Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour: Interview with Ariel Kalati and Emma Rose Ryan!

2017 ch1con blog tour banner

Hey there, and welcome to the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour! (Stick around until the end of the post for a giveaway of a signed copy of Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me!)

If you haven’t heard of it, the Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con) is a writing conference entirely by and for young writers, open to writers ages eleven to twenty-three. The team that runs it is composed of a number of high school, college, and early-twenty-something writers, and we work to create a unique, inclusive experience for young attendees. (In case you don’t already know, hi, I’m the founder and director of Ch1Con.)

We’re really excited about the conference this year, which will take place Saturday, August 5th in downtown Chicago, IL. Our speakers will include all kinds of awesome people, including literary agent superstar Brent Taylor and New York Times bestselling author Kody Keplinger (her biggest hit, The DUFF, is now a movie!).

So, in honor of Ch1Con 2017, we’re holding this nifty blog tour! This is a special year for Ch1Con: 2017 marks our fifth year holding the conference! So, in honor of this momentous occasion, I’m pleased today to bring you an interview with two Ch1Con team members who have been part of the conference since the beginning, Ariel Kalati and Emma Rose Ryan.

Ariel

Ariel Kalati is currently a 20-year-old junior at Sarah Lawrence College, studying writing, literature, and sociology. She is Ch1Con’s Associate Online Administrator and hopes to go into community building surrounding writing and arts education. Though she has done some editorial work, she got tired of it because editing, as we all know, is hard. Now she spends most of her free time writing novels and poetry, reading YA books with magic in them, and talking about fandoms and social justice on the Internet. She can be easily bribed with pizza and other cheesy foods, but her skills primarily consist of sarcastic comments and Harry Potter trivia.

EmmaEmma Rose Ryan is a freshman in college studying Creative Writing. Her family and green tea notwithstanding, she loves stories more than anything in the world. Her primary obsessions are middle-grade fiction and fairy tales. In her free time, Emma works with the Chapter One Young Writers Conference and St. Genesius Productions.  Emma’s other interests include The West Wing, arguing, and petting cats.

The three of us are the last remaining original members of the Ch1Con team. What were your first thoughts when you heard the idea of doing a young writer’s conference?

Girls by Millennium Park Sign

The attendees of the original Chapter One Young Writers Conference hanging out in Chicago.

Ariel: It’s been so long and Ch1Con has been so successful that I honestly don’t remember, but I think I was mostly excited at the prospect of meeting my Internet friends! It was disappointing that none of us turned out to be forty-year-old men, though. I guess I thought something like, “oh, it’ll be cool if we turn this into a real big thing, but we’re probably not gonna, because we’re tiny babies.” Joke’s on you, past self, I guess.

Emma: I was thrilled, especially because the group decided to hold the event right in my back yard! If it hadn’t been in Chicago, I’m not sure I would have been able to come at all. I was only 13 at the time, and my mom was…skeptical. She knew how happy being on Write-It made me though, and I was so excited by the idea of meeting my hyper-talented online mentor/friend/heroes that she finally caved.

We all met on an online writing forum for teenagers hosted by Scholastic, called Write It. What was your favorite thing about Write It?

Ariel: My favorite thing about Write It was, I guess, kind of the point, which was that we were all writers. Like, we were all book people, and in real life middle/high school, there’s maybe one or two other serious writers at school. And people don’t take writing seriously. I think that’s changing, mainly because of online communities like Write It popping up more, but when I was ten, I got made fun of for liking books, so it was really great to find real live people my age who were aspiring authors.

waiting for a trainEmma: Oh, the community for sure. I was NOT a very skilled or prolific writer at the time, so I didn’t usually have a ton of work to share. What I DID have was a group of girls I could model myself after. You guys did NaNo, so I did NaNo. You guys outlined and plotted and worked diligently, so I attempted to do the same. I was VERY slow and further behind the rest of the community, but I felt so welcomed. I was learning and growing so much back then, and being a part of Write-It was a big part of my early formation as a writer.

What’s been your favorite part about being involved with Ch1Con so far?

Ariel: I cannot decide… I think my favorite part is whenever I see our attendees start talking with one another, whether in-person at the con or online, and just get excited like, “Wait, you read that book too? Wait, you also do horror stories? Oh my gosh you like this weird YouTube series of book reviews too?” or whatever.

