More Libros Latin@s: 24 YA & MG Novels By/About Latinos in 2015!

Just when you thought your To-Be-Read list couldn’t get any longer, here we have 24 young adult and middle grade novels to be released in 2015 that are all by and/or about Latin@s. While they all share this aspect, you’ll see the novels are diverse, representing these genres: horror, fantasy, contemporary, science-fiction, memoir, magical realism, romance, and historical. Authors include award winners Margarita Engle, and Pam Muñoz Ryan, as well as NY Times Bestselling authors Kierra Cass and Anna Banks. Alongside these authors are many debuts, which are *starred* in the list below. If you click on the cover image, you will go to the book’s Goodreads page, so you can easily add them to your TBR list! And if you’re adding them, you are likely interested in diverse kid lit and should, therefore, consider participating in the We Need Diverse Books reading challenge. Happy reading!!

*SHUTTER by Courtney Alameda

20757532Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

JOYRIDE by Anna Banks

22718685A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.

It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber’s mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.

All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

24527773THE SMOKING MIRROR by David Bowles

Carol and Johnny Garza are 12-year-old twins whose lives in a small Texas town are forever changed by their mother’s unexplained disappearance. Shipped off to relatives in Mexico by their grieving father, the twins soon learn that their mother is a nagual, a shapeshifter, and that they have inherited her powers. In order to rescue her, they will have to descend into the Aztec underworld and face the dangers that await them.

HOSTAGE by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith

23899848Welcome back to Las Anclas, a frontier town in the post-apocalyptic Wild West. In Las Anclas, the skull-faced sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can speed up time, and the squirrels can teleport sandwiches out of your hands.

In book one, Stranger, teenage prospector Ross Juarez stumbled into town half-dead, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble— including an invasion by Voske, the king of Gold Point. The town defeated Voske’s army, with the deciding blow struck by Ross, but at a great cost.

In Hostage, a team sent by King Voske captures Ross and takes him to Gold Point. There he meets Kerry, Voske’s teenage daughter, who has been trained to be as ruthless as her father. While his friends in Las Anclas desperately try to rescue him, Ross is forced to engage in a battle of wills with the king himself.

22918050THE HEIR by Kierra Cass

Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she always thought.

 

 

18625184REBELLION by Stephanie Diaz

It’s been seven days since Clementine and Logan, along with their allies, retreated into hiding on the Surface. The rebels may have won one battle against Commander Charlie, but the fight is far from finished. He has vowed to find a way to win—no matter the cost. Do the rebels have what it takes to defeat him…and put an end to this war?

As Clementine and Logan enter a desperate race against time to defeat Commander Charlie—and attempt to weaken his power within his own ranks—they find themselves in a terrifying endgame that pits them against a brutal enemy, and each other. With every step, Clementine draws closer to losing Logan…and losing control of herself.

ENCHANTED AIR by Margarita Engle

23309551In this poetic memoir, Margarita Engle, the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, tells of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War.

Margarita is a girl from two worlds. Her heart lies in Cuba, her mother’s tropical island country, a place so lush with vibrant life that it seems like a fairy tale kingdom. But most of the time she lives in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers when she can take a plane through the enchanted air to her beloved island. Words and images are her constant companions, friendly and comforting when the children at school are not.

Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita’s worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?

*THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT by Melissa Grey

20345202

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

22504701ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.

*UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER by Kelly Jones

22639675

Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse…

And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.

Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens is a quirky, clucky classic in the making.

SURVIVING SANTIAGO by Lyn Miller-Lachman

23013839To sixteen-year-old Tina Aguilar, love is the all and the everything.

As such, Tina is less than thrilled to return to her homeland of Santiago, Chile, for the first time in eight years to visit her father, the man who betrayed her and her mother’s love through his political obsession and alcoholism. Tina is not surprised to find Papá physically crippled from his time as a political prisoner, but she is disappointed and confused by his constant avoidance of her company. So when Frankie, a mysterious, crush-worthy boy, quickly shows interest in her, Tina does not hesitate to embrace his affection.

However, Frankie’s reason for being in Tina’s neighborhood is far from incidental or innocent, and the web of deception surrounding Tina begins to spin out of control. Tina’s heart is already in turmoil, but adding her and her family’s survival into the mix brings her to the edge of truth and discovery.

Fans of Gringolandia will recognize the Aguilar family as they continue their story of survival and redemption.

ECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan

22749539Music, magic, and a real-life miracle meld in this genre-defying masterpiece from storytelling maestro Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Lost and alone a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

SHADOWSHAPER by Daniel José Older

22295304Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.

*WHEN REASON BREAKS by Cindy L. Rodriguez

22032788A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

*MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera

19542841The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto — miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he’s can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

*HOLLYWOOD WITCH HUNTER by Valerie Tejeda

23202520From the moment she first learned the truth about witches…she knew she was born to fight them.

Now, at sixteen, Iris is the lone girl on the Witch Hunters Special Ops Team.

But when Iris meets a boy named Arlo, he might just be the key to preventing an evil uprising in Southern California.

Together they’re ready to protect the human race at all costs. Because that’s what witch hunters do.

Welcome to Hollywood.

HUNTERS OF CHAOS by Crystal Velasquez

23309533Ana’s average, suburban life is turned upside down when she’s offered a place at the exclusive boarding school in New Mexico that both of her late parents attended. As she struggles to navigate the wealthy cliques of her new school, mysterious things begin to occur: sudden power failures, terrible storms, and even an earthquake!

Ana soon learns that she and three other girls with Chinese, Navajo, and Egyptian heritages harbor connections to priceless objects in the school’s museum, and the museum’s curator, Ms.Benitez, is adamant that the girls understand their ancestry.

It turns out that the school sits on top of a mysterious temple, the ancient meeting place of the dangerous Brotherhood of Chaos. And when one of the priceless museum objects is shattered, the girls find out exactly why their heritage is so important: they have the power to turn into wild cats! Now in their powerful forms of jaguar, tiger, puma, and lion they must work together to fight the chaos spirits unleashed in the ensuing battle and uncover the terrifying plans of those who would reconvene the Brotherhood of Chaos.

These titles do not yet have final covers, but we have provided as much information as we could find. Some of them are already listed on Goodreads.

OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez. This title is not yet listed on Goodreads, but Ashley wrote a post for us about the historical event at the heart of this story.

Zoraida Córdova’s LABYRINTH LOST in which a teen girl in family of powerful Brujas, accidentally banishes them in a bid to avoid her own magical destiny, then ventures into the otherworldly land of Los Lagos to save them, with the mysterious but alluring Nova as her guide, who seems to have an agenda all his own.

MOVING TARGET by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. It’s a middle-grade novel pitched as “Percy Jackson meets The Da Vinci Code.” In the story, a 12-year-old girl studying in Rome discovers she is a member of an ancient bloodline enabling her to use a legendary object that can alter the future.

THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna-Marie McLemore, in which two teenagers from rival families of traveling performers fall in love despite impossible odds.

NEVER, ALWAYS, SOMETIMES by Adi Alsaid, described on GoodReads as “two best friends, a boy and girl, make a list of the cliché things they will never do their senior year.”

NAKED by Stacey Trombley: When tough teenager Anna ran away to New York, she never knew how bad things would get. After surviving as a prostitute, a terrifying incident leaves her damaged inside and out, and she returns home to the parents she was sure wouldn’t want her anymore.

Now she has a chance to be normal again. Back in school, she meets a boy who seems too good to be true. Cute, kind, trusting. But what will he do when he finds out the truth about her past? And when a dark figure from New York comes looking for Anna, she realizes she must face her secrets…before they destroy her.

If we’re missing any, please let us know in the comments!

