Interview with THE FORBIDDEN FLATS author Peggy Eddleman

We are all excited for the release of the sequel to Sky Jumpers: SKY JUMPERS BOOK 2: THE FORBIDDEN FLATS which releases next Tuesday, September 23. If you missed my interview with Peggy for the release of book one, you can read it here.


Lissa: This cover has a timeless quality about it, almost classic. Tell us what it was like when you first saw the cover layout.

Peggy: I was so excited that Owen Richardson, the cover artist for Sky Jumpers, was available to create my second cover as well. He did such an incredible job with my first cover, and every single bit of his art is brilliant. I knew that whatever he came up with was going to be amazing. I had been keeping my fingers crossed that it would be a mostly orange cover, and was thrilled when I opened the email and saw that it was. I love the crack in the ground, and I love that we get to see one of the boys--- Brock-- a little more this time.

Lissa: How much time has passed since book one ended and this one begins?

Peggy: Four months.

Lissa: Since Sky Jumpers was your debut novel, (although not your first manuscript), how was your experience writing the sequel? Easier or harder?

Peggy: So. Much. Harder. I had heard that it was going to be more difficult, so I mentally prepared myself. I think I must've mostly figured that it would be tougher because of reviews, and knowing that people were going to be reading it, and neither of those things affected me much. But it is soooo much more than that. Sequels are a difficult beast all on their own, with nothing else entering into the mix. But it's not the only thing in the mix. After you've spent so many, many months making your first book all pretty and shiny and perfect, it's hard to remember that a first draft is every so.... ugly. It can make you feel like you've forgotten how to write! And when you add in the fact that your inner editor has become so much stronger in the process, and that you now have your editor's voice in your head, getting all the words on the page is like trudging uphill. Pushing a giant rock. Through tar. In a blizzard.

Lissa: For the journey across the Forbidden Flats, did you model the landscape on a particular area? Perhaps in Utah?

Peggy: Not Utah. It's actually the landscape between Cook, Nebraska, and somewhere around Fort Collins, Colorado. Even though technology was taken back quite a few years, the book actually takes place more than 50 years in the future. So I imagined how cities through that area would've been been built up before they were destroyed by the green bombs, and how the other parts of the landscape-- such as rivers-- would've changed. It was a lot of fun taking some artistic license and creating the cities they ran into along the way. My favorite was creating a city whose walls are made entirely of glass. The setting for the entire book was a blast to play in.

Lissa: You’ve worked as a tutor for fourth graders struggling with reading. Did any of your experience with them influence your writing style with this series?

Peggy: It did. For some kids, reading is SO HARD. And in order to get them to want to work hard at it, it really helps if they're reading something that they can relate to, and that they get excited about reading. I think those years really helped me to get a better grasp on the kinds of stories and the kinds of characters that make kids want to work hard to read.

Lissa: Any chance of another book in this series or too early to know? What’s next for author Peggy Eddleman?

For right now, this is the final book. The main conflict is addressed, and comes to a satisfying conclusion, and I am very happy with it. There are a lot of threads-- some very exciting ones-- that I left open, so that kids can dream about what goes on beyond the story. And who knows? One day I might decide to come back to it. But right now, I'm very excited to have the conclusion available! I've turned my focus to writing a new story-- another action / adventure, of course.




If you missed the first Sky Jumpers book, it is out in paperback the same day that The Forbidden Flats releases-- one week from today!




Want to connect with Peggy online? 

Write What You Know(?): How Reality Inspires Science Fiction by Jenny Martin

The fabulous Jenny Martin is here today! (Her debut, TRACKED, which I've heard amazing things about, will be released next May by Penguin Random House.) Her book has some fun, unique, fascinating elements that make her the perfect person to talk about how reality can inspire science fiction. Take it away, Jenny!
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True confession: I’ve never raced a stock car. I’ve never tested a jetpack or blasted through folded space. I’ve never even taken a course on high speed intergalactic sports and interstellar geo-political conflict.

