Top 5 Monsters from the Big Screen by Sarah S. Reida, author of MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION

Halloween season means monster movies! Thank goodness we have Monsterville author, Sarah S. Reida, to help us pick the best scary guys from the big screen. Now, if you need us, we’ll be hiding under the bed and hoping we don’t find ourselves Down Below!

The title character of Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production, is a huge movie fan. That’s why she’s bummed when her family moves from exciting NYC to the sticks of Freeburg, Pennsylvania. How can Lissa break into the movie business if she’s trapped in the middle of nowhere?

If she finds a shape-shifting goblin, that’s how! Add the ready-made set of her parents’ creepy new woods, and Lissa has all the makings of her very own monster movie. Freeburg ain’t so boring after all.

To create her masterpiece, Lissa does some research – she watches monster movies! Now, just in time for Halloween, she’d like to share her top five monster picks with you. Sure, you probably recognize all of them, but did you know Lissa’s fun facts before reading this blog?


Number Five – Sully (Monsters, Inc.)



Voiced by John Goodman, an actor with the rare distinction of appearing in two successive Best Picture winners (The Artist, Argo), Sully is a towering, huggable-looking creature. Bill Murray was the top pick to voice this character in Pixar’s monster hit, but he had (has) no agent and the filmmakers were unable to reach him to give him the part.

Number Four – Maurice (Little Monsters)



Played by America’s Got Talent judge, Howie Mendel, Maurice befriends Brian (Fred Savage) after climbing out from underneath his bed in his new home in Chicago. Capitalizing on the enormous popularity of Fred Savage (who was then appearing in The Wonder Years), the film also features Daniel Stern, who provided the voice-over in that show, as well as Fred’s real-life little brother, Ben (of Boy Meets World).


Number Three – The Gremlins



Gremlins, as they came to be known in Steven Spielberg’s 1984 film, were loosely based on Roald Dahl’s (Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) very first children’s picture book, which was about mythical, mischievous creatures fond of sabotaging the British Royal Air Force’s aircraft. Howie Mandel (Howie! Again!) provided the voice for Gizmo (above).

Editor’s note: We  hope Lissa learned the importance of following the rules from these little guys. Gizmo may look cute, but watch out if you feed these guys after midnight or get them wet!


Number Two – Pennywise the Clown (It)


Singlehandedly responsible for ruining clowns for children across multiple generations, Pennywise is quite possibly Stephen King’s scariest creation. Played by Tim Curry in the television mini-series, Pennywise tempts children with balloons and is known for the phrase, “they all float down here!” You may recognize Tim Curry from his lead role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and as the hotel staffer intent on busting Kevin in Home Alone II.

Number One – Beetlejuice


Even though he refers to himself as “the ghost with the most,” Beetlejuice is more monster than ghost given his shenanigans. An early Tim Burton creation, Beetlejuice was played by Michael Keaton, who did such a great job that Burton insisted he be cast as the title character in Batman (across from the prolific Jack Nicholson as the Joker), which Burton was also directing. Years later, Michael Keaton would be robbed of the Best Actor Oscar for his incredible role in Birdman.

Not only does Lissa know movie trivia backwards and forwards, she knows monster movie rules. That comes in handy when Lissa’s little sister Haylie is kidnapped to the monster homeland of Down Below, and Lissa must use her movie knowledge (and a mysterious board game called Monsterville) as a vital tool to get her back.


9781510707337-frontcover Beware what lurks beneath your bed. . . . It could lead to a monstrous adventure.

Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is miserable when her parents force her to move from New York City (the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress) to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s nothing to do there, except play her little sister Haylie’s favorite new game, Monsterville, and hang out with her new neighbor Adam.

But when a walk in the woods lands her face-to-face with a swamp monster hungry for brains and then a Sasquatch that moos, even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring. With Adam’s help, she catches the culprit behind the drama: a shape-shifting goblin who’s fled from the monster world of Down Below.

And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? Make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.

But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and the monster must venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice.

