Sunday, January 16, 2022

Out With The Old. In With The New. And Sometimes Back To The Old Again by Allie Burton

 Looking forward.

As a writer, sometimes you just need to switch it up. When you sit down at the keyboard and feel as if some of your writing is stale, it means it’s time to try something new.

I’ve written sixteen young adult fantasy books. In between my first two series (Lost Daughters of Atlantis and Warrior Academy), I wrote 6 adult contemporary romance books—a complete departure from young adult fantasy. The break did me good. I felt fresher when I started writing my current series, A Glass Slipper Adventure.

Now with the 5th book in the series coming out next month (Snow Warrior White), and in the final stages of writing the 6th book, it’s time for another break.

So what should my break be? My brain is sizzling with ideas.

A young adult historical? Or perhaps a young adult contemporary romance? Or back to the adult contemporary romance series I’d started? (I’d hinted at other books to come.)

So many possibilities.

And that’s what ‘out with the old, in with the new’ means to me. Possibilities.

While I will go back to my A Glass Slipper Adventure series (I have so many twisted fairytales to tell), I’m looking forward to starting something fresh to me. Something different. Something new.

Comment below if you’d like to vote for one of the above or suggest your own genre. I’m open to all…possibilities.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Out With Isolation, In With Community! (Sydney Salter)

 In 2022 I am finding new writing groups! 

Years ago when I first started writing fiction, a group of us in a new moms group discovered a shared passion for writing, so we started meeting in the Barnes & Noble children's section. Our toddlers would entertain themselves while we attempted some fiction (all of our kids grew up loving to read). My toddler is now weeks away from graduating from law school, the younger one is finishing college, so I've been at this writing stuff for a long time. 

Our Barnes & Noble group graduated to the cafe, and anyone with an inkling to write was welcome to stop by on Tuesday mornings for writing exercises, conversation, critiques, and camaraderie. Some days we had six or eight writers join us. People slipped away, others joined. And then we went through a lot of slipping away.

Now I am the only one who regularly writes fiction. So I stay home on Tuesday mornings now (even before the pandemic). Writing is hard. And the business of writing is even harder. I understand when people find easier passions to pursue. But I sure miss that sense of community and friendship. 

So I am getting back out there in 2022 and joining a craft, community, and career course through the Highlights Foundation, as well as a critique group through Women Writing the West. The f-*&#^)!-ing pandemic won't stop, so I am seeking virtual writing pals.

Out with isolation, in with community! 


Comment #6: Ashley! 

(Winner selected by random dice roll! Ashley won with double threes!)

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Greetings. All the best to you in 2022!

For the first three months of this year, I'm going to post reviews of three YA books I've recently read, loved and highly recommend.  Each features diverse characters, not often enough encountered in the genre.

I begin this month with The Prophetess by Evonne Marzouk

Why I loved this book.

There aren't many YA books that not only feature Jewish main characters but engage them with issues of faith.  This book does that and more.  It explores the mystical aspects of Judaism and also broadens its lens to include the ways in which people of faith across religious beliefs share similar values and commitments.  Plus, the writing is strong, the characters well drawn and intriguing, and some of the prose is quite beautifully crafted.

What the book is about.

Rachel is a high school senior in a Baltimore public school. While her family is Jewish, they aren't especially observant, except in situations, like holidays, out of respect for the Orthodox faith of Rachel's grandfather. When her grandfather dies early in the book, Rachel and her mother honor him and attend his Orthodox synagogue for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) services.  It's at this synagogue that Rachel first sees an older Jewish man praying and feels drawn to him. The man, Yonatan, offers to help Rachel understand some strange flashes of light she's been seeing. Soon, he teaches her a form of Jewish meditation and the flashes of light become visions that she doesn't quite understand.

When she has the opportunity to travel to Israel with a youth group, it is there that Yonatan introduces her to a number of modern-day prophets and prophetesses, including the revered, elderly Devorah. As Rachel's connection to these prophets develops and her visions become more pronounced, she must make a decision about the direction of her future and her commitment to her faith.

Why I recommend this book.

How does an American teenager living a typical high school life reconcile a calling to her faith that she would never have expected? What does this mean for her long-time crush on her friend, Chris, a sweet boy who is a devoted Catholic? How can she explain these strange visions and her connection to Yonatan to her parents and her older sister, a ballet student who appears to be starving herself? What is Rachel's responsibility to her people and to her obligation to repair the world (tikkun olam)?

These are only some of the questions explored in The Prophetess. Along the way, Rachel has to make many small decisions culminating in one life-changing choice. One of her greatest allies is Chris, who not only quickly understands why they cannot move toward a romantic relationship, but who also accepts without question Rachel's experience of the visions and her need to follow a new path. Because Chris is steadfast in his own faith, he easily understands Rachel's need to be committed to hers.

There are many books where religion is set up to be a teen's nemesis, especially more highly observant religions with stricter rules and practices. The Prophetess is one of the few books that turns this on its head and claims faith as not only a positive choice but a life-affirming and joyous one. The book introduces readers to mystical and Orthodox Judaism as possible and understandable options for personal fulfillment.  

