Alex Shearer on Ghosts, with Giveaway!

Ministry of Ghosts author, Alex Shearer, writes about ghosts. Check it out below!


Ghosts.

What would you like to know about them?

Maybe the first question most people ask is, Do they exist? And the second one is, If they do exist, then are they friendly?

As far as the first question goes, the jury is still—and probably always will be—out. The matter is undecided and possibly unprovable, one way or the other.

Some people swear they have seen them. Others say ghosts are all in the mind and eye of the beholder. Some people say they have them living in the loft, or in the cellar, or in the washing machine, or under the bed. Others say that ghost spotters have over active imaginations.

Some people claim to track ghosts down for a living and then try to get rid of them for you—a bit along the lines of vermin control.

If you think you have a ghost stomping about the bedroom and keeping you awake at night, then there are plenty of spiritualists and psychics who (for a small—or maybe not so small—fee) will come round to your house with bell, book, candle and prayers, and who will have that ghost evicted in no time. Or so they say.

But maybe that ghost bumping in the night, and that strange wailing sound, are all in your mind and your ears. Maybe it’s all down to that cheese you ate, or to that scary film you watched.  Perhaps you have too vivid an imagination. Maybe all apparently ghostly activity has its roots in the human mind. For, quite often, the question is not, Have you ever seen a ghost? The question is, Do you believe in them? And plenty of people believe in things they have never seen. And why not? No one has seen dark matter, yet scientists believe it to be there. No one has been inside a black hole, but does that mean there aren’t any?

So do ghosts exist or don’t they?

Well, wouldn’t we like to know for sure?—but maybe, we never will.

Yet say they do exist.  Then what are they like?

If horror movies are anything to go by, they aren’t very nice. They come after you in the small hours of the night. They scare the life out of you.  They move the furniture around. They smash up the plates. They turn your hair white. They give you heart attacks. They drive you mad. They haunt your home and they haunt your dreams. They smell something terrible—like a mixture of dry rot and sewage.

Only why should they be so awful? Most people are friendly when alive, so why should they be any different when they are ghosts? Why shouldn’t ghosts be warm and kindly, with a twinkle in their eye and good intentions and with everyone’s best interests at heart?

Is it because only the bad come back as ghosts? Well, that doesn’t sound too likely. It could equally as well be the good. Certainly, the unhappy and unfulfilled and those seeking revenge might return to the world of the living to settle old scores. But then those who had happy lives and many friends might also wish to remain on earth, if only to remind themselves of the good times they had and to be close to the fond memories.

So maybe ghosts—if they exist—are more friendly than wicked. Maybe they make good company, good pets even; maybe every home should have one.

Perhaps someone should make a serious effort to investigate all this. The government could set up an institution to look into the matter and to get to the bottom of things—put it all on an official basis.

Yes, a kind of Ministry of Ghosts, maybe. That might do it. That might settle the perplexing questions, for once and for all.

With a little luck, and some help from two school kids.


The Ministry of Ghosts by Alex Shearer

Ministry of Ghosts_cover

When they ring the bell at the house with the dusty windows and tarnished nameplate to inquire about the advertised “Saturday Person,” Thruppence and Tim don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. A Saturday job sounds ideal! But had that nameplate been properly cleaned, Thruppence and Tim might not have been so keen to enter . . .

Pressured by the stern Minister Beeston from the Department of Economies, the Ministry of Ghosts has been given three months to prove the existence or nonexistence of ghosts, or else it will be shut down! As it seems that children are particularly magnetic to ghosts and supernatural beings, Thruppence and Tim are hired to join the ministry’s ghost-catching team. And although neither of them is scared by talk of ghosts or monsters, they are unprepared for what they’re about discover!

Filled with fun, humor, and twists and turns, this is the perfect book for anyone who loved Harry Potter and who is looking for something similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book—just not quite as scary.

Alex Shearer was born in Wick, in the far north of Scotland. His father was a blacksmith and his mother was a secretary. He enjoyed writing from an early age and sold his first television script about thirty years ago. He went on to write several TV series, stage plays, radio plays, and comedy scripts. Moving into writing for children, his novels Bootleg and The Greatest Store in the World were adapted for television by the BBC, and his 2003 novel The Speed of Dark was short-listed for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He lives in Somerset, England.

 


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Dear Teen Me with Ava Jae, author of Beyond the Red

Ava Jae, author of Beyond the Red writes a Dear Teen Me letter. Check it out below!


Ava_school

16-year-old Ava didn’t take many selfies, so maybe those school pictures came in handy after all. 

Dear Teen Me,

The good news about the divorce is you’ll never blame yourself. You know from the day Mom sits you down at 13 to tell you your life as a kid with two parents who live in the same house is over, exactly who’s fault it is, and you know, very clearly, it’s not yours.

Unfortunately, for a long time, that’s about the only good news.

I’m going to be honest with you, the next six years are going to be rough. You, your two sisters, and your mom are going to move into your grandma’s tiny two bedroom home for a summer—the one that’s about the size of your previous home’s kitchen and living room. You’re going to be The Strong One your sisters look up to, and you think being The Strong One is temporary, and it is—as long as you consider six years temporary.

