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The fantastic folks at YA Books Central have revealed the cover art for Kate Marshall’s debut YA survival thriller, I Am Still Alive. It’s a tense, moving tale of a girl alone in the wilderness, armed with only her wits and her dog to survive the winter.  YA Books Central is also giving away a SIGNED advanced reader copy (US/CA), which ends on December 15. Be sure to head over there, read a short note from the Kate, and enter the giveaway!

Kate also talks about her inspiration for writing I Am Still Alive at the Penguin Teen blog. If you love behind-the-scenes and making-of content, you won’t want to miss this one!

After
Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive—for now.

Before
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father…and she wants revenge.

Preorder at Amazon, B&N, or your local bookshop via Indiebound.
Hardcover publication July 24th, 2018, from Viking Children’s.

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Happy book birthday to K. C. Alexander’s second SINless novel, NANOSHOCK! Featuring badass cyberpunk mercenary Riko, the action never lets up. Those who enjoyed Necrotech will be just as thrilled with this second installment.

Nanoshock by K. C. Alexander

Cyberpunk fallen angel Riko is back, in KC Alexander’s outrageous sequel to the savage Necrotech. 

Being a mercenary isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially when Riko’s hard-won reputation has taken a hard dive into fucked. Now she’s fair game for every Tom, Dick and Blow looking to score some cred.

In this city, credibility means everything – there’s no room for excuses. She still doesn’t know what she did to screw up so badly, and chasing every gone-cold lead is only making it worse. Without help and losing ground fast, Riko has a choice: break every rule of the street on her search for answers…  or die trying.

And watch that first line. It’s a doozy!

Yesterday was the official publication date for ALL RIGHTS RESERVED by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. I’ve already written a little bit about this book’s history; after four years, I’m so so thrilled that Greg’s book is on bookshelves for all to read and enjoy!

In the lead-up to publication day, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED has had a number of exciting developments! It’s an ABA Indies Introduce selection for Fall/Summer 2017, an ABA Kids’ Indie Next selection for Autumn 2017, and named one of the most anticipated August 2017 YA releases by both B&N and PopCrush. Greg also made appearances at San Diego Comic Con (!!!) and Book Expo America.

Check out the amazing book trailer Greg put together!

 

Intrigued? You can also read an excerpt of ALL RIGHTS RESERVED over at The Boston Review. Because who doesn’t love sneak peeks?

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite review quotes:

“Katsoulis paints a picture of a world that is one part 1984, one part The Hunger Games, and one part Minority Report. The subject matter couldn’t be more timely.” Geek Dad

“Though she doesn’t speak, Speth has been given a distinctive and memorable voice by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. All Rights Reserved is both deeply troubling and utterly captivating; a must read for fans of the dystopic, and more specifically of M.T. Anderson’s Feed.”—Shelf Awareness

“Between the clever premise and the protagonist’s stand against a repressive society, Katsoulis’s work is timely and will appeal to fans of Dan Wells’s Bluescreen, M.T. Anderson’s Feed, Cecelia Ahern’s Flawed, or Scott Westerfeld’s ‘Uglies.’”—School Library Journal

“A chilling, unnerving, and timely debut novel about what it means to speak out, even in silence.”—Katharine McGee, New York Times bestselling author of The Thousandth Floor

Pick up a copy at your favorite retailer or library! :D

Whether you’re writing science fiction, fantasy, or more general fiction, worldbuilding is an important aspect of your story. Each decision affects how the story will unfold, as well as the types of characters and plots it might make sense to include. The farther away you get from “real life”, the more thoughtfully you’ll need to convey that information to the reader, and the more information you’ll need to provide. You don’t want your reader to be confused because, in the interest of not “info-dumping”, you’ve erred a little too far in the other direction. On the other hand, you also don’t want to provide so much information that it’s like reading The Silmarillion or a Dungeons & Dragons manual!

