THE SPACE BETWEEN by Brenna Yovanoff


Laurie Forest

THE REBEL MAGES Official Nerd Blast

Sean Penn


Gregg Olsen

LYING NEXT TO ME Official Nerd Blast

Ashley Eckstein


Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner

STARWORLD Official Blog Tour

Alyson Richman


Seven Jane

THE ISLE OF GOLD Official Blog Tour

Adelaide Kane

Acquainted Film

Dan Stout


Lisa Edelstein


Josh Duhamel


Jodie Lynn Zdrok


Nicole Maggi


Tom Bilyeu


Michael Malarkey


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Sharon Shinn Author Interview

Photo Content from Sharon Shinn

I’ve been writing stories and poems since I was eight years old. My first poem was about Halloween: "What is tonight? What is tonight?/Try to guess and you’ll guess right." Perhaps this inauspicious beginning explains why it took me till I was in my thirties to sell a novel. It occurred to me early on that it might take some time and a lot of tries before I was able to publish any of my creative writing, so I pursued a degree in journalism at Northwestern University so I’d be able to support myself while I figured out how to write fiction.

I’ve spent most of my journalism career at three trade and association magazines—The Professional Photographer (which, as you might guess, went to studio and industrial photographers), DECOR (which went to frame shop and art gallery owners), and BizEd (which is directed at deans and professors at business schools). My longest stint, seventeen years, was at DECOR. Many people don’t know this, but I’m a CPF (Certified Picture Framer), having passed a very long, technical test to prove I understood the tenets of conservation framing. Now I write about management education and interview some really cool, really smart people from all over the world.

I mostly write my fiction in the evenings and on weekends. It requires a pretty obsessive-compulsive personality to be as prolific as I’ve been in the past ten years and hold down a full-time job. But I do manage to tear myself away from the computer now and then to do something fun. I read as often as I can, across all genres, though I’m most often holding a book that’s fantasy or romance, with the occasional western thrown in. I’m a fan of Cardinals baseball and try to be at the ballpark on opening day. If I had the time, I’d see a movie every day of my life. I love certain TV shows so much that knowing a new episode is going to air that night will make me happy all day. (I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan, but in the past I’ve given my heart to shows all over the map in terms of quality: "Knight Rider," "Remington Steele," "Blake’s 7," "Moonlighting," "The Young Riders," "Cheers," "Hill Street Blues," "X-Files," "Lost," "Battlestar Galactica" can probably fill in the gaps. And let’s not forget my very first loves, "The Partridge Family," "Here Come the Brides" and "Alias Smith & Jones.")

I don’t have kids, I don’t want pets, and all my plants die, so I’m really only forced to provide ongoing care for my menagerie of stuffed animals. All my friends are animal lovers, though, and someone once theorized that I keep friends as pets. I’m still trying to decide if that’s true.


What was your favorite book as a child and why?
I had a lot of favorite books, but one that I still return to is The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall. It features a small band of misfits and outsiders who come together to form a family of choice—and while they’re at it, they save the world. This speaks to me on so many levels. In many ways, it’s the prototype for my Twelve Houses series, which features a mismatched group of friends and enemies who become a family and go on to save the kingdom. I still reread The Gammage Cup once every year or two. It soothes my heart.

Has reading a book ever changed your life?
I’m not sure any book has actually changed my life, but there have been several books that I found so engrossing I almost forgot I was supposed to be leading my own existence. The first one was Gone with the Wind. The most recent one was Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife. It was always something of a shock to look up from the pages and remember where I really was.

In your newest series, UNCOMMON ECHOES; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
The series consists of three interconnected stories that take place in the Kingdom of the Seven Jewels. High nobles in the kingdom are frequently born with “echoes,” creatures that look exactly like them and copy their every move, but have no will or volition of their own. The historical explanation is that, hundreds of years ago, the echoes were bestowed upon nobles by the triple goddess during a time of great chaos and violence, when lords and ladies were being assassinated at every turn. The reasoning was that if killers didn’t know which of several identical creatures was the real noble, they would be less inclined to murder. During the current age, echoes are really just a symbol of high status, and no one has more than three.