“What a fun read! The perfect book for the boy scout who wants to be prepared in Monsterville, for the monster who can’t decide what to become, and (of course) for the director who might have to take on a starring role.” —Kelly Jones, author of Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

“An absolute delight. Full of humor with a fresh voice, and just plain fun to read.” —Penny Warner, two-time award-winning author of The Code Busters Club series

“Chutes and Ladders with monsters—and an aspiring filmmaker determined to capture them all. Sarah Reida’s Monsterville is creepy good fun! —Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, Mark Twain Award finalist for Ordinary Magic

“This book is the best fun, overflowing with humor and fabulous in its overturning of many movie cliches. While adults are chuckling at the jokes, kids will love puzzling over the chain of clues that lead Monsterville’s lovable heroes through the world of Down Below.” —Claire Fayers, author of Voyage to Magic North

sarah-edited Sarah Schauerte Reida is a writer, lawyer, and ugly animal advocate. Growing up in the Midwest (Illinois, to be precise), she read everything she could get her hands on, as well as watched many, many movies during her parents’ “camping” trips involving electricity and s’mores in a microwave. A member of The Sweet Sixteens, Sarah’s debut middle grade novel, “Monstervile: A Lissa Black Production,” is her first novel.
A graduate of Saint Louis University (B.A). and Case Western Reserve University School of Law (J.D.), Sarah makes a living helping veteran business owners compete for federal contracts. She and her husband Scott live in the Atlanta area with their dog and four cats. By the time this biography reaches print, they will probably have acquired another animal.

For fun movie trivia and resources for teachers and young film-makers, visit Sarah S. Reida’s website at  and follow her on Twitter at @SarahSReida.




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Danica Davidson on Writing the Unofficial Overworld Adventure Series

To celebrate the release of the sixth and final book in her Unofficial Overworld Adventure series, we asked Danica Davidson to talk about the experience of writing the series. Read on below, and be sure to check out Danica’s other books here!

When I started writing Escape from the Overworld, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if it were going to be a stand-alone book or a series, or what kids would think of my Minecraft/Earth worldbuilding.

Now there are six books in the series: Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine, and Battle with the Wither, which was just released this month. With all these books out, I can sit back and think how fun it’s been to tell all these stories and get to know these characters.

There are always bumps in writing, and some days my main character Stevie was a little more helpful than others in getting the words down (sometimes when you’re writing, it feels like your character is dictating it to you). Stevie turned out to be a really fun voice to tap into, because he’s so well-meaning but still makes plenty of mistakes, so he feels really honest.

Some of my favorite things about writing this series included Stevie’s total cluelessness about Earth culture and how to respond (like how he thinks fingers look like squid tentacles), the cast of characters (the kids Stevie, Maison, Alex, Yancy, and Destiny all have very distinct personalities), and trying to come up with cliffhangers for every chapter to keep the pace up. Yancy is the most entertaining character to write, because you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth (sometimes I don’t know until I’m writing!).

I also liked watching the characters grow, because on top of the action, I also wanted these books to have depth. Stevie is not the same person in Battle with the Wither that he was in Escape from the Overworld. I feel as if I grew as a person and as a writer during the course of this series. I’ve been writing stories since I was very little—I was dictating stories to my parents when I was three, and regularly writing novels starting in middle school—but after years of closed doors and rejection letters, these were my first published books, and they allowed me to call myself a professional novelist. I’ve wanted to be called that for years!

When you’re a writer, you get attached to your characters. Sometimes I even dream about these guys. I had a dream not long ago where Stevie was helping me sell copies of my books. Apparently he wanted everyone to know his story!

By the way, the release of each book was also a good excuse to pose my pets with the latest book, because I figure just about everyone likes pets. Can you say no to a pet and a book? I know I can’t, and I can’t say no to my characters, either.

porthosbook tippybook

Battle with the Wither by Danica Davidson

After finally defeating Herobrine and rescuing his father, Stevie is looking forward to putting the prophecy far behind him. Bidding his friends farewell, Stevie returns to the Overworld to make up for lost time with his dad.

But their reunion is cut short when a Wither attacks the Overworld, destroying their house. When Stevie rushes outside to survey the damage, he can’t believe his eyes; they’re surrounded by deadly ghasts, blazes, and zombie pigmen from the Nether! Somehow, Herobrine has found a way to retaliate from beyond the grave—and now the entire Overworld must face his vengeance.

In the exciting conclusion to the Unofficial Overworld Adventure series, it’s up to Stevie, his dad, and their friends to restore balance between the Overworld and the Nether, defeat the Wither, and—most importantly of all—protect each other.

Danica Davidson has written for MTV, The Onion, the Los Angeles Times and about fifty other publications. She is the author of the rest of the Overworld Adventure series, as well as the how-to guide Manga Art for Beginners, from Skyhorse Publishing.

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Live Chat with FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP Author Sarah Glenn Marsh

Here we go, folks! Please feel free to jump into the chat! And the transcript will live here after!


