Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Guest Post by Dandi Daley Mackall

In celebration of Halloween, my second favorite holiday, Dandi Daley Mackall wrote a creepy guest post and shared an excerpt from her latest book!

The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall
Published October 11, 2011

Seventeen-year-old Hope Long's life revolves around her brother Jeremy. So when Jeremy is accused of killing the town's beloved baseball coach, Hope's world begins to unravel. Everyone is convinced Jeremy did it, and since he hasn't spoken a word in 9 years, he's unable to defend himself. Their lawyer instructs Hope to convince the jury that Jeremy is insane, but all her life Hope has known that Jeremy's just different than other people—better, even. As she works to prove his innocence—joined by her best friend T.J. and the sheriff's son, Chase—Hope uncovers secrets about the murder, the townspeople, her family, and herself. She knows her brother isn't the murderer. But as she comes closer to the truth, she's terrified to find out who is.

I have to confess that I used to dread Halloween. Don’t get me wrong - I loved the candy, popcorn balls, parading around in a spooky costume. But I grew up in a small town in Missouri, where there weren’t a lot of “tricks” kids could pull without getting caught. So nearly every year, a couple of guys in my class used to let our horses out of the pasture, or the barn. I’m not sure why they thought that was fun or funny. My sister, my dad, and I spent far too many Halloween nights trying to find our horses and put them back into the pasture. Boo to that!

I have no trouble coming up with the scariest thing that ever happened to me. A number of years ago, I started seeing a white pickup truck everywhere I went. It parked on my street in the middle of the night. It followed me. It showed up in the parking lot of the grocery store, parked next to my car. Then the driver of that pickup began to show up everywhere too. I started getting creepy phone calls I’d hang up on.

It all came together one night when I was home alone. A pounding on the door woke me, and that pickup-truck guy was shouting crazy things, screaming that he was going to get even with me for locking him out, that I was supposed to “belong” to him. In the end, I dialed 911. The police came and carted the guy away. I never knew why he’d targeted me, but he was a real, live stalker. I’ve told the long, scary version of the white pickup truck story when I’ve done school visits and author conferences across the U.S. Students would always ask me if I’d ever written about that pickup-truck guy, and I’d have to answer no. Only now, I have! In
The Silence of Murder, I recreated the white pickup truck and its frightening driver.

An excerpt from The Silence of Murder:

When I go inside, my arms and shoulders cry out for a long, hot bubble bath. I start the water, then remember to close the shades and curtains. I’m struggling with the living room curtains when I catch sight of something white across the street. It’s the white pickup truck.
How long has it been there? Was someone watching me while I mowed? I shiver, thinking about it, picturing it. What if they were waiting for Rita to leave?
Fast as I can, I lock the doors. Then I edge toward the window and peer out.
Nothing moves.
No cars drive by.
If the pickup is still there, I can’t see it. But I didn’t imagine that truck.
I hear the bathtub water running and dash in to shut it off before it overflows.
911. I need to dial 911. I race through the living room looking for my cell. I don’t know what I did with it. I don’t have time to look.
Heart pounding, I run to the house phone. I reach for it, and the phone rings. I jump back.
Ring! Ring! Ring!
I watch as my arm stretches down and my fingers wrap around the receiver. I lift it to my ear, but I don’t speak. I don’t breathe.
Someone’s there. There’s a rustling noise. I think I hear an engine, a car. Then he-or she-says, “I’m watching you.” The voice is calm, firm, as sexless as it is faceless.
"Who are--?"
"Quit poking around where you don’t belong." The line goes dead.
I stand there, receiver to my ear, until it buzzes. I drop the phone back onto the holder.
Almost instantly, it rings again. I stare at it.
Ring, ring, ring. It won’t stop.
I jerk the phone off its hook. "Stop it! Stop calling here! You leave me alone!"
"Hope? What’s wrong? Did they call again?"
It’s Chase. I burst into tears.
"Hope, is Rita there with you?"
I shake my head. "No."
"Hang on. I’ll be right over." There’s a click of the phone, then nothing but the roar of the dial tone.

