February 25, 2012

I wanna be a Wanderer!!!!

Ever since her sixteenth birthday, strange things keep happening to Seraphina Parrish.

The Lady in Black… burns Sera’s memories.

Unexplainable Premonitions… catapult her to other cities.

The Grungy Gang… wants to kill her.

And a beautiful, mysterious boy… stalks her.

But when Sera moves to Chicago, and her aunt reveals their family connection to a centuries old, secret society, she is immediately thrust into an unbelievable fantasy world, leading her on a quest to unravel the mysteries that plague her. In the end, their meanings crash into an epic struggle of loyalty and betrayal, and she’ll be forced to choose between the boy who has stolen her heart and the thing she desires most.

Wander Dust is the breathtaking fantasy that will catapult you through a story of time, adventure, and love.

I initially came across Michelle Warren through Inkpop (a division of Harper Teen for young writers/readers). She posted the first chapter of Wander Dust on the site and offered 'free reads' to others. I thought she was crazy, but I was also intrigued. So I read her snip-it and was instantly hooked!

Michelle takes us on a wild and mysterious ride, right from the first page. Each chapter brings more questions you just have to know the answers to. Who is this Lady in Black? Why is she sent to Chicago to go live with her aunt? Who are these creepy goons that seem to follow her after popping up out of thin air? Who? What? Why? Ahhhh!

The world Michelle creates is fantastic! Forgive my geek out moment, but I TOTALLY want to go to a school like the Academy! It's like a mish-mash of Hogwarts and House of Night with fantastically embellished rooms, crazy instructors, and out of this world that-so-should-not-be-real type of ambiance. Michelle describes everything so flawlessly it was like being there with Sera and Bishop.

The story behind Wander Dust is also incredible. I love a good time travel book and this one does not disappoint. The twist to the norm with the teams (Seer, Wanderer, and Protector) is fantastic and I love the chemistry required with the teams. Michelle weaves through a great plot full of intrigue, history, unexpected twists (which I LOVE), adventure and non-stop action. There was not a moment I got bored! It just keeps on a comin!

Sera, Bishop, Sam, Stu, Macey... I just loved Michelle's characters. They each had a great voice and true personality. Even Mona, Sera's aunt, is someone who I could totally have tea with. She is like that quirky relative you can't help but adore. Sera is a great lead character. She is strong, but doesn't know it. And it's not that cliche sort of quiet strengths, but a realistic holy-crap-who-am-I-to-think-I-can-actually-do-this-crap kind of chick. Bishop is a great guy and I so look forward to seeing more from him. Michelle kind of back-played him a bit so I have my questions. Don't get me wrong, he is totally swoon worthy. Hell, green eyes and a British accent... SWOON Bishop certainly has some background and I am anxious to learn more and see how the relationship between him and Sera plays out.

The romance was not as pronounced as you see in other YA reads, but that is not necessarily a bad thing! There were definitely those moments where you scream "JUST KISS HER ALREADY" at the printed words in front of your face. Moments that were incredibly sweet and made me giddy, and others where you could totally feel the fierce blush on Sera's face. It was awesome!

Overall, Wander Dust was a GREAT read and I am so glad I found another fantastic debut author! Do yourself a favor and pick this puppy up and READ IT! Michelle is working on book #2 as we speak and I am definitely looking forward to it.

February 18, 2012

Versatile, multifaceted, dexterous me?

It seems I have been awarded the prestigious Versatile Blogger Award by the lovely Miss C. Issy! Egads! I have no idea what to say, I didn't prepare any form of speech. We will just have to wing it here. *clears throat rather loudly and pulls out glasses* First, I would like to thank the Academy... Crap! Wrong speech.

Actually, I just feel rather darned special to be thought of as 'versatile.' Random, yes. Obscure, sure. Slightly off my rocker, fo shizzle! But versatile? That implies that I actually have some idea what I ramble about and have an end goal of some kind. *snicker* We can all dream, right? *wink*

In any event, in my true randomness, I will now spew out 7 random tiddly-bits that y'all didn't know about me. This should be a treat as I don't really know many of you all and y'all don't really know me.