About a week before you start your new school, you’ll finally move in to your new home. It’s larger than your grandma’s, but nowhere near what Used to Be. It’s small, and creaky, and the radiators are unreliable, and there isn’t air conditioning, but you won’t care. It’s home.

Your new school is nothing like your old one, but you are nothing like the old you, so it’s okay. You’ll retreat into yourself and into books, and that’s okay because it’ll lead to the one really, really awesome thing about your teen years: you’ll figure out you want to be an author. It’ll be a little over ten years before that dream comes true, but Future You is in your debt, 13, because your job is pretty amazing now.

I wish I could tell you things are going to get easier quickly, 13, but the next six years will be anything but. You’ll learn what it’s like to worry about not being able to pay the bills long before you get your first job. You’ll learn what it’s like to develop an anxiety disorder on your 16th birthday, like a superpower but not nearly as cool or fun, and even though you’ll ace AP Psych, you won’t recognize the symptoms in yourself until after you’ve nearly left those teen years behind. You’ll also learn what it’s like to experience stomach acrobatics when you hear the words “I think we might lose the house,” and you’ll learn what it’s like to smile and pretend everything is okay for your sisters when your world is crumbling around you.

Dear 13, there will come a time when you won’t be able to visit your father anymore, because it hurts too much to go back to your old town, with old friends you can’t see, and be surrounded by his very nice house, with his very nice new things, and see again, and again, and again, the widening gap between What Was and What Is, between What Is for Him and What Is for You. There will come a time when visiting just makes you angry, and bitter, and it’s too painful for you to take anymore. He’s going to tell you it’s not okay when you stop visiting, 13, but you’re just taking care of yourself, and that’s all that matters. You won’t learn this for a while yet, but taking care of yourself first is more than okay—it’s essential.

Those six years are going to be really, really hard, 13, but I promise you’ll all come out of this okay. You’ll all recover slowly, a day at a time, and you’ll remember what it’s like to not have to worry quite so much. You’ll learn how to put yourself first again, and though you won’t be able to reclaim those years, you’ll finally be able to do those things you should have been doing as a teen, like realizing skirts and long hair really aren’t your thing (that’s okay too, by the way. You’ll rock that pixie cut).

Dear 13, you’re going to get what you want most: you’ll see your words published in an actual book you can hold in your hands, and you’ll be happy and so proud of a thing you made. Things are rough right now, 13, and they’re going to be for a while. But you’re going to get through it, and when you come out on the other side, you’ll be stronger, and happier, and your YA book collection will be really quite impressive, at least to you.

You’ll do all right, 13. That, I can promise you.

Love,

Ava

 

Ava

17-year-old Ava wasn’t sure how this pic happened, but the results were accidentally fun.


Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

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Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

 

Jae, Ava -- Beyond the Red

Ava Jae is a writer, an Assistant Editor at Entangled Publishing, and is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. Her YA Sci-Fi debut, BEYOND THE RED, is releasing March 1, 2016 from Sky Pony Press. When she’s not writing about kissing, superpowers, explosions, and aliens, you can find her with her nose buried in a book, nerding out over the latest X-Men news, or hanging out on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, Goodreads, Instagram, or YouTube channel.

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Beth Vrabel on Summer Camp and Giveaway!

Camp Dork author, Beth Vrabel, writes about her experience with summer camp. Check it out below!


 

I’m not sure what I did to anger my parents the summer I turned eleven, but I had two weeks of sleepaway camp to think about my life choices.

Yet no matter how hard I racked my mind during those hours of hiking, on the shore of an algae-filled swimming hole, or while trying to choke down breakfast “eggs” (a greenish-yellow powder counselors mixed with water, shook in jugs, and scrambled up on giant skillets), I couldn’t come up with what I had done to warrant fourteen days at Pioneer Camp.

I don’t have too many memories those sticky summer days in the mountains of Pennsylvania. In the twenty-five years that followed, I must’ve blocked most of them.

I do remember questioning the logic of hiking up a mountain. Why? We’re only going to have to climb back down. At the top, I felt like if I squinted hard enough I’d spy my house in the next county. Maybe Mom would see me, a speck in the distance and be overcome with regret. And then I remembered that she’d be inside, where it was air-conditioned, and surrounded by luxuries such as electricity and Oreos.

I recall marveling at the ingenuity of mosquitoes. Never again would I forget to bug spray my knee pits.

I learned that after just ten days of camp, my blond wavy hair became stick straight, brunette, and capable of staying in a ponytail position even without the elastic band. It wasn’t until I was home and unpacking my festering duffel bag that I discovered the seal across my shampoo bottle. “You didn’t wash your hair the whole time?” Mom had asked me.

“Pioneers don’t rinse and lather,” I told her.

“Pioneers didn’t _______ (fill in the blank)” was the standard response to any questions posed to counselors during summer camp.

Why do we have to swim in the lake when there is a pool at the other campground?

Pioneers don’t swim in chlorinated water.

Why can’t I call my mom to pick me up?

Pioneers don’t make long distance phone calls.

Where is the ketchup?

Pioneers don’t have condiments for their hamburgers.

I learned so much during those two weeks.

I understood the cruelty of nature when a thunderstorm erupted the moment I plunged my mountain pie into the fire pit. The downpour doused the flames and my dreams. There is no sadness quite like that of a pizza-deprived eleven-year-old eating white bread soggy with spaghetti sauce and cold shredded cheese while everyone around her devours hot mountain pie.