The message of The Prophetess can be summed up by Rachel herself in the final pages of the book, 

"I seemed to have left simple happiness behind months ago. What I had now was more complicated: a sense of purpose and meaning, a trust in something beyond myself. I had to believe I was doing the right thing, following my path where it led. When I focused on that, a deeper contentment seemed to resonate inside of me." 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Happy New Year! (Mary Strand)

The official theme at our YAOTL blog this month is “out with the old, in with the new.”

In other words, HaPpY nEw YeAr!

Nail Gaiman has made an art form (appropriately enough) out of clever words to greet the New Year, so I’ll post one of my favorites of his:

(I always like the kissing part in particular. No wonder I love writing YA.)

Truth is, I love new starts: annually, of course, but also monthly, weekly, and even daily. I write a somewhat ambitious “list of 100” goals each year, and I’ve noticed in the last five years that I manage to accomplish between 37 and 40 of them every single year. But hope springs eternal! My list this year includes getting a motorcycle license, learning to box, and performing onstage at First Avenue. (Yo! A girl’s gotta dream big!)

My list of 100 contains my bigger dreams, but I also scribble out to-do lists every day and every week, in a desperate attempt to keep myself on track.

Along with a lot of my writer friends, I also choose a word of the year. It’s on a post-it note on the door to my office, theoretically to inspire me each day. For 2022, it’s “FRUITION.” As in, I’ve been working on a ton of different things, especially in writing and music, and I’m hoping they all come to fruition in 2022. Or, well, at least 37-40 of them. No! Maybe I’ll nail 50 of them this year. You never know!

Okay, my true confession is that I’m an utter realist trapped inside the body of someone who SOUNDS like a crazy-ass optimist. (As in, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.) But at the beginning of each year, and even each week, and first thing in the morning most days of my life, I’m indeed an optimist as I scribble out all the things I plan to accomplish.

My hopes often get blown to smithereens. But the next day, the next week, and definitely the next year I’ll try again.

And I hope. Even despite the last couple of years we've just endured, I always hope. I hope you do, too.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at

Monday, January 3, 2022

Persistence is Key – by Janet Raye Stevens

Happy New Year YAOTL’ers and welcome to 2022! This month’s theme is, fittingly, out with the old and in with the new. New year, new projects, and a new word to guide my writing journey—persistence. Well, not really a new word, since persistence has been the story of my writing journey since day one.

I’ve been at this writing thing a long, long time. I sent out my first query letter in 2006, back when queries went via snail mail and traditional publishing was the only way to go. I queried a major publisher with my first novel, a YA about a Scooby gang that takes on an immortal, soul-sucking demon. A surprisingly fast few weeks later, a thin self-addressed envelope landed in my mailbox. What I expected to be a rejection was an enthusiastic note from the editor, asking to read the full manuscript. Well, that was easy, I thought. Next stop, New York Times best-seller.

Haha…no. I sent the manuscript, got a rejection months later, and my writing career has been a study in persistence ever since.

After realizing my immortal, soul-sucking demon story suffered from terminal first-book-itis, I tucked it under my bed and moved on. Undaunted, I wrote and revised a bunch of novels and short stories, started twice as many more, and queried, queried, queried. In short, I persisted.

The ups and downs since then have been many, both personal and professional. I’ve packed up and moved four times (including one jaunt halfway across the country), seen my kids graduate high school and college and move onto their adult lives, and I said farewell to some precious pets and beloved family members. I let my hair go gray. In between, I wrote.

I had some success in the form of several short stories published. I got The Call from an agent, who called back two days later to say they’d changed their mind. Got The Call again several years later that moved my career forward, but ultimately didn’t work out. I got The Call from an agent for a third time and this time it stuck, but still no traditional publishing deal.

At the beginning of 2021, I made the huge decision to go all-in with self-publishing. All-in means I didn't just dip my toe into the indie publishing pool, I chose to jump off the highest diving board I could find and publish three books in the space of three months. And since that wasn't challenging enough, I released three books in *three* different genres: a sweet contemporary Christmas romance, a World War II-set Terminator meets Somewhere in Time time travel adventure, and a historical suspense with a paranormal twist, also set in WWII. 


It's been an often hectic, sometimes scary, sometimes frustrating, frequently exhilarating journey, and always, always satisfying. My persistence paid off. I achieved my goals. But there’s still challenging work to do. My journey continues in 2022 as I plan to publish three more books. 

Nevertheless, I’ll persist.

Janet Raye Stevens writes smart, suspenseful, and stealthily romantic time travel, mystery, paranormal, and historical fiction for all ages. 

Connect with Janet and discover her books at:   

Saturday, January 1, 2022

YA Outside the Lines News!

 All the latest from our regular bloggers:

Malinda Lo won the National Book Award in the YA category for her novel, Last Night at the Telegraph Club.  An interview with her can be found here.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Wonderful Books Set Free (Free to You, Anyway) by Dean Gloster

             This end-of-year YA Outside the Lines post comes with a giveaway of five great books by wonderful YA authors I know.


