Book launch, giveaway and excerpt: ‘Forget Me Not’ by Stacey Nash

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So, continuing with the Forget Me Not love — yay, book launch! The book was supposed to launch on 17 February, but it has just gone live RIGHT NOW. I’m assuming this has to do with a chain of events involving a stolen USB, a car chase and a gun fight involving Amazon blackops and a chimpanzee disguised as a mailman. Is that just me?

Also, I feel kinda weird launching a book today that I reviewed already. But weird in a smug sort of way, you understand. 😉 Anyway, here it is. With an excerpt to get you hooked like I was hooked.

Title: Forget Me Not (Book I in the Collective series)
Author: Stacey Nash
Release Date: February 17, 2014 February 21, 2014
Publisher: Entranced Publishing, Rush
Genre: YA speculative fiction

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Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. When the brooch and the pendant are worn together they’re no longer pretty pieces of jewelry — they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewelry’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device — and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One.

She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

Buy Forget Me Not on Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

Add Forget Me Not on Goodreads!

Enter the book launch giveaway!

“I certainly won’t be forgetting Nash’s debut, FORGET ME NOT! A vividly fast-paced tale with adventure, secrets, and kissing!” — Kimberly P. Chase, Author of THE APOLLO ACADEMY.

“I highly recommend “Forget Me Not” for people who love story-driven YA. Five stars!” — Me 🙂

Excerpt:

Easing the door closed, I climb out of the attic and head to the bathroom to clean my dust-covered hands. Water rushes from the spout and splashes against the sides as the basin fills. A reflection of me stares back from the mirror, my dirty hand clutching my aching chest. Today everything feels so raw, open, and fresh, like it only just happened. Why isn’t she still here?

Rubbing my hands clean, I delve into my pocket for the jewelry. Bringing it to my collar, I pin it into my blouse and the hard edges of the brooch prick my skin. My thumb brushes over the smooth, round sides of the pendant and when I pull it over my head, the chain catches on my hair. After I twist it through the tangle so it finally falls cool against my skin, it nestles in the hollow of my throat. I pick it up between my fingers and with reverent slow strokes, rub my thumb over the shiny yellow center—the pendant Mom never took off.

A shiver shoots up my spine and out through my limbs like an electric current, zapping every cell, every fiber, every part of my being. Walking on graves, that’s what Mom would have said. Maybe it’s an omen about her.

I plant my palms on either side of the full basin and peer into the still water taking a moment to collect my thoughts. The water reflects only the cream ceiling. That can’t be right. I do a double take and look again.

My chest tightens. I hold my hand up, but I can’t see it—not my arm, not my chewed fingernails, not my leather watch on my wrist. Where am I? Mouth gaping, I look into the mirror again, but I see nothing.

Not even my face.

I dip my finger into the warm, reflection-free water. Circles ripple in ever growing rings, but there’s no image. My gaze flits to the mirror, but I see only the open door. I have no reflection.

Stacey Nash (3)Stacey grew up in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. It is an area nestled between mountains and vineyards. Full of history and culture, it provides wonderful writing inspiration. After dabbling with poetry during her teen years, Stacey stopped writing until after university when she was married with young children. Now she loves nothing more than spending her days with her children and writing when inspiration strikes.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


Cover reveal: ‘Kiya: Rise of a New Dynasty’ by Katie Hamstead

Title: Kiya: Rise of a New Dynasty (Kiya Trilogy Book #3)
Author: Katie Hamstead
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Genre: New Adult Historical Romance
Release Date: February 25th 2014

Tut has grown into his position as Pharaoh, but he is a wild young man. Naomi fears for him, not only because of his recklessness, but because he has put his trust in Ay–the man determined to destroy Naomi—despite her and Horemheb advising against it.

Meanwhile, death and slavery hang over Naomi and her family. With fear of the booming Hebrew numbers causing talk of enslaving them, conscription is reinstated and Naomi fears for the lives of her other children. Especially since Ay’s children are now adults, and just as dangerous as their father. They threaten to take Itani, conspire against Tut, and push for power.

