Have Book, Will Read #25

It’s prime reading time, with snow piled up outside my window and the lure of warm blankets and an equally warm dog to cuddle. After the past year, where my book habits trended more to comfort than new material, it’s been nice getting back to digging away at my to-read list. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep up the momentum!

Recent Reads: Romance, magic, and all that jazz

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough has been sitting on my shelf for a really long time. I’m actually embarrassed by how long it took me to get around to reading it. I’m so glad I finally did! This is a gem of a book, at the same time heart-warming and heart-wrenching. I’m not usually one for crying when I read, but this one managed to make me both smile and shed a few tears.

Brockenbrough’s beautifully written tale is set in 1937, where the immortals Love and Death have gathered for one more round of their eternal game. Their chosen players? Flora, an African American teenager who sings in her family jazz club for a living but dreams of setting world records as an airplane pilot, and seventeen-year-old Henry, a white boy whose path in life has been set in stone by the foster family he lives with, regardless of his love for music. The story switches between four points of view — the unwitting players and the two immortals —plunging us right into the heart of post-Prohibition Seattle.

I can’t talk about Game without mentioning another recent read, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab. Superficially, both books have a lot in common. They both feature immortal beings who play with the humans who fascinate them. They both have ties to the past, though while Game is anchored in the 1930s, Addie skips and jumps through recent centuries, pausing at key moments of history. They both feature love stories, and boys named Henry. But they are also very different books.

While the first one remains, for the most part, tight and focused, Schwab’s book is a sprawling, meandering beauty, dipping in and out of the past as an embroidery needle dives into a vast tapestry. It tells the tale of Addie LaRue, a young French countrywoman from the early 1700s who strikes a bargain with an unnamed power and becomes immortal, yet cursed to always be forgotten. Until she meets, in modern times, a young man who remembers her. Schwab’s prose is, as always, that perfect mixture of lush and sparse, and this was a delight to read.

Forged, the latest title in Benedict Jacka’s urban fantasy series, continues leading Alex Verus down the difficult path he’s been walking for a while now. Hunted by both light and dark mages, and with his girlfriend Anne losing herself to the dangerous entity she’s bonded to, Alex is running out of allies and options if he wants to save himself, his friends, and — most of all — Anne.

I’ve really enjoyed this series, which has only one more book yet to come. It’s been an interesting ride, starting out in Book 1 (Fated) with the near-powerless (in comparison to other mages) diviner Alex and watching him over time carve that power out for himself, while making some rather questionable choices in order to do so. Alex has become very much a grey character, which I honestly kind of love. We are all the heroes of our own stories, but Alex has come to a point in his saga where he’s being forced to take a good hard look and decide if he’s actually a hero, or if he’s becoming what he most feared: a dark mage like his former Master, Richard Drakh.

Now Reading: Teen hero shenanigans

I’ve been watching the Young Justice animated series and, after reading up on the characters, I grew curious about the original comic book run that inspired the TV reboot. I’d read that, despite using some of the same storylines, the TV show has very little else in common with the comics, and now that I’ve been dipping into the Young Justice world, I absolutely agree.

I devoured Young Justice Books 1-4 in a few breathless days and am now finishing up Book 5. While the TV show centers on the first Robin, Dick Grayson, the comics focus on Robin number 3, Tim Drake. The original core three — Robin, Impulse, and Superboy — soon find their team expanding with the addition of Wonder Girl, Arrowette, Secret and, later on, Empress (with Lil’ Lobo as an unofficial member). Their adventures lead us on one wild ride after another, and the books are full of absolute laugh-out-loud moments. I can honestly say I’ve never used the word ‘zany’ in a review before, but that description fits Young Justice perfectly. Delightful.

(And yes, unfortunately I had to read YJ on my phone, as my library’s reading app doesn’t work on my laptop or iPad. Thank goodness for smartphone zoom features!)

To Read: Darkness rising

I’ve been on a library rampage lately and that means I’ve got two more books waiting to be read before their due dates roll around. The first is Paul Cornell’s London Falling, the opening title of his Shadow Police series. I love a good supernatural investigation book, and have heard good things about Cornell’s work, so I’m looking forward to it!