           Read to the end to get instructions on how to win new copies of one of these. These are all books I love unreasonably and immeasurably. Along the way, I’ll tell you some of what I learned from them. I’ve listed them in the order I read them, from most recent to years ago.

            Furia is Yamile Saied Méndez’s beautiful breakthrough YA novel about 17-year old Camila “Furia” Hassan from Rosario, Argentina, who loves playing soccer and who must fight her way past a huge collection of obstacles (including possibly giving up love) to make it playing professionally in the U.S.

             Winner of the 2021 Pura Belpé Award and on a pile of “best book of the year” lists, it is a novel that, as Reese Witherspoon put it, “will set your dreams on fire…It’s fabulous.” By a soccer-loving author from the same barrio in Argentina as the protagonist, who herself came to the U.S. against long odds, it is a beautiful story, well-told, with a wonderful romance subplot. It’s also about something: Argentina, patriarchy, misogyny, domestic violence, love of sport, following your dreams, sacrifice, and loving something passionately that others don’t understand.


            Writing novels is hard. We might as well include the beating heart of what we care about deeply, so readers can feel it coursing through the story. Also, while Yamile knows and loves soccer, she gives us the game at a feel level, not a clunky technical breakdown (I spun with a pullback move…) That’s a lesson I need to learn for the soccer (and fight) scenes in my current WIP.

            On a side note, Yamile (who also wrote one of my favorite picture books, Where Are You From?) finished writing four books under contract this year, has five children, and practices a religion that prohibits you from selling your soul to meet publishing deadlines, so someday I hope to interview her about productivity habits.


            2021’s Into the Bloodred Woods, by one of my favorite people, Martha Brockenbrough, is one of the most stunning book I’ve ever read. It’s a fierce, feminist recrafting of several different fairy tales melded smoothly into one gripping story, told in a sure voice. There is heartbreak, high stakes, and human evil and cruelty. The only other thing I’ve ever read that invoked this kind of feel—blood-soaked feminist tale in a world of fairy tales become vivid and relevant to ours—is Christine Heppermann’s wonderful Poisoned Apples: Poetry for You, My Pretty.


            In Bloodred Woods, Princess Ursula tries to save the kingdom and its people from evil (and find a life for herself). There’s a wonderful sense that the author let the story gallop. (Heck, she let the werebears gallop.)


            One of the other things I learned from this beautifully crafted book is how I need to up my game on the opening lines and final, read-on lines of each chapter: “One fine day, an eyeless man with a mutilated face arrives in a village by a pale gray sea…” Oooh. Martha is the author of, among other things, wonderful picture books including I Am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story, the terrific YA The Game of Love and Death, and definitive biographies for young people including Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary, but this is her book that, for me, cut the deepest.  


            Adrienne Kisner has gone on to write other wonderful YA novels (Six Angry Girls, The Confusion of Laurel Graham), but her YA debut, Dear Rachel Maddow, has a special place in my heart: it’s fierce, funny, heartfelt, and full of creative profanity. After writing to her heroine Rachel Maddow for a school project, 17-year-old Brynn Harper starts writing more emails to Maddow that she never sends—about breaking up with her first girlfriend, dealing with the death of her brother, having a new horrible stepfather she calls “the fartweasel,” and about trying to correct injustice at her school, which leads her to activism and fighting for herself and her classmates. Things get worse in this epistolary novel, at school and at home, but Brynn finds new hope and even new love, with humor, heart, and resilience, guided by the thought, “What would Rachel do?”

             This book is a wonderful, quirky homage both to Rachel Maddow and to Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr. Henshaw made fresh and wholly Adrienne Kisner’s own. I loved Brynn’s voice and how Adrienne made us care deeply for her, falling through the cracks at school and from parental neglect, but choosing to climb back up by herself with the help of her friends. I continue to learn about voice from it and how voice brims with attitude, and I’m in awe that she could do this in a novel in email form.


            Ally Condie wrote the wonderful YA best-selling Matched trilogy and its sequel, The Last Voyage of Poe Blyth, but my favorite book of hers is her haunting, beautiful middle grade about loss and the mystery of friendship, Summerlost.


            A year after losing her father and younger brother in a car accident, Cedar Lee spends the summer in Iron Creek, Utah, where she develops an unlikely friendship with Leo and undergoes adventures set around the local Shakespeare festival. In this Edgar Award finalist story there are mysteries to solve—what happened to the famous actress who died there, what about the secret tunnels, and who is leaving things on Cedar's window sill? The real mystery, though, is that of the human heart: What makes someone you meet over the summer your best friend, and how do you come to terms with a loss like Cedar's? Kirkus says Ally Condie's prose is "immediate and unadorned, with sudden pings of lush lyricism," but it's way better than that: It's simple, stark and makes you feel like you're getting Cedar's thoughts directly, without any interposing filter. A wonderful, moving book full of heart. It taught me that you can lead with story, not just with the tap-dancing and hand-waving of voice and humor.


