Guest Book Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

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Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (July 22, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0763676209
ISBN-13: 978-0763676209
Genre: Dystopian
Suggested reading Age: Grade 9+

Three stars

Seventeen-year-old Seth drowns; in fact his action is deliberate. He wants to escape the horror of his existence. Racked with guilt over the fate of his younger brother, an event he feels is his entire fault, he doesn’t have much to live for. Then he wakes up, back in his old home in England, and things start becoming very weird indeed. He is wrapped in silvery bandages, and his old street is deserted. The whole place is uninhabited and overgrown. He seems to be the only person left alive in the world. He must now forage and scrounge for clothing, food and water. He wonders if this is hell. His dreams don’t help because his previous life comes back to him in huge, unwelcome chunks of memory. Then he meets two other people, with their own unique and strange tales to tell.

Despite the fantastic beginning, with a description that pulled me right into the ocean with Seth, I struggled to finish this book. Parts of it were incredibly exciting and then would grind to a halt with unnecessary introspective and philosophical meanderings on the part of the main character, meanderings which became boring and one had the urge to say, “Oh, just get on with it!” The plus side: an utterly riveting and plausible story premise that comes much later on (just when you are wondering what on earth this is all about and is he dead or not, and if everyone else is dead, then where are the bodies?); really wonderful descriptions that have the reader in the grip of the moment; action and tension to add to the positively bleak and hopeless situation; events that come out of nowhere that have a cinematographic and surreal feel to them; the depth of emotion Seth feels for the loss of his younger brother and his friends. In fact, Seth’s guilt is so palpable that one is consumed with curiosity to learn the truth. The two characters that join him are so different, so lost as well, and so eager to hide the circumstances of their lives/deaths. One feels the pain of the characters as they reveal the humiliating and tragic burdens they each carry.

What I did not enjoy: the flashbacks were sometimes jarring and intrusive, until I accepted them as part of the story-telling process; the fact that this world, while it began as an interesting construct, did not have enough to sustain the story and/or the last three inhabitants. I found the ending abrupt and it short-changes the reader in a way. There were many loose ends in the unfolding of this tale that I feel the author might have tried to answer. The characters were confused and, as a result, the reader becomes confused. It is as if the author didn’t bother to work things out to the last detail, which is possibly not the case, but feels that way. The reference to same sex love/relationships was dealt with sensitively and delicately, in an almost tender way. However, this might surprise readers who are not prepared for it, especially if the reader is younger than the protagonist’s age of 17. Ultimately, the characters’ thoughts on what constitutes life and death, and the option of living in a constructed world, avoiding the reality of a life too sad/tragic/hopeless to contemplate should give readers food for thought. However, I have no doubt that the intended audience of older teens and YA readers will love this book.

http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-This-Patrick-Ness/dp/0763676209/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

 

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

Interview with Kristi Helvig, Author of Burn Out

kristi

Writer Kristi Helvig makes her authorial debut with her young adult sci-fi novel “Burn Out” (Egmont USA) in spring 2014.

Helvig was born in North Carolina and grew up in Delaware. She holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla. She has spent her career in Colorado as a successful clinical psychologist and life coach. She regularly gives lectures
as a professional psychologist and visits schools where she talks with students about books and publishing.

Helvig has contributed as a guest blogger at LiteraryRambles.com and keeps her own blog updated with musings about “Star Trek,” space monkeys, books and other assorted topics.

The geek-for-science-fiction lives outside of Denver, Colo., with her husband of 17 years, two children and their behaviorally challenged dogs. In her spare time, Helvig practices yoga, hikes and loves trying new wines.

Visit Kristi online at http://www.kristihelvig.com/

How did you research the true science involved in “Burn Out?”

Google is a writer’s best friend and I always start there, but it can only take you so far. I watched a lot of documentaries on NatGeo, Science Channel, etc. and then contacted an astrophysics department at a large university. Nothing beats talking to experts in the field, and I was flattered that they took time out of their busy schedules to help me.

As you were learning about these scientific concepts, was there anything that surprised you?

I learned that sending all the world’s nuclear weapons into the sun wouldn’t cause it to burn out. Who knew? Finding a plausible way for the sun to burn out early was challenging, and where I definitely relied on assistance from astrophysicists.

Tell us about the themes you explored in the book and what you hope they mean to readers.

Trust is a huge theme throughout the book, as well as how to move forward after devastating losses. Weapons also play a big role in the book. New technology in my main character’s world has allowed for smarter, more lethal guns and she struggles with their impact on Earth’s remaining survivors.

Did your work as a clinical psychologist influence your writing?

