Friday, June 29, 2012

What's Fresh with Amanda Ashby's Mixed Up Magic series!!

After Sophie accidentally gets herself turned into a djinn, she starts to think that it might not be so bad after all. (Of course, that's after she gets the whole orange skin problem sorted out.) Who wouldn't enjoy having the power to grant wishes! But when Sophie develops RWD (Random Wish Disorder) and can't STOP granting wishes, things get more than a little mixed-up!

Hello Amanda, thanks so much for visiting YA Fresh! Please share with our readers at YA Fresh what your new Middle Grade series is about.

Amanda: Sophie’s Mixed-Up Magic is about an eleven-year old girl called Sophie Campbell, who accidently manages to get turned into a djinn (genie) the day before she starts sixth grade. She then has to control her new djinn magic and make sure that her troublesome djinn guide Malik doesn’t cause too many problems, all while hiding it from her mom, who is going through a very hard time.

Book One: Wishful Thinking: After Sophie accidentally gets herself turned into a djinn, she starts to think that it might not be so bad after all. (Of course, that's after she gets the whole orange skin problem sorted out.) Who wouldn't enjoy having the power to grant wishes! But when Sophie develops RWD (Random Wish Disorder) and can't STOP granting wishes, things get more than a little mixed-up!

Book Two: Under a Spell: As Sophie gets used to her magic, her relationship with the adorable Jonathan Tait is blossoming. There's only one problem: Jonathan's twin sister, Melissa. She's a total mean girl who seems intent on making Sophie's life miserable. On top of that, Melissa somehow seems to sense that Sophie has powers--and manages to bind Sophie to her in a totally self-serving way. Can Sophie figure out a way out of this--without ruining her chances with Jonathan?

Book Three: Out of Sight: With her powers under control and things with Jonathan on track, Sophie can now focus on learning the whole truth about her dad (not to mention trying to figure out how she can save him and bring him back to their family). Fortunately, she's got Malik, her djinn-guide, to help her as she navigates carpet-flying, learns how to make herself invisible, and braces herself for what promises to be a very exciting adventure. But if it brings her dad back, it will all be worth it!

How did you come up with the idea for this awesome series?

Amanda: I grew up watching shows like Bewitched , I Dream of Jeannie and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir so I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of someone having a secret life that they can’t share with the rest of the world. However, I can’t remember quite why I decided to make Sophie a djinn. It was one of those things that just evolved, but I did know very early on that it would happen the day before she started sixth grade, because I'm evil and cruel and I really wanted to see how she would juggle it all!!!!

When you need that extra push to keep writing, what motivates you to do so?

Amanda: Books. Whenever I read an amazing book it always inspires me to try and do a better job with my own writing! Okay, and yes, I occasionally resort to chocolate as well…

Thanks so much for sharing, Amanda! What can readers expect from you next?

Amanda: The third Sophie book will be out in October and next summer I have a new YA book out called Demonosity, which I’m very excited about. It has alchemist magic, demon knights and it really explores the fine line between good and bad! It is also filled to the brim with lovely boys. I have four of them and I kind of adore them all!!!!!

Amanda Ashby was born in Australia and after spending the last sixteen years dividing her time between England and New Zealand, she’s finally moved back and now lives on the Sunshine Coast. When she’s not moving country, she likes to write books (okay, she also likes to eat chocolate, watch television and sit around doing not much, but let’s just keep that amongst ourselves, shall we?)

She has a degree in English and Journalism from the University of Queensland and is married with two children. Her debut book, You Had Me at Halo was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award, and her first young adult book Zombie Queen of Newbury High was listed by the New York Public Library’s Stuff for the Teen Age 2010. Her latest release, Fairy Bad Day, has been selected by Voya as one of their Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers 2012 and is a SCBWI Crystal Kite Award finalist for the Australia/NZ region. Visit her website:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chicken and Waffles???

When I first heard the term “chicken and waffles,” I thought it was a joke.  Like tuna and ice cream? Corn Flakes and meatballs?  What???

But lately, many people here on the west coast have been mentioning to me how much they love that meal.  I did a little research and discovered the combo started in the southeast, perhaps as far back as the 1800’s, usually as a “hearty Sunday morning breakfast” in African-American communities. 

Okay, I love southern cooking.  I love fried chicken.  I love waffles.  So what was I waiting for?

Last Friday, I grabbed a couple family members and off we went the chicken-and-waffle place.  I ordered the classic plate. 

When it arrived, I admit it looked strange to my eye.  First I tried the fried chicken, which I have to say, was extremely well seasoned and tasty.  Then I tried the waffle with butter and syrup, which was less sweet than I was accustomed to, yet surprisingly and pleasantly cinammony.  Then I took bites together.