            A.S. King’s surrealistic books are weird and wonderful, unsettling, fierce, and full of both empathy and the explosive energy when our humanity impacts this difficult, troubling world. She won the Michael Printz award in 2020 for her novel Dig, and I love her other novels too, including Everbody Sees the Ants, Still Life with Tornado, and Ask the Passengers, but her breakthrough YA novel Please Ignore Vera Dietz had the biggest impact on me as a formative writer.


            High school senior Vera Dietz is grappling with the aftermath of the death of her ex-best friend Charlie, who hit her and then abandoned her for his druggie friends. Vera also knows, though, that Charlie didn’t commit the arson crime he was blamed for. Her approach to getting through life under the radar—please ignore Vera Dietz—will have to change for her to make things right, and she does.


            The book features, among other things, chapters from dead Charlie, from Vera’s dad in the form of flow charts, and from the narration by a pagoda-shaped building in town, which round out and deepen our understanding and give us more of the story than Vera understands herself. I realized, reading this book, that as a writer you can do almost anything in your novel, as long as you do it really well and it serves the story.


            Anyway, to win one of these books, be one of the first five to email me with BOOK GIVEAWAY in the subject line to my school email address: dean.gloster[at] As a bonus, you can tell me which book you’d prefer and if there’s one you’d prefer not to get (for example, because you have five copies already, to give to friends, which, frankly, everyone should have.) I’ll email you back if you win and get your shipping address. If it's later than about January 2, don't email about the giveaway (you probably missed out)--just buy all the books yourself and email me that you loved them.

             Thanks for reading to the end, and I hope 2022 has some wonderful gifts for all of us.

Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel—full of, well, scenes and some sequels--is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and an off-kilter sensibility, including a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 54 percent of his soul.


Thursday, December 30, 2021

My Love/Hate Relationship with Endings (by PJ Sharon)

Hello dear readers, and Happy Holidays!

I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of Diana Gabaldon’s latest tome in the Outlander series, Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone. In spite of loving every blessed minute, and immersing myself daily in Davina Porter’s impeccable narration, it took me weeks to get through it. I have difficulty finding enough hours in my life to sit and wade through a thousand-page novel these days, so audiobooks are a godsend. Listening while driving to and from work, while on the treadmill, doing housework, or fighting holiday traffic, I was swept away in the action, adventure, romance, history, and sheer complexity and genius of the plot. Then again, I’m a detail person and love lengthy prose about mundane musings—as long as the writing is awesome. Which it was! Fans may have been disappointed with some aspects of the storytelling (much of the story centered not on Jamie and Claire, but on familial struggles on the ridge, politics of the time, and the trials and tribulations of childrearing in the eighteenth century), but I was fascinated with every subplot and minutely detailed description, and the story wove together beautifully in my opinion...resolving some questions but leaving enough threads to carry through the next installment.

When I finally reached THE END, I was filled with a myriad of emotion…both good and bad. Gabaldon’s writing is always top-notch, and I loved the ending, which—without giving anything away—was a mix of resolution, cliffhanger, and promise for so much more yet to come in book 10! At the same time, I hate good-bye's and was sad to leave behind Claire, Jamie, and the whole awesome cast of characters for another three-year hiatus. It seems all the best books leave me bereft when I turn that final page. My only saving grace is that season six of the STARZ series begins in March! 

Because for me, the best part of any ending is the excitement of a new beginning—the unspoken promise that if you close a door, an open window will surely appear.

Ms. Gabaldon’s writing simultaneously makes me want to sit down to write the next world-renowned sensation, and yet makes me painfully aware that the bar has been set far beyond my talents…or ambitions. I think of the three years it takes Diana to write one of the Outlander novels, the painstaking research involved, and the work it takes to then sell and promote the books, and I feel more than a little overwhelmed. I haven't even been able (or willing) to finish the last novella I started at the beginning of the year, and frankly, it feels as if my inner young adult has little left to say at this point. She gives me an eye-roll and says, “blah, blah, blah” every time I sit down to write. It makes the exercise seem pointless, somehow, and leaves me feeling…hmmm.

The word I have chosen that depicts my inner angst is “squidgy”. That nauseous feeling you get when you know you don’t want to tackle that next big mountain and that maybe you’re looking in the wrong direction if what you’re seeking is an easier, less painful path. That’s kind of where I’ve been with my writing for a few years (one leg in and one leg out the door—which is an awkward and uncomfortable limbo I don't recommend), but the perfectionist in me—the one who hears her mom saying, “you can never give up”—pushes on, tries harder, and runs toward the pain, hoping that the spark of joy and the compulsion to write will return and the proverbial brass ring will be worth it in the end. Having said that, I’ve learned to listen less to old tapes and listen more to Mr. Squidgy over the years—and in fact, have made my worst choices when I listened to the crap in my head and ignored my gut. And that gut feeling has been telling me to let it go—for now.

