Celebrate Teen Read Week With a Young Adult Author Panel Featuring Yours Truly!

Hey Everyone!

It's been waaaaaay too long since my last post! In between the release of the first book in The Torch Keeper series, THE CULLING,
wrapping up edits on Book 2, THE SOWING, and beginning the draft of Book 3, I've been getting my Swamped-ON!

The Culling and The Sowing Twitter

In honor of Teen Read Week (October 13 - 19, 2013) The Alvin Sherman Library at Nova Southeastern University will be hosting a panel of Young Adult Authors consisting of Marjetta Geerling ("Fancy White Trash"), Debbie Reed Fischer ("Braless in Wonderland," "Swimming With the Sharks" ) and myself ("The Culling" "The Sowing" ). The panel will be moderated by Author and Writing Coach, Joyce Sweeney.

The Library is located at 3100 Ray Ferrero, Jr. Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 33314.

The panel event is scheduled for Saturday, October 19th from 2:00-3:30pm in the Public Library Services department on the first floor.  The panel will be held on the floor from 2-3pm and then we’ll move into an adjacent program room from 3-3:30pm for a meet and greet with the authors and light refreshments.

This event is opened to teens and “writers and lovers of YA fiction!"

If you have any questions, you can contact Julie Fuller, the Young Adult Librarian at Office: 954-262-5471  Email: jfuller@nova.edu

Look forward to seeing you there!  It's going to ROCK!


At long last, my upcoming debut novel, THE CULLING, is now available for Pre-Order!

I just happened to come across the Amazon listing here (uh...during my daily obsessive-compulsive trolling of Amazon and other book sellers searching for it).

It's also available on Amazon UK, Books-A-Million, and Books & Books

Hopefully, other book sellers (Hello? B & N I'm looking at YOU!) will be offering it for Pre-Order soon.

All kidding aside, this is another exciting milestone on the road to publication. I can't believe that after all these years, people are actually going to pay money for a very important piece of me...uh...you get the drift.

And yes, before you ask, I did Pre-Order my own book! Not only was it a real hoot seeing my name on the receipt as ordering something with my own name on it, but I can't wait until it arrives in one of those little Amazon boxes like the ones I've been receiving for years. Who knows? Maybe I won't open it and just keep it sealed (but then I'll obsess over whether or not something's actually in the package...sigh).

If any of you come across any more sites to Pre-Order, please let me know. Until then, keep those orders a-coming!

My Upcoming Debut Novel Has A Cover!

Here it is, the cover of the first book in my new Post-Apocalyptic Young Adult Torch Keeper series, THE CULLING:

It's been a long time coming, ten years if you start counting from the time I first dreamed of writing a novel and actually getting it published. I must say, this has been the most fun part of the entire process so far!

Just to give you a little overview, on March 2, 2012, my Editor, Brian Farrey at Flux Books, sent me a nifty email jam-packed with all sorts of tidbits regarding a Launch Meeting (Sounds REALLY Official) they were going to be having where my then-titled book, The Torch Keeper was to be the guest of honor, something to do with title changes (Boo!) and soliciting cover ideas from me (Yay!).

Needless to say, within a day or two, I had flooded poor Brian with enough cover samples and descriptions to put Amazon to shame. What can I say? I like to be thorough.

Once the meeting took place on March 13, 2012, I was happy to learn that THE LAUNCH PEOPLE decided on an alternate title I had suggested, THE CULLING, and were going to use "The Torch Keeper" as the title to the series. So I got to have my cake and eat it, too. Not only that, but they decided on the cover direction based on my samples and communications with Brian, as well. All I had to do was wait several months for the Art Department to come up with something.

Imagine my surprise when, on April 10, 2012, less than a month later, I received an unexpected email surprise! (No, not some Royal Prince in Nigeria bequeathing his wealth to me). It was the first Cover Composite ("Comp" for those in the industry "Know." ;-) My fingers were trembling as I read the email on my phone. At first it was very strange, seeing someone else's interpretation of my ideas on a cover. Uh, maybe because I opened it on my phone and couldn't make out the image that well.