The other one is Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, which I picked up after a post on Tor.com sparked my interest in this award-winning science fantasy novel about necromancy and cut-throat politics. This is the first book in the Locked Tomb trilogy, and I’ve seen it mentioned so many times I figured it was about time I checked it out.

Here’s to hoping you all have some good books set aside to get you through winter (or summer, for those below the equator!). With the current sub-freezing temps in Connecticut, and more snow than anyone except ski resorts could possibly want, I personally need ALL THE BOOKS. Happy reading to all!

Naming Characters in Sci Fi and Fantasy: Part 2

Click link for Naming Characters in Sci Fi and Fantasy: Part 1

“Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person.”

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Now you’ve had a while to consider your world in general, it’s time to put some thought into your main character(s). What feel do you want people to get when they meet them on the page? Do you want readers to immediately emphasize with them, or will your characters have to work for appreciation?

Sam, for instance, is usually a ‘nice guy’ name. Think Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. Sam Winchester from Supernatural (discounting the whole ‘soulless Sam’ phase…). Or bar owner and shapeshifter Sam Merlotte from Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries. If you name a character Sam, readers are signaled that this is probably NOT a villain.

Names have nuances, shades. This doesn’t mean they belong exclusively to ‘good’ or ‘bad’ characters, but names can be a good indication of personality. Think Maggie Stiefvater’s Ronan Lynch, from her Raven Cycle books. There’s a sharp name if I ever saw one, and it suits the shaved-headed street-racing Ronan perfectly. Another sharp name, also with an ‘R’ coincidentally, belongs to private investigator Rojan Dizon, the world-weary main character in the fantasy trilogy by Francis Knight that starts with Fade to Black.

Names can play off each other, too. In Victoria Schwab’s Monsters of Verity YA duology, the narrative is shared by two main characters: Kate Harker of the knife’s edge smile and August Flynn, the heart-of-gold monster with the soft gray eyes. Hard vs gentle in the names, and hard vs gentle in their personalities, too. A perfect combination.

If you’re writing a story set in the real world (whether sci fi, urban/contemporary fantasy, or other subgenres), you have some serious decision-making to do with regards to classic vs trendy names. In Part 1 of this post, I already mentioned Scalzi’s option to use long-lasting names like John and Susan. In my Blade Hunt Chronicles books, I have a vampire — Alex — who’s almost 1000 years old. I wanted a name that could have plausibly been in use and yet still felt current, and I figured that Alexander was a timeless choice. The problem with trendy names is that they can date quickly, so if you want something a little different, think hard about which modern names feel as if they may have lasting power.

This brings us to the kid lit names vs adult names conundrum. If you’re writing for teens or preteens, you’re going to need names they can relate to — whether you’re dabbling in real-world sci fi/fantasy or far future/secondary worlds. Unless you’re setting a story in the 1980s, Tracy is probably not a good choice for your female lead (though it may be perfect for an older supporting character like a parent or mentor!). Rick Riordan is great at names that are fun enough to appeal to his middle grade and YA readership, while at the same time escaping the ‘trendiness trap’: think Perseus ‘Percy’ Jackson ( a nod to the Greek and Roman mythology that most of his work is based on) and others such as Annabeth, Leo, Jason (another nod to mythology), and Nico. 

Hot tip! Use your own kids or borrow one from a friend to test your names on. I bounce YA character name ideas off my teen daughter, and her feedback is priceless.

When it comes to stories that are not real-world based, there’s more leeway. But you still need to take youth appeal into consideration. In the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins’ main character Katniss is named after a plant. However, variations of names with ‘Kat’ in them are common enough (and another of those timeless classics) for the name to feel relatable. This is a great name, by the way: the hard K sound suits Katniss’ hard-as-nails personality, and the sibilance of the ending evokes an arrow let loose. So good!

How about where to source names? Baby naming sites are, of course, a fabulous tool. There are so many of these sites nowadays that you can add search words to narrow things down. For instance, ‘Celtic baby names’ might help with your sword-wielding fantasy heroine; ‘unusual baby names’ may lend a sci fi vibe to your blaster-toting wise-cracking space mercenary. There are sites that let you narrow your search down by number of syllables, and you can always look up names with a particular letter if you know the vibe you’re going for.