Let's do dis... *cracks knuckles and loosens neck*

1. In the fourth grade I broke my right arm (I'm a righty). Split the radius bone right in half just under the wrist like it was nuthin. This was a result of eating potato chips at lunch before swinging around on the monkey bars. Had a cast from my knuckles to my shoulder for 8 weeks in the summer which left me with the most GAWD awful farmers tan. I learned 2 things from this: don't eat greasy chips before playing on the bars and I can now write legibly with my left hand.

2. I have 5 siblings and I am not fully related to any of them. As a byproduct of the typical American household, I have 3 step-brothers (two different marriages), a half brother (same mom), and a half sister (same dad).

3. My first official tax paying job was at Tower Records in Sacramento, CA. The token white chick and hip-hop/R&B expert on the south-side of town. It was because of this job that I now have such crazy random taste in music.

4. The first time I ever got...ahem...inebriated (to keep things PG) was 2 weeks AFTER my 22nd birthday. That's right. No crazy 21st B-day party and before this point I had only had the occasional sip of alcohol.

5. I cannot sleep in a quiet room. I have a little enviro-machine with a cool little babbling brook effect. It drove my hubby nuts when we first got together, but I can't sleep without it. My mother is to blame. She never had a quiet house when I was a baby because she didn't want a light sleeper. Well, it's two-fold mom. =^)

6. I am acutely claustrophobic that plays into some personal space issues. Will NOT sit in the middle seat on an airplane. Will often choose an isle/end seat at any public place like movie theater or restaurant. Will often choose the stairs over an elevator. My friends think this is hilarious since I worked for an elevator company for 6 years. I work on the 5th floor of my building and will NOT take the elevator at 5pm. Had an MRI in my early 20s that was probably the most traumatic experience of my life. Yeah, not cool.

7. Last, but certainly not least, I have a RIDICULOUS amount of brain space dedicated to movie lines and song lyrics. It's crazy. The worst are Princess Bride and Clue, as well as oodles of music from my formidable high school career. My little brother and I could recite Clue from beginning to end without battling an eyelash. We were often family entertainment. *wink*

So do you have a better idea of who I am now? Did I scare you off? Meh, probably. But this was fun! I enjoyed this little diddy of a post and I will now do some torch passing of my own. I don't personally know 15 bloggers so I will slyly toss in some folks who I thoroughly enjoy. We will see if they wanna play!

Blaire Kensley cuz she is the sweetest person I know.
Raine Thomas cuz she is AWESOME and nice and a great writer and and and...
Books Over Boys cuz, well who doesn't like Momo?
Books With Bite cuz of the awesomesauce reviews
Cupid's Literary Connection cuz of all around awesomeness
Fictitious Delicious cuz, well, #TeamKilt anyone?
Makeshift Bookmark cuz Jen is HIGH-larious
Mundie Moms cuz there can only be one Mundie Mom!
Stuck in Books cuz of awesome reviews
YA Sisterhood cuz, well, there are too many reasons why...
Word Spelunking cuz Aeicha is a cupcake of a reviewer!!
YA Bookmark cuz of crazy good reviews
YA Highway cuz of awesome info
Oasis for YA cuz of crazy good info
YA Muses cuz of awesome authors and user-friendly goodies for writers!

February 17, 2012

Legend: Could not put the thing down!

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Thanks to the lovely Blair Kensley, and one of her fabulous Giveaways, I had the honor of reading Legend from debut author, Marie Lu. I had read the hub-bub over the Twittersphere about this book so it was on my TBR list and could not wait to get my greedy hands on it. It was worth the wait.The kiddo was home sick today so I spent my afternoon flipping page after page of this book. I was hooked.