In the first book, Echo in Onyx, a noblewoman named Marguerite is on her way to meet the crown prince when one of her echoes dies. For complex reasons, she’s desperate to cover up this death, so her maid Brianna pretends to be her echo the whole time they’re at the royal court—but it gets harder to keep the secret when Brianna starts to fall in love with the king’s inquisitor.

In the second book, Echo in Emerald, a street urchin named Chessie has two echoes because she’s the bastard child of a high noble. Because she lives in a dangerous part of town, where it does you no good to be different, she pretends her echoes are really just two close friends that she always works with. She’s developed the unique ability to jump between bodies, so she can maintain the pretense that they’re really three separate people. But then, of course, she starts learning secrets about her own past.

In the third book, Echo in Amethyst, Elyssa has three echoes—but unlike most nobles, she hates them. Because she’s selfish and cruel, she tortures the echoes when no one else is around. What she doesn’t realize is that the pain has brought one of the echoes to life, and it is beginning to develop a mind and a will of its own. And it knows things about Elyssa that could ruin her.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Elyssa?
I’m not one of those writers who likes to spend a lot of time in the villain’s head. I’d much rather hang out with the hero and heroine, no matter how flawed and challenging they might be! But since Echo in Amethyst is told from the point of view of Elyssa’s awakening echo, Elyssa is on practically every page. While she is a genuinely bad human being, I was surprised that I could learn to empathize with her. I could understand how she turned into this tortured person and I realized her goal was the same as everyone else’s—to be happy. She just pursues that goal in a kind of horrible way.

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing UNCOMMON ECHOES?
Chessie in Echo in Emerald. She’s sassy and resourceful and cautious and funny, and it was so much fun to write in her voice. And because she goes to elaborate lengths to make her two echoes seem like distinct people, it was fun to write from the echoes’ points of view as well.

Aside from Elyssa, which of your characters do you feel has grown the most since book one and in what way have they changed?
That’s kind of a tough one, since none of the characters have major roles in all three books. Brianna is in the first two books, and she does grow a lot—she goes from being a wide-eyed country girl to being a competent business woman living on her own in the royal city.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I think it would have to be receiving some amazing letters from people who tell me, in explicit ways, how my books have helped them through difficult times. One woman said my books gave her a sense of home when she was homeless; another one said that she felt herself recovering from an illness when she read a scene about a healer bringing someone back to life. I can’t even describe how moving and humbling it is to hear such things about something I’ve created.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
The best nonfiction book I’ve read in the past decade is Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. It’s so compassionate and wise. The most enjoyable genre fiction I’ve read in the past year has been Martha Wells’ Murderbot series that begins with All Systems Red.

If animals could talk, which would be the rudest?
Well, I don’t know, but cats can be pretty rude even without words, so I’m betting they could be really sarcastic if they could talk.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
This might seem minor, but it really helped me reframe my thought processes. I was riding in a cab in NYC, and the driver just remained so calm despite all the chaos and the other drivers driving like crazy people. I asked him how he could be so peaceful, and he said, “I used to yell and curse and shake my fist. But then I realized, the other drivers couldn’t hear me. They couldn’t see me. They didn’t care that I was angry. The only person I was hurting was myself.” I try to remember this any time I’m in a situation where I’m starting to have an emotional overreaction. The only person I’ll be hurting is me.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
When I was about 17, I was visiting a neighbor’s house to feed her dog while she was out of town. I was in the kitchen when a man burst through the door and grabbed me. I thought he was a home invader who was going to kill me. Turned out he was the neighbor’s son, and he thought I was a burglar. I don’t even remember how we straightened everything out, but I know I was terrified. The good news is that I learned I would fight back in such a circumstance. I scratched him hard enough to draw blood and screamed loud enough to draw the attention of the backyard neighbors.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Arriving in Haworth, England, late on a stormy night when I was traveling with three friends. It had been a long, exhausting day and we were all in bad moods. We turned the corner and saw that perfect little village laid out before us, the street lights glowing in the rain, and we felt like we’d come home. We booked the last rooms in an ancient bed-and-breakfast (haunted, so our hostess told us) and had dinner at the pub next door, and suddenly we were all happy again. We spent the next couple of days exploring the house where Charlotte Brönte and her siblings grew up, and hiking across the moors. We never wanted to leave.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Lip balm, a toothbrush, a water bottle, and my phone.

