November 27, 2015

Kick off the holiday shopping season with free books!

Today is Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season (at least in the U.S.). What better way to celebrate than with FREE books?!

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, a newly published anthology of ghost-themed YA stories that I participated in, Spectral Tales, is free from these retailers:

Maybe ghosts aren't your thing? How about fairy tale re-tellings? Then check out Through a Tangled Wood.


Perhaps you'd like to read a YA short story collection centered around comets? Then Celestial is for you!


I should also mention that two of my own books are free today as well!

November 10, 2015

Spectral Tales

Once again, I had the fortune of working with the talented authors who brought you Through a Tangled Wood and Celestial. Our latest anthology is Spectral Tales, a collection of short stories based on ghosts.

You can download Spectral Tales for FREE from these retailers:
And while you're at it, remember that Through a Tangled Wood and Celestial are also still free!

Whether they are spirits of the departed or figments of an overactive imagination, ghosts are a staple in fiction. Storytellers have portrayed ghosts as scary, friendly, or annoying across many genres. Now, eight authors offer their own interpretations of ghosts through a collection of short stories that will appeal to fans of horror, fantasy, or young adult fiction.

“Deathwatch” by Katie French - Teenage sisters Charlotte and Georgie stumble into a robbery, and their normal life gets flipped upside down. Worse, when the clerk kills one of the robbers, his face is covered in a supernatural swarm of bugs. Charlotte must be hallucinating. It's the only explanation for the terrible things she's seen. Everyone calls the clerk a hometown hero, but Charlotte's not so sure. Then a dead girl appears in her mirror with clues to the truth, and Charlotte learns there's more horror to this world than she ever expected.

“Tides” by Sarah Dalton - Andrea wakes with sand on her feet. She is sleepwalking down to the sea every night, but remembers little more than a vague recollection of a boy who lives on the beach. With an absent father and a mother who would rather walk along the coast than look after her daughter, Andrea struggles to get by. She’s haunted, but from a memory, or a spirit?

“Shadowspirit” by M.A. George - On a good day, Henta Mourngard is stalked by dreadspirits and netherphantoms, a living magnet for creatures of the afterlife. On a bad day, she finds herself communing with a demon of the underworld—worse yet, interrogating one—in a desperate attempt to track down the shadowspirit who has been her guide since infancy. Demons don’t take kindly to interrogation. And the search for a missing shadowspirit leads to places the living daren’t tread (lest they no longer qualify as living). ‘Tis unfortunate for Henta that today is not a “good day”.

“The Little Girl” by Jamie Campbell - Sixteen-year-old Penny is moving house… again. Starting out in a small town, she is hopeful this time will be the last. As long as the little girl doesn’t follow her, she will be rid of her past hauntings. The only problem is, the little girl won’t let her go and now she is about to grow stronger than ever before.

“The Ghost Below” by Ariele Sieling - White Rabbit gets sent to run cables in the bowels of the spaceship as a punishment. While working, she discovers that the ship's ghost might be more than he seems.

“Slave Runner” by H.S. Stone - Malika and her sister are captured by slave traders but receive an unexpected gift of freedom when their captors encounter a deadly gathering of ghosts. The sisters escape to a nearby village, where they learn that the new sanctuary isn’t as safe as they thought it would be, and ghosts aren’t what they most need to fear.

“Farewell Ohana (A Ghostly Mini-Wave)” by Sutton Shields - Maile Lahela is under attack by someone in the Kauai Camp for the Curiously Creepy. When she awakens one morning unable to see, her peculiar, yet loyal friends decide it’s time to escape the institution—something that’s never been done. But before they can leave, Maile has a mission of her own…one that could cost them their lives. Farewell Ohana is a short, fun-filled, emotional prequel to the events occurring in Overfalls, Wave Two of The Merworld Water Wars series by Sutton Shields.

“Ghost Girl” by Susan Fodor - Zoey Saunders has her future mapped out, but an accident brings her life to an untimely end. In her new state of being, Zoey feels compelled to seek justice for her death and bring healing to her family who have become a shadow of their former selves. But what constitutes justice and will getting even ever be enough to replace the life she lost? 

November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015

It's that time again! November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Last year, I participated for the first time, and the effort led to my novella, Transmissions. I was also very pleasantly surprised to surpass the 50,000-word mark in one month. Here's a chart of my progress from last year's NaNoWriMo. Doesn't it look wonderful?

This year, I'm going to try something new. I'm going outside of my usual YA/MG genre to write a thriller. I like reading thrillers and have been wanting to try writing one for a long time, and NaNoWriMo seemed like a good opportunity for me to stretch my wings. We'll see how it goes. As with last year, if you want to follow my progress, you can stalk me on Twitter. :-)

October 24, 2015

Book review: Jet by Russell Blake

Buy from Amazon
Buy from B&N

Code name: Jet

Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad's most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever.

But the past doesn't give up on its secrets easily.

When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold.