But Tut is in trouble. While Ay’s daughter draws Horemheb’s attention, and Naomi deals with the struggles of her family, everyone’s distraction could spell death for the young Pharaoh.

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Add Kiya: Rise of a New Dynasty to your Goodreads shelf today!

Katie-Teller-Author-Photo-2Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing. After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing. She is currently at school studying English and Creative Writing.

Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She now works as a Clerk with a lien company in Arizona to help support her family and her schooling. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

You can find Katie on her blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.


Review: ‘Forget Me Not’ by Stacey Nash

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Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. When the brooch and the pendant are worn together they’re no longer pretty pieces of jewelry — they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewelry’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device — and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One.

She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

I was given an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. In the interests of full disclosure, though, I confess I requested the ARC because I’ve read one of Stacey’s other, unpublished manuscripts and really love her writing. Also, as I’m sure you’ve figured out from my participation in the blog tour, I’m a bit of a fan. 😉

But trust me when I say “Forget Me Not” didn’t disappoint. I intend to buy a paperback copy once it becomes available, which is a sign of how much I loved it.

Most of the young adult fiction I read is urban fantasy, so the science-fiction angle was somewhat new to me – but, like all good sci-fi (and fiction in general), this book was character-driven. I didn’t feel like I needed a physics degree to know what was going on, which is the main thing that puts me off sci-fi reads.

“Forget Me Not” is set somewhere in Big City America — it’s never stated conclusively (or if it is I missed it), but it’s somewhere with a president. At first I assumed because Stacey is an Aussie author that it might be set here but, given the scale of events in the story, it makes sense that it be set in the global powerhouse that is the US. (Sorry, Australia, but it’s true. I still love you, though.)

The romance between Mae and Jax is well-developed and, even though I’m firmly Team Will (Mae’s best friend), by the end I thought Mae and Jax were a cute and above all realistic couple. Unfortunately for Team Will, the poor guy never had a hope — he’s so firmly in the friendzone that Mae can’t see his attraction to her, not even when it’s spelled out in so many words by a third party.

Despite the romance subplot, the story is action- and character-driven, whisking you along. I did see the plot twist coming, but only by about a chapter, so I didn’t get frustrated that Mae and the others didn’t see it coming. (It always annoys me when I as a reader figure something out ages before the characters do. I’m all, COME ON! IT’S RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU!)

The only tiny niggle I had with “Forget Me Not” was that, after Mae and Will flee the baddies and take refuge with the resistance, she spends a lot of time worrying about her dad, but almost no attention is given to Will’s family — seemingly including by him. It may just be that, because the story is from her perspective and Will is determined to be stoic, he never talks to her much about his worries — but I felt like his parents and sister were kinda forgotten. But this is only a minor observation and didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book.

I highly recommend “Forget Me Not” for people who love story-driven YA. Five stars!

Five stars


Review: ‘Sleeper’ by S. M. Johnston

"Sleeper" by S. M. Johnston

“Sleeper” by S. M. Johnston

A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca so that she can be the weapon she was always intended to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance

I don’t know why I never used to read independent fiction by small presses. Actually, I do—because I was mostly hearing about books by seeing them on the shelves at my local chain bookstore. But I was missing out on a lot of good Australian fiction.

Sleeper is one of those books. By Queensland author S. M. Johnston, it sits somewhere between YA and NA; the main character, Mischa, is eighteen and about to start university, but the themes sit closer to the more-typical YA fare of self-discovery. And while there’s a lot of kissing there’s no graphic detail in here that might make some teens (or parents of teens) uncomfortable.

After her heart transplant, Mischa finds that she’s traded being a “freak” with an illness that means she can’t do the things her peers can to being a freak in the truer sense. Although the doctors warned her she’d feel different, she’s pretty sure superhuman speed and strength weren’t want they meant. (Watch out for the scene on the beach where Mischa explores the full extent of her powers—it made me giggle. Poor girl!) She’s determined to fit in, though, and just wants to enjoy her new lease of life and being able to do things without worrying her heart may give out.