Needless to say, by the time I got to a computer and opened up the picture, I was thrilled that they'd captured the look and feel of the novel quite simply and effectively. The comp was made up of photos that would later be given to an illustrator to photo illustrate (i.e. use the photos as the basis for the illustrations). After giving Brian a few suggestions regarding what my main character should be wearing, providing other details to add to the tunnel, and recommending the best restaurants to eat at in SOBE (okay not the latter), I expected it would be a couple of more months before I got the next version.

Not exactly. It seems like the Art Department is composed of some very industrious eager beavers (No, I'm not talking of the Kardashian variety) and on April 20, a mere ten days later, I received a beautiful rendering of my cover that floored me with its awesomeness! The dark, creepy, gritty mood was PERFECT, as was the rendering of my main character, Lucian Spark, who, after what he suffers and endures in the novel, looked almost as battered and bloodied as a Black Friday Walmart customer.

Five days later, I received the final version of the cover that you see here, complete with added tag line, courtesy of moi. Unlike the above picture, the title on the actual book will be rendered utilizing fluorescent ink to really make it "POP" on the shelves with that futuristic glow! To add the book to your Goodreads Reading list, click here.

This cover represents a labor of love, complete with all the frustration and elation of writing and selling the novel and I'm proud to have my name displayed on it. It was a long hard road, and I sometimes felt like Lucian standing at the mouth of that dark, creepy, long and winding tunnel, not knowing what awaited at the other end. For me, I was able to find something wonderful once I got there. As for Lucian, you'll have to read the book to find out ;-)

Watchamacallit? Oh yeah, the Official Title of My Debut Novel Is...

Hey, Everyone!

Uh, no. The title isn’t Hey, Everyone (though it was close). While I’ve been on blogging hiatus, starting a new job and working feverishly on drafting the sequel to my debut Young Adult Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic thriller, THE TORCH KEEPER (with expialidocious and Sugar on Top!), it seems that literary opus (indulge me) has undergone a little makeover of its own (nothing of the Joan Rivers variety).

At first, the idea of having to change my title was as painful as the prospect of being tied to a chair Clockwork Orange-style and forced to watch a Kourtney and Kim Take New York marathon (with the sound on).

As you can probably guess, I’m not a great title person. If it was up to me, Titanic would have been called Sink or Swim. Write a 500 page book? Sure. No prob. But coming up with a title? That’s about as easy as figuring out why some people would ever consider voting for Presidential candidates that shall remain nameless.

What should I re-title my book? Five Teens Knee Deep in Crap? Hmmm. Too Jersey Shore. How about Apocalicious? No? When Worlds Go Bad?

After much back and forth with my wonderful Editor at Flux Books, Brian Farrey, we finally settled on a few titles we really liked, and he presented them to some Ominous-sounding Unseen Entity known as The Launch Committee (At first I thought he said he was going to present them to the Lunch Committee and was like, can I get some fries with that?

Today, a decision was rendered by the mysterious TLC, and I’m ecstatic to report that I wasn’t blindsided with a WTF (Not that I thought that would ever happen)!

So, without further ado, the Final, Official, Nothing-I-Can-Do-About-It-Even-If-I-Wanted-To title of my debut novel is...

Drum Roll and Flux Books logo, please...

THE CULLING: The Torch Keeper Book One

Kind of catchy, don’t you think? I mean that in a good, non-STD kind of way. And I get to “keep” (pun intended) The Torch Keeper as the umbrella title for the whole series, so everyone’s happy! You can add THE CULLING to your Goodreads list here.

Okay, I’ve dawdled enough. Time to slink back down into the depths of the writing dungeon. Too much light hurts my eyes...

Of Vlogs and Blogs

Hey Everyone!

I've been on hiatus for a bit, working on the sequel to THE TORCH KEEPER (okay, so maybe I've been a little lazy and indulging in other non-writerly pastimes but we won't get into that ;-)

I wanted to share a couple of things with you. First off, I was interviewed last month by the delightful Cathy Castelli at the 2012 SCBWI Miami Conference (Scooby, or Squibby, sacobowi - isn't that like sushi? - or however else you want to say it).

Despite being a little nervous at my first on-camera interview, I think I pulled it off, but you can be the judge and let me know what you think (alas, my lighting and make-up people were nowhere to be found just as we were getting ready to shoot, sigh).

Watch if you dare!