There are specialist sites, too; I once spent a pleasant afternoon looking up names used in Britain around 1000 CE for my coven of ancient witches. And you can also search surnames; there are several sites that will help you find the most common ones to fit your character’s background, or surnames that have been around for centuries — handy if your thing is urban fantasy and your detective just happens to be the heir of a long line of demon slayers. But don’t discount looking closer to home… My kids’ school directories and yearbooks are a great resource for first and last names. The same goes for town Facebook groups or the local newspaper. 

Hot tip! Keep an ongoing list of interesting names you come across, even if they have nothing to do with the story you’re writing; someday you’ll thank past you. I keep a list on my notes app and update as I use up names or find new ones, and I’m very thankful for past me!

And, finally, we can’t talk character naming without talking diversity. We live in a beautifully diverse world, and hopefully your work will reflect that, even if you write second world fantasy or far-flung sci fi. If you’re writing in a contemporary setting, as I tend to do, then naming is where it all starts. Your work has an entire cast of major and minor characters, so please put some thought into what identities you choose for them.

Summer 2018 Updates

We’re already halfway through 2018 — where did all the months go? Seriously, someone needs to get working on that time-turner technology, and fast! So, what have I been up to this year?

Short stories! I made one of those infamous New Year’s promises to myself that I would submit a short story every month in 2018. So far, I’ve managed to (just about!) keep that promise. Of course, it doesn’t mean every submission has been accepted. But it’s been a good push to keep writing and — just as importantly — to keep sending my work out, even if it gets rejected. And taking a chance also means the occasional success!

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In February, my sci-fi detective tale Blood Makes Noise came out in The Last City anthology (DUST, 2018). This was a really fun initiative, with a shared-world premise that led to plenty of pre-publication discussion in our collaborator Facebook group. Check out our joint author interview in SFF World.

My angel love story Dawn Chorus was published in Kraxon Magazine in March, another happy moment. Kraxon always has great stories (free, go take a peek!) and I have a soft spot for the magazine, as it gave me my first ever paid writing sale, back in 2015. I also just handed in my contribution for an upcoming all-female-writers’ science fiction anthology: a teen time travel romance set in 1985. And I had a short story accepted for another anthology — I will have to wait for the official announcement to say more on this one, but I’m thrilled to be in it as competition was apparently pretty fierce, and the list of participating authors is amazing.

Novels! I spent most of the first part of the year finishing and revising a YA science fiction thriller. It’s completely different from my Blade Hunt Chronicles series, although my critique group says it’s still ‘very me’, which is hopefully a good thing? I’m really excited about this one! After a long querying hiatus, while I fulfilled my contracts for Heart Blade and Night Blade, I now have something brand new and have begun once again looking for an agent. Wish me luck…

And no, I haven’t forgotten my Blade Hunt readers. I’m taking a writing break in July, to visit my family in Brazil, but when I get back it’s all about books 3 and 4. Yes, the plan is to write the last two books in the series together, and hopefully have them done by the end of the year. I love my characters and story, and have promised myself (and a few of you as well) to finish the Blade Hunt Chronicles and give Del, Ash, Raze and co. the ending they deserve.

Appearances! I was once again a panelist at Boskone this February, and it definitely made a difference knowing what to expect this time around. I found that I managed to relax and enjoy my panels, and I ended up having a blast! A lot of this, of course, is due to the great moderators I had. I also took part in my local library’s Author Festival, speaking on the Teen Author panel. Out theme was Inspiration, and it was a great evening and a really good conversation.

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Photo credit Avon Free Public Library

All in all, it’s been a productive year for me so far. With plans to finish the last two Blade Hunt novels in the second semester, and to keep on writing and submitting short stories, it looks like it will get even busier once August arrives.

I’ll leave you with a link to a terrific interview I gave in January on Peat Long’s blog, with bonus Deadpool-riding-on-a-Lego-dinosaur pic. Because why not? Happy summer!

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Have Book, Will Read #19

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May was a mad rush of manuscript revisions, other work, and life being, well, life. The laundry doesn’t do itself just because you’re busy rewriting Chapter 11, though what a neat trick that would be… But in the middle of all that busy, I still managed time to read. Here are a few of my favorites from the past few weeks.

Recent Reads: Tricks and Trips.