Mischa is easy to relate to and the romance between her and Ryder develops in a natural and realistic way that I enjoyed. He’s a likeable character, and when Mischa starts having eyes for another man, Colin, I got a bit grumpy with her—because Ryder. But it was obvious from the start that there was something weird going on in Mischa’s attraction to Colin, so her love at first sight didn’t irritate me the way it usually does in fiction. In fact, the attraction kept me guessing and made the plot more interesting. (For the record, I didn’t guess correctly either. The plot twist is a good one.)

Another thing I liked about Sleeper that you often don’t see in YA fiction is that her parents are not only present in her life but are responsible adults who actually take an active interest in their daughter’s behaviour and activities. I think it’s easier for Johnston in this case because, at eighteen, Mischa is an adult with her own drivers license—if she was fifteen it would be harder for her to get away with the things she does, which is often why YA writers have their characters’ parents either dead or chronically negligent.

My absolute favourite part of the book was the epilogue. Beautiful stuff.

The only thing I found a bit jarring about the story was that the book is set over the course of a full year. I found a couple of the time jumps a little surprising. But this was only a tiny niggle, especially as it would’ve been unrealistic if the story had played out over a shorter timeframe.

I’m giving Sleeper four and a half stars.

Four-and-a-half stars


Memory in Fiction

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Today’s guest post is part of the From Australia With Love blog tour, and is by the FANTABULOUS YA sci-fi author, Stacey Nash! There’s also a giveaway as part of the tour, which you can enter HERE!

Memory is an important part of life. It shapes who were are, where we came from, and even where we are headed in life. Losing one’s memory is probably one of the most horrifying things that can happen to a person as it strips them of all sense of identity. Actually it’s probably more horrifying for their loved ones than the actual person in question.

My upcoming YA release FORGET ME NOT centers around memory loss. The theme of memory is one that runs through the whole four-book series; it’s even featured in all of the titles. For me as a writer, memory was a tricky thing to deal with, but I made use of a few writing techniques.

Flashbacks

A flashback is a memory. You know when you’re sitting in class / at work chewing on you pen and staring not at what’s in front of you but at the image in your mind of that cute guy you had a date with last night, while you play over all the details. That’s a flashback.

Flashbacks are a useful tool for writers, whether there are memory loss issues in the story or not. It’s something that can be used to show an event that happened in the past. (Read: backstory.) I think it’s important to be careful though, because flashbacks can turn into info dumps if not written well and, hence, slow the story down. My general rule is keep it short. A 200 word excerpt is enough; otherwise the reader will get bored and the flashback loses its impact. Some flashbacks are written like the character is watching them happen, and other are written as if the character is remembering them.

Here’s an example of a flashback.

The sight of it brings back so many memories. The only time I ever saw my parents fight… Mom shouted so loud I covered my ears, and Dad responded in a low emotionless voice. Young and scared, I hid in the curtains while she screamed. Her last words were punctuated by her yanking the pendant off and tossing it across the room. Dad scooped it up, crossed the room in long strides and pulled her to him. His fingers traced the edge of her face before he kissed her. He lowered the pendant over her head, and the angry lines on her face melted into a smile. It’s not exactly a good memory, but it was her.

(©2014, Stacey Nash, Forget Me Not)

Dreams

I think we all know what dreams are, so I’m just going to jump right in. I used dream sequences on several occasions throughout the books, with the character either having a flashback through a dream or having a dream that had an obvious meaning of something that did happen in the past. They’re a little trickier to use than flashbacks, but boy they read well when they’re done right. I think the big thing to remember is the dream needs to fit the character and the story. If you plop a dream in that is too abstract you’ll wind up confusing readers. It needs to be simple, short, and reflect what’s already happened in the story. Basically, the dream needs to feel like a dream.

