Debut Authors Bash 2014: Linda Vigen Phillips! (and a giveaway, of course!)

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I’m excited to get to help close out the Debut Authors Bash, put on by YA Reads, with an interview from Linda Vigen Phillips. I was fortunate enough to meet her and get a copy of the Crazy ARC after being “Facebook introduced” through a mutual friend, which I am so grateful for. She’s sweet and humble and her writing is absolutely beautiful. I wish you all the publishing success in the world, Linda!


First, because Crazy hasn’t quite been release to the world, here’s the Goodreads summary:

Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960’s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness.

No one in Laura’s family will talk about her mother’s past hospitalizations or increasingly erratic behavior, and Laura is confused and frightened. She finds some solace in art, but when her mother, also an artist, suffers a breakdown, Laura fears that she will follow in her mother’s footsteps. Left without a refuge, can she find the courage to face what scares her most?

Sounds interesting, right? And it is… it’s just wonderful. I sent Linda a few questions, some about the story itself but also some that focused on the art found in the story. It was intriguing and added a lot to Laura’s character. Check out my questions and Linda’s responses below, then make sure you enter to win a copy of Crazy!

  1. This interview will publish a few weeks in advance of Crazy’s pub date. Assuming most of the audience hasn’t been fortunate enough to get their hands on an ARC, what would you like them to know about the story going into it?

Crazy is semi-autobiographical, and while the names and certain events are fictional, much of the story is based on my experience growing up with a mother who had undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

2. Crazy is written in verse rather than prose, which I think gives it a quiet sort of elegance. What was your reason for wanting to tell Laura’s story  through poetry?

I started writing poetry when I was an adolescent, and it has always been a source of comfort and my favorite way of thinking things through. My father’s love for poetry, as it is mentioned in the book, was genuine and contagious, and that’s how I became hooked on it.  Originally I wrote a collection of twenty poems that served as a cathartic means of dealing with the raw emotions and unanswered questions surrounding my mother’s illness.  A number of them were published in adult literary journals, and I began thinking in terms of a book of poetry when my best writing buddy suggested they should become a novel.  I had the good fortune of working with Patti Gauch, retired senior editor at Philomel, during a 2009 Highlights Foundation workshop at Chautauqua, and she was instrumental in helping me nail the YA voice in verse form for this book.

3. Why did you choose to set the story in the 1960’s, and what do you hope today’s teenagers will take from it?

By now you’ve probably figured out the answer to this question. The 1960’s is actually when it all happened, and I wrote it like it was.  An interesting side-note to this time period came during the editorial process, during which I had to throw out over twenty phrases that were certainly appropriate for “the sixties” but apparently not specifically for 1963.  It seems that all the “grooviest” catch phrases and slang happened just after 1963, which is the year in which the story is set.  That was the year Kennedy was assassinated, and there is a section that features this in the book.  I do hope that young readers will get a sense of how that event affected all of us who lived through it, not just families like mine who were dealing with their own crisis.  And, as I mentioned in the afterword, I hope that young people who might be affected by mental illness will realize that methods of treatment and available resources have made considerable gains since the sixties.

4. My favorite element to Crazy, hands down, was the art. I so desperately wanted to see the paintings and the sculptures that my brain worked overtime trying to imagine it all, which forced me to pay attention to the details and try to visualize the artwork. What was your inspiration for the artistic elements to Crazy? Does the sculpture family actually exist? Are there pictures, of any of the actual artwork or that served as inspiration, you could share with us?

It wasn’t until after several revisions that I realized the artwork was a metaphor for my own writing.  Art was the glue that held Laura together, just as my journaling and poetry helped me to stay intact in my youth.

My mother really was a gifted painter, although we only have two of her pieces.  But they are good, and I’ve spent countless hours staring at, appreciating, wondering about, delving into, imagining, and seeing the passion that she had.  I guess it is that appreciation of passion that drove me through the artistic part of this book.  I, too, in my limited way, appreciate good art, and I have some personal favorites that I mentioned throughout the book.  Of course I have a fascination with Van Gogh, not only for his art, but his tormented journey through mental illness.  And Hopper is a personal favorite because of his amazing use of light, Monet for his wonderful colors.