Which ones are you planning to read?

Guest Post: Why I’m Not Interested in a Mexican Katniss

By Guinevere Zoyana Thomas

Earlier this year, Matt de la Peña asked the publishing industry one of the most thought-provoking questions ever: “Where is the African American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?

His question was part of a conversation about why there aren’t that many POC equivalents to such iconic characters in YA and MG.

There doesn’t seem to be a good enough excuse for there not to be more Latino characters in kid lit especially with the Latino population rapidly growing, so to say there isn’t a market for it is just undetermined fabrication. I, for one, identify as an Afro-Cubana who would gladly buy a book from a Latina author that featured a Latina protagonist in a heartbeat!

But the truth is, I’m not sure I want a Mexican Katniss or a black Harry Potter or even an Asian Percy Jackson. A small part of me feels that if I say I do, I’d be telling the world that in order for a POC character to be great, we’d  have to follow thedefault” archetype. Everybody knows it: white, skinny, Christian, hetero, and because girls are so popular in YA, born female.

Comparisons are wonderful, because, I mean, who doesn’t want to be compared to what’s considered a great character, but I think it’s more than fair to say that boys and girls of color have earned the chance to be the models of their own standards, and, unfortunately, the only ones who don’t think about how representation in kid lit is important are the ones who are swimming in characters dedicated to their own images.

23117815One YA book that stood out to me this year was Dia of the Dead by Brit Brinson. It had zombies, it had action, and it definitely had drama. But most importantly to me, it had something that’s always left out of the conversation about Latinos in fiction–an Afro-Latina protagonist named Dia.

Her character was so amazingly memorable and struggled with the many things most Afro-Latinas go through in terms of identity that it was too hard to draw a comparison to another character in a similar situation who just happens to be a non-white Latina. All I could really give her credit for was being Dia, and isn’t that what we’re all really looking for in a character?

I don’t think we need a Mexican Katniss, but instead a chance to be on a bookshelf next to Katniss in our own stories with our own myths and legends. And it wouldn’t hurt if she had an amazing name like Citlalli, or even Amaryllis.

What I hope for her is to be a character that is a hero all on her own, clearing her own path and setting her own standard.

About the Blogger/Aspiring writer:

GuinevereGuinevere Zoyana Thomas is one half of the ever so silent and deadly “Twinjas” @Twinja Book Reviews. When she isn’t perfecting back handsprings or working on her red belt in Tang Soo Do, she’s going H.A.M. editing her diverse time-travel YA novel under the pseudonym “GL Tomas.”

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Guest Post: A Bucket-load of Talk + No Action = a Bucket-Load of Nothing

By René Saldaña, Jr.

At a cozy dinner attended recently by children’s book writers and illustrators, I listened to two conversations happening simultaneously. On the one side of me, my left, folks were talking about Daniel Handler’s blatantly stupid remarks at the National Book Award ceremony (really, in what world would anyone ever feel entitled to bring up such vile imagery, and worse, to do so in such a cavalier fashion?). Yes, these writers and artists agreed, the remarks were dumb and insensitive at best, racist at worst. But, he did offer an apology (via Twitter, of all places; how much more impersonal can a person get! It seems to be the norm though). He also donated $10,000 to We Need Diverse Books, with the promise to match whatever amount came into WNDB in the next 24 hours, up to $100,000. He apologized, went the logic, and he did give, and to such a worthy organization who is sure to do miracles with these funds (visit this organization’s web site for more information: http://weneeddiversebooks.org). And, so, reluctantly but never the less, most of the authors and illustrators that evening gave Handler the benefit of the doubt. An easy pass, in my opinion.

On the other side of me, my right, others were talking about GOP aide Elizabeth Lauten who, on her Facebook page, wrote some pretty vile material of her own about President Obama’s daughters. A conservative, I categorically disagree with her statements. They were uncalled for. I disavow them, and what consequences she suffers she brought on herself. You see, it’s one thing to attack the politics of the man, even the man himself (as happened with Bush and Palin both and with the same ferocity), but to go after a president’s children, who had no say in his pursuit of the presidency, is uncalled for.

Lauten, my table mates continued, after some soul searching (she’d written that she prayed about her situation, spoke with family who advised her to admit her wrong-doing) apologized and, furthermore, quit her post. Despite Lauten’s behavior after the fact, there was an unwillingness to the right of me, it seemed, to afford her the same “easy way out” as was being given to Handler on the opposite end of the table.

At the hotel room later than night, I couldn’t help but wonder why folks in the industry were able to find it within themselves to forgive the one but not the other? I recalled how my table mates had spoken about Jacqueline Woodson’s very touching response in the New York Times. How much class she had displayed. One or two may have asked if his donation was nothing more than Handler trying to buy his way out of a very bad situation. A token payment, so to speak. Ten thousand little tokens, and then some. A lot of then some. Others responded that no matter, the money went to a great cause, that the amount of money raised in a day’s time was enormous, and imagine all the good that can come of it. Etc., etc.

Cynical like I am, the contrasting reactions at the table that night and from across the nation, boil down to politics for me. Who is given a pass for belonging to one party or the other, and who is not because he or she is a member of the opposite one? Best I can tell, Handler is likely left-leaning, as seems to be the majority of the publishing industry. He, like President Obama, has permission to evolve. He comes, as Woodson writes, from a place of ignorance, but his intent was never to hurt surely. He made a mistake, and hasn’t he already paid for it? (Literally?) He has learned his lesson, right? He has recognized the error of his way? And he’s dealt with it, no?

Lauten, on the other hand, is a Republican; therefore, her apology and action thereafter mean little. They are proof of her and the party’s hypocritical stance on diversity. Their lack of sympathy for the downtrodden. A heartless bunch, those conservatives. After all, once a racist, always a racist. And so she can’t possibly be sincere in her request for forgiveness. Her motives questionable.

In his reaction following the Eric Garner grand jury decision refusing to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo, President Obama stated, “…this is an issue that we’ve been dealing with for too long, and it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made. And I’m not interested in talk, I’m interested in action.” The president was speaking, obviously, about violence against Black men at the hands of the police and a similar violence against the Black community at the hands of those charged with finding justice for the disenfranchised: the grand jury. A jury of any kind. Our peers, impartial, truth-seekers, supposedly. But who fail, sometimes more miserably than at others.

President Obama’s words can also be applied to our quest for diversity in the publishing and education worlds. We can talk the talk all day long and not get one single solitary thing done. Talk is cheap, after all. We’ve been doing nothing but talking for far too long.

The alternative is to walk the walk. This means taking hard stances some times. This is one of those times, an occasion that matters more than we can imagine. Those affected for better or worse are those for whom we claim to work. Yes, Handler apologized, but it cannot be that easy for us to wave away his brand of racism because he gives to a good cause. We can’t let Handler off the hook, I don’t care how much money he donated and helped raise.

How many times have we said of kids of all ages “Oh, they know more than we realize”? It’s true. And this moment is no different, except in terms of the context of the times: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and several other instances our kids are hyper-aware of. There are protests across our nation fighting racism. They will hear what happened, what he said, how he laughed it off. How we let him off easy. They will see through our hypocrisy. It either matters, or it doesn’t. Just let that sink into your mind.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m overjoyed at what Ellen Oh, et al. will be able to do for young readers from the various diverse populations. These folks are walking the walk. They are taking action.

I, like our president, though, am tired of talk. Our children’s literacy success rests largely in our hands. And talk isn’t going to improve anything. It hasn’t thus far. Proof is Handler’s imagery from that evening’s speech. Isn’t he supposed to be from amongst our more enlightened class? If he hasn’t gleaned from all this talk over decades that there are lines drawn for a reason, then all this talk hasn’t accomplished much, has it?