Here’s an example of a dream combined with a flashback, so that the dream was like a memory but it wasn’t quite right. That’s because there’s some foreshadowing there too. 😉

A soft rap sounds on my door, but I ignore it. I need to finish Mom’s letter. My gaze burns into the last sheet of paper, but for the life of me I can’t remember what’s happened this past year to tell her.

The rap sounds again, only this time it’s louder, more insistent.

“Not now, Dad.”

He doesn’t stop, just knocks and knocks and knocks.

Dear Mom

My concentration pounds, then shatters. Argh. I can’t do this.

I can’t even think.

My pen, poised over the paper, refuses to move. I push against it, trying to guide the nib into an M, but it’s like the nib is glued to the page.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Heart pounding, ears ringing, the dampness of sweat cakes my whole body.

Knock.

My eyes spring open. It’s dark.

Knock, knock.

My heart beats in time with the knocks, a rapid, thudding beat.

Knock, knock, knock.

(©2014, Stacey Nash, Forget Me Not)

Other ways of dealing with memory

There are lots of other ways to deal with memory in fiction. Déjàvu is probably the method I used the most. It’s also the most subtle. Then there’s inner dialogue; almost like flashbacks but shorter, just a sentence here, a thought there. Reminiscing through dialogue is another method; multiple characters having a conversation about the past.

No matter which writing technique is used for dealing with memory, I think the trick is not to overuse any one. For me, that was really tricky when there were multiple characters…ah, no. I won’t spoil it – read the book and you’ll see. 😉

About Forget Me Not

ForgetMeNot_1800x2700 (3)Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. When the brooch and the pendant are worn together they’re no longer pretty pieces of jewelry — they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewelry’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device — and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One.

She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

Releasing February 17th from Entranced Publishing. Add it to your Goodreads TBR now!

Stacey Nash (3)About Stacey 

Stacey Nash writes adventure filled stories for Young Adults in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. When her head isn’t stuck in a fictional world, she calls the Hunter Valley of New South Wales home. It is an area nestled between mountains and vineyards, full of history and culture that all comes together to create an abundance of writing inspiration. Stacey loves nothing more than spending her days writing when inspiration strikes.

Her debut novel, Forget Me Not releases 17 February 2014 from Entranced Publishing and its sequel Remember Me releases in August 2014.

Website || Twitter || Facebook Page || Pinterest


Review: ‘In Stone’ by Louise D. Gornall

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Beau Bailey is suffering from a post-break-up meltdown when she happens across a knife in her local park and takes it home. Less than a week later, the new boy in school has her trapped in an alley; he’s sprouted horns and is going to kill Beau unless she hands over the knife.

Until Eighteenth-century gargoyle, Jack, shows up to save her.

Jack has woken from a century-long slumber to tell Beau that she’s unwittingly been drafted into a power struggle between two immortal races: Demons and Gargoyles. The knife is the only one in existence capable of killing immortals and they’ll tear the world apart to get it back. To draw the warring immortals away from her home, Beau goes with Jack in search of the mind-bending realm known as the Underworld, a place where they’ll hopefully be able to destroy the knife and prevent all hell from breaking loose. That is, provided they can outrun the demons chasing them.

From the opening paragraphs, I loved In Stone. Beau’s voice shines from the beginning. Even crying over her broken heart in the park, her sass came through. I wanted to take her home, make her a hot chocolate and watch chick flicks with her. Which is saying a lot, because I NEVER watch chick flicks.

But then, I suspect neither does Beau. She’s a little bit goth, without pigeonholing herself as a goth. Her best friend is a little bit punk. They are the teenage girls I wish I’d had the courage to be.

I devoured In Stone in a few days. The pacing of the story is very well handled, pulling you along with the action, but with enough moments for self-reflection that it doesn’t feel rushed. You may see one of the plot twists in the last few chapters coming (although I didn’t), but probably not the rest.

Another plus for me: the book is an urban fantasy rather than a paranormal romance—there is a romantic element there, but it’s not an insta-love plot. Beau’s life doesn’t suddenly revolve around Jack; there is tension there, but it’s a slowly blossoming flower. Her independence is one of the things I loved about her.

