enigmatic Sentomoru, who invites them to share the wonders of his bathhouse. But as the travelers strive to unravel the island’s secrets, Catilen senses danger stalking their every step.

Neither Catilen nor Damian can guess how long the island will remain on Earth. If they can’t solve its riddles, and untangle themselves from a growing web of strife quickly, they may be trapped wherever the island goes when it vanishes. Is the island the paradise it promises? Or does a nightmare lurk beneath the surface?

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People always want to know when you discovered you were a writer. Maybe some people have a giant ah-ha moment where it all clicks for them, but for me it was a slow process of discovery. In a way, writing was always a part of my life. People used to talk constantly about how much I wrote for assignments in elementary school. Like it was an expectation that any story I wrote would be twice as long as the rest – and, of course, I was eager to deliver.

Sometime in middle school, I was invited to partake in a special class centered around writing. It got me out of other classes I liked less, which was the main reason I liked it at the time. That and the teacher was incredibly laid back. He encouraged us to do whatever made us comfortable during writing time, which meant lying on the floor, sitting under tables, and sometimes being able to sit in the hall if we were quiet. All the things usually forbidden to school kids that age. Sometimes he would sit at the front of the room, play his guitar and sing us his songs while we wrote. Some of my fondest school memories came from that class.

I learned many of the basic principles of writing in that class. Always write in pen, our teacher told us, so that the words are permanent, concrete. Never cross them out so darkly you can’t see what you originally wrote (a single line through will do). Never delete, always save. Always date your work. Our teacher encouraged us to let words flow without judgment, to write whatever we felt like that day, whatever came into our minds or felt right. We didn’t talk much about editing in that class – those were lessons I learned later – but I did learn to let go, to write words without worrying about who would be looking over my shoulder in the days to come (a lesson I would have to re-learn in my adult years).

We shared our stories with the class. Mine was about a girl named V (or perhaps her name only started with a V and I can no longer remember it). She built a time machine. I can’t remember why she wanted to travel through time, but I do remember her parents were totally cool with it. As each person read their story aloud, we wrote comments on little slips of paper to share what we thought. I kept all the ones people wrote for me. I still have them tucked away in a folder.

By high school I was hiding writing notebooks underneath the notebooks I took my class notes in (not that it stopped me from getting into trouble). I had characters I turned to when I was angry and characters who comforted me when I was sad. Snow days were a great boon; a chance to write all day without interruption. I had grand plans by then, dreams of being a bestselling author by the time I was twenty-five.

Of course, life never works out the way you plan. I was closer to thirty when I published my first novel in 2015. But no matter what else I did with my life (college, working in IT), writing was always lurking in the background. Always the ultimate goal.

My first book, Island of Lost Forevers, is a tale about two college professors exploring a mysterious island that appears off the coast of San Francisco. They want to know where it came from and where it will go when it leaves. But though the island appears to be paradise, a nightmare may be lurking just beneath the surface. It has nothing to do with my high school scribbles but, without them, I never would have made it this far.

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You can find my work at megancutler.net. I post random musings every Monday and free short fiction every Friday. You can also hang out with me on Twitter and on Facebook. Island of Lost Forevers, and its two sequels, are available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited; plus Island of Lost Forevers is getting a paperback in July!

Exciting reading, 

Jordan

 

 

Open Forum/Guest Post Free For All

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Are you a writer? Reader? Author? Blogger? Maybe you’re in the process of or want to become an author?

For the month of June, I am hosting an open forum/ free for all. If you have something YA that you want to talk about, anything having to do with writing, the publishing world, this industry, something you’d love to see in YA, something you’d like to see less of, you name it, I am giving you the opportunity to voice your thoughts. HERE. On the blog. For free. 

I’m giving you an open mic in blog form. 

You want to be heard, you have something to say, feel free to schedule a date. Just keep it PG-13 because some young kids read this blog. 

I want to hear from you. I would love for you to share your thoughts and put your opinions out there. 

If you’re interested in a spot, feel free to shoot an email to yabookmadness@gmail.com and we’ll schedule you a date!!!

Tell everyone. Let’s make this happen.

As always, keep reading,

Jordan

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Kingdom of Darkness by Tricia Copeland

Release Date: June 21, 2017
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“… the previous night’s vision, or whatever it was, ended with a name I heard clear as day, as if the people were in my room. Ivy, the girl and boy recited together.”

– Camille

Could her dreams be real? Is she the key to freeing witches from their curse? Of course not, right? Thinking that her only chance at a normal life lay in a new treatment, Camille joins Dr. Antos and a group of teens for a month long camping trip in Iceland. There she meets Jude, a fellow schizophrenic. Dr. Antos invites Camille and Jude to extend their work with him on the island of Sardinia. Camille is suspicious of Dr. Antos’s intentions but her dad goes missing, leaving her no choice but to travel to Italy. Is she walking into a lion’s den or has her illness invaded her reality?

 OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES

  
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Tricia Copeland grew up in Georgia and now lives in Colorado with her family. Her books include the clean new adult Being Me Series, Is This Me?, If I Could Fly, Thinking You Know Me, and the final installment, Being Me, as well as a young adult novellas, Drops of Sunshine and the Lovelock Chronicles, Lovelock Ones: Native One, published in The Butterfly Box. If she’s not out running, you can find Tricia at www.triciacopeland.com or your favorite social media.
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Enter for your chance to win a Kingdom of Embers ebook. 3 winners.

 

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Read on,
Jordan

ARC Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

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DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

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3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled.

+++Some scenes might be triggers for assault and/or violence

Violet Grenade is unexpected. It’s dark and twisted, sinister and honest and raw. There’s so much going on in here, so much pain and torment, so much that is unfair. 

THINGS I LIKED:

  • Domino believes she’s a monster. She has a past that will make your skin crawl and you’ll feel more than a little sick to your stomach when the truth comes out. There’s just enough to keep you on edge. Throughout the book, there are hints, little flashes of information that are gripping, blunt, and brutal. The need to know becomes a compulsion. I HAD TO KNOW. The scars on her arms, why Wilson manifested, the foreboding and constant allusions to an ugly and unforgivable past. Victoria Scott is an expert at building anticipation. It gets under your skin. 
  • A different portrayal of trafficking and extortion. Many times we think of trafficking as young girls or boys being abducted and forced into servitude/usually sexual in nature. What doesn’t get talked about enough is how people of specific walks of life are targeted and manipulated, they’re sold on an idea of a better life and before they know it, they can’t escape. Domino, like many of the other flowers, was homeless. She was vulnerable and a target. It’s not hard to persuade someone who rarely has a roof over their head or food to eat to go with someone at the prospect of safety, making money, a home, or even love. Madam Karina is the worst kind of villain because she’s real. She’s walking the streets right now. Her, and others like her, are predators. While Madam Karina has her own demons that make her the psychologically messed up person she is, she’s smart, she’s vindictive, and calculated. She makes these decisions, she knows what she’s doing, and that is inexcusable. 
  • The romance. Domino and Cain are beautifully broken but complete each other. They both had monstrous demons like guilt and fear that eat away at their souls, but inside, they’re good people who want nothing more than to be loved. Their romance is a slow-building realization. It’s imperfect and complicated. It’s right for them. 

THINGS I DISLIKED:

  • The pacing. This book felt a good hundred pages longer than it actually was because of how slow it read. It took time to really get into. The introduction to Domino and her life on the streets was intriguing, but kind of dull. The only things that save this section are the potential love interest with Dizzy and the hints at her past, that this horrible life is so much better than the one she escaped from. Then the shift happens. After Domino enters Madam Karina’s household, despite all of Domino’s plans, ambitions, and woes, it drags. Not much is going on. Each shift to the next flower level felt pretty much the same despite different dynamics and different girls. 
  • The lack of back story. Here’s the thing: the back story is there, sure. You get bare bones glimpses of what Domino’s life was like as a child and sure, it’s understandable because Wilson has blocked those memories from her so that she can live her life without constantly being haunted by the guilt and gore. That’s fine. When things are revealed about the seriously twisted and disgusting actions that Domino was coerced into doing, I mean, wow. MESSED UP. However, why her mother went off the handle, what her relationship was like with her mother that made the manipulation work so well, any moments with her father…it’s missing. There’s like this gaping black hole of stuff that the reader can fill in or guess about but it’s not enough to 100% embrace the emotions Domino felt towards her mother or even the anger. She blames herself, but what about her mother? What happened? There are so many unanswered questions. 

THINGS I’M TORN OVER:

  • How dissociative identity disorder was presented. Domino’s other identity-Wilson-is the result of PTSD and a coping mechanism for all of the horrific (truly, messed up scary stuff) she was forced to participate in as a child. Wilson is a protector, he’s loving and defensive, and flips out, goes off the handle and is way prone to violence. Domino is scared of him. She tries to keep him under lock and key because when he comes out, bad things happen and sometimes he takes total control. At the same time, Wilson is a friend. He’s been there for her, he never leaves like everyone else has in her life, and at the end, there’s a bittersweet moment that really makes you feel torn about Wilson. Ultimately for me, despite the insane and sadistic choices he makes, he’s a sort of savior for Domino that helps her realize that she is enough, that she can get through anything on her own. I wasn’t necessarily happy with this relationship between the two, but I didn’t hate it either. Wilson grows on you. And when he takes over, well, it’s definitely memorable and a little sickening. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Level Me Up by Lauren Helms

 Release Date: June 5, 2017
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The last thing Morgan Lawson is looking for when attending Comic-Con is love. But even prior to exchanging first words, Morgan is drawn to Dex, a drop-dead sexy gamer boy who lives and breathes video games. Before she realizes it, Morgan finds herself caught up in all things Dex.
 