Eureka!  It was wonderful!  A new fan is born!

So while I am not going to become a regular there--let’s be honest, you pay for your pleasure with the calorie and fat count--I will now applaud its togetherness, and definitely go back for more!

How about you?  Tried chicken and waffles?  Or do you want to?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What's Fresh with Myra McEntire's Timepiece

Kaleb Ballard was never supposed to be able to see ripples—cracks in time. Are Kaleb’s powers expanding, or is something very wrong? Before Kaleb can find out, Jonathan Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, reappears. Why is he back, and what, or whom, does he want?

In the wake of Landers’s return, the Hourglass organization is offered an ultimatum by a mysterious man. Either they find Landers and the research he has stolen on people who might carry the time gene, or time will be altered—with devastating results for the people Kaleb loves most.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their extraordinary powers to find Landers. But where do they even start? And when? Even if they succeed, just finding him may not be enough...

The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science-fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts.

Hi Myra! Thank you for chatting with us on YA Fresh! Timepiece sounds awesome! What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing "process"?

Myra: Favorite is editing, least favorite is drafting!

What was the main inspiration for Timepiece?

Myra: It’s a sequel, so it started talking when I was still working on the first book!

Who would you cast if your book was made into a movie?

Myra: Ryan Gosling. For every. Single. Part.

LOL! Great answer. What is your worst writing distraction/procrastination tool?

Myra: The TWITTER. Oh the Twitter. It’s my dragon, and I have no sword.

Thanks for sharing, Myra! Best of luck with your writing!

Hey YA Freshers! Myra has a contest on her site - - that will run until June 25th. She’ll be giving away signed copies of HOURGLASS and TIMEPIECE, signed posters of the covers, a goodie basket inspired by her characters, and signed books from other authors! Be sure to check it out!

Myra McEntire knows the words to every R&B hit of the last decade, but since she lives in Nashville, the country music capital of America, her lyrical talents go sadly unappreciated. She's chosen, instead, to channel her "mad word skills" into creating stories. She's an avid Doctor Who fan and will argue passionately about which incarnation is the best.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What's Fresh with Natalie Dias Lorenzi

We welcome Natalie Dias Lorenzi to our blog today, to talk about her debut middle grade release. entitled FLYING THE DRAGON, Kirkus gave it a starred review, calling it “A quiet, beautifully moving portrayal of a multicultural family.”

Hello, Natalie! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale? 

Natalie: My first sale took a circuitous route, to say the least! When I signed with my agent back in 2006, I had an offer from a small, new publishing house. My agent and I decided not to take the offer because their distribution was very limited at the time. The house ended up folding a few years later, unfortunately, so I’m glad I listened to my agent’s advice. 

After about a year, we decided to talk revisions. At the time, FLYING THE DRAGON had only one main character, Hiroshi, a boy who moves from Japan to the US and feels like a total fish-out-of-water. There was a girl in his class, Skye, who wasn’t very nice to him at all. She’s half-Japanese, half-Caucasian, but considers herself 100% American. When her parents make her give up her spot on the All-Star soccer team in order to attend Saturday Japanese school, she needs Hiroshi’s help to pass her exams and get back to playing soccer. When my agent and I were brainstorming revision paths for this manuscript, we agreed that Skye was itching to tell her side of the story. So I opened up a blank document (gulp!) and started over, this time alternating chapters between Hiroshi and Skye. As I did this, I got to know Skye better and realized that she wasn’t really the mean girl that I’d painted in earlier drafts of the story. 

It took me almost two years to finish this revision. Once it was finished, though, it took about four months before we received the offer from Charlesbridge in November of 2010, almost four years after I’d queried my agent.  

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule. 

Natalie: Oh, if only I had a writing routine! Aside from teaching, I’m taking coursework towards an LMS (Library Media Specialist) endorsement so that I can become a full-time school librarian. I also do freelance work—I’m a contributing writer for Scholastic’s Instructor magazine, and I create curriculum guides for children’s authors. The tricky thing about writing for yourself is that you have no deadline. I have article deadlines and curriculum guide deadlines, and report card deadlines at school. But before you sell that first book, there are no deadlines. What keeps me writing on a regular basis is my critique group. For the past seven years, we’ve taken turns subbing pages to each other every Wednesday, and sometimes the only pages I write are those that I know I’ll need to sub to them when my turn comes around. In general, though, I tend to write in the evenings when everyone in my house has gone to sleep. And since I have the summers off, I get the most writing done between June and August.

