Friday, May 31, 2013

Everyone Needs a Little LUMBERJACK in Their Lives...

No, really, you totally do! My good friend and long-time critique partner -- you know, that person who makes sure you aren't the worst author on the planet? -- Sara V. Olds has a new book out! MY LIFE AS A LUMBERJACK or How I Fell For the Wrong Guy(s) released yesterday!

About LUMBERJACK: Me, Mercedes Bennion? Working for the US Forest Service? I’ve never thought of myself as the outdoorsy, hard-working type. But one quick glance at those mouth-watering forest rangers and oh, baby, sign this seventeen-year-old up for a whole summer of fresh air, mountains and starry, starry nights!

Isn't the cover awesome?! I love the boots and the calm, green and purple vibe. When you read the book, though, don't expect calm! LUMBERJACK is a great romantic comedy that takes place at summer camp -- where one seventeen-year-old (boy-crazy) girl can get into a LOT of trouble!

I loved LUMBERJACK back when Sara was putting it through our group. I think we'd get it with just "Benz" at the top, signifying what it was. Be sure to get your copy; it's only $2.99!

You can find Sara at:

You can buy LUMBERJACK from:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Bookanistas Relaunches!

Dude, that's right! The Bookanistas was founded in July 2010 by reader-writer-bloggers Lisa & Laura Roecker and yours truly, and some bookish friends including Kirsten Hubbard, Shannon Messenger and Scott Tracey. The notion was to share their love of books, celebrate the good in YA and MG literature and to encourage reading.

Since then, some amazing things happened. Two Bookanistas became NYT best-sellers: Beth Revis (Across the Universe) and Veronica Roth (Divergent). Many others published novels, had babies, moved into new homes, changed jobs, got married... Life. You get it. We've been in, out, and around the block a few times. I reviewed a book diligently every week for months. (I think I have over 80 Bookanista book reviews!)

Then I waned. Things got hectic. The group sort of disbanded, though we were still there. Thanks to an email from Jessica Love, the Bookanistas has been revitalized, rethought, and today we're relaunching our site with a BIG BOOKANISTA GIVEAWAY of signed copies of Bookanista publications, favorite books, and some fun swag.

Across our membership, we are sharing tips for reading and summer fun. You get to be part of it -- and you can win amazing Bookanista-authored books, swag packages, and ARCs!

I thought I'd share some of my most anticipated summer reads. See, today's the last day of school, and I'm looking forward to a June filled with pool-lounging and reading!

GOLDEN by Jessi Kirby: Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

***I love Jessi Kirby's contemporary novels. I've talked about MOONGLASS and IN HONOR also!

SIEGE AND STORM by Leigh Bardugo: Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can't outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling's game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

***I'm so excited for this book! It's the sequel to SHADOW AND BONE, which I absolutely adored!

PANIC by Sharon M. Draper: Diamond knows not to get into a car with a stranger.

But what if the stranger is well-dressed and handsome? On his way to meet his wife and daughter? And casting a movie that very night—a movie in need of a star dancer? What then?

Then Diamond might make the wrong decision.

It’s a nightmare come true: Diamond Landers has been kidnapped. She was at the mall with a friend, alone for only a few brief minutes—and now she’s being held captive, forced to endure horrors beyond what she ever could have dreamed, while her family and friends experience their own torments and wait desperately for any bit of news.

***Oh my heck, isn't that the most gorgeous cover you've ever seen?! I mean, I might be biased toward butterflies, but *salivates*. I can't wait to read this one!

What's on your summer reading list?

