Category : Spotlight Week

This month’s Spotlight Week features THE WRITER’S COMPASS by author Nancy Ellen Dodd.


The Writer's Compass

224 pages, Softcover

Genre: Writing Resource

Published on June 29, 2011 by Writer’s Digest Books

ISBN-10: 1599631970

ISBN-13: 978-1599631974


About the Author

Nancy Ellen Dodd is a writer with many voices, a university instructor, and an editor. She received her master’s in Professional Writing (MPW, which is a multi-discipline approach to writing) from the University of Southern California with a concentration in dramatic writing/screenwriting and her MFA in playwriting at USC’s School of Theatre. Having studied writing for more than 25 years, Dodd currently teaches screenwriting at Pepperdine University for undergraduate and graduate students. Dodd has received numerous awards for her writing and studied with several successful, award-winning writers. Currently on faculty at the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University, Dodd serves as academic editor of the “Graziadio Business Review.”

Check out her website at and her blog at


Back Cover Blurb

How do you tell the story you want to tell and capture your audience’s heart? Regardless of genre or format, to tell your story effectively you must first sort through all the ideas you’ve been toying with–organize them, whip them into shape, and turn them into great writing. Whether you’re writing a novel, a short story, a play, or a screenplay, the 7 stage approach of The Writer’s Compass allows you to focus on one apect of your story at a time–including forming and developing ideas, building strong structures, creating vibrant characters, and structuring scenes and transitions. The path of a writer isn’t always easy. Let The Writer’s Compass be your north star by simplifying a wealth of writing advice into easily applicable concepts that will help you improve your craft.



Map out your idea and finish your story in 7 stages!

This book will show writers how to develop their ideas into a finished novel by working through it in 7 stages, while learning how to mapping out their story’s progress and structure so they can evaluate and improve their work. It teaches writers to visualize their story’s progress with a story map that helps them see all the different components of their story, where these components are going, and, perhaps most importantly, what’s missing.

The book simplifies Aristotle’s elements of good writing (a.k.a. that each story should have a beginning, a middle and an end) into easily applicable concepts that will help writers improve their craft. The author helps readers strengthen their work by teaching them how to focus on one aspect of their story at a time, including forming stories and developing ideas, building strong structures, creating vibrant characters, and structuring scenes and transitions. Thought-provoking questions help writers more objectively assess their story’s strengths and weaknesses so they may write the story they want to tell.


My Review


The author’s diverse writing background is apparent, as THE WRITER’S COMPASS seems to have been structured to be applicable not just to novels, but to short stories, plays and screenplays as well.

Author Nancy Ellen Dodd begins with an introduction to the writing life. Novice writers will appreciate this section, as it talks about how to build a writing life—from creating one’s writing time and space, to deconstructing bad writing habits, and developing an instinct for writing organically.

Part II delves into the meat of the writing book—the Story Map and the 7 Stage Process. The 7 Stages Dodd has created are:

Stage 1: Forming Stories and Developing Ideas,

Stage 2: Building Strong Structures

Stage 3: Creating Vibrant Characters

Stage 4: Structuring Scenes, Sequences, and Transitions

Stage 5: Increasing Tension and Adjusting Pacing

Stage 6: Enriching the Language and Dialogue

Stage 7: Editing the Hard Copy and Submitting


Each stage addresses the story elements that tend to require the most attention in terms of story development. The idea behind the 7 Stage Process is to lessen the amount of revision time for the writers. Structure is the main driving force behind the 7 Stage Process. The three-act structure, in particular, is the foundation behind many of the tools and techniques that Dodd shares through the book.

Dodd uses the analogy of building a house to explain how the 7 stages work:

“Much like constructing a house, the 7 Stages are based on developing the story foundation, then adding the structure, the roof, the walls, the flooring, painting and designer touches, and finally moving in. Each stage adds another level of breadth and depth to the story across the entire structure chart.”

Dodd emphasizes the importance of planning a draft and gives writers a tool to help them do just that—the Story Map. The Story Map helps writers map the elements of good storytelling. Using the Story Map, writers can gain valuable insight into narrative flow, and the possible weaknesses their story might have.

Plotters or writers who like outlines, will definitely enjoy the organizing aspect of the Story Map. Pantsers, (writers who write by the seat of their pants) may also benefit from using this tool, as it will give them a general idea of how their story flows, without forcing them to come up with too many story details.

