YA Male Heroes – Interview with Chelsea M. Campbell

Hey readers! Welcome to part two of my blog project. Last week I introduced you to the wonderful Young Adult author John Dixon and his character, Carl Freeman, and his battle through a world of adventure and military combat intelligence. Today I’m diving into the superhero category and an author with a hero (or is it villain?) of her own!

With the excitement of all the new Marvel and DC movies, I’ve become a humongous fan of comic book heroes and villains. Captain America, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Star-lord, Rorschach, Loki – what’s not to like? Reading superhero comics and books are fun, regardless of what universe you’re in. But writing superheroes? Even more fun!

Introducing our next character – Damien Locke. In The Rise of Renegade X, Damien is about to accept his supervillain status and join his friends on the journey to become a bad guy. The only problem is that he’s about to find out the truth: he’s also half a superhero. And well? That changes everything. Filled with action, humor, and quirky one-liners, The Rise of Renegade X tells Damien’s story as he tries to figure out who he’s going to become even as both the good guys and bad guys stand in the way.

Chelsea M. Campbell is the author of The Rise of Renegade X, as well as its sequel The Trials of Renegade X and another to come. She agreed to stop by and answer a few questions and I was so grateful to have her along for the project as she shares her experience on writing both for males and writing Damien (who is a male), as well as her ideas on what makes Damien stand out in the young adult genre. Check out the interview below!

6780702 5808280


  1. What personality traits or quirks make Damien stand out as a great character?

He’s funny and snarky and messes with people a lot, but for good reasons. He actually cares a lot about people, even if he doesn’t always let them see it. He’s also the kind of character you can rely on to be funny and still hold it together, even when everything is crashing down around them and their life is falling apart.

  1. What do you enjoy writing most about your character?

Pretty much everything in #1.

  1. Are there any flaws Damien has that you enjoy exploiting to expand the plots of the Renegade X series?

Oh, yes. The fact that he hates his powers is a pretty big one. And even if he doesn’t hate the second one so much, he hates what it means for him as he’s trying to figure out where he belongs. I also love exploiting his jealousy, his fears, and his need to belong despite being such an independent person, to name a few. And of course he screws up a lot and causes big problems for the people around him.

  1. Do you share any of the same traits Damien does?

I don’t think anybody’s ever asked me this before, mainly on account of the gender difference. When you write your own gender, people tend to think it’s you. When you write the opposite gender, people assume it’s someone totally different. But yeah, I definitely share a lot of traits with Damien. Out of all my characters, he’s the most me, even if we’re still different people, and the book is basically my voice and my sense of humor. One big thing that’s not the same, though, is that I’m terrified of electricity and I always wished I could fly as a kid. Obviously those things aren’t true for Damien.

  1. Ignoring any potential gender-related plots like romance and family, how different would the story be if the hero of your books was a female?


Other than the fact that I wouldn’t have written it? I’d like to say that of course the story would be exactly the same, but I know that’s not true. I don’t know if I would have had the guts to write about a girl who was so snarky and daring and not afraid to piss people off. I hate how much that’s true, that I wouldn’t have been able to write the book the same way and that I don’t think the audience would have accepted a girl with the same personality. But realistically, there shouldn’t be any difference. I am a girl writing this, this is my voice, and I relate to what happens to the characters.

  1. Do you believe that women can be a male character’s Achilles heel or the backbone of his triumph? Or both?

Definitely both. But I also think anyone can play those roles. Characters’ relationships matter and can’t help but influence them, just like in real life. And I think, especially in romantic relationships, both people play both these parts for each other. Because when you care about somebody a lot, they can be both a strength and a vulnerability. It’s like how strengths and flaws are often the same thing.

  1. Do you think the choices of your character are relevant to the women around him, or affected mainly by the adventure of the plot?

Damien’s choices are definitely influenced by the people who are important to him, and that includes the women in his life. I like stories that are more character-driven than plot-driven, so for me the other characters are always going to have more influence than anything else.


  1. All three of your main projects, including the Renegade X series, are told in the point of view of a young male lead. Do you find it’s easier to write boys, or equal to writing in the narrative of a girl? And if so, what are some of the struggles you’ve encountered when it comes to writing in the voice of an opposite gender?

It’s soooo much easier for me to write about boys. I love reading about both genders, but when I’m writing, I get really bored by female POVs. (See #5 above.) Besides just, you know, liking boys, I also get really caught up in gender expectations for girls. Society teaches contradicting things about girls, like that they’re supposed to be perfect and nice and never make waves, oh, and they’d better be attractive, too. But they should also kick ass and not do what they’re told and not care if they’re fat (but also not be fat), and they’d better not be stupid, because girls aren’t really stupid, but they’d better not be too smart, either, because that’s threatening. NONE OF THAT STUFF IS TRUE. NONE OF THAT DESCRIBES ANY GIRLS OR WOMEN I’VE EVER KNOW, INCLUDING MYSELF. But I still get hung up on it. So in a lot of ways, it’s easier to write about boys, because I didn’t grow up absorbing the same constraints about them. I feel much more free to tell a real story and have real characters I can see myself in when the main character is a boy. I haven’t really encountered any struggles with writing from a male POV during the writing itself, but occasionally I’ll see someone (either gender) complaining about how I just threw a bunch of sex jokes in to sound like a guy. This is especially annoying because it implies that girls don’t make sex jokes (sex jokes are about all I remember from junior high, especially sitting at an almost all-girls lunch table) or even think about sex or anything like that.

  1. What (or who) inspired Damien’s existence?

I wanted to write about a bad guy who had to save people. I really like writing about “bad” people who are annoyed about having to do good things, but who maybe, secretly, aren’t so bad. So I started playing around with that idea, and it developed into the character being a supervillain. And I thought the best way to totally screw up his life was to have him find out he’s actually half superhero.

10. A lot of people think that the young adult genre is dominated by female characters while others believe male narrated stories are making a comeback. How do you feel about that?