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At the first Ch1Con in 2012, we all got t-shirts with our Write It usernames on the backs. (If you’re trying to figure out how the first conference was in 2012 but 2017 is only the fifth one, we skipped 2013.)

Of all the things that Ch1Con can do for young writers, like educate about publishing and stuff, I think providing a community is the most important.

Emma: I love love love the conference and getting to put faces to the names and the twitter handles I’ve been getting to know all year. I think the online community we foster has mimicked  Write-It, and so that thrill of getting to meet your online friends and heroes in person is still there for me.

2017 is the fifth Chapter One Young Writers Conference, and since we started Ch1Con during the 2011-2012 school year, a lot has changed. Do you want to give a brief overview of where you started versus where you are now?

conference room 2012

We held the first conference in a hotel room, huddled around a coffee table.

Ariel: Well, when I came to the first Ch1Con, there were six of us hanging out in a hotel room, and I came down by train, and I spent the whole way there thinking of funny jokes to tell in case everyone hated me. My backup joke was to just yell “Semicolons!” because well, that was my thing, semicolons. Also, I was working on the first draft of the book that I’m editing now, and I was really pretentious and wanted to become a museum curator. Now, I’m still pretty pretentious, but I have different career aspirations. I also have better joke material. I still love semicolons; they’re useful. I’m more sure of myself in a good way and less in an insufferable way. So I guess it’s been an improvement!

Emma: Ohhhh my goodness. I’m going to argue that I have hands down changed the most? I was thirteen at Con 1, and at that time I was SUCH a middle schooler. I had all the angst and insecurity and narcissism that comes along with being that age, but I also had these amazing nearly-adults in my life who loved the same things that I did. I think you guys have allowed me to grow into a somewhat well-adjusted person. I still struggle with a lot of the issues I had when I was that age regarding my writing (sadly), but I cannot say that I haven’t gotten better.

Also, I just realized I am the Last Hope of the Write-It squad in terms of achieving our shared (extreme) dream of being published as a teenager. Two years left!!! I gotta get writing…

If you could say one thing to the writer you were when we started Ch1Con, what would it be?

hi bronwenAriel: I would say, you’re allowed to write what you want to write, not what you think you have to write, because there’s plenty of time and plenty of room for lots of different stories.

Emma: Take off the beanie, dude. It does not make your hair look better; it just makes a whole year of your photographs look weird. Don’t think about that boy so much; there will be others. Sit down every day and write about how you feel. Your feelings matter. It doesn’t have to exaggerate or be exciting for it to matter. Use fewer adverbs. Make fewer excuses. Get to work.

A huge thanks to Emma and Ariel for letting me interview them (and for putting up with me all these years). And thanks for visiting the first stop on the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour!

You can check out the next stop on the blog tour on Tuesday, April 18 on author (and 2017 workshop leader) Annie Sullivan’s blog! She’ll be interviewing me and giving away a copy of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. And make sure to visit the Ch1Con blog for the rest of the 2017 tour schedule (including info on all of the awesome giveaways we’re running).

Speaking of giveaways: for this stop on the tour, we’re giving away a SIGNED copy of Adam Silvera’s brilliant History Is All You Left Me! The giveaway will run until the end of the blog tour on May 31. It’s open to anyone in the mainland United States.

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Thanks again for checking out the first stop on the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour and don’t forget to follow the rest of the stops!

~Julia

P.S. Here’s a picture of the attendees, volunteers, and speakers at the fourth Ch1Con, in 2016. Look how much we’ve grown!

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Twisted Blog Tour: Excerpt from Emma’s Story!

Hey there! I’m back today with another stop on the Twisted Blog Tour.

As I mentioned on Monday, the Ch1Con team has spent this fall teaching two fantastic young writers about the publishing process in our inaugural mentorship program. The final step of this program is the release of an anthology featuring these up-and-coming young authors’ short stories (as well as some of our own). The anthology is called Twisted, because these stories all have some pretty killer plot twists (pun possibly intended).

The paperback and e-book editions of Twisted are available now for order on Blurb.com, and the e-book will be available soon on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.