In each of the 7 Stages, Dodd discusses specific methods and lists concrete steps to achieve that particular stage’s goal. For example, the goal in stage 3 is to create vibrant characters, so Dodd explains several elements to help the writer get to know their characters better. These elements include the character’s physiology, heredity, sociology, personality and psychology. She also shares techniques for character development such as Characterization Mapping and the Character Timeline.

The thing I found most helpful about the book were the series of questions in each chapter, designed to challenge the way a writer thinks about his/her story. The questions encourage writers to think about the details, logic, structure, and development of a story. For example, questions like “What do you want to say about life? Your philosophy? The world?”, helps writers define the universal theme of their stories; while questions like, “What caused the over arching event, and what are the results, are they reasonable?”, allow the writer to think about the cause and effect factor within their scenes.

Writers who haven’t had the opportunity to attend writing classes or conferences will definitely benefit from the book’s step by step approach to story-telling. I truly enjoyed the book’s emphasis on structure and am eager to use what I’ve learned in writing my next draft.

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June Spotlight Week Giveaway Winner

Happy Monday everyone!

This past June, the spotlight was on YA Author Cynthia Hand and her amazing paranormal romance series UNEARTHLY. Due to the craziness of these past few weeks, it slipped my mind that I hadn’t yet announce the winner of my  Spotlight Week giveaway.

Congrats to CARINA OLSEN for winning a signed copy of BOUNDLESS!

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I’ll email you in a few minutes to give you instructions on how to claim your prize.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish everyone a happy, productive week!



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Giveaway Winner and an Announcement

First, I’d like to announce the winner of my May Spotlight Week Giveaway Contest

Congratulations, Lee ! You win a kindle copy of THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, the first book in Mary E. Pearson’s Jenna Fox Trilogy.



I’ll be emailing you soon with details on how to claim your prize.

Second, I’d like to invite you all to sign up for this month’s Spotlight Week Giveaway. I’m giving away a SIGNED copy of Cynthia Hand’s BOUNDLESS, the third book in her UNEARTHLY SERIES.

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For details on how to get your hands on this copy, click on this link.

Third and last, I’d like to share some joyful news. 

The past weeks have been pretty hectic because on top of my own writing, blogging and personal schedule, I’ve actually been focused on applying for a dream job at UCLA Extension.

After two interviews and three weeks of nail-biting and enduring the agony of waiting. I finally got the call I was praying and hoping and wishing for.

I got my dream job!

This July, I’ll be starting my new job with the UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) Extension Writers’ Program. And I’ll be doing something I truly enjoy doing. As their Online Creative Writing & Events Rep, I’ll be helping with planning their online courses and organizing all their amazing writing events, such as the Writers’ Faire and the Publication Party. I am giddy with excitement and I thank the stars every day that I got this opportunity.

There’s a lot of work ahead of me, with transitions, endings and beginnings, so forgive me if my blog becomes even more sporadic in posts. I’m looking forward to my new work. More than anything I’m just really, really happy to have job that allows me to work on my two biggest passions: writing and teaching.

I wish you all a very happy week! May you also have much to look forward to.

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Spotlight Week Giveaway

This week the Spotlight was on Cynthia Hand and her exciting Young Adult Paranormal series UNEARTHLY.

If you want to know more about the UNEARTHLY series you can read my BOOK REVIEW .

Also, check out my fun interview with author Cynthia Hand.

To end our Spotlight Week, I’m giving away a SIGNED COPY of BOUNDLESS, the third book in the UNEARTHLY SERIES.

To enter the contest, tell me  why you’d like to win the book

I’ll put all your names in my magical drawing box and pick the winner.

I love encouraging people to unleash their imaginative and creative sides, so the more creative your answers are, the more chances you have of winning. If your comment/answer tickles my fancy, I’ll add another slip of paper (or two) with your name on it to my drawing box.

Also, if you tweet about this giveaway, or share it on Facebook, I’ll add more 2 slips of papers with your name on it.
AND if you FOLLOW ME on Linky OR on Facebook’s networked blogs, I’ll add 6 more entries with your name into the drawing bowl.

The contest is international and will run until June 30, 2014.

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I love the UNEARTHLY series. I’m not incredibly fond of angel stories, but the story just hooked me from the beginning.

I took a chance and emailed author Cynthia Hand to tell her how much I loved her books, and to ask if she’d agree to do an interview for my Spotlight Week series. I was ecstatic when she graciously accepted my invitation.  Cynthia Hand is one of my favorite YA authors and after reading my  interview with her, you’ll discover why.