The Uncommon Echoes Series. Echo in Emerald. Book Two.
Echo in Amethyst, Book Three.

1. “You’d be surprised at how willing ordinary citizens are to gossip about their neighbors,” he said. “I’ve never yet had to resort to torture and threats because people are always eager to tattle on their friends.”

2. “Healing isn’t the same as forgetting,” I said. “It’s just a way to live with pain.”

3. “Even if you can’t be together—even if you know it won’t have a happy ending—you have to be grateful for love every time it’s in your life. It’s so rare and precious. It’s something you share with one other person, and no one else understands how you feel or what you have. It’s like a language that only two people will ever know, and you can’t ever be sorry you learned it, even if you never get a chance to speak it again.”

4. You never have any control over your luck. You never know when it will gather you close with a reassuring whisper or fling you away with a jeering laugh. And the longer we were in Camarria, I feared, the more fickle our luck would become.

5. It’s always a bad sign when someone wants to meet you at midnight under a bridge in a dicey part of town.

6. I had learned in the hardest way possible that information is the wickedest weapon there is; I knew that trust was a luxury I simply could not afford.

7. The minute the lock was set behind us, we fell into a desperate embrace, clinging to each other as if we were drowning, pressing together so tightly you would have thought we were trying to meld into one person. Six bodies and a single soul. It was, for a brief time anyway, more possible than you might have thought.

8. Nothing moved, not in the spangled heavens above, not in the brooding landscape below. Nothing in the entire vista was awake—was alive—except me, the echo standing at the window, staring out at the world as if it had just been created that very night, and just for her.

9. “What I truly want?” she said, and now her voice was mocking. “Are my only two choices violent rebellion or a loveless marriage? How could any woman pick between such attractive alternatives?”

10. For the next few days, I felt like my skin had taken on an extra layer, a thin sheen of crushed diamond that sparkled with a sensation that was either scalding heat or numbing cold. I couldn’t tell. I just knew that I almost gasped every time I touched some new material, whether it was the velvet of a rose petal or the silk of bath soap. All my senses were on high alert; it was like I could hear a low, continuous murmur all around me, all the time, from every argument and whispered conversation of every single soul residing in the palace. I could stand at the window and look down at the street and read the denominations of the coins in the hands of passersby. I was so alive. I could see and feel and hear everything.

From the national bestselling author of Jeweled Fire and Royal Airs comes the latest novel in the Elemental Blessings series.

Leah Frothen has returned home. But she can scarcely catch her breath before she is summoned by regent Darien Serlast, the man who made her a spy. Leah is reluctant to take on a new assignment, but Darien has dangled the perfect lure to draw her in…

Leah finds she enjoys the challenges of opening a shop catering to foreign visitors, especially since it affords her the opportunity to get to know Mally, the child she abandoned five years ago.

But when the regent asks her to spy on ambassadors from a visiting nation, Leah soon learns that everyone—her regent, her lover, and even her daughter—have secrets that could save the nation, but might very well break her heart.