I am a visual thinker, and it was relatively easy for me to envision the paintings of the pelicans as well as the sculptures.  There was no existing artwork serving as models for any of those pieces other than the pictures I created in my own imagination.  It was important that Laura get in touch (literally) with the art that was her new medium, and I thought her creation of the clay figurines was a fitting extension of the ceramics that her mother painted, but did not actually create.  It was Laura’s new identity, and her way of working through the family issues and finding peace within the existing structure.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to share about Crazy?

I poured my heart into this book.  I hope it might pour back to the reader a healing of memories, a comfort for the present, or a hope for a better future. Persons suffering from bipolar disorder can have normal and productive lives if they seek and follow good medical practices. I hope this book helps get that point across.

And now, make sure you enter to win your own copy of Crazy through a Rafflecopter giveaway! (And if you don’t win, make sure you pick it up when it releases on October 20!)

Happy book birthday to Tessa Marie for Home is Where You Are!






Anna’s life reads like a check list:

Straight A’s (Check)

Editor of the school paper (Check)

Volunteering time at the local soup kitchen (Check)

Ivy League (So close she can taste it)

Falling in love with a homeless boy (Not on the list)

Dean has a plan too. Survive. After being subjected to his foster father’s violent attacks, Dean made the hard choice to leave. Now he lives on the streets doing everything he can to get by, refusing to let people help him. But when he meets Anna, he realizes not everyone is out to hurt him.

Slowly, Anna and Dean let each other in, blending their two worlds into one. But when a series of events brings Dean’s world into perspective, he pushes Anna away. Not willing to accept the line that divides them, Anna sets out to bring Dean back to her. Her determination and faith in their future puts her on the tracks of danger, and he is the only one who can save her.



a Rafflecopter giveaway



Tessa Marie lives in the same town she grew up in on Long Island, NY with her long time boyfriend and their fish. Under her real name, Theresa Paolo, she released her debut novel (NEVER) AGAIN, a NA romance, in Fall 2013 with Berkley (Penguin) and (ONCE) AGAIN released this summer. She is also the coauthor of the Amazon bestseller KING SIZED BEDS AND HAPPY TRAILS and BEACH SIDE BEDS AND SANDY PATHS, a YA contemporary series. She has a hard time accepting the fact she’s nearing thirty, and uses her characters to relive the best and worst years of her life. She put her love of writing on hold while she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Dowling College. When she’s not writing, she’s behind a camera, reading, or can be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

my year of epic rock

This is a pretty adorable middle grade debut. Perfect for girls ages 10-13, My Year of Epic Rock is all about choosing those who make you happy over those who are popular and being confident in yourself. Great messages overall, especially aimed at younger middle school readers. Totally clean and positive – well suited to any young reader.

Find it on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller!

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix… Get into the Halloween mood!



This is a fun, campy horror story made into something really special by the packaging, which is a work of genius, frankly. When my husband brought it home, I thought he’d gotten an Ikea catalog out of the mail. From an order form to the shopping process to pages out of the employee manual to product drawings, Horrorstor expertly mimics the feel of Ikea (though of course it’s Orsk, a cheaper version of Ikea, much like K-Mart is to Target).

I found the characters interesting, but not groundbreaking, and the plot intriguing, but not revolutionary. When put all together, though, with Orsk and employee loyalty and the packaging, it becomes a creepy, sometimes laugh out loud funny, gem of a way to spend a few hours on a fall day. This is too tongue in cheek, like Army of Darkness or something, to be taken too seriously. What it’s meant to be, I’m sure, is a good cheesy scare. Mission accomplished, Hendrix.

Also, because I read and review mostly YA titles, I have to say that while this is not a Young Adult book it is completely appropriate for that audience. I didn’t see anything that made me hesitate from recommending it to teenagers (there were a few expletives, but they were few, and they came at high-intensity moments when you’d wonder what was wrong with someone for NOT letting one fly). Content-wise, I was very pleasantly surprised!

To find it on Amazon, click here, or request it at your favorite local bookseller!