Talk and talk and talk about what can possibly be done to make change happen is okay, but it’s got to lead somewhere. So far, it hasn’t on a grand scale. Rukhsana Khan explained more poignantly than I can ever do the harm a lack of action on our parts can do to an already-disenfranchised child. During her opening remarks at this year’s NCTE Friday morning General Session, she described the setting: a house, which implies an indoors and an outdoors; indoors a warm fire, comfortable chairs; outside, a porch, the cruel elements; inside, people with the means to turn the world of literature and literacy on its head, but who instead sit by the fire warming themselves; outside, the marginalized looking in, freezing, invisible, worthless. One looking in dreaming of the warmth, a place at the fire; the other looking at one’s reflection in the window produced by that darkness without.

I can’t tell you what to do to begin to right the wrong, or how. I won’t. That’s entirely up to you. What I will tell you is that the matter is urgent. These kids cannot be disappeared, and we—writers, illustrators, poets, literacy advocates, educators, publishers—cannot let them be disappeared. Handler gave; Lauten resigned. Both took action to try to fix things. Most of us don’t have the kind of cash Handler does, nor can we give up our livelihoods. But we can DO. Something. And something is better than nothing.

Our children’s lives depend on it.

 

Rene SaldanaRené Saldaña, Jr., is the author of the bilingual picture book Dale, dale, dale: Una fiesta de números/Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers. He’s an associate professor of Language and Literature in the College of Education at Texas Tech University in West Texas. He’s also the author of several books for young readers, among them The Jumping Tree, Finding Our Way: Stories, The Whole Sky Full of Stars, A Good Long Way, and the bilingual Mickey Rangel detective series. He can be reached at rene.saldana@sbcglobal.net.

Guest Post: Five Things I’ve Learned After Marketing My Young Adult Debut

By Heather Marie

2014-03-07_1394157700After you sign a publishing agreement, whether it’s your first book or tenth, you immediately start to consider your marketing strategy. What people don’t tell you upfront is that you are about to embark on a crazy adventure of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups, and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed, exhausted, and maybe even depressed.

Don’t get me wrong, getting published is a flippin’ amazing experience! But the work doesn’t stop there. You wrote the book. You got it published. Now you have to sell it. And, yes, I mean you.

Your publisher and/or marketing team/publicist will be there to help you, but you have to be ready to put in some leg work. There are some things that work better for others, and some things you do that’ll completely flop, or some things that’ll blow everything else out of the water. The most important thing to remember is that you actually don’t have to do everything at once, if at all. You only have to do what works for you, period.

I learned this the hard way. After driving myself into the ground with marketing, I finally had time to reflect on what I won’t be doing next time around to spare my sanity.

1. Purchasing swag without draining your bank account in the process.

The minute you get the okay to tell the world about your book deal, you instantly want every promotional piece of swag you can get. First of all, swag is an excellent way to get your book out there. People love it and they’ll gladly take it off your hands, but let’s remember what happens to that swag once people get it. *eyes bookmarks scattered throughout my apartment* I can honestly say that my bookmarks have in no way helped with promotion. They’re just pretty to look at and that’s perfectly okay. However, I think next time I’ll save them for events or send them in bulk to libraries.

The pins and posters were fun as well, and I think the pins were a bigger hit than anything else. But I broke my back trying to get all of this stuff even after everyone told me not to. My advice would be to stick with what you can afford, but don’t feel obligated to go big. Of course, do what works for you, but also consider saving your funds to attend conventions where you can meet new readers in real life. If I’d known ahead of time the amount of money I’d end up spending, I would have held back and saved up for all the events I’ve missed out on.

2. When promoting on social media, timing is everything.

As exciting as it is to share that new piece of big news, try holding off on posting until you know people will see it. The best way to do this is to test a few things on your media accounts and see when you get the most hits. I’ve seen several people post brand new happenings in the super late hours when absolutely no one is around to see it, or in the way earlier hours when no one is even awake. What I’ve found is that my Facebook page gets the most hits on Monday’s in the late morning. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Twitter on the other hand gets the most hits in the early afternoon on Fridays.

Obviously, I don’t only post big news on these days, but you can see what I mean about timing. I’ve gotten myself familiar with the certain times throughout the week that really make a difference. It’s easy for your posts to get lost in the craziness of social media, and if you want people to share or celebrate along with you, you have to familiarize yourself. Trust me. You’ll notice a huge difference in your posts when you do this. It’s hard for me to hold back, but if I find something out on a Saturday, I’ll wait until Monday to share it. Learning how to market yourself is so important. And when you do it is even more so.

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3. Breaking up your marketing so you’re not hitting your readers over the head.

Now that we’ve gone over the timing, let’s go over how much marketing you do at once. For instance, I had one week during release where I had a few major interviews/posts going up at once. I was honestly so sick of talking about myself at that point that I knew everyone else was sick of me, too.

Sometimes you don’t have control over what gets posted or when. At one point I had this amazing interview all scheduled with another major thing, and the interview was moved to another date which left my marketing team and I stuck. We had to run with it anyway, but ultimately the major thing wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Also, I had things get switched around so much that I was stuck promoting a billion things at once that flooded each other out.

The thing I learned here is that it’s okay to space things out. If that means waiting a few days or a few weeks, by all means do it. Sometimes it’s better to let people forget you have a new shiny book coming out and just be your normal human self for a while. That way, when that big thing gets promoted, people will actually stop and listen, as opposed to being like ‘meh.’

4. Telling people to buy your book is not going to make them buy your book.

It’s one thing to promote your book with fun posts and interviews or even a giveaway, but spamming them into buying your book isn’t going to work.

That is one thing I have never done, nor will I ever. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t seen it done. An easy way to lose followers aka new readers is by spamming them with constant tweets and posts about buying your book. You know what I mean. The tweets that are very clearly generated through a website that posts your Amazon link every thirty minutes. What I am guilty of (going back to the fact #3) is promoting too many things at once, which can repel people from ever wanting to check your book out.–not because they don’t want to necessarily, but because it doesn’t seem new anymore.

People want to buy something they’re excited about. If something has been shoved into their face (newsfeed) enough, they’ll lose interest quick. Be yourself. Be real. That’ll sell your book more than any promotional link.

5. After all of this is said and done, please take time out for yourself.

You’ve published a book. Be proud of yourself right now. Allow it to sink in and really enjoy it. I’m serious. Being a published author is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment. I’ve never been happier, but damn, do I wish I would have allowed myself time to appreciate the small things.

I worked myself so hard those last few months prior to release, that afterwards I hit rock bottom. I was exhausted emotionally, mentally, physically, and whatever else. Being a writer means your job is never done and that is absolutely true. There will always be something you have to do, whether that’s your next manuscript, an interview, an event, etc. I’m excited for these things. I love it! But I always, always forget to take care of myself first.

I ignored all the signs that told me to slow down. When my personal life was getting too complicated, I dived even further into my writing. I pushed myself so hard that I didn’t realize how burnt out I was until I emotionally fell apart.

Your book and readers will always be important, but remember that your health is priority. Take a day off. Go out with your friends. Read a book or two over the weekend. Do anything!

Just don’t forget to take care of you.

Heather-AuthorPhotos-3-WEBSIZEHeather Marie lives in Northern California with her husband and spends the majority of her time at home reading. Before she followed her dreams of becoming a writer, Heather worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist for several years. Although she enjoyed the artistic aspect of it all, nothing quite quenched her creative side like the telling of a good story. When the day had come for her to make a choice, she left behind her promising career to start another and never looked back.

Heather was included in a Cosmopolitan Magazine article as a “Latina YA Author You Need on Your Radar.” Her debut novel, The Gateway Through Which They Came released in August from Curiosity Quills Press.

Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith on Collaborating & Bucking the ‘Received Wisdom’ of Publishing Diversity

By Eileen Fontenot

16034526This post-apocalyptic, western-tinged adventure is more character-driven than you may expect. A diverse group of teenagers in Las Anclas narrate the story in third-person point of view–Ross, the stranger in town, who has a valuable item coveted by several factions and experiences PTSD episodes after escaping death from a bounty hunter; Mia, the town engineer who helps Ross in his new life; Jennie, a Ranger that is “Changed,” that is, has some sort of superhuman powers; Yuki, a former prince that struggles with settling down in LA and with his boyfriend, Paco; and Felicite, a scheming climber, lusting after power but also hiding a secret of her own.

This narration style does not detract from the action scenes, which find the characters battling deadly–and extremely crafty–desert animals and a neighboring army, which has a bloody history with the city of Las Anclas. Co-authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, however, portray most of the characters as well intentioned; even the least sympathetic main character did merit some empathy by the end of the novel. Nearly all of LA’s citizens are trying to make their town a better place to live in the way they feel is best – even if they can’t agree on what course that will take. But one thing they are not prejudiced against is non-traditional relationships. Same-sex and polyamorous relationships are accepted; Change powers have become the new issue that divides the community. The book’s dearth of white main characters is noteworthy as well.

Smith, who has authored more than forty books and been nominated for several awards, including the Nebula and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and Manija Brown, TV, comic strip, urban fantasy and video game writer and PTSD/trauma therapist, were kind enough to answer a few questions about this and future writing they’ll share and getting diverse works published.

Eileen: I’ve really enjoyed reading Stranger, especially the five POV characters. Any particular reason why you decided to write the novel in this way? How do you feel this structure lends itself to this genre/setting, etc.?

Rachel: It has multiple points of view (POVs) because it’s about a community, not a lone individual. The post-apocalyptic town of Las Anclas is very community-oriented—for better and for worse—so we wanted the structure to reflect that.

We also thought it was fun, for both us and our readers. Different people notice different things, and speak in different voices. For instance, Yuki Nakamura, who loves animals, was born on a ship, and is very introverted, always notices the wildlife, thinks in nautical metaphors, and only focuses on the people he actually cares about. Felicite Wolfe is the mayor’s ambitious daughter, so she pays close attention to everyone around her in order to make a good impression on them, manipulate them, or gain some knowledge she might be able use later.

Sherwood: While Mia, the youngest town engineer in Las Anclas’s history, keeps getting locked inside her head, sometimes spinning around so much in questions that she doesn’t know how to act when it comes to socializing. Poor Mia! She was the most fun to write about.

Rachel: The POV characters rotate throughout the series. Ross, Mia, and Jennie have POVs in all four books, but the other POVs switch off, with old POV characters dropping out and new ones taking their place.

Eileen: You have a co-author, Sherwood Smith–how did you come to work with her? Did you experience any challenges/benefits working with a co-author? What was the process the two of you used to write the novel? Did you each take character(s) and only write their chapters?

20140830_154107

Rachel Manija Brown (l) and Sherwood Smith (r)

Rachel: We both used to write TV, and we met to collaborate on a TV series. It didn’t sell, but we enjoyed working together so much that we kept on writing together.

Both of us write all the characters. We outline the story in advance, then literally sit next to each other at the computer, one typing (usually Sherwood; she’s much faster than me) while we alternately dictate the story. Any given sentence may have been written by both of us.

Sherwood: I have done several collaborations, and enjoyed them all, though each is very different. The fun part of writing with Rachel is that we never get writer’s block, because as soon as one of us runs out of ideas, whether on a single sentence or in a scene, the other either picks up with it and zooms ahead, or we can talk it out. Sometimes act it out!

Eileen: I see that you are a PTSD/trauma therapist, and one of the characters appears to be experiencing PTSD. What are your thoughts on including a character struggling with a mental condition? For you, is it similar and as important as including many characters of diversity?

Rachel: I definitely think that mental conditions are an aspect of diversity. But that’s not all there is to it. Ross’s experiences with PTSD are largely autobiographical. I don’t mean that they’re based on my clients, I mean that they’re based on what I went through as a teenager. I wanted to show that you can go through a lot of trauma and have it affect you–even affect you a lot– and not have it ruin your life, or mean that you can never be happy or never find love.

Sherwood: I agree with Rachel. There are aspects of Ross that also come out of my own childhood experiences. Rachel and I discovered that though our lives were very different, we shared certain emotional responses to situations that can cause symptoms of PTSD. This, in turn, made me very aware of similar emotional responses in students during the years that I taught, and though I am not trained as Rachel is, experience caused me to read up on the subject, and to seek ways to help kids feel a sense of safety, and agency.

Eileen: Stranger is incredibly multi-racial and diverse in many ways. What are your thoughts on getting your book published? I know from reading you and Sherwood’s PW blog post that you had at least one agent request that this diversity be toned down somewhat. Can you tell our readers a bit how you overcame this? Any advice for other authors who are marketing their diverse book or trying to get it seen by agents/publishers?

Rachel: Yes, an agent had trouble with Yuki being gay. In general, we had difficulty with the fact that gay and lesbian romances are just as important as straight romances. It’s also extremely unusual for a YA dystopia to have all the POV characters be people of color. We really had to persist to make the book available to readers.

Sherwood: I think it’s important to note that we do not believe that any of the agents or editors who asked, or hinted, or expressed doubts, about the diversity of our characters are bigots or anti-gay. It’s just that there has been such a strong “received wisdom” in marketing that protagonists must be straight and white or the book won’t sell. And publishers are primarily in the business of selling books. This received wisdom was probably true in 1950, but we don’t believe it is true today.

Rachel: Persistence is the key. If you want to go the traditional publishing route, be incredibly persistent. If you choose to self-publish, hire someone skilled to do the cover, and research how keywords and other important self-publishing techniques work. And know that there are readers out there who will really, really want to read your book. Luckily, nowadays it’s much easier to get it to them.

Eileen: I have read that Stranger is Book One in a series. What’s the status of the series and can you give us any juicy tidbits about what’s to come? Are you working on anything other than this series?

Rachel: Stranger stands on its own, but it’s also the first of a four-book series.

Book two is Hostage, in which we spend time in Gold Point, the city ruled with an iron fist by King Voske, the villain of Stranger, and meet a surprising new point of view character. Book three is Rebel, in which Ross’s past comes back to haunt him. The new point of view character in this book is someone we met back in book one, but maybe not someone expected to get a point of view. Book four is Traitor, in which all the plot threads and characters from the first three books come together in a battle for the future of Las Anclas. The new point of view character is someone whose perspective you may have been waiting for.

I’m currently working on the third Werewolf Marines book, Partner. That’s urban fantasy for adults under the pen name Lia Silver. It’s also diverse and also involves PTSD, but contains too much sex to be suitable for younger readers.

Sherwood: I’m working on the sequel to Lhind the Thief, which is YA fantasy with a character not quite human. It’s called Lhind the Spy, and it explores questions like belonging, what love is, the consequences of power—but these are also meant to be fun, so there will be chases, and magical razzle-dazzle, and an elaborate dinner party for powerful people that goes very, very wrong. That will be published through Book View Café, a consortium of writers who have been publishing work that is difficult for New York publishing to categorize. For DAW, I have been writing A Sword Named Truth, which is the first of a series about teenage allies, many of them in positions of power, who have to try to overcome personal and cultural conditioning to work together against a very, very powerful enemy.

Rachel and I also have other projects planned, which we will write together.