“Haunting—gripping—beautiful. So powerful!” —Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Beka Cooper trilogy

Live Blog Live Chat with FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP Author Sarah Glenn Marsh

And there’s more! We’re running a Rafflcopter! Sarah’s graciously agreed to sign a copy of Fear the Drowning Deep and we’ll be giving it away to one lucky winner. Enter below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Some secrets are better left at the bottom of the ocean.

Sixteen-year-old Bridey Corkill longs to leave her small island and see the world; the farther from the sea, the better. When Bridey was young, she witnessed something lure her granddad off a cliff and into a watery grave with a smile on his face. Now, in 1913, those haunting memories are dredged to the surface when a young woman is found drowned on the beach. Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her Granddad to leap has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, people in Bridey’s idyllic village begin vanishing, and she finds an injured boy on the shore—an outsider who can’t remember who he is or where he’s from. Bridey’s family takes him in so he can rest and heal. In exchange for saving his life, he teaches Bridey how to master her fear of the water—stealing her heart in the process.

But something sinister is lurking in the deep, and Bridey must gather her courage to figure out who—or what—is plaguing her village, and find a way to stop it before she loses everyone she loves.

e2bade3aa4885e31996644816c7838a0-300x300 Sarah Glenn Marsh writes young adult novels and children s picture books. An avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life, she s been making up words and worlds ever since. When she s not writing, she s most often engaged in pursuits of the nerd variety, from video games to tabletop adventures and dungeon crawls. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and four rescued greyhounds.

Fear the Drowning Deep is gorgeous. Lyrical. Atmospheric. Magical. Sarah Glenn Marsh’s debut is perfect for anyone who’s ever looked out at the sea with awe, and wondered what kind of creatures lurk in the deepest places. Utterly haunting.” —Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate trilogy, the Orphan Queen duology, and My Lady Jane

“Beautifully-written with mysteries and love lurking within the pages as dangerously as an ancient evil waits in the drowning deeps of Sarah’s unique setting on the Isle of Man. Don’t miss this one!” —Martina Boone, author of Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy

“Readers will be swept away by Bridey’s love story, every bit as thrilling and mysterious as the Isle of Man’s deep, dark sea.” —Tricia Rayburn, author of the Siren trilogy

“Sarah Glenn Marsh’s debut is a captivating tale of love and loss, fear and doubt, monsters of the sea and inside ourselves, and the strength it takes to endure and conquer them all. Hauntingly written with a richly developed setting of the Isle of Man in the early 1900s, you can smell the salt of the sea with every page you hungrily turn.” —Lori Goldstein, author of Becoming Jinn and Circle of Jinn

“[A]tmospheric historical fantasy . . . evocative setting, memorable characters, and use of obscure folkloric elements all contribute to the novel’s strong sense of place.” —Publishers Weekly

“[T]his watery take on “Beauty and the Beast” will be catnip to paranormal-romance readers.” —Kirkus Reviews


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Meet the New Pony: Q&A with Editor Becky Herrick



Sky Pony Press has just welcomed Becky Herrick to the team as editor! Becky is originally from Columbus, Ohio, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan. Most recently, she was an editor at Scholastic. To introduce her a bit more, we asked her a few quick questions:


Q: What type of books do you like to work on?

I like all different types of books and love working on a range of age levels (chapter book, middle grade, YA)! I especially love friendship stories and books that can make me laugh.


book books story read library

Q: What were your favorite books when you were growing up?

Matilda by Roald Dahl, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright


matilda book books reading reading gif


Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?

Do Disney movies from the 90’s count as classic? If so, Aladdin! Otherwise, probably The Sound of Music.

aww aw awww awwww aladdin


Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

DARK, always and forever



[Editor’s Note from Alison – We approve this SO much.]


Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An art teacher! I loved my elementary school art teacher, and I still love doing all different sorts of arts and crafts in my free time (when I’m not reading!). Last year I had a lot of fun taking a screen-printing class.



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A Novel by the Numbers: Yvonne Ventresca Adds Up Her Work on Black Flowers, White Lies


To celebrate the release of her second novel, Black Flowers, White Lies (in stores now!), Yvonne Ventresca added up all the work—and fun!—that went into bringing the book into the world. Read on to find out what goes into publishing a novel. And if you’re in the New York/New Jersey area, be sure to scroll down for info about celebrating with us this weekend!

I majored in both computer science and English in college and before I was an author, I worked as a computer programmer. Writing novels is definitely my preferred career. I was an avid reader growing up and loved getting lost in a good book. I’m thrilled that now I’m creating stories that other teens can lose themselves in!