Hopefully you'll follow the Bookanistas on our newly designed site (widget on the bottom right) to find some amazing reads! Join the fun, win some stuff, and help us ensure that READING IS ALWAYS IN STYLE.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner of the Bookanistas Summer Fun giveaway will receive signed copies of these Bookanista-authored books…

  • IF I LIE and TOUCHED by Corrine Jackson, plus ARCs of JUST ONE DAY and SPEECHLESS
  • LET THE SKY FALL by Shannon Messenger
  • BY BLOOD by Tracy Banghart
  • TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini (plus a swag surprise)
  • BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris
  • AUDITION by Stasia Ward Kehoe
  • THE GIRL GUIDE by Christine Fonseca (plus sweet swag)
  • MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
  • LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans + swag 

And a second winner will get a box filled with Bookanista-beloved reads including:

  • DITCHED by Robin Mellom 
  • JELLICO ROAD by Melina Marchetta
  • TAKEN by Erin Bowman
  • CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare
  • MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama
  • SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O’Connor
  • WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON (signed by John Green!) by John Green and David Levithan

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's Beginning...

So ABANDON comes out in just one week! ONE WEEK. I'm not hyperventilating with this release. I'm not on the edge of my seat with all my fingernails bitten to the quick. In fact, I've been pretty zen (see what I did there?) about the whole thing.

Sure, I have to prepare a speech for the launch party (at The King's English -- everyone is invited!) next week, and I have no idea what to do/say. Yes, there is a scavenger hunt devoted to the series that runs for 10 days, and I've prepared over 60 posts for that.

But today, it begins. On twitter, I'm putting up #POSSESSIONcatchup and #SURRENDERcatchup reminders of what happened in the first two books so you can be ready for the release of ABANDON next week.

So come join the party! I'll be posting pictures, reveals, trailers, and everything you need to be ready for ABANDON -- all in 140 characters or less.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Okay, so today's is a total fangirl post. I absolutely adore Rae Carson's fantasy series. It began with THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, which I picked up quite by accident. You can read another gushing post about it's awesomeness here.

So it's rare that I pick up sequels. I know, I'm lame like that. But a series has to be really good for me to go back in for a second time. But with this series, I had preordered by copy of THE CROWN OF EMBERS, because I loved the first book so much.

About THE CROWN OF EMBERS: Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trail of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

This sequel does what a lot of sequels can't do: Stand on its own. I never once thought this book was a "bridge" between Book One and Book Three, a trap a lot of second books fall into.

Elisa is just as courageous in THE CROWN OF EMBERS as I was expecting her to be, but she's also troubled and vulnerable in a way I wasn't expecting. I liked it, and I liked who she allowed herself to be her true self with.

The romance in the book was so well-done that I texted my friend when I finished it with: "Have you finished The Crown of Embers yet? I'm DYING to talk to you about it!"

Along with a great plot and a fabulous romance, the writing is just so well-done. I love the style of fantasies, which is more traditional, more lyrical, and simply beautiful.

If you haven't read this series yet, you must! If you have, what did you think of THE CROWN OF EMBERS?

Check out what the other Bookanistas are recommending this week:
Stasia Ward Kehoe is mesmerized by GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers
Christine Fonseca adores DEAD SILENCE by Kimberly Derting
Corrine Jackson revels in ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sara Dessen
Katy Upperman is charmed by QUINTANA OF CHARYN by Melina Marchetta
Kimberly Sabatini is touched by TARNISH by Katherine Longshore
Lenore Appelhans loves THE ORIGINALS by Cat Patrick

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Happy Release Day!

Dude, it's the book birthday of TRANSPARENT! I'm so excited for this book! Good thing I get to go to Natalie's launch party tonight.

About TRANSPARENT: Sixteen-year-old Fiona O'Connell is the world's first invisible girl, which makes her the ideal weapon for her crime-lord father. But now, she and her mother have escaped and are hiding out in a small town where they're determined to start a normal life.

Follow Natalie's blog -- and buy TRANSPARENT today!
AmazonB&N IndieBoundBook Depository

What book are you excited about?

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Essential Thing

Okay, so a week or so ago, I was fortunate enough to listen to a keynote address by Anne Perry. She's a big mystery author, which admittedly, I hadn't read. But she hails from Scotland, so if her delightful accent hadn't already won me over, the fact that she spoke on several things that hit close to my heart did.

1. The power of words. I believe in the power of words, especially those things we say and those we read. She talked about how the words we use can comfort someone in the middle of the night, when they reach for our story for comfort. I really liked that, because writing is more than the commercial aspect to me. It's about the power of words.