I’m absolutely in love with the short stories in this anthology, and am so proud of all of the talented young authors.

In honor of Twisted’s release, we’re holding a mini blog tour on the mentors’ blogs. The tour includes interviews, excerpts from the anthology stories, and more. The blog tour schedule is below:

Today I am thrilled to host an excerpt from Emma Rose Ryan’s short story, “More than One Way to Make a Pencil”! This story is so unique and fun (with plenty of snark to boot). I adore it.

Besides being one of my best friends (and a founding member of Ch1Con), Emma is a freshman in college, studying Creative Writing somewhere in the Midwest. Her family and green tea notwithstanding, she loves stories more than anything in the world. Her primary obsessions are middle grade fiction and fairy tales. She also enjoys reading classic lit, YA romances, and modernizations/adaptations of any sort. She writes short stories, Tumblr posts, tweets, and MG fantasy novels. In her free time, Emma can be found on-or-near a stage, watching The West Wing, or petting a cat.

You can find Emma online on Twitter. Or she also runs the Ch1Con Tumblr.

And now, without further ado: an excerpt from “More than One Way to Make a Pencil”! Until now, the protagonist has been sitting in class, bored out of her mind listening to her new teacher rant about plagiarism.

**********

I start to get tired of nodding along to first-day scare tactics. I’m at a new school now. I have too much to catch up with to waste time listening to things I already know. I decide to adopt Maze Boy’s disposition of polite disinterest and check on The Book. Up until this morning, I was on the fence about bringing It with me. It’s a dangerous thing to tote around on a good day, and I woke up with a premonition that today would not be a good day… which is why I slipped It in with my shiny-covered textbooks and unsharpened pencils. I need to work on my impulse control…

So, I decide to grab The Book and save myself from death by monotony. I fish around in my bag. I don’t find It. My fingers hover over where The Book should be. There’s nothing there. Teacher Lady suddenly seems to become ten times louder. My chest tightens.

It’s gone, I think. It’s finally left for good this time.

But then my thumb brushes against It and I can breathe again. I grab hold of Its spine… but there’s something wrong. The green leather is smooth, cold and… wet?

I pull the Book onto my desk, trying to maintain a vacant stare in my teacher’s direction.

I glance down to find something out of a nightmare. Water is leaking out of my magic book. Brine-scented, opaque seawater is squirting out from between the yellowed pages. Within a moment, the desk is saturated and water is pouring onto the tiled floor. Miniature Niagara Falls.

Crap.

My nameless teacher stops fabricating plagiarism horror stories. The girls behind me stop chatting. The kid in the back row stops popping his gum. I hear the boy beside me snap his pencil in half. Every eye is on my leaking book. On me. They ogle me in what seems to be shocked suspension. No one is moving. I see their minds trying to catch up with what they’re seeing.

**********

Aaand yeah. Want to read the rest of this magical story? You can check it out in Twisted, available now!

Thanks for joining me for this stop of the Twisted blog tour, and make sure to check out the rest of the tour over the next couple weeks too!

~Julia

Twisted Blog Tour: Excerpt from Brett’s Story!

I’M BAA-AACK. I’ll probably do a proper recap of my time away from the blog eventually (because it’s been a crazy few months), but for now I’m here for a kinda very exciting reason.

As you may know, the Ch1Con team has spent this fall teaching two fantastic young writers about the publishing process in our inaugural mentorship program. The final step of this program is the release of an anthology featuring these up-and-coming young authors’ short stories (as well as some of our own). The anthology is called Twisted, because these stories all have some pretty killer plot twists (pun possibly intended).

The paperback and e-book editions of Twisted are available now for order on Blurb.com, and the e-book will be available soon on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.

I’m absolutely in love with the short stories in this anthology, and am so proud of all of the talented young authors.

In honor of Twisted’s release, we’re holding a mini blog tour on the mentors’ blogs. The tour includes interviews, excerpts from the anthology stories, and more. The blog tour schedule is below:

Today I am thrilled to host an excerpt from Brett Jonas’s short story, “Maybe”! I love this story, because it’s so full of fun coincidences and sooo much banter (one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE THINGS EVER in fiction).

