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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cover Reveals (That Made Me Swoon) Part IV

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

 Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer

There have been so many great cover reveals lately. This particular edition of Cover Reveals showcases the new Harper covers released (so far) this week, but the next edition will have a mix of publishers. 

Which new covers are your favorites? Any that you dislike? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interview & Giveaway with M.A. Larsen, author of Pennyroyal Academy

Today I welcome writer M.A. Larson to The Hiding Spot to talk a bit about his new middle grade novel, Pennyroyal Academy, his various jobs (including writing for a cartoons you know and love!), his unique writing process, and more.


I love that, in Pennyroyal Academy, it’s princesses that are the kingdom’s lead defense against witches and dragons. As a bookseller who often has young girls asking for books about strong princesses, I find this premise very exciting. Can you speak about your decision to make princesses the rescuers and the princes backup?

It’s a long, eight-year story of how that decision came to be, so I’ll try to give you the short answer.  When I first came up with this idea, it was for an animated series called Princess Boot Camp.  We developed the show for a while, but nothing came of it, so I decided to turn it into a book.  At that time, I was just sort of researching princess culture and trying to think of ideas of where to take the story.  I read a book called The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim, which looks at how the Grimm’s Fairy Tales work in the adolescent mind from a psychological and developmental perspective.  Seeing those old familiar stories analyzed in this way made me realize that their darker elements were not only interesting, they were essential.  I began to reframe my story for an older audience and to strip away the parody elements.  I knew I wanted to attack the stereotype of the helpless princess trapped in a tower waiting for a prince, and I still had the spine of a military-style training academy for princesses left from the original idea, so naturally those princesses would need an enemy, and that enemy would have to be dark and frightening.  Witcheswere the natural choice.  Then it was just a process of refining this princess/witch conflict until I hit upon the angle that only a princess has the attributes necessary to defeat a witch.  They are the last line of defense for the innocent people in this Grimm’s Fairy Tale world.  It felt a bit like a Western in that sense, and it made the princess into quite a heroic figure.

Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle?The end?

I’m sort of all over the shop on this one.  When I’m writing a film or television script, the structure is so important that I wouldn’t know how to do it without heavily outlining.  You have two hours for a movie, which is roughly 120 pages, or you have twenty-two minutes for TV with commercials.  You have to fit your story into that mold, so structure is everything.  And yet, I know many screenwriters who just start writing and see what happens.  My outline for Pennyroyal Academy was complex and massive, around thirty pages single-spaced.  It was color coded for characters, objects, themes, and plotlines so I could track them chapter by chapter.  I couldn’t really tell you why, but I’m in the middle of the sequel now and I am doing it in an entirely different way.  I know where I want to characters to end up, and I’m starting each writing day saying, “Okay, what needs to happen in this chapter?”  It’s pretty uncomfortable for me as a staunch outliner, but fun little subplots keep forming that I wasn’t really expecting.  So I’m kind of enjoying flying blind a little bit.  As for where do I start, I always try to think of the big, “what does this mean for the world?” ending, and then the story becomes following the characters’ journey from the beginning to that end point.

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?

So many jobs!  I’ve been working since I was fifteen.  My first job was at an amusement park in Minnesota, then Circuit City and AMC Theaters and Honeybaked Ham and even Victoria’s Secret (I applied for jobs in every store in the mall near my college and they were the first to call me back).  Then I bartended for awhile, and finally got a job as an assistant to a legendary film director called Mike Nichols.  I worked with him for years and got to be involved with Angels in America for HBO, “Spamalot!” and other plays on Broadway, and CLOSER for Columbia Pictures.  It was an amazing experience, and I’ll never forget hearing piano and singing coming from Mike’s office during the writing of “Spamalot!” followed by roaring laughter as he and Eric Idle and John du Prez devised the lyrics.  And that job allowed me to meet so many incredible writers, like Tom Stoppard and Patrick Marber and Emma Thompson and Tony Kushner and Buck Henry, that it only made me want to be a professional writer that much more.  After I moved to Los Angeles, I was fortunate to get a job writing for an animated children’s show at Cartoon Network, and I never looked back.  That’s why Pennyroyal Academy was originally going to be an animated series.  Writing for animation, you are required to generate so many scripts and so many ideas and take so many notes from so many executives that you quickly learn to not be too precious with your work.  I also learned that rejection is just a thing that happens – a lot – and you have to be prepared to move on to the next idea without letting it depress you.

If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?

This is probably a bit of a cheat answer, but I really like “inconceivable.” The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite stories, and I can’t hear that word without thinking of Vizzini, and then I automatically smile.  And if hearing a word can automatically make you smile, how can it not be a favorite?

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?

You took the best answer!  But after books, it’s got to be the movies.  There’s nothing quite like that strange feeling of disorientation when you come out of a movie theater after being completely lost in something for two hours.  A good, rich, immersive film, like There Will Be Blood or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,is my favorite place to hide out.