And yet…I’ve written about all these things. My upcoming debut, Tracked, is about Phee Van Zant, a spitfire street racer from another far future world, who faces down an empire. You might say I completely ignored the old adage…write what you know.

Or did I?

See, TRACKED isn’t just a wild, shot-in-the-dark yarn. Truthfully, I borrowed a whole lot of its heart and soul from my little world. And I’d bet that many science fiction and fantasy authors do the same, spinning speculative threads from their own reality.

Often, it happens naturally. You experience something, a memory drifts in, and bam—that something filters into your work. Other times, you seek out connections. You research a topic until a burst of inspiration becomes a major plot point. For me, it took a little bit of both—background and sleuthing—to get those jetpacks off the ground.

In building TRACKED’s world, I first relied on memories. Dressing up as a settler for a ‘land run’ in second grade. Watching oil derricks and roustabout workers. Sitting in Oklahoma history class. Taking field trips to Woodward’s Plains Indian and Pioneers museum. It all came back to me when I was writing Phee’s story. Suddenly, I understood the history of her planet. I realized exactly why racing became so important to Castra, and how it evolved over time. Those Earthborn ancestors who raced to claim land in a new galaxy? They weren’t so different from my ancestors, the daring, but not-always-noble Boomers and Sooners who settled my home state and later, discovered oil there.

But memories weren’t enough. I had a more than a world to build. I had to flesh out the specifics of Phee’s sport. What would it be like to street race in a futuristic vehicle? Would virtual reality come into play? What would that look like? Feel like? How would interstellar circuit rallies work?

To answer those questions, I visited nearby Texas Motor Speedway. I interviewed an amateur stock car driver and peeked under the hood of his car. I devoured sources like:

  • NASCAR, Rally and Formula One books, especially memoirs by racing superstars and veteran crew. (Despite the dubious title, Real Men Work in the Pits: A Life in NASCAR Racing by Jeff Hammond, is an awesome resource, BTW.)
  • Books and articles on futurist gaming and military technology and virtual reality. War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict by Corey Mead is a great find, since it covers all three at once!
  •  Red Bulletin Magazine. Yep, you read that right. The energy drink empire publishes a magazine. And it’s awesome; an all-around incredible resource on extreme sports, technology, subculture, and futurism. In each issue, you’ll find features on high speed aeronautics, rally racing and other daredevil pursuits. The journalism and helpful info-graphics are truly stellar; I always come away with new info and ideas. Actually…forget I said that. Ignore Red Bulletin. Leave all that inspiration for me. ;) 

But seriously, I’d love to hear about your inspirations. Do you write sci fi or fantasy? How do you draw on real life experiences as you create new worlds?



Jenny Martin is a writer, librarian, and beatle-maniac. She lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with her husband and son, where she hoards books and blisses out to all kinds of live and recorded rock. Tracked, her debut, releases 5/05/15 from Dial, an imprint of Penguin Random House.


Where to go for inspiration? Fall TV shows, of course!

There are a million places to go for inspiration, and one of the most fun is other media, like television shows! We asked Leaguers what Fall TV shows they are most looking to watching and why. Take a look-- you just might find a great new show, or a incredible source of your own inspiration.

Meagan Spooner:

I'm looking forward to Galavant, the musical comedy fairy tale show coming out this fall from ABC. It looks like a crazy mix of Spamalot and Once Upon a Time, and I am super okay with that! The writing team behind it is fabulous, plus the composing talents of Alan Menken, who composed some of my all time favorite Disney musicals (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, etc.). The trailer's hilarious, and while I can't really tell if it's going to be absolutely amazing or absolutely awful, I'm not even really sure I care. I'm a fan of anything fairy tales, and fairy tales while singing and dancing? I'm in.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPNVhGbw_Sg


Lissa Price:

I'm interested in a new Fox show: Gotham, which is Commissioner Gordon before Batman. So it could include Bruce Wayne as a boy and maybe some favs like Catwoman. And of course I am waiting for the return of Walking Dead.