Dex Roberts knows the moment he sees Morgan, he wants more. He falls hard and fast, but isn’t surprised when his job as a professional video gamer takes its toll on their relationship.

Once Morgan decides what truly makes her happy, there’s no time to waste. But without any warning, life threatens to destroy what both Morgan and Dex want most… each other.
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Author Lauren Helms has been an avid reader from a young age. After starting a book review site, that launched her fully into the book world, she decided to take the plunge and write her first novel. Since she was working for a video game strategy guide publisher at the time, she decided to mix what she knew best, video games and romance. Jumping all in, she joined NaNoWriMo and a month later had a 50K word first draft. Lauren lives in Indianapolis, IN with her video game playing husband, two little girl book nerds, and a little boy who will hopefully be a gamer boy too some day!
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Enter for your chance to win an ebook copy of Level Me Up

 

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Read on, 
Jordan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Three Tricks to Make Your Word Count by Zachary Paul Chopchinski #bowtieauthor

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Zachary is a bow tie wearing, formal vest rocking, pocket watch using, sarcastic monster of a writer. Currently residing in Orlando, Florida, he spends his days working, writing, and procrastinating.

Zach has multiple college degrees, in the fields of criminal justice and criminology…because he wanted to catch ALL the bad guys. Now, coupled with being an author of young adult fiction he spends his days yelling at people for breaking regulatory laws.

Zach is the author of the Gabrielle series, a young adult fantasy with a paranormal-historical-time traveling twist (try saying that five times fast).  

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By a show of hands, who else here thought that they would grab this whole “Be an author” thing by the keyboard and become its master? I can tell you that I have my hand up. I can also tell you that, I’m sure those of you who are human (robots, immortals, monsters, and other fictional beings need not apply) this thing is way harder than I thought it was.

Now, we all have our stories. We all have our very own inspirations, adventurous tales, and dreams when it comes to being a writer. Yet, I think in many respects, we all face some of the same hurdles that our cohorts face daily. I, for example, was not fortunate enough to be discovered by my first novel. Nope, this one’s going to make me work for it.

So, like many of you, I must also maintain a job to pay the bills. I mean who else in here needs electricity, internet, and copious amount of coffee to get the job done? I can tell you I sure as hell do! This is what brings me to here today to talk about one of my main obstacles, and I think that many of you also share this one: getting those damn words on the paper.

Word counts are a funny thing. They can scare us and drive us all at the same time. They are a great reflection of what we have accomplished, but at the same time they’re like looking at the bully that wants to fight you after school and you are in last period. I’m here to tell you, however, that you don’t have to be afraid. I also am here to tell you that there are some small tricks that I use to help get me through the numbers.

On a side note, ironically, writing all comes down to numbers. I think the reason many of us became authors was so that we didn’t have to “math” anymore…

Trick #1: Set that goal, girlfriend!

Yeah yeah yeah. I know, easier said than done, right? WRONG! Setting a decent, and obtainable goal is often the best and only way to be sure that you’re writing regularly. Writing regularly is a must, by the way, or you would be surprised how much something like this can be a perishable skill.

So, set a daily goal. It could be 500 words, it could be 5000 words, but the key is to set a goal and nail it. This is also why it is important to be honest with yourself and don’t try and pop a wheelie before you know how to ride the bike. If you’re busy, set a 1000-word goal. A general typist will take roughly an hour or so to accomplish this and with a goal, you can break this up throughout the day. This doesn’t have to be all at once.

Remember, the day is not complete until this goal is met. So be fair to yourself and your writing and give it the time its needs and keep into account what you can afford to give.

Trick #2: 500 is the warmup.

Dependent upon the size of the font and spacing, 500 words is roughly a page. This is about the break point for many writers. Often the will to create is lost on you, but just try to reach that 500-word marker. By this time, creativity will start to bloom and the words will flow more easily, trust me. Often, with writing, you must first find the flow and then the inspiration will follow as you engage your brain and challenge it to create. Reaching one page and pressing forward tends to allow your mind to wander in a determined direction and you will find yourself able to focus while letting loose.

Trick #3: If you want to get those gains on, get you a spotter.

Weightlifting jokes aside, often finding someone that you trust to check on your progress daily will help drive you to get those words down. You find yourself not wanting to let this person down, or if you have let them down, trying to make it up to them by hitting your goal. (NOTE: This also works if you are trying to prove them wrong and show them that you CAN do it! Just saying)

This trick can get…well…tricky. Remember to not get mad at your spotter. They are only trying to help you and they want you to be the best author that you can be. So… DON’T SHOOT THE DAMN MESSENGER!

