Four Reasons You Need to ASCEND

Tomorrow is the day that LARK ASCENDING ascends onto shelves!   LARK is the third book in the SKYLARK Trilogy, penned by the wonderful (and wonderfully talented) Meagan Spooner (who also co-wrote the beautiful These Broken Stars [which made me have Feels.])

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy, and so I'm here to tell you that there are some VERY IMPORTANT REASONS that you need to find your way into Lark Ainsley's world, if you haven't already.

1. Magic!
If you haven't read any of the Skylark books yet, I won't ruin it all for you, but there is most definitely magic and Lark is most definitely able to use it, like a BAMF magic-warrior-lady.

Magic Hands!

2. Oren
Again, if you haven't delved into the Skylark books, I won't be spoilery, but I will say that Oren is fiercely loyal, fiercely wild, and has one heck of a dangerous secret--one that could destroy him and everyone he comes near.

Oren:  Safe? No.  Hot? Yes.

3. Nix
Nix is a magically-powered steampunk-pixie-pet who used to be bad and is now mostly good, but has an extremely smart mouth.  In addition to protecting Lark, it also makes sure that everyone around it knows how dumb it thinks they are.  Nix may be my spirit animal.

4. Answers with a Capital A
A mysterious girl named Eve.  The evil Institute and its overlord Gloriette. The architects who started it all.  Lark returns to the city of her birth and finally unearths the Truth.

Sorry.  Couldn't resist.

So there you have it!  LARK ASCENDING is beautifully written, haunting, magical steampunk-y goodness, and it is going to be here TOMORROW!

And it's available at all of these fine places:

The Perils of Near-Future Science Fiction—and How to Write it Anyway, by Shallee McArthur

Science fiction. It makes people think “voyages of the Starship Enterprise” and “in a galaxy far, far away.” Those things—far flung futures, space adventures, new planets, etc. etc.—are some of my favorite things about science fiction.

But that’s not the kind of science fiction I wrote. (At least, not for this book.)

The Unhappening of Genesis Lee is about a girl who’s genetically altered so that her brain can no longer store memories. Instead, she uses the rest of her nervous system to store memories in external objects through touch. It takes place in Arizona in the year 2084. That’s not exactly next week, though it’s also not far, far away. All things considered, 70 years in the future is relatively soon. And sometimes in the world of science fiction, “soon” can be a little dangerous.

The world has reached a point where the theories of yesterday are tomorrow’s news stories of success. We have so much technology, it enhances our ability to create more technology, faster. For a writer of near-future sci fi, there’s always the worry that the progression of science is going to outstrip your imagination. In a previous story, I wrote about a kind of body armor that I thought was so cool and high-tech…only to find out it was actually a real thing already.

There’s nothing worse than having your futuristic story look behind-the-times.

So what’s a writer to do? I’ve learned a few tricks that help me write better near-future science fiction—and these can extend to all genres.

Research – To me, this is a given. It’s science fiction, after all. This doesn’t mean I’ve got to become an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics overnight, but it does mean I better look beyond Wikipedia and that one cool news article on Hypable. Look into the history of the science—how it got where it is now. Look into where the experts want it to go—what’s their vision of the future? Over the course of writing Unhappening, I read approximately eleventy billion science journal articles about how memory works and what current research is doing with memory. And a good thing, too, because I had to modify some things along the way!

Imagine it more than once – I’m sure we’ve all had that moment—you read something online and immediately think, “That’d make a killer story!” DON’T just sit down and write a story based on that cool new thing you learned. That’s the easiest way for your story to be old news before it’s even written. Instead, speculate. (It is speculative fiction, after all—though this concept applies to pretty much any genre.) Ask what could go wrong. Ask what could go right, and then go wrong. Ask what society will look like if this thing happens, how economies and communication and human interaction will change. Ask what other advances this could lead to. Basically, imagine the idea more than once. Come up with three or four or ten possibilities that could come from this single new thing, and write the one that wasn’t your first thought.

Focus the story on universal human truths – This is the single best way to make sure your book won’t become irrelevant. People don’t care as much if science passes up your science fiction—if you “got it wrong”—as long as the story is focused on the universal human truths behind the science. In Unhappening, the heart of the story is really about forgetting. Because forgetting makes me afraid. It makes all of us afraid. It’s also about remembering, and the power in memories to shape us as human beings. It’s a story that asks what makes us who we are, and that’s something that will exist even if memory modification treatment for PTSD doesn’t happen the way my book claimed it would.