I grasped the concept of true friendship when the girl in the bunk across from me positioned her portable fan so a drift of hot hair flew across my sunburnt face. (Jamie, you’ll always be a hero in a heart. Tracy—hoarder of that giant vat of aloe vera—you’re still dead to me.)

I understood the power of storytelling when rumor spread that Pioneer Camp began with Ole Jebediah, said to be the first person to settle in the county a couple hundred years back.

Legend has it, Ole Jebediah never made it back from a trek to the watering hole. His spirit still lingers, some say (“some” being teen counselors who didn’t count on this campfire story resulting in twenty eleven-year-olds not sleeping for three days straight).

I spent those nights staring up through the cracks in our A-frame at a sky filled with more stars than I thought possible.

When someone swore they heard Ole Jebediah’s cackling laugh coming from the depths of the outhouse toilets, I also learned the inherent injustice of being a girl when it comes to public facilities.

“It couldn’t have been all bad,” Mom prompted a few days after my pioneer days ended. I sat on my clean, comfortable bed with the air conditioning pumping, my Walkman blaring New Kids on the Block and a bowl full of Oreos by my hand.

I rolled my eyes without answering, but I did whap my slap bracelet against my wrist a little louder.

Mom left the room, quietly saying, “Some day you’ll thank us for this experience, Beth.”

Pioneers don’t say thank you, I remember thinking.

But writers do, even twenty-five years late. So, okay, Mom and Dad. Fine. I suppose two weeks of roughing it, making new friends, swimming in a lake, reaching new heights, and falling hard for stories led to Camp Dork. And that might warrant a smidge of gratitude.

Thank you.


Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

Camp Dork 9781634501811Lucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.

At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

Vrabel, Beth - Blind Guide to StinkvilleBeth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans–becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater–didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now lives in Connecticut with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two guinea pigs, Winn-Dixie and Pippin.

 

 

 


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Rose Mannering’s Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings and GIVEAWAY!

Rose Mannering, author of Roses and Feathers, two unique and wonderful fairy tale retellings, shares her favorite fairy tale retellings. Check out her post below!


5 of My Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings

Growing up I loved fairy tales. I loved them cute and fluffy like Disney movies and I liked them dark and twisted in their original(ish), Brothers Grimm form.

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Writing a book about fairy tales therefore seemed like completely the right sort of thing to do. So I did it and it was great fun. I didn’t just do it once either—I rewrote and reworked my retellings of fairy tales over and over growing up; just loving the act of writing and not caring about much else. Never did I imagine that one day I would be celebrating the paperback release of one of those retellings… Roses is out in paperback today and I can’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it when it was released in hardback and I still can’t believe it today. It’s unreal—like a fairy tale (sorry, massive cliché and terrible pun).

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Roses is a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it is the first in a trilogy of retellings called The Tales Trilogy, all based around fairy tales (psst! Feathers, the sequel, will be out in hardback next month!). To celebrate its release in paperback, I’d like to pay homage to some of my favorite retellings of fairy tales in their different forms, so here are my top five:

  1. Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley (book)

Robin McKinley is such a fantastic writer and I love ALL of her books, but her fairy tale retellings are pretty special. I’ve re-read them several times and I’m always taken in by the lyrical beauty of her prose and the imaginative world she creates. Spindle’s End is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty and it is just wonderful. We have a beauty who is maybe not so beautiful and an unlikely romance. It is just the best! I would also highly recommend Deerskin, which is as gorgeous as it is harrowing—a very important novel and a formative text for me.

  1. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (book)

This is super creepy and super amazing! Carter gets to the root of the disturbing truths behind many fairy tales in this collection of short stories. I’ve read this many times and I’ve always enjoyed it in my own unsettled way. I went through a phase in secondary school where I was utterly obsessed with this book. It’s exquisitely written and wonderfully portrayed; I would highly recommend!

  1. Tangled (film)

We had to have some Disney in here! This is just pure delight in a movie—I love the songs, I love the characters. It’s all just fun and sometimes you need your fairy tales to have happy endings.

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  1. Swan Lake (ballet)

I love ballet and the way it can express so much through movement. It is only through watching ballet that I’ve learnt how expressive the body can be (and I think this has helped my writing in many ways). Swan Lake, based on Russian folklore, is one of my favorite ballets and the folklore is actually the basis for the second book in The Tales Trilogy Feathers.

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  1. Beastly by Alex Flinn (book)

This contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast in New York is a real treat from beginning to end. I haven’t seen or read many contemporary retellings, but this is pitched and written just perfectly. If you’re a B&B fan and you haven’t picked this one up—I would highly recommend. It gives you all the feels!


Roses by Rose Mannering—out now in paperback!

9781634501880-frontcoverShe bears no name. Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, the cosmopolitan capital of Pevorocco in the Western Realm. With her mother vanishing at the instance of her birth, she is sent to live with the cruel, rich Ma Dane, where she is punished daily for something, though she knows not what. Tauntingly named Beauty, she flees Sago in a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics and journeys to the farthest point of the country.

But Beauty cannot hide in the grassy Hillands forever. Before long, the State officials find her and threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago where death surely awaits. In a midnight blizzard she escapes them, running into a deep, enchanted forest to a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life.