* * * * * * * * * *

I curl up on the couch, pulling the Afghan blanket around me. And I wait. Pipes creak. The fridge roars. Branches scratch the roof. Each noise is louder than the one before.
Outside, I hear a car drive up. A car door slam. Footsteps running up the walk. A knock. A banging at the door. It gets louder and louder.
"Hope! It’s me! Open up!"
I fling the blanket to the floor and rush to the door. The lock won’t turn. My hands are shaking. Finally, I yank the door open and throw myself into Chase’s arms.
Without a word, he picks me up and carries me to the couch. He has to go back to the door and lock it.
"Chase?" I call.
"I’m here." He kneels beside the couch and wraps me in the blanket. "You’re shivering." He rubs the blanket, warming my arms and legs. "Tell me what happened."
"The truck was outside." I start to sit up. "It might still be there!"
He eases me back down. "It’s okay. I didn’t see it out there. Go on."
"The phone...rang. They said to stop poking around, or something like that." I can’t finish because that scratchy, breathless voice is in my head, telling me to let it go or leave it alone.
Chase sits on the couch and takes my head in his lap. He strokes my hair, and I wonder if this is what children feel like when their parents take care of them when they’re sick or frightened. I think it might be.
"Hope?" His voice is as soothing as his fingers on my hairline. "Talk to me. Tell me again what the caller said."
I tell him. It’s easier now. I’m safe.
When I finish, Chase lets out a breath, like he’s been holding it during my account. "Did the person on the phone sound like a man?"
"Yes. At least, I think so. I guess it could have been a woman. It doesn’t even sound human. But I thought it was a man."
"It’s got to be the same person who’s stalking you," Chase says, "the guy in that pickup. I wish I’d seen him."

I hope everyone has an awesome & scary Halloween night!

FIND DANDI ONLINE: Website | Goodreads | Book's Website

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Interview + Giveaway with Dandi Daley Mackall

I was so lucky to get the chance to interview author, Dandi Daley Mackall!

A little bit about the author: I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer, even before I could hold a pencil. My parents were great storytellers, so bringing characters to life seemed as natural as riding horses bareback, which I also grew up doing. I won my first writing contest as a 10-year-old tomboy. My 50 words on “Why I Want to Be Batboy for the Kansas City A’s” won first place, but the team wouldn’t let a girl be batboy. It was my first taste of rejection. Since then, I’ve had over 400 of my titles published for children and about 25 for grown-ups, with millions of copies in over a dozen countries.

The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall
Published October 11, 2011

Seventeen-year-old Hope Long's life revolves around her brother Jeremy. So when Jeremy is accused of killing the town's beloved baseball coach, Hope's world begins to unravel. Everyone is convinced Jeremy did it, and since he hasn't spoken a word in 9 years, he's unable to defend himself. Their lawyer instructs Hope to convince the jury that Jeremy is insane, but all her life Hope has known that Jeremy's just different than other people—better, even. As she works to prove his innocence—joined by her best friend T.J. and the sheriff's son, Chase—Hope uncovers secrets about the murder, the townspeople, her family, and herself. She knows her brother isn't the murderer. But as she comes closer to the truth, she's terrified to find out who is.

Which of your books are your personal favorites and why?

THE SILENCE OF MURDER will always be one of my favorites because I love mysteries and finally get to have one of my own—a real mystery whodunit. But it’s more than that. My dad and I had the rocky times most kids have with their parents, but we could always connect over mysteries. We watched them on TV, read books each other recommended, and made up plots together. Dad died a few years ago, but I know he would have loved this mystery.

MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS is another favorite, proving that if guys were more like dogs, we’d all be happier. Dogs are loyal, loving, always glad to see you. I loved being able to bring a heroine through three boyfriends and watch her learn from each love—way too much of me in that book...

LARGER-THAN-LIFE LARA was my magical book, the one that “wrote itself.” I remember waking up every day, eager to see what would happen next. I was one-third of the way through the story before I realized that the book, besides being a story, was teaching the reader how to write a story. Chapter titles then became parts of the writing process: Character, Point of View, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action. And now a number of schools use that book to teach writing.

LISTEN TO THE SILENT NIGHT is a picture book coming out this month. I love the sound of the words in this one and the amazing illustrations by Fancher and Johnson.

All of my horse books and series, especially WINNIE THE HORSE GENTLER, who has put food on my family’s table for several years. Readers have made it a best-seller in several languages, and I get the best fan mail from horse-loving readers.

Do you have any Halloween traditions?

My husband still makes our kids spend the night before Halloween carving pumpkins. We are all (including hubby Joe) horrible at this, and our pumpkins suffer mightily. But we play loud music (I dance) and we eat pizza. On Halloween we pass out enough candy to keep Hersheys in business.

If you had to spend the night in a haunted house, who and what would you bring with you?

Well, I would definitely spend the night with my hubby because he’s my hero. We’d bring loud music so we wouldn’t hear anything spooky (and so I could dance). Hmmm…sounds like a new Halloween tradition. Thanks!

What's your favorite horror movie and why?

I love scary movies like Psycho (original version only). But I’ll be honest with you—I don’t like horror because it never feels like the writer played fair. You know what I mean—the solution turns out to be something supernatural, like someone who died centuries ago, or a monster that comes from the grave, etc. Feels like cheating! IN a mystery, you have to make things believable—and still fool your reader. If a mystery writer could invent an easy answer, like “None of these characters did it after all. It was a ghost from someone who died in the 18th century,” what fun would that be?

You write books for all ages, but do you have a favorite age group to write for?