I FINALLY READ CROOKED KINGDOM! I’ve been promising myself for a while now that I’d read the sequel to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, and I actually got around to it this time. Worth the wait!

As Kaz and company strive to right the wrongs committed against them they get sucked down into a deepening spiral of subterfuge, trickery, and intrigue. Beautifully written, the story is well-paced and has enough twists and turns to keep readers on their toes the entire time. And the romances are lovely!

I’ve been wanting to read Holly Black’s work for a while now, and I started out easy with the Magisterium series she’s co-writing with Cassandra Clare. Although I found the books in my library’s teen room, they’re really middle grade, and I think I read the first four in under a week.

The Iron Trial, The Copper Gauntlet, The Bronze Key, and The Silver Mask bring a neat little twist to the ‘teen discovers they have magic and goes to magic school’ formula. I’m not going to say much because #spoilers, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the direction the tale took from the end of Book 1, and this was a refreshing departure from the theme. This is a great series, and I’m looking forward to the conclusion in The Golden Tower, out September 2018.

There’s nothing better than a new InCryptid book, so when I realized that the most recent title in Seanan McGuire’s series, Tricks for Free, was out, I rushed to buy it. We get more of Antimony’s point of view in this one, and plenty more Sam, which made me a very happy person as Sam is adorable.

I absolutely love this series. It’s fun, fast-paced, and light-hearted while tackling some pretty big issues, and McGuire’s world is full of amazing cryptids and characters that keep you invested from page one. If you like urban fantasy and haven’t yet discovered these books, give the first one a try. You won’t regret it, I promise you!

Kelly Robson’s The Human Stain recently won the Nebula award for best novelette, and as I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, this was the perfect moment. The story takes us to a remote castle in Germany, following a British expat who is hired to care for her friend’s nephew.

This gothic horror tale is perfect for a shivery afternoon read (or a nighttime one, if you dare!). Robson’s elegant prose contrasts nicely with the growing darkness of the story, which has an ending that will definitely leave you off-kilter for a good while.

Now Reading: A ghostly conspiracy…

I just started an ARC for Afterimage by Naomi Hughes, out in September 2018. I’m not very far in, but I love the concept and am excited to read on. The story begins with an explosion that leaves the only survivor racing to find out who is behind it all. And the only person she can turn to is a transparent boy who she’s not sure is a ghost or a hallucination.

To Read: Stormy waters, suspense, and insurgence.

Thanks to the Penguin Children’s Fall preview I attended last month, I have a lovely big pile of middle grade and YA ARCs to read. I’m thinking of starting with Seafire, by Natalie C. Parker, the story of an all-female pirate crew. The book has been described as Wonder Woman meets Mad Max: Fury Road, so yes, please!

Another one from the ARC pile that I’m looking forward to getting into The Sacrifice Box, a horror novel by Martin Stewart set in the 1980s, and that sounds like a cross between Stephen King and Stranger Things.

On my to-read list is Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint, which came out in February but I haven’t had a chance to read yet. This is Cole’s first fantasy series, a little bit of a departure from his Shadow Ops world. I love Myke’s writing style, so this is definitely one I can’t miss out on.

I have a LOT of other things on my to-read list, but luckily summer is just ahead. The downside to school vacation is that I’m not sure how much writing I’ll get done. The upside, of course, is books, books, books. What’s on your summer reading list?

Poconos Retreat, Part II

(Continued from Part I)

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Our last day dawned soft and gray, drizzle misting in from the hills around us. Luckily the weather had no impact on everyone’s enthusiasm, and after another amazing breakfast (seriously, Highlights, do you not want us to ever leave?), we gathered once again in the main room in the Barn to watch the faculty talk us through some of the (anonymous) first pages and illustrations that attendees had sent in. I’m always fascinated at these events to find out just what an experienced editor will pick out of a fragment of text.

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Mealtimes at the Barn

We broke up into workshops after this, and I chose to hear agent Kira Watson talk us through scene development. We looked at the difference between ‘core’ scenes and ‘bridge’ scenes, and how to avoid the so-called ‘fluff’ scenes. Kira told us that each scene should make a difference, even if it’s a bridge scene, and not just be there to fill space. I’m looking forward to trying her flashcard exercise!