I have mixed feelings because, on the one hand, I’m a woman and YA is one of the few genres where female authors and voices are the majority. But on the other hand, this also causes problems for me as someone who writes about boys, since they can be a tough sell to publishers. I have gotten rejected on the fact that my book had a male protagonist. Not for Renegade X, or for any of my middle grade, but it has happened more than once. Because teenage boys supposedly don’t read YA, and because teenage girls supposedly won’t read about boys, especially if the romance doesn’t start on page 1. -__-

11. Do you feel female characters convey the emotional needs of a teenager better than males?


Honestly, I think it all comes down to how much emotion the author is willing to put into it, whether they’re male or female or writing about boys or girls. I just read Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle, which is one of the best books I’ve ever read and is also about teenage boys and their emotions–along with the world ending–and this one and his other books just have so much emotion in them and definitely convey the emotional needs of the characters.

12. What advice would you give to striving writers with male lead characters, especially if they’re submitting to the young adult genre?

I wish I had any real advice for this, other than be true to the story and the way you want to tell it. Don’t give up. A good book told the way you want it is better than a mediocre or crappy book told the way you think other people want it.

Thanks so much Chelsea for the interview! So much fun! Be sure to check out Chelsea’s supervillain (heroes too) loaded book series, Renegade X, as well as her other books. You won’t be disappointed!

YA Male Heroes – Interview With John Dixon

From Frodo Baggins to Harry Potter, John Taylor to Harry Dresden, and Four to Percy Jackson, men in fantasy are known across the board for their strength, suave, and skills. These male characters bring their own agendas, pasts, and personalities to the table of the plot. What’s not to love about an adventurous, driven, and (a lot of the time) sexy hero? Let’s face it: without a character to love, sometimes a book can fall flat. But men in the fantasy genre bring lots of love to readers (and sometimes even obsession for fan girls).

I’m very excited to announce for the next several blog entries I’m going to host a series of interviews devoted to the male characters in urban fantasy and young adult that stand out in their respective genres and have become reader favorites worldwide. Even though there’s a large amount of female heroines in fantasy, even the girls have their romantic or friendly side-characters that influence how the plot will go. I’ll be chatting with four authors about their male leads and why their choice has stood out in such a tough market.

Although I’ll get to our urban fantasy heroes next, I’m starting off this post with an introduction to the young adult line of tough teens. Though the YA genre is pretty dominated by smart, tough, and sassy female leads – the guys are still holding their own. I’ve always been a big fan of YA male narrators myself. These characters push the boundaries of what’s considered normal as they conquer the bad guys, stand up for what they believe in, fall in love, and get into a bunch of trouble – sometimes all before homeroom.

So who’s our first tough guy? Introducing Carl Freeman, a sixteen-year old hero with a nice left hook and a bad temper. Today I’m here with John Dixon, author of the young adult book Phoenix Island and its sequel Devil’s Pocket (scheduled for release in 2015). I’m spotlighting Mr. Dixon and his lead narrator, Carl, a very believably fierce character readers fall in love with from page one. The story focuses on Carl’s troublesome foray into a strange delinquent facility where he’s given a chance at a new life – one he may or may not want. Danger lurks behind every corner and Carl finds that it’s difficult to trust the people he’s managed to get himself involved with. Phoenix Island is a story packed with adventure, fun, and the future of combat intelligence. The plot was even used as a basis for the CBS show “Intelligence” starring Josh Holloway and Marg Helgenberger.


I was glad to catch John Dixon and honored to have him answer a few questions for me about Carl and his say on the boys in the young adult genre.

  1. What personality traits or quirks make Carl stand out as a great character?

Carl is a good kid with a bad temper, a fighter who’s absolutely discerning in his use of violence. By the time the book opens, he’s already driven his life full tilt boogie into a stone wall, compiling an enormous rap sheet repeating a single charge over and over. He beats up bullies. When he’s sentenced to Phoenix Island, an isolated boot camp for at-risk teens, he vows to stay out of trouble and earn a clean record… but the place is loaded with – and run by – bullies. What I most like about him is his combination of guts and his willingness to sacrifice himself for others.

  1. What do you enjoy writing most about your character?


I loved writing Carl because he was so real to me that he ended up driving the plot. When you write, it’s sometimes tempting to let the plot slide into the driver’s seat. With Carl, I always knew what he would do, and because he was so real to me, there was no way I could misrepresent him, even when his actions brought down firestorms of grief. It was challenging and fun to write, and Carl surprised me with his resourcefulness.

  1. Are there any flaws Carl has that you enjoy exploiting to expand the plot of Phoenix Island or Devil’s Pocket?

Carl is far from perfect, as his record and temper suggest, but honestly, I love him for his flaws as much as for his strengths, and the fact that you can’t really unwind his flaws from his strengths makes him even more interesting to me. In Phoenix Island, his inability to just let injustice slide pretty much drives the book. He learns a lot about himself and his relationship to violence. In Devil’s Pocket, Carl delves deeper, uncovering a new-yet-related flaw and discovers, too, that even his courage has a breaking point.

  1. Do you share any of the same traits Carl does?

Sure. We both hate bullies, love boxing, are unflinchingly loyal to our friends, spend more time listening than talking, and have a weird relationship with authority. If the leader is good and just, we soldier happily on, but neither of us is very good at butt kissing, and we’ve both gotten into our share of trouble by speaking up when dealing with unjust authority figures. Additionally, both of my parents are gone, so we share that pain. The big difference, however, is that Carl is way cooler than me. He’s braver, tougher, a better fighter, etc….

  1. Ignoring any potential gender-related plots like romance and family, how different would the story be if the hero of your books was a female?