George Orwell wrote 1984 in the year 1949. The story speculated a mere 35 years into the future. But just because the book was “wrong,” because it’s now 30 years past its title-imposed expiration date, is it any less relevant? I think the entire world around us would say no.

I’ve read before that near-future sci fi is a gamble, even that it’s no longer possible to write it and stay relevant in this day and age. I disagree one hundred percent. Science fiction is and always has been about possibilities, not probabilities. It’s why people love it—it’s why I love it.

So go dream up what might be possible.

Shallee McArthur originally wanted to be a scientist, until she realized she liked her science best in fictional form. Her debut YA sci fi, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE comes out November 4th. Her other adventures have included wrangling a group of volunteers in Ghana, changing her hairstyle way too often, and raising two small nerdlings with her husband.

Review of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by Mindy McGinnis

Okay, so it's time for another book review! This time I got to read an early copy of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by fellow Leaguer, Mindy McGinnis. This is a companion novel to Mindy's first book, NOT A DROP TO DRINK. And I'm a real fan of companion novels, having written two myself.

With DUST, we get to follow Lucy, who was a child in the first book. Her caretaker and stand-in mother is Lynn, who was the teen narrator in DRINK. If you liked the format of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and it's companion THE DEAD TOSSED WAVES, you'll enjoy the companion style of DUST to DRINK.

About NOT A DROP TO DRINK: Sixteen-year-old Lynn will do anything to protect her valuable water source, but the arrival of new neighbors forces her to reconsider her attitudes. With evocative, spare language, and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author McGinnis depicts one girl's unwavering efforts to survive in a harsh frontier-like future.

"A high-quality survivalist story for readers who enjoy internal story arcs as well as external dangers." (Kirkus Reviews)
About IN A HANDFUL OF DUST: In a Handful of Dust is set ten years after the first novel, Not a Drop to Drink, as a dangerous disease strikes the community where teenage Lucy lives. When her adoptive mother, Lynn, takes Lucy away from their home and friends in order to protect her, Lucy struggles to figure out what home means. During their journey west to find a new life, the two face nature's challenges, including hunger, mountains, and deserts.

Why You Should Read It:
1. If you're a fan of dystopian novels, this series has a fresh twist, taking us back to the frontier times. I just read a historical novel set in the harsh climate of Montana, and DUST and DRINK has this distinct feel of the harshness of a "wild land" where anything goes and there's no law.

So it's unique. There's no oppressive government. There's not a "utopian" feel that a lot of other dystopian novels/series have. So if you haven't picked these novels up yet, you should! You'll get something fresh and different.

2. IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is a continuation of the story started in DRINK, but it has a story arc of it's own. So don't feel like you need to start with the first book. Mindy does a great job of letting readers know what's happened without dragging down the current plot.

3. The premise of the series is that there's hardly any water. Being a lover of the ocean, I really identified with Lucy, who wants to go to California, where she's heard there are desalination plants. Lynn--the older, more seasoned woman--decides to accompany her, but really this is Lucy's fight in the wilderness. And there were some pretty terrible situations--betrayals from a friend, gun fights, people wanting Lucy for her ability, treacherous mountains to climb (literally!), and reaching a city that doesn't have any more water than they had back home--that Lucy had to overcome in her quest to get to California.

I think most of us have had our own "mountains to climb" from time to time in our lives, and this adventure story of a cross-country trip in pursuit of a dream (even if that dream is simply having clean water to drink!) is appealing.

So be sure to buy these books today! Here's where you can find IN A HANDFUL OF DUST:

We have a dual Book Birthday at the League!

We are excited to have TWO fantastic books written by Leaguers releasing today! IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by Mindy McGinnis and THE FORBIDDEN FLATS by Peggy Eddleman.

Check them out:

The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.

Twelve-year-old Hope has always felt a little different from everyone else who lives in White Rock. She tries hard, but she doesn’t always think before she acts. She takes big risks. Sometimes her risks pay off, but sometimes they fail. Sometimes she fails.

Hope knows that the most dangerous thing about living in White Rock is that it’s so close to the deadly Bomb’s Breath—the invisible, fifteen-foot-thick band of compressed air that’s hovered over the earth since the Green Bombs of World War III. The citizens of White Rock live in fear of the Bomb’s Breath. Only Hope has figured out a way to go through it—and lived to tell the tale.

But when a massive tremor rips across the earth, the Bomb’s Breath begins to lower over White Rock. It’s up to Hope and her friends Brock and Aaren to make the dangerous journey far from home across the bandit-ridden Forbidden Flats to the wilds of the Rocky Mountains and obtain the one thing that may be able to stop it—before the Bomb’s Breath sinks too far and destroys them all. This time, Hope can’t fail.