The answer is...whichever age I’m writing for today! That’s the truth. When I write for young adults, I’m thinking that this is the age group for me. Why would I write for any other? Then I’ll get an idea perfect for middle grade, and off I go…until I get that super idea for young kids and picture book that will be such fun to write! I guess I get to be the ADD of writers.

What can fans be expecting from you next?

Thanks for asking this! I have middle-grade novel coming out next month from Bloomsbury: DREAMS OF A DANCING HORSE; and a picture book from Marshall Cavendish: THERE’S A BABY IN THERE! (very funny—a little boy who points to his pregnant mom’s belly and tells the reader: “There’s a baby in there. At least, that’s what they’re trying to tell me. I don’t believe it. I was in there once, about five years ago, and I didn’t see anybody. I think I would have seen somebody if there’d been a baby in there.”) I have a new horse series: BACKYARD HORSES. Plus, I’m working on a WWII novel for grown-ups, another mystery for YA (IF I SHOULD DIE...), a funny YA: B.Y.O.B.—BUILD YOUR OWN BOYFRIEND; a funny middle-grade: TATTOOS WHILE YOU WAIT. And more...

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Dandi is generously letting one lucky blog reader win a copy of The Silence of Murder! Just fill out the form linked below if you'd like to be entered.

Must be a new or old blog follower.
Ends on November 8. Open to USA only.
Two extra entries to those of you that spread
the word about this interview & contest!

Click here to fill out the entry form!


For 3 extra entries, leave a comment answering this question:
What are you doing/what did you do for Halloween?

FIND DANDI ONLINE: Website | Goodreads | Book's Website

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst

I was lucky enough to interview YA author, Sarah Beth Durst, about her newest novel and Halloween!

A little bit about the author:
Sarah Beth Durst has been writing fantasy stories since she was ten years old and holds an English degree from Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and children.

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst
Published September 13, 2011

Pearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire... fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil... until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops. Her family thinks she was attacked by a vampire hunter (because, obviously, unicorns don't exist), and they're shocked she survived. They're even more shocked when Pearl discovers she can now withstand the sun. But they quickly find a way to make use of her new talent. The Vampire King of New England has chosen Pearl's family to host his feast. If Pearl enrolls in high school, she can make lots of human friends and lure them to the King's feast -- as the entrees. The only problem? Pearl's starting to feel the twinges of a conscience. How can she serve up her new friends—especially the cute guy who makes her fangs ache—to be slaughtered? Then again, she's definitely dead if she lets down her family. What's a sunlight-loving vamp to do?

What part of Drink, Slay, Love did you enjoy writing the most?

I loved writing Pearl. She's a 16-year-old vampire without a heart of gold. Or any heart at all. She was immensely fun to write. Basically, for any scene, I'd simply think, "What would I NEVER do or say in this situation?" And that's what she'd do and say.

Three words or phrases to describe Pearl?

Funny, fearless, and (mostly) evil.

What is the most memorable Halloween you've ever had?

I will never forget the year that I had the not-so-brilliant idea to dress up as a robot. I found an enormous box and decorated it with buttons and so forth. It looked great, but when I tried to follow the big kids through the woods between houses... I got stuck between two trees.

Why do you prefer writing young adult books?

I write what I read. I firmly believe that the sage old writing advice "write what you know" should really be "write what you love." You should write the kind of book that you would delight you. And personally, I love YA books. Especially fantasy. I am a sucker for any girl-with-sword, girl-with-dragon, girl-with-wolf, girl-with-talking-cat kind of book.

What's the funniest costume you've ever seen or worn during Halloween?

Last Halloween, I saw a woman dressed as a spiderweb. She had her baby strapped to her stomach in a spider costume. Adorable.

Most haunting nightmare you have ever had?

This is somewhat embarrassingly odd, but I used to have a recurring nightmare that a robotic Gonzo would come from outer space and shoot M&M-size beetles out of his nose that would burrow into people's foreheads. I couldn't watch the Muppets for years.

If you had to spend the night in a haunted house, who and what would you bring with you?

I'd bring the Ghostbusters and their ghostbusting supplies. If they were unavailable, I'd bring my husband (to comfort me) and my laptop (to write down everything that happened).

Are you superstitious?

I'd like to say no, but I do knock on wood when the occasion warrants it... I have no issue with black cats, though. And not walking under a ladder is just common sense. I've seen enough cartoons to know that's how you get a bucket of paint on your head.

What can fans be expecting from you next?

I am currently working on revisions for Vessel, a standalone YA fantasy that will be out from Simon & Schuster in fall 2012. I'm really, really excited about it!

Thank you for answering my questions, Sarah!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

FIND SARAH ONLINE: Website | Goodreads | Blog

Friday, October 28, 2011

Interview + Giveaway with Dan Poblocki

I interviewed Dan Poblocki, who writes creepy YA novels perfect for reading during the Halloween season!