Please tell us about your novel, FLYING THE DRAGON, and what we can expect from your characters.

Natalie:  Here’s a blurb:  American-born Skye knows very little of her Japanese heritage. Her father taught her to speak the language, but when their estranged Japanese family, including Skye's grandfather, suddenly move to the United States, Skye must be prepared to give up her All-Star soccer dreams to take Japanese lessons and to help her cousin, Hiroshi adapt to a new school. Hiroshi, likewise, must give up his home and his hopes of winning the rokkaku kite-fighting championship with Grandfather. Faced with language barriers, culture clashes and cousin rivalry, Skye and Hiroshi have a rocky start. But a greater shared loss brings them together. They learn to communicate, not only through language, but through a common heritage and sense of family honor. At the rokkaku contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival, Hiroshi and Skye must work as a team in order to compete with the best.

I’ve lived overseas both as a child (in Germany) and an adult (in Italy and Japan), so Hiroshi’s fish-out-of-water experience is something that springs from my own life. As an ESL teacher, I work with kids like Hiroshi and Skye every day—from bewildered newcomers who struggle with the language and culture to kids who have assimilated into American culture much to their parents’ dismay. My own kids straddle two cultures—my American culture and my husband’s Italian culture. All of those experiences have ended up, one way or the other, in my characters. For readers who have moved to a new town or state or country, I hope they will see themselves in Hiroshi. For kids who feel caught between two cultures—not fully belonging to either one—I hope they will see themselves in Skye. And for those who have grown up in the same town all their lives, I’m hoping Hiroshi’s and Skye’s stories will lend some insight into what it’s like to be the new kid.
What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Natalie:  I have several things I’ll be working on this summer—revising a young adult novel, tinkering with an idea for a humorous middle grade novel, and revisiting a few picture book manuscripts. If only summer were six months long!

Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Natalie:  One thing that I like to do with emotional scenes (happy, sad, angry, etc.) is to listen to songs that reconnect me with a time when I felt the same way as I need my character to feel in a scene. The circumstances may be different, but the emotional core is the same. For example, your teen main character has just been asked out by her crush, go back and listen to a song from high school or college that reminds you of a crush you had at the time. Lots of writers make playlists of songs that they think their main characters would listen to, but add some songs that elicit the emotions that you and your main character share. 

Thanks so much to Natalie for visiting us here at YA Fresh, and we hope our readers will check out her wonderful book!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

what's Fresh with Elana Johnson

The thrilling and seductive sequel to Possession puts love on the line in a dystopian struggle for independent thought. Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control… Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi. All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque…

Hi Elana, so great to have you chat with us! Please tell us what your latest novel, Surrender, is about.

Elana: SURRENDER is the second book in the POSSESSION series. It’s a novel about Raine and Gunner, two teens who live in the capital city of the Association, who join the underground rebellion against the government.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Elana:  I didn’t realize actual people WROTE books until I tried writing one myself. I was 30 years old. So no, I’ve actually never wanted to be a writer.

What made you decide to go that “extra step” and seek publication?

Elana:  I sort of have a pit bull personality. Once I start something and sink my teeth into it, I don’t let go until it’s finished. So once I’d written a book, the next natural step was to figure out how to get it published.

Quick! You’ve been chosen to go on Survivor. What luxury item do you take?

Elana:  Sunscreen. I’m seriously so allergic to the sun. I would die out there.

haha! Thanks for sharing, Elana! Best of luck with your writing!

Elana's work including POSSESSION, REGRET, and SURRENDER is available from Simon & Schuster wherever books are sold. She is the author of From the Query to the Call, an ebook that every writer needs to read before they query, which can be downloaded for free on her website. She runs a personal blog on publishing and is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog. She blogs regularly at The League of Extraordinary Writers, co-organizes WriteOnCon, and can be found on Twitter and Facebook. She wishes she could experience her first kiss again, tell the mean girl where to shove it, and have cool superpowers like reading minds and controlling fire. To fulfill her desires, she writes young adult science fiction and fantasy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Thanks to all who chatted up YA books they want to read this summer.  Our $10 Amazon Gift Card goes to...


Please e-mail me at with your contact information, and I'll get that gift card on its way to you, Aishah!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Summer Reading! (Giveaway)

I am putting together my YA summer reading list, filling it with some brand new titles (Mercury in Retro Love by Janie Emaus, Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein) and as well as some older ones (Ostrich Eye by Beth Cooley, Saving Zoe by Alyson  Noel).

I thought it would be fun to get our readers' input, and offer up a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one commenter.  So please, name a title or two for us that you plan to read over the next few months...and then check back on Monday to learn the (randomly chosen) winner's name!