Once in a while, though, my analytical background does assert itself, and I crave concrete data and statistics. Writers often discuss their creative process, but I thought it would be interesting to share a bit of my writer’s journey in numbers.

Books written: 6 – two nonfiction books (Publishing: Careers for the 21st Century and Avril Lavigne: People in the News), two unpublished novels, and two published novels, Pandemic (Sky Pony Press, 2014), and Black Flowers, White Lies (Sky Pony Press, 2016).

Hours it took to write Black Flowers, White Lies: After many failed attempts at telling this story, I stopped revising and started completely over. At this point, I also decided to track how I spent my work-related time. The version of the novel that was acquired by Sky Pony took 383 hours to draft.

Number of conferences where I workshopped the manuscript (over several years): 14

Words in Black Flowers, White Lies: Approximately 54,000

Hours spent revising Black Flowers, White Lies since acquisition: My best guess is 168 hours. I didn’t do a great job of separating revising and proofreading time from other post-acquisition tasks (like reviewing the cover or researching publicity leads).

Number of shelter cats mentioned by name in the story: 10

Time spent on social media (including asking friends for names of their cats to be used for shelter cats in the story):  I have no idea! This is one area I stopped tracking because the “social” time tends to get merged with book promotion and research tasks.

Readers who enjoy the book: A large number, I hope!

Want to learn more about Black Flowers, White Lies and meet Yvonne in person?


Yvonne is celebrating the release of Black Flowers, White Lies with a book launch party at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ on Sunday, October 16th, at 2:00 pm. It’s open to the public and there’s a link to the e-vite here.

Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a supernatural connection. When an eerie hand print appears on her mirror, she wonders if Dad’s warning her of danger as he did once before. Could her new too-good-to-be-true boyfriend be responsible? Or the grieving building superintendent? As the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, Ella becomes terrified about who—or what—might harm her. Soon the evidence points to Ella herself. What if, like her father, she’s suffering from a breakdown? Ella desperately needs to find answers, no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

Yvonne Ventresca Author PhotoYvonne Ventresca’s latest young adult novel, Black Flowers, White Lies, was recently published by Sky Pony Press. BuzzFeed included it at the top of their new “must read” books: 23 YA Books That, Without a Doubt, You’ll Want to Read This Fall. Her debut YA novel, Pandemic, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for the Atlantic region. You can learn more about Yvonne and her books at

Additional links for Yvonne: Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Instagram | Pinterest

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Live Chat with A MILLION TIMES GOODNIGHT author Kristina McBride

We’re so excited to be talking with Kristina McBride tonight! We hope you’ll join us! Transcript will live here afterwards.

We’ll be starting at 8 EDT. Feel free to leave questions in the comments section if you can’t make it–Alison will ask them. And if you have any questions about the chat, please feel free to tweet us at @skyponypress!

See you soon!

Live Blog Live Chat with Kristina McBride

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New for the Reader Who’s Gotta Catch ‘Em All!


Sky Pony is very excited to be releasing four brand new books for fans of Pokémon GO! Whether you’d rather crack open a guide to the game or read about kids who are just as obsessed with catching and battling Pokémon as we are, there’s something for everyone on sale now!

September 27, 2016:

Catching the Jigglypuff Thief by Alex Polan

Ethan, Devin, Carlo, and Gianna are Pokémon trainers—and with the help of their favorite Pokémon, from Pikachu to Charizard, they’re ready to take on both the real world and the virtual world in Pokémon GO. Determined to catch ‘em all, explore every PokéStop, and battle their way to the top, the friends join Team Mystic and spend their days hanging out at their local Gym, a doughnut shop.

But when someone breaks into the shop and steals a valuable batch of doughnuts, the friends are determined to put their brains and their games to work cracking the case. Then Devin discovers the first clue in her Pokédex; could the culprit be a member of Team Valor or Team Instinct, hoping to reduce the Gym’s Prestige? And can Team Mystic band together to track down the thief—and defend their Gym?

Fans of Pokémon GO will race to the end of this exciting first book in the Unofficial Adventures for Pokémon GO Players series!


Following Meowth’s Footprints by Alex Polan

following-meowths-footprintsWhen their neighbor’s cat goes missing, Ethan, Devin, Carlo, and Gianna grab their Poké Balls and Razz Berries and hit the streets to search for him. Along the way, they hope to catch a frisky Meowth, or even a legendary Mewtwo or mythical Mew.