In the case of SFF, the worldbuilding tends to be much more obvious: is it low magic or high magic? low or high technology? is the magic/technology more in the background or front-and-center? what kind of political system is in place? how mobile is society, for different classes and different genders? is it set in a city or a more rural location? And then, how does the hero or heroine relate to all of these things? And how do those worldbuilding decisions complicate the plot and the character’s desires?

One of my favorite examples of a low-magic fantasy by a JABberwocky client is THE BLOODBOUND by Erin Lindsey. It’s clear she spent quite a bit of time putting the various pieces together in way that enriches the overall feeling of her work. While there’s magic in The Bloodbound, and it plays an important role for the plot, the magic itself isn’t the focus. Rather than feature a magic-using heroine in a low-magic fantasy, Erin chose a noblewoman-turned-scout who ends up becoming the head of the king’s personal guard.

This choice allows the heroine’s skills to play an integral part in the story, as well as providing a unique window into the political chess match of reclaiming the king’s usurped throne from his brother and fighting off an invading army at the same time. The heroine has intimate knowledge of the other nobles that supplements the advisor’s, and is in a position to both provide advice and acquire further information due to her noble birth.

The other thing I love about The Bloodbound is that Erin takes an iceberg approach to her worldbuilding. She provides just enough information to intrigue and give context as necessary, but she doesn’t let the narrative become bogged down with paragraphs of backstory. In the hands of a less skilled author, it could end up feeling superficial, but Erin has mastered the technique of allowing backstory bubble to the surface throughout the story. The result is a rich, immersive reading experience.

On the high-fantasy side, Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN is an excellent example of a “save the kingdom” story that takes a much more magic-forward approach than the politics-forward approach seen in The Bloodbound. The heroine in Mistborn is a brand-new magic-user, so Brandon is able to really dig into the intricacies of the magic system in an organic way. This approach also shapes how the plot is resolved. Both novels feature a show-down between protagonist and antagonist, but Mistborn’s is much more magically-driven than The Bloodbound’s.

One of the things I love about Brandon’s work is that his worldbuilding is much more “on the page.” The rules for Mistborn’s magic system are explicitly told or shown to us as the heroine learns how to control her magic. The potential to take this approach too far and end up with a D&D manual is high, but Brandon walks that line flawlessly. Learning the magic system alongside the heroine is such a fun experience, especially as she masters the skills that I know will help her in her journey.

While it might be easy to take away “low-magic, high politics” and “high-magic, low politics,” that isn’t necessarily case. Mistborn has quite a bit of politics in addition to magic, and The Bloodbound digs into the magic alongside the politics. Whether you’re writing high-magic, low-magic, or something in between, it’s important to think about how that decision will affect the myriad other decisions you’ll make as an author. No approach is better or worse than any other, but each approach should be appropriate for the type of story you’re telling.

This content was originally published in JABberwocky’s quarterly newsletter. Sign up to receive similar content directly to your inbox!

In early April 2013, I became an full-time literary agent at JABberwocky Literary Agency. In late April 2013, I received a query from an author seeking representation for his YA dystopian manuscript. According to Everyone™, dystopians were extremely hard to sell, a feeling that hasn’t changed much in the intervening three years. But the concept was fresh and unique: in a world where words and gestures have all been copyrighted and you have to pay for the privilege of speaking. After working on some revisions with the author, I was honored to sign him and his amazing manuscript.

Which brings us to now:

Sale announcement for All Rights Reserved by  Gregory Scott Katsoulis

I’m so, so excited to have found a home for both Greg and All Rights Reserved. He was one of my very first clients, All Rights Reserved is one of those stories that sticks with you long after you’ve finished, and I look forward to working with Greg on many more thought-provoking novels!

Several exciting things happened this summer (and they say publishing is slow in the summer, ha!) in book-land: three books by two different clients published, and one client had a cover reveal/excerpt appear on the B&N SFF Blog!