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Kira Watson talks us through scene essentials

The final keynote was given by picture book author Tara Lazar. Tara’s speech was joyous and uplifting, even when talking about personal obstacles, and was just right for sending us home all fired up to get back to creating. She both began and ended her talk by reminding us that “there is no divide”, and that authors are just people like anyone else.

We sat down for a last lunch (with a huge round of applause for chef Amanda and her staff), and then said our goodbyes to all our new (and old) friends, and then it was time to take off my name tag, grab my bags, and drive the three hours back to Connecticut.

 

Our printed schedule ended with Master Yoda’s words: “That which you seek inside you will find.” That may be true, but all of us at the 2018 Poconos Retreat found plenty in each other, too, and in the inspiring words of our weekend mentors.

 

 

High points for the weekend:

  • Location, location, location. And did I mention location?
  • Star Wars references everywhere!
  • Great faculty choices: everyone was kind, generous, and friendly, full of wisdom to share.
  • Good attendee vibes. Everywhere I turned I was met with a smile and a friendly face. I returned home with lots of nice memories, and plenty of new Twitter and Instagram contacts, too.
  • My awesome roommate, Tina Holt. I was a little worried about sharing a cabin with a stranger, but Tina was a star. #TeamCabin20
  • Okay, I won’t mention the food again, but I loved the ‘help yourself’ hot/cold drinks stations set up all over the place. And the baskets of snacks, too. (Oops, did I just mention food?)
  • The Eastern PA SCBWI crew: Kim Briggs, Alison Green Myers, Lindsay Bandy, and Virginia Manning. You all rock, thanks for organizing this tremendous weekend.

 

Juliana on Keystroke Medium LIVE

 

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Yesterday I was a guest on Keystroke Medium‘s LIVE! interview show, with hosts Josh Hayes and Scott Moon. I had so much fun chatting with Josh and Scott about writing, Young Adult fiction, and longswords! Keystroke has lots of terrific author interviews, and it’s well worth checking out their YouTube channel.

If you’d like to have a look at my interview, here’s the link:

LIVE! with Juliana Spink Mills

Keystroke Medium has partnered up with cover artist Tom Edwards to raise money for Parkinsons.org.uk. If you’d like more information on this fundraiser, have a look at the Facebook page: Covers for a Cure.

Also, for all you military science fiction fans, Scott has a brand new book out today!

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Rising Starr: Interview with Kim Briggs

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Wintry ski slope kisses (Avalanche, February 2017), a sizzling dark romance (And Then He, October 2015), and an exciting YA trilogy that concludes later this year; the writer life has been busy for YA and NA author Kim Briggs. Kim joins me on the blog to chat about her latest YA release, Starr Lost, Book 2 in the Starr Fall Series. The series centers on Starr Bishop, and the secret organization that has decided the teen would make the ideal assassin. Starr Fall (Book 1) was released in November 2016 with Inkspell Publishing. Starr Lost is a brand new January release. And look for Starr Gone, Book 3, in June 2017.

Juliana: Hi Kim, and congratulations on Starr Lost. In the first book, Starr Fall, we meet Starr and the Organization trying to recruit her, and see her go into hiding with help from moody and sexy Christian Evergood. Where does the second book take us?

Kim: Starr Lost brings the action into the series.

On the run from the Organization, Starr and Christian find safety on the Qualla Boundary with their friends, Ben and Coda, but Starr needs answers. She owes her dear dead friends, Sami and Jody, that much. She forms a team of her own to fight the general and his recruits.

Di, a mutual friend and anti-everything is a no-brainer, plus her Taser will come in handy. Frank, Starr’s BFF, will put his life on the line for her. Ben and Coda, not to be outdone by Starr’s friends, also swear their allegiance. Christian’s the only hold out. He knows what the Organization is capable of. He has the beaten body to prove it, but when Starr wants something, she gets it.

Now that the team’s together, everything should be perfect. Trouble is Starr loves Christian but so does Di. And Frank, well, he’s never been very good at hiding his love for Starr. Will his four-year long crush on her threaten the safety of the team?

Life becomes tense on the Qualla Boundary, sparks fly, and the Organization is about to smash in their door.

Juliana: Where did the inspiration for the series come from?