Besides being one of my favorite people to ever live, Brett Jonas is a professional fangirl who has been writing YA novels since she was fifteen. After being homeschooled her whole life, she’s now taking classes at the local community college and working in her family’s business, Goat Milk Stuff, with her seven younger siblings. When she’s not writing, reading, working, or doing homework, you can find her wasting time on Twitter, where she loves making friends and using too many exclamation points.

You can find Brett online at: Twitter / Instagram / Website

And now, without further ado: an excerpt from “Maybe”! Leading up to this, the main character has been on the phone with her mom, who’s trying to set her up with her friend Maggie’s son, Josh. Only there are a lot of Joshes in the world (and our main character, here, already has a date).

**********

My doorbell rang and I sighed. “That’s probably the maintenance man coming to fix the leaky drain he’s already ‘fixed’ three times. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Love you, sweetie.”

“Love you too.”

My socks slid along the linoleum as I hung up and tucked my phone into my back pocket. I undid the latch and opened the front door, only to stop short when the man who appeared was definitely not Bill, our building’s janitor and handyman.

“Um, hi,” he said, brown eyes meeting mine. “I just wanted to come over and introduce myself. I’m Josh, your new neighbor.”

Of course he was a Josh. Make that six Joshes I knew who weren’t Maggie’s son.

Oh, wait, this must be the source of all the banging next door. It wasn’t actually a herd of elephants?

“I’m Kassidy,” I said, opening the door the rest of the way. “Want to come in?”

He was definitely a lot hotter than an elephant.

“Sorry for all the noise.” He walked in and I closed the door behind him. “My brother’s helping me put together some stuff from Ikea. My mom wanted me to have an apartment that looked decent, probably in the hopes of me getting a girlfriend.” He stood awkwardly in the middle of my living room, glancing around.

“I see.” What was I supposed to say to that? I turned to see what he was looking at, my eyes landing on my new fancy shmancy Keurig. “Do you want some coffee?”

“I would actually love a cup,” he said. “I can’t find my coffee maker and I’ve been dying for some caffeine.”

I gestured to my machine, walking over to the cabinet with the mugs in it. “Well, my mom just got me this, so I’ve been having lots of fun with it. The pods are in the drawer underneath it—help yourself.”

There was a light in his eyes as he sorted through the pods from the sampler pack and selected a dark roast before taking the mug that I held out to him. “You’re my hero,” he said, inserting the pod and pressing the start button. He leaned against the counter, resting his elbows against it as he waited.

“What are neighbors for?” I asked as I opened the drawer of pods, the edge of the drawer barely grazing his side. I was close enough to smell his cologne, which somehow managed to be both spicy and freshly clean at the same time.

“Coffee, sugar, and killing spiders,” he said instantly, grinning at me.

“Yes, well, I can generally manage to kill my own spiders, but coffee and sugar are always appreciated.”

His coffee finished brewing and he picked up the mug, holding it close to his chest like it was something magical. Which, of course, it was.

“Sugar or milk?” I asked as I started my decaf.

“Nah, this is good.” He brought the coffee towards his nose and took a deep whiff.

“So why did you come to Jeffersonville?” I looked up at him. He was tall enough that I had to do that, which was unusual. I usually towered above everyone.

“I got a job at Amazon,” he said.

“Oh, fun.” And there went any chance that he was Maggie’s son.

He laughed. “Not really.”

“I’ve heard,” I said. “I work at the Kohl’s on Charlestown Road.”

“That sounds like a way better job.”

“Have you ever worked retail?”

He shook his head, and I snorted. “That’s why you think it’s a better job.”

The song “What Is This Feeling” from Wicked started playing, and he blushed all the way to his military-cut brown hair. “Excuse me,” he said hurriedly, switching the mug to his other hand and pulling his phone out of his pocket. “What?” he demanded.

“Quit flirting and get back over here,” I could barely hear. “I’m not doing all this shit for you.”

“Calm down,” Josh said. “We both know you’re only here because Mom said you needed to come.”

“We both know that you would have been homeless for the past two months if I hadn’t let your ass sleep on my couch, so you owe me one. Get back here or I’m leaving you alone with a bed that’s half put together.”