Mindy McGinnis:

I'm awaiting the return of The Walking Dead, because I like to make noises like an angry cat jumping out from behind a dark corner during tense scenes. I'm fun to watch TV with.

I'm also completely invested in Cinemax's new series The Knick. Victorian-era surgery and gaping flesh wounds? I'm in.



Beth Revis:

The new season of Doctor Who has just started, and I've loved seeing the new direction with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I'm a bit nervous to see where it's going, honestly, but it's one of my weekly highlights of anticipation.

I've also been watching the reboot of Sailor Moon online and LOVE it. And, finally, I'm totally digging this season of Project Runway and Face Off. Something about reality shows that show the creation of something unique really resonates with me.


Lydia Kang:

I'm also going to be watching The Knick too--so curious about turn of the century medicine! The gore doesn't bother me at all. Half the time, I'm wondering "what is that THINGY they're using in surgery?"

Also, I'm a little obsessed over American Ninja Warrior, but not for writing purposes. It's fun to theorize over which types of bodies do best for different human tasks--like conquering the Warped Wall!


Amie Kaufman

Dude, I saw my first episode of American Ninja Warrior recently and I am oddly hooked as well. Though I spend a lot of time yelling 'No, you'll hurt yourself!'

 I'm psyched for the new season of Haven -- I love everything about these series. It's a show about a small American town beset by 'troubles' -- curses and gifts that manifest in individuals, causing all kinds of havoc. It has fantastic storylines each week, super intense season-long arcs, and long, slow, smart character development to die for.


Bethany Hagen:

I'm excited for the new Constantine show on NBC.  I don't know if any mainstream production will be able to channel the sexy, violent atmosphere of the comics, but with a Shakespearean-trained actor at the lead and my old friend Harold Perrineau from Lost, I'm willing to give it a try.


Eugene Myers:
I'm already way behind on most of the shows I watch, so I don't take on new ones easily — plus, I don't like to get too attached in case they' get cancelled. But I'm excited to check out The Flash, even though I haven't yet seen any Arrow. The trailer was stunning and it just looks like fun, and I'm a fan of the 90's live action show. I'll probably also try Gotham and Constantine.


Peggy Eddleman:

As for me? I can't wait for Marvel's Agents of Shield. It kind of got off to a slow start last year, but then it picked up steam and by the end, my family and I were in love and completely addicted. I love all the action & adventure, and can't wait for more!


What shows are you excited for this fall?



How not being creative just invites in the Brain Monster

I've got a theory that can be summed up in a single sentence. Are you ready for it? Here goes.

If you don’t expend creative energy, BAD THINGS HAPPEN.

Mark my words. BAD. THINGS.

Of course creative energy can be expended in a million different ways. Writing, drawing, photography, graphic design, knitting, creating things with your hands. Even finding solutions to organization problems or coming up with really cool math problems. (Once upon a time, I did technical support for spreadsheet software for a few years and I wrote some paragraphs-long formulas that had the power to make me float on a creative high for days. DAYS, I tell you!)

It wasn’t until I cashed in every single one of my creative outlets for writing that I realized the full effect of creative energy expenditure. You know, sometimes life gets busy. And you don’t have time to write (or whatever your favorite method is). And that’s when the bad things happen.

Photo Credit: hugoo13
You see, there’s this thing that lives in your brain. He’s a maniacal, crazy, hyper little monster, and doing creative things is like Valium to him. When he doesn't get his Valium, he goes wild. Wild like a nine year old ADHD kid hopped up on mass amounts of sugar, Dr. Pepper, and red dye #40. He runs around your brain and beats on the walls and yells and jumps and throws things, and it takes EVERY OUNCE OF PATIENCE TO HANDLE THE CHAOS ENSUING.


And the thing is, you don't even realize it's going on. You don't realize that you have spent every bit of your patience until something else comes along. Any tiny little thing, really. And suddenly you can't handle it. And you don't even know why, because it's such a teeny little thing. Of course you should be able to handle it just fine! But you don't.


See? Bad things.