When I finally listened to my intuitive self and stopped trying to hold on to something that was not working for me, Mr. Squidgy took his leave and I now feel lighter for having made the decision. I can’t say I won’t return to writing in the future, but after fifteen years of constant works in progress, deadlines, and to-do’s, it feels freeing not to HAVE TO write. And who knows, maybe that great American novel is percolating under the surface and will burst forth when I least expect it.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying spreading my creative wings by taking an art class and doing some woodworking projects, and I’m finding joy in expressing myself in this new way. Hey open window! It has lightened my spirit and that may be all it will take for the muse to resume her post, but for now, I’m just going to enjoy the break and follow my heart—which always seems to point me in the right direction.

All this to say, this will be my final post for YA Outside the Lines blog. It's been a great year getting to know you and I hope you've enjoyed all I've shared. I may pop in for a guest post now and then and I’m always around if anyone needs me, but I’ll say my version of “THE END” and leave you with my sincerest thanks for allowing me to be part of such a wonderful, dynamic group of writers, readers, and friends.

To celebrate the season of giving and as a parting gift, I'm offering a free digital copy of  SAMI'S CHRISTMAS WISH LIST. Just let me know in the comments if you'd like a copy and I'd be happy to gift it right to your Kindle or e-reader! Offer ends January 15th.

Seventeen-year-old Samantha Owens has had some hard knocks in life. It’s not like she tries to find trouble, but it seems as if trouble always finds her. When she’s forced to do community service helping with the Christmas pageant at the local church, Sami is surprised to find a spark of hope that her luck is changing—that spark being the smart, awesomely cute, and way out of her league, Travis Vance. Her track record with guys being less than stellar, Sami is afraid to hope that this time, things will be different. But maybe this Christmas, her wishes will all come true.

Read a free chapter on Wattpad, or find more books and their links on my website.

Write on, read on, and may you find peace and joy on the other side of whatever door or window you choose.


I hope all your dreams come true in the new year!



PJ Sharon

A licensed massage therapist by day, PJ Sharon is also an award-winning author of young adult novels, including PIECES of LOVE, HEAVEN is for HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and Holt Medallion-winner SAVAGE CINDERELLA. You can follow Brinn’s story in the Savage Cinderella Novella series which includes FINDING HOPE, LOST BOYS, SACRED GROUND, BROKEN ANGEL, and LIBERTY’S PROMISE.

 In addition to her contemporary YA lit, Ms. Sharon’s YA dystopian trilogy, The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, which RT Book Reviews calls “An action-packed read with a strong female lead,” is a sci-fi/fantasy adventure inspired by her fascination with “prepping” and her passion for environmental causes, as much as by her love of romance and the unending “what-if’s” that haunt her imagination.

 PJ has two grown sons, a growing brood of grandchildren, and lives with her brilliant engineer of a husband in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA where she writes, kayaks, and plays in the dirt as often as possible.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

You Get What You Pay For


It kills me when I find copies of my books in the remaindered bin at my local Goodwill. It makes me feel worse when it was a book I autographed to my now ex-boss, after he specifically requested a copy...Tim.

I am willing to send a copy of any of my five printed titles to the first five people who leave a good joke in the comments. US addresses only, and unfortunately, contributors here are ineligible. anyone reading this?

Friday, December 24, 2021

Giving it Away (Brenda Hiatt)

A year or two after I began indie publishing (after a longish career traditionally publishing), other, more experienced, authors advised me that an effective way to bring new readers to a series is to make the first book free. I hesitated for a really long time before trying that. It seemed so counter-intuitive to just give away my hard-earned work! Especially Starstruck, the first YA novel I ever wrote, since it took me the better part of three years to go from idea to publishable book. But when Starfall, the 4th (and, I thought at the time, last) book in the series was up for pre-order, I bit the bullet and set Starstruck free. 

And…it worked! I advertised it everywhere I could, lots and lots of readers downloaded it, and a healthy percentage of them went on to buy the other books in the series. In fact, it worked so well that instead of putting a price back on the book after the fourth book released (as I originally planned), I left it free and periodically advertised it again. Each time, the whole series got another nice boost in sales. 


Unfortunately, after a couple of years EVERYBODY apparently caught on to that strategy (and this was before the advent of Kindle Unlimited, which took “free” to a whole new level). These days, a permanently-free first book doesn’t do nearly as much to sell a series. Probably because by now, most ebook readers have so many freebies hoarded on their Kindles (or other devices), they never get around to reading most of them. Needless to say, if they never read that first book, they’ll never feel compelled to go online and buy the next book in the series, or the next. 


Sigh. It was nice while it lasted. 


Now that free downloads of Starstruck have dwindled to just a small handful per day, I’ve decided it’s finally time to start charging for it again. (Readers are more likely to read books they’ve actually paid for!) Since I have a new book in the series releasing in January, I’m using a slightly different strategy to lure in new readers: a (temporary) deep discount of the boxed set of the first 4 Starstruck books, from $14.99 to $1.99. 