The book would be very different. A female protagonist would perhaps be even more believably gutsy. In my experience, past a certain point of escalation, angry girls often lack the mental shut-off valve that stops angry boys at that crucial moment when trouble goes nuclear. I can picture a female character – Carla, if you will – standing up for the weak and getting herself into loads of trouble. The physical part, though – and fight scenes play a big part in Phoenix Island – would be tough. There are some great female fighters out there – Rhonda Rousey comes to mind – but I think it would be difficult to convince readers that a sixteen-year-old girl was repeatedly tossing knuckles with musclebound men. For me to believe it, she would either have to mix up the violence with other, less direct forms of attack, or she would need to pick up a weapon. I think Katniss is an amazing character, for example, and I never have trouble believing her actions throughout the Hunger Games trilogy, but that’s because I believe she’s that tough, smart, and gutsy… and because her skill set – archery – relies on those qualities, training, and dexterity more than brute strength and a bone structure heavy enough to withstand punches from guys who bench press several hundred pounds.

  1. Do you believe that women can be a male character’s Achilles heel or the backbone of his triumph? Or both?


Both, of course, and the same can be said of males in relation to female protagonists. Look no further than your own friends to find examples of people saved or destroyed by the opposite sex.


  1. Do you think the choices of your character are relevant to the women around him, or affected mainly by the adventure of the plot?

Carl’s actions are very much relevant to his friend Octavia, though not because she’s female. From his backstory all the way through Phoenix Island and beyond, Carl is 100% committed to his ideals, and those values often pitch him into self-destructive, even self-sacrificing behaviors. Although I’m overjoyed with the strong response from female readers, Phoenix Island is an inherently male-leaning book with a male protagonist consumed by traditionally male concerns and meeting them in masculine ways, so I think it’s even more interesting to ask how relevant Carl’s actions are to female readers. One thing I have to state unequivocally: Carl’s choices are never about adventure, and not once did the plot dictate his actions. Again and again, it’s his choices that lead to the events, not the other way around.


  1. When reading, what are your favorite traits for lead male characters?

Whether the lead is male or female, I like strong, believable characters who are willing to sacrifice for others. Some of my favorite characters are Harry Potter, Katniss from The Hunger Games, Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption, John Grady Cole from All the Pretty Horses, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman. Hmm… you’ve just made me realize that I apparently have a strong preference for characters who get imprisoned at one point or another.


  1. Do those traits change if they’re minor characters?

I don’t have a specific set of traits that I like in minor characters — I just want them to be distinct and motivated – but one trait that works wonders for a member of the supporting cast is humor. For the record, I love the minor characters of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Elmore Leonard.

10. Is there any side character in a book that you or someone else has written you’d wish had a story of their own?

Elmore Leonard’s characters are so wonderfully drawn that I’d read a book about virtually any of them, and I do think the world would be a better place if we had a novella about Jim Butcher’s “Bob the Skull.”

11. A lot of people think that the young adult genre is dominated by female characters while others believe male narrated stories are making a comeback. How do you feel about that?


Female characters clearly dominate young adult literature, which is no surprise given that three-quarters of those involved in the genre, from writers to readers to editors and agents specializing in YA, are female. I can’t say I’ve seen a comeback in male-narrated stories, but I do wish we had more young adult stories featuring strong male characters, which largely dry up after we leave middle grade, only to reappear in adult fiction, which explains in part why so many young males leap from reading Alex Ryder to reading books written for adults. What bothers me is when people feel the only way to build a strong character is to diminish characters of the opposite gender. Fiction, like real life, has room for strong and weak characters in both genders.

12. Would you like to see more male heroes or think the guys can hold their own?


Young adult literature could definitely use more male heroes, but we’re not likely to see them unless more young adult males start buying books. That’s the catch-22. We can’t expect publishers to pour incredible resources into acquiring and promoting male-leaning books until male readers start shelling out the bucks to make that a good business decision; and we can’t expect male teens to start spending money on young adult books until they see books that genuinely and deeply appeal to them. What we really need is for someone to come along and write an unstoppable breakout starring a male hero so fantastic that publishing will get behind it 100% and readers will shout it from the mountaintops. I’m talking Harry Potter big, Hunger Games big. I think everyone who cares about young men wants more male characters, which would be, after all, a sign that more young men were buying and reading books, but until a blockbuster series gets publishers clamoring for strong male leads, the majority of teenage boys will likely continue spending their allowances on video games and movies, not books. As someone who spent much of his life teaching middle school and working with at-risk youth, that saddens me.


13. Do you feel female characters convey the emotional needs of a teenager better than males?

I think that female teens tend to have more consistently complex emotional needs and that their fictional counterparts usually do a better job of mirroring this, which also makes for inherently rich characters and stories. Female characters often gauge emotional well-being in relation to other characters, too, and this emphasis on relationship dynamics also provides layered conflict. Male characters, on the other hand, tend to be a little less self-aware and more frequently judge themselves on basis of decisive action and individual success. This leads to seemingly plot-focused books, but the best page turners are often character-driven. Also, I think it’s important to point out that the emotional needs of male teenagers are different than those of females. Males have similar needs but often in different proportions, and males are frequently less aware of or comfortable discussing their emotions, and they frequently compartmentalize emotions, dealing with fewer at any given point. Girls and boys both view emotions through a telescope. Boys just use the wrong end. Thanks to raging hormones, the brains of teen girls and teen boys – and therefore their perceived worlds – are quite different… so I don’t think it’s possible to say that characters of one gender convey the emotional needs of a “teenager” better the other. I will, however, say that female characters generally do a better job of conveying richly emotional stories.

14. What advice would you give to striving writers with male lead characters, especially since they’re submitting to the young adult genre?

All writers need to have fun, keep their characters in the driver’s seat, and stay true to themselves. Beyond that, I would encourage writers submitting young adult stories starring male leads to hang in there. It’s difficult to get good money and a good push for these stories, so it can be very discouraging to aspiring writers. Even when you do receive great support from a publisher – and I’ve been overjoyed with my team at Gallery Books – it’s an uphill battle, trying to get the word out to teens… and especially males. If you’re writing this sort of book, hang in there and know there is a place for what you’re writing. Agents, publishers, booksellers, librarians, teachers, parents, and readers all want good young adult books starring males. Maybe your story will be the breakout that will change the market, opening the door for a flood of male heroes and, more importantly, luring teenage boys back to the bookshelves.