2. Finding that essential thing that provides you with inspiration. Well, she may not have said those words in that exact order, but that's what I got out of it. For Anne Perry, she said she loves light on water. That inspires her, shows her the beauty of the world.

I've long had this thing where I watch for and experience a "nature moment" every day. Something that reminds me that this world is big, and wonderful, and filled with glorious things I cannot even comprehend. Something that takes me beyond myself, and my worries and cares.

And as Anne Perry was speaking, I realized that I too have something that inspires me. Something that always makes me feel at peace, evokes in me a sense of wonder. And that's the moon. I've always loved looking at the moon and the stars, of staring into the night sky with a sense of its incomprehensible vastness.

So what's your essential thing? What's something that inspires you, that takes you beyond yourself, that brings you a sense of wonder and joy?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

INSOMNIA by JR Johansson

Okay, so today I'm talking about INSOMNIA by JR Johansson. I can never quite get that name right. Two N's? Two S's? I get it wrong every time! But one thing you can't get wrong is reading her book, INSOMNIA.

I'll admit right up front that I'm wimp. I've only just started exploring the YA thriller/horror genre, because it scares me. But I've really been enjoying the select novels I've read, INSOMNIA included. I liked it so much, I offered Jenn a blurb: “Cleverly written and dangerously dark, Insomnia will take you to the brink of insanity. A must-read for thriller and romance fans alike.”

Let's explore a little deeper... if you dare!

The Twitter version: tell us about your book in 140 characters or less:
INSOMNIA is about a teenage boy who spends every night stuck in the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with and it's killing him.

What’s the one thing you learned about publishing that you didn’t anticipate?
I didn’t anticipate how crazy the last couple of months before publication can be. There is so much behind-the-scenes stuff going on that you don’t know about until you’re in it. (So true!)

What else are you working on? Secrets? Inside scoops? Give us the juicy stuff!
I’m working on three new projects actually, trying to decide which one should be my next project. They’re all creepy. One is sci-fi, one is apocalyptic, and one is urban contemporary. I don’t know how I’m going to pick because I LOVE them all. Oh the woes of the writer. ;-) (Just write them all, Jenn!)

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

No. I never wanted to be a writer. (This answer is so rare! I swear I'm the only one who can say this, so yay for company!) I only started writing because I was going through a rough spot and scribbling notes on paper was therapeutic for me. Then the scribbles turned into a story and after that I couldn’t stop.

What made you decide to go that “extra step” and seek publication?
I loved writing and I wanted to continue to push myself to improve and get better. Trying to move toward publication was a great way to hone my skills.

Quick! You’ve been chosen to be a contestant on Survivor. What luxury item do you take?
My ipad mini? Face wash pads? I fail at even wanting to be on Survivor. I like being clean way too much. (Yes, there is that...)

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know.
I have lived in Washington, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Ohio…and I LOVE to travel.

And the most important of all: bacon or chocolate?
This may not be the popular answer…but definitely chocolate. (Boo! But I get it.) I have a killer sweet tooth.

You can find Jenn or INSOMNIA on twitter, her blog, Facebook, and Goodreads. You can buy INSOMNIA on Amazon, the Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite independent bookseller. You won't be sorry!!

My review of INSOMNIA: I really liked Parker. Does he do some creepy things? Sure, because oh my heck, can you imagine not sleeping? When he finds a way to sink into slumber, he's desperate for it, and he does some pretty insane things to make sure it happens. But I hurt for him so much that I really wanted Parker to be able to sleep!

This is a thriller, and as Parker begins to sleep, more creeptastic things begin to happen. I don't want to give anything away, so you should read the book. Jenn does a great job with the tension and pacing, and there's even the possibility of kissing, which you know I like. I literally read the book in a single day, felt connected to Parker, and wanted to solve all his problems for him.

That's how I know I've just read a great novel.