You can purchase Uncommon Echoes Series at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SHARON SHINN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive an Audible Copy of Echo in Onyx by Sharon Shinn.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Mitzi Szereto Author Interview

Photo Content from Mitzi Szereto

Mitzi Szereto is an author and anthology editor of multi-genre fiction and non-fiction. She has her own blog Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog and is creator/presenter of the Web channel Mitzi TV, which covers the “quirky” side of London, England. She’s been featured internationally on radio and television and in major newspapers and magazines. She gives talks and readings at book and literature festivals and teaches creative writing workshops around the world. Widely considered the pioneer of the erotic writing workshop in the UK and mainland Europe, she’s also lectured in creative writing at several British universities. Her anthology Erotic Travel Tales 2 is the first anthology of erotica to include a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Mitzi and her celebrity co-author bear Teddy Tedaloo ( divide their time between the Pacific Northwest and the UK.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I had a creative calling from early childhood. It was a toss-up as to which direction I’d go in – art, music or writing. I applied myself to all three, drawing and painting, playing musical instruments and composing songs, and writing stories and poetry, including a novel at the age of ten. I knew I needed to be a creative artist of some kind. There was no other choice.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I find distractions the norm these days. Every time I plan on focusing the bulk of my time working on a specific project, something comes along to take me away from it. Often it’s something beyond my control, which makes it all the more frustrating and annoying. Having said that, for my current book the main distraction ended up being discussions and negotiations for my next book – which went on for some months. Mind you, I’m not complaining, especially since the distractions ultimately resulted in a book deal!

Where’d you get the idea to do a collection of short stories instead of a full-length novel?
For some reason I keep putting my novels on hold in lieu of doing anthologies. My last book Florida Gothic was a novel, and I’d expected to get to work on the second book in the series. But instead I got the idea to put together a collection of classic gothic horror stories from women writers. Once I started hunting for stories and researching these women’s lives, I knew I had to keep going until I saw it through to completion. The fact that the book’s publication happened in time for Women in Horror Month was an added bonus!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’m not sure it’s happened yet.

In your new book; LADIES OF GOTHIC HORROR, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
As I mentioned, it’s a collection of classic gothic horror stories written by women writers of the past. These women left behind a rich and inspiring legacy for today’s writers, especially women writers. I thought it was time to get some of these works back in print via a well-rounded collection of short gothic fiction that would be accompanied by comprehensive biographies for each writer. It’s important to see where these women came from to better appreciate their work. These women were true groundbreakers in their day. They faced some major barriers to being published, often from their own families! I’m sure many of today’s female authors can identify with the struggles these women faced. We might have moved into the 21st century, but in some respects things haven’t changed all that much.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
That I can’t control what they do. They tend to ignore me and do exactly as they please.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
You’ve got me stumped on that one. Because I work in so many genres, I’m not sure I can conceive of a character from one book meeting a character from another. It would simply be too bizarre!

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m currently putting together an anthology of true crime, the theme being serial killers. Although I’ve worked in the crime genre before, this will be my first foray into true crime. However, let me make this clear: my goal is not to glorify serial killers or, for that matter, sensationalize the crimes these people have committed. The accounts in this collection will be international in scope and include individuals some readers may not be familiar with. Different historical time frames will be covered too. I’m really excited about this title. I’ve got commitments from an exciting range of writers, including award-winning crime novelists as well as respected academics and experts in the field. The Book of Extraordinary True Crime: Serial Killers is scheduled to be published in November 2019. In fact, it’s already listed for pre-order at Amazon!

Any ghost stories you would like to share?
I’m fairly certain I had a visitation from my grandmother some years back. I’d been unwell following surgery and woke in the middle of the night to see a face in front of me. It wasn’t a dream, because I was sitting bolt upright and perfectly cognizant of what was happening around me. The face was still there and remained so before very slowly drawing away from me until it faded. I have no other explanation for this and no, I wasn’t taking any painkillers.

If I came to your house and looked in your closet/attic/basement, what’s the one thing that would surprise me the most?
Umm… maybe the number of hooded tops I own? 

What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever worn?
Ha. Not telling!

If you could live in any period in history, where would it be and why?
I would’ve loved being a young woman in the Swinging Sixties in London with all that great music and fashion and that incredible sense of creativity and freedom. The world seemed so full of promise and opportunity back then. Life was fun and sexy. Plus people could actually afford to live in London in those days!