But can Beauty accept Beast? Eternity is a long time. Now for the first time in paperback, Roses is sure to capture your heart as you fall in love with Beauty and her Beast all over again.

Feathers by Rose Mannering—out July 2016

9781634501651-frontcoverFeathers fell like rain from the sky.

Ode was never meant to be born. An outcast from birth, he discovered how to control his unique, remarkable gift entirely on his own. Unlike the other people of his tribe, Ode can fly. Sometimes his body will shudder and shift, and then Ode will transform. He becomes a great white bird with feathers as pale as the snow. He becomes a swan. He can fly above the tribe’s tepees and soar over the emerald forests of the Wild Lands.

But even with his gift, he cannot save his family from the oncoming war. The Magical Cleansing is spreading across the realm, and strangers arrive from foreign lands bringing with them bloodshed and fear. With the help of his gift, Ode flees to a distant island where answers, Magic, and a girl with golden hair await him. He must be brave, and he must be wise. And he must never turn back.

The exciting and much-anticipated second book in the Tales trilogy, Feathers is sure to keep fans of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder series turning the pages as they journey through the magic world of the Western Realm.


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Dear Teen Me with Stephanie Strohm, author of The Taming of the Drew

Author of The Taming of the Drew, Stephanie Strohm writes a Dear Teen Me letter. Check it out below!


Dear Teen Me,

Congratulations! You did it! You have found your people. I know you are so happy to be playing Lady Larkin in Once Upon a Mattress, and so happy to be spending all of your time with the other self-proclaimed drama dorks. You finally feel like you have a place you belong, and I know how much this means to you, because even when you are twenty-nine, you will still remember the choreography to “I’m in Love with a Girl Named Fred.” (You really didn’t need to hold onto that, Teen Stephanie.)

Enjoy it. This is the second-to-last musical you’ll ever do, because you’re about to decide you’re too “serious” of an actress for anything involving a time step. So for now, sing your little soprano heart out, produce the jazziest jazz hands ever, and relish every whispered bit of gossip backstage about who likes who. And take more pictures with Caitlin, because in about a decade, you’ll be her bridesmaid, and she’ll be yours, and those pictures of the two of you in medieval garb are hilarious. You’ve got one on your fridge in Chicago right now.

Also? Stop blotting the grease off the free pizza you get during tech week. Or throwing the crust away even though it’s your favorite part. I know you’re scared that you can never be a real actress. That you’re not pretty enough, good enough, thin enough. But you know what? No one but you cares how thin you looked or didn’t look in your costume. And you looked adorable, dummy.

yankees Stephanie in Damn Yankees

I’m glad you found an escape from the high school agony you’re constantly writing about in your diary, which can be summed up neatly into two categories: “I’m too fat to be a real actress” and “I’ve never had a boyfriend.” Most boyfriends are overrated, Teen Stephanie! But I’m sorry you feel like your life is only happening on stage. So what if your first kiss was with a gay Phantom of the Opera? So what if you’ve never kissed anyone offstage? I promise, it’s fine! Next year you’ll do a play at an all-boys’ school, and seriously, Teen Stephanie, you should have hit that up earlier. So stop worrying about when that first kiss will finally happen. It’s coming. I wish you could just enjoy being onstage with your friends now, instead of worrying about whether or not these guys you’ve barely talked to think you’re cute, or whether or not you can make it as an actress.

Because guess what—you did it. You’re a theater major in college, and you move to New York because you get cast in an off-Broadway show. People actually pay you to act. In twenty-two different states! It’s not always glamorous, and you end up playing way more amphibians than you ever thought you would, but you did it. You are a professional actor. And no, you didn’t get super skinny. Turns out, you can be a working actor even if you don’t have super prominent clavicles.

Here’s the plot twist, though—that unexpected Act V Hamlet never saw coming—you kind of . . . decide you don’t want to act anymore. There’s a moment, when you’ll be sitting backstage at a Chekhov show, when you realize that you’re actually having more fun in the dressing room than you were on stage. That’s the moment when you realize you’ve fallen totally, completely, head over heels in love, and no, it’s not with the man playing your husband in the show. (You broke that pesky castmate-smooching habit a long time ago when you fell for a guy working in the development office at a theater you performed at in Florida. And love is even better than it seems in musicals, even if he hates dancing. You’re getting married in September, and yes, your wedding is in a barn, but there will be no horses in attendance. Sorry, Teen Stephanie.)

Surprise—you’ve fallen in love with writing. Yeah, remember that thing you wanted to do when you were in fourth grade? Just like Jo March? Guess what? You did that too! You wrote a book! You wrote multiple books! And you realize more and more that you love writing, that you love creating your own worlds, and even thought it makes you feel bad to admit it, you like having a job where no one cares what you look like. Where most people don’t even know what you look like. And you are going to feel so bad about leaving theater. You are going to feel like you’ve given up on your dream, like you’re failing all of your acting teachers, like you’re just the same as every other wannabe actor who couldn’t make it. But you know what? You haven’t failed. Dreams change. You haven’t seen Tangled, because it doesn’t exist yet, but it’s going to be your favorite Disney movie. And when Rapunzel goes out and gets a new dream, you’ll know just how she feels. Because you have a new dream, too.