Josh sighed as he hung up and slid his phone back into his pocket. He stared down regretfully at the coffee. “Sorry about that. My brother… well, I’ll be glad to have my own place. I’m sure I’ll see you around, Kassidy.”

“You can take the mug,” I said, smiling at the way his grip tightened on it.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, as long as I get it back before too long.”

He smiled. “Thanks. I’ll see you around. Can I return it later tonight?”

“Well, I have a date tonight, but you can always knock on my door and see if I’m here.”

**********

Aaand yeah. Want to read the rest of this adorable story? You can check it out in Twisted, available now!

 

Thanks for joining me for the first stop of the Twisted blog tour, and make sure to check out the rest of the tour over the next couple weeks too!

~Julia

 

Ch1Con 2016 Blog Tour: Guest Post by Susan Dennard!!

Welcome to the 2016 Chapter One Young Writers Conference blog tour!!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Ch1Con is a writer’s conference both for and by teens and young adults. Our 2016 event will take place Saturday, August 6th in St. Charles, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. 2016 registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website for writers from a middle school to undergraduate level (approximately ages 11 to 23) and at an early bird discount price of $74.99.

Our speakers will include New York Times bestselling YA fantasy author Susan Dennard (Truthwitch, Tor Teen), acclaimed YA contemporary author Francesca Zappia (Made You Up, Greenwillow/HarperCollins), and up-and-coming YA authors Jennifer Yu (Four People, Five Days, Harlequin Teen and Seventeen Reads – coming spring 2017) and Jordan Villegas (represented by Emily Keyes of Fuse Literary)! The Ch1Con team will also be leading a query writing workshop, and we’ll have all kinds of fun giveaways and activities for attendees throughout the conference.

Today I’ve got a special treat for you: Susan Dennard has kindly written a guest post for the blog! (Also, stick around for a giveaway at the end of the post.)

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Susan is the New York Times bestselling author of both the YA steampunk series Something Strange & Deadly (HarperCollins) and the new YA fantasy series Witchlands (Tor)–the first installment of which, Truthwitch, premiered at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list!! (And got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, no less.)

Before settling down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan traveled the world as a marine biologist. When not writing these days, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo. Her writing is represented by Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. 

Find Susan online: Website / Blog / Newsletter / Twitter / Pinterest

Susan’s Books: Something Strange and Deadly / A Dawn Most Wicked / A Darkness Strange and Lovely / Strange and Ever After / Truthwitch

Take it away, Susan!

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5 Things I’ve Learned Since Being Published:

1. Getting published isn’t the hard part. It’s the first hard part. Seriously: I was so not prepared for how much busier, emotionally-draining, and generally crazy-making my life would become post book-deal. I always thought, once I had a publisher, the rest would be…well, maybe not easy, but at least easier.

Yeah. No. Publishing and my career as an author only got way harder after that first sale.

2. But on the flip side of that: Getting published isn’t the awesome part. It’s the first awesome part. Like, I never really imagined past the first book. You know, past the legitimacy of having my name on a real, printed book. But there is SO MUCH amazing stuff that comes along with being an author. First and foremost, readers!! Meeting them, interacting with them, getting awesome letters and presents from them!

Truly, all the awesome far outweighs the hard in this gig.

3. Agents do so much more than sell the book. My agent and her incredible team at New Leaf Literary are indispensable. I cannot function as an author without them there to nudge my publisher on All The Things, to keep track of my incoming payments (or hunt them down when they don’t show up), to be my knights-in-shining-armor when I need protection, or to be a voice of reason when I’m being…well, unreasonable. Agents know this industry far better than most authors ever could, and that knowledge alone is priceless.

And of course, they do sell our books for us! They find homes for our little babies! Something we, the authors, simply cannot do—at least not in a traditional, big publisher world.

4. The industry is small. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone talks to everyone. So first off: be nice to everyone. Seriously. I realize how “duh” that might sound, and yet I see it happen all the time. Fame and success do go to people’s head, but don’t ever let it go to yours.

Second off: don’t engage in the gossip. Easier said than done, but you’ll be happier and safer for it. Who said what or who sold what or who missed which deadline is all pointless conversation—I mean, it doesn’t really affect you at all, does it? So stay out of it.