It’s Pitch Fiesta Time! 13 Writers Pitch Their Queries to 7 Agents, 1 Publisher

Welcome to our first Pitch Fiesta, an online event for manuscripts by or about Latin@s! We received 21 entries and narrowed those down to 15. Two writers have dropped out for the best reasons: one found an agent and the other had a novel acquired. Congratulations! The writers were matched with authors to polish their queries and first 10 pages. The four middle grade and nine young adult entries are below. We’ve included the query and an excerpt.

This is how it will work: the queries and excerpts will be posted today and tomorrow to give the agents and publisher enough time to check in and read them. Participating are: Adriana Dominguez, Sara Megibow, Adrienne Rosado, Laura Dail, Amy Boggs, Kathleen Ortiz, Ammi-Joan Paquette, and  Arte Público Press. The first ten pages will be sent to interested agents/editors, along with longer partials or full manuscripts. We will follow up Friday with news about requests and later, if there is any big news, like a new, beautiful agent-writer relationship!

GOOD LUCK to everyone! And thank you to everyone involved–the writers, mentors, agents/editors–for producing and supporting diverse children’s literature!!

 

MIDDLE GRADE:

 

THE WIND CALLED MY NAME by Mary Louise Sanchez

I’m excited that you are actively seeking Latino and Latina authors and our stories through the Latin@s in Kid Lit’s Pitch Fiesta. I am seeking representation for my 35,000 word middle grade historical fiction novel, THE WIND CALLED MY NAME. With your help, some readers will be able to see themselves through my novel and others will experience one Hispanic culture.

It’s 1936 and the strong dust storm winds of the Great Depression blow Margaríta and her family to join Papá and her older brother, who now have good railroad jobs, to a small Wyoming town. Ten-year-old Margaríta Sandoval has mixed feelings about leaving her ancestral New Mexico home because people in Wyoming might not accept Hispanics. But, the move will give her the opportunity to make a new friend who isn’t related to her.

The winds blow many problems Margaríta’s way, like her so-called new friend, Evangeline, who snubs her nose at Hispanic foods and steals Margaríta’s rights to an autographed Shirley Temple picture; a teacher who doesn’t know New Mexicans fought in the Civil War; and washing machines which are “For Greasers Only.”

When Margaríta learns Papá and her brother risk losing their jobs, she invokes the familiar saints and uses her English skills to ask a new Wyoming saint to intercede. She still wants Evangeline’s support and friendship, but now on Margaríta’s new terms.

I was an elementary school teacher/librarian and still read the best of children’s literature, so I can learn to be a better writer and work toward my goal of winning the Pura Belpré Award someday. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators recognized THE WIND CALLED MY NAME by awarding me one of three grants for their inaugural 2012 On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Awards, which was given to encourage writers of diverse cultures. I participate in an online children’s writing critique group and am a member of the SCBWI. I attend many conferences and workshops, which have included a national Hispanic Writer’s Conference in New Mexico; and the Highlights Foundation Writers’ Workshop as a scholarship recipient.

Excerpt:

The church bells rang from Santa Gertrude’s in the village. I counted the peals. Uno, dos, tres. It reminded me that Beto was the third thing we lost this week. My older cousin and her husband signed the papers to buy our house this morning. And yesterday Alberto told us there was no parish church in Fort Steele, Wyoming. For many generations our family has always been connected to the church like beads on a rosary. In Wyoming, would we be connected to anyone else besides each other?


 

HAUTE MESS by Heather Harris-Brady

When thirteen-year-old NYC designer Valentina Villar unravels a small-town secret left by a Victorian suffragette, she finds a cult bent on turning back the clock. In HAUTE MESS (49K), a contemporary middle-grade mystery, she’s got to solve her first case or her next little black dress may be her last.

The daughter of a famous cover girl, Valentina is poised to take center stage at Fashion Week with her own line. But when her parents buy the rickety Fits mansion upstate, she drops from catwalk darling to suspected “illegal alien” in one weekend. Tiny White Birch Cove is postcard-pretty, yet behind the lace curtains the town is coming apart at the seams. Valentina will do anything to get her old life back, and a letter hinting at a hidden fortune becomes her hottest accessory.

Centuries collide as she stitches together a trail of Vuitton trunks, Worth gowns, and Tiffany silver left by the mansion’s last resident, May Fits. The small-minded society that May rejected 150 years ago hasn’t changed much—they’re still after the jewel of the lost Fits treasure: the Talisman du Lac, a rumored Arthurian source of power. Valentina now needs to get fearless off the runway or everything she wants—including her big break and her adorkable new partner/maybe-first-boyfriend—will vanish quicker than white shoes after Labor Day.

Freshly polished with Coleen Paratore through SCBWI’s Digital Mentor Program, this adventure unfolds through the alternating time periods/viewpoints of two fashionistas. A standalone book with diverse characters and series potential, HAUTE MESS will appeal to fans of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Westing Game, and historically themed books like Capture the Flag. The first draft won the Pacific Northwest Literary Contest children’s category.

Courtesy of my career in journalism and marketing, I have a sample marketing plan for this book available upon request. It includes social media tie-ins with reader “shelfies,” augmented reality treasure hunts, red carpet book signings, and more.

Excerpt:

You don’t know me.

Yet.

But one day you’ll slide out of a limo, jewels sparkling and silk skirt swirling. The red carpet, first reserved only for gods and goddesses, is waiting. Plush and glam, it stretches away in front of you. Cameras start to flash even before you’re out of the car.

I’ll be there when you hit your turn-back or foot-pop, throwing the paparazzi into a frenzy. Over it all comes one question.

“Who are you wearing?”

“Valentina Villar,” you’ll say. If you’re feeling sassy, maybe you’ll only flash the double V sign: V for Valentina, V for victory as we land together on tomorrow’s best-dressed list.

It’s only a matter of time. There’s just a few XXL issues standing in our way: 1) I need to crush this fashion show and 2) I’ve got to find a way to stay in New York City. We both know being a nobody is not an option.


 

DROPPED by Chris Day

When thirteen-year-old Carson’s estranged father invites him on a road trip in search of the best waves in Mexico, he thinks he’s signing up for the most epic surf adventure ever. The eighth grader has always been too young, too scared, too whatever for his dad’s annual surf expedition down the Baja. But even if it means dropping into gnarlier waves than he’s ever imagined, there’s no way Carson is missing this trip.

On the thousand-mile trek to El Secreto, the skater from California gets the sneaking suspicion that his dad might be kidnapping him. And when his mom tries to convince him they might never be coming back from the country she grew up in, Carson gives his dad the benefit of the doubt because they’re connecting for the first time in forever.

While they’re shredding the secret surf break, the storm of the century slams straight into the beach. When his dad gets caught out in the double-overhead waves, Carson has to face his biggest fear and paddle out through a killer riptide.

DROPPED is complete at 51,000 words.

Excerpt:

“Just promise we won’t get arrested or killed.” Carson looked down at the half-filled backpack by his feet. “Then I’ll decide.”

“That’s not really a promise I can make,” Link said. “But I can totally guarantee you’ve never been on a trip like this one.”

“I don’t know about this, Dad.” Carson glanced back toward his house. His mom would be home from her night shift at the hospital any minute. “I’m supposed to be at school in half an hour.”

“Come on. It’ll be a blast.” Link tossed a nylon strap across the stack of surfboards on the roof of his Jeep Cherokee and stretched it tight. “Live a little.”

The jeep didn’t look like it could make it the hundred miles to San Diego, never mind the thousand miles to his dad’s favorite surf break in Mexico, but Link always bragged about how everything still worked besides the odometer, which had been stuck on 199,999 since 1999.

“You barely packed any stuff for me,” Carson said.