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
How much work I need to get done – and knowing I won’t get it done!

Where can readers find you?
Mitzi: The first port of call is always my website I’m also on Twitter and I have a Facebook page So stop by and say hello!

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities by Thomas Wolfe
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills

Classic gothic horror stories from the literary mistresses of the past!

Many of gothic horror’s spookiest tales have come from the pens of women. Yet a substantial number of these women were overshadowed by their male contemporaries, especially with regard to the classics. "Ladies of Gothic Horror (A Collection of Classic Stories)" redresses this imbalance by bringing together a selection of gothic stories from the past written exclusively by women. Carefully edited and compiled by author and anthologist Mitzi Szereto, "Ladies of Gothic Horror" offers readers plenty of good old-fashioned chills and thrills. Whether you’re a devotee of the genre, a literature lover, an academic or a student, this volume of short fiction is sure to please. The biographies accompanying each story will show that these women were anything but typical for their time. Includes seventeen stories from authors Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edith Wharton, Marjorie Bowen, Gertrude Atherton, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Elia W. Peattie and many more.

You can purchase Ladies of Gothic Horror at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MITZI SZERETO for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive an E-Copy of Ladies of Gothic Horror (A Collection of Classic Stories) by Mitzi Szereto.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst & Paula Garner

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (April 16, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763697567
ISBN-13: 978-0763697563

Praise for STARWORLD

An unlikely friendship blossoms between two high school seniors…in the deft hands of co-authors Coulthurst (Inkmistress, 2018, etc.) and Garner (Relative Strangers, 2018, etc.), the well-realized main characters and deeply insightful descriptions of complex emotions combine into an unusually thoughtful novel…Readers seeking characters facing challenges with honesty, bravery, and kindness will appreciate this book with its reminder that our outward lives often don’t reflect who we really are. ―Kirkus Reviews

Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, wondering how she can ever leave to pursue her dream of studying aerospace engineering. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld. In Starworld, they find hilarious adventures, kindness and understanding, and the magic of being seen for who they really are. But when Sam’s feelings for Zoe turn into something more, will the universe they’ve built survive the inevitable explosion?

In a novel in two voices, a popular teen and an artistic loner forge an unlikely bond — and create an entire universe — via texts. But how long before the real world invades Starworld?

You can purchase Starworld at the following Retailers:

Photo Credit for Audrey: Evrim Icoz Photography

Paula Garner spends most of her time writing, reading, or making good things to eat and drink. She is the author of YA contemporary novels Starworld, Relative Strangers, and Phantom Limbs, which was a 2017 Illinois Reads selection for grades 9-12. Follow her on Twitter at @paulajgarner.

Audrey Coulthurst writes YA books that tend to involve magic, horses, and kissing the wrong people. When she’s not dreaming up new stories, she can usually be found painting, singing, or on the back of a horse.

Audrey has a Master’s in Writing from Portland State University and studied with Malinda Lo as a 2013 Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow. She lives in Santa Monica, California.

Schedule TBA

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Guest Post with C.C. Hunter

Photo Content from C.C. Hunter

C. C. Hunter is the New York Times bestselling author of over thirty-five books, including her wildly popular Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls: After Dark series. In addition to winning numerous awards and rave reviews for her novels, C.C. is also a photojournalist, motivational speaker, and writing coach. In February 2018, Wednesday Books will publish her contemporary young adult and hardcover debut, This Heart of Mine. And the first book of her new paranormal young adult series, The Mortician's Daughter: One Foot in the Grave will release on October 31st 2017. C. C. currently resides in Texas with her husband, junkyard dog, Lady, and whatever wild creatures that meander out from woods surrounding home.

C.C. Hunter is a pseudonym. Her real name is Christie Craig and she also writes humorous romantic suspense romance novels.

C.C. would love to hear from you. Because of deadlines, it may take some time to get back with you, but she will reply.