Meanwhile, I will continue to offer Starstruck for free…but only to newsletter subscribers. For everyone else, it’s going back to $3.99. Still a great price for a 110,000 word book I sweated over for three years, and that’s garnered several nice awards and lots of lovely reviews. And I’ll probably set it free occasionally in the future as a special promo. 


Best practices change constantly in this crazy world of book publishing. All we can do as writers is pay attention and be ready to pivot when the next new thing comes along. Nearly any strategy is worth at least trying, to see how it works for a particular book, series or author. To find out, we just have to close our eyes, pinch our noses…and jump!


 Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the award-winning Starstruck series. This week only,
Starstruck: The Complete Four-Book Series is on sale for just $1.99 in advance of the January release of  Unraveling the Stars, currently available for pre-order.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

You get presents! by Patty Blount

 Holiday greetings to all! 

In honor of the season of giving, we here at YA Outside the Lines are giving away all sorts of gifts. 

I'm giving away a digital copy of my books -- you choose the title. 

You can choose:

SEND -- my debut novel about a former bully trying hard to cope with the suicide he caused. 

TMI -- a novel about two best friends whose friendship unravels after one divulges too much information online.

SOME BOYS -- an award-wining novel about a young girl trying to heal after a brutal assault

NOTHING LEFT TO BURN -- a story about teen volunteers in a fire fighters' program coping with grief and parental expectations

THE WAY IT HURTS -- two teens who each dream of stardom discover fame isn't all they expected

SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW -- an award-winning novel about how sexual assault impacts families, especially this once-close brother and sister. 

Or...perhaps you'd like to read one of my romances? 

A MATCH MADE AT CHRISTMAS -- this holiday romance has it all -- Christmas in New York City, quirky characters, an emotional journey, a baby -- and of course, a happy ending.

THE PARAMEDIC'S RESCUE -- this is the sequel to MATCH set in NYC during summer. If you like second-chance romances, you'll enjoy seeing single mom Kara and divorced paramedic Reid butt heads.

NOBODY SAID IT'D BE EASY -- another second-chance romance set in NY -- this time, in the borough of Queens. Widowed dad Gabriel falls for a tenant in his building but his four daughters have a lot to say about the situation. 

To enter, just head over to my website and sign up for my newsletter. The giveaway starts 12/22/2021 at noon Pacific time and ends on 12/31/2021 at noon Pacific time. I'll contact the winner by email. 

A very happy and merry and healthy holiday season to all! 

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

A Blue So Dark Giveaway (Holly Schindler)

I'm going to be re-releasing my very first YA novel in 2022. A Blue So Dark's getting a facelift and a bit of a minor revision. 

Blue originally released in 2010, at the height of book blogging. Man, I loved the blogging community. (I still believe in the power of blogging.) I got such a warm welcome. So many excited readers and librarians to talk to. I even met my own local YA librarian accidentally during my blog hopping. We started emailing back and forth about my forthcoming release when we both said, "Wait. Where are you, exactly?" Turns out, her library was maybe a mile from my house. 

A first release is scary. It's all an unknown, and it's hard to put yourself out there. I mean, let's face it--you're basically letting anyone who wants to sift around the content of your brain and then write up a review that can be every bit as brutal as they want...

Only, they didn't. The bloggers were fun and they were respectful and...

Did I mention it was truly the best way to enter the publishing world? It was. It was fantastic. 

So I'm delighted to host my first giveaway for the re-release of Blue right here, on the YA blog. One paperback copy (US only).

All you have to do to enter is fill out the form below. If it gives you fits or doesn't display correctly, you can also email me at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

BONUS: Since A Blue So Dark is a forthcoming '22 book with no official release date as of yet, I'm also giving the winner one already-released ebook to tide the winner over until Blue's back out in the world.

The winner will be chosen on December 31. Good luck--and happy holidays!


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Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Unexpected Gift

 John Clark offering a Christmas tale with a giveaway at the end

Sylvia Dornay wasn’t looking forward to this Christmas, not that she’d mustered much excitement in previous years, but this one was different. She’d lost her only friend, Mrs. Rogers. Ever since moving to the group home after her parents abandoned her, being more interested in getting high than being responsible, she’d been gun shy about trusting and opening up to others. It didn’t help that everyone at school automatically labeled kids living at the home as losers or troublemakers. Despite having no control over her fate, the label stuck, leaving her with zero friends.

That’s why losing Mrs. Rogers to the assisted living facility across town hurt so much. The elderly lady had taken a shine to Sylvia when she returned her cat one day after finding it rummaging through a dumpster behind a fast food restaurant on her way home from school.

The woman said that Tinkerbell was an inside cat and had no experience surviving on her own, but had managed to slip out while her owner tried to discourage an overly eager pollster.

That act of kindness grew into an informal grandmother/granddaughter relationship. Sylvia might live among unruly and uncivilized kids at the group home, but she had great manners, and loved to listen when Mrs. Rogers talked about growing up during the Depression. As time went on and the older woman taught her how to bake cookies and fancy breads, Sylvia came out of her shell. She was able to talk about being abandoned by her parents and not being liked at school. Once she realized the older woman never tried to interrupt, but nodded supportively, she started to ask questions that had been building inside her for a long time.