I Will Show You the Awesome IN A HANDFUL OF DUST

Tomorrow, September 23rd, is a special day, and not just because it’s the day that Frodo leaves Bag End in The Fellowship of the Ring.  Tomorrow, you will be able to get your hot little hands on Mindy McGinnis’s IN A HANDFUL OF DUST.  You will be able to crack open the spine.  You will be able to smell the freshly printed pages.  And even better, you will get to find out what happens to Lynn, our favorite rifle-toting badass from NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

Six Additional Reasons You Want What This Book’s Got:

1. It’s like The Road for teens and also with more shooting.

2. Lynn and Lucy prove that female friendship can be just as complex and riveting as any love story.

3. It’s a journey story!  Sort of like The Fellowship of the Ring but with more shooting.  Or The Gunslinger but with young women instead of dudes and also more shooting.

4. The parched American Midwest is bleak, beautiful and unforgettable.

5. Tons of gorgeous poetry allusions:

6. There is a Plot Twist.  But I can’t tell you what it is.  But it made me do this:

Then, by the end:


If you're extra curious, here's the blurb:

Fans of classic frontier survival stories as well as readers of dystopian literature will enjoy this futuristic story about an epic cross-country journey. In a Handful of Dust is set ten years after the first novel, Not a Drop to Drink, as a dangerous disease strikes the community where teenage Lucy lives. When her adoptive mother, Lynn, takes Lucy away from their home and friends in order to protect her, Lucy struggles to figure out what home means. During their journey west to find a new life, the two face nature's challenges, including hunger, mountains, and deserts.
New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant says Not a Drop to Drink is a debut "not to be missed," and this companion title is full of Mindy McGinnis's evocative, spare language matched with incredible drama and danger. In a Handful of Dust is perfect for fans of PartialsEnclave, and Legend.

And here's where you can find it:


Okay, so fellow Leaguer Peggy Eddleman has her second book coming out on Tuesday! It's a time of celebration! THE FORBIDDEN FLATS is a sequel to SKY JUMPERS, and they're both some of the greatest middle grade adventure I've ever read. I was lucky enough to get an early copy of THE FORBIDDEN FLATS, and I can't wait for everyone to read this book so I can talk about it!

About SKY JUMPERS: Twelve-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town of inventors struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of compressed air that covers the crater left by the bombs—than fail at yet another invention.

When bandits discover that White Rock has priceless antibiotics, they invade. For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and recklessness that usually get Hope into trouble might just save them all.

“Eddleman brings a strong sense of atmosphere to this post-apocalyptic coming-of-age piece, and the underlying message—that it’s possible to contribute in unexpected ways—is a positive one.” —Publishers Weekly

About THE FORBIDDEN FLATS: Twelve-year-old Hope has always felt a little different from everyone else who lives in White Rock. She tries hard, but she doesn’t always think before she acts. She takes big risks. Sometimes her risks pay off, but sometimes they fail. Sometimes she fails.

When a massive tremor rips across the earth, the Bomb’s Breath begins to lower over White Rock. It’s up to Hope and her friends Brock and Aaren to make the dangerous journey far from home, across the bandit-ridden Forbidden Flats to the wilds of the Rocky Mountains, and obtain the one thing that may be able to stop it—before the Bomb’s Breath sinks too far and destroys them all.

This time, Hope can’t fail.

Why You Should Read It:
1. If you haven't started this series yet, you must! Sky Jumpers is full of heart, with a main character in Hope that I believe everyone can identify with.

2. The Forbidden Flats is a novel that can stand on it's own. Even if you haven't read Sky Jumpers yet, you can read, understand, and fall in love with The Forbidden Flats.

3. While the adventure and action is brilliantly done and kept me turning pages, the real reason I love this book is because of Hope. She is a well-rounded main character with faults, true emotions, and fears. I loved learning more about her as she struggled with her feelings about her family, her birth mom, and learning the science behind the rocks she was seeking.

This is more than a book about saving her town. It's more than a book about crossing a dangerous swath of land. It's a book about Hope -- a story about how to reach deep inside yourself when you think all is lost. A novel that makes readers want to be able to do what Hope did, to twist their own weaknesses into strengths.

In three words: It is awesome.

Then two: Buy it. Read it. Love it.

Get your copy today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM, or Indiebound.

Want to connect with Peggy online?

Website | Blog 
Twitter | Facebook 
Tumblr | Goodreads 

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!

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.


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?