Absolutely. I’ve seen hundreds of clients over the years and though everyone processes events according to their unique perspective, the experiences of love, fear, pain, and loss are common to humanity. It’s interesting to see how people interpret life events within their own personal construct.

What do you like about writing science fiction?burn out

That’s easy. I get to make up whole new worlds and then see what happens when I let characters loose in them. It’s creative and fun, and I get paid to do it. I couldn’t imagine anything better.

What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

Never give up. Eat lots of chocolate. Drink lots of wine. Seriously though, the most important thing is to keep writing and find some good, honest critique partners…and then listen to them. Always strive to improve your craft. Read a lot. Reading is just as important to me as writing.

If your book were turned into a movie, who would you like to see play Tora, Markus and James?

What a fun question! I think Emily Browning would make a kick-ass Tora, and Skylar Astin as Markus would be awesome. James is tougher. Either Cam Gigandet or Alexander Ludwig is close to how I pictured James as I wrote him.

Who are some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy writers?

Lois Lowry, Madeleine L’Engle, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury to name a few. Additionally, though they’re not straight sci-fi writers, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King have had a huge influence on me.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your book so far?

My favorite so far was when a fellow author told me how much she loved my main character, Tora, and called her “the female Han Solo.” You can’t get a cooler compliment than that.

Is there a second “Burn Out” book in the works?

Yes, I’m hard at work on the second book, and I’m having a blast with it.

Hardcover, $17.99; eBook, $13.07
ISBN: 978-1606844793
Young Adult Science Fiction, 272 pages
Egmont USA, April 8, 2014

Purchase here!

Interview with Sallie Haws, Author of Quantum Spirit: Apocalypse

sallie haws

As the great-granddaughter of the inventor of the drinking fountain and founder of Haws Corporation, Sallie Haws put her UC Santa Barbara bachelor’s degree in organizational psychology to work to make a positive impact on her family’s business. Sallie held numerous jobs in the company over her 26-year tenure from file clerk to President and CEO.

At a young age, Sallie’s passion for writing was fed by taking creative writing classes in high school and college. It was nursed along throughout her adult years by a voracious reading habit of paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy novels.

After selling the family business in 2011, Sallie finally had the time and inspiration to write.

“Quantum Spirit – Apocalypse” (August 2013, Fedd Books) is the culmination of years of personal and professional life experience combined with the
desire to empower, entertain and inspire adults and teenagers.

Sallie lives in Reno, Nevada, with her husband, son, daughter and black kitty named Chubs.

Visit Sallie online at www.quantumspiritbooks.com 

 

Salena Hawthorne, the teen heroine in “Quantum Spirit: Apocalypse,” is incredibly smart, strong and courageous. What do you want readers to learn from her?

I would love for them to learn how to tap into their own innate power and abilities. After being a business leader and mentor for many years, I decided to take what I’ve learned and share that with eager and open-minded young women through an entertaining and non-threatening medium.

My personal reading genre of choice is paranormal urban fantasy. However, I didn’t want to write a book about vampires or were-creatures. There are some awesome authors out there who do that extremely well, and I didn’t think it needed to be done again. I also wanted to write a book with a positive outlook for humanity’s future. I’m a little tired of the dystopian genre. I wanted to create a state of wonder with my audience. Our world is so full of fear and discord; it’s time to imagine a world full of love and connectedness.

On the surface, “Quantum Spirit” is a fun, easy read about a young girl who has some amazing abilities and some fantastic adventures. But the deeper you get into the book, the more profound the story becomes. Can you expand on that?

For many, the quick surface read will be enough. For those with a little more curiosity, dropping down one level, the premise of the book is how deadly fear can be, and how love, gratitude and forgiveness is the antidote. The third level introduces some metaphysical and spiritual concepts that are currently being practiced and taught all over the world. In that regard, “Quantum Spirit – Apocalypse” could almost be considered realistic fiction.sallie

How did you come up with the idea of giving Salena all of these different gifts – clairvoyance, seeing auras and traveling between dimensions?

I actually had a dream about a young girl who could change her body’s vibrational resonance that allowed her to disappear in the Third Dimension and travel to the Fifth Dimension. So that gift was the first one I came up with, but then I needed to provide reasonable cause as to why she might develop such a talent. Being an exceptionally strong clairvoyant at a young age I felt would lead credence to the development of more advanced abilities at the onset of puberty. Being able to see auras just seemed to make the package complete.

If you could have any the abilities that Salena has in your book, which would you pick and why?