A little bit about the author: On any given day, you might find me strolling through the Brooklyn Museum or Botanic Garden, reading books at the library, window-shopping in Park Slope, people-watching in Prospect Park, snapping photos of strange stuff I find on the street, gossiping with friends, sneaking off to matinee movies, swooning over puppy dogs, day-dreaming way too much... oh yeah, and writing.

The Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki
Published August 24, 2010

Timothy July has been having nightmares. About his brother, who is in a coma after being wounded in Iraq; about his best friend, Stuart, who is behaving like a jerk; about the old biology specimens in jars lining the walls of his classroom; and about Abigail, the new girl who seems to be a magnet for trouble. Or perhaps she is the cause. Suddenly Timothy’s nightmares are coming true. His brother, his face decaying, approaches Timothy on the street. Stuart ends up in the hospital, terrified that monsters are stalking him. And the specimen jars are tormenting not only Timothy but his teacher as well. What is the secret in Abigail’s past that is the key to these horrors? And can Timothy figure it out before his nightmares become a deadly reality?

What was your inspiration for The Nightmarys?

I had a dream in which I was in a garden surrounded by a group of girls wearing white Victorian dresses. For some reason, I couldn't see their faces. Of course, they gave me a very creepy feeling, and when I woke up, I knew they were called the Nightmarys. That was the image that I started with. In my first book, The Stone Child, the main character is a boy named Eddie. One of his favorite books is called The Revenge of the Nightmarys. I imagined that the Nightmarys from my dream were a group of ghostly girls who have the power to make all your worst nightmares come true. I decided to play with that idea and that theme for my second book, which eventually became The Nightmarys.

What's the most memorable Halloween you've ever had?

Unfortunately, the Halloween I remember the most was the one time I wasn't able to out trick-or-treating. I was about 10 years old and came down with a HORRID case of poison ivy. It was such a bad allergic reaction that my eyes nearly crusted over and swelled shut. I had it in my nose and my mouth and all over my body. I was so uncomfortable that I could barely move. I thought it was strange how when all of my friends were dressing up in costumes, I'd pretty much turned into a monster all by myself. But my friends and family were kind. While I sat at home, watching scary movies on cable, they all went out trick-or-treating for me and brought back a huge bag of candy. It didn't quite make up for missing the holiday, but I'm pretty sure that was the night I learned to love horror films.

Who are your favorite villains from literature and movies?

I adore the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl's The Witches. She's so scary and silly and purely evil. In a similar way, I also think the Other Mother from Neil Gaiman's Coraline is super creepy. And who can forget Tim Curry playing Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the tv miniseries of Stephen King's IT? I think that one gave me nightmares for years. More recently, I think the ghost of the haunted suit in Joe Hill's book Heart Shaped Box is a pretty unique and terrifying villain. I love a good ghost story. Finally, the best baddie ever, the one that can still make me scream out loud, I believe, is the shark from JAWS. That beast is just an unrelenting eating machine, and I can't imagine anything scarier.

What is the strangest or funniest Halloween costume that you've ever seen or worn?

Living in New York City, I've seen some pretty tasteless Halloween costumes over the years (Superman in a wheelchair...? Wince!), but the strangest one would have to be the fuzzy red, full-body suit my friend Nico wore to the Greenwich Village parade a few years ago. I believe it had a feathered pink mohawk. And all we could think to call him was "The Disco Chicken."

What can fans be expecting from you next?

My next book is coming out in fall of 2012 and another is coming in 2013. The first one's a ghost story about an abandoned psychiatric hospital in upstate New York. I've just started the one after that, but it's sure to be spooky too! I'm having fun writing it so far.

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Three lucky blog readers will win copies of The Nightmarys! Just fill out the form linked below if you'd like to be entered.

Must be a new or old blog follower.
Ends on November 8. Open to USA only.
Two extra entries to those of you that spread
the word about this interview/contest!

Click here to fill out the entry form!


For 3 extra entries, leave a comment answering this question:
What was the scariest nightmare that you've ever had?

FIND DAN ONLINE: Website | Goodreads | Blog

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interview + Giveaway with Marianna Baer

I got the chance to interview debut author, Marianna Baer!

A little bit about the author:
Marianna Baer received an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BA in art from Oberlin College. She also attended boarding school, where she lived in a tiny dorm called Frost House, the inspiration for her first novel, Frost. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Frost by Marianna Baer
Published September 13, 2011

Leena Thomas’s senior year at boarding school begins with a shock: Frost House, her cozy dorm of close friends, has been assigned an unexpected roommate: confrontational, eccentric Celeste Lazar. But while Leena’s anxiety about a threat to her sanctuary proves valid, it becomes less and less clear whether the threat lies with her new roommate, within Leena’s own mind, or within the very nature of Frost House itself. Mysterious happenings in the dorm, an intense triangle between Leena, Celeste, and Celeste’s brother, and the reawakening of childhood fears, all push Leena to take increasingly desperate measures to feel safe. Frost is the story of a haunting. As to whether the demons are supernatural or psychological...well, which answer would let you sleep at night?