“Don’t worry about it. You won’t need anything else.” Link jumped down from the fender and wiped his hands on his jeans. “Besides, when was the last time you got out of this town?”


 

DON’T WALK BAREFOOT ON THE SIDEWALK by Venessa Ann Schwarz

Abby loves living on the prairie in her family’s country home surrounded by a vegetable garden and Texas bluebonnets. She wants to ride horseback through the tall grasses. But a voice inside her head, her mother’s voice, warns, “Life’s a basket of rotten apples. Be careful,” and that always stops her in her tracks.

When her Puerto Rican dad, who grew up in New York City, suddenly decides to trade their country home in Texas for a cold flat in Brooklyn, eleven-year-old Abby doesn’t understand why.

On the way to New York City, she faces a string of disasters, including a terrible car crash. Abby wonders if her mother is right. Maybe life is a basket of rotten apples. Feeling unsettled, she trudges cross country in a dilapidated Whistling Teakettle on Wheels. But when the barrage of rotten apples continues, Abby tries to control everyone around her. And when she loses everything, including the respect of her favorite cousin Louis, she slowly finds her way back to the girl with the pioneer spirit.

Don’t Walk Barefoot on the Sidewalk is a 30,000 word, realistic middle grade story about letting go and allowing life to happen, whatever it may choose to bring.

My published credits include articles in The Writer’s Journal, Hopscotch for Girls and Fun for Kidz children’s magazines. I attended Boise State University on a teaching scholarship. I am also an SCBWI member and have been participating in workshops and conferences for many years.

Excerpt:

Abby’s favorite book Little Town on the Prairie sat on her lap waiting to be read again. She turned to the first page and saw her name, Abigail Rose Calantro, sprawled across the title page in purple ink. Owen, a boy from her class, teased Abby that her last name, Calantro, sounded a whole lot like cilantro. But she didn’t care because she liked cilantro. It was her favorite herb.

She liked her middle name too. Mom said after Abby was born, she was so tired that she took a nap. She woke and saw a red rose. Abby was thankful that when her mom opened her eyes she saw the rose, and not a bedpan, or a barf bag, or something even worse.



YOUNG ADULT

 

JEWEL’S WISH by Tiffany Soriano

Seventeen-year-old Jewel Sevante doesn’t plan on going to college because partying has become the most important thing in her life. Her only wish is to graduate high school since her father never did. She wants to make him proud and keeps him alive with childhood memories. Jewel’s father is more than a memory, though. His ghost watches over her.

Each time Jewel drinks and gets high, he tries to guide her toward a better future with his words. When Jewel lands in the hospital after a near fatal overdose, she realizes the ghost is her father warning her not to die the way he did. Jewel must decide whether to fight for recovery and graduate high school or become the next in her family to be destroyed by addiction.

JEWEL’S WISH, a young adult novel complete at  55,000 words, would appeal to readers of Jay Asher and Ellen Hopkins.

I am an accountant for one of the oldest financial firms on Wall Street. I have been sober for ten years and help other young people in New York City to stay sober. In 2014, I was one of six writers chosen by Rebecca Stead to join her YA Master Class Workshop. Excerpts from JEWEL’S WISH won the 2012 Literary Fiction Award of Bronx Recognizes Its Own. The annual grant is awarded to Bronx artists based solely on artistic excellence, selected by a panel of arts professionals. In 2011, I was one of six writers chosen for Sapphire’s Master Class Workshop.

Excerpt:

My head is throbbing as I look over at Julio lying on a recliner across the room. It takes me a minute to put two and two together. I’m on someone else’s couch. Both of the vodka bottles from yesterday are empty. It looks like three packs of cigarette butts are smashed in the ash tray, mixed in with the guts of the blunt paper we used to smoke weed.

What the hell happened last night?

The last thing I remember was kissing Julio. How did we end up on opposite sides of the room? My skirt’s all twisted, but at least my clothes are on. That’s good. My panties are on the right way. Another good sign. We’re in the clear. Cross my fingers.

“Oh no!” I scream when I see the time on the cable box.

Julio jumps up out of his sleep. “What’s the matter?”

“I have to go.”

I look around to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. I reach for the little Puerto Rican flag clipped to my bracelet. Daddy gave it to me when I was eight years old, right before he died.  The bracelet it came with broke, but I never lost the charm. It’s probably not worth a lot of money, but it’s still the most valuable thing I have. The only thing, really.


 

DAYS WITHOUT RAIN by Richard Almaraz

Three months have passed since seventeen year old child soldier Drigo Martinez returned from the war that consumed a decade of his life. Unable to stomach living with a monster, his cousin Ofelia finally saves up enough money to escape her father’s stifling home.

Ofelia wants to go to space, but her father conspires to keep her cloistered. She hates the idea of staying home, and turns to theft to get the money she needs. When her father discovers her savings, he browbeats her into paying him instead.

In desperation, Ofelia turns to the Manifest Corporation for financial aid, but Drigo knows Manifest’s dark secret: they abduct and experiment on child soldiers like him. No matter how adamant he is, Ofelia refuses to heed the warnings of a murderer. Drigo must risk his life to find proof that she will believe: proof from Manifest’s records themselves.

DAYS WITHOUT RAIN is a YA near-future sci-fi novel at 77,000 words.

Excerpt:

“One hundred and three days without rain,” Drigo murmured under his breath as he hopped barefoot from tie to tie on the abandoned railbed. One hundred and three days since he broke his vow and renounced John Amend-all for a life of comfort and safety.

Amend-all had raised him, had ensured he survived every day on the battlefield, and didn’t even try to convince him to stay. He had encouraged Drigo to go into the city to find a better life, and Drigo knew he was wrong to betray him. He could have done them both a far greater service by remaining, and it would still rain from time to time as well.

“God doesn’t smile on those who break vows,” Rafa said as he balanced on the rail to Drigo’s left. “He’s holding the rain as ransom.”

“He wants me to repent. To give Him blood to quench His eternal thirst,” Drigo said as he shook the water jug. Only a few sips remained. He offered Rafa the jug, but Rafa shook his head and turned it down. Drigo turned around to offer water to Neto and Albert behind him, but they had their own bottles.

Drigo popped the top off of the plastic jug and drank deep, draining the last of the water. He coughed as he slipped the cap back on. “Fuck ‘im. Let him scorch everything in his childish vengeance.”


 

TWICE AFFECTED by Clarissa Hadge

Rebellious, sixteen–year old Lottie would rather be listening to Sonic Youth and the Desechables than putting her telepathy and ability to see sound as color to good use. A mysterious group from a world called Karnock gave Lottie these powers. Frustrated from ten years of hiding her abilities but with few answers as to why she was granted these powers, Lottie wonders if she’ll ever discover anyone else like her.

That is, until she meets Charlie.

Lottie catches Charlie, a quirky bookseller, manipulating light into tangible matter. Then, she coerces him to admit that he, too, is aware of Karnock’s existence. For the first time, Lottie doesn’t feel so alone, and maybe Charlie is the key to helping her understand more about this other world.

With help from the inhabitants of Karnock, Lottie and Charlie journey there via the Lightway, an intergalactic path, to determine the reason behind their powers. There they discover a world ravaged by Earth’s climate change. The two worlds are bound together through ecological destruction, and what happens on Earth is paralleled on Karnock.

A megalomaniac Karnockian enchantress named Theodora wants to reverse the ecological destruction on her planet, and sever Karnock’s ties to obliterate Earth. Lottie and Charlie must flee from a determined Theodora who wants Lottie dead so she can’t use her abilities to interfere with the plans.

Lottie knows that with her abilities, a good dose of stubbornness, and maybe some help from Charlie, she might be able to defeat Theodora on Karnock before Earth is destroyed.