I think my first choice would definitely be the ability to transcend dimensions. Being able to teleport anywhere in the world would seriously cut down on my travel expenses! Not to mention the money I would save on new clothes and accessories that I could instantly manifest while in the Fifth Dimension. As distracting as I’m sure it would be, the ability to see auras would be my second choice.

Crystals play an important role in “Quantum Spirit.” Can you tell us a little about them?

The two main types of crystals that play a role in the book are Selenite and Quartz. The use of Selenite came about by pure synchronicity. It was completely coincidental that the majestic crystal caves in Niaca, Mexico where I chose to put the Akashic Records were made of selenite. Selenite was named after the Greek word for moon, and Selene is the name for the Greek Goddess of the Moon. (I had named my heroine Salena way before I discovered the crystal caves and what type of crystals were in them.) After researching all of the physical and metaphysical properties of selenite, I knew that if the Akashic Records were ever going to be located in a single place, they would definitely be stored in those crystal caves.

I chose quartz for the healing ceremony because that is the first choice for metaphysical practitioners who use crystals to augment their healing practice. Quartz crystals are able to structure, store, amplify, focus, transmit and transform energy, which includes matter, thought, emotion and other forms of information. They were the best tool I could give Salena to allow her to trap the negative energy of the Blue Flu.

Did you do a lot of research while writing “Quantum Spirit?”

Yes. While the story is fiction, all of the metaphysical, spiritual and scientific concepts in the book are based on theories and research done by many different people. I read and/or referenced at least 13 different books and I don’t know how many dozens of websites on the various different concepts that I weaved into my story. Links to the books are all listed on my website.

Do you believe in the paranormal?

Absolutely. In fact, I believe in every one of the metaphysical concepts I put into Quantum Spirit: Apocalypse, even the existence of the Fifth Dimension. That doesn’t mean I have the ability to do any of the “paranormal” things that Salena can do, but I do believe they are possible.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, I’ve always wanted to write a novel my whole life. My first attempt was in seventh grade, and there were a couple of other ones after that. After selling the family business in 2011, I knew I wanted to take this opportunity to finally write, but I didn’t have what I felt was a compelling enough story. In June of 2011, while on a houseboat vacation on Lake Shasta, I dreamed about a young girl who could change her body’s vibrational level and travel back and forth from the third dimension to the fifth dimension. Upon awakening, I walked out to the living room where my husband, son and his friends were eating breakfast and announced to the group, “I have my story.”

Without any spoilers, can you give us a hint of what to expect in your next book, “Quantum Spirit: Redemption?”

Salena has a lot of work ahead of her. On top of staying one step ahead of the nefarious goons who are trying to kidnap her, she must also continue to find a solution to help the millions of souls who are still trapped in stasis. Keeping track of Jace and trying to find a way to save him will also keep her rather busy, and she still has to pass eighth grade algebra.

Paperback, $12.99; eBook, $7.95
ISBN: 978-0989493406
Young Adult/Sci Fi, 418 pages
Fedd Books, Aug. 13, 2013
Purchase here!

Coming Soon!: Scan by Walter Jury and Sarah Fine

scan

Tate and his father don’t exactly get along. As Tate sees it, his father has unreasonably high expectations for Tate to be the best—at everything. Tate finally learns what he’s being prepared for when he steals one of his dad’s odd tech inventions and mercenaries ambush the school, killing his father in the process and sending Tate on the run from aliens who look just like humans.

All Tate knows–like how to make weapons out of oranges and lighter fluid–may not be enough to save him as he’s plunged into a secret inter-species conflict that’s been going on for centuries. Aided only by his girlfriend and his estranged mother, with powerful enemies closing in on all sides, Tate races to puzzle out the secret behind his father’s invention and why so many are willing to kill for it. A riveting, fast-paced adventure, Scan is a clever alien thriller with muscle and heart.

SCAN
By Walter Jury and Sarah Fine
Hardcover, $17.99
eBook, $10.99
ISBN: 978-0399160653
Science Fiction
336 pages
Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s Sons
May 1, 2014

Pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Walter Jury was born in London, has a background in the film industry, is a big fan of the New York Giants, and enthusiast of Jamba Juice’s Protein Berry Workout smoothie only with soy, never whey. “Scan” is his first book for teens. Oh, and under his real name, he’s a producer of one of 2014’s biggest blockbusters. Let’s just say he “diverges” in his career from film to literature quite well.

Sarah Fine was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is the author (as Sarah Fine) of several young adult books, and when she’s not writing, she’s working as a child psychologist. No, she is not psychoanalyzing you right now.

XGeneration: You Don’t Know Me Book Blast w/ Brad Magnarella – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card

XGeneration 7In the fall of 1984, Cold War tensions between Washington and Moscow are close to breaking.