Kim: The inspiration for Starr Fall came in the form of a dream. I’m always chased by bad guys while I sleep—I blame an overactive imagination combined with consuming one too many action and adventure movies. One night I woke up in a cold sweat. A secret organization wanted me as an assassin. Me? No one wants to read about me, but Starr Bishop? That’s a character readers can get behind. I added Christian, because who doesn’t need some kissing and a dreamy hero in their life?

Juliana: A full trilogy in under a year! Could you talk us through the logistics of such a tight release schedule? How did you handle the writing and editing process?

Kim: I am insane and I don’t sleep. Actually, I wrote the story of Starr Fall in all its vomit draft worthiness about six or seven years ago. I broke it up into three books, that’s actually grown to four now, and rewrote and revised Starr Fall several times before I finally got it right. While I had Starr Fall out on submission, I started working on Starr Lost, so I had a very rough draft to work with last year after Starr Fall went under contract. As for Starr Gone, I had the skeleton of the story and busted it out under my inner deadline that wanted it out as close to the other books as possible. (Read COMPLETELY INSANE.) I am a sucker for series, so I want all the books ASAP. When you’re the one writing the series, that proves challenging, but I don’t like to be kept waiting and I don’t want my readers to wait either. So, who needs sleep when there are such things as soy chai lattes and chocolate?

Juliana: Continuing on from the last question, did you start out with the trilogy fully planned out? How much of an outliner are you? Or did you have a loose idea that grew in the writing?

Kim: I am a visual person, and many people will hate me for admitting this but the story arc for Starr Fall came to me fully formed. I’ve read so many series, and most of those series are fantasy, so the arcs of each book and the arc of the story came to me fairly easy. I just connected the dots (which sounds much easier than it is.) For my next series, I outlined and researched, and did all those things you’re supposed to do when writing a series, but often times, my characters take over and dictate where they want to go and what they want to do. They’re strong-minded pain-in-the-asses most of the time, but I’m okay with that.

Juliana: Besides Young Adult, you also write New Adult. Your NA novel And Then He goes down much darker paths. From your blurb: ‘Following a night of innocent flirting with a handsome stranger, Tiffani finds herself in the midst of a nightmare she can’t escape.’ Did you find it hard to transition between YA and NA? What were the main challenges in switching between target age groups?

Kim: Young Adult Fiction is my passion, my true love. Through Starr Fall’s storyline (and others in the works) I can create stories that readers devour. Young Adult fiction consumes me, but once in a while everyone needs a crush and New Adult fiction writing like And Then He and Avalanche feeds that need.

The biggest challenge I faced switching back and forth between young adult and new adult writing was whether I should keep my writer name or add a new pen name, but honestly, I already have my writer identity and my real life identity, and I don’t have time to create another identity. My time is also limited. I prefer to create new stories rather than creating new social media platforms.

Juliana: What’s next after the Starr Fall series? What are you working on at present?

Kim: I’m taking a break from Starr and her friends for a month or so (excluding edits for Starr Gone). I’ve been working on a young adult urban fantasy combining Celtic Mythology with werewolves. The Antigoddess by Kendare Blake meets Avril Lavigne, before she got pretty. (She was always pretty, but during her middle finger to the masses years.)

Juliana: Just for fun: if you were to be recruited by a secret organization, which of your skills or ‘super powers’ would they be after? (Mine would probably be my amazing ability to walk into furniture…because who wouldn’t want that on the team?)

Kim: Ha, I know, those sofas and chair jump right out at you. My superpower would probably be my stubbornness. I like to say that Starr wouldn’t shut up and made me keep coming back to her story until she got published, but my Ink Sister Alison Green Myers told everyone at Starr Fall’s book launch that I’m the one who’s stubborn and no one disagreed with her, so I guess my superpower is Stubbornness. I’ll take my cape in teal.

Juliana, thanks so much for having me!! I’m so glad we met at the NY SCBWI conference all those years ago. Has it been three years already? Wow! I also can’t wait for Heart Blade to come out so I can share the writer love with you!!

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Find Kim at www.kimbriggswrite.comINK Sisters, and on Twitter as @KimBriggsWriteStarr Lost is available on AmazonKoboItunes, and B&N

Heart Blade!

Finally, the cover I’ve been teasing you all with for months. I’ve been longing to share Merilliza Chan‘s gorgeous artwork, and here it is in all its glory.