Fans of Lizbeth Salander, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at Lamborghini speed to a conclusion as jarring and surprising as the story's heroine is unconventional.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

October 17, 2015

And now for something completely different (college job-seeker edition)

Today, I'm going to talk about something totally unrelated to writing. It is, however, related to my day job as a software engineer.

This post came about because I recently participated at a couple of college recruiting events on behalf of the company where I work. At these events, I helped interview college students for internship and full-time positions. Based on what I saw of the candidates who were rated most favorably by me and my colleagues, I came up with a list of observations that I hope will be helpful for readers of this blog if you are currently in college or thinking of going to college soon, or if you're the parent of a child who is college age.

  1. You don't have to go to a top university. We talked with students from all over the country. There were students from prestigious universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, or Carnegie Mellon, but a majority went to other schools. Most of these were still good schools but not among the top tier. When I looked at the colleges attended by the students we rated most highly, they came from a wide cross section of schools. We didn't favor graduates of Ivy Leagues over other schools, for example. While there are some companies that still place an emphasis on where you go, the company that I work for and a growing number of others don't care.
  2. It does matter what you learn while you're in college. Instead of basing our decisions on the college a student attended, we tried to base our ratings on what you know. In a college computer science curriculum, students should have learned about data structures, for instance, but whether you went to Stanford or to Indiana State, you should know the difference between a queue and a stack. We care about whether you learned the basics of computer science well, not where you learned it. If you went to an Ivy League but can't write code to traverse a linked list, your school's prestige isn't going to help you get a job.
  3. Start looking for internships your sophomore year. Most of the highly rated students already had two summer internships under their belts by the time they were seniors. That means you should look for a summer internship after your sophomore year. Internships are a great way to get real world experience and gives you something to talk to prospective employers about. We want to know what you learned in those internships, what you found interesting or not interesting, and what challenges you faced and overcame.
  4. Work on personal projects to show your independence and initiative. The best candidates have also built two or three apps or websites by the time they're seniors. They usually took on these projects to learn a new technology, like Android app development. It doesn't matter how successful the project was or even if it's still an incomplete work in progress. The goal is to show us that you have a desire to learn and that you have the initiative and independence to work on something on your own.
  5. Culture fit matters. There were a few resumes with notes along the lines of "Smart but not a culture fit." These students didn't make the cut for my company. It's not only important to do well in school and to be smart and have a lot of experience. You can't be a jerk. I met students who talked ill of the instructors and/or classmates in an attempt to show how smart they were. Um, no. While it's hard to know how much to brag about your accomplishments without coming off as too cocky, keep in mind that companies are looking for people who will work well in teams because that's how real world projects get done. If employers don't think you'll be a good team player, then it doesn't matter how technically skilled you are.

Although my advice pertains mainly to the software industry, I hope that students in other majors can benefit too. And if you're deciding on a major, computer science isn't so bad, considering that the world is continually becoming more electronic and computer science is now the most popular major for women at Stanford.

October 10, 2015

Why I don't write four books a year

Last month, there was an article on Huffington Post asking authors not to write four books a year. I am happy to say that I don't write four books a year. It's an accomplishment if I can finish one novel a year.

Do I write just one novel a year because I agree with the article and think that a good book can't be written in three months? Do I believe that any book that doesn't require a year's worth of work must not be very good? While I do work hard on my books and try to write the best story I can each time, that's not why I only publish one book a year. The reason is simple: I have a full time job and a family that keeps me busy, and since I only write in my spare moments, it takes a year to finish a novel that's good enough for the public to read.

If I weren't working a day job, I'd probably write four books a year, and you know what, they'd be better than the single book that takes me a year to write. The idea that a good novel can't be written in three months or less is absurd. Novels aren't like wine that needs to age before it's ready. Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange in three weeks, Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in nine days, and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde in six days! While those astounding numbers may be the exception rather than the rule, there are many great books that have been written in less than three months. Speed doesn't dictate how well a book is written. An author's skills, inspiration, dedication, and many other factors count more toward the quality of a novel than the amount of time it took to write it.

Now, it's time for me to go back to my precious minutes of writing today.

September 26, 2015

Book review: The Brothers by Katie French

Buy from Amazon
Buy from B&N

“They tell me it’s for the good of humanity. That I’m saving our way of life with my body. They lie.”

Book Four in the award-winning, best-selling Breeders series.

Riley has survived madmen, deranged doctors, and false prophets. Her next task is uniting her family, which has been ripped apart by Nessa Vandewater, the Breeders’ enforcer. Her boyfriend Clay and brother Ethan are still missing. Only she can find them.

But on her way, Riley is stung by a scorpion. To ease her suffering, Auntie Bell shares the story of Riley’s mother, Janine, and how she escaped the Breeders.

Nearly twenty years in the past, Janine, an obedient Breeders girl, is nearing her seventeenth birthday, and the clock is ticking. She has two months to become pregnant, or she’ll be put out, sold into slavery . . . or worse. When her doctor informs her she’s infertile, she’s devastated. But some doctors lie, and one in particular seems to want Janine for his own . . .

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)