What's the inspiration behind Frost?

My senior year at boarding school, I lived in a tiny dorm called Frost House with a few of my closest friends. It was SO much fun, but also an intense social situation -- no going home at night to escape any drama. When I started writing YA, I knew that it would be a great setting for a novel. The ghost story/psychological suspense aspect of FROST came from my love of that genre, and from the fact that the real Frost House, a dilapidated old Victorian, always seemed like it held secrets in its walls...

Describe Leena's character?


What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?

On Halloween several years ago, I was watching a horribly scary movie -- Dementia 13 -- with my boyfriend and his friend. They went into the kitchen, leaving me alone in the front room. The movie was still playing, and I began getting progressively more freaked out, even though I could hear the guys talking in the kitchen. All of a sudden, a loud CRASH came from right next to me. I turned and there was a huge man outside, slammed up against our window. He was staring at me, his hands and face pressed against the glass. He looked absolutely insane. I didn't even think, just let out a true bloodcurdling scream and RAN back into the kitchen (with my hands in the air, according to a witness). I was sure that we were about to be attacked by an enormous lunatic.

When I got to the kitchen, my boyfriend was there alone. It turned out that his friend had snuck outside -- wearing a massive coat -- and was the one who had scared me. The whole time, my boyfriend had been in the kitchen talking to himself, to make me think they were back there together! They still laugh about it now, years later, remembering the sight of me tearing through the house with my hands in the air. I don't remember it quite so fondly! I experienced real terror for those few moments.

Who are your favorite villains from literature and movies?

Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs (and other Thomas Harris books) is a classic. He changed the way I think of Chianti forever.

What is the strangest, funniest, or most unique Halloween costume that you've ever seen or worn?

Okay, this is R-rated, so fragile souls should avert their eyes. A woman I knew through a friend came to a Halloween party dressed as a pirate. She was carrying a beautiful wooden box in front of her chest. I asked if there was anything inside. She lifted the lid and the inside of the box lit up with a few twinkling lights. First, I just saw some large, fake jewels; but after a quick moment I saw the real booty -- her bare breasts (with jeweled pasties)! The box was built without a back, and she was holding it right against herself. It was her "Treasure Chest." Very memorable! (Don't try this at home, kids. She's a fabulous artist and it only worked because the box was so well made. It was really remarkable -- all lit up with Christmas lights -- even aside from the boobs!)

Do you have a favorite Halloween or autumn recipe?

I do! 1. Go to store. 2. Buy bag of mini-Snickers bars. 3. Open bag, remove a Snickers. 4. Tear open wrapper. 5. Eat!

Can you share an excerpt from Frost, or if not what was your favorite scene to write?

Page 152 (slightly edited to make sense):
"Leena?" Celeste's voice called out from the bathroom. "Can you... can you come in here?"
Figuring she had forgotten something -- she had a hard time getting out of the tub with her cast, and was always needing me to bring her a razor or towel or something else -- I tossed my laundry bag in our bedroom and went in. Celeste sat in the bath, a thin layer of bubbles covering the surface of the water. Her cast was propped up on her special stool, in its plastic bag. Her other leg was bent, her arms wrapped around it. There was something not quite right about her face. Her jaw muscles were tense, her skin paler than usual. She looked like she might be trembling.
"Are you okay?" I said.
She shifted positions slightly to show me: a bright red mark seared the back of her left upper arm. I knelt quickly by the tub. It was a burn. The size of a baby's fist. Not blistered, but still obviously painful.
"What happened?" I asked.
"I...I was sitting here while the water was running," she said. "And I guess I bumped against the faucet. I don't remember. It happened so quickly and then it hurt so much."
"That's from the faucet?" I said. "The water must have been so hot."
She shook her head. "I was trying to cool the bath down. Only the cold water was turned on."
"You must have turned the wrong handle."
"I didn't." Then she said it again, louder. "I didn't. I know which handle I turned. This wasn't my fault."
The faucet couldn't have burned her if it was running cold water, obviously, but there was no point in me fighting with her. What mattered was her burn.
"Let's drain the bath," I sad. "And then you need to hold your arm under a stream of cool water. I'll cover the faucet with a facecloth." As I did, I found that the metal wasn't hot at all. The bathwater wasn't especially hot either. How long had she been sitting here? I didn't ask, just handed her towels to wrap over her legs and her shoulders, so she'd warm up. Her whole body was shaking.
What had gone on here while I was with David?

What can fans be expecting from you next?

I'm writing a second standalone YA titled IMMACULATE. It's about a 15-year-old girl in Brooklyn who is pregnant, but says she has never had sex. It's a complicated story to write, but I'm incredibly excited about it.

Thank you for the interview!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Ashley!

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Marianna is generously letting one lucky blog reader win a signed copy of Frost! Just fill out the form linked below if you'd like to be entered.