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The official reveal took place on Sunday over at SFFWorld.com; check it out for an exclusive sneak peek excerpt.

Heart Blade is now up on Goodreads, and the e-book is available for pre-order on Amazon. The paperback (yes, there’s a book-book for those who prefer it!) will be available for purchase on release day.

I have more treats coming! The talented Corinna Marie has been working on some Heart Blade character art for me, and I’ll be introducing four of my main characters on the blog over the next weeks.

E-BOOK PROMO:

The e-book version is at a special promotional US$0.99 at the moment. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the app for free onto your tablet or phone.

PAPERBACK PROMO:

For all those interested in the paperback version, I have a special promo lined up for you. Once the paperback hits Amazon, I’ll be giving away exclusive sets of postcards with Corinna Marie’s character art to the first 30 people to send me proof of paperback purchase. More on this later!

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December Updates

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Night Blade outline notes

The end (of the year) is nigh! Cue much panicked screaming and Kermit flailing as I rush around trying to finish all the stuff (ALL THE STUFFS!) that I should have finished oh…about a month ago.

Procrastination, thy name is DVR queue.

I’ve actually been keeping pretty busy, even taking into account distractions like the CW 4-show crossover week, and the growing pile of books I’ve bought and not read yet. I’m working hard on Night Blade, book 2 of the Blade Hunt Chronicles, and have sailed past the halfway mark now, with the finish line on the not-too-distant horizon. There are lots of cool bits in Night Blade that I’m having a blast writing, such as the splendiferous ballroom scene I hammered out yesterday.

I have lots of artsy goodness I’m looking forward to sharing. My publisher is putting the final touches on my gorgeous cover, and soon I’ll be able to show off all the glory of Merilliza Chan’s work. I also have a treat lined up for January: the talented Corinna Marie is drawing some character art for me, and I’ll be introducing you all to four of my key characters in the weeks before Heart Blade launches. (Stay tuned for character art postcard giveaways in 2017!)

February 14th is creeping closer, and I can’t wait to set Heart Blade loose upon the (poor unsuspecting) world. Review ARCs are almost ready to go, and I’m excited to see what people have to say about Del, Ash & Co.

In the meantime, for those who’d like a taste of my work, I have a short story (yes, another one!) due out sometime in January. More updates on that soon, but the Journeys fantasy anthology by Woodbridge Press promises to be amazing, with an all-star group of authors and a stabby little tale by yours truly.

 

Happy December!

2016-12-08-09-12-57

Release Day! Starr Fall by Kim Briggs

Today is Starr Fall‘s book birthday! Happy release day to Kim Briggs. Kim was one of the first SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) members I ever met, at my first ever writing conference. I was a bundle of nerves, and Kim was one of several writers who showed me that, hey! I could do this thing called ‘conference’ and have fun, too!

Starr Fall is Book One of Kim’s brand-new YA series. It just landed in my Kindle, so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But if it’s anything like Kim’s fast-paced and exciting NA thriller, And Then He, I know I’m in for an adrenaline-fuelled ride.

Check out the blurb…

On the run from the Organization, Starr never planned on falling in love.

Starr Bishop’s the complete package. A perfect smile, brains to match, and a winning attitude. Boys want to date her and girls want to be her. She’s the type of girl you want to hate, if only she wasn’t so damn likable. But don’t worry, she’s not interested in your boyfriend. Boys are one complication she can live without.

When the Organization decides she’s not only the model student but the ideal assassin, Starr’ll need a lot more than high test scores and extracurricular involvement to get herself out of that commitment.

Dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood is the last person she’d expect—or even want— to come to her rescue. From opposite ends of Webster High’s social hierarchy, their lives collide in one electrifying moment. Christian isn’t the Goth loner he pretends to be, he’s a part Cherokee, All-American boy who wants to be a hero, Starr’s hero. Christian makes Starr forget that the Organization is after her, but nothing will stop the Organization from collecting their top recruit.

By the way, the spot for junior class president just became available.

 

And if that isn’t enough to catch your eye, here’s an excerpt from the book:

“I didn’t tell you about my aunt,” he smiles.

“Is she a secret agent? Because that would really be convenient.”