Here’s a bit more about Cynthia, from her author bio on

Cynthia Hand is a native of southeastern Idaho and currently lives with her husband and two small children in Southern California, where she teaches writing at Pepperdine University. She has graduate degrees in creative writing from Boise State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Instead of a muse, Cynthia has a guardian angel named Buster. He wears a Stetson in place of a halo, prefers a beat-up pickup truck to flying, and loves to correct Cynthia’s grammar.

I’m very excited to have her here today! Without further ado, I present the amazing Cynthia Hand!


Cynthia hand

The Amazing Cynthia Hand

1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself. 

  1. I learned to ski when I was 5 years old. As a teen I was on a ski racing team.
  2. I obsessively collect movie scores. I have hundreds of them, and I can usually pick out who the composer is within a few minutes of seeing a film.
  3. I have two cats: Stella and Frank.

 2. What inspired you to write UNEARTHLY? Did you always know it would be a series?

This is a tougher question because the inspiration, as it always is for me, was a bit mysterious. I heard Clara’s narrative voice, and started asking questions about what that voice seemed to want to tell me, and the story unrolled from there. But there are a number of things from my life that ended up inspiring parts of the books: first, that series of questions: what is my purpose in this life? Can I mess up that purpose, or is it fate? Do I want to believe in destiny, or would I rather make my own choices? As a child I also loved Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Many Waters, which has the Nephilim in it, and got my wheels turning about what that would be like, to be the child of an angel and a human. And I loved C.S. Lewis’ description of heaven and hell in his book, The Great Divorce, which is an influence you can clearly see when Clara goes to those places.

 Yes, I always knew it would be a series, although I didn’t always know how everything was going to turn out.

3. UNEARTHLY, HALLOWED, and BOUNDLESS are all wonderful character-driven novels. Which of the three books did you enjoy writing the most? Which one gave you the most trouble?

This is a tough question, too! I think I definitely enjoyed writing Unearthly the most. Back then I was writing just for me, and I was discovering these awesome characters and this wonderful, multi-layered world that they live in, and that was so much fun. Every day was an exploration. The second book was much harder, because I had a lot more on my plate as a writer by then, and also because Clara experiences a loss in that book that was close to my heart, which was emotionally tough to write.

 But the third book was the hardest to write. Ugh. I get stomach pains just thinking about it. The big problem was, about ¾ of the way through writing the third book, I was informed that there wasn’t going to be a fourth book. Paranormal romance was taking a steep dive in sales across the board, and I totally understand, from the business side of things, why my publisher wouldn’t want to buy another PR-my original book deal was for 3 books, although I always thought of the story in 4 parts.

So. I had to reevaluate everything. Book three as I originally intended it ended with the night at the Pink Garter (mild spoiler alert!) and Clara and Christian (and one other special character) running off into the night, on the run. I had already written a little novella from Christian/Angela’s POV to go between book three and book four. And now.

 (stomach pains)

 Basically I had to rewrite the book to be the end. Which meant that I had to condense a whole lot, and totally abandon some other parts of the story. It was the worst form of torture.

 But it turned out all right in the end. I was able, through a lot of sweat and a LOT of tears, to make Boundless something that felt right and I was proud of. I was maybe even more proud of Boundless than my other books, because I had to work so hard to accomplish it. And it is definitely a tighter, more action-packed story than it would have been if I had stretched it over two books.

4. The UNEARTHLY series features characters with angel-blood. How did you come up with the (very cool) angel classifications such as Dimidius & Quartarius? Did you have to do a lot of research?

Again, it was kind of mysterious, but yes, I did do a lot of research. I had about a week in the beginning where I was keeping a OneNote file full of notes about the different types of angel-bloods and angels and all of their powers and limitations. Fun stuff.

5. Clara Gardner’s story spans both the rural town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the more urban town of Mountain View, California. Why did you choose these particular settings for your trilogy?

I chose them because I knew both of those towns pretty well. I grew up within an easy drive of Jackson, and it was one of my favorite places to go. The mountains there, the Tetons, are my favorite mountains in the world—they have such an awe-inspiring beauty. Also, I liked Jackson because it is this cool juxtaposition of Old West and high end, a tourist town. It’s rustic but it has a regular-sized high school. I thought it would be a good place to put Clara.

I chose Mountain View because I wanted a Bay Area city, somewhere near to San Francisco, because I thought of Maggie, Clara’s mother, being connected to that place. And so I chose Mountain View, where my son was born.

6. Clara, Christian and Tucker are characters with very distinct personalities, and their love triangle throughout the series kept me guessing until the end. How did you make your characters so three-dimensional? And if you were a character in the story, would you prefer to date someone like Christian or Tucker?