Jenn is running a pre-order INSOMNIA giveaway! If you pre-order the novel, you can enter to win a NookHD! So spend seven bucks and enter to win this amazing $250 prize! You really can't go wrong here, because no matter what, you'll be getting an amazing novel to read. So here's those pre-order links again:

Check out what the other Bookanistas are talking about this week:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Introducing Author Services

Okay, I'm sort of a little terrified to do this. I've been doing most of it behind-the-scenes for years now, and I've decided to throw myself into the fray. I might come out bloody, but it might be worth it. Right? Um, right.


So I've decided to offer some services to authors. I have a new tab in my navigation bar, and basically, there are three things.

1. Writing a Killer Query Letter online workshop.
2. Query letter writing/editing services.
3. Blog tour/online publicity services.

In more detail, they are:
Writing a Killer Query Letter online workshop: This 7-week course will be offered once every quarter and is limited to 10 people per class. The cost is $250, and participants will have personal access to Elana (and each other) in a private forum where they will get exclusive instruction on how to write a query letter. Critiques are essential, and everyone will walk away with the personal confidence and professional product to begin querying literary agents.

See what participants of the class have to say:

The first workshop begins on June 2 and runs until July 20, 2013. If you're interested in signing up for the Query Letter Class, but need more information please fill out this form. There is a spot to ask questions, and Elana will be in touch with you to make sure all your concerns are answered.

Your spot is not secured until your payment is received, and Elana will send you an invoice through Paypal for payment. If you're ready to sign up, and don't need to use the form to ask questions, buy now!

The next query letter workshop will be from September 30 - November 16, 2013.

Query letter writing: Let Elana critique, rework, rewrite, or completely pen your query letter. They don't call her the Query Ninja for nothing!

Packages include:
A. Need a polish/fresh eyes/quick read with minor rewriting and advice? Email consultation only. $25

B. Need some extra work, rewording, reorganization, genre advice? 15-minute Skype consultation + email support as necessary. $60

C. Write my letter for me! Two 15-minute skype consultations (one prior to writing the query letter, one following the deliverance of the letter) + email support. $100

Query letter services are available according to Elana's schedule. Elana will read your query and evaluate the amount of work she thinks it needs if you're not sure between package A and B.

Please fill out this form to inquire about query letter services.

No work will be done (besides evaluation reading) until payment is received. After that, query letters will be turned around within 7 days. If you're ready to move ahead with query letter services, and don't need to use the form to ask Elana questions, you can buy now!

Query Letter Critique Services

Blog tours: Elana has worked extensively with YA book bloggers over the past three years, setting up successful blog tours for a variety of authors. Let her schedule and manage your next tour! At this time, she is only accepting YA titles from traditionally published authors. Tours can be arranged for both already-released novels and upcoming releases.

A. 4 week, 20 stop tour (five stops per week, Monday - Friday). $150

B. 3 week, 15 stop tour (five stops per week, Monday - Friday). $100

C. 4 week, 12 stop tour (three stops per week, Monday - Friday). $80

D. 3 week, 9 stop tour (three stops per week, Monday - Friday). $65

Each tour would include a mixture of dedicated reviews, excerpts, guest posts, top ten lists, interviews, and playlists. Themed tours are available.

Each tour would include an animated banner OR blog tour button from Biguy Photography (up to a $55 value), and the author will be provided with information every step of the way.

A PDF review copy of the novel is required, as well as a high resolution book cover and author bio picture. Elana likes to work 2-3 months in advance booking blog tours, so please plan accordingly. She will not start booking your tour until payment is made.

Other Options:
Book Blitz, 2-day intense "bombing" of social media with trailers, cover, book description, simple one-line Q&A, favorite lines from the book, and a $50 gift card giveaway. $125

Fill out this request form to get the process started.

So there you go! I'm excited to be venturing out from behind the scenes!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

STUNG by Bethany Wiggins

Okay, today's recommendation is a killer. Literally. STUNG by Bethany Wiggins is a fantastic addition to the dystopian genre, and not only that, but it's a thriller!

I was so not expecting that, having only read the first chapter a very long time ago. I read STUNG last weekend at a dance competition, and I seriously had a difficult time tearing my attention from the page to watch my own daughter dance.

