Friday, July 25, 2014

Double Negative by C. Lee McKenzie

 Double Negative
(Evernight Teen)
C. Lee McKenzie

Happy Book Birthday!

"My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn't been laid yet. I couldn't go into the slammer before that happened." Hutch McQueen. 
Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is trapped between an abusive mother and an absentee father. Shackled by poor vision and poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. After another suspension from school and suffering through one of his mother’s violent attacks, he escapes to a friend’s house that turns out to be a meth lab. The lab is raided and Hutch lands in juvenile detention. When the court sentences him to six months in a new juvenile program, he meets a teacher with Alzheimer’s who will change his life and hers.

My Review:
C. Lee McKenzie cannot write a bad book. Her style is so lyrical and her teen “voice” in this one is so perfect that I had serious author envy the entire time I was reading. I loved all her other books, but this one is her best work yet. Hutch is a character that is so real and has so much depth, that I devoured his story in two nights. Without giving away the plot, let me say that Hutch is the poster child for so many students who struggle with crappy home lives and difficulties in school (in Hutch’s case –reading). This is a bright kid who just needs some extra help.

And, boy, does he get that help in the form of an ex-street thug turned priest (Father Kerry) and a retired school teacher, (Maggie Scott). Between the two of them, they manage to help Hutch realize that he must take control of his own life and make the choice to succeed or fail.

One of the best things C. Lee McKenzie did in this book is give the adult characters as much depth as the teens, something that is too often lacking in YA books. My favorite is Hutch’s father, Jimmie. A good old boy from Texas, he starts out acting like an absentee parent, but as the story move along, I was thrilled to see Jimmie grow and take on the responsibilities of a pretty decent father.

Double Negative is one of the best YA novels I’ve read this year. Highly recommended and a must-have for every high school library.


I'm a writer who captures the pulse of adolescent confusion in my Young Adult fiction, Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas. Of course, I often reveal a lot of my Old Adult confusion while doing that. My first Middle Grade fantasy titled Alligators Overhead went out to good reviews, and my third Young Adult, Double Negative will be published this summer by Evernight Teen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Guest Post: S. J. Abraham

Guest Post: S.J. Abraham

One of the coolest things about being a writer is meeting other like minded authors. One of them is S. J. Abraham, an amazing writer and a self-proclaimed geek. My favorite kind of people. I met Abe at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference a couple of years ago and have been impressed with his work ever since. He was gracious enough to allow me to post one of his short stories. If you like what you read (and I know you will), stop by his place, check out his other work, and chill with him a while. Now, sit back and enjoy The Wandering Sword.

About the Author
S.J. Abraham is a writer working towards publication. He's a geek to the core and seeks to write stories that will inspire younger geeks to embrace their nerdy side and never look back. In addition to his novels, he writes fiction for his blog GeekyWriting

The Wandering Sword 
by S.J. Abraham
Orson thrashed against the other boys. They held him pinned against the alley wall so he had to watch as Cabbot drove the sword between a chink in the stones and heaved on handle. The metal gave a high pitched shriek—
It sheared off at the haft and the boys holding him laughed. Cabbot hurled the handle with its stump of a blade at Orson’s feet.
“Let’s see you compete tomorrow now, village trash!” the boy snarled and nodding to his lackeys, stalked away. Orson collapsed as if the breaking of the sword had also broken his spine. The sword was everything. It was a simple weapon, just brass and steel. The whole village had donated their meager earnings to buy it so that he could compete to become a Champion. It was the one thing required for the tournament. Purchasing a new blade was miles beyond the handful of coins he had to pay for his room and board. He might have it repaired in time for the morning matches but a repaired blade was unreliable. It would never see him through the competition.
“My god, he’s crying,” one of the boys sneered.
Unfelt tears coursed down his face long after the footsteps of the city boys had vanished. He felt crushed and foolish. His master had warned him not to display his talents but he had been unable to resist the chance to put the other competitors in their place. The other boys had seen him practice and had known they could not beat him.
He cursed his stupidity and the other boys’ cruelty. All the village’s money, all his time and effort training had been wasted.
Eventually the tears subsided and he knelt numbly in the filthy alley staring down at his broken hopes. The moon rolled out from behind a tattered cloud and glinted off the shattered steel. The shivered blade seemed to blur and shimmer. Orson blinked, rubbing at his raw eyes and when he opened them again a sword, a beautiful perfect sword, lay across the sheered stump of his old blade. It was a thing of platinum and ebony, steel and diamond with a lean, needle pointed blade.
He reached out hesitantly. His fingers grazed the platinum inlaid guard. Cold metal greeted his touch. It was real. It. Was. Real. He closed his hand upon the black wooden handle and felt its warmth. It was full of life and magic. He hefted the blade. The balance, weight and length were exquisite, deadly, perfect.
His heart leaped, leaving sorrow far behind.
“With you,” Orson whispered to the sword. “Victory is mine!”
Then brandishing the blade high he whipped it around in a series of cuts each faster than the last, until the boy’s hand and arm and the marvelous blade blurred into a streak of silvery death. The air screamed. The sword sang. He would be a Champion.

S.J. Abraham is a writer working towards publication. He's a geek to the core and seeks to write stories that will inspire younger geeks to embrace their nerdy side and never look back. In addition to his novels, he writes fiction for his blog GeekyWriting.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Direction

In 2011, I signed my first publishing contract for my debut YA novel, Griffin Rising, with a small press, Twilight Times Books. They went on to publish the second book in the series, Griffin's Fire. Since then, we have parted amiably. Once I received my rights back for both books, I decided to self publish the series myself.