Print Length: 341 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1250312272
Publisher: Wednesday Books (March 26, 2019)
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Sold by: Macmillan
Language: English


"Hunter deftly delivers a complicated back-and-forth point of view between Chloe and Cash, building suspense along with a steamy sense of attraction between the two teens." Kirkus

Because you’ll learn:

  • 1. Accidently body slamming a hot guy and making him spill his slushy can be the beginning of something special.
  • 2. A vague memory can be the key to unlock the secrets of your past.
  • 3. A good best friend can help you get through just about anything.
  • 4. Your destiny isn’t determined by DNA, but by your choices.
  • 5. When a dad’s superhero status is tarnished, his little girl’s heart is broken.
  • 6. Parents aren’t perfect, but some deserve a second chance.
  • 7. If we let it, our past can prevent us from having the future we deserve.
  • 8. Divorce can be as hard on the children as it is on the couple.
  • 9. When your dog barks at your window, someone who means you harm might be peering in.
  • 10. Being accused of attempted murder isn’t any fun.

What would you do if your whole life was a lie and learning the truth could cost you your life?

From New York Times bestselling author of the Shadow Falls series comes C. C. Hunter’s new YA thriller about a girl who learns that she may have been kidnapped as a child, and must race to uncover the truth about her past before she winds up a victim.

Chloe was three years old when she became Chloe Holden, but her adoption didn’t scar her, and she’s had a great life. Now, fourteen years later, her loving parents’ marriage has fallen apart and her mom has moved them to Joyful, Texas. Starting twelfth grade as the new kid at school, everything Chloe loved about her life is gone. And feelings of déjà vu from her early childhood start haunting her.

When Chloe meets Cash Colton she feels drawn to him, as though they're kindred spirits. Until Cash tells her the real reason he sought her out: Chloe looks exactly like the daughter his foster parents lost years ago, and he’s determined to figure out the truth.

As Chloe and Cash delve deeper into her adoption, the more things don’t add up, and the more strange things start happening. Why is Chloe’s adoption a secret that people would kill for?

You can purchase In Another Life at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you C.C. HUNTER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of In Another Life by C.C. Hunter.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Vlog Post with Nicole Maggi

Photo Content from Nicole Maggi

Nicole Maggi was born in the suburban farm country of upstate New York, and began writing at a very early age. Of course, her early works consisted mainly of poems about rainbows and unicorns, although one of them was good enough to win honorable mention in a national poetry contest! (Perhaps one of the judges was a ten-year-old girl.) Throughout high school, her creative writing was always nurtured and encouraged.

Nicole attended Emerson College as an acting major, and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Post-college, she worked as an actress in New York City for over a decade, focusing mainly on Shakespeare and the classics.

Now living in Los Angeles, Nicole balances writing full-time with motherhood. WINTER FALLS, the first in her TWIN WILLOWS TRILOGY (Medallion Press, 2014) is her debut novel. She has a stand-alone novel, HEARTLINES, coming out in February 2015 with SourceBooks Fire, as well as the second and third novels in the TWIN WILLOWS TRILOGY in 2015 and 2016.


February 13
Dear Ms. Tilson,

You probably think you know who I am, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t. I used to be a bright star of a girl, but that girl burned out of existence, like a fire swept through my life and left nothing but ash and smoke. That smoke is the memory of what I had, so thick I can smell it and feel it in my eyes and ears and nose. But I can’t touch it. Smoke, like memories, will slip through your fingers and disappear as if it never existed at all.

I keep thinking that if I could write down how my life used to be, maybe I could capture that smoke, keep it from drifting away. That’s what made me finally crack open this journal you gave us at the beginning of the semester. Could these pages be some magical vessel to contain that gone-girl? All those bright memories preserved in this one place?