But Team Mystic’s favorite Pokémon are just as elusive as the lost cat. Plus, someone or something is throwing the friends off track with misleading paw prints and meowing. Now the Pokémon-collectors-turned-sleuths have to choose which clues to follow—and which Pokémon to pursue. Can the friends use the knowledge and resourcefulness that earned their team its Prestige to find both the real cat and the Pokémon they dream of catching?

Fans of Pokémon GO will be on the edge of their seats as Team Mystic puts the clues together in this thrilling second book in the Unofficial Adventures for Pokémon GO Players series!


October 4, 2016:

Mini Hacks for Pokémon Go Players by Justin Ryan

Pokémon GO has taken the world by storm, and now everyone can play by using the Mini Hacks book to become a winner. If you’re a confused beginner, or a Level-Fifteen player, Mini Hacks for Pokémon GO Players will give you the basics on how to play the game. Includes tips and techniques for finding Pokémon, leveling up, PokéStops, and more. Also includes important information on issues like safety and extending battery life.

Written for Pokémon GO players ages seven and up, this book is an unofficial “hacker’s” guide to the game. The format follows Sky Pony’s bestselling Hacks for Minecrafters books, only in a smaller, more convenient mini size—but still contains the essential tricks and tips you need to become a Pokémon GO top level trainer!


Mini Hacks for Pokémon Go Players: Combat by Justin Ryan

mini-hacks-for-pokemon-go-combatPokémon GO has taken the world by storm, and now everyone can master the game by using the Mini Hacks book to play – and fight! Mini Hacks for Pokémon GO Players: Combat focuses on the battling element to the game. Includes tips and techniques for capturing Pokémon, training them in a gym, and then using them to battle other trainers. Which is, of course, the object of the game.

Written for Pokémon GO players ages seven and up, this book is an unofficial “hacker’s” guide to the game. The format follows our bestselling Hacks for Minecrafters books, only in a smaller, more convenient mini size—but still contains the essential tricks and tips you need to become a Pokémon GO top level trainer!

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Q&A with WELL OF PRAYERS author Anne Boles Levy


We’re delighted to have Anne Boles Levy, author of The Well of Prayers: Book II of the Temple of Doubt Series, joining us today on the blog. We can’t wait for her to share a little more about herself with us!

1. Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

I’ve never had a solid grip on reality, and fantasy always seemed like a fun escape. My brother loved fantasy growing up and back then, there were few female protagonists. So I’d read his books and imagine myself in them as a hero, not a love interest, and I never quite grew out of that phase.

2. What are you reading right now?

Tragically, I’m reading students’ composition notebooks right now, and my brain is numb. I have “Benchmark” by Georgie Hanlin and Shannon Swann sitting on my Kindle app, plus Anne A. Wilson’s “Clear to Lift,” which is a grown-up romance. Both authors live near me, and I’m making a bigger push to support authors I know, since they’ve done that for me. And both books look great! I just don’t have this little thing called “spare time,” at least until winter break.

3. If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

You would not believe how much I identified with the ugly duckling growing up. Even as a little kid, I was a misfit pretty much everywhere. I had zero social skills and, on an awkwardness scale of 1 to 10, I was about a 20. So even as a wee lass, the idea that I might grow up to be someone lovely had a special hold on me. In the meantime, I felt for that poor duckling and how no one accepted it with all its flaws.

4. Where’s your favorite place to write? 

In bed, with the laptop on my knees and the cat eyeing me suspiciously, because obviously if I have a laptop, I’m not about to feed him. And that makes me less than useless to him. I don’t know why, but it’s never the same without him there.

Image result for When Harry Met Sally5. What’s your favorite classic movie?

I’m a sucker for “When Harry Met Sally.” Once upon a time, I lived in New York and felt like maybe the city would sweep me off my feet, and I’d have a best friend-turned-soulmate and Harry Connick Jr. would provide the soundtrack for our lives, and we’d even have a cool apartment. Guess what — none of that happened. New York proved wildly expensive and depressing, and the love of my life met up with me in Florida, before schlepping me off to Arizona, where my kids’ favorite anime soundtracks are more of a constant background noise. But I still love the movie.

6. If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?Image result for Buckbeak

One of my students suggested a hippogriff, but sadly, the question doesn’t say it allows mythical beasts, though that would be the coolest. So if you’re not going to let me fly around on Buckbeak, I have to admit I’m a hardcore cat lady. We only have one right now, but we aim to grow our little family. My husband told my daughter we’d get a kitten if she got straight A’s, which prompted all her grades to drop to basement levels. Sigh. So I’m waiting until either my husband or daughter gives in. It is hard to live with stubborn people, which is why I need more cats.

7. Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

DARK. How is this even a question?

8. What’s your favorite holiday?

Oooh … tough one. I guess it has to be Thanksgiving because it has so many happy associations. I grew up going to my aunt and uncle’s and eating myself silly. So much good food, and all my old great aunties would fuss over me. There was so much love there, even with all the gossiping and chaos and never-ending family feuds. It’s where I got the idea for my character’s sprawling family.

In recent years, it’s just been the four of us, plus my mother-in-law, but I think we’re going to start asking other folks over who don’t have other relatives around. My husband is a wonder with a carving knife, and I love the smell of all those yummies baking. And it’s a holiday that can be depressing if spent alone, so all the more reason to open our doors.

9. What’s your favorite emoji?Image result for eyeroll gif

For some mystifying reason, it doesn’t exist yet. It’s the “I’ve run out of f—-s to give” and features the eyes rolling. I would use it for about two-thirds of my Facebook feed, at least until after the election.

10. What did you want to grow up to be when you were your character’s age?

Big surprise – I always wanted to be a writer. I definitely didn’t want to be a teacher. I’m both now, and life is pretty good. It’s important to be open to possibilities.

The Well of Prayers: Book II of the Temple of Doubt Series

The follow-up to The Temple of Doubt, by the author who Jonathan Maberry called “a powerful new voice in teen fantasy fiction. . . . Expect great things!”

Hadara, now sixteen years old, is still recovering from the night she assisted the Azwans, mighty magi, in destroying a demon that fell from the stars. She has a new job as an apprentice healer and wants to put her past—and her doubts—behind her.

On the planet Kuldor and beyond, it is deemed a sin to doubt the god Nihil’s magic, and heresy to fail to worship him correctly. The Azwans, still on Hadara’s island home, have begun punishing disbelievers with a vengeance.

Hadara can’t shake her own skepticism, though, especially when she suspects that the demon they destroyed isn’t entirely gone. What if bits and pieces are, in fact, floating around inside her and maybe taking root? Since she stood at the altar that fateful night, she’s developed the ability to understand foreign tongues, among other odd talents she never had before. Had she perhaps swallowed some part of the dying demon? She suspects no one can answer that question for her, but she doesn’t trust anyone enough to ask it.

But then a temple guard who she once thought was dead comes back into her life and points her toward new truths and a new sense of purpose: somewhere in the murky jungles surrounding her city, another people beckon her and demand she fulfill the destiny foretold by the falling star.

Anne Boles Levy currently teaches English to middle schoolers after more than two decades of writing and editing for print, web, and radio. Anne is a graduate of Smith College and studied abroad at University College London. She also has her master’s in journalism from Columbia University. Anne is an amateur silversmith and the absentminded wife to her long-suffering husband, Brett. They run around after two children and a cat in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Visit her online at and on Twitter @zaftigbabe.

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Writing a Villain – a Guest Post by Amalie Howard

Amalie Howard, author of many books including Alpha GoddessThe Almost Girl, and The Fallen Prince is the queen at writing nasty, nefarious types. Today, she joins us to tell us the ins and outs of writing a really great bad guy.

As a kid, when everyone else wanted to be Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or Princess Leia, I was the kid who wanted to be Darth Vader.

*whispers to you* . . . come to the dark side . . . 

I don’t consider myself to be a villain, but I do appreciate both sides of the battle as well as the lure of being bad. Because, let’s face it, villains can be awesome. And not only are they awesome, but they’re crucial to most stories. The villain is the antagonist that makes the role and journey of your protagonist so much more meaningful. Put in the simplest terms, they’re meant to keep your hero from reaching his (or her) goals. They’re the obstacles to the hero’s journey. The stone in his shoe. The sand in his swimsuit. The Joker to his Batman. The Voldemort to his Harry Potter. You get the picture.

That said, there are many different kinds of villains: villains who become twisted through some life-altering event or quirk of nature, villains who are simply born bad, villains who like being evil, villains who want to preserve the greater good, villains who have no choice but to be villains, and villains who are heroes in disguise.

But my favorite type of villain is hands-down the complex, misunderstood kind. The kind where the definition of villainous is mired in shades of gray, where moral nihilism starts to beg the question. What’s right? What’s wrong? Who defines goodness and/or badness? Is this villain truly a villain?