The knife Beau and Jack set out to destroy is a bit like the One Ring from Lord of the Rings. Whoever wields it gains the power of life and death over previously immortal creatures. Both the demons and the gargoyles (who are ostensibly the good guys) would love to get hold of it, to tip the war in their favour. But even previously sane gargoyles who pick up the knife go all nutty bananas, turning into power-hungry maniacs. Beau, as a human, seems unaffected—which is why Jack needs her to come with him on his quest to destroy the knife.

All of that said, while I noticed the comparison, the book didn’t feel derivative. It stands as its own story.

One last thing: In Stone was released by Entranced Publishing. It’s a good example of a high-quality work by a small press. I’m the world’s biggest grammar nitpicker, and I didn’t notice any editing errors in the book.

I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel. Five stars!

Five stars


Review: ‘Finding Home’ by Lauren K. McKellar

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In the interests of starting as I mean to go on with reviewing works by Australian women writers (and other writers more broadly) on my blog, I decided to do a review of one of my favourite YA reads from 2013. Unlike almost everything I read, Finding Home is contemporary rather than speculative fiction. But, despite being outside my usual reading habits, it blew me away. (For the sake of full disclosure, I think the author, Lauren McKellar is very talented and cute as a button. I’m pleased to be able to call her my friend. But this hasn’t affected my review of this book. Trust me!)

When Amy’s mum dies, the last thing she expects is to be kicked off her dad’s music tour all the way to her Aunt Lou in a depressing hole of a seaside town. But it’s okay — Amy learned how to cope with the best, and soon finds a hard-drinking, party-loving crowd to help ease the pain.

The only solace is her music class, but even there she can’t seem to keep it together, sabotaging her grade and her one chance at a meaningful relationship. It takes a hard truth from her only friend before Amy realises that she has to come to terms with her past, before she destroys her future.

I devoured Finding Home in a day. While not everyone has a pop star father — who I imagine looks like an Australian Rod Stewart — Amy’s experiences with teenage parties and high school life are so authentic that most teenagers, and adults who remember what it was like to be teenagers, will be able to identify.

Amy makes some bad choices, but as a reader you’re taken on that journey with her. Even though you can see the trainwreck coming, you can still understand why she did what she did in each case. She sometimes acts like a brat but, although I wanted to shake her at times, I never felt her actions were unrealistic.

Most importantly, after she hits rock bottom she comes out the other side, a better person who has learned from her experience and does the right thing.

Finding Home tackles a couple of big teenage issues: problem drinking and unprotected sex. Amy’s mother is an alcoholic, and after her death it’s unsurprising that Amy struggles with the same issue. Like so many teenage — and, let’s be honest, adult — girls, she makes a bad decision while drunk. McKellar takes us through the experience and it’s aftereffects in a very realistic fashion, something I’ve never seen in a book before. And she manages to look at both issues without being preachy, something that’s vital in a YA read. Teeangers can smell a moral lesson like my dog can smell a pocketful of treats, but greet it with much less enthusiasm!

I give Finding Home five stars. I’m really looking forward to other books by this author.

Five stars


Interview: Ingrid Alexandra, Australian author

Gifted

Today I’m interviewing fellow Turquoise Morning Press author and Australian, Ingrid Alexandra, about her debut novel, paranormal young adult GIFTED.

Gifted came out on 27 December. Did you squee more that day, or on Christmas morning when you saw Santa had been?

That question made me giggle. Of course I ‘squee-ed’ more on December 27th! It felt like all my Christmases had come at once, if you’ll pardon the cliché! But I was pretty stoked seeing Santa had been, too. 😉

How would Lucy, your main character, describe her greatest strength and her greatest weakness? And would you agree with her?

That’s an interesting question. Strangely enough, Lucy’s greatest weakness was what eventually became her greatest strength. Lucy lacked self-belief and allowed herself to be governed by fear. It was overcoming that fear and believing in herself that became her greatest strength. Sorry, you asked what Lucy would say. Well, I think that’s what she’d say – and I’d agree with her. 😉

And what about Heath Stone? (What a great name, by the way.)