Oh, and you still put way too much stock in Disney movies. But you actually get to work as a Disney princess, so I think that’s okay.

Keep dreaming big, Teen Me. All those dreams are going to come true. And eat the damn pizza crust.

Love,

Stephanie


The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Taming of the Drew_REVISEDCass McKay has been called stubborn, temperamental, difficult, and that word that rhymes with “witch” more times than she cares to count. But that’s all about to pay off. She has finally landed the role she was born to play—Kate, in The Taming of the Shrew—in the summer apprentice program of a renowned Shakespeare theater company in the forests of Vermont.

But Cass can barely lace up her corset before her troubles begin. Her leading man, Drew, is a complete troll, and he’s going to ruin Cass’s summer. Even worse, Cass’s bunkmate Amy has somehow fallen head over heels for Drew. Cass can’t let Amy throw herself at a total jerk, so she comes up with a genius plan to give Drew the personality makeover he so desperately needs: they’ll tame Drew just as Petruchio tames Kate! But as Shakespeare’s classic plays out offstage, Cass finds it harder and harder to resist falling for Drew herself.

The best kind of entertainment, The Taming of the Drew is smart, funny, fresh, and original. You’re going to love this badass heroine and her friends. You might even end up liking Drew, too.

 

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Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of The Taming of the Drew, Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, Confederates Don’t Wear Couture and the upcoming It’s Not Me, It’s You and Prince in Disguise. She graduated from Middlebury College with a dual degree in theater and history and has acted her way around the United States, performing in more than twenty-five states. She currently lives in Chicago with her fiance and a dog named Lorelei Lee.  Visit her online at www.stephaniekatestrohm.com, follow her on Twitter @stephkatestrohm, and like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stephaniekatestrohm.

 

 

 


This post was originally written for DearTeenMe.com. The site is currently on hold, so, with permission from DearTeenMe, we’re sharing our authors’ posts here instead!

 

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day! Check out a fun activity you can do as a family below!


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Mason Jar Crafts for Kids: More Than 25 Cool, Crafty Projects to Make for Your Friends, Your Family, and Yourself! by Linda Braden

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Mason jars are no longer just for canning. Today we use them to drink from, to cook inside, and—with almost limitless possibilities—to craft with. In this fabulous new book, Linda Braden, author and owner of MasonJarCraftsLove.com and ItAllStartedWithPaint.com, offers up a collection of fun and creative Mason jar crafts for kids. Her ideas include everything from wild science experiments and delicious edible treats to holiday decor and gifts for the whole family. Kids won’t want to miss the fireworks in a jar or the lava lamp jar projects. And who could resist a Mason jar cupcake or a rainbow Jell-O jar? There are instructions for how to make your own lantern jars, snow globes, and even a Mason jar terrarium. This book will keep little hands busy all year round, with dozens of easy do-it-yourself projects.
Accompanied by photo tutorials and helpful step-by-step instructions, these projects are kid-friendly and offer a variety of options for both beginning and more advanced DIY fans. Each project is complete with age recommendations, a list of supplies you will need, and safety precautions. These projects are great for crafting with a big group or alone with your child, and perfect for long summer days, rainy weekends, and holiday preparation. Be inspired and discover the endless possibilities with the world’s most famous jar!

 

Linda Z. Braden may be a Mason jar enthusiast, but she’s new to the world of Mason jars. She’s making up for lost time by forging new memories with her children and a newfound community of Mason jar lovers she’s successfully cultivated online. Her Mason jar fan base has grown to more than 25,000 strong on Facebook; she’s received more than 130,000 page views on her blog, Mason Jar Crafts Love; and she’s gathered nearly ten thousand followers on Pinterest. She is forever looking for new and unique ways to incorporate Mason jars into her home decor, holidays, gifts, and parties. She lives with her husband and two children in Chicago, Illinois.

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5 Sky Pony Protagonists As Cool As Black Widow

Captain America: Civil War hits theaters tomorrow! Most of us in the office are so excited to watch the feud between Cap and Iron Man unfold on the big screen but to celebrate the release of the film we’ve been excited to see ever since the credits rolled on The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we want to highlight one of our favorite female superheroes: Black Widow. Avenger, spy, friend, enemy—someone whose bad side you most definitely wouldn’t want to be on—Natasha Romanoff is quite the powerful female character. We imagine that when you’ve seen Civil War once or twice or three times, you’re going to need another source for your awesome female characters. Check out these Sky Pony books with some awesome female protagonists!


 

1. Itzy—Divah

Itzy Nash is the kind of hero who takes everything in stride. She isn’t phased by fallen angels swooping in or demons in her closet. And she doesn’t need a boy to rescue her.

“If Buffy the Vampire Slayer edited Vogue, Divah’s heroine Itzy Nash would be its first cover girl.” —Wendy N. Wagner, author of Skinwalkers

giphy941GkjrYv7pL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Eloise meets Rosemary’s Baby in New York City’s very own Carlyle hotel.

Seventeen-year-old Itzy Nash is spending the summer at the exclusive Carlyle hotel in New York City. But the hotel harbors more than the rich and privileged; it is host to a gorgeous fallen angel, reclusive movie stars, and—Itzy soon learns—demons of the worst sort. When the Queen of the Damned checks in, all Hell breaks loose. Itzy is called upon to save herself—and all of humanity—from the ravages of the Underworld. There’s only one problem: Itzy’s possessed.