Ha. Okay, first question first. I don’t make my characters three-dimensional. I just kind of uncover them that way. Actually, I deliberately left Christian a bit two-dimensional in Unearthly, because I wanted him to be the kind of guy you like from afar but don’t actually know very well. And then she would get to know him better and better throughout the books. But I’ve always seen my characters something like Michelangelo saw his statues, like they are already there in the marble, and only need to be released.

As to who I would date, gosh. Probably Tucker, because I think it would make me nervous that Christian could read my mind. . . But then Christian is . . . Christian! Gah, you guys, I can’t choose.

7. If your books were to be made into a movie, which scene would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?

The moment between Clara and Tucker in the barn from Unearthly. Because aw.

The scene where she meets Michael from Hallowed.

The journey to hell from Boundless.

8. If you could spend a day with a favorite author (living or otherwise), who would it be,and what do you imagine your conversation being like?

Jane Austen, I think. Then I would tell her about all the movies that have been made from her work and it would totally blow her mind.

9. Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

I took a kind of unconventional path to get here—the go-to-school path. When I knew I wanted to commit to being a writer, I went for an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree, in literary fiction. I studied hard for three years (and I didn’t even attempt to get published in any of that time) and then went to get a PhD, where I studied hard for another three years. In my first year of my PhD I met my future husband, and he was all like, “So, what have you published?” and I was like, “Um, nothing,” and he was like, “Let me read one of your stories,” and I was like, “. . .okay,” and he was like, “This is really good, you should publish it,” and I was like, “okay,” and so I sent it out and it was accepted for publication in a great literary journal, and I was a published author!

I did it all to impress a boy, is what I’m saying.

Then a few agents called me about that story, and I ended up connecting with my lovely agent, Katherine. And that’s where it all began.

The coolest thing about being published is that you and your readers get to know the same people. We all know Jeffrey and Maggie and Tucker and Wendy. The people who, up until the moment the books hit the shelves, only existed in my brain (and the brains of a select few) can suddenly come alive for thousands of other people, who will love them or hate them or form all other kinds of opinions about them. That is so cool.

10. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

My writing life changes from book to book. But ideally I would write every day for a few hours, in the morning, I would aim for 1500-2000 words. I can’t really afford rituals these days because my schedule is so crazy that I just have to make it work in whatever situation I’m in. But I do like tea. I drink a lot of tea when I write.

11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

I read a lot. I am a television junkie. I am a recovering video game addict (I just started Elder Scrolls Online and realized immediately that it was too dangerous for me and had to cut it off before I stopped writing books to run around shooting arrows at monsters all day. I also knit and crochet and play piano and snuggle with my kids.

 12. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen J ) you use to work on your novels?

 I am both, honestly. It depends on the project. Sometimes I just jump in with very little preparation and see where it takes me. And sometimes I plan, although I almost always deviate from my plan when the characters have other ideas.

Again, how I write depends on the project. I have a type of pen I like, and I will often write longhand into a special set of identical notebooks that I have picked for the project. It usually takes me about five notebooks to write a novel. Then I revise as I transpose it all into my computer, where I used Word. I am trying to learn Scrivener, which is cool, but it’s slow going.

 13. Are you currently working on any other projects?

Right now I am getting ready to submit a project to my publisher that I have had SO MUCH FUN working on. I’ve been writing a funny fantasy (think: teenage Princess Bride) with two of my author friends. It has been the most fun I’ve had writing in ages. We work on Google Docs so we can always see each other’s work. We laugh until our sides hurt. It’s so fun. I really hope it sells so we can finish it.

I have a book coming out in February, called THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. I am really close to having the cover and book description ready to share, so keep watching my social media or my blog for that. It is very different from Unearthly, as it is a contemporary YA, but there are definite connections between this and Clara’s world that my readers will be able to recognize. It’s about a girl who is trying to figure out her life after her brother’s suicide.

 And I have a book due in September that I am currently writing, another contemporary YA. So I have to get cracking.

14.  What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

Well, there’s the usual: read, write, study. I found the study part especially helpful. I don’t mean you have to go get an MFA or study formally, but that you should take your education as a writer seriously and seek out form and theory and practice these ideas and play around with writing as a craft.

15.  What would you like to say to your young readers? Is there any advice that you would like to give them?

 To thine own self be true.

 Okay, so that’s Shakespeare, that doesn’t count.