But in sleepy Gainesville, Florida, fourteen-year-old Janis Graystone is mainly worried about starting high school, earning a spot on the varsity soccer team, and keeping her older sister from running her life. And then there are her nighttime experiences. Experiences where she awakens in her backyard—out of her body—with the disturbing sense that someone is watching her.

For Scott Spruel, the start of high school means the chance to start over. And he’s willing to ditch everything—computer hacking, Dungeons & Dragons marathons, even his comic book collection (well, except for his X-Men)—if it means getting closer to Janis, the secret love of his life. But will Scott’s past be so easy to shed. And what about the eerie delay on his telephone, a delay he senses through powers he is only beginning to understand?

Welcome to the gripping new series, XGeneration: part The X-Files, part Freaks and Geeks, and totally ’80s.

Rated 16+ for language.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON for 99 cents during his book blast!

Excerpt:

“Do you ever think we’re being watched?” Janis asked.

She lifted her head from her soccer ball and squinted past her toes, still slick with sunblock, to where the beach crowd thinned near the crash and rumble of the ocean. For the first time, she and Margaret had the beach blanket to themselves, and she knew it wouldn’t last. Beyond her feet and off to the right, her sister’s three friends squealed and pranced from the water’s edge, breasts bobbing inside new bikinis. The bright pastel colors made them hard to miss. They would probably be running back this way any minute.

“Well, we are at the beach,” Margaret said.

Janis turned onto her elbow. In contrast to her airhead friends, her older sister lay in quiet repose, brunette hair tucked into a neat bun that cushioned her head and opened her lithe neck to the sun. Black Wayfarers hid her eyes. When the breeze stirred, the strings of her apple-red bikini fluttered against her hip.

“Not here, I mean,” Janis said. “In the neighborhood. At home. I keep having this feeling that we’re—”

“Being watched? Like the song?”

Janis groaned. She had walked right into that one. “Somebody’s Watching Me” had played on the boom box a half hour before, the deejay at I-100 FM using a creepy ghoul’s voice when he recapped the song and artist. And it was a creepy song. The video was even creepier. But no, that’s not what Janis was talking about.

“Not funny,” she said.Brad Magnarella 7

Brad Magnarella grew up in North Central Florida. As a boy he discovered Marvel Comics, text-based gaming, Bruce Springsteen, and Stephen King, roughly in that order. The prize, however, was a creek that wound through his neighborhood, providing him and his friends a wooded sanctuary in which to lose themselves, while discovering natural Florida. 

A graduate of the University of Florida and American University, Brad has long aspired to write the kind of fiction that colored his childhood. His books include The Prisoner and the Sun trilogy and the first in his new young adult series, XGeneration. 

Brad lives in Washington, D.C. When he’s not writing, he’s somewhat hard to find.

Sign up to Brad’s mailing list for new releases: http://bit.ly/bdmlist.

Connect & Socialize with Brad!

FACEBOOK

Pump Up Your Book and Brad Magnarella are teaming up to give you a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Two winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash.
  • This giveaway begins December 2 and ends December 27.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, December 30, 2013.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

X Generation 1: You Don’t Know Me Book Blast Page: 

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2013/10/08/pump-up-your-book-presents-xgeneration-you-dont-know-me-book-blast-win-25-amazon-gift-card/

First Chapter Reveal: External Forces by Deborah Rix (Giveaway)

External Forces 7Treason, betrayal, and heartbreak.

A lot can happen to a girl between her first kiss and her first kill.

It’s 100 years since the Genetic Integrity Act was passed and America closed its borders to prevent genetic contamination. Now only the enemy, dysgenic Deviants, remain beyond the heavily guarded border. The Department of Evolution carefully guides the creation of each generation and deviations from the divine plan are not permitted.

When 16-year-old Jess begins to show signs of deviance she enlists in the Special Forces, with her best friend Jay, in a desperate bid to evade detection by the Devotees. Jess is good with data, not so good with a knife. So when the handsome and secretive Sergeant Matt Anderson selects her for his Black Ops squad, Jess is determined to figure out why.

As her deviance continues to change her, Jess is forced to decide who to trust with her deadly secret. Jess needs to know what’s really out there, in the Deviant wasteland over the border, if she has any hope of making it to her 17th birthday. Because if the enemy doesn’t kill her first, the Department of Evolution probably will.

Prologue:I haven’t slept in forty-eight hours.