Thank you! Heath’s weakness, by his own admission, was Lucy. But that’s secondary to the real issue. On a deeper level, Heath was afraid to pursue something he believed would be too complicated and potentially dangerous. But he grew to understand that the greatest things in life often require the greatest risks and so, similarly to Lucy I suppose, the characteristics that could be construed as weaknesses were, in the end, transformed to strengths. Both characters had the courage to overcome adversity, to challenge their innermost fears and take a flying leap of faith in to the unknown!

Tell us about Duruga. Did you create it for your story?

I’m so glad you asked! Duruga is a place close to my heart. Although I won’t reveal the ‘real’ location, I will say that the descriptions in the novel are based on a real place where I am privileged to spend much of my leisure time. It really is a little piece of paradise!

Music seems to have played a strong role in your life. Do you think that has affected the story you wrote?

You’ve done your homework! 😉 (I didn’t get a cyberstalking award during PitchWars for nothing!) I had to think about that question quite a bit, actually. I suppose, indirectly, my love of music influences the way I express myself in my own art.  All creative art forms share a common link in that they are based on the creation and expression of a concept, story or feeling, but I don’t think that in this case there is a direct link between music and how GIFTED was created. A great question, though. Food for thought. 🙂

What has been the most surprising thing about your publication journey so far?

Wow, to pick only one…?! 😉 Hmm. Aside from all the incredible people I’ve met along the way and the support network I’m privileged to have attained, I suppose I’d have to say I was most surprised by my own resilience. I didn’t think I had very thick skin (I’m a sensitive soul!), but it turns out thick skin can be grown. 😉 I faced countless rejections in various forms in my journey towards publication, but I truly surprised myself that I was able to pick myself up, dust myself off and try again. It’s been said so many times, but believing in yourself is vital. I recall, even at my weakest moments when I doubted myself and my ability, I never stopped believing that I could do this and that my dream would be realised. It wasn’t easy. But courage is being afraid, being uncertain of something, and doing it anyway.

In dark times that belief is what drove me, what got me out of bed in the morning, what gave me something to live for. Dreams are essential. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re wrong, or just a fantasy or that you could be doing something better with your life. I believe it is unfailing passion, dedication and self-belief that will win you your dreams in the end, whatever they be. 🙂 But self-belief is the single most irreplaceable ingredient. Without it, you set yourself up for failure.

Cassandra, I’d just like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss my story and my characters with you and for your insightful, thoughtful questions. 🙂 (Aww. Thanks for dropping by!)

Lucy Jones possesses an unusual—and extraordinary—gift. Her ability to sense the emotions of others is both a blessing and a curse, eventually driving her to seek refuge from its consequences by fleeing her hometown of Sydney.

The coastal town of Duruga is everything she imagined it would be: sleepy, isolated and void of the emotional chaos that plagued her in the city. But when the mysterious Heath Stone enters her life, Lucy is overwhelmed by startling sensations in his presence. Frightened and intrigued by this uncommon reaction to a person, Lucy is uncontrollably drawn to Heath. Despite her efforts, and the sinister warnings from the townsfolk, she cannot fight the force of her attraction.

When strange events begin to occur and the truth about Duruga’s sordid history is unveiled, Lucy suspects that there may be more to the quiet town, and to Heath, than she had first imagined.

As Lucy and Heath’s fates become irrevocably entwined, the answers Lucy has been seeking all her life may be closer than she ever wanted to believe.

Excerpt

Gripping the steering wheel, my eyes slammed shut and I sat for several seconds with my heart pounding in my ears. My breath came out in gasps, my lungs constricting in anxiety. Images, dotted with light beneath my eyelids, teased me with things I wasn’t sure I’d seen. The vision of a ghostly, young man’s face, so alarmingly handsome and with eyes of such intense green I wondered if they could be real. I dug the heels of my hands into my eyes, trying to see clearly, though the headlights provided a limited view of the shadowy world outside the car.