Megamind is a great example of this. He’s not inherently evil, but was pegged from the start into that role because of circumstance. In the end, he turns out to be the true hero of the story. Another example of a character often portrayed in a villainous light is Kali in East Indian mythology. She has a bad reputation for being a berserker killer goddess, but a lot of her fury comes from her deep-rooted protective instinct, much like a ferocious mother bear defending her cubs. She is considered to be the great mother goddess, capable of terrible destruction and yet also representative of powerful and nurturing female power. I like that combination of strength and ferocity (which is why I am writing about her in my next YA book, Dark Goddess, out in Spring 2017 from Sky Pony Press).

For me, writing a good villain (not an oxymoron by the way) is essential to my stories. And by “good,” I mean well-rounded, multi-dimensional, and layered. A good villain has to be as fleshed out as much as the hero. As the creator, you have to understand what drives him, what his motives are, what he wants so that these are transparent to your readers. His goals (nefarious as they may be) are just as important as the hero’s. At the end of the day, he is the surrounding pressure—the mold that helps shape your hero into the person he is meant to be. A good villain fosters urgency, creates impetus, causes challenges, incites tension. In short, this friction is what give your story its kinetic energy . . . the force that keeps it moving from page to page. One of the biggest things I talk about in my creative writing workshops is your character’s GMC or Goals, Motivation, and Conflict. Each character must have a goal they are working towards, motivation that drives them to achieve this goal, and the conflict that keeps them from getting there. The cool thing about villain/hero conflict is that their goals will usually be at opposing ends of the spectrum, which can make for very interesting tension.

In my own writing, I like to keep my readers guessing as to who the true villain is. Often, I’ll have a character who checks all of the boxes, but will turn out to be an ally. Conversely, I also enjoy writing characters who may seem wonderful on the outside but may have secret agendas. My favorite villains are the ones you don’t see coming.

Some tips on writing a good villain:

  1. Make sure your villain is complex, layered, and multidimensional. (He is a reflection of the hero so put as much work into him as you would your hero.)
  2. Give him real goals and motivation that make sense in the framework of your story.
  3. Create a believable backstory that brings value to his narrative.
  4. Avoid typical villain clichés (long speeches, disfigured, vain, jealous, angry at the world, abusive, sinister, over-dramatic, dressed in black, etc.)
  5. Surprise your reader.

Some well-done villains in literature:

  1. Alex DeLarge—A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  2. Dolores Umbridge—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  by J.K. Rowling (In many ways, I see her as even more evil than Voldemort.)
  3. Coulter—His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
  4. Ramsay Bolton—A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (I really, really, REALLY hated him.)
  5. Count Dracula—Dracula by Bram Stoker
  6. The White Witch—Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis


Howard, Amalie - Alpha Goddess

Amalie Howard is the award-winning IndieNext author of Alpha Goddess, The Riven Chronicles, the Aquarathi series, and the Cruentus Curse series. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Summer Read.

Her next novel with Sky Pony, Dark Goddess, is a sequel to Alpha Goddess, and will release in Spring 2017.

She currently resides with her husband and three children in Colorado.

Visit her online at or follow her on Twitter @amaliehoward




Alpha Goddess

In Serjana Caelum’s world, gods exist. So do goddesses. Sera knows this because she is one of them. A secret long concealed by her parents, Sera is Lakshmi reborn, the human avatar of an immortal Indian goddess rumored to control all the planes of existence. Marked by the sigils of both heaven and hell, Sera’s avatar is meant to bring balance to the mortal world, but all she creates is chaos. A chaos that Azrath, the Asura Lord of Death, hopes to use to unleash hell on earth.

Torn between reconciling her past and present, Sera must figure out how to stop Azrath before the Mortal Realm is destroyed. But trust doesn’t come easy in a world fissured by lies and betrayal. Her best friend Kyle is hiding his own dark secrets, and her mysterious new neighbor, Devendra, seems to know a lot more than he’s telling. Struggling between her opposing halves and her attraction to the boys tied to each of them, Sera must become the goddess she was meant to be, or risk failing, which means sacrificing the world she was born to protect.


The Almost Girl

The Almost Girl

Seventeen-year-old Riven comes from a world parallel to Earth, a world that has been ravaged by a devastating android war. As a Legion General, she is the right hand of Prince Cale, the young Prince of Neospes. In her world, she’s had everything: rank, responsibility, and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to rescue his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

Armed with the mindset of a soldier and racing against time to bring Caden home, Riven must learn how to blend in as a girl in a realm that is the opposite of all she’s ever known. Will she be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?