It’s part of the Special Operations Assessment and Selection course, twenty-eight days of grueling work. The two days of no sleep are meant to disorient us, part of discarding our former selves. There are three hundred of us trying to figure out how to do what we’re told, when we’re told to, and how to do it correctly. Jay and I weren’t assigned to the same platoon, which was unexpected. I’m in the “civilian” platoon; we’re the ones with skills that don’t generally require brute force. I think Jay is in some kind of elite group because I haven’t seen him, I’ve only seen the G-men platoon. They are all about brute force; they’re the ones that opted for genetic enhancement at age thirteen without the supervision of the Devotees. But Special Forces is, well, special, so they have to prove they’ve got more than muscle and I’ve gotta prove I’ve got more than a quick mind.

If I don’t make it to Special Forces, my life expectancy in the regular army could be pretty short. And if I’m a complete washout, I’ll have to go to my assessment with the Devotees and they’ll find out about me, making my life expectancy even shorter. I seriously need to pass.

Zero dark thirty is when I have to haul myself out of bed in the so-called morning. My drill sergeant has been yelling at me for most of the past two days. The word “why” has been surgically removed from everyone’s vocabulary. Any individual hesitation in following orders means at least one private is getting smoked, if not the whole platoon, which usually means push-ups. We’ve done a lot of push-ups. I stare straight ahead as the drill sergeant walks by me and continues down the row of privates. I made the mistake of “eyeballing” him yesterday.

Never. Eyeball. A drill sergeant.

First Chapter:

Three weeks earlier – May, 2125

My mother thinks I’m a Deviant.

It’s the kind of thing that can really throw a girl for a loop.

The Devotees missed it when I was born, she said, but one day they would come for me. That was a few years ago, she didn’t know I was home when I overheard her; I got out of there lickety-split.

And it’s not as if I haven’t noticed the way my mother looks at me sometimes. If they had taken me when they had the chance, maybe her other baby would still be with her. I’m pretty sure that’s what goes through her head when she looks at me.

So the early assessment notice wasn’t entirely unexpected. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Lots of kids are called for early assessments and nothing happens; they show up at school the next day. Some of them are all excited because they got called to become a Devotee.

But some of them, well, they don’t come back.

I’m in the parking lot of my high school, West Liberty. It’s prom night, and I came with my best friend, Jay. He’s still inside; he likes this sort of thing. I haven’t told him the early assessment notice came this afternoon. I didn’t want to ruin tonight for him. The humidity has made my dress even more uncomfortable than it was inside. Jay owes me. At least he won’t mind if I go home; it’s not that kind of date.

A car door slams shut. There aren’t a lot of kids who can afford the fuel to drive their own car to the prom.

Uh-oh. Blake.

I take a step back. Blake is a popular kid, with the right look, the right home, the right pedigree.

Right.

Despite my attempts to blend in and stay in the background, Blake noticed me this year. When I didn’t respond like all the other girls do, I became his target.

His car keys jangle as he drops them in his jacket pocket. I stand still; maybe he hasn’t seen me.

“Hey, freak,” he calls as he comes around the blue pickup I was hoping would shield me. “Not leaving, are you?”

I smell alcohol as Blake backs me up against the truck.

His slicked-back hair smells slightly astringent, and his tongue slides over his upper lip as he looks me over from top to bottom. A shiver of revulsion goes through me. I can’t imagine what girls like about him. I can hear some voices, but they’re at the other end of the parking lot. It’s just me and Blake.

“I’ve got an early graduation present for you,” he says quietly. His face is close to mine, and I can see beads of perspiration on his forehead. Slick from the humidity, his hand glides down my bare shoulder, as if he’s entitled to touch me.

I don’t think I want a present from Blake.

I’m surprised when my hand moves. There is a wet sound as Blake’s head snaps back.

Blood spurts, and it seems as if time has gone into slow motion. The blood sprays toward me. I move my head to the side to avoid it, and watch it slowly drift by, suspended in the air.

I turn back to Blake and a thrill zips through me. Thick, glossy blood creeps down his chin from his mashed nose. His mouth is open in shock; blood colors his teeth and gums. He moves sluggishly, and each blink seems to take effort.

Drip by slow drip, the blood falls from his chin onto his shirt. Fascinated, I watch each droplet burst on his crisp white collar.

A wet plonk hits my forehead as a sudden coldness envelops me. The grin I’m shocked to find on my face sags. Fat droplets of rain release the pressure in the air and mix with the blood on Blake’s shiny shoes.

Hands to his face, he doubles over as time suddenly speeds up again. The rain pelts down now. I take two steps to the side and run. I hear a sob and realize it’s me.

What just happened?