My next foray into the world of media exposure (sounds like a skin condition) was an interview conducted by the wonderful Lenore Appelhans on her blog, Presenting Lenore for Dystopian February month. Want to know what I want to do before the entire planet goes KABOOM? Check it out! It's a real nail biter. Hopefully, you won't think it bites!

Time to go back to...uh...writing...[steps momentarily away from the keyboard in a fit of drooling laughter as he struggles to keep a straight face].

Look forward to sharing more soon! Til then, Happy Plotting!

Recently Discovered Lost Interview Transcripts from Missing Steven dos Santos!

The following is an excerpt of an interview conducted by author Steven dos Santos involving subject Lucian Spark, citizen of The Parish. This inteview originally appeared in The Lucky 13s Blog. As of this posting, Mr. dos Santos’ whereabouts remain unknown…

Steven dos Santos: I’m really honored you took the time to speak with me Lucky—

Lucian Spark: It’s Lucian. Nobody calls me Lucky anymore except for my little brother, Cole, and…Hey! Are you recording this?

SDS: Absolutely not. Whatever we speak about is in the strictest of confidence.

LS: They musn’t find out I’m talking to anyone! I could get shelved just for bringing you here.

SDS: Speaking of here, where exactly are we? It’s pretty dank and dusty, if you don’t mind my saying.

LS: These are the library archives. But this section is strictly off limits. I only found out about it because my mentor, old Mr. Croakley, was kind enough to share. He knows I love to read. Especially the books on astronomy. Something about all those stars, so far away from this place…

SDS: So you work here as a librarian?

LS: I’ve been an apprentice here for the last few months. We all have to take apprenticeships when we turn Sixteen, it’s the law.

SDS: That doesn’t sound too bad.

LS: Tell that to the apprentices at the waste treatment facilities or the mines. I think they’d beg to differ…

SDS: I see. So you kind of lucked out, huh?

LS: I guess. Maybe he pulled some strings…I’m not sure.

SDS: He?

LS: Nevermind. No one can know that he and I are still close. It’s too dangerous. I’m not even sure he still feels the same way about me. Look, is this going to take much longer? I have to get home before curfew.

SDS: Curfew? The sun’s barely gone down. Your parents are that strict?

LS: I don’t live with my parents. Just my Four year-old brother.

SDS: Really? A Sixteen year-old taking care of a Four year-old? Where are your—?

LS: They’re dead.

SDS: I’m sorry. How—?

LS: I’m not going to talk about that. I’ve got to go. I’ve spent way too much time with you already. The Imposer’s will be patrolling the streets soon. They may even have those bloodthirsty Canids with them. And if I get taken into custody, there’ll be no one left to take care of Cole.

SDS: But surely there are adults that can assume responsibility—

LS: Don’t you get it? They don’t care what happens to us! We’re nothing to them. Everyone here in The Parish just exists to serve them.

SDS: Them?

LS: The Establishment. They run the show. Control every aspect of our lives, from food rations, to work assignments, to our religion. They even control what we’re allowed to read. Even fairy-tales are banned. I took a real chance smuggling out those archived pages and drawings about The Great Crowned Lady that stares across the sea at the magic city. Cole loves that story. Just seeing a smile on his little face is worth the risk.

SDS: That sounds awful. You mentioned religion. Do you believe in God?

LS: The Deity? I don’t know. I think I want to. But how could such a force exist in a world filled with so much inhumanity and evil?

SDS: Aren’t there people standing up to this Establishment? Trying to make a change?

LS: Yes, there are some. But most opposition tends to disappear really quickly here, never to be seen or heard from again. People I’ve known, neighbors, fellow classmates…gone. Listen, as bad as it is, I can’t get involved in any of that. All I care about is my brother, making sure I can scrounge up enough food to feed him and doing whatever I must to keep him safe. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I could keep on…he’s all I have…you know? I have to go—

SDS: Wait. I didn’t mean to upset you, Lucian. You seem like a great guy. A bit intense, but I guess if I were living under the same conditions you were, I’d be too.

LS: Take my advice. Leave this place as soon as possible and go as far away as you can.

SDS: Hopefully, we can stay in touch, become friends—

LS: No!

SDS: Excuse me?

LS: Recruitment Day is coming real soon. It’s not safe to have friends here. Or to love anyone.

SDS: What happens on Recruitment Day?