I swear to you, if you ever feel this way, you can look back and say, "Wow. When was the last time I did something creative?"

And you'll hear the answer in a maniacal, crazy, hyper voice. "Forever ago! I NEED MY VALIUM!"

If you go and expend ANY kind of creative energy (but preferably the kind you've been most craving), then the BAD THINGS DISAPPEAR. Like magic.

So go be creative! Write! Draw! Make cool math problems! Then everything will come up roses again. I promise.


Sipping and Tipping: Coffee Shop Etiquette

The writer in the coffee shop has become a cliche, but there are lots of reasons for wanting to work amidst the hustle and bustle of strangers. When I lived in New York City, I generally had an itty bitty living space and several roommates, making an "office" away from home a necessity. Even now that I have a little more room, there are too many distractions at home: chores to do, pets clamoring for attention by sitting on my keyboard, video games inviting me to play them, TV shows to watch, and a comfy bed in the next room to nap in when it all gets to be too much. It helps motivate me when I have to leave my apartment to go somewhere else specifically to write.

There are also obvious benefits to having an inexhaustible supply of coffee nearby when you're working on a deadline and very little sleep. But what about the noise? Yes, coffee shops can get loud, but they can also be a great place for writers to observe other people, hear stories, and get ideas without feeling too creepy about eavesdropping. The "lonely writer" working in solitude is another old cliche, but writing in a coffee shop surrounded by hipsters on identical MacBooks fosters a sense of community, and it can be inspiring too, seeing everyone else plug away at their screenplays and novels. You start to get to know the other regulars, show an interest in each others' projects, and offer encouragement. It almost starts to feel like you have a social life.

Coffee shop writing isn't for everyone, but I think writers should be always be open-minded and try new processes, so if you haven't done it before, give it a try. But first, here are some etiquette and survival tips for writing in coffee shops:

  1. Don't bring a typewriter. Try a laptop or, if you really want to go old school, a notebook and pencil.
  2. Unless you actually love Starbucks coffee (and there's nothing wrong with that), consider going to a local indie shop instead. Honestly, Starbucks is super convenient — there are a lot of them and they have long hours — and I feel less guilty about hoarding a table there for long periods of time, but I also like supporting smaller businesses, and their coffee is often better.
  3. Buy something. Some coffee shops will actually let you bring in (or sneak in) food and snacks from outside, but don't abuse their kindness, especially if you're at an indie coffee shop. Buy a cup of coffee — consider it "rent" for the table. If you're there for more than a couple of hours, get refills periodically or buy some pastries or something; you're probably getting hungry anyway. Don't like coffee? Try tea or chai or cocoa, or just get a soda, especially if it's really crowded and you're taking up space other customers might want.
  4. Tip well. Always good advice, but if you're planning to come back often, don't be cheap.
  5. Share the outlets. Power is a hot commodity at most coffee shops; if you see someone drifting around, staring under tables along the walls, point out the outlets if you already know where they are. If you have room at your table and you're sitting alone, offer to share it. I like to bring a small multi-outlet converter with me, which makes it easier to offer power to more people. Some people bring extension cords or even surge protectors, but make sure you aren't going to trip someone or create a fire hazard. (Just in case, make sure your laptop is fully charged and you have your AC adapter before you leave home.)
  6. Start packing up a few minutes before the place closes, factoring in the time you need to back up your work (don't forget to back up your work!). You don't want to make anyone stay later than they have to.
  7. Bring headphones/earbuds. And use them. If you need to watch a funny video when you should be writing, use headphones so you don't disturb anyone else. Sometimes when it gets too busy or I don't like the music, I listen to Pandora. I've also been using some white noise generators like SimplyRain which generate some soothing sounds that help you focus during the loudest, most inane conversations around you.
  8. Bring friends. Writing dates are the best of both worlds: You're being productive while spending time with friends, and you can provide just the right amount of procrastination for each other while still feeling like you're working. It really comes in handy when you have someone else to ask "What's another word for...?" instead of Googling it or asking the snarky artificial intelligence in your phone.
  9. Write. Demand silence from your friends when you really need to get to work, turn off the Wi-Fi on your computer, and make the time and money count. Write. But getting one more cup of coffee first won't hurt...
(Thanks to Jeff Hirsch for inspiring this blog post via Twitter, and shout out to two of my favorite coffee shops ever: Grounded in NYC, and the Chestnut Hill Coffee Co.!)