“No, but almost as good, she’s a doctor. She works from time to time in hospitals, but her true passion is Doctors without Borders. She stayed home most of the summer and fall, but she’s not as happy in the states as she is in the field. A month ago, I finally convinced her I would be fine on my own.”

“So, let me guess. She’s on assignment?” I eye him warily.

“You got it. Darfur to be exact.”

“How long?” He turns to me. A crooked smile crosses his face. “Months and months.”

I almost get lost in his smile, but I catch myself. I can’t get distracted. “No.”

“No?” he says, “What do you mean ‘no’?

“I mean that you are not risking your life for me. Enough people are,” I gulp, “dead because of me. I will not put your life in harm’s way.”

“Too late,” he replies.

“No, it isn’t. Drop me off on the road, and I’ll figure this thing out.”

“No.”

“No? What do you mean no? Drop me off on the side of the road. I’ll be fine. I’ve survived this long, haven’t I?” I shout as I sit up in my seat. I tick off everything I’ve done over the past four days. “I escaped the test site, swam Lake Ontario, and have managed to hide out without getting caught. I am doing a damn good job of going underground.”

“No, you aren’t,” he says.

I could spit fireballs at him. “What do you care? I thought you were, and I quote, ‘done helping people.’”

He pulls over to the side of the road and puts the car in park. His expression gives no hint to his mood. “Because of this,” he says and locks his fingers in mine. Electrical currents surge through them. The wall I’ve kept up for days and days crashes down as I lose what control I had left. The thread is broken.

Starr Fall has received some pretty nice reviews already; scroll down to read a couple of them…

Giveaway!

I love giveaways… To celebrate Starr Fall’s Release, Kim has
swag to share!

One lucky winner will receive a bag of Starr Fall swag including bookmarks, all the fixings for s’mores (once you read the book, you’ll know why), and a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

So dive in, and enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway.

 

Reviews:

GERM MAGAZINE

Kim Briggs’ novel truly is a wonderful debut. From start to finish I was hooked, and all I could think about was what could possibly happen next. From believable characters to a brilliant new aspect of YA narrative, if you love action-packed thrillers, then this is the book for you! Now, to begin the wait until book 2 is out!

YA INSIDER

Abandon whatever you are doing and read this book! Imagine being an exemplary student there ever was. You have your life planned out to the minute. You take a placement test for what you assume is a summer internship, only to find out it’s a secret organization and they want you to be an assassin. If you can imagine this, you’ve just met Starr! Starr shows you how

much your life can change if just let go a bit! She would make a kick ass assassin… if only she wanted to be one! To help her escape from this is Christian. I need more Christian in my life!  Tall, dark, handsome and mysterious! While he seems like he’s uptight in the beginning, when he comes to the rescue of Starr you really get to see him. He’s sweet, sensitive, understanding, and above all an absolute gentleman.

It’s such a quick paced book. you could easily read five or six chapters without realizing how much time has passed! The ending left me wanting more! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! Book 2 of this series needs to come to come out tomorrow!

– See more at: https://www.yainsider.com/b/starr-fall#sthash.qpv4dLJy.dpuf

 

Starr Fall

Book One of the Starr Fall Series

(Inkspell Publishing, November 4, 2016)

By Kim Briggs

Kim once smashed into a tree while skiing. The accident led to a concussion, a cracked sternum, temporary notoriety as a sixth grader returned from the dead, and the realization that fictionalized accounts are way more interesting than just slipping on the ice.

An unhealthy obsession with conspiracy theories combined with a love of travel and happily ever afters led Kim to write her YA novel, Starr Fall, where a secret organization decides Starr Bishop would make the ideal assassin. While in hiding, Starr meets dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood. Cue the swoon worthy music. But it’s not all
happily ever afters for Kim, her NA novel, And Then He, explores the dark and scary corners of the human psyche. Following a night of innocent flirting with a handsome stranger, Tiffani finds herself in the midst of a nightmare she can’t escape. And Then He is available now through Amazon and other major book retailers.

Starr Fall will debut November 2016 with Inkspell Publishing. Starr Lost will
release in January 2017, followed by Starr Gone in June 2017.

 When she’s not doing something writerly, Kim can be found jumping into snow drifts with her three kids, husband, and dog. She’s careful to avoid trees.

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