Miss Marie introduces us to a post apocalyptic Los Angeles where nothing is as it is today. The cities have been redefined, plagues ravish the poor, the classes of people have a clear division, and there is an all around instability to life. Children are tested through Trials and, depending on how well they pass, their future is defined. If they fail...well...you have to read to find out. *grin*

I instantly fell for June and Day. The characters were both confident without being snarky or unlikable. June is the top of her class and the brightest star in the galaxy when it comes to her training by the Republic, and Day is an over-achieving street rat who has a heart of gold. Both characters were written well. There was a subtlety to them that made them seem more real, if that makes sense. Sometimes you read about over-achieving characters and they are so filled with awesomeness that they are truly fiction. June and Day did not come off that way to me at all.

The alternating 1st person POV's were awesome! I like this style. You really get into each characters head and see them for who they are and not how they appear to the narrator. Each chapter called out whose head you were in, but I don't think it would have been difficult to tell them apart otherwise. Miss Marie gave a clear picture on each individual.

The world Miss Marie built was very interesting. She did not go into a whole lot of all around detail, but focused mostly on the immediate area. You get a sense that the world has been turned on its head with the crumbing of the good ole US of A, but she does not stray from the "Los Angeles" area. Perhaps in the next installment we will see more of the chaos.

At the same time, I really didn't need to know what was going on at the East Coast or in the UK since my characters were not there. The slums that Miss Marie created were well crafted. From the waterfronts to the crumbling remains of buildings, she gave just enough to paint a picture and let the reader create the finer details.

The romance that built up between June and Day was very sweet as well. It was not full of steaming glances or heart pumping hormones, but then again, both characters are only fifteen so I felt it was appropriate. They are essentially the same person, just in boy and girl form, so it was nice they saw this in each other. The lovey-dovey was not overdone by any means and did not distract from the story, but added to it.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Legend was a great fast paced read. Hell, I read 2/3 of it while the kiddo took a nap! It kept me reading, as it's supposed to do, and I will anxiously wait for the next installment!

Did Legend rock my world? A definite 7.5!

February 16, 2012

In a sharing kind of mood today...

Anyone who actually follows the ramblings I post here probably knows I have been dabbling with some writing. I have a full WIP that has been ‘under the knife’ for several months now. Just your typical editing for a first time writer: hack, slash, and rewrite. *grin*

Well, the last several weeks to months I have had a new story occupying my brain when I try to distance myself from WIP #1. It’s another YA type dealy-o, only more sci-fi-ish with fantasy elements.

I am probably certifiably crazy for doing this, but I would like to share a little ditty that spewed out the other day when working on character development for my main gal. This is background info that sort of morphed into a semi-short story. I like it, it makes me smile, and I thought y’all might too. Feel free to let me know your thoughts if you wish. Enjoy!

“Loser! Loser! Orphan of a Boozer!” sang the kids around me. I tried to ignore them. This wasn’t the first time they’d teased me. I wasn’t an orphan, I had my Pop, but my dark glasses hiding my ‘blind’ eyes marked me as a Boozer kid.

Pop had said a ‘boozer’ once meant a person who drank tons of alcohol. That was before the Collapse and everything changed. Now it just meant someone who was really sick from the ash and rotten food. Lots of times kids with Boozer folks had problems, like being blind.

The difference was I wasn’t really blind. I faked it to stay safe. Have my whole life. All eleven years of it.

I hated the glasses. The lenses were so dark you couldn’t see my eyes behind them, but that was kind of the point. They were like goggles and made me look like a bug. That was why the other kids teased me. I was different. The other blind kids in my class couldn’t afford glasses so their crazy looking blank stares were open to everyone. Nobody had much money around here, but Pop was good at improvising. My glasses were proof of that.

“What’s wrong, Moira? Have you gone deaf too, you Boozer freak?” sneered the white-blond boy in front of me. Paul, Peter, or Pecker somebody, I forgot his name. I didn’t care to remember it. “Maybe you can get a fancy headset for your ears to match your glasses.”

Did I mention I hated the glasses? I ground my teeth. Where’s Fin?