Several reasons:
1. Back list books sell. Not a lot, but every time another one of my books launch from my traditional publisher, Spencer Hill Press, my new work generates interest in my older work. Ch-ching.

2. Promotion can spin on a dime. I can be more nimble in regard to offering discounts, hand sales, and so forth.

3. Cover Art. 'Nuff said.

So, having bent InDesign to my will (thanks to a techno-savvy husband who actually reads manuals), Griffin Rising (Book One) is up and running. The other books in the series are on their way. In celebration of the re-release, I am running a giveaway of three print copies. Here's the link:  Goodreads

And I also want to thank the many readers and fans of this series for all the love and friendship you have given me and my boys. I couldn't have done without you!

Griffin Rising
All you need is one person who believes in you.

Armed with the power to control the ancient elements of Earth and Fire, sixteen-year-old Griffin is determined to complete his apprenticeship and rise to the rank of Terrae Angeli.

But first, he must overcome a brutal past if he is to survive in this world. Will the perseverance of his kindly Mentor and the love of a mortal girl give Griffin the courage he needs to face the monster still haunting him?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review of Silent Starsong by T.J. Wooldridge

Silent Starsong
by T.J. Wooldridge 
Coming July 15th from Spence Hill Middle Grade

Eleven-year-old Kyra is meant to continue the Starbard's proud family legacy of interpreting the future from the stars' songs. Her deafness, incurable by the best medics, breaks her mother's heart and pushes her father to explore anything to help his little girl--including the expensive purchase of a telepathic alien servant to help Kyra communicate on a planet inhospitable to unfixable genetic defects. Marne's telepathy is too weak for his Naratsset culture, so he is sold into slavery and expects to die at the hands of human owners--until he meets a human child who begs her father to save him. Her kindness introduces Marne to a new world--one where he would risk his life to save a human from her own people's abuse and the stars' songs can touch even a deaf girl and a defective telepath. When an intergalactic terrorist organization kills Kyra's father, driving her mother to madness, Kyra and Marne only have each others' friendship--until even that is threatened by the danger surrounding the Starbard heritage. But can the two friends, not good enough for either of their cultures or families, manage to keep each other safe when several different worlds threaten their lives?

My Review:
 While I am not a big sci-fi fan, this book just grabbed me and kept me reading until the end. I especially liked the world-build - T.J. Wooldridge deftly combined elements of both classic science fiction with touches of ancient mythologies. A great summer read for 9 years old and up.

About the Author:
T. J. Wooldridge is a professional writing geek who adores research into myth, folklore, legend, and the English language. Before delving full-time into wordsmithing, she has been a tutor, a teacher, an educational course designer, a video game proofreader, a financial customer service representative, a wine salesperson, a food reviewer, an editing consultant, a retail sales manager, and a nanny. While infrequent, there are times she does occasionally not research, write, or help others write. During those rare moments, she enjoys the following activities: spending time with her Husband-of-Awesome, a silly tabby cat, and two Giant Baby Bunnies in their Massachusetts home hidden in a pocket of woods in the middle of suburbia, reading, riding her horse in the nearby country stables and trails (not very well), reading Tarot (very well), drawing (also not very well), making jewelry (pretty well), making lists, and adding parenthetical commentary during random conversations. She also enjoys dressing up as fey creatures, zombies, or other such nonsense at science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions.


Barnes & Noble

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review: The Other Tree by D.K. Mok

Welcome to another stop on the blog tour of The Other Tree by D.K. Mok! This was a favorite read of mine, so when I was thrilled to be part of the tour.

The Other Tree by D.K. Mok
(Spence City - January 2014)

From Goodreads:
It’s been four years since Chris Arlin graduated with a degree that most people think she made up, and she’s still no closer to scraping up funding for her research into rare plants. Instead, she’s stacking shelves at the campus library, until a suspiciously well-dressed man offers her a lucrative position on a scientific expedition.

For Chris, the problem isn’t the fact that they’re searching for the Biblical Tree of Life. Nor is it the fact that most of the individuals on the expedition seem to be fashionably lethal mercenaries. The problem is that the mission is being backed by SinaCorp, the corporation responsible for a similar, failed expedition on which her mother died eleven years ago.

However, when Chris’s father is unexpectedly diagnosed with inoperable cancer, Chris sees only one solution. Vowing to find the Tree of Life before SinaCorp’s mercenaries, Chris recruits Luke, an antisocial campus priest undergoing a crisis of faith. Together, they embark on a desperate race to find Eden. However, as the hunt intensifies, Chris discovers growing evidence of her mother’s strange behaviour before her death, and she begins to realise that SinaCorp isn’t the only one with secrets they want to stay buried.

My Review:
I really liked the premise of The Other Tree. This book has been compared to The Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones and I agree! The adventures Chris, Luke, and Emir survive—often by a wild mix of brains, skill, and luck—kept me turning pages as fast as I could read. But even more than the action scenes, I really enjoyed the philosophical/scientific “debates” woven throughout the story.

D.K. Mok’s writing is subtle and she is a master at dialogue. While there is quite a bit of head hopping, it doesn't detract from the story.

The Other Tree by D.K. Mok is a ripping good yarn sure to please readers who enjoy mysteries, legends, and overcoming the burden of hard choices. Bravo to D.K. Mok on her debut novel!

Her next book, Hunting for Valamon, will be release February 2015 from Spence City. 
Visit the author at:
Barnes & Noble
and Indie bookstores everywhere