To her credit, Mrs. Rogers didn’t dodge any of them, helping Sylvia to understand her body as well as realizing she didn’t have to be a people pleaser, the older woman’s description of how so many women sacrificed their self worth in order to attract and keep a man. Those discussions led to the her helping Sylvia with homework and even encouraging her to start thinking about going on to school after graduation.

It was right after Sylvia started her junior year when she found Mrs. Rogers lying on her kitchen floor, writing in pain. The girl wasted no time, calling 911 immediately. When she went to visit her friend and mentor at the hospital the following afternoon, she was greeted with bad news.

“Thank you for saving my life, my dear girl,” Mrs Rogers said. “I spilled some of Tinkerbell’s milk on the floor and didn’t realize I had done so until I slipped. I have a rather nasty hip fracture, as well as some cracked ribs. As much as I hate to admit defeat, it’s time for me to move to a place where I can be around folks who can take good care of me. If life were fair, I’d have you move in with me, but the rules regarding foster children, even at your age, prohibit that.”

Sylvia went numb at the thought of losing the one person in her life who mattered. After gathering herself sufficiently, she gave the older woman a gentle hug and a kiss on her cheek before excusing herself and returning to the group home.

How do I talk this one over, or more to the point, who do I talk this one over with? Sylvia wondered as she walked from the hospital. The last thing she wanted to do was make Mrs. Rogers feel guilty about not being there for her, but there was nobody else she trusted enough to vent, or help her figure things out. She went back to stuffing her feelings and put all her energy into school work.

Her saving grace came unexpectedly when she bought a working Discman at the thrift store for a couple dollars. The batteries were good and there was a classic rock CD inside. She’d had so few chances to listen to music in her life, she wasn’t sure what appealed to her, but as she walked home that afternoon, she found herself humming, and then singing along to some of the selections.

When the local librarian told her she could borrow music CDs as well as books, Sylvia went on a musical exploration, going through rock, rap, opera, movie sound tracks, country, and classical over the next couple months. The more she listened, the more she sang, realizing in the process that she not only had a very good voice, but could remember lyrics easily. However, she had no clue what to do with her newfound talent.

A week before Christmas, Sylvia gathered her courage and visited Mrs. Rogers at the assisted living residence. Guilt and loneliness made her get on the municipal bus and go across town on the Saturday before the holiday. She was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs when she stepped off the bus. What if she’s mad at me? Sylvia wondered.

She entered hesitantly, but the smiling receptionist quickly put her at ease, asking who she was visiting before walking her to a sunny room where Mrs. Rogers was reading by a flickering fireplace.

“I’ve missed you,” the older woman said, setting her book aside and hugging Sylvia. “Tell me how things are with you.”

The hug broke something hard inside her and Sylvia began crying softly.

Mrs. Rogers waited patiently until she was able to regain her composure.

“I’m so sorry to have taken such a long time to visit. I felt lost and didn’t know what to do other than avoid everyone and study like crazy,” she said, looking at her hands as if they might offer up something else to say.

“Well, part of that is good, but I think you know which one I mean. You can’t go through life expecting everyone to dislike you, or let you down. There must be something that makes your heart beat a little faster,” said Mrs Rogers.

Sylvia hesitated before taking the CD player out of her pocket. “I like to sing, but just to myself.”

“Show me.”

Sylvia looked around to make sure no one was near enough to hear her and began singing, first one of the soft rock songs from her original CD, then a show tune, and finally, a folk song by Woody Guthrie. She kept her eyes closed the entire time, imagining herself alone in the woods. She opened her eyes after the last song to find that Mrs. Rogers was tearing up, but smiling at the same time.

“That was beautiful. Would you fulfill a Christmas wish for me?”

Sylvia felt her anxiety rise, but she owed this woman for being there for her when nobody else had, so she gulped and nodded.

“We have a holiday gathering here on Christmas Eve. Almost everyone has family coming to share the joy, but I have no one, unless you come. Will you, and more importantly, will you sing for everyone on Christmas Eve? I know that probably sounds terrifying, but I believe in you.”

Sylvia nodded, still feeling very mixed. Part of what she felt was terror, but underneath that was an unidentifiable warm feeling, maybe gratitude because she would be able to give her best and only friend a meaningful gift.


Sylvia prepared by borrowing a couple Christmas CDs from the library and singing all the songs softly while walking to and from school. On Christmas Eve, she put on her only good dress and got on the bus.

Mrs. Rogers was waiting inside the front door with a corsage. After hugging Sylvia, she pinned it on her dress. “Let’s go get good seats.”

The community room was filling as they entered. Sylvia looked around at the decorations, then jumped as a toddler wrapped her arms around her legs while giving her a big gummy grin. The girl’s mother came over and freed the child while wishing them a merry Christmas.

After a surprisingly good pot luck supper, the activity director gave a short speech before waving to Mrs Rogers. “I believe one of our residents has a surprise for us tonight. Emma, why don’t you tell us about her.”