It’s the morning after prom, and Jay saunters along beside me as we walk back to my house. I met him half way, as per my usual. His t-shirt is a bit wrinkled, but that’s on purpose, to go with jeans that are a little baggy in back. He’s over six feet and gets asked if he’s a model, which he laughs at, but I know he’s pleased. He could be quite popular if he wanted, but he hangs out with me instead.

Jay and me are Fifth Generation. We’re the ones born between 2100 and 2120. We found each other in the seventh grade. We were the last two kids left when we all paired up for gym class. He asked me why I wasn’t moving when we were supposed to be heading out to the field. I explained that I was trying to activate my special powers so that I could use them to transport me far away. Usually that kind of talk would send kids running, and they’d whisper that I must be a Deviant. But not Jay. He blinked at me, then asked if I would take him with me, should my special powers ever actually work. We’ve been best friends since, and tell each other pretty much everything.

“So, can you come to the thing?”

Uh oh.

I think I’m supposed to know what he’s talking about.

“Uh, when is it again?” I stall for time. What thing?

I push my hair behind my ears to help me think. It doesn’t always work. I have shoulder-length brown hair, parted on the side. My no-nonsense look is how I think of it. I still don’t know what the thing is.

“Wait. Jess. You’re joking, right?” Jay says with a laugh that’s on the edge of anger.

“I’m sorry.” I do my best pleading cringe. “I’m a little distracted.”

The early assessment and whatever that was with Blake last night are the distractions. I can’t quite believe I punched him, broke his nose by the look of it. He’s probably going to have two black eyes. But more than that punch, as surprising as it was, is the way time seemed to slow down around me. I want to say it was shock, or some kind of temporary fugue state, but that’s not what it was. Something happened.

“My mother’s thing, remember?” Jay practically yells at me.

“Oh, that,” I say with relief. Jay’s mother is hosting a party to celebrate his seventeenth birthday. That’s what the thing is. It’s going to be awful.

“We met up, what? Five minutes ago? And you’re already trying to drive me crazy?” He pinches my butt. Hard. He’s pretty worked up about this party.

I yelp and dance around. “No way. You are not blaming your crazy on me.” I give him a solid punch in the gut. “You had years of exposure to your mother before we even met.”

I go rock climbing, so my arms are strong. I’ve never needed to go to the gym to work out and “stay in shape” like some of the other girls do. I’m five feet ten and a half inches and the coach at school said I have an athletic body; he tried to get me to go out for track and field. I don’t like the idea of people watching me like that.

But hitting Jay is like hitting concrete. He doesn’t even notice my punch.

“And of course I’m coming, I already told you. That’s why I didn’t know what thing you were talking about. I thought you meant some other thing.”

“You didn’t actually confirm with my mother,” he complains, “and I know how you feel about people, in general.”

“I don’t have a problem with people, in general. Just the idiots,” I say. “And your mother.”

It’s kind of a toss-up, I suppose. A mother like mine, who actively avoids you and has already decided you’re not worth the effort, or one who pays too much attention and has too many expectations.

Jay nudges me as an unfamiliar dark-haired boy, a bit younger than we are, walks toward us. He doesn’t look right at us, but he flashes us two crossed fingers with his right hand.

I look up ahead and see them coming our way. Three Devotees. Jay and I mumble the greeting in unison, “Blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh, soul of our soul,” and we look down as they brush past us in their crisp white lab coats. It’s best not to be noticed.

The Devotees work for the Department of Evolution —everyone just calls it Devo— and they do the work of Creation in partnership with God. The Department of Evolution is under the direction of Secretary Galton. Basically, she’s God’s voice here on Earth. In the midst of the genetic revolution a hundred years ago, when the Genetic Integrity Act closed America’s borders, strict protocols for border biosecurity were instituted to stop genetic contamination. But we were still in danger of being overrun by the Deviants on the other side. Galton took control, ordered the fortification of our borders and gave the military the authority to do what they needed to do. Most people agree; she did what was necessary for our survival by relinquishing certain powers to the military to ensure our protection. Including the ability to create proprietary, genetically enhanced soldiers. The G-men. Since then, Galton has been leading us through the current stage of evolution, Regenesis, removing unwanted traits and improving and enhancing our best traits with the guidance of God.

In Social Biology class, Devotee Theresa taught us that we must all work for the common good, whether we like it or not. The less intelligent are more fertile and must be discouraged from breeding. Only those with desirable traits are allowed to produce the next generation.

There’s this section, practically a whole semester of tenth grade, where we studied pedigree charts, and DNA, RNA, proteins, and ribosomes. DNA is a double helix that carries the genetic information for all life. If only one part of one gene is wrong, it can create a whole generation of imbeciles, and that is not in God’s plan. Or in Devo’s plan. All Devotees have that DNA double helix tattooed on their forearm, as a constant reminder of their purpose in life.