What's your favorite place to write? Have you tried working in coffee shops? Share your survival tips with us below.

CHASING BEFORE by Lenore Appelhans Releases Today!


Hello and congrats to Lenore Appelhans! 
CHASING BEFORE, the sequel to THE MEMORY OF AFTER, is out today! 
*throws memory-altered confetti*

I have a bunch of questions to ask Lenore about her book, which I was lucky enough to read in the early stages and LOVED it from the beginning!

Me: I loved the new world you built in Chasing Before. Did you have this all consciously thought out when you wrote The Memory of After? If so, did a lot of it change once you began writing it?

Lenore: The Memory of After was originally conceived as a standalone, so when it came time to figure out what to do with a contracted sequel, I had to go back to the drawing board. I knew I wanted to continue to use elements of both Christian theology and mythology to create Level 3, but the landscape is vastly different than what you find in Level 2.

Me: So...you live in Germany! How does living in another country affect your writing process? 

Lenore: I often describe Germany as my writing cave. When I’m here, I’m a homebody most of the time, butt in chair, writing. I use trips to the US to be social and network. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the opportunity to be in a myriad of different countries within a few hours. Taking short trips in Europe gives me the chance to refill the creative well with new impressions and experiences. I love it!

Me: Who is your favorite new character we get to meet in the sequel?


Lenore: Great question! I am quite fond of both Libby and Brady, so much so that they get their own POV flashbacks in the eNovella THE BEST THINGS IN DEATH. But, I do enjoy the way Nate brings out a side of Neil we haven’t seen before, and I’m partial to him because I made him old enough that Ian Somerhalder could play him in the film. Ha!

Thanks Lenore! So glad to be able to chat with you!

And here's a little about CHASING BEFORE:

“I’m a ticking time bomb. And one day soon everything is going to explode.”

Felicia and Neil have arrived in Level 3 and are supposed to prepare for their divine vocations.

But during Felicia and Neil's training period, a series of explosions rips through Level 3. Tension is high, and casualties are mounting. A rift forms between the pair, one that grows wider when Felicia receives memories from the Morati. The memories cast doubt on the people she loves the most, but Felicia can't stop her curiosity. She has to know the truth about her life – even if it means putting at risk everything she’s worked for in her death.

Where to get the book:



Shelf Reflection

"Books! Books! All the books I'll need! All the books, all the books
I'll ever want." — "Time Enough at Last", The Twilight Zone
One of my least favorite sentences to hear is "We need to get rid of some books."

I bet that made some of you twitch, too. When my wife said this to me recently, my immediate reaction was denial. What do you mean we have to get rid of books? They're books! Unfortunately, the clear, simple logic of that argument is a bit too simple and oddly unconvincing, and while I may object to the necessity of the task, I'm not actually delusional. Not about this, anyway. As I looked around our apartment, even I had to admit that we have a book problem.

The thing is, I've never considered it a problem. Out of all the vices I could be into, collecting books is the most harmless. They're books. Books are good, worthy things. The more, the better — except when you're getting ready to move, or when you need to make more space in your apartment to, you know, live in. I've gone through a book cull each time I've moved, the most severe of them when we relocated from NYC to Philadelphia. Years of living in the publishing capital of the world tends to fill your shelves to bursting with free books, plus you attend a lot of readings and book launches of fellow writers. I'm also incapable of walking past a table selling used books without stopping (or at least slowing enough to survey the offerings), and there are many such tables lining New York's sidewalks. No matter the cost, no matter the diminishing space, I have never felt guilty about bringing home a new-to-me book, or an old favorite.