Thanks so much to John for coming and chatting with me. I’m very eager to read Devil’s Pocket. For those of you who have not had the chance to read his first work, Phoenix Island, I highly encourage it. This book is chocked-full of suspense and adventure, not to mention Carl, a memorable character who proves he’s got what it takes to take a stand.

Stay tuned, next week I’ve got an interview with author Chelsea M. Campbell, who shares her insight on working with a male character in YA and what it’s like to write as the opposite gender.

Writing Games .002

Wow, I’m terrible at updating this blog, especially since I think I mentioned in the last post that I’d be adding a new one four Fridays or so ago. That never happened. But I’m here now, right? Anyway, let’s get to the fun part.

Welcome to the MASH game – for those of you who have never played MASH, I’m going to go over the basics real quick and do an example. First off, it’s easier to write this game on a piece of paper, though you’re free to use your computer if that’s what you want to do. At the top of the page you should write “MASH” in giant letters. MASH is an acronym for MANSION, APARTMENT, SHACK, & HOUSE (this varies regionally). Underneath that, you’ll have four columns. (Later you can add more or use less, but for now, let’s go with four). One column will have four jobs, one will have four numbers representing the number of children you envision yourself having, one column will feature cars, and the other will feature four people – men, women, mixed, whatever floats your boat. It should look a little something like this. (Since we’re playing, I’m going to feature four male celebrities and random stuff).



Chris Evans              Photographer               Transformers Camaro             3
Hugh Jackman          Veterinarian                  Ford Focus                            2
Stephen Amell          Actress                         Mitsubishi Eclipse                   1
Tom Hiddleston        Mercenary                    Ford Mustang                         0

So you’d have it something like that, with your personal favorites, and then you’d take a pen and make a bunch of dots, roll a dice, or pick a number –  whichever. Let’s say I got seven. I would start at “M” for Mash and work my way down until I stop counting at seven. I’d land on Stephen Amell. Sadly, I have to cross off his name. I then start with Tom Hiddelston and go to the next column until I get to seven. Ford Focus is what I land on, therefore it’s off the list. This would continue until I only have one left in each column. If I continued with seven, I’d end up with this result: I’d live in an apartment with Tom Hiddleston (hell yes), be a mercenary, drive the Camaro, and have one kid with Tom Hiddleston. Fun, yes? Not really believable, but hey, I don’t mind my results.

Anyway, let’s move on to character development. When you’re writing a new book, obviously you’re going to have characters. Let’s say I’m writing a young adult dystopian book I know I want to be narrated by a sixteen-year old male. I don’t know his name, don’t know what he’ll do, don’t know what he’ll drive, etc. So I’m going to run the gambit of options here for fun. I’m going to list four names, four random duties (be imaginative here, it’s dystopian, right?), four potential vehicles my character could operate, BUT since he’s a teenager and I’ve decided he won’t be a father – I have the last column to decide. Let’s go with the number of siblings he has. But realize, this will be YOUR game, so come up with something you’d want.


Possible Names                      Job/Duty                 Vehicle/Transport                Number of siblings

Jeremiah                                Scientist                   Hybrid car                                    4
Howie                                     Actor                        Hummer                                       3
Grif                                        Soldier                      Sports car                                   2
Nathan                                  Janitor                      Truck                                           1

I roll the dice. I get eight. I land on Nathan and it’s taken off the list. My end result is: Grif lives in a mansion, is an actor who drives a Hummer and has two siblings. We have our start.

If Grif lives in a mansion AND drives a hummer, it’s reasonable he comes from a wealthy family or has made his fortune somehow. In some dystopian novels, the rich have the power. What if Grif is one of the elite class, depriving the poor of something? Or what if he’s from a family who discovered a cure for cancer and therefore, a legacy to all the riches? Is he a nice guy who donates to charity and helps the fallen world around him, neutral in his status to care and yet not care about what’s going on out there, or is he a jerky character who could care less about what happens because it won’t affect him? There’s also the point that he’s an actor – big time actors tend to make a lot of money for what they do. What if he’s rich and famous for being in million dollar movies but the rest of his family is not rich? Maybe he came from a poor family and made his way up. Maybe since he has two siblings, he lives with one and they share their fortune. Or maybe they’re both acting as thieves, swindling their way to the top?

The point is, there are a billion ways to go with it. I’m going to do one more example. Let’s go with a crime novel and rework the “career” column, using a femme fatale as the lead character. And instead of having siblings, let’s use the “number” column as a tally for how many people she’s killed.


Virginia                  Mercenary/Assassin                 Convertible            20
Faith                     Terrorist                                    Mini-Van                1
Patricia                  Sociopath                                 Truck                     3
Heather                 *Revenge killer                         Dodge Avenger      13

I rolled a three. Let’s play!

Heather lives in a house, drives a convertible, is a sociopath who has killed (or will kill) three people. Is she married? What kind of social disorder does she have? Does her husband beat her and she’s already had an abusive childhood? Does she accidentally kill her children? Think about what would motivate a sociopath, while staying true to personality profiling. Characteristics of sociopaths include: pathological lying, manipulative, shallow emotions, lack of guilt, need for stimulation, etc. It goes to say Heather could seem normal to anyone else but she’s killed just because she can. What if she kills with her convertible? What if she’s murdered three people, shoved them in her trunk, and then sinks the car in a lake before she’s led to buy a new convertible again? What drives Heather is where you’ll find your plot. Those three victims play an important rule to how she chooses her victims. Does she bury them behind her house?

It’s your turn to tell the story.

