LARKSTORM (LARKSTORM #1) by Dawn Rae Miller

Here’s the official LARKSTORM summary:

In the years following the destructive Long Winter, when half the world’s population perished, the State remains locked in battle against the Sensitives: humans born with extra abilities. 

As one of the last descendants of the State’s Founders, seventeen-year-old Lark Greene knows her place: study hard and be a model citizen so she can follow in her family’s footsteps. Her life’s been set since birth, and she’s looking forward to graduating and settling down with Beck, the boy she’s loved longer than she can remember.

However, after Beck is accused of being Sensitive and organizing an attack against Lark, he disappears. Heartbroken and convinced the State made a mistake, Lark sets out to find him and clear his name.

But what she discovers is more dangerous and frightening than Sensitives: She must kill the boy she loves, unless he kills her first.

 

What’s your ideal YA novel?  Fantasy? Dystopian? Romance?  Perhaps all three rolled up into one delicious yet devastating package?  Then this is your lucky week!

LARKSTORM just came out in paperback, and I’m so excited to share this book with you that I’m giving a copy away!  I’ve loved this story for SO. LONG.—even in its early, pre-pubbed form, Dawn’s striking prose grabbed me and didn’t let go until the last heart-stopping moment.

Dawn created such a fascinating world and setting for Lark and Beck, and the relationship between the two of them felt so real. I love that Lark is a powerful character, and how the reader gets to experience the emotional roller-coaster right along with her.  I don’t want to give too much away, but fans of star-crossed love stories NEED this book.  N-E-E-D.

 

The Contest: 

Win a paperback copy of LARKSTORM by Dawn Rae Miller AND a $15 gift card to Amazon.

To enter, just leave a comment with your name, email address, and your favorite tragic love story of all time. (+1)

You can get additional entries by:

Tweeting this contest (+1)

Blogging or Facebooking this contest (+1)

BONUS:  Back when Dawn was first brainstorming titles for this book, a few of her friends came up with some really helpful (*cough*) attempts. IF you can come reasonably close to one of my spectacular title fails, I’ll give you your own free copy of LARKSTORM.

The Fine Print:

Contest ends on Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 at 6:07 pm Pacific Time.  (Okay, so I probably won’t be checking down to the minute, but still…it sounded more interesting than a round number)

GO! ENTER! WIN!

(And if you don’t, you can buy your own copy of LARKSTORM here.)

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A few weeks ago I was in my car with the kidlets, driving on the freeway and listening to the radio. My 7-yr-old son started singing along to one of the popular songs he recognized—Grenade by Bruno Mars—and even my 3-yr-old daughter chimed in. Now, I’d heard that song PLENTY of times before, but I guess I’d never paid attention to the lyrics. Something about those little kid voices really drove them home, though, and when that happened, my jaw pretty much hit the floorboard.

Whoa.

Now, if you’re part of the YA community, you’re undoubtedly aware of the heated debate over whether or not YA books should promote good role models and healthy relationships.  Love interests in particular, especially in paranormals, are hotly contested.  The classic example is Mr. Sparkle Pants himself, Edward. Is he a psycho, murderous stalker or the epitome of true love?

I’ll leave that decision up to you.

I’m curious, though.  We talk about books a lot, but what about music?  Do you all ever ponder the messages about life and love being relayed in popular songs lately?  Do you think they’re promoting unhealthy relationships?

For example, back to Grenade. Now, I know several people who think it’s a great song. So romantic!  So sweet!

My thoughts, after listening to the lyrics spill from my children’s mouths?  So obsessive!  So creepy!

No, really. Here are a few lyrics from this “romantic” and “sweet” song:

I’d catch a grenade for ya
Throw my hand on a blade for ya
I’d jump in front of a train for ya
You know I’d do anything for ya

I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby

Um, okay. Because nothing says, “I love you” quite like flying body parts, spurting blood, and oozing bits of brain.

It goes on to say:

But you won’t do the same

Yep. That’s a little thing I like to call Not-Being-an-Obsessive-Crazy-Person.  Basically, the narrator of this song is lamenting the fact that his girlfriend will not engage in a Romeo-and-Juliet-mutual-suicide-pact kind of love with him.  You know what I say to that? BRAVO GIRLFRIEND!