TWICE AFFECTED is an 80,000 word YA light science fiction novel with an environmental twist. The manuscript has elements of A WRINKLE IN TIME and ULTRAVIOLET, with a dash of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.

I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Children from Simmons College and I’m currently working as a bookseller at an independent bookstore in Boston.

Excerpt:

It was the fight at school with Jennifer Wilcox that landed me here, though it probably would have been something eventually to trigger Evelyn’s decision to send me away. Evelyn was always full of idle threats, but I never thought my mother would actually follow through and dump me off at my great aunt Gertrude’s in Dorset.

Why Jennifer decided to call me a bitch, I don’t know. All I know is that when I slammed my fist into her jaw, the noise resulted not in me seeing red, as the saying goes, but a dancing pattern of teal and lavender.

The Homecoming Queen doesn’t look very pretty any more.


 

SLINGS AND ARROWS by Alex Yuschik

You can’t gun for the Ivy League when revenge is your biggest extra-curricular.

On the first day of senior year, seventeen-year-old Dominic Guerrera’s locked out of his house—again—until a girl with a strange accent breaks him back in. Shelley Summers is from Boston, and her fast car and bad manners are nothing compared to her penchant for urban exploration. Leader of the Ghosts, her band of misfit friends, Shelley explores abandoned buildings for kicks and teaches Dominic how to pick locks. Soon, Dominic’s life splits into halves: by day he’s the frontrunner for valedictorian and yearbook’s editor-in-chief, by night he tools around Baton Rouge with the Ghosts. And he may just be falling for the most fearless girl he’s ever met.

But when Shelley’s pushed off a bridge and the person responsible for her “accidental” death takes over the Ghosts, Dominic’s got to make a choice: run away again like he did when Shelley died, or turn the Ghosts in and risk destroying his future.

SLINGS AND ARROWS is a YA Southern Gothic retelling of Hamlet with a twist: the murdered King is a girl and she’s dating Hamlet. The manuscript is complete at 90k words and is told in two alternating timelines, one before and one after Shelley’s death.

Excerpt:

He could spread his whole life out over this city like a second map, seventeen years of streets and landmarks that memory’s cut into him. He’s read when sailors get scurvy their old wounds re-open, that the human body catalogues its scars but never fully heals them.

His hand travels over his stomach and he lets it drop.

During the day, he fakes it, pretends that the local news reports—teen found dead, spine snapped, investigation ongoing—are all talking to someone else, some other version of himself. In that life, Dominic Guerrera is just another second-semester senior, remarkable only in that he’ll make honor roll, valedictorian, a star college if he dots all his i’s.

Shelley Summers was a city map he’d cut into himself, and if he ventures too far from shore the old lines slice open again.

Out here, there is no pretending. There’s just him and the space where Shelley used to be.

And it’s so cold.


 

ONE EMPTY GIRL by Alexandra Townsend

No one can know young, withdrawn Meredith without thinking of her as an eerie, empty child. She’s too quiet, too distant, and barely shows emotion thanks to the oppressive control her mother has over her life. Meredith tries to fit in, but she’s grown used to being the strangest person she knows. That perspective changes when a mysterious family moves to her simple town.

The Teufels are a family full of secrets. They can have visions of the future, manipulate minds, and curse their worst enemies. The children of the family are Enola and Feo, half-Mexican twins who have grown to dislike the world as much as it dislikes them. Enola scares others with her dark and deliberately mysterious nature. Feo revels in chaos and enjoys playing pranks, sometimes dangerous ones.

Circumstances push the three children together when they and other children of the town receive painful, even deadly curses. Meredith is completely cut off from her emotions. Feo can’t avoid blame for anything, whether he did it or not. Enola is doomed to be feared by everyone she meets. But the real danger comes from the kids who decide to use their curses for evil. Suddenly Enola, Meredith, and Feo find themselves with truly dangerous enemies. They must work together if they want to survive long enough to break the curse.

In One Empty Girl, a 115,000 word young adult fantasy, Feo, Enola, and Meredith wrestle with their own problems as well as the magical ones that bring them together. Feo feels frustrated about the suspicion everyone always has for him, even when he isn’t pulling pranks. Enola is caught between hating her boring classmates and feeling incredibly lonely. Meredith is desperate to please her overbearing mother, but has become so emotionally stunted that she can barely understand how friendship works. It’s an unusual friendship when the three come together, but they soon find that they all need one another to begin to heal and to grow.

I am a graduate of the University of Vermont and a life-long lover of young adult fantasy. I have published several book reviews for Edge magazine and short stories for the online magazines Plunge and Spellbound. My novel is a dark fantasy and will be enjoyed by fans of Coraline and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The full manuscript is available upon request. It can be a stand-alone book or the first of a series.

Excerpt:

She ran the brush through the doll’s perfect hair for ten more strokes, stopping at a round one hundred. Hair was supposed to look much nicer after one hundred strokes, but the doll didn’t look any better to Meredith. It never did.

The truth was that this particular doll had been custom-made just for her. It had long, straight blond hair that stopped in a perfect line just below its shoulders. There were equally straight bangs that formed a line across its forehead just above a pair of tiny, round glasses. It was wearing a schoolgirl uniform, complete with a plaid skirt and a striped green and grey tie. The entire doll was very detailed, but it was still just a doll. It never smiled, whether it stood or sat it was always stiff, and its eyes always had an eerie lifelessness to them.

It looked exactly like Meredith in every way.


 

THE BOND: GUARDIANS AWAKE by Marisol La Costa

As one of the fourteen writers chosen from the Fiesta Pitch hosted by LatinosinKidLit.com, I want to take part in the shared investment of increasing diversity in the world of young adult literature. My aspiration is that this magical realism novel, THE BOND: GUARDIANS AWAKE will be a good fit for your list. The limited number of magical realism books have made it challenging to parallel my novel to others in this category. THE BOND brings diverse characters to this YA category.

Jessy Vazquez is an average girl growing up in her grandparent’s full house in the suburbs of East Los Angeles during a time of economic hardship and drought. On her quinceañera, she receives an heirloom medallion from her grandparents. Once the medallion touches Jessy’s skin, the medallion knows that it has found its guardian. The medallion takes a life of its own as it reawakens an unseen battle between good and evil during Jessy’s high school field trip to the temple ruins at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. To overcome evil, the medallion reveals to Jessy the unanimous language used at the beginning of time. Embedded in the language are a series of recipes for optimum health. Jessy and her family take advantage of the recipes using ingredients found in nature, to promote their intelligence, strength, and agility. In the midst of the metaphysical struggle, the medallion gives Jessy the power to control the weather and end the drought. Will Jessy be able to face her fears? Will she and her family be able to equip themselves to escape the assassin hunting the medallion’s power to control the Earth? With help from her family, Jessy learns that power and knowledge, come from a bonded family that battles for the good of the world.

I wrote this book to tell the story of how much I love my grandparents and my family and to provide a story that attracts Hispanic readers. There were many late nights invested in the writing of this book in order to tell this story. During the last 18 months, I have received support from local university professors and their writing group. They guided me to strengthen the story line for the process of revision. THE BOND: GUARDIANS AWAKE is complete at 70,000 words. It is the first book of a five book series.

Excerpt:

With great anticipation, Jessy took the lid off, and saw it. The medallion. It was perfectly brilliant. The minerals in the stone looked like the ocean and earth whirled around inside of it. The very tiny glimmering speckled lines and dots twinkled as though they were saying hello. Gustav’s dormant skills enabled the stone and metal to reunite once again.

“I love it, Grandma!” said Jessy with the biggest grin. “Can you help me put it on?”

“Before I put it on, you need to read what it says on the back,” said Carmen as she flipped the medallion over. She adjusted her glasses and pointed, “Read it.”