The road was deserted.

I shook my head, blinking to make sure I was seeing right. What the hell just happened? Was I hallucinating? If someone had been there, where was he now?

And, my conscience taunted, what might have happened if he hadn’t been there to stop you?

A tingle ran down my spine and I tensed, on alert. Someone was out there. I knew because I could sense him. Nearby. He had to be there for me to feel the strange, weaving warmth, the rapid pulse in my veins. And sadness, so deep and powerful I clutched my chest against a sob.

GIFTED is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Ingrid Alexandra

Ingrid Alexandra has been writing since she could put pen to paper. Growing up, she took pleasure in learning musical instruments, visual arts, dance, acting, singing and, of course, she spent a great deal of time reading and writing. Having so many interests meant her career aspirations had a habit of changing, but her profession eventually chose her.

She dabbled in writing short stories and novellas as a child and teen, and began writing full-length novels in recent years. Being a child at heart, it was a natural progression for her to move in to writing fiction for children and young adults. Her love of teaching and interest in human emotion and psychology play a large role in the creation of her novels.

You can find Ingrid at her website or on Twitter.


Interview: Suzanne van Rooyen, author

Today I’m interviewing Suzanne van Rooyen, whose LGBT YA, The Other Me, came out on 19 December. Suzanne is originally from South Africa but ended up in Finland after a short stay in Perth, Australia.

Suzanne van RooyenFirst and foremost: why did you leave Australia? Was it something I said?!

Haha, probably not 😉 South Africans are often told that moving to Australia is like a home away from home. It isn’t and I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. I was also living in Perth, which might not be the nicest city in Australia. While there were some things I absolutely loved about Australia – like living a five-minute walk from the beach, the size of the ravens and waking up to a chorus of cockatoos – ultimately, the heat (so much hotter than I’d ever experienced in SA!) and the lack of job opportunities for my then-boyfriend-now-husband made the move to Finland all the more appealing.

The Other Me is your first contemporary release after a series of science fiction works. Can you tell us about it?

With pleasure! I blog over at YAtopia and one of my fellow bloggers and authors there, Lisa Burstein, made a comment once about how in writing the author needs to open a vein and bleed a little. This had a huge impact on me and ever since then, those words niggled and gnawed until I eventually quit my zombie WIP and started writing a far more personal story. Inspired by my high school experiences at a Catholic all-girls school in South Africa, that novel became The Other Me. This is the story of fifteen-year-old Treasa, who thinks she’s an alien – the kind from outer-space with embarrassing tentacles – because she can’t come up with a better explanation for why she feels so out of place at her school or in her own skin. It takes falling for an emotionally scarred boy with baggage of his own for Treasa to understand, and accept, who she truly is.

You’ve said that the story is incredibly personal to you. Do you think that made it harder or easier to write?

In some ways easier because the emotions were real and the situations were largely inspired by my own experiences (I honestly went through a stage believing I must be from Mars because I felt so weird and ostracized by my peers) – not always my direct experiences, but experiences friends and family members had. This also made it harder because I needed to maintain the distance between fact and fiction while still tapping into that emotional well. I’d never really believed authors could cry while writing – I mean, just change the story so it’s not so sad, or how can it affect them when they know what’s coming? But I cried while writing The Other Me and in places I didn’t expect it, where the characters ambushed me with their own emotions and reactions to the situations I placed them in. While this story may have started out inspired by personal experience, it took on a life of its own, becoming Treasa’s and Gabriel’s story, and no one else’s.

OtherMeFSDoes it affect how you feel about the idea of people you know reading it? (My debut hasn’t been released yet and I’m quite frankly terrified!)

Oh yes, I’m terrified of people reading it and miscontruing fiction for fact. I’m also really excited because this book is different and it doesn’t mince its words. Treasa has an important story to tell, and so does Gabriel. As afraid as I am about how people might react to me, the author, I’m more excited to see how people might connect and relate to my characters. Ultimately, this is a story that needed telling and I have no control over readers’ reactions. I’m trying to be Zen about it. *munches all the cookies and eyes the red wine longingly*

What is your next project? If it’s a secret I promise not to tell anyone. *shifty eyes*

My next to-be-published work is a quirky YA science fiction novel called I Heart Robot, which will be released from Month9Books in 2015.