Gentlemans Guide to ScandalFirstly, three books published!

Kathleen Kimmel’s second novel in her Birch Hall romance series, A Gentleman’s Guide to Scandal, published in June. As is common for romance sequels two supporting characters from Kimmel’s debut, A Lady’s Guide to Ruinget to star in a story of their very own! Gentleman’s Guide is Elinor Hargrove and Colin Spenser’s story, and has been called “Great fun from start to finish” (Kirkus), “a delightful, fresh voice in the genre” (Romantic Times in a 4-star review), along with “sizzling chemistry” and “a fearless heroine” (Publishers Weekly). For those who love second chances or enemies*-to-lovers tropes, be sure to take a look!

*more like bickering-to-lovers, but close enough!

K. Eason had not one, but two books publish this summer: her debut fantasy Enemy in June, and its sequel Outlaw in July. These are epic fantasy, in the vein of Kameron Hurley and N. K. Jemisin: dark but not too bleak, playing with gender roles, complete with complex magic systems and multi-layered politics, as well as a whole lot of action. It takes two of my favorite fantasy character types (assassins and outsiders/loners) and does so much with them. The female protagonist (Snowdenaelikk) is a half-breed assassin, which means she gets dumped on by almost every societal class, but she excels at what she does regardless. The male protagonist (Veiko) is outlawed from his (Scandinavian-esque) tribe for doing the wrong thing for the right reason. He and Snow make an unlikely partnership, pulls it all together flawlessly.

outlaw mediumEnemy skyrocketed to the #1 slot in multiple Amazon Kindle categories, including sword & sorcery and dark fantasy, and stayed in the top 100 in the Kindle store for just over a month. With hundreds of 4- and 5-star reviews at Goodreads and Amazon, it’s easy to see why readers have taken to Eason’s work so quickly.

Secondly, cover art!

The B&N SFF Blog had the honor of presenting the fantastic cover of K. C. Alexander’s “nanopunk” thriller, Necrotech! They also have an excerpt up, so go check it out in advance of its September publication date. The many amazing quotes K. C. has already received from SFF powerhouse authors makes it difficult to add anything new, so suffice it to say, Necrotech is a really fun, fast-paced read with a really kick-ass, take-no-prisoners heroine.

Necrotech

April was a very busy month for me. In addition to signing a contemporary middle grade author, I’ve also signed a great writing duo, Corry L. Lee and K. G. Jewell!

JOCASTA AND THE PURPLE GEMFIRE is a zany-yet-grounded sci-fi middle grade about the titular Jocasta and her adventures with aliens on a space station “nexus” that connects all the far-flung galaxies together. Think Stargate meets Percy Jackson, or Alice in Wonderland in space.

I particularly love how all of the characters, from Jocasta the science-minded Earth girl to Sam the rambunctious alien flying squirrel (though don’t let him hear you call him that) to more truly alien creatures, are all extremely relatable despite their extremely different backgrounds and species.

I also really appreciated that Jocasta herself has agency throughout. Sometimes she makes bad decisions (or the best of many bad options), but it’s always clear that she’s making decisions and not letting the plot push her around. And despite some heavier plot elements, JOCASTA has a lighthearted and fun tone throughout. It’s clear that Corry and K. G. had a lot of fun with this project, and it really shines through.

Corry is an SFF writer recently escaped from academia, and the 2011 winner of Writers of the Future. K. G. is a prolific short fiction writer and a 2009 Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate. They’re extremely talented writers, both together and individually, and I’m stoked to be working with them!

I’m very happy to announce that I’ve just signed Heidi Stallman, a fantastic middle grade author! She queried me* with OPERATION MAGIC, a contemporary middle grade story about a girl who’s struggling to come to terms with the fact that her relationships with her dad and her BFF are changing as she gets older.