What can readers look forward to next?

I’m in the midst of writing the follow-up to Pennyroyal Academy right now.  I also story-edited and wrote part of the next season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which should air early next year.  And beyond that I have a whole slew of ideas for more books of all ages.

 M.A. Larson (www.malarson.com) is a film and television writer who lives with his wife, daughter, and two dogs in a canyon in California.  Larson has written for Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney UK, Discovery Kids Channel, The Hub, and Nickelodeon. As a writer on the cult sensation “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, he has been a guest at “brony” fan conventions from Paris, France to Dallas, Texas. Pennyroyal Academy is his first novel.

Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become

tomorrow'sprincesses and knights….Come one, come all!

Enlist today at PennyroyalAcademy.com!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/2a20fac22/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Tour Schedule:

October 15, 2014: The Hiding Spot

October 17, 2014: The Book Cellar

October 20, 2014: Alice Marvels

October 23, 2014: Icey Books

October 27, 2014: Novel Novice

October 29, 2014: Literary Rambles

Nov. 4, 2014: Nerdy Book Club

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Recent Cover Reveals (That Made Me Swoon) Part III

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

 Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine

What Remains by Helene Dunbar

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Deception (Illusive #2) by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Which new covers are your favorites? Any that you dislike? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Assassins, Thieves, and Spies, oh my!

I feel like every reader has a topic a topic or theme that, without fail, guarantees they'll add a book to their to-be-read pile. For me, I can't pass up a YA novel featuring a teen criminal. Assassins and thieves are my weakness, but I love a good spy novel too. Below I've compiled a list of YA novels featuring assassins, thieves, and spies - I'm always looking for more, so, please, share more titles in the comments!


The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Poison by Bridget Zinn
Mind Games by Kiersten White
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

I Am the Mission by Allen Zadoff
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber
The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer


Trust Me, I'm Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer
Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Heist Society by Ally Carter

Loot by Jude Watson
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
How to Live a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller


Also Known As by Robin Benway
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel

Notice any glaring omissions? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Chasers of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson

Title: Chasers of the Light
Author: Tyler Knott Gregson
Publisher: Perigee
Pub. Date: September 2, 2014
Genre: Poetry
Rec. Age Level: 18+
Pages: 144
More by this author: N/A

Goodreads / Buy It

For the past year I've been stumbling across gorgeous little poems written by Tyler Knott Gregson, so imagine my surprise when I discovered Chasers of the Light, an entire collection of his work. 

Typed on scraps of paper, old receipts, and other random bits and pieces, the majority of Gregson's poems are only a handful of lines long, but they resonate. Gregson is clearly a romantic... His words slip past the defenses of even the most bitter, with boarded-up hearts and cynical minds, reminding readers why we love, yearn for connection, and bare our souls. Many of his poems stray towards the philosophical and address insecurities, including depression. I'm drawn to the honesty in Gregson's poems. I know that, technically, he could type something, throw it away, and start again, but these poems, written with an old fashioned type writer and no convenient backspace, leave me with an impression of permanence and transparency. I find myself trusting Gregson's words.

For a taste of Gregson's work, check out some of my favorites below:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Title: Tabula Rasa
Author: Kristen Lippert-Martin
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pub. Date: September 23, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
Pages: 352
More by this author: n/a

Goodreads / Buy It

In a hospital where teens undergo a procedure in which their memories are wiped, one patient must fight for her life and the truth about her past. 

Sarah’s final surgery is cut short when the hospital is invaded by unknown forces. Confused and afraid, she teams up with a hacker who covertly breached the hospital prior to the attack. As she navigates her way through the danger at hand, she must also wade through an onslaught of returning memories. Who is she? Is the tabula rasa surgery truly meant to protect her? Or is something far more sinister taking places in the secluded hospital? A non-stop thrill ride, Tabula Rasa is an explosive debut.

I have to admit, it shocked me when I realized Tabula Rasa is 350 pages long - this book is so jam packed with action that it felt much, much shorter. Lippert-Martin's writing has a cinematic quality that I really enjoyed too. I'm usually not much for action movies, but I could see this adapting well for the screen. I'd even go see it!

Verdict: Read it!

Win It!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Recent Cover Reveals (That Made Me Swoon) Part II

Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

I love all of these covers for very lots of different reasons...
In all honesty, I'm probably most excited about All the Rage, simply because I've been waiting WAY TOO LONG for a new book from Courtney Summers. You know how some authors just write the books you didn't even know you wanted to read? Yep. That's the deal here. The publisher could have covered that book with a brown paper bag and I would have been fine with it, but, luckily, the actual cover is gorgeous!

The cover of Sweet makes me dizzy every time I look at it.

I'm so pumped about new books from Jennifer Mathieu and Cori McCarthy - I loved both of their debuts!

Conviction and Witch Hunter are both from debut authors, but, with covers like those, how could you not want to read them?

Which new covers are your favorites? Any that you dislike? Let me know in the comments!