2014 Debut Authors Bash: Jaye Robin Brown! (and an INCREDIBLE giveaway!)

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Welcome, YA Reads America tour readers! Today’s post features Jaye Robin Brown’s debut, which I got to read a few months back and can promise you that it’s amazing. It’s wonderfully written and the story is absolutely beautiful. Make sure you get all the way to the bottom, where you’ll find the details of a Rafflecopter giveaway that is, honestly, the BEST book giveaway I’ve seen. Trust me, you’ll want to win it! For this guest post, I asked the author to give us some insight into the musical influences on No Place to Fall. Music plays a huge part in the story, which really made the storyline sing.  Thanks, Jaye Robin Brown, for this post, and thanks to YA Reads for putting on the Debut Authors Bash! no place to fall The Music Behind NO PLACE TO FALL In my debut novel, No Place To Fall (Harper Teen – Dec. 2014), Amber Vaughn longs to get out of her tiny hometown. The one thing she has going for her, is her voice. She’s grown up singing, in church, at campfires, with her family, but it isn’t until she and her best friend, Devon, start hanging out at the hiker barn—an overnight shelter for Appalachian Trail through hikers—that she realizes strangers also think her voice is something special.

Surprisingly enough, No Place To Fall, didn’t start out as a book about music. It started with the hiker barn and the voice (in my head on a drive into work) of this girl named Amber who wanted more than her home town could give her. As my first idea grew and spread, the music seeped in little by little. There are two events that stand out to me in shaping Amber’s musical sensibilities. One is this fabulous movie, The Songcatcher, that chronicles the tale of a New England woman who is sent to Appalachia to record and write down all the old Scotch-Irish ballads that have been passed down orally through the years. The music in that film is so evocative and shouts of this place to me. The second event was a chance encounter with a teenage bluegrass band. I was out riding my horse and up on a hill, on their front porch, a bunch of young people were playing all the old classics—tunes you don’t normally associate with teenagers. I stopped my horse and hung out listening. Those musicians were incredibly skilled and the visual and auditory memory has stuck with me ever since.

Choosing old-time, bluegrass, and Americana has at times felt like a risky choice for my character, but I can’t imagine her singing anything else. Sure, she might belt out some Adele or Beyonce now and then, but the classic singers like Patsy Cline, Rhonda Vincent, Dolly Parton, and Allison Krauss are what Amber knows, and what her voice is suited for. I hope Amber’s love of song and the depth of what singing does for her soul will transcend any reader’s personal taste as they read about her musical choices. And of course there has to be a boy. And in this case it’s Will McKinney, the banjo playing older brother of Amber’s best friend. In Will, Amber finds a kindred spirit. Someone who feels the music in their bones and sees it as more than a hobby. Their relationship takes its own journey, but in the end, they both grow as people from knowing the other.

If you want to dive into the music a bit more, here’s the playlist I put together on Grooveshark and a little bit about each song and what it meant to me as I was writing No Place To Fall.

  • Amazing Grace by Patsy Cline – One of Amber’s favorite songs to sing. This is a beautiful version and fits Amber’s voice.
  • Pretty Saro by Iris Dement – This is an old ballad that Amber loves. This particular version is the version that was in the movie, Songcatcher.
  • I’ll Fly Away by Alison Krauss – A favorite church song and Amber’s first public performance.
  • My First Lover by Gillian Welch – The title says it all :) (and on a side note, my editor listened to a lot of Gillian Welch while editing this book)
  • Jackson by Johnny Cash – One of the most fun duet songs there is. With the Carter Family Fold (home of Johnny’s wife, June Carter Cash) just over the mountain, some of the man in black had to be a part of this playlist.
  • Barbara Allen by Emmy Rossum – Another old ballad. When I imagined Amber’s voice, I often thought of Emmy Rossum’s voice in the movie, Songcatcher.
  • When Love is New – Dolly Parton & Emmy Rossum – A bittersweet song about how relationships change over time. For Amber’s parents.
  • Something About What Happens When We Talk – Lucinda Williams – In Amber’s journey with Will, things aren’t always easy.
  • One Big Love – Emmylou Harris – This is the big feeling at the end of the book.

Bonus Content! 

  • Will McKinney is a huge Avett Brothers fan (me, too!). This is a sweet little video of Scott Avett singing The Coo Coo Song which Amber and Will sing together in chorus.
  • And here’s a live version of Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken, the song Will sings on stage that first makes Amber realize he has the serious music thing, too.