Now, let’s take a look at another popular song, this one by Eminen and Rihanna. First, the narrator talks about a physically abusive relationship but begs the girl to come back, promising to change. At the end, though, he says this:

I apologize
Even though I know it’s lies
I’m tired of the games
I just want her back
I know I’m a liar
If she ever tries to f*cking leave again
I’mma tie her to the bed
And set the house on fire

Dude. Do you really need me to tell you all the ways in which threatening to burn your significant other to death is Not. Okay?

But—wait! It gets better! Here is S.O.’s response:

Just gonna stand there
And watch me burn
But that’s alright
Because I like
The way it hurts

Note:  When your ex threatens to light you on fire, the appropriate response is not “oh, that’s okay—I kind of like it.”  No, it’s RUN YOUR BUTT off to the nearest police station and get a restraining order, STAT!

(Obviously, these are just a couple of examples. I’m positive there are other disturbing send-your-girlfriend-up-in-flames songs out there, just like there are songs where turning your significant other into a pile of ash remains a no-no, too.)

Back to my kids. I wasn’t sure how to handle it at first—should I turn every time those songs came on?  Quit listening to the radio with them altogether?  But that’s not really my style.

Ultimately, my decision regarding songs is the same as the one I support for books.  I talked to both of my kids—especially the older one—about how ridiculous I found the ideas in those particular songs. We all had a good laugh, and now it’s pretty much a running joke every time those songs come on.

What do you all think? If you think books with unhealthy relationships are problematic, do you extend this to songs as well?  And if so, how do you/would you handle it with kids?

Also, tune back in on Thursday, when I’ll post another ARC giveaway!

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Good news!!!

Posted by houndrat on Friday Jan 14, 2011 Under writing, Young Adult

So, you know how I was MIA from the blog a lot at the end of last year?  Well, I was kind of busy. I can’t tell you HOW EXCITED I am to finally share one of the things keeping me preoccupied:

WOO FREAKING HOO!!!!!

I know, right?  A BOOK DEAL?  I’m still in shock, too. But at least the PM announcement makes it feel slightly less surreal.  I’m so thankful for my wonderful agent, Taylor Martindale of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, who talked me off several ledges along the way, and Editor AwesomeSauce Claudia Gabel, who I’m so excited to work with, it’s not even funny!

Also, this book deal was a bit atypical–you may have noticed it’s not for my book I snagged my agent with–and I’m looking forward to sharing my journey to publication with you!!!  Only, I have to run around SQUEEEING a little more first!

Stay tuned…..

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a bit of a trend lately in YA books—heck, all books, for that matter. The trend? That much less wordage is going into describing the characters’ clothes.

I’m sort of guessing this is a backlash from the decline of chick lit, and even though this makes me very sad—I love, love, love my Bridget Jones and Sophie Kinsella! (and NOT just because I can relate to the Queen of Babble! Really!)—I do get it. Sort of. I mean, I get that people don’t want oodles and oodles of brand names to smack them upside the head every time they turn the page. To be sure, some of those books definitely read like product placements look in movies. Like, the authors deserved some serious kickbacks, or at the very least, free purses. ‘Cuz you can never have enough of those. Especially when you defile them as rapidly as I do.

But, on the other hand…I sort of miss the descriptions of outfits, of what the characters are wearing at any given time. Call me girly if you will (though, this is kind of amusing, given the dust gathering on my hair-styling appliances) or fashion conscious (HA! Even more amusing since most of my capris are older than my soon-to-be first grader)…or, better yet, call me someone who thinks clothes can say a lot about a character.

I mean, picture a high-school guy wearing a buttoned-up collared shirt and khakis to class, and another wearing a Sex Pistols t-shirt and ripped jeans. Without knowing anything else, you’ve suddenly got a few clues into their respective personalities. Provided they aren’t wearing those outfits to be ironic. Or it’s Halloween. Anyway.

To prove my point, I’m posting the names of popular YA characters below, followed by the kind of swimsuit I envision those characters wearing.

Yeah, okay, so maybe it’s an excuse for me to screw around on the net plan my new life as a swimsuit designer distract myself from the impending 2-day car ride of doom with the kidlets (meep!) But seriously, I think people’s personalities and circumstances influence their clothing choices—even swimwear. How your character dresses him or herself really might give your reader some new insight.