Actually, those rules can apply to ANY aspect of life, not just publishing. Be nice. Don’t gossip. End of story. 😉

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I swear, my agent gives me this advice every other week. Because it’s SO important to remember in this biz. Being an author is a lifelong career. The first book is literally the first step in what will hopefully continue on for many, many more books. Putting too much pressure on yourself to write MORE and sell MORE—or to have a Huge Commercial Hit Right Away—is, quite frankly, silly.

Some books will come out quickly, some will not. Some will be commercial successes, some will not. Some will earn royalties, some never will. Some will be critically praised, some will not. The point is that there will be highs…and there will be lows. Don’t worry too much if you’re riding a low—another rise will come along one day.

And don’t get too cocky when you’re riding a high, either, because a low could be just around the bend.

Instead, keep your eyes on your own page and keep on writing.

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Thank you so much for writing a guest post for the blog tour, Susan! I’m SO EXCITED to hear you speak at the conference this August.

I also have a *signed* copy of Susan’s bestselling book Truthwitch to give away today! Check it out at the link below!

Click here for the giveway!!

If you’re a writer from middle school to undergraduate age (again, approximately 11 to 23) and are interested in attending and/or learning more about the conference, you can check us out at the links below. Early bird registration ends May 31st!

Website: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Twitter: @Ch1Con
Tumblr: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
YouTube: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Pinterest: Chapter One YW Conference
Instagram: Ch1Con
Facebook: Chapter One Young Writers Conference

The Chapter One Young Writers Conference.
Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.

~Julia

 

LINK by Summer Wier: Exclusive Excerpt!

I’m thrilled today to get to participate in the blog tour to help launch debut novel Link by Summer Wier! For my tour stop, I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt from the YA scifi. However, don’t let the amazingness of the excerpt stun you from reading to the end of the post, because there’s also a link to a giveaway hiding out down there. (So awesome, right?)

Let’s do this thing.

Link CoverAbout LINK:

For seventeen-year-old Kira, there’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than being surrounded by friends and huddled beside a campfire deep in the woods. And with a birthday in the peak of summer, that includes late night swims under the stars.

Or at least, it used to.

Kira’s relaxing contemplation of the universe is interrupted when a piece of it falls, colliding with her and starting a chain of events that could unexpectedly lead to the one thing in her life that’s missing—her father.

Tossed into a pieced-together world of carnivals and gypsies, an old-fashioned farmhouse, and the alluring presence of a boy from another planet, Kira discovers she’s been transported to the center of a black hole, and there’s more to the story than science can explain. She’s now linked by starlight to the world inside the darkness. And her star is dying.

If she doesn’t return home before the star’s light disappears and her link breaks, she’ll be trapped forever. But she’s not the only one ensnared, and with time running out, she’ll have to find a way to save a part of her past and a part of her future, or risk losing everything she loves.

Dreamy, fluid, and beautiful, Link pairs the mystery of science fiction with the minor-key melody of a dark fantasy, creating a tale that is as human as it is out of this world.
Available now from Amazon, and other retailers.

Book Trailer:

About Summer Wier:

Summer Wier Author PhotoSummer Wier is an MBA toting accountant, undercover writer, and all around jack-of-all-trades. Link is her debut novel and the first in The Shadow of Light series. She has three short stories appearing in Fairly Twisted Tales For A Horribly Ever After and co-authors the Splinter web serial. When she’s not digging through spreadsheets or playing mom, you can find her reading/writing, cooking, or dreaming of the mountains in Montana.
Check out more of YA author Summer Wier on her blog, twitter, facebook, and goodreads.

Ready for this excerpt?

*****

“Are you calling me reckless?” Faye would laugh out loud at anyone who considered me reckless. I shoved his shoulder again, harder this time, catching him off guard and knocking him over.

“Oh, you’re absolutely reckless.”

He pounced on me. In a single movement, he grabbed my arms, crossed them in front of me, and held my hands behind my back. I didn’t know how I hadn’t seen it coming; Fischer pulled this move on Faye all the time, especially when he wanted something. I squirmed to escape, but made little progress against his strength.

“Give up?” His words purred into my ear, sending goose bumps over my skin.

“Not a chance.” I protested, but if he held me any longer, the temptation to give in might be too much to escape.