 The great thing about being a teenager, in my mind, is that you still have so many choices ahead of you, so many possibilities. Find some kind of middle ground between not taking those choices seriously enough and taking them TOO seriously. Be mindful. But also let yourself explore, let yourself play, let yourself discover who you are and what makes you happy and what makes you smarter and what makes you kinder. And then go after those things.

Sheesh. That’s a lot of deep thought.

Read good books. They don’t even have to be my books. Just good books, books that make you think and make you laugh and make you want to be brave. There you go.


Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a SIGNED COPY of BOUNDLESS.

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This month’s Spotlight Week features the Supernatural Fantasy trilogy THE UNEARTHLY TRILOGY by author Cynthia Hand.


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Book 1: Unearthly

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464 pages, Paperback

Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural Fantasy

Published on November 1, 2011, by Harperteen

ISBN-10: 0061996173

ISBN-13: 978-0061996177


First Lines:

He’s standing with his back to me near my locker. A surge of electricity zings through me as  I recognize him.



Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Book 2: Hallowed: An Unearthly Novel

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432 pages, Paperback

Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural Fantasy

Published on December 26,2012, by Harperteen

ISBN-10: 006199619X

ISBN-13: 978-0061996191


First Lines: Bluebell’s not blue anymore. The fire has transformed Tucker’s 1978 Chevy LUV into a mix of black, gray, and rusty orange, the windows shattered by heat, the tires missing the interior a sickening blackened twist of metal and melted dashboard and upholstery.


For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.


Book 3: Boundless (Unearthly)

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448 pages, Paperback

Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural Fantasy

Published on December 23, 2013, by Harperteen

ISBN-10:  0061996211

ISBN-13: 978-0061996214


First Lines: “How you holding up, Clara?”

I jolt back to myself in the middle of my bedroom, a pile of old magazines strewn around my feet, which must have dropped when the vision hit.



The past few years held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner ever could have anticipated. Yet through the dizzying high of first love to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she could no longer deny was that she was never meant to have a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seemed like the best option, so she’s headed back to California—and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

 As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.


My Review:

I was lucky that I discovered UNEARTHLY  (Book 1 of the series) when its sequel, HALLOWED was already out, as I wouldn’t have enjoyed waiting a whole year before I found out what happened next to the characters I’d fallen in love with.

The characters are indeed what make the book such an intriguing read. Clara Gardner may appear to be your typical teenage girl, but she’s far from it. She’s a Quartarius– a quarter angel and in book one, UNEARTHLY, she discovers exactly what being part angel entails. In her world, everyone who has angel blood has a purpose to fulfill.  It’s a big burden to put on anyone, but more so on the shoulders of a sixteen-year old. The concept of free will adds to the drama, and Clara is constantly torn between accomplishing her Purpose or following her heart.

In Book 2, HALLOWED, Clara has to deal with many difficult things in her life. Not only does she have to deal with the consequences of her past decisions, she also has to try and uncover the secrets her own mother has been keeping from her. In Book 3, BOUNDLESS, stakes are raised even higher. She has to deal with the Black Wings, fallen angels who threaten the world she knows and everyone she loves.

Although Clara she is part angel, her reactions to the things that happen to her is all human. And that is what makes her such a relatable and sympathetic main character. The series obviously has the good vs. evil theme going on, but the author chose to keep God as a distant being who has no direct relation to the story’s happening. I found this refreshing for a story that has to do with angels.

Of course, it wouldn’t be YA if there wasn’t a love interest (or two).  And there is a love triangle in this story. Clara falls in love with Tucker, her  rugged cowboy-type classmate. The problem is, he is human and not at all a part of her great angel Purpose. Unlike Christian— handsome, all around good guy, who is also part-angel and clearly has everything to do with her Purpose in life. So many wonderful conflicts arise from this situation. Though there is the usual dose of teen angst and heartbreaks, the way the Clara’s relationships with both Tucker and Christian develops, was masterfully done.  And until the very end, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted Clara to end up with Tucker or Christian.

Reading through Clara, Tucker, Christian and the other characters’ personal struggles was like watching friends go through the worse possible situations, and not being able to help. As much as the books dealt with romantic love, it also heavily featured familial love. There were so many great emotional moments, and author Cynthia Hand is incredibly good at tugging on readers’ heartstrings.

Aside from the wonderfully drawn out characters, the setting also gave great depth to the story. Author Cynthia Hand portrays Jackson Hole, Wyoming so beautifully that I found myself wanting to book a plane ticket just to see the place for myself.

The plot was equally mesmerizing, with numerous twists and turns. The series wasn’t all about emotional conflicts. There were mysteries and questions that kept me constantly turning pages and lots of action sequences that kept me at the edge of my seat.