Part gothic thriller, part historical fiction, the novel straddles the Upper East Side and the lush trappings of the Carlyle hotel, and Paris during the Reign of Terror in 1789. Marie Antoinette is the Queen of the Damned. Marilyn Monroe is an expert demon hunter. To kill a demon, Hermès scarves, Evian water, and a guillotine are the weapons of choice.

For anyone who loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this has an epic battle between angels and demons with a doomed love story at its core. But it’s also darkly funny, for fans of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and more than anything it’s something original—dark, funny, clever, and glamorous.

2. Tal—Wandering Wild

Tal is a schemer. Faced with challenges that would force most to bend to expectations, she’s determined to make her own luck and write her own path. And it doesn’t always go well for her—especially when what she wants most clashes with what has long been decided for her. But a fierce loyalty, especially to her brother, is the force that always sees her through. After all, “Fortune favors the bold.”

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9781510704008-frontcover“I believe in possibility. Of magic, of omens, of compasses, of love. Some of it’s a little bit true.”

Sixteen-year-old Tal is a Wanderer—a grifter whose life is built around the sound of wheels on the road, the customs of her camp, and the artful scams that keep her fed. With her brother, Wen, by her side, it’s the only life she’s ever known. It’s the only one she’s ever needed.

Then in a sleepy Southern town, the queen of cons picks the wrong mark when she meets Spencer Sway—the clean-cut Socially Secured boy who ends up hustling her instead of the other way around. For the first time, she sees a reason to stay. As her obligations to the camp begin to feel like a prison sentence, the pull to leave tradition behind has never been so strong.

But the Wanderers live by signs, and all the signs all say that Tal and Spencer will end only in heartache and disaster. Is a chance at freedom worth almost certain destruction?

3. Riven—The Almost Girl

Riven is determined and resourceful. She is loyal and fierce and she will do anything to accomplish her goals.
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The Almost GirlSeventeen-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?

 

4. Kora—Beyond the Red

Kora is the first female ruler in generations and remains powerful on the throne though people think her younger brother should rule in her place. Kora is cunning and strong and fights for what she believes in.

giphy39781634506441-frontcoverAlien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

5. Flo—The Wanderers

Flo is a brave and strong character with a lot of sass. She discovers just how strong and brave she truly is on her journey. giphy4

9781634502016-frontcoverA Unique Twist on Shape-Shifters with Fast-Paced Action, Thrilling Adventure, Mystery, and a Bit of Romance

Flo lives an eccentric life—she travels with a popular circus in which the main acts star orphaned children with secret shape-shifting abilities. Once Flo turns sixteen, she must perform, but she’s not ready. While practicing jumping a flaming hurdle in a clearing beside the circus, she spots a dark figure in the trees and fears he saw her shift. The news sends the circus into a panic.

In Flo’s world, shifters are unknown to humans with the exception of a secret organization—the EOS, referred to as “hunters.” Hunters capture and kill. They send some shifters to labs for observation and testing—testing they don’t often survive—and deem others useless, a danger to society, and eliminate them. To avoid discovery, shifters travel in packs, constantly moving and keeping themselves hidden. Up until now, the circus was the perfect disguise.

Believing she has brought attention to the group, Flo feels dread and anxiety, causing her to make a mistake during her performance in front of the audience—a mistake that triggers a violent attack from the hunters.

Flo manages to flee the torched circus grounds with Jett, the bear shifter who loves her; the annoying elephant triplets; and a bratty tiger named Pru. Together they begin a new journey, alone in a world they don’t understand and don’t know how to navigate. On the run, they unravel secrets and lies that surround the circus and their lives—secrets and lies that all point to the unthinkable: Have they been betrayed by the people they trusted most?

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Happy Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to all of our May Sky Pony new releases!

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Ministry of Ghosts by Alex Shearer

Ministry of Ghosts_coverWhen they ring the bell at the house with the dusty windows and tarnished nameplate to inquire about the advertised “Saturday Person,” Thruppence and Tim don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. A Saturday job sounds ideal! But had that nameplate been properly cleaned, Thruppence and Tim might not have been so keen to enter . . .

Pressured by the stern Minister Beeston from the Department of Economies, the Ministry of Ghosts has been given three months to prove the existence or nonexistence of ghosts, or else it will be shut down! As it seems that children are particularly magnetic to ghosts and supernatural beings, Thruppence and Tim are hired to join the ministry’s ghost-catching team. And although neither of them is scared by talk of ghosts or monsters, they are unprepared for what they’re about discover!

Filled with fun, humor, and twists and turns, this is the perfect book for anyone who loved Harry Potter and who is looking for something similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book—just not quite as scary.

Tone Deaf by Olivia Rivers

Tone Deaf_coverHis world is music. Her world is silent.

Ali Collins was a child prodigy destined to become one of the greatest musicians of the twenty-first century—until she was diagnosed with a life-changing brain tumor. Now, at seventeen, Ali lives in a soundless world where she gets by with American Sign Language and lip-reading. She’s a constant disappointment to her father, a retired cop fighting his own demons, and the bruises are getting harder to hide.