The best part about MASH is that you don’t always have to play by the rules. What if you reinvented the acronym? What if M stood for mall, A for attic? What if S was spaceship and H was hotel? There are thousand of variations. What if you already have a lead female character in mind for a romance novel, but aren’t sure who she should pursue to love? Even doing a side character will help build your main protagonist. Does the man of her dreams live in a spectacular mansion? Does he drive her favorite car? Does he work with her? Will he be smart, sexy, or a killer in disguise? Writing is about having options. Change what you want, come up with something you know you’ll love.

Feel free to play around, it should be fun. Like what you see here? I’d love to see comments on what you’ve gotten while playing this game. Stay tuned, I’ll have lots more fun games to help build your novels or get you out of writing ruts. Til next time!

Writing Games Prelude .001

I’ve been thinking about writer’s block lately and what has always pulled me out of that tricky quicksand. Reading little writing advice ebooks have helped (especially when I’m looking for something humorous like what Chuck Wendig writes) and occasionally, reading fiction of the same genre or with similarities helps. If I’m writing about vampires and get stuck, I read about vampires and it makes me want to go back to my own writing. But what happens when you turn off your internet and tv and rid yourself of other distractions, sit yourself down in front of your computer, and then….well, nothing? Nada, no inspiration whatsoever? Even when you read something you like, you still can’t seem to get it all out? Unfortunately, this happens to me more often than not. I want to write, I have it all up there in my head playing like a movie, but I can’t seem to find the right words to explain what I’m envisioning. 

So, I went out and asked some of my local, fellow writers what they did when inspiration failed to hit them. Fact is – no one really had an answer beyond “I wait for it to come back.” What if you can’t wait for the great lightning bolt of greatness to strike? What if you’re on a deadline and need to get it done regardless of what your procrastinating brain says? What if the need to get it all out of your head consumes you? 

I wanted something fun and exciting to stimulate my creative juices. I didn’t want to wait for my muses to whisper in my ear. I wanted the words to flow but couldn’t get the faucet to come on. So I sat down with a pen and a pad of paper and doodled for a moment. Mostly tic-tac-toe and random, unsymmetrical flower shapes. Then I played MASH. MASH (for those of you who don’t know) is a silly little game everyone I knew back then used to play in grade school. The rules I had were simple – you picked four celebrities you would love to marry, four dream cars, four dream jobs, and four random numbers that represented the number of children you might want. The word MASH was written at the top of each list (separated into columns) and it too stood for something – M for mansion, A for apartment, S for shack, and H for house. Then you either tap your pen a certain amount of times or make tallies (whatever floats your boat) and tell yourself to stop. How many dots or slashes you made was the number. Let’s say I ended up with five. I started with MASH and then went to my first list (celebrities was mine, but you can organize them how you like). I counted to five (with MASH – each individual letter – being four) and ended up on the first name on my celebrity list. I then crossed it out and started with the second name, then continued the process down each column, stopping and crossing off at number five. When you only have one celebrity, car, dream job, etc. left, that is who you supposedly end up with (I joyfully received Tom Hiddleston, a Mitsubishi Eclipse, a house, a hotel owner with three kids – NOT BAD :D) 

Why am I telling you all this? Because after I got my results, I realized I could play with this a bit. At the time I was working on NaNoWriMo, so I’d had a new novel. I was struggling with the first chapter. I knew I wanted a slightly nerdy character in his first year of college and I knew the general direction I wanted to go with my plot. So I wrote the character’s name – I gave him four female characters he may have liked, four cars he may have driven, and four jobs he was working for (I skipped the kids column because I had no plans for him to have them). Then I proceeded to play. I did the same for the other major supporting roles and I steadily created the basic characters for my story. 

For example – If my main character lives in a mansion, one can presume he’s a fairly wealthy guy. What would his parents do? CEO of big companies perhaps? Did they win the big lottery? Has the family always been rich? Or you could go another route perhaps. Did he end up with a dream job of forensic science? That would mean he’s a pretty smart guy wanting to take on crime. Maybe he wants to be a surfer – that would help with your setting as well.

There are so many things that you could build off from this one simple game and when I first came across it, I couldn’t believe it. My main character was already in my mind; I had a romantic interest, a certain setting based on his job, and even a minor plot bunny that affects his personality throughout the book. I finally had a starting point. I finally listened to my muse.  

So, every Friday I’ll be posting up more examples of inspirational writing games for writers working on their first unpublished book or for published writers who may want to join in on the fun! Every week will be a new simulation. Some, like the MASH game, will be for character development. Others will focus on plot, some setting, some even genre. Stay tuned for special guest features from bestselling authors as well! 

My Top Ten Urban Fantasy Books Of 2013

Now we’re onto the top ten of my favorite urban fantasy books of 2013. Remember – these are books that I discovered and/or read this year, not necessarily ones that were released in 2013 (although most are). I’m starting from ten and working my way down to one, giving you an insight into the book and a link to the author’s website. Enjoy 🙂

10. Burned (Void City #4) – J.F. Lewis
IMMORTAL. INGENIOUS. AND DOWNRIGHT INFURIATING. Void City’s resident badass vampire has a secret to keep, everything to lose, and a plan to win it all. Eric has taken control of the city’s supernatural hierarchy, putting all the deals and contracts that allow Void City to function up for renegotiation. When he installs his insane vampire daughter, Greta, as Void City’s sheriff of the supernatural, bloody mayhem ensues. To further complicate things, the love of Eric’s life is back from the dead, immortally young, at a cost that has put Eric under the thumb of a very powerful demon. The mysterious mouser Talbot, morose mage Magbidion, and all of Eric’s thralls are trying to help him keep things under control . . . But with early onset Alzheimer’s, vampire hunters, demons, a band of chupacabra, a cursed cousin with a serious grudge, and Rachel as his new “handler” . . . there’s just not an app for that.

This series started me off right. Male narrator, sexy females, lots of supernatural action in both literal and in the bedroom. I love the humor and build-up of the stories and characters. Burned is exciting and gripping as it pulls you into the world of vampires and demons.