LS: If you’re Sixteen like me and get chosen for The Trials, they make you…I mean…you have to…uh…you’re forced to…trust me! Get out of here now, Steven!

SDS: Lucian, wait! Don’t go!

At this point, the interview comes to an abrupt end, and I can’t help but shiver as the sound of marching boots and growling beasts reaches my ears from the streets outside. I can hear pounding on the door, or is that my heart? I’m going to try and sneak out of here, but if I don’t make it, I urge whoever reads this to spread the warning:

Recruitment Day is coming.

Steven dos Santos is represented by Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown, LTD. He loves movies, particularly ones about things that go bump in the night, as well as sci-fi and fantasy. Chocolate, Cheesecake, and Happy Endings are nice, too! When not glued to his computer coming up with innovative ways to torture his characters, Steven can be found skulking away on his website, amassing an army on facebook, and sending unanswered tweets to celebrities who, for some inexplicable reason, choose to ignore him on twitter. His debut novel, THE TORCH KEEPER, a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic thriller, will be published by FLUX Books in early 2013--Hopefully, he'll be found by then.

This Angel will definitely keep you awake and guessing!

SLEEPING ANGEL, by Greg Herren, is one of those novels that drew me in right from the get go with its intriguing story of High School teen Eric Matthews waking up in the hospital after a horrific car crash suffering from amnesia. To add to the mystery, the body of his estranged childhood friend Sean is found in the backseat of the car, apparently dead of a gunshot wound, leading many in the community to suspect Eric of murder.

What unfolds is a taut thriller, as Eric races to put the puzzle pieces of his missing memory together to discover whether or not he is indeed a killer, or if the real killer is still out there, waiting to strike against him before he can recover.

Though this novel is written with simplistic prose, the author does a great job creating an atmosphere of mystery and ratcheting up the tension as the pieces begin to fall into place, although the identity of the murderer is perhaps telegraphed prematurely.

However, that being said, the one aspect of the novel that didn't work for me was a psychic subplot, regarding Eric's newfound ability to touch people and read their minds/see visions of the future, a la Stephen King's Johnny Smith in THE DEAD ZONE. This element seems very out of place, is not really developed, ultimately plays no role in the main amnesia/murder plot, and feels like it was shoehorned-in just to capitalize on the paranormal trend.

Despite this element, the novel succeeds as an engrossing page turner that also tackles the timely issues of bullying against GLBTQ teens. You can order it here.

I Asked and I Got! My review of THE ASK AND THE ANSWER

Even though I enjoyed the first installment of Patrick Ness's CHAOS WALKING trilogy, I had a few issues with it (as discussed in my review of THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO), including the abrupt, cliffhanger ending, and went into this sequel intrigued, but cautious.

I must say, this second book, THE ASK AND THE ANSWER was a treat from start to finish. In my opinion, it's one of those few exceptions where I actually felt it was better than the original. What I liked most about it was the compelling nature of the story. Unlike the first book, which was basically one long chase scene, the story in this novel encompasses an epic civil war against two factions, THE ASK, led by the dastardly mind-controlling Mayor Prentiss, and THE ANSWER, led by the equally ruthless, willing-to-sacrifice-anything-or-anyone Mistress Coyle.

Our heroes Todd Hewitt and Viola Eade find themselves separated and on different sides of the conflict, as each side battles for control of the planet and races to intercept approaching space colonists from the Old World, that will turn the tide of power and control.

What made this novel more interesting to me than the first, was the blurred lines concerning who is truly good and who is truly evil. I love exploring characters with moral ambiguities that fall into gray areas. You're never quite sure who to trust and never know who is beyond redemption. It was also refresing that the story was told from both Todd's (as in Book one) viewpoint, as well as the additon of Viola's viewpoint, which provided a more practical counterbalance to Todd's emotional and grammatically colorful insights.

I won't say more about the plot so as not to spoil the story, but despite the fact that I still had a few nitpicks regarding some of the main character's (Todd's) actions (including his continued reluctance to have people that could help him by reading his mother's journal since he is illiterate),as well as a few quibbles regarding the fate of a despicable character (that could be killed off if people would just stop talking and shoot!) the book is such a powerful page turner and filled with such emotion that it propels you to continue despite its flaws, and THAT'S quite an accomplishment. You can order it here.