UNEARTHLY, HALLLOWED, BOUNDLESS and the related novella RADIANT are all great reads and I recommend you read them all.


Tune in again on Wednesday for an interview with the awesome Cynthia Hand.

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Updates and I Need a Contest Winner

Hello all!

I’m still exhausted from our amazing Anthology Workshop last Saturday. Story Sprouts Co-Editor Alana Marie Garrigues and I  had a blast leading our 23 soon to be published writers on a creative crazy ride.

Pictures and details to come! But for now, I’d like to invite you to please sign up for the Spotlight Week Contest. I’m extending the contest until June 8th. 

I need a winner for my awesome prize: Your Choice of  any of the Kindle books in Mary Pearson’s Jenna Fox Trilogy.


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To join, click this link: Spotlight Week Contest

Hope you can help me  spread the word about this cool contest.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week!



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This week the Spotlight was on Mary E. Pearson and her exciting Young Adult Science Fiction series THE JENNA FOX CHRONICLES  

If you want to know more about THE JENNA FOX CHRONICLES ,  you can read my book review here or watch the amazing trailers below:



Also, check out my fun interview with author Mary Pearson.


To end our Spotlight Week, I’m giving away a copy of one of the books in the JENNA FOX CHRONICLES.

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In the interest of being green, I’ve decided to give away a KINDLE copy instead of the usual paperback copy.

To enter the contest, tell me which book you’d like a copy of and why you’d like to win it.

I’ll put all your names in my magical drawing box and pick the winner.

I love encouraging people to unleash their imaginative and creative sides, so the more creative your answers are, the more chances you have of winning. If your comment/answer tickles my fancy, I’ll add another slip of paper (or two) with your name on it to my drawing box.

Also, if you tweet about this giveaway, or share it on Facebook, I’ll add more 2 slips of papers with your name on it.
AND if you FOLLOW ME on Linky OR on Facebook’s networked blogs, I’ll add 6 more entries with your name into the drawing bowl.

The contest is international and will run until May 31, 2014.


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I first heard of Mary when I fell inlove with her Jenna Fox Trilogy. I found her on one of her social media sites and left her a message telling her how much I enjoyed her book. I was so happy when she replied back.

Mary graciously accepted my invitation to be featured on my Spotlight Week and I’m very excited to have her hear today.

Here’s a bit more about Mary, from her author bio on

Mary E. Pearson is the award-winning author of The Jenna Fox Chronicles, The Miles Between, A Room on Lorelei, and Scribbler of Dreams.  She writes full-time from her home office in California where she lives with her husband and two golden retrievers.

Without further ado, I present the amazing Mary E. Pearson!



 The Amazing Mary E. Pearson

1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself. 

  1. I look all the way under my sheets for spiders every night since I once found out the hard way I was sharing my bed with a black widow.
  2. I can roll my tongue into an O but can’t roll my R’s.
  3. I sometimes tell my wrong age because I REALLY am bad at remembering numbers.


2. What inspired you to write THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX?

Two questions fueled the story. How far will medicine advance in fifty years? And, how far would a parent go to save their child?

I asked myself both of these questions when my own daughter was diagnosed with cancer, and I witnessed not just what we went through, but what other parents with hospitalized children were going through and the tough decisions they had to face.

Luckily, my daughter had a choice of treatment with a good success rate. Just fifty years earlier she would have died of this cancer. I was infinitely grateful for the time and place we lived.

Of course, I didn’t know that these questions would be the impetus for a story years later, but they niggled at me long after my daughter was well.

When my second daughter was diagnosed with the same illness 3/4 of the way through writing this story, it at first turned my world upside down as it would any parent, but then, I think, deepened the story–especially the secondary characters.

(Note: Both of my daughters are well and healthy, and have agreed, under the threat of eternal-mother hovering, not to give me any more inspiration.)

3. Did you always know it would be a trilogy?

No. The Adoration of Jenna Fox was written as a standalone to explore the questions I had. But as it turned out, my questions weren’t fully answered with one book and the second one, The Fox Inheritance, was born from it. In Adoration the technology basically went really well—what if it went really bad?  What if there were people who used it for their own gain? And maybe especially I wondered, did Jenna really have the right to destroy “something” in Book 1.

The Fox Inheritance was also intended to be a standalone!  But this time mid-way through I already heard the third and final book come knocking which became Fox Forever.  Now it truly feels complete to me and that’s what I hear from readers too.

4. THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, THE FOX INHERITANCE and FOX FOREVER are all wonderful character-driven novels. Which of the three books did you most enjoy writing? Which one gave you the most trouble?

 I enjoyed them all for different reasons but maybe the most challenging one was the last one, Fox Forever—trying to address all the threads of the prior book and create something satisfying.  And perhaps the last scene that I had envisioned way back in the first book was one of the most satisfying ones I’ve ever written.

5. The JENNA FOX series features characters with altered bodies and minds stored in computers. How did you come up with such cool scientific bio-engineering concepts?  Did you have to do a lot of research?

LOTS of research because I am not a science whiz by any means.  But research is a great procrastination tool too! If you’re a writer you know about procrastination. We are geniuses at it. And who doesn’t love to go to the library?  It was challenging though—basically I reviewed tons of science research journals, learned what was on the cutting edge and being experimented with in labs, then bumped it up several notches.

6. Aside from the JENNA FOX trilogy, you also wrote DAVID vs. GOD, A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET, THE MILES BETWEEN, and SCRIBBLER OF DREAMS. All of these books feature such amazing YA voices. Why do you love writing Young Adult, and how did you go about developing such a great YA voice?

I love writing YA for so many reasons but especially the freshness of the conflict.  I like writing about teens who are encountering choices for the first time and all that entails.  When I am writing about a character I try to “listen” to their voice.  It takes me about fifty pages in to really get in their heads and then I just try to be true to the things they would say and do.

7. If you could spend a day with any character in any of your books, who would you hang out with?

Zoe from A Room on Lorelei Street because she needs a friend, and Lily from The Adoration of Jenna Fox because I think she’s my fave secondary character I’ve eve written.  Maybe I should get Zoe and Lily together.

8. If the JENNA FOX trilogy were to be made into a movie, which scene would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?

Oh, the final scene in Fox Forever!

9. Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

I submitted my first book to the slush pile.  It was rejected many many times but I did get some rejections that were “nice.” One of those editors invited me to submit another manuscript to her. I did and she bought it!

The coolest thing about being an author is I get to do what I love.  (I get to work in my jammies too : ) which is a nice fringe benefit.)

10. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

I work long days, beginning with answering a few emails while I have my coffee.  Then I begin writing off and on, all day, usually until about 7:30 or 8.  I take breaks, go to lunch, run occasional errands, but when I am in draft mode, I am pretty religious about writing EVERY day. I keep a chart of word counts which keeps on target.  It is really easy to come to a hard part in a story (usually in the middle) and walk away, but I find the more I am away from a story, the harder it is to get back into it.  Discipline works for me.

11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

Spend time with my family, read, travel, walk, shower ; )  Seriously, when I am in cave writing mode, I don’t get out much.

12. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen J ) you use to work on your novels?

I am both.  I have dabbled with every method on earth—I love writing process books and have just about every single one.  Then I mold them to fit my brain.  I use parts of Save the Cat, but I find if I try to follow any one method too closely it just won’t work for me. I think we all need to try things out of our comfort zone to add crafting tools to our repertoire, but then we need to settle in use the ones that click with our creative brains.

13. Are you currently working on any other projects?

Yes! I have a new series coming out July 8, 2014, The Remnant Chronicles. The first title in the series is called, The Kiss of Deception. I am very excited!

14.  What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

I will already assume they are reading widely and also writing regularly, which are essential, so one thing I would recommend is moving on if one book is not getting anywhere.  I have several unpublished novels.  They were not a wasted effort by any means.  I learned so much from writing them, but they didn’t have the *umph* they needed to get published.  One in particular, I loved, but if I had continued to rewrite it over and over, I wouldn’t have grown in the way I needed to from attempting new kinds of books. No writing effort is wasted as long as you learn from it! Stretch those wings.

 Thank you for having me at your blog Nutschell!








Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a copy of THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX.

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This month’s Spotlight Week features the Sci-Fi trilogy THE JENNA FOX CHRONICLES by author Mary E. Pearson.


jenna fox trilogy2



Book 1: The Adoration of Jenna Fox



The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Jenna Fox Chronicles)

288 pages, Paperback

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Published on September 1, 2009, by Henry Holt and Co.

ISBN-10: 0312594410

ISBN-13: 978-0312594411

First Lines: I used to be someone. Someone named Jenna Fox.




Where does it lie? In a face? A voice? A bundled string of events we call a lifetime? Is it in our DNA, bone, flesh, ancestry? How do we define our identity, and is it a once and for all definition?