J.F. Lewis is found here and his Void City novels can be found here – http://authoratlarge.com/

9. Affliction (Anita Blake #22)
Some zombies are raised. Others must be put down. Just ask Anita Blake. Before now, she would have considered them merely off-putting, never dangerous. Before now, she had never heard of any of them causing human beings to perish in agony. But that’s all changed. Micah’s estranged father lies dying, rotting away inside from some strange ailment that has his doctors whispering about “zombie disease.” Anita makes her living off of zombies—but these aren’t the kind she knows so well. These creatures hunt in daylight, and are as fast and strong as vampires. If they bite you, you become just like them. And round and round it goes…
Where will it stop? Even Anita Blake doesn’t know.

Zombies and Micah. Two of my favorite combinations. We join our legendary vampire huntress and animator Anita Blake for the twenty-second installment in the addicting series. This book is emotionally heart-wrenching and filled with all kinds of surprises that’ll leave you craving for more.

Laurel K. Hamilton also writes paranormal romance on the sidhe and her site is here : http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/

8. Sacrificial Magic (Downside Ghosts #4) – Stacia Kane
READING, WRITING, AND RAISING THE DEAD. When Chess Putnam is ordered by an infamous crime boss—who also happens to be her drug dealer—to use her powers as a witch to solve a grisly murder involving dark magic, she knows she must rise to the challenge. Adding to the intensity: Chess’s boyfriend, Terrible, doesn’t trust her, and Lex, the son of a rival crime lord, is trying to reignite the sparks between him and Chess. Plus there’s the little matter of Chess’s real job as a ghost hunter for the Church of Real Truth, investigating reports of a haunting at a school in the heart of Downside. Someone seems to be taking a crash course in summoning the dead—and if Chess doesn’t watch her back, she may soon be joining their ranks. As Chess is drawn into a shadowy world of twisted secrets and dark violence, it soon becomes clear that she’s not going to emerge from its depths without making the ultimate sacrifice. 

I like my heroes/heroines to have flaws. And Chess’s addiction is just one of my favorite ones. Fantastic series set in an apocalyptic world full of magic and menace. This last book just satisfied all my desires.

Stacia Kane and her Downside Ghosts can be found here: http://www.staciakane.com/

7. The Lost (Celestial Blues #2) – Vicki Pettersson
Griffin Shaw and his wife were both murdered fifty years ago. Now a minor angel, Grif’s been granted permission to solve the mystery of his own death… if he helps the Pure angels guide those souls who might otherwise be Lost. Souls like Jeap Yang, a drug addict in his final moments of life. Grif knows that death is coming, but he cannot intervene. However, Grif’s mortal lover, reporter Katherine “Kit” Craig, isn’t constrained by angelic protocol. If she can stop a death, she will. But as Kit is about to find out, there are things more traumatic and evil than murder. A strange new drug is literally eating tweakers’ flesh from their bones, and Kit’s crusade to get it off the streets is set to propel her and Grif into a battle with a vicious drug cartel. They’ll have to scramble to stay alive, stay together, and choose their own fate… before it’s chosen for them.

Angels and intrigue, romance and history. This is a wonderful new series from best-selling author Vicki Pettersson. I love the setting and the new take on everything angels and history. Kept me up all night reading.

Vicki Pettersson also writes the Sign Of The Zodiac urban fantasy series. Check her out here: http://www.vickipettersson.com/home.html

6. Ever After (The Hollows #11) – Kim Harrison
The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels the human world, is shrinking. If it disappears completely, so does all magic. It’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to avert catastrophe and keep life from changing… for the worse. While saving the world is important, it isn’t Rachel’s only motivation. There’s also the small fact that she caused the ley line to rip in the first place, setting off a chain reaction of unfortunate events. That little mistake has made her life forfeit unless she can fix it. It’s also made her more than a few enemies, including the most powerful demon in the ever after—a terrifying entity who eats souls and now has an insatiable appetite for her. He’s already kidnapped her friend and goddaughter to lure her out, and if Rachel doesn’t give herself up soon, they’ll die. But Rachel has more than a few impressive and frightening skills of her own, and she isn’t going to hand over her soul and her life without one hell of a fight. She’s also got a surprise: elven tycoon Trent Kalamack. With this unlikely ally beside her—a prospect both thrilling and unnerving—she’s going to return to the ever after, kick some demon butt, rescue her loved ones… and prevent an apocalypse before it’s too late. Or, at least that’s the plan..

The Hollows has always been one of my favorite urban fantasy series and Ever After is not a disappointment. Rachel’s powers are growing and so is her confidence. As she shapes up for another epic battle, readers are in for a thrilling ride. Excellent magic, details, and plot.

Kim Harrison’s site – http://www.kimharrison.net/

5. The Darwin Elevator (Dire Cycle #1) – Jason M. Hough
In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura. Syler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity. 

I admit it. I’m not a huge science-fiction, alien girl. But this trilogy has blown my mind. Filled with danger and adventure, secrets and wonderful heroes, I became a fan of the series almost instantly. It’s an amazing concept that I enjoyed every page by debut author Jason M. Hough. And even though the first one is only listed, the sequels are just as good.

Jason M. Hough can be found here – http://www.jasonhough.com/

4. Clean (Mindspace Investigations #1) – Alex Hughes
A RUTHLESS KILLER—OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND. I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars. My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it—real scary. Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.

Telepaths and technology come hand in hand in this detective series. Like I mentioned, I have a craving for wounded, addicted heroes and Adam is no exception. An interesting story that will have you looking at computers and people in a whole new way.

Alexandra Hughes is one of my writing influences and her website is here: http://www.ahugheswriter.com/

3. Trapped (Iron Druid #5) – Kevin Hearne
After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave. Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists. 