While this volume also ends in a cliffhanger, I find it to be much more satisfying and compelling and I can't wait to devour the third and final installment, MONSTERS OF MEN shortly!


Do the Right Thing!

I've been curious about this story for years, being a big fan of the 1982 John Carpenter film, THE THING, which was based on this novella, as was the 1951 Howard Hawk's version, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD.

Basically, the story of John W. Campbell's WHO GOES THERE? revolves around an isolated outpost in Antarctica, where an alien vessel is discovered, as well as a frozen creature, which, once thawed out, has the ability to mimic cells and transform itself into whatever life form it comes in contact with. Once it is determined that the creature has the ability to turn into a man (complete with memories), the desperate men struggle to stop it before they themselves are absorbed and the creature can reach civilization and destroy us all!

Though some of the passages were a little unclear at times (probably due to the writing style of the time in 1938), I found the story to be quite enGROSSing (get it?
;-) and I was pleased to find that the core elements were actually used in Carpenter's film version, which was much more similar to this story than the Hawk's attempt aka James Arness as a giant carrot. Many of the character names were used in Carpenter's version (although their portrayal was different) but classic scenes like the Thing amongst the huskies, the blood tests, a character turning into a madman and having to be kept in isolation, the desolation of Antarctica, the growing paranoia amongst the  personnel, it's all here folks!

This novella is definitely more subtle than the visceral Carpenter film, and at times I had to re-read lines to clarify that a character had indeed been "outed" as "the thing." But the tension was definitely there and it had a nice 50s sci-fi pulp feel to it which I rather enjoyed.

So do the right THING and read this story! Get it here.


After hearing the Young Adult  CHAOS WALKING trilogy is being made into a film series by Lionsgate (of HUNGER GAMES movie fame), I downloaded this first volume, THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, onto my Kindle and I'm glad I did!

The story revolves around Todd Hewitt, the youngest (and only) child in the all-male colony of Prentisstown, settlers from Old World that have traveled to another planet known as New World to begin a better life. But something has gone wrong. A mysterious germ has killed all the women and infected men with "The Noise," a telepathic curse that constantly bombards them with each other's thoughts and has given them the ability to communicate with animals. As Todd approaches the day of his secretive rite of manhood, a chance encounter with a surprising stranger plunges him into a race against death to discover the terrible secrets of his colony's past, even as he struggles to save this entire world from the ravages of war.

Great premise and a dark and visceral read featuring the best "talking" dog character you're likely to encounter!

My only nitpicks involve the length of the novel, which could have been edited down (particularly in some of the road-trip sequences) without affecting the story in the least.

Also, the main character was guilty at times of the LOST (T.V. series) curse, i.e. not asking the right questions, nor taking advantage of information (i.e. a journal he carries around that, if he read or had someone else read it for him, could provide a whole lot of answers, etc.) And just how did all the older males keep the town's secrets hidden from Todd since everyone could read minds?

A pet peeve of mine is that when a story is told in first person, such as this one is, you shouldn't withhold thoughts from the reader that would provide information. That's cheating (i.e. a character earlier in the book sends the main character a telepathic memory describing the rite of how a boy becomes a man that the reader is never told, until the end of the book, when the main character ruminates on this big reveal). If I'm in a character's head, I want to be privvy to everything they experience, not have key thoughts glossed over for the sake of plot contrivance.

Be warned that the novel ends in a massive cliffhanger. I don't mind unfinished business in trilogies, but prefer when there's a little more closure after each installment. Imagine Darth Vader delivering his famous line to Luke Skywalker in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and then the movie cutting to black and end credits right there. You get the picture. At least the other two volumes of this series are already available, but it must have been a frustrating wait to those that read this one before the second was released.

Despite these quibbles, the story definitely cast its spell and intrigued me enough to where I've already downloaded the next volume (THE ASK AND THE ANSWER)to find out what happens.

One last thing. I LOVED that Todd was raised on a farm by a loving male couple, Ben and Cillian, two of the most positive portrayals of men in the entire novel.  Even though it's never expressly stated (at least in this volume) that this is a gay couple, you won't need telepathy to read between the lines ;-)

Thank you Patrick Ness for writing such a thought-provoking novel!