Who am I? Can anyone ever know for sure just what it takes to be who we are?

We all search for our place in this world and how we fit in, but for Jenna Fox that search reaches dark new dimensions when she wakes from a coma and can’t remember who she is. Worse, she doesn’t remember the people who claim to be her parents. There is something curious about them, about the house they all live in–in fact, curious describes her whole life, as she attempts to unlock the secrets of who she was, and who she has become.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is about Jenna’s search for identity, a quest as old as history, but as startling as the future.


Book 2: The Fox Inheritance

fox inheritance

The Fox Inheritance (Jenna Fox Chronicles)

320 pages, Paperback

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Published on February 19, 2013, by Henry Holt and Co.

ISBN-10: 1250010322

ISBN-13: 978-1250010322


First Lines: My hands close around the heavy drape, twisting it into a thick cord. About the same thickness as a neck.


Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other—Jenna, Locke, and Kara. After a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. Even in that disembodied nightmare, they were still together. At least at first. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Decades passed, and then centuries.

Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead.

Everyone except Jenna Fox. 


Book 3: Fox Forever

fox forever


Fox Forever: The Jenna Fox Chronicles


304 pages, Paperback

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Published on March 19, 2013, by Henry Holt and Co.

ISBN-10: 0805094342

ISBN-13: 978-0805094343

First Line: I stare at my gravestone. Locke Jenkins.


Locke Jenkins has some catching up to do. After spending 260 years as a disembodied mind in a little black box, he has a perfect new body. But before he can move on with his unexpected new life, he’ll have to return the Favor he accepted from the shadowy resistance group known as the Network.

Locke must infiltrate the home of a government official by gaining the trust of his daughter, seventeen-year-old Raine, and he soon finds himself pulled deep into the world of the resistance—and into Raine’s life.

Mary E. Pearson brings the story she began in The Adoration of Jenna Fox and continued in The Fox Inheritance to a breathtaking conclusion as Locke discovers that being truly human requires much more than flesh and blood.


My Review:


I first fell in love with the series in 2012, when I listened to The Adoration of Jenna Fox on Audible.

My first impression of the book was, “Wow. This character has such a GREAT VOICE.”  And throughout the rest of series, that impression never wavered, even when the series switches to a new POV character in Books 2 & 3.

Behind the captivating voices in the trilogy, however, are wonderful, three-dimensional characters. Besides the exciting plot and the intriguing scientific concepts presented in the books, the element that truly stood out for me were Mary E. Pearson’s characters.

In THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, we meet the protagonist Jenna Fox, an inquisitive and sensitive teen. Jenna lives in California, at a time when science and technology has made enormous strides. After a year in coma after a car accident, Jenna wakes up and learns that her two best friends did not survive the crash as she did. The more she remembers about her old life, the more she realizes that there is something very wrong with her new one. As she discovers the truth about her current existence, Jenna begins to question the definition of self. She questions the morality of her existence, struggling to understand the repercussions behind her parents’ decisions to save her from the car accident.

In THE FOX INHERITANCE, we meet Kara and Locke, 260 years after the accident that stole their lives. Everyone they know and love is gone. Except for Jenna Fox. For more than two centuries, Kara and Locke’s minds were preserved in a box.  With the advent of a more advanced technology, their bodies were recreated and they were finally given new lives. But while Locke adjusts slowly but surely to his new life, Kara has changed in a very bad way. The two get separated and Locke goes on a journey to find Jenna.

FOX FOREVER picks up right after the second book. The last book in the trilogy follows Locke as he tries to make sense of the life he now has. 260 years after his accident, the only person alive whom he knows is Jenna Fox. But while Jenna’s body is still that of a 17 year old, her mind has already matured through centuries of existence. She encourages him to go on his own to live his life and seek out new experiences. Before Locke can move on with his new life, he has to return a favor given to him by the Network, the resistance group that helped him escape from the lab. He infiltrates the home of a government official by gaining the trust of the official’s daughter, Raine.

While the books talk about scientific advancements in bio-engineering and genetic modification, it isn’t set in a dystopian world.  I loved how the author worked scientific concepts into the books, seamlessly blending them into the plot itself. And despite the series spanning several states (California to Boston) and centuries, the story flows perfectly. There are many exciting plot twists and turns to balance out the introspective nature of the characters.

This book has wonderful, sympathetic characters, a well-developed action-filled plot and the ability to make you question the meaning of humanity and humaneness. I most definitely recommend this amazing series.




Tune in again on Wednesday for an interview with the awesome Mary E. Pearson.

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