Mrs. Rogers stood, placing a comforting hand on Sylvia’s shoulder. “I’ll keep this short. My cat got loose a while ago and I was sure I’d never see her again, but this young lady managed to retrieve him without concern for her safety or cleanliness. She rescued Tinkerbell from a dumpster and tracked me down. We became unofficial grandmother and granddaughter. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to live alone after a fall, and that necessitated my coming here. The move was hard for both of us, but Sylvia put all her despair and loneliness into becoming a very good student. I was amazed to discover she also acquired a new talent, but I’ll let her show you.” She hugged Sylvia and sat down.

Yes, fear was still somewhere inside her when she stood, but Sylvia decided to ignore it as she closed her eyes and started singing. By the time she’d sung the The First Noel, all her discomfort had evaporated and she felt something new, confidence. She opened her eyes so she could enjoy the way her new gift was affecting everyone in the room and sang on.


Want a copy of the 2 volume 2021 BOULD Awards Short Story Anthology which has three of my stories in it, comment below. US only because of postage costs, alas.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Reading Is A Gift So Let Us Read

by Allie Burton

December is a month of giving and at YA Outside the Lines we’re doing a month of giveaways. For me, some of the best presents are books. So here are a few books for you:

Drum roll, please.  

#1 Click on the link below to get the latest book in my A Glass Slipper Adventure series, Snow Wicked White. (First 25 people only.)

#2 Tell me what you’re currently reading in the comments below and I’ll send you a free Apple Code for the first book in the same series, Cinderella Assassin.

#3 If you commented below on the book you’re currently reading, I’ll pick one lucky winner to receive a $25 Apple Gift card at the end of the month.

#4 Get Atlantis Riptide and Warrior’s Destiny for free everywhere. The following links are to the books page on my website where you can find your favorite retailer link.

Atlantis Riptide:

Warrior's Destiny:

#5 You can also join my newsletter and get the second book in the Lost Daughters of Atlantis, Atlantis Red Tide, free.

I hope this gives you plenty to read over the holidays! Since I just turned in Snow Warrior White to my editor, I know to celebrate I’ll be reading all month!


Friday, December 10, 2021

Gift Certificate Giveaway! (Sydney Salter)

 I am giving away a $25 gift certificate to! is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. We believe that bookstores are essential to a healthy culture and we are a benefit corporation, a company dedicated to the common good. 

Please leave a comment below to enter the contest! The gift certificate will be emailed to the winner.

AND THE WINNER IS.... Comment #6: Ashley! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

It's Better to...You know the rest

I work in philanthropy, so my entire professional life revolves around giving. It's not as easy as one might think to give away piles of money, especially if you're trying to improve the world.

But giving as an average individual (most of us are not Mackenzie Scott or Bill Gates) is a little bit more straightforward. Some of us give to our alma maters or to the local food pantry or soup kitchen. Many of us give when we're asked by family members or close friends who could be running or walking in a charity event or selling tickets to a gala dinner. Some of us give to that person sitting on the sidewalk with a paper cup in their hand or the busker playing an old Beatles' song on the subway platform with their guitar case open for donations.

Then there's the bags of clothing we donate to Goodwill or other similar places. We might donate an item for a silent auction (a weekend at our villa in Tuscany, perhaps?). 

In the US, there's an incentive for giving in the form of a tax write-off. There are charitable giving funds at places like Fidelity where you can park a whole lot of money, get the tax deduction, and take your sweet time doling out the cash to organizations.

Most of us give to charities without some grand strategy or plan the way I have to approach giving at my job. But even so, there are some rules of thumb that get circulated this time of year when people are being approached by large numbers of charities with their end-of-the-year asks.

  1. Obviously, you want to make sure the charity is reputable so that your donation isn't going to enrich the bank account of some individual. One good source for this is the site Charity Navigator
  2. Give to places that mean something to you. Everyone has a limited budget for giving, so devote those precious dollars to an organization that warms your heart. Once you know the charity is on the up and up, there's no reason not to look to your emotions. You might care about a certain location (your neighborhood? your summer retreat?), or a population, or an issue, or a specific organization. It's so nice to feel a sense of satisfaction that comes from giving to a place that feels special to you.
  3. Make your gift count. There are so many worthy charities out there even when you only consider those that are both reputable and meaningful to you. While it's fine to give your $100 to a large organization with a multi-million dollar budget, your gift will really count for more if you give that same $100 to a smaller group.  Find one small organization with a budget under $250,000, give them your hundred bucks and you'll know you've made a difference.
Last week I finished making my own individual contributions for 2021, and I'm lucky that my employer matches all of my gifts through a matching gift program. You may work for a company that does the same, so make sure you take advantage of that opportunity.

But while my cash giving is complete, my book giving is just beginning. So if you're interested in reading The Papercutter, the first book in The Split Trilogy, just comment on this post with your email address. I'm giving away one paperback copy and two e-books.  Let me know which you'd prefer.

Happy Holidays and remember It's Better to Give.