Must be a new or old blog follower.
Ends on November 8. Open to USA only.
Two extra entries to those of you that spread
the word about this interview & contest!

Click here to fill out the entry form!


For 3 extra entries, leave a comment answering this question:
Would you be able to spend the night in a haunted house?

FIND MARIANNA ONLINE: Website | Goodreads

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Interview + Giveaway with Anya Parrish

I interviewed a fairly new YA author, Anya Parrish, about her writing and her views of Halloween.

A little bit about the author:
I'm Anya Parrish. I write books about killer imaginary friends and falling in love. I have a very short attention span and I write for similar people who must have something HAPPENING on every page. I hope readers enjoy my 2011 debut, DAMAGE. I'm also a mother of two and a wife to an amazing man in addition to a cook, a knitter, a wine drinker, a dancer, a game player, a song singer, and a mess. My house, however, is usually clean.

Damage by Anya Parrish
Published September 8, 2011

When Dani was eight, she fell from a building. No one believed her claim that she was pushed by Rachel... her imaginary friend. It took years of therapy to convince Dani that Rachel wasn't real. Now fifteen, Dani wants to make it as a dancer. But a deadly freak accident sends Dani a terrifying message: Rachel is back, she's real, and she'll stop at nothing to kill Dani. Complicating matters is Jesse, the school bad boy who's being stalked by his own invisible childhood nemesis. Dani and Jesse join forces to learn why their astral tormenters are back. Their investigation leads to a horrifying discovery—and the terrible experiment that binds them to each other.

Where did the idea of a 'killer imaginary friend' come from?

I was horror story brainstorming--as I am wont to do--imagining what would have been the scariest thing that could have happened to me as a child. The answer was: If something/someone were trying to hurt me, but my parents didn't believe me/couldn't see what I saw. I couldn't think of anything more terrifying than having the people I love and trust the most thinking I'm crazy, while an evil force hunted me in the night. The concept of killer imaginary friends grew from that brainstorming session.

If Damage was to be made into a movie, who would you choose to play the roles of your characters?

Total unknowns. I would love to see some new talent get a chance on the big screen. I'm all about new talent ;).

Do you have a favorite Halloween/autumn recipe?

I make pumpkin soup. It's a tradition that started in college and I still make it every year right after the release of the Beaujolais nouveau. (You use a cup of wine in the soup.)

What is the scariest thing to ever happen to you?

About a year ago, my family moved cross country. We signed a one year lease on a rental home while we got to know the real estate market in our new county. During this one year stay, I heard high-pitched, ghostly voices--children's voices--singing at 2 a.m. no less than fifteen times. Once, I made the mistake of going downstairs to investigate the voices, to make sure one of my little boys hadn't crawled out of bed, and saw a fuzzy white cloud floating in the corner of the living room. It was about three feet tall. The singing seemed to be coming from the cloud. I ran back upstairs and never came down those stairs at night again. (I pinkie swear this is the truth. I never believed in ghosts before this, but I sure as heck do now.)

Do you have any Halloween traditions?

Every year my kids and I bake creepy cupcakes with "grave dirt" icing and doll parts stuck inside. It's disturbing, but they love it. They fight to see who gets to lick the icing off the disembodied arms...

What’s the scariest ghost story you’ve ever heard?

Paranormal Activity was pretty darned scary. I couldn't watch it until we moved out of our own "ghost house," however.

Who are your favorite villains from literature and/or movies?

Pennywise the clown from Stephen King's "It". How brilliant is Mr. King? I mean, really, what is there in the world that's scarier than an evil clown? (Other than maybe a zombie baby. Those are pretty creepy.)

If you had to describe yourself as a candy bar, what would it be and why?

I can't go to this place imaginatively. If I imagine myself as a candy bar, that introduces the possibility that I might chew my own arm off in the night.

Can you share with us an excerpt from Damage?

There's an excerpt on the home page of my website (and a longer one on my blog). Click here to get started:

Do you plan on writing another book?

I would LOVE to write another book set in this world. As of now, however, we're waiting to see if sales of DAMAGE are strong. If so, I have a lot of ideas for book two. There are several secret-reveals that were cut from the original draft of DAMAGE. I'd love to be able to let my readers in on some of those secrets!

Well good luck with the release of your debut book and thank you for answering my questions!

Thanks so much for the interview, Ashley!

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Anya is generously letting one lucky blog reader win a copy of Damage! Just fill out the form linked below if you'd like to be entered.

Must be a new or old blog follower.
Ends on November 8. Open to USA and Canada only.
Two extra entries to those of you that spread
the word about this interview & contest!

Click here to fill out the entry form!


For 3 extra entries, leave a comment answering this question:
How would you convince others that you had a killer imaginary friend?

FIND ANYA ONLINE: Website | Blog

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interview + Giveaway with Jeyn Roberts

I got the chance to interview debut author, Jeyn Roberts!