The Fallen Prince

Riven has fought for a hard-won peace in her world, and has come to shaky terms with who and what she is—a human with cyborg DNA. Now that the rightful ruler of Neospes has been reinstated, Riven is on the hunt for her father in the Otherworld to bring him to justice for his crimes against her people.

But when she receives an unwelcome visit from two former allies, she knows that trouble is brewing once again in Neospes. The army has been decimated and there are precious few left to fight this mysterious new threat.

To muster a first line of defense, her people need help from the one person Riven loathes most—her father. But what he wants in return is her complete surrender.

And now Riven must choose: save Neospes or save herself.


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Q&A with HOW TO MAKE OUT author Brianna R. Shrum

We’re delighted to have Brianna R. Shrum, author of How to Make Out joining us today on the blog. We can’t wait for her to share a little more about herself with us!


1. Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

So I write in both fantasy and YA contemporary, and I love 8both* because to me, both genres sparkle with magic. In fantasy it’s right there–the stakes are drawn in magic and blood. But in YA contemporary, I can write someone experiencing this stage of life that is there and gone in a blink, where everything feels HUGE and so fleeting. And that is like magic in itself.empire-of-storms

2. What are you reading right now?

I just finished The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, and oh my gosh, if someone could send me a post on How To Get Over A Book Hangover, that would be great. Ha. So to TRY to get over that, I’ve started reading ! (No one tell me what happens but #TeamRowan forever and ever)

3. If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

OH MAN. This is so impossible because it changes depending on my mood! If I’m feeling waggle-eyebrows and amoral, I want to be Alina Starkov and rule RAvka forever with the Darkling. I was gonna say possibly Alucard Emery from A Gathering of Shadows but that’s technically not YA so….I think Puck from The Scorpio Races. Yes. Puck. ALWAYS.

4. Where’s your favorite place to write? 

I spend most of my time writing on my living room couch by the light of my Harry Potter Christmas tree (which I keep up year round). But my FAVORITE place is this little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop downtown that makes the best chai tea in ALL THE LAND.

5. What’s your favorite classic movie?

Empire Strikes Back. No question.stegosaurus

6. If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

A STEGOSAURUS. I would name him Winston.

7. Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

As darkkkk as possible, please.

slytherin8. What’s your favorite holiday?

CHRISTMAS. I decorate my house like Hogwarts at Christmas and we choose which House won that year and rank them by drawing them with chalk on the fireplace. and decorate the tree in whichever won. Last year was Gryffindor. This year I am fighting for my house–Slytherin.

9. What’s your favorite emoji?

The smirky face or the sweating smiley face. The combination of them basically sums up me as a person.

10. What did you want to grow up to be when you were your character’s age?

So when I was 16? A songwriter. I wound up being something pretty close! Ha!

how-to-make-out-revised-9781510701670How to Make Out

Sixteen-year-old Renley needs three thousand dollars for the math club’s trip to New York City, and she knows exactly how to get it: she’s going to start a how-to blog where people pay for answers to all of life’s questions from a “certified expert.” The only problems: 1) She doesn’t know how to do anything but long division and calculus. 2) She’s totally invisible to people at school. And not in a cool Gossip Girl kind of way.

So, she decides to learn to do . . . well . . . everything. When her anonymous blog shifts in a more scandalous direction and the questions (and money) start rolling in, she has to learn not just how to do waterfall braids and cat-eye makeup, but a few other things, like how to cure a hangover, how to flirt, and how to make out (something her very experienced, and very in-love-with-her neighbor, Drew, is more than willing to help with).

As her blog’s reputation skyrockets, so does “new and improved” Renley’s popularity. She’s not only nabbed the attention of the entire school, but also the eye of Seth Levine, the hot culinary wizard she’s admired from across the home-ec classroom all year.

Soon, caught up in the thrill of popularity both in and out of cyberspace, her secrets start to spiral, and she finds that she’s forgotten the most important how-to: how to be herself. When her online and real lives converge, Renley will have to make a choice: lose everything she loves in her new life, or everyone she loves in the life she left behind.

Brianna Shrum has been writing since she could scrawl letters and has worked with teens since she graduated, either in the writing classes she taught or within youth groups. Brianna digs all things YA, as well as all things geeky, superhero-y, gamer-y, magical, and strange. She lives in Englewood, Colorado, with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband and her two little boys.

Visit her online at, @BriannaShrum on Twitter, and @bchrumby on Instagram!

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