STUNG is that good.

About STUNG: Fiona doesn't remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered-her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right wrist-a black oval with five marks on either side-that she doesn't remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. And she's right. When the honeybee population collapsed, a worldwide pandemic occurred and the government tried to bio-engineer a cure. Only the solution was deadlier than the original problem-the vaccination turned people into ferocious, deadly beasts who were branded as a warning to un-vaccinated survivors. Key people needed to rebuild society are protected from disease and beasts inside a fortress-like wall. But Fiona has awakened branded, alone-and on the wrong side of the wall...

See, chills, right?

I liked the world-building in STUNG. The words and terms used didn't feel forced, and they weren't explained up-front, which I kind of liked. Fiona wakes up and knows nothing, and the readers get to experience and learn the world as she does. I thought that was well-done.

As I said, STUNG is a thriller. Well, maybe thriller isn't quite the right word, but in my world it is. I love the fast action of movies like Mission Impossible and Jason Bourne. And STUNG reads fast, with action and tension, much like those kinds of movies.

As if that weren't enough, there's also a tender romance in STUNG. As Fiona begins to remember swatches of her previous life, she remembers the people she used to know. One of her former neighbors is a boy named Bowen, who happens to be charged with guarding Fiona. I loved Bowen, and I enjoyed the development of their relationship interminged between all the fast-paced danger of the world they live in.

Find your next read from the Bookanistas!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

SURRENDER Paperback Release!

I swear SURRENDER has been out for ten years. This past year feels really long, doesn't it? At the same time I can hardly believe that there's only three weeks of school left. It feels like it's gone so fast!

So yeah. Time is warped.

And the SURRENDER paperback is out today! Not only that, but the third and final book in the Possession series is out in under a month, so now would be a great time to read or re-read the books to be ready for that conclusion... 

There are a coupe of giveaways on Goodreads to help you with this. Possession is here, and Surrender is embedded below. Go forth and enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Surrender by Elana Johnson


by Elana Johnson

Giveaway ends May 31, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

You can order the paperback from a retailer of your choice on my Simon & Schuster page.

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Dirty Little Secret

Okay, so I've been on the writing scene for a few years now. About six, to be exact. I've attended a number of conferences. Been critiqued and edited until I want to gouge out my eyes and invest heavily in Rogaine. I've read countless blogs on craft, and books on improving pacing, tension, self-editing. The list goes on and on.

One thing I've heard -- and even advocated! -- is reading your book out loud.

But... confession time. I've never done it. I hate (like loathe with the passion of a thousand suns) reading my own work out loud. I refuse to do it at signings and events, because it just sounds so lame in my own voice.

I won't do it.

Thus, I've never read one of my manuscripts out loud.

Until this past revision I was working on. And I didn't read it, but my Mac version of Word has a option that lets you select text and send it to iTunes as a spoken track.

I did that. I had Alex read my book to me. Here's what I learned:

1. It is so painfully slow, you'll still need to invest in Rogaine. But that's kind of the whole point. When you read, your brain fixes things. You skim over things. Forcing yourself to read out loud -- or to listen -- is hard. So slow. I think it took something like 12 hours to read the whole book (yes it is really long too). (And now you know why I've been absent for a while...)

2. Using iTunes is awesome, because I can sync it with my iPod and put it in my car. So wherever I go -- and I basically drive everyone everywhere -- I can be working.

3. I found things I would have never discovered. I was sitting at my computer, following along one day, reading ahead of Alex. Next thing I know, he says "staking down her face." I was like, "Wait. What? Staking? That can't be right, I just read that..."

And you know what? Alex was right. I had switched the T and the K, and I didn't even notice. Like I said, our tricksy brains fix things like that.

So overall, I think the experience was very valuable. I had whole sections of the book that were redone, so they were basically a first draft. Listening to them helped me find the too-long sentences, the repeated words, the typos.

So there you have it. I can proudly say that after six years, I have finally read a book out loud as an editing tool!

Have you done this? Either read your work out loud as you're editing, or had the computer read it to you? What was your experience like?

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