When Ali accidentally wins a backstage tour with the chart-topping band Tone Deaf, she’s swept back into the world of music. Jace Beckett, the nineteen-year-old lead singer of the band, has a reputation. He’s a jerk and a player, and Ali wants nothing to do with him. But there’s more to Jace than the tabloids let on. When Jace notices Ali’s bruises and offers to help her escape to New York, Ali can’t turn down the chance at freedom and a fresh start. Soon she’s traveling cross-country, hidden away in Jace’s RV as the band finishes their nationwide tour. With the help of Jace, Ali sets out to reboot her life and rediscover the music she once loved.

Wandering Wild by Jessica Taylor

9781510704008-frontcoverI believe in possibility. Of magic, of omens, of compasses, of love. Some of it’s a little bit true.”

Sixteen-year-old Tal is a Wanderer—a grifter whose life is built around the sound of wheels on the road, the customs of her camp, and the artful scams that keep her fed. With her brother, Wen, by her side, it’s the only life she’s ever known. It’s the only one she’s ever needed.

Then in a sleepy Southern town, the queen of cons picks the wrong mark when she meets Spencer Sway—the clean-cut Socially Secured boy who ends up hustling her instead of the other way around. For the first time, she sees a reason to stay. As her obligations to the camp begin to feel like a prison sentence, the pull to leave tradition behind has never been so strong.

But the Wanderers live by signs, and all the signs all say that Tal and Spencer will end only in heartache and disaster. Is a chance at freedom worth almost certain destruction?

My Amazing Dad by Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Tom Jellett

My Amazing Dad_cover-REVISEDThis dad is not like other dads. He is not good at:

Mowing the lawn,
Getting his children to school on time,
Baking cakes,
Fixing a leaky faucet, or
Remembering bed time

But, he is good at:

Making mazes,
Getting his children to school eventually,
Eating cakes,
Making bubble baths, and
Telling bedtime stories.

And this is what makes him so special.

With bright illustrations from award-winning illustrator Tom Jellett and minimal text by award-nominated Ezekiel Kwaymullina, My Amazing Dad celebrates the unconventional father who may not always get it right but certainly knows how to turn every day into something special.

My Grandpa is a Dinosaur by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

My Grandpa Is a DinosaurThis little girl has been watching her grandpa for a very long time, and she is almost absolutely certain that he is a dinosaur. So why is it that nobody believes her? Why can’t anyone else see what she sees? He roars! (And no, it’s not just a snore.) He has green skin! (And no, he’s not from outer space.) He even has a tail! (And no, he’s not a horse!) Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the little girl goes straight to the source. It’s time to ask Grandpa once and for all: is he a dinosaur?

Just like Gorillas in Our Midst, this book is all silliness and fun. Comic artist Richard Fairgray’s illustrations are filled with wonderful, quirky details for kids to discover with each read. Kids will love that they can see that Grandpa is a dinosaur when nobody else can. And, of course, a story like this can’t end without a surprising twist!

Izzy the Very Bad Burglar by Amy Proud

9781634501743-frontcoverIzzy comes from a family of excellent burglars. But every time Izzy takes something that doesn’t belong to her, she gets a bad feeling in her stomach that won’t go away. She tries to tell her parents about the bad feeling, but whenever she mentions it, they tell her she needs to be a good burglar.

Izzy finds ways to make the funny feeling in her stomach subside. She and her friend, Frog, start by tidying up as they burgle. They make the beds, dust, wash the dishes, and do the laundry. When the people come home, some of their things will be gone . . . but at least they won’t have any chores to do.

But that isn’t quite enough. So Izzy also starts baking her special double chocolate brownies with gooey caramel chunks. When the people realize they’ve been burgled, at least they will have a nice, tidy house with no chores to do and something sweet to eat.

But that isn’t quite enough either. Will Izzy ever find a way to get rid of this funny feeling she gets every time she has to steal? Will she find a way to be a good burglar and a good person, too? Readers will fall in love with this little troublemaker with a very big heart.

Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

9781634501811-frontcoverLucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.

At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

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Writing a Sequel with Amalie Howard

What does it take to write a sequel? Amalie Howard shares her experience on writing a sequel. Check it out below! 


No one ever ever tells you that writing a sequel is hard. Like really, really hard.

First of all, I have to preface this post by saying that I loathe cliffhangers. I don’t mind small cliffhangers after all the major plot points have been resolved, you know, to whet your appetite for the next book in a series. However, I absolutely abhor those books that just end, and then you find yourself turning pages to the end, being confused, going back to re-read the last ten pages because you’re convinced you must have somehow missed the resolution, and then curling up in a corner with cushions rocking back and forth with a handful of cookies muttering to yourself about cursed cliffhangers.

So when the time came for me to write my own sequels, it was a daunting prospect. Because expectations. And those things weigh a ton. After all, with a sequel, you need to write a whole new story, roughly a hundred thousand words, with the same characters in the same world, and not repeat stuff you’ve written before. You don’t want to disappoint readers waiting breathlessly for that second book. Or worse, write a “filler book” that is meant to lead up to the last in a trilogy. That’s a total sell-out move. Fillers make me want to break things. I was lucky, I guess, because a few of my series were duologies. A relief on the one hand, and yet, so much added pressure to make that closure super satisfying.