That’s what the crossed fingers warning represents, the double helix tattoo.

We come up to the old Palace Theater. It’s been shut down for a long time, and the large sign that hangs out front lost its first A, so it says PLACE. Someone found a way in down the side alley, and now kids hang out there. They say, “Meet me at the place.” If they’re overheard or an adult sees a message, it only says “the place.” So far it’s stayed secret. I’ve heard they have illegal sim-seats in there, ones that can scramble the biometrics and mask what you’re doing.

“Jess,” Jay says as he slows right down, “something’s wrong.”

“It’s time to wake up!” a skinny boy with curly red hair yells. He’s standing on a wooden crate, and people are hesitantly milling about. “People are dying! Out there, children are starving, and you send them poison. People are sick, and you send them plagues. The blood of our blood is on your hands!”

There are gasps at his blasphemy, but a few people cautiously move toward him in morbid fascination. His eyes are wild, there’s spittle on his lips. Jay grabs my arm to tug me backward.

When the bullet enters the boy’s left temple, it’s as if he doesn’t know it’s there for a moment.

He’s about to yell, his mouth opens, his lips form a word he will never say. Then he topples backward, and I hear the terrible thud as his head hits the ground. The people closest to him quickly step back. No one screams, no one looks up to see the Guardian with the rifle on the roof across the street. Everyone wants to blend in.

Another Guardian comes toward the Palace. The Guardians work for Devo and protect us from Deviants. The stiff collar somehow makes his slightly rumpled, brown uniform shirt look crisp. The yellow double helix is on the front of his cap, and above his left shirt pocket.

“Move along,” he says. “It was just a Deviant.”

We all know that the plain fact of his yelling out crazy stuff in the street like that is proof of his deviance. It’s what happens sometimes, but it’s most prevalent during adolescence. The deviance manifests and people become dangerous, psychotic Deviants, intent on our destruction.

The Guardian rests his hand on the butt of the holstered pistol hanging from his belt and waits for the brown panel truck with the whooping siren we can hear approaching.

Jay swears at him under his breath and keeps hold of my arm. We hurry off with the rest of the crowd, wanting to move as far away as possible. I look back in time to see somebody dart in behind the Guardian, dip a hand in the boy’s blood, and leave an angry red handprint on the front of the Palace Theater. A red hand. I’ve heard the whispers but never thought it was true. As I stare at it, I bumble into Mrs. Yamoto, one of my neighbors. She walks fast, gripping her daughter’s hand tightly. Last year, I saw the brown truck with the double helix on the side parked in front of her house. The Guardians had come to take her son.

Wes.

That was his name.

Title: External Forces
Author: Deborah Rix
Publisher: Dime Store Books
Pages: 268
Language: English
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Format: eBook

Purchase at AMAZONDeborah Rix 7

Deborah Rix’s favourite position for reading a book is head almost hanging off the couch and feet up in the air with legs against the back of the couch. She’s been reading too much from Scientific American for research and ideas and needs to get back to some fiction. She has a long standing love of science fiction, some of her favourite authors include William Gibson, Philip K Dick, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Douglas Adams, Iain M Banks. A bit old school.

Deborah enjoyed a successful career in entertainment publicity, live music promotion and event management. Which means she slogged through muddy fields for music festivals, was crammed into concert halls with too many sweaty teenage boys and got to go to Tuktoyaktuk (that’s in the Arctic Circle) for a Metallica concert. She lives with her family in Toronto, Canada, where she is the proprietor of The Lucky Penny, a neighborhood joint in Trinity-Bellwoods.

Visit her website at www.DeborahRix.com

ACCELERATE YOUR POWER GRAND PRIZE

GRAND PRIZE: Winner will have a minor character named after them in Acceleration, the second book in The Laws of Motion Trilogy by Deborah Rix. PLUS: 1 (One) WakaWaka Power – a solar powered charger and light, 1 (one) Limited Edition EXTERNAL FORCES Black Ops Beanie, and 1 (one) signed copy of External Forces.

The fine print: Grand Prize winner will have a minor character named after them in the forthcoming book, Acceleration. The winner can choose a name other their own as long as it is mutually agreeable with the Author, Deborah Rix. That means nothing obscene, stupid or ridiculous, as decided at the sole discretion of the author. Winner agrees that the gender, race, physical description, sexual orientation or any other characteristics of the character are at the sole discretion of the author. Winner agrees that the character may suffer some sort of gruesome downfall or may be a heroic figure in the story, it is at the sole discretion of the author what the role of the character will be and to what extent the character will be part of the story. The author assures the winner that it will be a real character in the story and part of a sub-plot or major plot.