Well, these are some of my tricks. I hope they can help you as much as they have helped me. I must be off now, as I have my own words to get down for today. By the way, this article is 817 words and I am totally counting that for today. Just saying.

CHECK OUT ZACH’S BOOKS

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What If You Woke Up in Someone Else’s Life?

Thirteen-year-old Gabrielle was given a mysterious bracelet for her birthday. She went to bed as a normal teen but woke up in another time, as another person.

When demons appear, Gabrielle’s dream adventure turns into a nightmare. But is a nightmare adventure better than just existing in your mundane life?

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Is An Extraordinary Experience Worth The Loss of Innocence?

In this gripping sequel, Gabrielle stumbles into revolutionary France with more questions than answers. Why did Alexandra chose her for this adventure? What did the mysterious old woman mean by “it’s all up to you”? And why was she seeing monsters no one else could see?

In search of these answers, Gabrielle finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she could have ever imagined. Can a nineteen year old old take on the past and un-seen evil all on her own?

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Will Gabrielle’s power be enough to save her?

In this third installment, Gabrielle finds herself living in one of the darkest times in American history, running a safe house for the Underground Railroad.

Arawn’s done playing games. When he discovers Gabrielle’s weakness he will stop at nothing to take her down. Gabrielle is going to have to use every ounce of her new power if she’s going to survive.

Keep reading, 

Jordan

 

Review & Giveaway: The Game of Lives by James Dashner

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Praise for the Mortality Doctrine Series 

 “Dashner takes full advantage of the Matrix-esque potential for asking ‘what is real.”

–io9.com

“Set in a world taken over by virtual reality gaming, the series perfectly capture[s] Dashner’s hallmarks for inventiveness, teen dialogue and an ability to add twists and turns like no other author.”

–MTV.com

“A brilliant, visceral, gamified mash-up of The Matrix and Inception, guaranteed to thrill even the non-gaming crowd.”

Christian Science Monitor

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From James Dashner, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, comes the final book in the Mortality Doctrine series, an edge-of-your-seat cyber-adventure trilogy that includes The Eye of Minds and The Rule of Thoughts

Includes a sneak peek of The Fever Code, the highly anticipated conclusion to the Maze Runner series–the novel that finally reveals how the Maze was built! 

Michael used to live to game, but now, the games are over. The VirtNet has become a world of deadly consequences, and cyber terrorist Kaine grows stronger by the day. The Mortality Doctrine–Kaine’s master plan–has nearly been realized, and little by little the line separating the virtual from the real is blurring. If Kaine succeeds, it will mean worldwide cyber domination. And it looks like Michael and his friends are the only ones who can put the monster back in the box–if Michael can figure out who his friends really are.

The author who brought you the #1 New York Times bestselling MAZE RUNNER series and two #1 movies–The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials–now brings you an electrifying adventure trilogy that takes you into a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyber terrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.review

THINGS I LOVED:

  • The concept. It’s complex and energetic. The lines between virtual reality and real life have blurred so well that even those who think they’re human are fooled. Code is so advanced that consciousness is connected to chunks of data that form virtual people sans bodies and “real” people seriously cannot tell the difference. It’s epic and terrifying at the same time.
  • BODY SNATCHING. Usually this is a thing for aliens but holy horror, tech that can invade your brain and force you out into this beast of collective consciousness called The Hive where all these poor souls without bodies are forced to hang out. WHAT??!! Let’s hope this doesn’t become our reality. So scary. 
  • It makes you think. James Dashner is particularly skilled at crafting compelling concepts that make the reader question mankind, the role of technology, and how humanity adapts to these intense and dire changes. As evidenced in Maze Runner, but even more so in this world of advanced tech.
  • Kaine is an evil genius. Totally vicious. If you love a good villain, he’s your guy. Cyber terrorism. Relatable and relevant. 

THINGS THAT IRKED ME:

  • The pacing. For an action-centered, high intensity idea with loads of danger and psychotic people hungry to destroy/take over the world, it was so slow at points that I felt the urge to skim and skim and skim again. Some of the description was a little much, which is weird for me because I’m a huge Tolkien fan and description for DAYS but I guess it wasn’t so much the existence but it how it was done in the book.
  • The dialogue. Some of the phrasing was dated or weird, I found myself raising an eyebrow at some of what these teenagers said. The dialogue also dragged on. The sentences were clunky and hanging and the whole vibe of the pretty much every bit of dialogue felt forced. The banter and ease was missing. 

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James Dashner was born and raised in Georgia but now lives and writes in the Rocky Mountains. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and The Kill Order. His newest series is The Mortality Doctrine: The Eye of Minds, The Rule of Thoughts, and The Game of Lives.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram

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5 winners will receive paperback sets of the whole series (EYE OF MINDS/RULE OF THOUGHTS/GAME OF LIVES), US Only.

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Happy reading, 

Jordan