I ripped my arms from his hold, but he tackled me and we tipped to the floor, landing face to face. An uncomfortable burning sensation blossomed in my chest and sank into my stomach. I couldn’t deny that I was attracted to him. He looked like the very epitome of the smooth-talking, confident bad boys Faye read about in her trashy romance novels, but there was something missing—something I couldn’t quite place.

He brushed a strand of hair from my cheek. “Your eyes. They’re amazing.”

“You think so?” He probably said that to all the girls. I blinked nervously, to the point of being a little awkward, and pushed his hand away. “They’re just regular old eyes, really.”

“No, they’re different. Dark, reflective.” He traced his finger down the side of my face. “Like the wom—” His voice trailed off, and the weight of his body pressed against me. His lips were inches from mine. The thought that he might kiss me made me wonder if my heart could explode out of my chest.

But instead of closing the gap, he retreated. “Do you believe this is real? That I’m real?” His question took me by surprise, but the breath of distance between us granted relief.

I didn’t know what was going on in my head or how—or if—I’d imagined such a vivid world, but I knew I wouldn’t be here forever. “I don’t know.”

Disappointment filled his eyes, and his expression hardened. “You will.”

Screams from the steaming teapot seared the air. Evan got up, removed the kettle from the heat, and set it on the hearth. Placing one hand on the mantel, he stared into the fire, as if I’d somehow offended him and he was composing himself.

Why would he ask me that? Did he believe this was real? That I wasn’t a dream; that somehow this was happening right now? “What makes you think this is real?”

Without turning around, he said, “Each of us has a story, and they all begin the same. I didn’t fully understand the consequences of the choice, if you can even call it that, but this is my reality now. Real life, real feelings.”

The haunting warning of the fortune teller flashed into mind. “Evan, do you remember the old woman at the carnival?”

He turned to face me, suddenly recovered and interested in my words. “Why do you ask?”

“Another dream,” I said distantly, as her riddle echoed in my head. “‘End of starlight, Link undone. Choice of lives—’”

“‘Or trapped in one,’” we finished together.

My eyes snapped to meet his. “You know it?”

He about-faced, grabbed the kettle, and hurried to the kitchen. After pulling cups from the cabinet, he silently prepared our tea. My mind raced with the possibilities of how he knew the verse. Another piece of information I’d created in my subconscious? My forehead started to throb, and I rubbed the skin where my stitches should have been.

Silence grew to tension as he returned with two chipped mugs and sat one on the floor in front of me. I glared, waiting for him to say something.

“You’re not the only one who’s seen her. And it’s hard to explain if you don’t believe,” he finally answered.

Sipping from the cup, I thought about what he said. I didn’t know what to believe, but Evan knew more than what he’d shared in his vague explanation. Hints of ginger and lemon flavored the unusually sweet tea. Their tang left my tongue slightly numb. The warm drink was soothing, and I finished it quickly.

“What do you mean ‘not the only one’?” My words slurred as my mouth filled with sweet effervescence, making it hard to speak.

Noises distorted and echoed throughout the cabin, and my vision melted from the outside in. Evan sat quietly, sipping his tea, watching as I tried to maintain balance.

“Since the day I came here, I hoped that I wouldn’t always be alone. Pulled from friends, family—a life much like yours, I’d imagine.” The loneliness and sadness with which he was burdened could not be concealed. It showed in the weight of his brow, misery seeping into his gaze. He caught me in his arms as I fell over. “Consider this a favor. Go home, Kira. Enjoy your life, before you lose it.”

I stared at him in horror. What had he done to me? I couldn’t move my arms or legs. My eyes glazed over, erasing the present scene from view. As the tingling sensation throughout my body turned to numbness, I drifted into darkness.

*****

If that excerpt doesn’t make you run out to buy this book immediately, I don’t know what will.

Now, as promised, Summer’s also putting on a tour-wide giveaway.

She’s put together a bundle of some of her favorite YAs (including a copy of Link!) and she’s going to raffle it off to one lucky reader.The books are:

Giveaway Graphic

You can enter the giveaway at the link below:

Click here for the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Thanks to Summer and REUTS Publications for allowing me to participate in the Link blog tour, and make sure to grab your copy today!

~Julia