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the Accelerate Your Power Grand Prize.
  • This giveaway begins November 4 and ends January 31.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, February 3, 2013.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

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Guest Blogger: Alexandra May, Author of The Lost Dacomé Files #1: The Battle for Arcanon Major

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“As daughter of our ruler I grew up in the crossfire of an ongoing war… All I’d ever wanted to be was a great warrior and ultimately lead my people into victorious battles.”

With only a small army at her command Halíka Dacomé, a skilled warrior and daughter of the Elemental King, is ready to lead one final battle to save her planet. A battle against the savage, bloodthirsty Primords who want to extinguish the diminished race of Elementals once and for all.

But before battle commences her father is given an ultimatum from the enemy leader, Arfron Uhnok. If the king agrees, Halíka Dacomé must marry Arfron Uhnok to prevent further bloodshed. If the king disagrees they, as a race, will all perish.

Horrified by her father’s decision, Halíka Dacomé leads her army onward regardless of the consequences. Because her heart belongs to another. A love that blossomed many years ago. A love that her father has forbidden.

Halíka faces her toughest battle yet and learns that not all battles are those fought with a sword…
The Battle for Arcanon Major is an epic love story set against the backdrop of war and is the first Prequel to Elemental: The First.

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What do we want from a Strong Female Character? by Alexandra May

It’s hard to decipher what the term ‘Strong’ Female Character actually means. Do readers want to read about a heroine who takes no prisoners, fights to the death and answers to no one? Or do we want to read about a character that tries her best, has flaws but deals with situations to the best of her ability.

What does ‘Strong’ mean exactly? Strong as in strength? Strong as in compassion? Strong as in confidence? Many of our leading female protagonists in YA literature are strong characters, but flawed as much as they are strong.

One of my favourite characters is Rose Hathaway from the Vampire Academy series. She’s sassy, mouthy, kicks a mean roundhouse and is devoted to her bonded best friend, Lissa. Critics might say that being bonded creates the first flaw in Rose’s character. The fact that she devotes her own life to ensure Lissa stays alive is maybe a flaw but shows strength of character. She’s already accepted that Lissa’s life comes first in all things. At the end of Book 3, Shadow Kiss, though, Rose takes an unexpected path. She’s about to follow her love, Dimitri to kill him. This is where her strength reaches out revealing that not only is she flawed, she’s also human (or dhampir, whichever way you look at it.). She’s leaving Lissa behind for the first time ever.

The most important points when I created Halíka Dacomé were not only to show her strong character but also show how human she was. She’s an Overlord, or General, of a mostly male army. She’s fights well, takes ownership of her decisions, and accepts advice from others and ultimately her strength in character is what drives her army to follow her. They believe in her, wholeheartedly.

Underneath all of that she’s deeply flawed. Her love for her brother brings on an awkward situation when he won’t return to his post, preferring to stay with her in the final battle. Not even her strong will can remove him. He is her weakness but also her strength. When her childhood friend and love interest arrives, her emotions become twisted. She even sheds a few tears in his close company. He is also her weakness. Some might say that her love is her strength. This really all comes down to how the writer wants to define that particular aspect of the character. Love can always make a situation better or worse.

The next most important aspect when writing a romance with a strong character is writing an equally strong opposite. Some readers were upset at the end of book 6, Last Sacrifice of the Vampire Academy series. Rose Hathaway chose Dimitri over Adrian. In truth Adrian was never Rose’s equal. The relationship was born more of friendship and lust rather than equalling Dimitri in other ways. Dimitri and Rose know, really know each other. They work because they’re in sync. They know each other’s strengths and weakness as though they were their own. They balance one another in a way that Adrian and Rose never had.

For Halíka Dacomé her biggest weakness, her biggest flaw was her compassion. She followed her heart and was led by it to make a decision that she would not have normally made. That decision led to her downfall.alexandra

So, my next task when I write the sequel to The Battle for Arcanon Major is to show how she overcomes the realisation that her heart got in the way of her rational thinking. Will her strong character enable her to overcome her moment of weakness?

Alexandra May is an English author of three books, bringing together the epic saga of Halíka Dacomé and her modern day equivalent, Rose Frost.

Elemental: The First, Elemental: Origin and The Battle for Arcanon Major draw in Alexandra’s love of strong women characters, sci-fi, history, romance and a little warmongering on the side!

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Blog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 11/13/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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