First up: Katniss from Hunger Games. Okay, so let’s face it: Katniss has no time for frivolity. She’s either helping her family survive, or she’s battling for her own life in the Hunger Games. So no cutesy, decorative crap for her—she needs sleek, fast and utilitarian. Hence I think this Speedo skinsuit would work:

Lean, mean, swimming machine!

Lean, mean, swimming machine!

Now, tell me this doesn’t say something about the wearer, especially if that person wasn’t at a swim meet?

Next up, Grace from The Dark Divine. Grace is a little old-fashioned in some ways, and given her father’s profession and her church-oriented upbringing, I just can’t see her being comfortable flashing a ton of skin. So I pictured her in something a little retro with good coverage:

Polka Dots, for the win!

Polka Dots, for the win!

Really, doesn’t this suit say that? That here’s a girl who isn’t trying to flaunt a bunch of skin, but is comfortable with herself all the same? Unlike the next character, Rose from Vampire Academy, who, let’s face it, realizes she’s hot and has no shame in sharing her hotness with others. I totally picture her wearing a skimpy string bikini:

Flaunt it, baby!

Flaunt it, baby!

And finally, the sparkly-vamp loving girl herself, Bella Swan. For the most part, Bella is a totally self-conscious character, one who eschews attention. So I envisioned her in a plain Jane black swimsuit—one that wouldn’t make anyone look twice, with good coverage, no frills, just generic.

The Safe Choice

The Safe Choice

So, what do you think? Do you agree with the overall style of my choices for these characters? And that clothes say something about a character’s personality? And, most importantly—what style of swimsuit do YOU wear?

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As I closed Fire (an awesome book—I rarely enjoy high fantasy and gobbled this one up), I had several thoughts raging through my head, but two were predominant. One was, “HOW COULD SHE DO THAT TO ARCHER? DOES KRISITIN CASHORE HAVE NO SOUL?!” Quickly followed by, “Oh my God—I’m an ARCHER-phyle—does this mean my feminist card has been revoked?”

fire-1

I’m still pondering that last question.

Let’s face it—it seems pretty obvious that Cashore penned Brigan to be the perfect feminist love interest. He trusts Fire, he’s okay with her risking her life to help the kingdom if that’s her choice, he respects her as an equal.

And then there’s Asher: jealous, possessive, and man-whore of the Dells. Talk about a guy who likes to shoot his arrow. A LOT. I mean, preferring macho Asher to sensitive Brigan? Really? Maybe I should just give up my voting rights and knit my husband some slippers while he goes to a strip club.

Um.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s not all there was to it for me. Yes, Archer might have had some issues he needed to work out (some issues I think were caused in part by his and Fire’s emotional imbalance—he was madly in love with her, she did not feel the same) but he was so ALIVE. Fun. Vibrant. And for me, well, Brigan was kind of a sad-sack. *ducks rotten tomatoes from the horde of Brigan fangirls out there*

Really, though—I get that Brigan has HUGE, important issues to contend with, I do. His constant role as defender of his kingdom weighs heavily on him, so it’s not exactly appropriate for him to run around skipping and singing Lady Gaga all the time. But I also don’t find morose men especially attractive. Technology in Brigan’s kingdom just came up with reattaching amputated limbs—surely they could conjure up some anti-depressants, too? Because I think the poor guy could use some.

So for me, a big part of the Archer versus Brigan thing has nothing to do with feminism, and everything to do with personality. Like I said on twitter, I’m afraid for Fire, really afraid that after spending too much time with Brigan, she’s going to lock herself in her bedchamber and listen to the fantasy equivalent of Morrissey until she’s too depressed to do anything but eat chocolate and make the maids act out soap operas.

To be totally fair, some of my blatant Archer favoritism may stem from me being spoiled by romance novels. While I guess it’s more realistic for the love interest not to put the heroine number one before everything in real life, I think for Brigan, Fire ranked about 4th, after leading the army, his brother the King, his daughter, etc. For Archer, she was number one, and realistic or not, that’s worth something to me.

But no matter how much I explain, I can’t shake the feeling that Betty Friedan is rolling in her grave.

So, after donning my flame-proof suit, I have to ask–what do you all think? Archer or Brigan? And why?

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On Synopses and Sex and the City

Posted by houndrat on Thursday Jun 3, 2010 Under writing, Young Adult

Sequel synopsis update: Major fail. I have a page and a half of ideas, so at least it’s starting to take form. The bad news? It’s a huge jumble. Have I mentioned before how hard it is to be a pantser sometimes?