One of my favorite urban fantasy narrators. Humorous, action-packed, and full of myths, legends, and supernatural creatures. This is also one of my favorite series of all time. I love Atticus and I loved this book in particular; readers will love this comical hero.

Kevin Hearne can be found here: http://kevinhearne.com/

2. Deadly Sting (Elemental Assassin #8) – Jennifer Estep
Red is definitely my color. Good thing, because in my line of work, I end up wearing it a lot. Most people shy away from blood, but for an assassin like me— Gin Blanco, aka the Spider—it’s just part of the job. Still, it would be nice to get a night off, especially when I’m attending the biggest gala event of the summer at Briartop, Ashland’s fanciest art museum. But it’s just not meant to be. For this exhibition of my late nemesis’s priceless possessions is not only the place to be seen, but the place to be robbed and taken hostage at gunpoint as well. No sooner did I get my champagne than a bunch of the unluckiest thieves ever burst into the museum and started looting the place. Unlucky why? Because I brought along a couple of knives in addition to my killer dress. Add these to my Ice and Stone magic, and nothing makes me happier than showing the bad guys why red really is my color.

Another epic installment of Gin Blanco’s saga. An assassin full of revenge, bloodlust, and love for BBQ, this series is addicting and one of my favorites. Although Gin may have the power and guts and glory, she’s also got a dark side that will leave readers understanding why it is she does what she does.

Jennifer Estep also writes young adult paranormal and superhero romance. She’s one of my writing idols. Her website can be found here: http://www.jenniferestep.com/

1. Thieftaker – D.B. Jackson
Boston, 1765: In D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family. Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can’t stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see. 

I don’t think there’s anything I could say that could reveal how much I love this. American Revolution? Yes. Male hero? Yes. Magic? Yes. Originality? YES. This book is such a great start to a series I’ve already fallen madly in love with. New take on magic and the underground of old America. I highly recommend this to anyone with a hankering for history and fantasy combined, sealing it as number one in 2013 in my heart.

D.B. Jackson can be found here with his Thieftaker sequels: http://www.dbjackson-author.com/

And that wraps up my favorites for 2013. I’m ready for another year of good books, how about you?

My Top Ten Young Adult Books Of 2013

I know I don’t post here often but that will change soon enough. I’ve got a project up and coming that I hope will prove interesting. But for now I’d like to post my top ten books of 2013 for genres in Young Adult and Urban Fantasy. Young Adult is listed below for this post. Please note that these are books that I have READ in 2013, but weren’t necessarily published in 2013 (although the majority of them were). I’ll be counting down from ten to one, giving a little insight to the book and links to the author’s page. Feel free to leave comments on your own top ten faves of this year. 

Young Adult 

10. Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson
There are no heroes.Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.
But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. 
He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Like all the books on my list, I LOVED this one. Revenge, justice, lots of anger and redemption. The hero has a lot of qualities I adore in stubborn male characters. He has the amount of pride that moves the story along and captures the attention. And since I’ve always been a big fan of the idea of superheroes, it made me love it even more. 

Brandon Sanderson also writes the fantasy series Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive. He can be found here: http://brandonsanderson.com/

9. Quintana of Charyn – Melina Marchetta
There’s a babe in my belly that whispers the valley, Froi. I follow the whispers and come to the road . . .Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn’s unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn’s war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

The third installment to the Lumatere chronicles satisfies my lust for high fantasy quite well. Froi and Quintana are magnetic and pull you under their spell so you desperately crave for that happy ending. 

Melina Marchetta is a wonderful Australian writer and can be found here – http://melinamarchetta.wordpress.com/ 

8. The Pirate’s Wish – Cassandra Rose Clarke
After setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword and their wits. But Naji has unseen enemies, and Ananna must face the wrath of the Pirate Confederation. Together, they must travel afar, defeat their foes and break the mother of all curses. With all this going on, falling in love would be such a bad idea… All of this and much, much more await, in the swashbuckling sequel to The Assassin’s Curse.

Pirates…romance…sword fights….Damn, this was a good one. I love the author’s writing style and how her characters have such strange chemistry. It’s a very original, unique follow up to the Assassin’s Curse and I’m eagerly awaiting to read the third installment. 

Cassandra Rose Clarke can be found here – http://www.cassandraroseclarke.com/

7. The Collector – Victoria Scott
He makes good girls…bad. Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence have made him one of hell’s best—a soul collector. His job is simple: weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag. Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal-opportunity collector and doesn’t want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment: Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within ten days. Dante doesn’t know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of hell. But after Dante meets the quirky Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect, he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector…and uncover emotions deeply buried.

Stepping away from high fantasy for a bit to highlight a 2013 debut author Victoria Scott. Her Collector series, featuring the super-sexy Dante Walker, is full of laughs and great plot. This is a series that left me giggling and waiting eagerly for the second. The third and final installment to the trilogy is set to release in 2014. (Remind me again why it can’t be today? I mean, come on, early Christmas present?!) 

Join Victoria Scott and her V-Mafia here: http://www.victoriascottya.com/

6. The Art Of Wishing – Lindsay Ribar
He can grant her wishes, but only she can save his life. Margo McKenna has a plan for just about everything, from landing the lead in her high school play to getting into a good college. So when she finds herself in possession of a genie’s ring and the chance to make three wishes, she doesn’t know what to do. Why should she put her life into someone else’s hands? But Oliver is more than just a genie — he’s also a sophomore at Margo’s high school, and he’s on the run from a murderer. As he and Margo grow closer, she discovers that it will take more than three wishes to save him. A whole lot more.

I wants the sequel. I admit it. I’m lame and tend to get tired of the same old “boy/girl meets girl/boy and one has a secret power that brings the other into their world full of prophecies and secrets and all that” but this refreshed my mind. I love Margot and her budding relationship with Oliver. The romance is sweet and just what I was looking for.