When we reached Philly, we had a smaller, but still large book collection. We immediately filled three Billy bookcases and an Expedit room divider from IKEA, with some room to grow. It turns out that only encouraged me; the books soon grew beyond those arbitrary boundaries, ending up in stacks on the floor and windowsill of my office. Many, many stacks. Serving on an award committee tends to fill your apartment quickly with free books, plus I began participating in a lot of panels, readings, and signings — often bringing home more books than I sold. Whatever, they're books.

So yeah, okay. Now I see that we have a problem. But I guess I'm the one with the issue, since I'm the one bringing most of these books in. It's not quite on level of hoarding, and it's hardly indiscriminate, but I definitely have more books than I have time to read, and that's been the case for a while. I'm a collector: I used to have a vast, nigh legendary VHS collection, which was decimated in the same NYC to Philly move, the essentials replaced on the much more compact DVD. I still have a sizable laserdisc collection, likely the next to be winnowed down. I have more than 200 8-bit Nintendo cartridges, painstakingly acquired and curated — which I will never get rid of. But the books are different.

I'm a writer now, but I was always a reader first, and I still am. I love books. They're what made me pursue writing in the first place! My wife loves books, too, but she doesn't seem to need to keep more than a couple shelves' worth of her best favorites around. Why can't I let them go?

It's not so much the possibilities that each book offers, though I like always having many books to choose from. Part of it is the fear that I'll want to reference a book I've read already and it won't be there. Or I'll want to reread a section or a story, and I won't be able to find it. I also want to keep around copies of books I've enjoyed to lend to people. I like being surrounded by books — it's part of my identity, there on display to all: I am a reader.

After pondering the situation a lot in the past week, I've decided that I like owning books. When I was a kid, we couldn't buy new books very often, so most of my reading came from the library. The small collection of books I had — built up from dime sales at the library, trips to the Salvation Army, yard sales, and gifts — was precious to me. I reread those books over and over again, and I still own many of them today. But somewhere along the way, once I could afford to buy books, the act of having them became more important than the act of reading. The more books I owned, the less I valued each one.

Having all those books to choose from at any time was pointless because I rarely picked any of them over some shiny new book I had just purchased, or my latest selections from the library. The books have become limiting, and as I consider each individually, I've discovered that my collection more reflects what I used to want to read instead of what I want to read right now. Still valuable perhaps, but I've been carting around some of these for more than 15 years, unread. Perhaps that ship has long sailed. I have accumulated a lot of short story collections, but I'm mostly reading YA novels these days, and my interest in reading short stories has waned a bit. Time to move on.

We're being much more ruthless on this go round, but I still have trouble discarding books for any number of reasons: That one's out of print. That one was written by a friend. That one is signed. That has a cool cover. That book wasn't that bad. Where do I draw the line? What I've come up with is a system that still varies from case to case, but boils down to keeping only favorites that I plan to reread, unread books I am definitely still interested in reading (and even some of those may be discarded if I can get them from the library), some books written by good friends, books I feel like holding onto for sentimental reasons, and signed/personalized books that I like. That latter category is the trickiest — I am really torn over passing on signed books, but I actually do have a lot of them now, and I want to prize the ones I decide to keep.

Also: Books are meant to be read and shared, and so in some ways, I'm freeing these books from their dusty captivity to hopefully inspire and delight other voracious readers. Another thing that's consoling me through this difficult process is the fact that eBooks are so accessible now. I am not a big fan of them — I still prefer paper, obviously — but I know I can call up an old book quickly if I need to. I have a lot of unread eBooks too, but at least they're only taking up space on cloud storage. I suspect that from now on, most of my new book purchases will be eBooks, unless I already know that book deserves a place on our shelves forever, and I'll continue to rely heavily on the library, which remains the best way to get free books. If I love a book enough to shell out for the hardcover even after I've read it, as I did recently with Jaclyn Moriarty's A Corner of White, then I know it's truly a keeper.

Where do you draw the line? How do you approach a dreaded book purge? Please share your tips for keeping strong and making those hard decisions below!