What’s-his-face wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried my best to keep the anger deep inside like Pop taught me, but it still boiled in my gut like last night’s potatoes. Lately it had gotten harder to bottle things up. Pop said it was puberty. Ugh. If I could just hold on until Fin showed up, everything would be okay. He would get the creeps to leave me alone. He always did.

Without moving my head, I glanced around the school’s front quad. Where is he? He’s never late.

What’s-his-face pushed me and I almost fell back off the bench I sat on. I grabbed the edge with one hand before I could topple over. My knuckles tuned white on the cane in my other hand. That does it!

I stood and began walking toward the school, guiding my steps with the cane. What I really wanted was to beat the crap out of Jerk-O with it, I knew how, Pop and Fin made sure of that, but it was ‘strictly forbidden.’ Nobody could know what I could do.

Jerk-O and his friends followed me. He stalked right behind me and continued poking me in the spine with a sharp finger. They kept singing their stupid song, fueling the fire in my blood. I fought to keep cool. I was losing.

Glancing up to the sky, my stomach sank. Dark clouds rolled in, shielding the once blue March sky. Crap. Calm down, Mo. I needed Fin. The familiar churn of energy was building in my gut, just below my ribcage. It pulsed with my racing heart.

I angled my walk toward the parking area. There were people over there so maybe Dipwad and his Goons would leave me alone with witnesses. Then I could calm down and wait for Fin.

Fat raindrops fell from the sky like someone had overturned a giant bucket. People in the parking area ran for cover. The creeps didn’t seem to notice the change in weather and never let up on their teasing. The wind whipped my black hair around my face with a sting. Thunder clapped overhead and the sky darkened. No. No. No. This can’t happen.

Assface and Company were laughing at my direction, making jokes about a blind girl driving a transport. A pair of palms jammed into my shoulder blades and I pitched forward into the mud. My cane clattered to the ground and my glasses bounced off my face and out of reach. I scrambled in the mud trying to reach them as the wind howled past my ears, dragging my long hair over my head, blinding me. The words Jerkoff yelled at me were lost in the wind, but I caught ‘freak’ and ‘witch’ and something about ‘toxic waste.’

The boot to my stomach was not lost, however. I gasped for air and curled to my knees as Assface pulled back to kick me again. The wind got stronger, the rain was a full on tsunami, and I fought to keep the power from escaping. It was no good. I couldn’t hold it. It was too strong. It had never been this strong before. I squeezed my eyes shut. The raging elements intensified with my fear. My body started shaking from trying to fight the pulsing energy.

A crunch of plastic snapped my eyes open. A booted foot lifted from in front of my face to reveal my broken glasses. No! A deafening boom turned heads to the east where a black tornado began devouring the field behind the school. People screamed and the ground rumbled underneath me. It cracked and zigzagged across the lot before opening wide in the parking area. Several cars were sucked into the gaping earth.

Balled up in the mud, I stared in horror as people ran around trying to keep away from the widening gap. Their screams filled my ears.

Another boot to my side flipped me to my back with a loud grunting growl. I wrapped arms around my middle and glared at Assface. His suddenly wide eyes and open mouth almost made me laugh, if I were not so beyond angry and scared. I knew what he saw. The reason I was to wear the glasses at all times. My bronze colored eyes, that had an odd metallic sort of sheen, were glowing gold.

Assface found his voice. “You are nothing but a crazy, mutant FREAK!”

The fury and hatred filled me. I could not hold it any more. It wanted out, and now. My whole body shook and, even though the wild wind and tornado threw freezing rain in every direction, my skin was hot. A car in the parking area exploded and fingers of flame shot up to the sky, angry swirls in the wind. Then another. And another.

Something was wrong. The energy from my core pulsed out along my body, guided by something other than me. This was not good. I had never felt like this before, so helpless.

I sat up and looked at my hands with a start. All along my arms and hands danced an odd golden flame, but it did not burn me. It moved like liquid and was not affected by wind or rain.

The Jerkoff grabbed my shirt and pulled me toward him, his disgusted scowl in my face. I stared at the refection in his brown eyes; my reflection. My long hair swirled weightlessly around my head like I was under water. The golden flames danced in and out of the wavy tangles.