Learn more about Lindsay Ribar’s books and life here: http://lindsayribar.com/

5. The Trials Of Renegade X – Chelsea Campbell
Can a half villain ever be a full hero? Damien Locke didn’t choose for his supervillain mom to disown him — just because he sort of defied her and ruined her evil plans to take over Golden City — and he didn’t choose for his superpower to be flying, a superhero ability that involves his least favorite thing: heights. But now that he’s living with his dad’s superhero family and enrolling at Heroesworth Academy, he’s ready to embrace his new life, get his H, and finally belong somewhere. But belonging isn’t as easy as signing up for classes, and Damien finds himself struggling to fit in more than ever.
Just when he’s sure his fate as a hero has been decided, though, he gets a new villain power that he can’t control. And things only get worse when he accidentally screws up one of his sidekick Sarah’s gadgets, altering her personality and turning her into a crazed, anti-supervillain vigilante — leaving him no choice but to team up with her annoying superhero boyfriend if he hopes to have any chance of getting the old Sarah back, before she captures — or kills — another supervillain like him.

Aaaannd superhero/villain love. Damien – oh Damien – you angsty goofball. If you’re looking for some action, humor, and a tinge of romance, Renegade X is what you need. This series is full of explosive danger, evil villains, and laser-shooting mamas. 

Chelsea M. Campbell and her comic book hero can be found here: http://www.chelseamcampbell.com/

4. Grave Mercy – Robin LaFevers 
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

When I first read the back cover for this book, my brain went….”WHAT? ASSASSIN NUNS YOU SAY?” To say the least, I bought it. So glad I did. This book will hook you from page one. Full of intrigue and beautiful, weapon-wielding characters, this is one book that had me up way past my bedtime. Such a unique, fresh idea and great story line to match. 

R.L. La Fevers and her books can be found here: http://www.robinlafevers.com/

3. Falling Kingdoms – Morgan Rhodes
In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects’ lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined: Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct. Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making. Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield. Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . . The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and more yes. Every time I think of this book, my whole day just gets better. I love high fantasy and I love this series. The characters are so wonderfully done (my heart currently belongs to Magnus) and this plot line is just one of the best I’ve seen. They say the series is the Game Of Thrones for teens and well, with all the action, betrayal, politics, and magic, I can see why. But I feel it’s much more than that – a wonderful story that blends genres so beautifully, this book will have you emotional for days. 

Morgan Rhodes is one of my writing muses. http://www.fallingkingdoms.com/ is her pseudonym site. (She also writes under Michelle Rowen.)

2. Deception – C.J. Redwine
While the other girls in the walled city-state of Baalboden learn to sew and dance, Rachel Adams learns to track and hunt. While they bend like reeds to the will of their male Protectors, she uses hers for sparring practice. When Rachel’s father fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the city’s brutal Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector: her father’s apprentice, Logan—the boy she declared her love to and who turned her down two years before. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

I’m not even sure I can come up with words to describe how much I love number one and two on my list. But C.J. Redwine is like my hero. This is just the kind of book I love – the characters have a history, the females are badass, and it’s got fantasy, magic, and danger. If I could see a movie come to life based on a book, this would be in the top three. Rachel has a beautiful soul that just shines when she’s with Logan and her father. I adore this series.

C.J. Redwine is also one of my writing influences. Her site is here: http://cjredwine.blogspot.com/

1. The Burning Sky – Sherry Thomas
It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death. Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal. But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Holy shit. Just yes. Hooked me from the first page. Wonderful, vivid imagery. Beautiful characters. Blazing romance. Magic, deception, danger… Man, this is all I wanted for Christmas. Such an epic story. When is the sequel coming out again? 

Sherry Thomas writes romance for teens and adults. Her website is here: http://www.sherrythomas.com/

And there you have it. My top ten choices for young adult in 2013. The urban fantasy list will be posted later today. 

Francesca’s Song Book .001

Title: Drowning
Album: Cadence

Verse 1: 
You pull me under – like there’s nothing to save
Just hear my own breath, sink in my grave
Lately I have been silent, waiting for you
You never choose

I can’t wait for you to see
That in this life we’re meant to rise
I can’t trust that you’ll concede
All your thoughts and memories
Every day I prove, I prove
That I’m better than you

Verse 2:
I’ve lost my patience yearning for bliss
And I’ve forgotten sweet ignorance
Lately I have been quiet, craving the truth
And that’s all I do

Chorus x1

Break me – hate me, pull me down once more
Lie to me, fail to see – you’re just hurting yourself
Under this ocean I can swim, I can breathe, I can live
So what about you? 

Chorus x1

Second Chorus: 
I can’t wait for you to see
That in this life we’re meant to rise
I can’t trust that you’ll concede
All your thoughts and memories
Every day I prove, I prove
That I’m over you 

Cooking & Writing .001



While working on a scene in Fire, I was reminded of how Easton’s Grandpa likes to make wings. He just seems like a finger-food kind of guy who likes a lot of spice in his life. So I found an excellent Bobby Flay recipe I think Grandpa would definitely make. I’m going to try these Monday. Should be tasty. 

For the Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (Bobby likes cabrales)
2 tablespoons finely grated red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Wings:
Peanut oil, for frying
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 pounds chicken wings, split at the joint, tips removed
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon New Mexico chili powder
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
1 stick unsalted butter, quartered
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Jicama sticks, for serving
Make the sauce: Combine the yogurt, blue cheese, red onion, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Make the wings: Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a large high-sided pan until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees F.

Stir together the flour, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder and the garlic powder in a shallow bowl. Season the wings with salt and pepper and add in batches to the flour mixture to lightly coat. Tap off the excess flour, add the wings to the oil in batches and fry until golden brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Bring the vinegar, chipotle puree, the remaining 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder and the New Mexico chili powder to a simmer in a large high-sided saute pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, the honey and butter until smooth. Add the wings and toss to coat. Garnish with cilantro, if desired, and serve with the jicama sticks and blue cheese sauce.

Yields: 6 servings/Prep Time: 15 min/Inactive: 30 min/Cook time: 10 min