But there is progress. There are now two semi-coherent paragraphs that actually sound like I know what I’m talking about. But the rest is kind of…non-existent sketchy.

I mean, I’m reasonably certain my agent Taylor will NOT be impressed if I send her the following:

Trent…
Training exercise goes awry.
Before that can happen, though, the students must do x.
DEMONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Steph?
Foreshadowing scene…..
How many die??
DEMONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, this was cut and pasted from the second half of the actual synopsis. Just further proof that my brain, eet ees scary!

Anyway, in an effort to procrastinate hope it writes itself give my mind a little break, I decided to concentrate on something of vast importance: Sex and the City. Specifically, I’m wondering—which Sex and the City girl are YOU?

It came up on twitter the other day, and it got me thinking—I’m none of them. None. But, I do have favorites, and they might surprise you. Here’s my mini rundown of each character, in descending order of how much I like them.

Charlotte:

charlotte jpeg
Pros: Sweet, proper, perfect wife
Cons: Sweet, proper, perfect wife. Honestly? Charlotte kinda bugs the snot out of me at times. Of all the characters, I honestly think she’s the most underdeveloped, and her pseudo-primness makes me want to wallpaper her car with pages ripped out of Playgirl.? She is a good friend in a crunch, though.

Carrie:

carrie
Yep, believe it or not, Carrie is my second least fave character. While she does have an amazing wardrobe, goes to cool parties, and gets to work as a writer (bonus points for that), let’s face it—she’s also kinda whiny and centers her life around men wayyyy too often for my taste.

Samantha:

MCDSEAN EC106

Okay, so yeah, she’s narcissistic, a bit silly and overdramatic sometimes, but OMG–the woman knows how to have F.U.N! She’s also confident, successful, grabs life by the balls (often literally) and for the most part, doesn’t chase after some guy like he’s the salvation of the universe. She may be over-the-top, but you gotta love her even more for that.

Miranda:

miranda

?
I think Miranda is actually the most honest, thoughtfully drawn character on the show. She’s got a career, she’s got a kid, she struggles with body image sometimes, has romances but doesn’t live and die by men, and has a practical streak and a brain. She’s a perfect foil for the more flamboyant Carrie and Samantha.

So, who’s your favorite?

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Either this synopsis or my purse will kill me. You decide.

Posted by houndrat on Thursday May 27, 2010 Under writing, Young Adult

It’s white. It’s scary. It’s an UNWRITTEN SYNOPSIS—EEEEEEEEK!!!!!!!

So, I’m getting ready to go on sub soon (yay!) and my lovely Agent has suggested I work on a synopsis for the sequel to Demon Guard. You know, just in case. Yeah,that’s right—a synopsis for a book that HASN’T BEEN WRITTEN YET.

Gulp.

Now, I know lots of writers who express hatred/fear/paranoia about outbreaks of hives when the word “outline” is mentioned. Believe me when I tell you—no one can match my terror. No one. I mean, seriously, do you have ANY idea how hard this is for me? Me, the person whose brain is so disorganized, my mom’s almost OCD-style neatness genes ran shrieking out of the egg at the mere thought of coming near little embrionic moi? Because, let’s face it. Outlines imply organized thinking. And I repel organization.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a reminder: a sneak peek inside my purse. Oh, it looks innocent enough from the outside:

see how innocent it looks?

see how innocent it looks?

But unzip that sucker and here’s what you’ll find:

Wait--is something in there MOVING?

Wait--is something in there MOVING?

Though, maybe find is the wrong word. An oxymoron really, when it comes to hunting down items inside this dark abyss of funk:

Oh, look, cashew crumbs!  Too bad we haven't bought those in months...

Oh, look, cashew crumbs! Too bad we haven't bought those in months...

The good news? I’ve got hand sanitizer! ‘Course, I’m the only person who needs it to protect her from the cooties lurking INSIDE her purse, but hey, what can you do?

I wonder if it comes in the gallon size?

I wonder if it comes in the gallon size?

And some of you thought my UF was kinda scary–HA! ? I know, maybe I should write a YA horror novel, involving a purse that grows people-eating monsters. All from digesting a mish-mash of stale Cheerios, dried up Play-Doh bits, and Chuck E. Cheese ticket-lint.

Yum.

(No joke–something in there stabbed me in the leg once, through the bottom of my purse. I’m scared.)