“You are a witch!” he snarled. “You…you…you’re EVIL!” He spat on me and scrubbed an arm across his face.

I snapped.

My head was thrown back as a surge of energy built up under my ribcage. My eyes stared up into the blackened sky. Jerkoff didn’t have his hand on me anymore and I couldn’t feel the ground under me. Am I floating? I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move.

Fin’s voice broke through the torrent of screaming, rumbling, and crashing around me. He was screaming my name. Fin, help me! I can’t stop it!

The power that filled me, swirling like a whirlpool gone mad, brought tears to my eyes. It hurt so bad, but felt good at the same time. I surrendered to it.

I looked out at the school grounds and the chaos I created. As if in slow motion, I saw people pulling others out of deep crevices in the earth, exploding cars, flames reaching for the sky and freedom. Debris flew through the air as the tornado closed in, rivers of water surging through the parking area and spilling into the open earth.

And there was Fin. He ran flat out toward me, his face a mask of fear and worry. I could no longer hear his words, but his mouth moved with the letters of my name. A pulse rocked my body and I dropped to the ground.

The energy rippled around me like a pebble in a pond. When the rings of energy spread, anyone in its path was thrown back like an explosion, flat on their back. The ripple faded into the earth several feet away in all directions.

I jumped to my feet, searching the fallen for Fin. No one moved.


My cousin’s familiar shape rolled to his feet, swaying slightly. He turned and ran to me.

“Mo! Are you okay?” He grabbed my thin shoulders and gave me a good once over. His hazel eyes were full of worry and his auburn hair full of mud.

“I – I don’t know.” I looked down at Assface at my feet. “Oh God, Fin! Look!”

Assface, the boy whose name I didn’t know, didn’t care to remember, stared into the sky with sightless eyes. Blood traced lines from both eyes, his ears, his nose and mouth. His skin was pale and sickly as the rain beat down on him. The others around me all looked the same as the boy.

Fin reached down to the boy’s neck then laid his head on his chest, ear to the boy’s heart. A moment later Fin sat back on his heels and looked at the others on the ground. I didn’t understand the dark expression on his face.


He stood and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. Fin was only a year older, but always seemed more than that.


“He’s dead, Mo.” He looked out at the other bodies circling me. “They’re all dead.”

My brain stopped working. What had I done? My hands covered my mouth, but no scream came. I was numb. I was a murderer. I was – evil. My heart beat crazy in my chest and I couldn’t breathe.

“Mo?” Fin tightened his grip on my shoulder. “Moira!”

Everything stopped. The wind disappeared, the tornado vanished, the fires swallowed themselves whole, and the rain cut off like a faucet. Spots danced in front of me and I swayed.

“Moira!” Fin grabbed me as I fell limp in his arms and the world faded away. 
© DB Graves 2012


February 03, 2012

Embracing the writer in...you

Several months ago I decided it was high time to make a proactive step into solidifying myself as a writer. Sure, I slaved over my laptop at both home and the day job. I punched out nearly 160k words in six months without batting an eyelash. I alienated my family and friends because "I have to finish it." But did that mean I was a writer? Maybe, maybe not. I still felt sort of – transient – I guess is the best word. I didn’t really feel like I was part of that world. The fantastic writer world where imaginations fly free, and we are surrounded by creative minds. Where words are plucked from the air like a ripe grape. Nope. I was still sidelining.

After doing some checking around I found several writers’ groups. You know, the big dogs. The one’s you have to fork over some dough to be a part of. The serious kind, for serious writers. One that looked promising was the Romance Writers of America (RWA). This sounded good. But I was not a fully fledged ‘romance’ writer, was I? My forte was more YA fantasy with, of course, kissing. When I picture “Romance Novel” I see a corseted red-head gasping in the arms of some super steroid, long haired (don’t forget the leather cord holding the hair back), half naked Adonis. That is SOOOOO not me. The thought actually makes me giggle uncomfortably.