Let’s address handling the same elements from book one to book two. Readers come back for a sequel because they want more—more of the same characters, more of the setting, more relationships, more challenges, MORE. And you, as an author, have to deliver. While making the story different. No one wants a remake. Unless it’s Star Wars. Then you can remake until the cows come home. But let’s pretend your book isn’t Star Wars, even though, inside, you hope it is. You have to work. And plan. And re-read Book One. And outline. And re-read again. And then write. A story board can help with keeping track of details. I use post-its or an excel spreadsheet, but many people like programs like Scrivener. Do what works for you.

Character growth is essential in a sequel, and that has to come from what your characters have accomplished or achieved in Book One. Unless your main character loses his or her memory (beaten to death trope), you have to work within the parameters you have built. Your readers went with you on a journey in Book One. Don’t devalue that by taking the easy route and erasing everything they’ve co-braved your hellfire for. Unless you’ve consulted with JJ Abrams and your memory loss hook is genius, brainstorm another route. Work with those brilliant, flawed characters you’ve created, and then ruthlessly throw your darlings to the wolves.

Let’s talk The Almost Girl and The Fallen Prince. In Book One, Riven was a soldier. By the end of her journey she learned to come to terms with what it meant to be human. In Book Two, I knew I had to springboard off that growth and take it a step further. To do this, I had to put her into situations that would test her mettle and push the limits of her newfound sense of self. In a similar fashion, I wanted to put Caden—the new king of Neospes and her love interest—into challenging situations of his own, forcing him to find a balance between his heart and his political strategy. My dependable hero from Book One is forced to face some serious issues. Growth has to push the character forward. Yes, there can be setbacks, but overall, everything should be moving your story to a new place.

Next, honor your rules. You’ve built an amazing world with structure and rules. Uphold those. They are still the cornerstones of your sequel. If you start breaking the rules you created down without good reason or undermining them, your readers will revolt. So change rules judiciously and with valid reasons, otherwise the world-building will start to unravel. In The Fallen Prince, I introduce a new pocket of civilization within the rules of the desert world I’ve built, however it’s an anomaly because said colony uses an extinct resource. Without giving away spoilers, I had to make the existence of this new society make sense within the established rules of the parallel universe. If Book One is set on a desert planet, you better be sure if Book Two is underwater, that they’re space explorers, or time jumpers, or something that you’ve already set up in the first book. Otherwise you risk alienating your readers.

Finally, your sequel has to make sense. If it’s not a sequential story, then it’s not a sequel. That’s a companion novel . . . which is a whole other beast. Give your readers what they are salivating for—characters they’ve connected with set in a world they love with a whole new adventure to look forward to. And write the end. You owe them that.

Here are a few pointers:

Do:

  • Write an outline
  • Brainstorm a different and fresh plot
  • Go for higher stakes
  • Flip things upside down
  • Introduce new characters
  • Deliver a great villain
  • Maintain consistency and style
  • Adhere to rules

Don’t:

  • Repeat the story you’ve already told
  • Be afraid to kill your darlings WITH VALID REASON (think George R. R. Martin)
  • Cliff hang (cliff teasers are okay)
  • Go off into left field (making it too difficult for readers to connect)
  • Make your sequel a set up for Book Three. Just don’t. Been there, done that, and it didn’t end well. Plan to write the end and make it a satisfying conclusion. Your readers will thank you.

 

Howard, Amalie - Alpha Goddess

Amalie Howard is the award-winning IndieNext author of Alpha Goddess, The Almost Girl, The Fallen Prince, the Aquarathi series, and the Cruentus Curse series. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Summer Read. She is currently working on Dark Goddess, the sequel to Alpha Goddess, which will release from Sky Pony Press in Spring 2017. She lives with her husband and three children in Colorado.


Amalie Howard’s Books:

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

9781510701700-frontcoverRiven 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.

 

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.

 

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Kylie’s Desk

Today Kylie is sharing what her workspace looks like! Check out her post below!


I spend a lot of time at my desk so I want it to be a place I enjoy. I try to surround myself with images and objects that make me happy. So my cube walls are full of pictures of my favorite people and you can find little knick-knacks that remind me of some of my favorite things.

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My desk

I bet you’re wondering about the boxes on my desk. In an effort to do more standing than sitting, I converted my desk into a standing desk using tools I found around the office. My monitor is stacked up on books and my keyboard is resting on top of some boxes. It’s definitely an unconventional set up but I really like that it gets me out of my seat for most of the day.

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My favorite mug

On my desk you’ll find a lot of books. I keep a copy of each of the Sky Pony titles I’ve worked on and some from my collection at home. We like to share books in the office so I have a few of my favorites floating around that I lend out to my colleagues.

 

I always go straight for the coffee machine when I get into the office so I have my favorite mug at the ready.

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Emma Swan and Wonder Woman

 

I have two strong female character action figures on my desk. They’re doubly special as they represent strong women from some of my favorite media AND they were given to me by two of my favorite people.

 

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The papers takeover!

My desk can get a little messy when the papers pile up but a few things I always have on hand are a pack of gum, my favorite hand lotion, and my favorite pens in a variety of colors.

 

 

My desk looks very different from Adrienne’s and Cheryl’s as we all have our own unique styles and personalities. What’s one thing you keep on your desk?

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