No, I have no idea of what all’s in there, and frankly, I don’t want to know. When it starts smelling bad enough, I’ll just rescue my wallet, toss the rest and buy a new one. All hail cheap Target purse-wear.

So, yeah, this pre-synopsis thing is kind of kicking my butt. Send help.

And purses.

Seriously, though, how do you outliners do it? No, really?

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Teaser Tuesday….Now That’s a Haircut!

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday May 25, 2010 Under writing, Young Adult

OMG, I’ve been such a blog slacker lately! I think the pre-sub stress is getting to me (but hey, by the time I actually go on sub, I should be broken in, right? :D In the meantime, I’ve put in about 14k on a new WIP–which is not this one. I’m contrary like that. This is a snip from an older WIP that’s gathering dust at the moment. Hope you enjoy! (P.S. I swear, I started this novel prior to getting my awesome agent, who is named Taylor like my extremely messed up MC–EEEEK! Sorry, Taylor!)

“Although, you can’t blame them for being jealous. You really do have amazing hair.” He tugs on a strand, letting it slide between his fingers until it falls back into place.

Your hair is amazing, Taylor. You’re so lucky–I wish mine was long and wavy like yours.

Lainey’s voice, filling my ears. Lainey’s fingers, running through my hair the same way.

I stumble back as anxiety claws its way up into my throat, dimming my surroundings. My hair. I can still feel her fingers tugging it, separating it into sections for a braid. I used to love having people play with my hair. Now, I feel like something heavy is trying to suffocate my head, like the strands brushing my neck are trying to choke me. I can’t take it. I can’t—

“I’ve got to go,” I blurt, before scooping up my backpack and dashing for the door. I don’t wait to see what he says, but sprint for the bathroom. Please be empty, please, please.

I burst in, heart hammering, worrying half the school chose this very moment to take a pee break. Luckily there’s no one inside. The panic is nearly drowning me now. I yank at my hair until tears spring to my eyes. Keep yanking, but it won’t come off. I hate it. People see my hair and think they know me. They don’t. Those stupid blond strands aren’t me, not anymore.

I wish mine was long and wavy like yours.

I stare at my reflection blindly. Then, I dig frantically through my backpack for my knife.

The relief hits the second my fingers touch the cold metal, but it’s short-lived. Get it off, I have to get it off. I yank a strand taut with the other hand and start sawing away.

A huge chunk of blond floats to the floor. Followed by another. And another. Once I start, I can’t stop. It’s amazing how every butchered piece releases a little of that rib-grinding pressure from my chest, eases the solidified feeling in my lungs. Pretty soon, the entire floor is littered with hair. It looks like someone buzzed a fucking Golden Retriever in here. I don’t stop, though. I don’t stop until every last strand is gone—and I can finally breathe again.

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Do the Write Thing for Nashville

Posted by houndrat on Friday May 14, 2010 Under writing, Young Adult

I’m excited to announce that my group blog, GotYA, got together a prize package for the Do the Write Thing for Nashville. It’s up for auction NOW—if you’re an unagented YA writer, go! Bid! Win some cool stuff, and more importantly, help Nashville recover from this terrible disaster!

Nashville GotYA auction

For more info on the prizes, check out the post about it on our group blog:

GotYA

Well, what are you waiting for? Go bid–if not on our package, then someone else’s! Let’s all work togther to support Nashville during this crisis!

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Flashback Friday…songs that take us back

Posted by houndrat on Friday May 7, 2010 Under music, writing, Young Adult

So our Flashback Friday post is up on the GotYA homepage. This week’s topic is Songs that Take Us Back, and there might even be, cough, singing.

I had a really hard time choosing just one song for this because I was hugely into music in my teens, and believe it or not, there was a ton of great stuff to pick from (thank you, KROQ). Honorable mentions include songs by Guns n’ Roses, the Beastie Boys, General Public, and the Cult (Love Removal Machine, for the win!) ((Plus, OMG, all that fab music by New Order, Pet Shop Boys, the Cure, the Smiths, etc).

But this next song is really the one that takes me straight back to my teen years like a musical time machine (not to be confused with a hot tub time machine, although, hey–that took them back to the ’80′s, too, right?) I mean, how can you not love lyrics that talk about candy, diamonds and pills? Um.

Anyway, here you go. Enjoy.

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