My current WIP is set in the I Heart Robot universe, but across the Atlantic, and is all about cyborgs instead of androids.

You’re also the publicity manager for Entranced Publishing. What’s the single biggest piece of advice you’d give to a new author?

I’ve been asked this a lot recently and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it considering I still feel like a ‘new’ author myself. Perhaps the best advice I can give others is the type of advice I wish people had given me when I first entered the industry:

Be authentic and be sincere especially in online social media. The cultivated persona will only take you so far.

Persevere and have patience. Publishing is a waiting game: waiting to hear from agents, to hear from editors, for a book release, for reviews, for the shiny new idea… It all takes patience.

Dream big but set realistic goals. Chances are your first book deal won’t be six figures and go straight to film. That doesn’t mean you can’t dream about that one day being a reality, but in the mean time set attainable goals to avoid disappointment and disillusionment.

When in doubt, keep writing. As Ray Bradbury said, “You fail only if you stop writing.”

Quick! Choose! Science fiction or fantasy? Small press or traditional? The West Wing or Game of Thrones? Coffee or tea?

Gah! You’re seriously making me choose between all the things I love!?

Fantasy – it’ll always be my first love and first choice for reading

Small press – my experiences so far have been wonderful

Game of Thrones – only because of the dragons!

Coffee – because there’s just no starting the day without it

Suzanne is an author and peanut-butter addict from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance and music to middle-schoolers or playing in the snow with her shiba inu. She is rep’d by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

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Character interview: Mischa Richardson from ‘Sleeper’

Today I’m interviewing Mischa Richardson, the main character from SLEEPER by S.M. Johnston. I’ve never done a character interview, so this is a new and exciting experience!

"Sleeper" by S. M. Johnston

“Sleeper” by S. M. Johnston

Mishca, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

“My parents adopted me from America as a baby, but raised me in Australia. For most of my life I’ve been on the sidelines due to health issues. Guys avoided me and I felt like a social freak. Then I had my heart transplant and things changed.”

What are you most proud of?

“That I graduated high school without dying.” Mishca goes all shifty eyes. “It was touch and go there for a bit, but the heart transplant did the trick.”

Heart transplant. That sounds serious.

“Yeah. It was pretty full on. But the operation was a success. No more sickly Mishca. Do you mind if we talk about something else?” Mishca bites her lip and looks away.

Okay, sure thing. Because I’m a book nerd, I’m sure my readers would love to know this: what’s your favourite book.

“Oh, that’s hard. I love Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and anything by Jane Austen. More modern books would be Losing It, Girl Saves Boy and Sweet Evil.”

If you could have one wish what would it be?

“To be normal. Before my heart transplant I was weak and socially awkward, and now it’s … never mind.” Mishca chews on her nail. “Let’s make it for an endless supply of shoes.”

What’s your secret shame?

“If I told you then it wouldn’t be a secret, so I’ll pass on that one.”

What’s the best and worst quality you think a person can have?

“Worst is definitely judgmental people. Seriously, the number of shop assistants who assume I can’t afford certain brand clothes, or that I’m going to be a shoplifter. I know things are changing and hopefully in years to come the colour of my skin won’t cause people to judge me. The best thing people can do is to pay it forward. A little kindness can go a long way.”

Blurb for SLEEPER:

A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca for himself so that she can be the weapon he always intended her to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.

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About the author:

Sharon M. Johnston

Sharon M. Johnston

Sharon is a writer from Mackay in Queensland, Australia who has short stories published in anthologies and was also runner-up in the Australian Literary Review’s Young Adult short story contest with KARMA. By day she is a public relations executive and by night she writes weird fiction and soulful contemporaries while her husband, two sons and cat are fast asleep.

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