A little bit about the author:
Jeyn is a former singer, songwriter, actress, bicycle courier and tree planter. An avid traveler, she’s been around the world, most recently, teaching high school in South Korea. A lover of animals, Jeyn volunteers regularly with helping abandoned and abused animals, especially cats.

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
Published November 1, 2011

Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs…Now it’s our turn. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everyday people into hunters, killers, crazies. Mason's mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever. Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police--who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd. Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.

If Dark Inside was to be made into a movie, who would you choose to play the characters?

That’s a really tough question. I honestly don’t know the answer. I’d almost like to see some new talent out there for the main characters. However, there is a Bagger coming up in book two that Colin Farrell is more than welcome to portray.

What's the most memorable Halloween you've ever had?

A few years ago my old roommate and I decided to get creative and we built an entire cemetery from scratch. It included a full sized wooden coffin and several tombstones. It ended up being so scary; the smaller kids wouldn’t come to our house. In fact, for several days, kids crossed the street so they didn’t have to pass our place. I loved it.

Who is your favorite Disney villain and why?

It would have to be John Silver from Treasure Planet because he’s a grey villain and those are my favourites. I also loved Ursula from The Little Mermaid.

What's the scariest book you've ever read?

That would have to be The Stand by Stephen King. There’s something very terrifying about a super flu that wipes out the entire world’s population.

What's the funniest Halloween costume you've seen or worn?

When I was a little girl I went as the ten of diamonds one year. My Mom was very disappointed because she wanted me to be the Queen of Hearts but for some strange reason I was determined to be the ten of diamonds. No clue why.

Can you share an excerpt from Dark Inside, or if not what was your favorite scene to write?

I think my favourite scene to write in Dark Inside was when Mason first talks to Twiggy. What made the scene so much fun was that I didn’t know the twist until I actually wrote it. Came as a bit of a surprise to me but it worked beautifully. I also love the scene where Clementine is in the woods and bumps into the bodies swaying from the trees.

Do you plan on writing another book?

Yep. I’m currently in final edits for the sequel to Dark Inside and I’m working on another stand alone book.

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Jeyn is generously letting one lucky blog reader win a signed copy of Dark Inside! Just fill out the form linked below if you'd like to be entered.

Must be a new or old blog follower.
Ends on November 8. Open to USA only.
Two extra entries to those of you that spread
the word about this interview & contest!

Click here to fill out the entry form!


For 3 extra entries, leave a comment answering this question:
What would you do during an apocalypse?

FIND JEYN ONLINE: Facebook | Goodreads

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Get ready for Halloween goodies!

Be sure to stop by my blog every day during the last week of October because you don't want to miss out on what I'll be posting! There will be author interviews, guest posts, and giveaways! I'd love it if you all could spread the word to others, too. Stop by starting on Tuesday, Oct. 25 up until Halloween night!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: You Are My Only

This week's WoW book is You Are My Only by Beth Kephart! It will be released on October 25, 2011.

Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock. Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the "No Good." One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever...

I really love this cover, and I like how the book is told from alternating narratives. PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 25, 2011.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Chopsticks

This week's WoW book is Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral! It will be released on October 13, 2011.

Glory is a young piano prodigy. Frank is the boy who moves in next door. Over the years, their friendship blossoms into an undeniable romance. As Glory descends from stunning piano prodigy into a kind of madness, Frank's love becomes more and more unshakable. They both become hopelessly fixated on the song "Chopsticks". Part love story, part mystery, part visual collage, this novel is told through images as much as it's told through words. Ultimately the reader must decipher what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along.

This book sounds so unique and creative! I love how the authors incorporated art into it to help tell the story. I can't wait for its release. PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 13, 2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: All These Things I've Done
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Published: September 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

My Rating: 3 stars
Tags: YA | Future | Romance
Includes: Sensuality, Violence

First Lines: The night before Junior year - I was sixteen, barely - Gable Arsley said he wanted to sleep with me. Not in the distant or semidistant future either. Right then.

It's the year 2083, where chocolate and caffeine are illegal to have, and water is scarce.
Anya Balanchine is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a famous crime leader who was murdered. So when her ex-boyfriend is poisoned by a chocolate bar that her family manufactures, all fingers point to Anya. As she struggles to clear her name and also take care of her dysfunctional family, she meets Win, who happens to be the son of a new government leader. And even though she's given direct orders not to date him, Anya seems to not be able to stay away from Win.

The novel had very strong, interesting characters that all played unique roles in the story. Leo, Anya's older brother, suffered a brain injury after a horrible car crash, so he's unfit as the guardian. He was very unpredictable, but I liked him because of his sweetness and innocence. Natty, Anya's younger sister, acted realistically for her age. Anya herself was a pretty strong and brave protagonist. I'm not sure what the main plot of the book was - because there were of course side plots - but it seemed like Win and Anya's relationship wasn't that drawn out. I didn't become immersed in it, and in fact, it felt a little forced at times. I was more interested in Anya's home life than her love life.