Enter to win a SERIOUSLY Awesome Prize Package (US/Can Only) – Signed ARC of NPTF, NPTF swag, a signed print of the author’s favorite quote, made by the author, an Avett Brothers CD, and a copy of the movie, Songcatcher! Enter the best book giveaway ever!!!

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

falling into place

Written by author Amy Zhang while she was still in high school, Falling Into Place explores the life of Liz Emerson,  a high school it-girl willing to do just about anything to stay at the top of the social ladder. Liz develops a conscience as she notices the way her actions affect the lives of her peers and, feeling like nobody really knows her or cares about who she really is, she decides it would be better for all involved if she just killed herself. So she plans it out and goes through with her plan.

Now, a book like this has the potential to be horribly depressing, but this one isn’t. Zhang’s writing is raw and gritty (language, casual sexual references, drug use, and more) but it’s also intriguing and ultimately hopeful. The way the story is constructed, told in chunks hopping around from months before her suicide to childhood memories to the moments before the crash, allows the reader a chance to really understand Liz and her closest friends and family members. Through these snipers of story we come to know Liz’s whole story, and we can see that she’s not nearly as alone as she believes that she is.

Falling Into Place is gut-wrenching and honest and relevant in a way that must come from the author’s age – in high school herself when it was written – which makes it impossible to ignore. SE Hinton wrote about the Greasers and the Socials, rumbles and drive-ins, when she was just a teenager herself, and Falling Into Place will do much the same for today’s world. The issues of drugs, promiscuity, bullying, social media, depression, and suicide are all very real in the lives of today’s high schoolers, and it’s in books like this that those issues find a solid voice.

The stories of Liz, Julia, Kennie, and Liam will not be soon forgotten. This is a remarkable debut from a talented writer; Zhang is definitely one to watch for the future.

I highly recommend checking out Falling Into Place, which is out now. You can find it here on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller.

Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner

can't look away


First, the Goodreads summary:

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey’s sister is killed in an accident — maybe because of Torrey and her videos — Torrey’s perfect world implodes.
Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn’t know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey’s internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there’s Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

I really, really liked Can’t Look Away, and I think Donna Cooner hit the nail on the head with her portrayal of Torrey. Yes, it takes a little while to warm up to Torrey – you wonder how it is that she can’t stop focusing on her followers and her popularity and how others perceive her, which all makes you want to reach inside the book and shake some sense into her. From my work with teenagers, though, Torrey as a character is a pretty astute commentary on teenage girls (and guy, frankly) and their need for social media attention which also leads to real-life attention. While Torrey’s case might be a little exaggerated due to her vlog fandom and due to the fact that she’s not real, it’s eerily close to reality.

Aside from Torrey, there are some great supporting characters including a sweet potential romance and an intriguing story that make you want to see how it all turns out. Can’t Look Away was a great, timely, very real story that teenage girls will easily identify with. Find Can’t Look Away here on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller.

It’s a Cassie Mae takeover!

Today I’m happy to host a total makeover for my friend, Cassie Mae, and the third installment to her How To Date A Nerd series. Take it away, Cassie!

It’s a Bookworm makeover!

New cover!

(I have to give HUGE HUGS AND THANK YOUs to PepperJack Photography and Jolene Perry for my amazing design and pictures, and the FANTASTIC models, Dalton and Tanna.)

New blurb!

Getting kissed for a birthday present should not be a big deal. Especially for Brea Mason, who doesn’t think of her best friend, Adam Silver, in any way other than… well, a friend. But after the liplock she can’t seem to get him off her mind. And she has to, because Adam is a senior while she’s stuck in high school for another two years.
Then BAM, the perfect distraction comes along in the form of a new, hot sophomore who actually seems interested in Brea, despite her anti-social personality. And with the stress at home, stress at school, and ignoring the reality of all her friends leaving come June, Brea welcomes the distraction.
But when she sees four fat Fs on her report card, Brea needs a study buddy, and the best candidate is Adam, book nerd and math whiz. So she enlists his help, hoping the birthday kiss was just a fluke. After all, she has a boyfriend now. It should be easy to ignore the butterflies and fizzy feelings that arise with the bookworm… right?

And new release day!

A lot better than June, yes? Happy dance!
It will be up for pre-order shortly. :) But you can add it to your Goodreads HERE.