I would write about how on Sundays, after the long hours spent at church, we’d pile into the truck, exhausted, and my mom would say, “I’m too tired to cook,” which is the greatest sin for a woman on a Sunday in our church, but my dad would smile indulgently and order a pizza. “God rested on Sunday; why shouldn’t you?” he’d joke. Then they would kiss, and I’d be reminded that I’m one of six kids, so they must’ve had sex at some point. Which is gross to think about but also comforting because it means there’s some order to the world.

I’d write about how when my youngest sister, Joanie, was a baby and would wake up crying in the middle of the night, I was usually the one who got there first with a bottle of warmed-up breast milk from the freezer. Some nights I’d rock her for hours even after she’d fallen asleep, watching her tiny eyelids flutter as she dreamed.What is she dreaming about? I’d wonder. Sometimes I’d place her gently in her crib and get my sketchbook, draw her in soft, black pencil. Those nights were magical. They seemed to exist in their own dimension, the spell broken only by the rising sun.


I’d write about the day after my older sister, Hannah, got her license. She picked me up from school, and instead of going straight home, we drove and drove and drove. We rode over the mountain passes, twisting along back roads until we came to this hole-in-the-wall dive in the middle of nowhere called the Wooden Nickel. Hannah had read about it in Sunset Magazine, how it supposedly had the best bison burgers in America. We ate them with their secret special sauce dripping down our chins, washed them down with small-batch root beer, and got home hours after dark. Mom and Dad yelled their heads off, and Hannah lost her license for a week, but after they sent us to bed, Hannah turned to me and said, “Worth it.”

I’d write about how I had everything I wanted and didn’t know it. I had a family who surrounded me with love and acceptance. I had a father and mother who stood on such high pedestals that the sun blinded me when I looked up at them. They loved me unconditionally, or so I thought. I never imagined there could be conditions under which they would not love me.

Every night I thanked God for my parents’ love and for my family’s abundance, and yet every day I took each of those things for granted. Now I’m left with the memory of what I once had.

No. These pages can’t contain that smoke, those memories. They’re gone now, destroyed in one irreversible moment.

Maybe I should stop here. Let you go on believing everything you think you know about me. That would definitely be easiest. I could record what I ate for breakfast, what time I went to bed, which TV shows I like to watch. All those myths you have about me can stay intact. You can go on thinking I’m the perfect daughter of Mayor Rivers, the shining example of the family values he talks about in speech after speech after speech. Believe that I never cause any trouble and I’m always a good girl. I’ll probably get a C, but you’ll never know my innermost thoughts. I’ll stay safe.

Except I can’t stay safe anymore.

As of December 21, nowhere is safe.

I would give anything to redo that day.

But I can’t.

And the only place I can talk about it is in these pages.

So let’s start with a pop quiz. True or False: Mellie Rivers is a virgin.

False. As of December 21, at 3:30 in the afternoon, on the floor in the basement of my house, I am not a virgin.

True or False: Mellie Rivers would never have sex before marriage.

True. I made a promise to God and my family, and I wear the ring on my left hand, where, presumably, one day, my husband will place a different, more permanent ring. I would have kept that promise. But the choice was taken from me.

True or False: Mellie Rivers would never, ever get pregnant out of wedlock.


Mellie Rivers

Three secrets. One decision. A friendship that will change everything.

Mellie has always been the reliable friend, the good student, the doting daughter. But when an unspeakable act leads her to withdraw from everyone she loves, she is faced with a life-altering choice―a choice she must face alone.

Lise stands up―and speaks out―for what she believes in. And when she notices Mellie acting strangely, she gets caught up in trying to save her...all while trying to protect her own secret. One that might be the key to helping Mellie.

Told through Mellie and Lise's journal entries, this powerful, emotional novel chronicles Mellie's struggle to decide what is right for her and the unbreakable bond formed by the two girls on their journey.


"An engaging, emotional debate on rape and abortion. Hand to readers interested in hot-button social issues or those captivated by E.K. Johnston's Exit, Pursued by a Bear (2016)." Booklist

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Thank you NICOLE MAGGI for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of What They Don't Know by Nicole Maggi. 

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