It was inscribed, Our granddaughter, Jessica Maria Vazquez Rodriguez.

“Grandma, Grandpa, I really love it,” said Jessy with watery eyes. “It’s perfect.”

As soon as the medallion touched Jessy’s skin, it set off an invisible and metaphysical reaction. With all the excitement in the kitchen, no one noticed that the stone lit slightly or that an unusual gentle wind deliberately swirled outside of the kitchen window. Recycling bottles on the backyard porch tumbled over and rolled around. It blew by and frightened Mrs. Abbot’s annoying cat that always ended up in the Rodriguez’s yard. Yellow curtains that hung over the kitchen window swayed as it went through to touch Jessy’s skin, giving her a chill.


 

FINVARRA’S CIRCUS by Monica Sanz

Finvarra’s Circus is coming to town, and seventeen-year-old Leanna is determined to see it. Everyone knows once the circus leaves, the fairest girl in town is found dead, deformed, and heartless. Rumors say it’s the handsome ringmaster, Finvarra, who steals their beauty and their hearts, but this means little to Leanna. Her heart is damaged and failing her. Surely he won’t want it. She sneaks into the circus, but caught by Finvarra, he gives her a choice: become their tightrope walker or die.

Leanna accepts, and now a part of their strange family, she learns that Finvarra never meant to harm her. He needs her to stay. An ancient curse binds the troupe to their circus. They must perform forever or perish. To break the curse, Finvarra must die, and only the famed muse, the Leanan Sidhe, can kill him.

Finvarra believes he’s found his muse in Leanna, and Leanna can’t deny the growing attraction between them. But not everyone wants freedom from the circus and they’ll kill any girl suspected of being Finvarra’s inspiration.

With her life and the circus’s on the line, will Leanna’s heart fail her when she needs it the most?

Complete at 99,000 words, FINVARRA’S CIRCUS is inspired by the Irish folktales of King Finvarra, Ethna the Bride, and the Leanan Sidhe. Fans of The Night Circus and Howl’s Moving Castle will enjoy this magical tale of one girl’s fight to decide her own fate when it feels as if it has already been written.

I am an active writer on Wattpad.com where my works reached over 4 million reads, alongside a growing fan base of over 19K. I am also a part of the Wattpad4, a group of authors that hosts weekly Twitter chats and vlogs.

Excerpt:

That night, when only the low howls of the wind hushed through the trees, Leanna pushed away her blankets and climbed from her bed. Padding lightly to her wardrobe, she dressed quickly. Edith never bothered to check on her in the middle of the night, and so Leanna was confident, as she slipped on her black cloak, that her indiscretion would never be discovered.

Opening her door with a frightful ease, she peered out into the hall. Her father’s thunderous snoring resounded, but all else was quiet. She slipped out from her room, crept downstairs and into the kitchen. Lamp in hand, she pulled the door open. A frigid gust pushed her back as if to keep her from going, but clutching at her pendant, Leanna pulled the door closed behind her.

Darkness swallowed the forest, cut by streams of moonlight breaking through skeletal branches. Leanna looked to the blackness, gazed up to her window, and paused.

Fear, now a small voice in her mind, whispered that she should not go. What if she were to fall ill, alone, in the middle of the woods? What on earth would she do? It was foolish. Yet, steeling her spine, she hauled in a deep breath, adjusted her hood, and darted into the black. There was no way she would miss the circus, even if she lost her heart in the process— to the cold, or to Finvarra.


 

SOME KIND OF TROUBLE by Elizabeth Arroyo

Seventeen-year-old Ariana Lopez has been planning her future since her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Getting into college is a huge part of that future. Knowing little about her extended family, or the identity of her biological father, Ariana believes getting into college means having a future after her mom dies.

But her college plans are threatened by her inability to comprehend numbers. At the request of her mother, she accepts tutoring from Marcus Trent, who’s an A student, popular, and has “most likely to succeed” written all over his arrogant, brilliant smile.  Marcus gets on her nerves and not in an entirely bad way.

When he invites her to hang out with his friends, she decides to ignore common sense and agrees. The night ends with a car chase, leaving one of Marcus’s friends in the hospital with a gunshot wound and Ariana with a knot on her head. To make matters worse, she’s forced to call her ex-stepfather to pick her up since her mother is in the hospital again.

After her near death experience, her life plans get put on stasis due to her growing feelings for Marcus. But Ariana soon realizes that Marcus is carrying his own emotional baggage and is set on a path to self-destruction: he and his friends decide to find the shooter, no matter the consequences.

Set on stopping Marcus from making a dangerous mistake, Ariana decides to live somewhere between hope and fear, risking more than just her heart for a future she didn’t plan. And it may cost her everything.

SOME KIND OF TROUBLE is a YA Contemporary Romance novel, complete at 60,000 words. I am a hybrid author looking for an agent for my contemporary work.

Excerpt:

Offering up my soul to whatever god could turn on my seventeen-year-old jalopy without me freezing my ass off was a fair trade.

I turned the ignition for the fifth time, and the engine caught with a grudging screech just as my cell phone rang. I pried it out of my bag with shivering, numb fingers. At least I’d keep my soul.

“Don’t leave me!” Miranda yelled into the phone even before I set it up against my ear.

I watched her through the side mirror, my lips curled into a smile. Miranda never seemed bothered by anything, not even running in a cold Chicago morning, wearing stilettos and dragging her backpack on the ground beside her. Her hair swirled in the wind, her hips moved side to side as if she were dancing merengue to the beat of her stilettos.

“Hurry up, can’t be late,” I quipped.

Miranda and I have been friends since the third grade, although we pissed each other off enough times to have perfected the eye roll. Despite her failed attempts at trying to save me from me, whatever that meant, she added a different kind of chaos in my life. The type of chaos I didn’t plan, and it allowed me to forget who I was. I lived for those moments.

Pathetic.


 

I BURN BANNED BOOKS by Monica Zepeda

High school senior Keely McNeill never planned on being a book burner.

Keely’s only goal is to wait out the graduation clock and get the hell out her sucktastic Arizona town. But her journalism teacher, Mr. Stokes, calls her out on being chronically lazy. He challenges her to find something she cares about.

Then Mr. Stokes dies.

The death of Mr. Stokes prompts the school board to shutter the newspaper to save money. Keely hijacks the paper and writes an unauthorized editorial against the closure, but the principal destroys all the issues before it gets distributed. Keely’s attempt at organizing a grassroots protest ends in an epic fail, and even her boyfriend thinks she should give up the cause.

But when she gets unexpected support from the high school’s resident mean girl, Keely decides to protest the censorship of her article. She wants to do something headline worthy, and if burning one thousand books is the only way Keely can be heard, then burn, baby, burn.

I Burn Banned Books is a YA contemporary debut complete at 61,000 words.

In addition to being a member of SCBWI, I received a MFA in playwriting from Arizona State University. I am a former recipient of the Disney/ABC Writing Fellowship and an independent feature I wrote is in post-production. Currently, I am the Teen Services librarian at Beverly Hills Public Library.

Excerpt:

As I watch the books burn, a spray of wayward ashes blows into my face. My eyes start to water. I am not crying. I have residue from The Chocolate War in my eye.

I wipe away a not-tear, hoping no one will see. But Carole Reese-Kennedy does. Even though she is way on the other side of the fire pit. She nudges her camera guy.

Ariel spots them, too. She’s been waiting all night to be interviewed. She even got highlights for the occasion.

“Don’t forget to mention me,” she whispers.

Carole and her camera guy push their way through the crowd as the light attached to the top of the camera flashes into my eyes. I feel like a stupid deer that doesn’t realize that its fate is an oncoming Chevy Suburban.