I really love how realistically those changes are portrayed. Her dad isn’t a two-dimensional villain, and her BFF isn’t the stereotypical “mean girl.” They’re just people who are also changing and growing, and not necessarily 100% in-line with the main character. She and BFF don’t tear each other down, but they do fight with and lie to each other the way friends do, especially at an age where they’re trying to determine who they are as individuals. A multi-layered coming-of-age story, Heidi does a fantastic job of making each character the hero of their own story.

Heidi herself has published numerous articles and short stories in such magazines as Missouri Conservationist and Green Prints, as well as placing third in Writers of the Future. She’s also a Pitch Wars alum; I’d just signed another Pitch Wars alum before reading her query, so I was hopeful magic would strike twice — and it did!

Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be working with Heidi and OPERATION MAGIC!

*A slush pile success story! Fun fact: I find the vast majority of my clients from queries.

Debutatens Guide to RebellionA very happy publication day to Kathleen KimmelA Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion is a companion novella to her Birch Hall Regency romance series and set chronologically before A Lady’s Guide to Ruin, the first book in the series.

While it’s populated almost entirely with new characters, fans of A Lady’s Guide to Ruin will appreciate the appearance of a few tertiary characters, including Lady Copeland and her infamous diamonds! For those who haven’t read Lady’s GuideDebutante’s Guide works perfectly as a standalone read, and there are no spoilers in either the book or the novella.

Ramblings From This Chick called A Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion “adorable” and “too cute.” Rachel McMillan, author of the Herringford and Watts series, says it’s “a gem” and “probably the best novella” she’s read. (I humbly agree; also, I’m totally not biased at all. ;) ).

A bashful botanist and a reluctant debutante are about to discover that there may be a science to seduction after all…

London, 1815: Lady Mildred Weller (Eddie to her friends) has few prospects for marriage. If she can’t attract the available—though considerably older—Lord Averdale, she may be doomed to spinsterhood. She’s even willing to enter into that loveless union, if only to escape her mother’s stifling and increasingly desperate dominance. And she may have found the perfect person to help her achieve that goal.

Ezekiel Blackwood is a botanist as well as Lord Averdale’s nephew and heir. He is also a social disaster. Cross-pollination he understands; the fairer sex not at all. But in Lady Eddie, he discovers a kindred spirit. When she asks for his assistance in assessing Lord Averdale’s interest in her, Ezekiel is crushed. But naturally, he thinks, she could never fall in love with someone like him. Ezekiel’s matchmaking cousin  is only too happy to arrange a discreet rendezvous for their conspiracy—a greenhouse. Of course in such a setting, it’s only natural that feelings might begin to bloom…

This is a sweet* Regency read for those looking for an afternoon treat. Also features two adorably awkward leads, terrible dancing, and botany! And, fun fact, there’s an excerpt for the second Birch Hall novel, A Gentleman’s Guide to Scandal, at the end!

*A Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion is clean, focusing on the courtship (and a wonderful first kiss). Kimmel’s novels are decidedly more explicit.

Long story short: In mid-December, an author came to me with a publication offer pending for her novel, and after a whirlwind of reading and emailing back and forth (deadlines, man), I was thrilled to offer her representation and take over the negotiation process. That process has finally officially concluded, and I can finally share the exciting news!

K. C. Alexander and her cyberpunk novel, NECROTECH, has sold to Angry Robot!  It’s a transhumanist masterpiece of cyberpunk and technology run amok, complete with an in-your-face female lead who doesn’t take no shit from nobody. Stephen Blackmore (Broken Souls) and Jason M. Hough (Zero World) summed up my own thoughts perfectly, calling it a “tight, violent thrillride” and “vulgar, vicious, and very very good,” respectively. And, lucky readers, the novel is currently slated for publication this September!

K. C., who you may know as Karina Cooper for her award-winning steampunk urban fantasy series, has made the leap into SFF, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with her.

SF Signal and Angry Robot have more information about NECROTECH (including a fantastic guest post from K. C.), so be sure to hop over!