Next up, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Now here we go!!!! This is more like it. All things KidLit. From tots to teens and everything in between! Heh, I’m a poet and didn’t know it… Sorry, shiny ball happened. Anyway, I looked into it and felt it a good fit so, wa-bam, I signed up. This was my claim to writer-dom. I was now a member of something! Big girl writer panties are ON yo!

When I received the email about the Winter Conference in January I knew I HAD to go. There were no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. I was going! By late December, I had everything booked. Now terror set in. Non-refundable flight to a HUGE city I had never been to, a nice chunk of change forked over to a hotel that I had never seen, and a registration fee paid to an event where I would only know me, myself and I. Holy CRAP what am I doing?!

As I got on the plane last week, I mentally went over the multiple places I had stashed an ID, credit card, and cash in case I got mugged somewhere. But that was so negative, and I didn't want to begin this journey on a negative foot. I sat in the seat and focused on having the most amazing time. I would not allow the big-bad-city to scare me. Sure, I’m from Tennessee, but I grew up in Sacramento and visited San Francisco often enough to befriend a bartender (whole ‘nother post on that, lol). I was not a stranger to big cities, but NYC was just – different.

All my positive thinking mojo did the trick! It was a FANTASTIC weekend! NYC was awesome and the SCBWI folk were beyond amazing. I met a fellow writer, and Twitter friend, and we hit it off. Happy to call her an actual friend now. :) And met dozens of other writers and illustrators.

Up until this point, whenever I talked about what I write, it was sort of awkward. When I mentioned I write YA Fiction I generally get hit with the pregnant pause and “Ooohhhh… That’s cool” with an exaggerated nod. Not so much with the SCBWI crew. They wanted to know what I write, how long I have been writing, what was my story about, am I pitching yet, have I written anything else, am I published, etc etc… Whew! So many wonderful questions from people who were just like me! It was AWSOME! I did not feel awkward discussing my writing at all. The only times I felt ill at ease were when I ran into someone who had been writing since the womb, but then the next person I talked to was an elderly lady writing her first novel. How much more awesome can you get?

The speeches were better than I could have ever dreamed. Damn you Chris Crutcher! You cannot share stories like that and NOT have a mom cry uncontrollably!!! Cassandra Clare gave us the inside tip on love triangles and I totally fan-girled her. She signed my name badge!! Jane Yolen was phenomenal! And a surprise visit from the one and only Henry Winkler was inspirational.

Over the course of two days, all-around awesomesauce surrounded me, and I could not have been happier. By the time I boarded my plane in LaGuardia Sunday evening exhaustion took on a whole new meaning. Not only did every limb ache from standing and walking, but my brain was surely reduced to ooze. But the good kind of ooze.

I learned so much in that time that I will never forget. The nitty gritty of what makes a good novel; voice, hook, plot, action, emotion, show – don’t – tell, and a story that is not like any other! But it was more than that. The things that really stuck with me did not have to do with the nuts and bolts of writing a novel or picture book. It was the other stuff, the beating heart of writing; the writer.

I learned that no matter what, if you believe you are a writer, then you are. If you have a story to tell, then tell it! It does not matter if you are published or “pre-published.” It does not matter if you’ve had ink stained fingertips since birth or if you picked up your first writer’s notepad yesterday. It does not matter if you cannot outline to save your life or if you have a whole database dedicated to every micro detail of your books. It does not matter if you are grammatically incorrect or if the folks at Webster’s or Idiot’s Guide to Writing consult you before publication. It does not even matter if you are 40+ and writing books for teenage girls and boys! You know why? Because you are a writer. We come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, education, experience, ages and outside professions.

That is what's so fabulous about being a writer. It does not matter when the bug bites you, as long as it bites, and bites hard. I will never forget the inspirational words for a newbie writer like myself. Never give up, never back down, never lose your voice, never stop challenging yourself, never let go of an idea because it’s ‘too risky,’ and by GAWD do not EVER stop writing! These are my new 'words to live by.' My new mantra. Why? Because I am a writer...