The book as a whole felt a little it wasn't completely developed. I'm hoping that it's the beginning to a series, because I'd like to read more about this interesting world that the author created. I loved seeing how Zevin used all the NYC landmarks and gave them new purposes: the Statue of Liberty is now a youth detention center and museums became popular nightclubs. However, I was disappointed that the author never described how life became like that. It's like the reader was just supposed to understand and dive right in to the story right away, without any background information. The book dragged, especially from half way through to the end. There just wasn't a lot actually happening in the story to keep my interest. The summary of the book sounded so creative and the first few chapters really intrigued me, but after a while it just went downhill. If there will be a sequel, I'll probably check it out at some point, but I won't be jumping out of my seat to read it.

Cover Thoughts: I honestly don't understand the title of the book or why there is a numbered list on the cover. I do like the chocolate heart though!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Deadly Cool

This week's WoW book is Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday! It will be released on October 11, 2011.

First I find out that my boyfriend is cheating on me. Then he’s pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And now he’s depending on me to clear his name. Seriously? As much as I wouldn’t mind watching him squirm, I know that he’s innocent. So I’m brushing off my previously untapped detective skills and getting down to business. But I keep tripping over dead bodies and I’m still no closer to figuring out who did it. And what’s worse: all signs seem to point to me as the killer’s next victim. I really need to pick a better boyfriend next time.

This cool cover caught my eye, and I love a good mystery book; can't wait to check this one out! PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 11, 2011.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Debutante of the Month: Leigh Fallon

A person's first appearance or performance in a particular capacity or role.

Welcome to author Leigh Fallon's debutante ball...

Leigh enters the ballroom wearing a simple, elegant, black dress. Escorting her is actor Jason Behr.

And now (mostly) ladies and (a few) gentlemen, I introduce to you...Leigh Fallon! *cue applause* This new author in the literature realm is debuting this month with her book Carrier of the Mark.

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRĂ­s. But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.

As guests begin entering for the party, the DJ gets to work!

The setting of your party: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Ooooh, I think I'd like my party to be in one of those ice hotels up in Scandinavia. You know, dance under an ice chandelier, with icy walls that are lit up with blue lights, giving the whole chilly cave effect. Then later, sleep on an ice bed lined in furs. Fabulous!

The guest list: Who are the top three authors (dead or alive) that you would like to meet? Authors... ummmm. I'd have to say, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, and Jilly Cooper.

The menu: What do you consider your "brain food", the snacks that kept you going while you wrote your novel? Coffee (and lots of it), cinnamon brown sugar poptarts are a bit of a weakness, tea (copious amounts), oh and toast...lots of toast. Nummy.

The deb's high heels: If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day, who would it be and why? I'd love to step into Elizabeth Bennett's shoes for day. I'd get to smooch Mr. Darcy, wear whale bone corsets and beautiful dresses, and I'd have a mom who got away with saying this like 'I admire all my three sons-in-law highly. Wickham, perhaps, is my favorite, but I think I shall like your husband quite as well as Jane's.' Hahahaa!

The table centerpiece: What's the #1 thing that you can't go anywhere without? I hate to admit it, but my iPhone is surgically attached to my hand.

Now it's time for the debutante and her date to share their first dance! What song has stuck with you through life? REM - Everybody hurts. Gorgeous song that has stayed with me from when I was a younger. Love it.

We have a special guest tonight at the ball...Megan from Carrier of the Mark! Megan, what was your favorite scene from the novel you starred in? Oh that would have to be where I evoked my power. Taking control, and being seriously bad ass. I don't get to be like that often. Wow! It was such a buzz.

The heartfelt speech: How has the publishing process changed you? What have you learned from your experiences? I've had to come out of my shell a bit more, put myself out there. The publishing world is a tough place, with a lot of competition. People criticize, it's the nature of the business. You have to learn to not take things personally, to move on and not dwell on overly critical comments. In publishing promoting yourself as a person and as an author is a big part of your job. I always hated having my photo taken and being in videos, now I've learned to hold my head up and smile, just be myself.

The future: Now that you are officially introduced to society, what's next? Do you plan to write another book? I've just finished the yet to be named sequel to Carrier of the Mark, and I have third book planned to complete the trilogy. I am also working on a stand alone title, and have another series brewing. All I need now is a second set of hands and endless time to do it all in. LOL.

To finish up this debutante ball, Leigh is generously giving out a party favor to one of her lucky guests! One blog follower will win a signed, finished copy of her book, The Carrier of the Mark, along with some swag!
Just fill out the form below if you'd like to be entered.

Must be a new or old blog follower. Ends on October 31. USA only. Two extra entries to those of you that spread the word about this interview & contest (via twitter, facebook, blogger post, sidebar, etc).

FIND LEIGH ONLINE: Website | Goodreads | Twitter